ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

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Breaking down

We offer the eladrin to accompany the team tasked with delivering the prisoners to Sawyer as we fear there might be more attacks coming from the agents of the Mad King. Also, this would provide us with an opportunity to take a closer look at the forsaken Covenant Enclave where we might find more evidence on what happened there.

When we finally arrive at the Covenant, we are both pretty much shocked by the aftermath of what must have been an invasion. We find signs of combat everywhere, strains of blood and trampled gardens. And then there is this eerie silence on top of it all with the only noises coming from the jungle birds and the wind in the trees. Auryn wanders aimlessly through the remains of the enclave: human housings, enhanced by druidic and arcane magic, empty working benches and stables. She's pretty much shaken thinking about all those who must have been killed or captured during the attack.

“How could they've been so... naïve?” she whispers quietly when Carlyle returns back to her after getting his own impression of the enclave.

“They had so little protection here, in the wide open forest. How could they... how could they let all these girls, these women, live like this? When I wasn't allowed stepping outside my enclave without at least a small squad? I, a properly trained hitiko? I understand the good intentions behind the Convenant, but this enclave should have been a small fortress instead of... an open village.”

As her voice trembles as she speaks and she still seems unable to regain her focus, Carlyle decides to intervene before Auryn gets even more miserable. He calmly states he's worried that seeing all of this might be too much for her. He fears she might lose her clarity as she lets whatever happened here get too much under her skin and takes personal responsibility where she wasn't involved at all.

He explains that all these citizens chose to live this life willingly, trying to create something new, trying to live free from being sheltered all the time. He adds that maybe not every eladrin woman wants to be accompanied by a “small squad” every time she wishes to see the outside world as this pays a heavy toll on her personal freedom. Then he mentions that maybe the high status traditional eladrin society places upon their women may just contribute to everyone else seeing them as treasures to be won.

“Just think about it that way: Maybe not every woman wishes to be a princess placed on a pedestal”

While Auryn can follow Carlyle's logic to some degree, that very last point completely ticks her off.

“So that's what I am? A princess on a pedestal?! I'm just doing what's necessary to ensure my people's survival. I'd sacrifice everything to let Elfaivar be reborn. Do you honestly think we eladrin chose to let half our population be slaughtered by the Malice? Do you think these last five hundred years have been roses and sunshine? Protecting the few surviving women at all cost has become a cornerstone of our survival, and that means training each and every one of them until they become nigh invincible. We hid away, so that no one knew we were still out there, so how would they even know of our 'high status'? Besides, it isn't our fault that my sisters and I are born with attributes some rich idiots find beautiful and desirable. Idiots, who lack the proper education to know they cannot simply take what they see.”

(Ouch, that backfired completely. At least she turned from shaken to raging. But she's never lashed out against Carlyle like that. Nor has she ever felt as personally insulted by him. Hurt, maybe. But not insulted. And yes, this whole affair is very personal for her.

She grew up believing that she was just doing her part to revive the eladrin race and that most other eladrin lived like her, even if the different enclaves surely had different rules and traditions. Auryn believed in working towards a communal goal with steadily growing numbers and a fair progress. And despite the fact that she ran away because she felt she wasn't enough and wanted to see more of the world, she'd still sacrifice everything to help her people. All while believing that everyone else in Elfaivar was doing the same.

Seeing the harsh reality made her feel utterly alone and foolish and it was as if all of her life, all of her hard work had been for nothing. And this is why Carlyle's comment hurt her even more.

Also ain't it funny to see how each of them is a stern traditionalist when it comes to their own culture? Carlyle wasn't much amused when he feared Lord Vantrys might be solely interested in men and not eventually produce an heir and Auryn thinks letting women weaker than herself live outside a secluded enclave to be dangerous carelessness. Okay, she also has first-hand experiences on what may happen, but still.)

As soon as Carlyle realizes that he just put oil to the flames, he tries to paddle back and says that he didn't mean to insult Auryn or diminish her experiences. He just wanted to make a point that not every woman will and should necessarily be a piece in that grand “Elfaivar reborn” plan as that should be her own decision. Carlyle still insists that Auryn needs to cool her head a bit before he continues traveling to Sawyer with her as the last thing both of them want or need is causing an eclat with an overly spirited statement towards the governor.

“Don't worry”, she replies roughly, almost growling, “I may be angry and upset, but I'm not stupid. My mood will be level-headed enough for basic diplomacy

So we continue our journey to Sawyer and the dark clouds hanging between Carlyle and Auryn seem to dissipate, albeit very slowly. After a while, we reach a fortified frontier town and muse that this will most likely be Sawyer. So we do ask one of the many busy people to lead us to the governor's office as we have important prisoners to deliver to her.

(We didn't find any Tom or Huck Finn though. Kate wasn't there either.)

As soon as we tell the local clerks about our relationship with Matriarch Kaealys and the attack on Eshaya's enclave, we are soon brought to a rather small office where two women are just about to talk about strategies on how to gather more information about the henchmen of this self-proclaimed King.

Kaealys instantly recognizes her small granddaughter who has grown so much since the last time she saw her. We introduce ourselves and then tell the two women all about the most recent attack. We also mention our prisoners who just gave us a bit of information about the attack on the Covenant Enclave and guess that this Mad King might just have a full battalion of loyal deva, most certainly of eladrin heritage.

Regarding Vardanis himself, we call him a madman who sees himself as ruler of all of Elfaivar, just like the Mad Kings of the old horror stories did. On top of that, this one just formed an alliance with a mighty fiend, most certainly a powerful individual from the days of the demonocracy. From our own inquiries, we guess that his "Enlightened" battalion might just be 100 individuals strong, so Sawyer will most certainly need reinforcements of some kind should they wish to free the captured citizens. Oh and we'd also help on this mission.

Governor Roderick is glad for all of the information we had to share with her. She confesses that she already sent a message to Risur to ask for help, and she had hoped that we were sent by King Aodhan to support her and Sawyer. With these words, she shakes our hands again and says that she always wanted to shake hands with true heroes of Risur – and of course she has read all about our heroism during the Colossus attack.

We reply that we're sorry to disappoint her, but we're actually on a vacation and only came to Sawyer because we need to talk to Kaealys. Still we'll surely help her as soon as she has a feasible rescue plan.

“Then Macdam might be our only hope.” Roderick sighs. “Crazy technologists, but they're still our closest neighbors”

As neither Auryn nor Carlyle have heard much about this “Macdam” before, both just look at each other in mild confusion. Roderick soon realizes our lack of knowledge and explains that this island-”state” is actually a risuri settlement that was established during the 2nd Yerasol War when Risur banned all technology. So risuri technologists exiled themselves to Macdam and created a safe harbor for all like-minded individuals. Right now, Pemberton Industries is one of the industrial power-houses of Macdam, a company that focuses much on automatons.

So we decide to wait for Macdam's reply to Roderick's plea for help and use the spare time to do what we originally came for: To talk to Matriarch Kaealys. We explain that we really need her wisdom regarding Kasvarina and other, more private affairs and the Matriarch leads us to her temporary office in Sawyer. There, she expresses her surprise that we actually took the long way from Pallita to Sawyer just to meet her. She's also astonished that “tiny Auryn” has grown so much that she offers her help in solving the problem of the Covenant.

(apparently grandmoms are all the same, regardless of race.)

Kaealys then explains that the collaboration with Risur in creating the Covenant is an important, dear project for her. A project she invested lots of time and effort into and which she cannot allow to fail just because some crazy king believes it to be heresy. So she's quite sorry that she cannot be of much help right now as her mind is continuously occupied with saving the Covenant. Auryn replies that she totally understands Kaealys' troubles and she promises to so everything she can to find out what happened to the Covenant's citizens.

(Look who just found something worth fighting for again.)

I'm liking how involved y'all are getting with Elfaivar.

Auryn here, before her getting nudged to anger by Carlyle, reminded me of a mechanic in the new L5R RPG, where the more you care about something, the more strife you can choose to suffer to improve your rolls.

Her being shaken was compelling. And I love the different perspectives clashing.


Light of Elfaivar

Oh yeah, Elfaivar is a damn huge topic and I'm really looking forward to returning there in adventure 8.

While I don't know the new mechanics of L5R (I only played it for one or two sessions, Tiz is more of an expert), this does seem like a fine mechanic. PF unfortunately doesn't offer good canon methods to use your character's personality and bonds mechanically, so we just do our thing from time to time :)


One day later, a ship from Macdam arrives, carrying both troops in mechanized armor and mechanical war golems.

“Courtesy of Mr. Pemberton.”, one commanding officer says.

“This is... just brilliant!” Auryn exclaims as soon as she sees what kind of reinforcement Macdam sent to Sawyer. “These bastards won't know anything about technology and the golems are immune to many kinds of magic.”

“Plus they'll most likely be lightly armed and won't be able to use effective guerrilla tactics as they are most certainly not in their homeland yet.” Carlyle adds, being unusually optimistic.

It takes a while but the troops of Macdam, Sawyer, some eladrin, the golems, as well as Auryn and Carlyle manage to form quite the formidable team. Together, we travel to the empty enclave to look for the tracks of the attackers. Fortunately for us, finding the tracks of a small army isn't too hard and so we get on trail in no time. We spot a couple of dead scouts on our way, scouts that were sent by Sawyer days ago. They are buried quickly before we continue our chase.

A few hours later, we come across some graves and guess that these dead must have been part to the enemy forces. So we decide to take a look at one of the graves and find it filled with nothing but bloody armor and a weapon. Carlyle and Auryn agree that this can only mean that there's a newly reborn deva somewhere nearby, so we try to find the missing soldier.

After a while, we indeed find a confused man with deva markings who's stumbling through the jungle while being completely naked. He's mumbling some barely comprehensible words about the “Light of Elfaivar” that has somehow been important to him but he doesn't really remember why.

Carlyle immediately recognizes the current condition of the deva as he's been reborn twice and was suffering from the same kind of amnesia and confusion after his rebirth. So he uses his hat of disguise to change into an eladrin-deva and tries to help the man. He hands him a blanket to protect himself from the jungle and carefully asks him about images, sounds or feelings he may remember. Bit by bit, he learns that this man had been a devoted follower of King Vardanis in his last life. He keeps calling the King the “Light of Elfaivar” even if he doesn't seem so sure about the meaning of that title and whether he should continue believing in his Lord.

Carlyle promises to guide him through this path of uncertainty, as he, being of the same kind, had to go through the same trials. He asks the man about his last orders and what he's thinking about them right now. The deva answers that he had to bring prisoners to the lands of the King where the men are to be sacrificed in some kind of ritual to empower the Light while the women are to become brides of the King and his most loyal followers. He thinks that doing so must have been necessary to ensure the Empire's stability.

We can only guess that this sacrificial ritual is either meant to be some sort of payment for Acheral or some sort of means to prolong the King's life or to enhance his powers. Carlyle then tries to tell the man that this kind of empire cannot possibly be the bright future for Elfaivar they've all been dreaming about, but the deva is pretty sure that allying with the human enemies won't help either.

“The knew it... they knew she'd come. And then they killed our goddess. They killed my family. They are... monsters!” he stammers as he remembers fragments of his very first life.

“Your family? Would you tell us about them?” Auryn asks, finally breaking her silence.

The man tries very hard to remember more details and then tells us about his wife and their two daughters and sons. Auryn then asks him whether he'd think that these five people would have been able to lead a happy life in the empire of King Vardanis and then quickly answers the question herself: That his wife and daughters would most likely be taken from him while his sons were to become warriors for the “Shining Light of Elfaivar”. She then tells him about the various enclaves where all eladrin, including her own family, are free to live in peace as long as they follow the local rules. We then explain that, should he give it a try, he might just regain what he lost so long ago.

Regarding the “Light of Elfaivar”, Auryn asks him to watch her dance for a moment as she performs her ritual dance to the goddess, which conjures the divine light of Srasama and calls forth myriads of flowers that all bloom at once.

“This is the true Light of Elfaivar. The pure light of the goddess that no King in his hybris may ever taint”

(Gosh, how I love this Nirvana's blossom masterpiece)

After giving the newborn deva as much comfort as we could, we discuss the situation with our troop's higher-ups and come to the conclusion that these soldiers are most likely highly indoctrinated to believe in their King and were maybe killed multiple times to ensure that this memory of utmost loyalty is strongly engraved into their psyche. Which is why we'd probably need to do the same to break their brainwashing.

“I really don't want to call for the execution of hundreds of soldiers, but I don't think there is any other way to relieve them if we wish to let them live a life of their own” Carlyle says contemplatively.

The other agree reluctantly while Carlyle explains what going through a reincarnation means for a person like him. He also hopes that their sliver of Srasama might offer them guidance, even if he doesn't know whether she'd call to them as she does to himself. So we continue our way and come across a second confused deva who we also take care of.

After a while, we finally reach the rearguard of the King's army and manage to fall into their backs unexpectedly. Then, a rather big battle breaks out as the main army realizes what's going on and tries to retaliate. Fortunately, our assumption about the deva not being accustomed to fight mechanized enemies turns out to be correct and so we can ultimately defeat them despite suffering heavy losses on our side as well. We also make sure to strike them all down before we can finally free their prisoners.

(That was rather grim, but we didn't see any other way to deal with an army of indoctrinated deva. Sure, we could have imprisoned them indefinitely, hoping to maybe break their brainwashing over decades, but this would have felt even more unfair as they had originally been victims of the Malice as well. Giving them a new life was the best we could do for them)

When we return to Sawyer, we are welcomed back with a tremendous cheer. The prisoners, humans and eladrin alike, thank us especially for being rescued after they had already given up all hope. We give Roderick the advice to increase their security measures for the Covenant and Sawyer as well as we're pretty sure this Mad King threat isn't over yet. On the contrary, we expect that this one might just be raging with thirst for revenge as soon as he hears that his Enlightened were obliterated.

Still, losing the Enlightened will probably be a heavy blow to the King's forces and he might need some time before he tries to set foot into Kellandia and the surrounding territories again. We also remind Kaealys and Roderick that there will be around 100 reincarnated deva appearing somewhere around the battlefield soon, and that these people will need the guidance of experienced eladrin. Together, we come to the conclusion that they should be transferred to the enclave of Eshaya where they can take all the time they need to get accustomed to their new lives without being out in the public.

After this is settled, we finally find some time to talk to Matriarch Kaealys in private. We tell her all about the Borne incident and explain the threat of the Colossus to the Dreaming and Elfaivar in particular, should he eventually decide to go east. Kaealys responds that she has read quite a bit about the giant adamantine golem in the news (making her probably the first Matriarch who reads newspapers!), but she didn't know what happened to him afterward. She finds overly positive words for Risur and King Aodhan, whom she never met in person, but still heard much about.

“If all they say about him is true, then this monarch of yours is truly regal and has earned his title of King. And Risur has been such a reliable partner when it came to founding the Covenant. I only wish there were more humans like them.”

We thoroughly agree to her assessment. Next, we tell her about Asrabey, Kasvarina and all the mysteries surrounding Kaealys' grandmother. We also include that Kasvarina was involved in creating Borne and that she might have been part of sinister plans to maybe take control of the world.

Kaealys agrees that Kasvarina always had an easy time gaining enthusiastic followers to her causes as she was that kind of woman who oozed charisma and radiated fiery determination. She remembers her to be a kind grandmother during her early childhood, a woman she loved being around. Still, there had always been a sense of darkness and grief lingering with her. When she asked her mother Launga about Kasvarina she explained that her mother had suffered many losses over the course of her life: There was Pillai, her first husband, who died during the first war. And then there was Dala, Launga's sister, who died during the Malice.

Carlyle thinks about Kaealys' tale for a while and then forms a frightening, but convincing theory: What if Ashima-Shimtu knew that Srasama would eventually be summoned? What if she somehow warned the Clergy of the goddess' coming?

“These words just keep on floating through my mind: 'they knew she'd come'. And I know only of one demon who'd know about the future. Maybe even because she previously gave Miller and Kasvarina the keys to summoning the goddess and therefore conquering Crisillyir. And maybe... Dala had been a part of this ritual as well.”

“Maybe they needed three women: A maiden, a mother and a crone. Then Dala and Kasvarina would have both been participants. All of this would explain why Kasvarina hated the Clergy more than anyone else” Auryn adds.

“Don't forget Miller. Maybe Kasvarina managed to cope with her grief and decided to start a new life with Miller. Only to see her new partner be executed by the Clergy for heresy.”

We all agree that this might just be enough to send an eladrin on a centuries-long crusade against the Clergy, even if Kaealys has never heard about a man named Miller before. We then warn the Matriarch about the Obscurati, the organization Kasvarina got entangled with. Especially as they try to recruit people who are influential and full of good intentions. We also ask her to keep this information confidential as the Obs are part of an ongoing RHC investigation.

When Auryn asks Kaealys about the striking similarities between herself and Kasvarina, the Matriarch laughs softly and explains that bloodlines tend to work that way, so she mustn't think of it as being some kind of obscure fate or prophecy. Regarding Auryn's plans for marrying Carlyle and founding an enclave in Risur, she reacts a bit skeptical as she fears her granddaughter might be unhappy on the long run and the enclave far from home could be a controversial subject as well. Still, this isn't her decision but Auryn's.

Auryn thanks her grandmother for her advice, but it seems as if she isn't fully satisfied yet. So she asks Kaealys whether she knows any true oracle, skyseer or prophet she could ask regarding her fate, birth or future as she really needs more guidance for what is yet to come. Kaealys explains that she knows of only one such oracle, the oracle of Beng Fenor, but their holy site resides on the territory of the Mad King.

At this point, Carlyle hooks up again, seemingly irritated by Auryn's insistence on prophecy.

“Do you really place so little faith in your own decisions that you'd rather make yourself dependent on obscure sources of advice?”

Auryn shakes her head to this question. “Not at all. I just wanted to see if there's more information to gather to make an informed decision. But you're right about the oracle. I won't need that.”

(She wasn't being completely honest here. Of course this was still about Ashima-Shimtu's prophecy which she wanted to be either confirmed or refuted by another prophecy. Auryn knows that prophecies sometimes are made at birth and there might just have been enough reason to hide such a prophecy from Auryn if its contents would be considered dangerous. The last thing she wants is to doom the world by deciding to maybe make one of the biggest experiments in recent eladrin history)

After this is settled as well, we say goodbye to governor Roderick and Matriarch Kaealys. We ask them to keep their eyes open for threats or hints of agents of the King returning to Kellandia and send us a message should there be any more attacks or problems. We explain that the RHC is pretty quick in delivering messages and we'd also be accessible via sending magic. Then we return back to Pallita to tell Galadin and her husbands about what happened in Sawyer, especially as this Mad King threat is very much real.


The Blooming

In a quiet moment, Carlyle takes the opportunity to ask Auryn whether this trip to her homeland brought her the clarity she had hoped to find. She's a bit hesitant to answer the question and explains that she was really happy to visit her family after having been separated from them for almost a decade. Still she had to realize that the life and dream she had been living before she left Elfaivar are so far away now. Auryn then says that, right now, her dream of a prosperous, growing, peaceful new Elfaivar seems beyond reach. And that she's pretty much lost and doesn't know what to do next, now that she's stumbling across the broken shards of so many of her beliefs.

“So, you're unsure about us as well. That's all right, really. If you keep clinging to our relationship because you fear losing me as a friend, then I propose we end this without pain. I won't leave you and I'll stay your partner. I just... should have known you were too young to be burdened with all these decisions.”

“But that's not true. I'm just confused and I don't wish to upset my family. I don't want to sever all bonds with them, not after it took me so long to come back here. Still right now, nothing feels right. Maybe that's because I haven't been on the proper course for years. Ever since Old Stag's lightning ignited my magic, I've been growing everywhere at once, without direction, without guidance. Maybe you're right, a hitiko is too young to make these decisions, they belong to a blooming. But I am neither the former nor the latter.”

She then pauses for a moment as Auryn realizes that she maybe just found a way out of her misery. She asks Carlyle whether he'd mind to stay a couple more days in Pallita as the one thing she'd been clearly missing had been her mother's tutelage and guidance in the Blooming as she never went through the proper rituals of full adulthood. So she guesses that by performing the full ritual of the Blooming and complete this rite of passage, she might be able to find the answers she needs on her own.

Auryn explains that the rituals will take a few days to complete, and she'd be happy if he took the spare time to relax and get to know Pallita even better. Carlyle replies that this is actually a damn fine plan and no, he wouldn't mind staying in the enclave a bit longer.

(I'm not sure whether intentionally Carlyle tried to provoke a reaction from Auryn here as he kind of teased her with being “too young” - she's 76 years old after all and he's basically human. But I'm pretty sure he meant every word he said and I'm also pretty sure Carlyle realized that Auryn would sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of Elfaivar)

Over the next days, Auryn takes some time to properly prepare for her upcoming ceremonies. This intensive preparation includes several meditation sessions, times of fasting, times of cleansing, secluded prayers to Srasama and ritual sacrifices to the holy fire, as well as communal rituals with the Matriarch and the older women. As the transition nears its end, her chosen guides ritually change her clothing to match those of a blooming woman. As usual, she prepared and embroidered these garments herself, thus choosing her own patterns. During all these small rituals, Auryn is filled with an ever growing feeling of calmness and serenity, giving her a clarity she never felt before.

After completing all these steps, she's anointed with sacred balms and finally presented to the whole enclave. The ceremony ends with a grand celebration, which starts with a proclamation of the new blooming. She starts her speech by performing the Dirge of Vekesh and thanking her mother and all the others for helping her transition to a full member of eladrin society. She then explains that she decided to follow the ideals of Vekesh and to make them guidelines of her future life. This means she'll restrain from following sudden urges of revenge while trying to make her opponents reconsider their ways and realize their mistakes. This way, she believes to prevent spreading further agony and war to Lanjyr, even if she perfectly knows that not every adversary will listen to a voice of reason and that there will be depravities even a follower of Vekesh cannot ignore.

After the big feast has started, Carlyle takes Auryn aside and asks her whether she found what she had been looking for. This time, Auryn can wholeheartedly affirm that this is truly the case and that, despite life will continue to be spiked with uncertainties, she now knows her way.

“So, you're not a girl anymore?”

Auryn just laughs at his question and gleefully shakes her head. Carlyle takes this as an opportunity to tease her again as he tries to feign losing interest then. Auryn doesn't understand his comment at all, then thinks about it for a while and frowns.

“Well, I'd have a comment for that, but... it would be really bad taste.”

“Tell me then”

“No. It isn't suitable.”

“Now I'm intrigued”

“It is really inappropriate. Like, really, really bad.”

“Just spill it out.”

“Fine then, if you insist. Of course you'd lose interest in me as Mr. Carlyle is only interested in girls.”

There is a long moment of silence after Auryn's final statement as all emotion leaves Carlyle's face at once. Only his eyes seem to stare through her in disbelief while Auryn states that she warned him that it would be “really inappropriate”. And then, from one second to the other, he casts a teleport spell and vanishes.

Now it is Auryn who's standing there, being completely baffled. At first she thinks that this is just one big prank and that she misinterpreted his magic gesture, believing that he was simply turning invisible and is hiding somewhere. But then she repeats what happened step by step, again and again and realizes that this was no joke, but a genuine reaction. That she really hurt him this time.

(When bad humor meets a foreign culture. So from Carlyle's side, he only wanted to tease her and didn't have any side thoughts about his comment. Coming from a culture where youth equals beauty and desirability, he thought Auryn would understand it as he meant it.

Auryn on the other hand could see no scenario where a grown man would prefer a girl – something that ranges from an unblossomed to a hitiko - to an adult woman of marriageable age. So she asked herself how he could have possibly meant it and came to the conclusion that he maybe wanted to show her that he overcame his own grief by joking about his past relationship. Still the moment she came to this conclusion she also realized that this wouldn't suit Carlyle at all which is why she went to great lengths to explain that her comment wouldn't be fitting. She only proceeded when he insisted, thus reinforcing that maybe her thought was indeed correct when he most certainly thought she'd say something naughty.

On top of that, he did make comments and jokes about Fordren before which really ticked her off but which also convinced her to think that he signaled he was ready for payback.)

As Auryn doesn't know where Carlyle might have teleported to, she decides to send him a magical message. And since she lacks the magic to actually send messages herself, she searches for Estelar and finds him in his study room. (That magister is clearly no party animal)

She explains that she just made a big, stupid mistake which maybe made her lose someone who's very dear to her, Estelar raises an eyebrow and looks at his daughter with stoic curiosity.

“So you finally managed to kill Thorandil? Huzzah, let's restart the celebrations.” he says in a dry monotone, catching Auryn totally unprepared and causing her to burst with laughter at this grotesque situation.

(and yeah, he isn't too fond of Galadin's first husband. Most likely because Thorandil is a master of understatement, seemingly lazy and because he helped young Auryn skip Estelar's magic classes for more artful practices. Not that he'd really wanted to see him dead, but he revels in this one-sided rivalry)

Once she catches her breath again, Auryn thanks Estelar for this more than welcome opportunity to get out of her worried state for a moment and then explains that, while Thorandil is perfectly fine, Carlyle isn't. She doesn't go into detail but tells him that she managed to upset him so much that he teleported away, so she needs another sending scroll to convince him to come back. Estelar just mumbles something about humans being too sensitive, but promises that she'll have the sending tomorrow. Auryn then returns to the aftermath of her party and tries to put on her best pokerface.

Meanwhile, Carlyle, who had teleported back to his home, holes up there for a whole day, seemingly unable to go outside or interact with anyone. He cannot even bring himself to read through his RHC files again or find other means to distract himself from what happened between him and his partner.

One day later, Auryn sends her magical message to Carlyle, saying she knows she really hurt Gabriel, even if that was clearly not her intention. So she asks him to return to her and let her clear up this mess. As she receives no answer, she gets a bit anxious that maybe he didn't accept her proposal, only to see him arrive through the entrance of Pallita minutes later. Auryn walks straight towards him and deeply apologizes for causing so much pain. She then goes on to explain why she made that stupid statement in the first place:

“I'd never joke about the love you lost, Gabriel. I just thought you were trying to tell me that you'd managed to move past your grief. That you were the one who joked about her in the first place. And when I warned you, you insisted so much that I just... when I really should have known better.”

Carlyle's eyes go wide once he realizes how Auryn had interpreted his initial joke, only to shake his head again and state that he'd never ever joke about topics like loss and grief or the people he or she lost.

“But maybe I am truly bad at making jokes. Humor wasn't my specialty anyway.”

“Guess you are right.” Auryn replies. “Besides, it's not as if your jokes about a certain someone didn't hurt either.”

“So that makes us even, it seems.” Carlyle adds stoically.

Auryn agrees quietly while silent tears form in her eyes, then run over her cheeks. She then says she feared she might have lost him over something as stupid and meaningless as a joke gone wrong. Also, in regards to Carlyle's past love, she truly values the role she played in his past life and that she'd never wish to damage that legacy. On the contrary, she'd really love to honor her for all she'd been.

(Which is no easy feat as she doesn't even know her name. To this day, Carlyle never told her anything more besides the fact that she was a Vantrys daughter who loved him and that she was killed by her husband.)

She then goes on to say that losing Carlyle would have been both painful and ironic as she know decided on a path for the future, and that path would include him as well. And while she isn't sure where this path may lead her, she also knows that she has to conquer her own fate, that only she can decide whether she'd find happiness or not. So she asks him to continue their journey together.

“But there is one thing I need you to promise me: If you stay by my side, then only because you wish to do so. I don't want a follower who stays with me because his sense of duty gets the better of him.”

Carlyle returns that he understands her point, though she doesn't need to worry as he enjoys being with her. Not because she's an eladrin but because she's a person he holds dear. He adds that he's glad that Auryn found her way, even if that means that his path forward will lead through unknown territories which is something completely new for him.

(Phew, so this session ended almost with a disaster caused by a really bad joke. Carlyle's bad humor has really become a recurring theme and we agreed that he has a roughly 50% chance of completely missing the mark and another 50% of being witty and hilarious. To his defense, he probably didn't have to make jokes as a butler, so there was no need for him to learn how to be funny.

Also, these two really have a habit of misunderstanding each other. Which is quite ironic given the fact that they are both excellent when it comes to reading other people – albeit from different angles. But they are also quite the capable bluffers and tend to keep everyone else out of their inner thoughts.

I don't know too much about Carlyle's thoughts regarding that incident, but I do write Tiz about Auryn's psyche from time to time, so I know about her mental state back then. And she swallowed much of her pride by apologizing almost unconditionally. Deep inside, she was really upset because she thought that he was as much to blame as she was – after all he told that incomprehensible joke in the first place, insisted on her telling him about her reaction and then simply vanished. And in her mind, they were far from even as he didn't apologize for his jokes about Fordren or the golden choker despite coming from an occupation where apologizing for even small mistakes is the norm. Especially as he ruined the end of one of the most important ceremonies in her life.

But her newfound serenity told her all of this nonsense wasn't worth risking their relationship. Of course, there was this thought that Gabriel Carlyle was still too human to understand an eladrin like her. That he'd never understand that almost losing herself at the hands of Fordren was as traumatic as losing Zahir. That he'd never understand how much of a sacrifice she and her people made, how much of a risk she was taking just to cater to a risuri's idea of a monogamous relationship. But she'd live with that.

From Carlyle's perspective, I guess he vanished because he really didn't know how to react to being hurt by a person he holds dear. He had not been close to anyone for 400 years, despite having short affairs here and there. He had also never been as vulnerable. So being hurt left him speechless. I guess he also didn't want to lash out against Auryn in “scary Mr. Carlyle mode” and so he retreated to his cave to sort his thoughts.)


Zafira and the Matriarch of Flint

Session 33

After getting their issues sorted, Auryn expresses her wish to talk to her mother about her future plans. So she finally tells Galadin that she won't be able to stay in Pallita for much longer as she's still an RHC agent who has to fulfill her duties in Risur. Still this doesn't mean that she will neglect her people, which is why she'd eventually found her own enclave in Flint. She explains that this had originally been the idea of her Sahomi, but Kaealys and the Covenant made her realize that risuri and eladrin might be truly able to live together.

Galadin is still skeptical as her daughter might get a bit off track this time, but she does realize that Auryn is a Blooming now, which means she has both the clarity and authority of an adult woman. And which also means that she has every right to make her own path, so if her daughter wishes to become Matriarch of Flint, then so be it.

“But please, don't wait eight more years until you come visit us again, my dear. I'm still your mother and I'll be here whenever you need me. Don't try to shoulder the weight of the world all alone.”

Auryn grins in response, then nods her head towards Carlyle. “But I'm not alone at all. And don't worry. I'll return sooner or later.”

Auryn thanks Galadin for her trust and explains that there is one more thing she has to do before returning back to Risur: She needs to tell Zahir's mother the truth about her missing son. Galadin believes that she last heard about Zafira and her family residing in Vayatatou, a very secluded enclave. So we'd better ask one of the older residents from Pallita to guide us there.

Fortunately, we do manage to find someone who had been to Vayatatou before and who also volunteers to lead us through the 100 miles long path. Before we are allowed to leave Pallita though, Galadin asks for our presence once again as she wishes to send a gift to the King of Risur. She then presents a beautiful box with several larger vials of “Veteran's elixir”, a herbal essence meant to relieve older veterans from their ailments and bring back the strength of their best years.

We assume that King Aodhan will have the right kind of humor to understand and appreciate the gift (plus he is a veteran of Yerasol III) and agree to give the elixir to him as soon as we meet him again. We make Galadin also promise to send us a message should Pallita be in trouble (be that because of an approaching Borne or because some Mad King decides to expand again) or receive news about Kasvarina.

When we are finally about to leave the enclave, we are quite surprised to see all of its citizens gathered there. They make way for us and present colorful banners before singing the hymn of the new Matriarch's exodus and celebrating the future Matriarch of Flint.

(Well, they most likely heard that Auryn is from Flint and Galadin told them that her daughter might found her enclave in Flint, so... yeah, Matriarch of Flint it is. I wonder what Stanfield would say about his competitor)

We then travel a few days through the jungle of Elfaivar and manage to avoid the really dangerous beasts of these forests. After a rather long journey, we finally pass the border to an enclave that lies within a sinkhole so gigantic that it rivals a small valley. As soon as we tell the guards who we are and why we came here, one of them smiles broadly.

“Ah, the Matriarch of Flint and her honored Sahomi. We got a message that you'll come. Welcome to Vayatatou. Our Matriarch is eager to get to know you. We rarely get any visitors, you know.”

Auryn seems a bit baffled that her new title spread that quickly, but she plays along and pays the local matriarch her respect.

(I'm pretty sure that it was Estelar who told them about our coming and Auryn being “Matriarch of Flint”. Guess that makes it somehow official now. Thanks, dad.)

We tell her some tales of the outside world, bring greetings from Pallita and warn her about the threats of the Colossus and King Vardanis. In return, she tells us a bit about Vayatatou and explains that her enclave is very secluded and well-defended, so no need to worry. It appears that their populace is rather large and we're also pretty surprised to hear that Vayatatouans tend to found rather large families and marry at quite the young age.

After that official part, we ask to visit one of their citizens, an eladrin named Zafira. The matriarch asks one of her many guards to accompany us to Zafira's home as getting lost is quite easy in her enclave. We find Zafira in one of the more elevated houses where she's reading stories to her children. She's quite surprised to see Auryn after all these years, especially in a place like this. Seeing her makes Zafira seem both relieved and nervous at the same time as she knows instantly that this has to be about her missing son Zahir who's clearly not arrived today.

“So the day has finally come where I learn about my Zahir's fate. Come with me, daughter of Galadin. We will need quite a few moments in solitude.”

She leads Auryn to another room and then asks Auryn to tell her what happened after her son and she went missing. Auryn explains that she originally planned to leave Pallita on her own, but her best friend Zahir must have realized that something was amiss and so he approached her as soon as she wanted to leave her enclave. He knew he wouldn't be able to oppose Auryn, so he asked her to accompany her wherever she may go. Auryn knew she could easily overpower the youngling, but she didn't wish to physically or mentally harm her dearest branch-brother, so she tried to talk him out of it, albeit with little success.

“This mistake of mine would ultimately cost his life. If I hadn't allowed him to come with me, then Zahir would still be alive. Even if it was his decision to try protect me from these pirates.” Auryn states quietly and full of regret.

Tears fill Zafira's eyes as she finally knows for sure that Zahir won't come back to her. Still, she seems strangely relieved to know the truth.

“So my son died a warrior's death while trying to protect someone he loved. He died doing his duty. I know that he'd never been much of a fighter, and he would have never been your champion, much less your esteemed husband. Don't blame yourself so much for as long as Zahir was happy, I can understand your decision”

Auryn then takes Zafira's hands and makes a very personal confession: That losing Zahir and being imprisoned made her doubt the teachings of Seedism. But she then realized that Zahir's last stand would forever be engraved in her memory. That losing him would ultimately ensure that she'd never make such a mistake again. Zafira smiles faintly despite her tears and then thanks Auryn for ending her long uncertainty. She then asks Auryn to stay for a while as she'd like to perform a proper ceremony of grief for her dead son.

Some time later, we all partake in the grieving ceremony, which includes almost all of Vayatatou.

(Death is a rarity in young and safe enclaves like Vayatatou it seems. And it was quite fortunate for Auryn that Zafira didn't resent her for causing Zahir's death. She always had the impression that Zafira wanted her son to achieve better and she and Zahir even bonded over feeling pressured to meet certain expectations. Turns out that maybe Zahir projected too many societal expectations upon himself as well.

As an anecdote, Zahir would envy Auryn for being so strong and getting a path to glory prepared for her while Auryn envied Zahir for having the choice to abstain from the esteemed husband path altogether while her role was so pivotal for Elfaivar that she felt like she wasn't allowed to fail)

After that, we finally return to Flint to process all we saw and learned over the last weeks. Carlyle muses that Auryn's family will take some time to get accustomed to her partner while he had been subjected to so many new experiences that he'll need a while to sort it all out. But he found it a bit worrisome that all enclaves he came to visit had been completely different from one another. And this fact may trying to speak for a unified Elfaivar to the other nations nigh impossible. Right now, he fears, it would be much more likely to have one of the Mad King's “Empires” be recognized as “New Elfaivar” than a council of widely different enclaves.

Auryn cannot fully agree to Carlyle's assessment as the enclaves, different as they may be, still have a common system of beliefs, share a philosophy and have the same ultimate goal. But yes, daring to speak for all of them would be pretty pretentious.


Reports and a secret mission

On our way to the RHC, Carlyle takes some time to buy a few newspapers and tries to get up to date in terms of events in Flint and the rest of the world. Once we reach the RHC, we compare these news with RHC information to get a full picture of whatever happened when we were gone. What we learn is that many nations seem to use the threat of Borne as an excuse to buy and build massive amounts of weapons. Shipwrights in Shale lament a lack of lumber for the new battleship projects while some drakran engineers are building giant cannons to protect their coastline.

(Ah, the Junon vibes are strong in this one. Now gimme Rufus Shinra and silly marching music)

Whats even more troubling are the reports from Danor where anti-Risur protests are oppressed with harsh brutality as the Sovereign sees no reason to blame Risur for the Colossus while his paranoid citizens are not so sure about this “official propaganda”. Needless to say that risuri newspapers are quite torn about the situation there. We agree that crushing down protests isn't the wisest of ideas as this will most likely stir the populace against an eventual peace treaty with Risur.

(Yeah, Tiz turned this one upside down as Lya actually convinced Han Jierre to keep the possibility for future peace talks alive. Turns out that we did leave quite the impression on her which made the next adventure even more tragic for Lya.)

But there's good news as well as we learn from the RHC that some crisillyiri experts agreed to help us with exorcising the lingering souls on Cauldron Hill. Now if there's someone who knows much about the Bleak Gate then it'll be the Crisillyiri.

We then give Delft a full report on our vacation in Elfaivar and explain what happened in Kellandia, Sawyer and the Covenant Enclave. He suggests we write a complete file about the situation in Elfaivar for the RHC and we add that we'd like to send a letter to the King's office immediately as we have to tell him about the possible threat in the east. Kellandia is a risuri colony after all. Delft agrees and hands us the updated Colossus file.

Before we can read it in detail, our Chief Inspector explains that the RHC found a smuggling route for adamantine leading from Bole to Flint. They also got their hands on glass blowers who were tasked with crafting material that could be used for assembling ore of Luc's lanterns. Leone Quintal also conducted research on the Fey Titans in several libraries which might just support our theory that Borne was supposed to be used as a weapon against the Titans.

After we sent our letter to Slate, Auryn also orders a bunch of sending and teleportation scrolls. When Carlyle asks her what she'd need them for, she just replies that she doesn't wish to get stranded in the middle of nowhere should a certain someone feel the need to vanish again. This time, Carlyle tries to take the sarcastic route and says that being left in her home enclave isn't really the same as being lost.

“By itself, it isn't”, she replies “But you do know that I got a job here. And do you know how long it takes to travel from Pallita to Flint? Because I do and the route isn't the safest one, I can tell you.”

We continue going through the Colossus files afterward and spot a report that the missing Col. Harlock was found dead in the Bayou, having shot himself allegedly after he learned that he helped creating the biggest threat to Flint since the time of the witches.

(And now I regret having never talked to him in person... besides, this AP wold make such a damn fine drama series. Even if the SFX would definitely blow most budgets :D)

Later this day, Auryn receives a magical letter which is seemingly without sender. It contains a short note saying that there will be another shipment to Nalaam three weeks from now. As she knows that this is most certainly about the Traverse business, Auryn guesses that this letter might be sent by Kulp, so she requests a meeting with the elder Vekeshi this evening.

She meets the Vekeshi in their usual place in Cloudwood under the guise of Barn Owl and explains the reason for her coming: That the Traverse business is still going and that another eladrin girl is going to be auctioned in Nalaam in three weeks. She insists that this has to stop immediately and asks the others whether someone in Danor is already tasked with ending the lucrative business. The others explain that things are not so easy for the disciples of Vekesh in Danor as everyone who's only suspected to be slightly affiliated with their group is being persecuted and subjected to draconian punishment.

“I see. So this is why our friend told us... we're the ones who are closest to Danor.” Barn Owl says, trying to imply that now it's their turn to plan a strike against the Traverses.

“If it was just that simple, dear. Danor is very much disconnected with the Dreaming, so going there will take some time as we cannot rely on our fey allies. And it seems like we're running out of time here.”

Auryn thinks about the situation for a while, then takes a deep breath and explains that she may have other magical means of traveling to Danor.

“So you volunteer to take this mission? You know that it will be dangerous.”

“Guess I do. But I need free choice regarding my methods and allies. You see, these magical means haven't agreed yet, even if I have no doubt they will.”

The others agree to Auryn's terms with Old Stag being pretty sure about the nature of these “magical means”. They then part ways to get some rest for the night.

(what a clever ploy to make her actually volunteer and also make her bring along her deasliest weapon.)

The next morning, Auryn visits Carlyle in his house before going to the RHC to discuss her new mission. She explains that she got tasked with taking care of the Traverses as she's the only one who's able to reach the Traverses before they send out their new “shipment”. But she can only reach the estate in time if “someone” agrees to bring her to Beaumont.

“So now you're keen on using the Carlyle travel agency again? Maybe I should start charging transportation fees.”, Carlyle jokes before adding that she most likely didn't put up much resistance when she was asked to go against the Traverses. But he can totally understand her need to free Isobel's family, so he agrees to help her.

“But there is one condition: This is a Vekeshi mission, and a politically dangerous one on top of it. So the King needs to know about it and as long as he has no objections, I'll support you.”

Auryn sees no reason to not agree to Carlyle's condition, especially as we already sent a message to King Aodhan's office to ask for an audience.

So we use the next days to wait for a reply from Slate and do routine RHC business. Auryn uses the spare time to continue her “Dirge of Vekesh” opera project and recruit even more friendly Docker artists to participate in the performance. As the planning progresses, they decide on a premiere date 15 days before the first of summer and send out their first invitations.

A few days later, we receive a message from Slate where we are asked to attend to a meeting with the King and Principal Minister Lee. So we teleport to the capital, head to Torfield Palace and are led to the breakfast salon.

(Yeah, Lee totally plans with our quick-travel methods in mind. I wonder if he's supporting Romana's teleport network plans)

This time, the two men are already busy feasting on tasty breadrolls and ham and they invite us to participate in their breakfast. Together, we discuss our “vacation report”, especially in terms of possible influences on Risur's foreign politics.

We start with the situation in Elfaivar by telling them about the increasing influence of the “so-called King” Kalenian Vardanis who has most likely teamed up with a lord of the demonocracy which makes them two remnants of the past who don't know when their time is over. Still, both are potentially dangerous as the Mad King and Acheral perform blood sacrifices to increase their power. Plus the King is a notorious slaver, continuing a practice that has been taboo in Elfaivar after the Malice. Auryn insists that he doesn't have any legitimate claim on his title and is by no means a representative of elfaivaran politics.

We then stress out that Macdam and their troops have swung the pendulum in our favor when we tried to free the people from the Covenant who were taken prisoner by the Enlightened as the King's troops don't know about modern technology at all. Which is why we suggest strengthening the bond between the technologically advanced Macdams and the mainland to support Kellandia and Sawyer on the shortest route possible. We also mention Pemberton Industries and the industrialist Mr. Pemberton as the benefactors who basically saved our day back then.

“So that's what you two call a vacation? I guess I should increase your annual leave then.” King Aodhan states with an almost boyish smirk before thanking his two loyal knights for taking care of Risur's colony during their time off. Aodhan agrees that improving the relationship with Macdam sounds like a good idea. Regarding the Covenant, he was quite surprised to hear about the collaborative enclave in Roderick's letter and adds that now that we gave him more details about this bilateral project, he's all for supporting them as good relations with the neighboring eladrin are as much in his own interest as it is in ours.

Regarding good relations, Auryn then brings forth the Veteran's elixir which Aodhan mistakenly takes for good spirits from Pallita. We share a good laugh once we explain that this is Matriarch Galadin's way of wishing the veteran King a long and healthy reign and add that the elixir will most likely be quite tasty despite being an alchemical essence.

Auryn then mentions that she also had a second, more daring idea on how to improve the relations between Elfaivar and Risur, thanks to Carlyle's brilliance. She tells the two men about founding an enclave of her own on risuri soil and explains that she'd of course only use an uninhabited space, like a glade in Cloudwood.

“I know it may sound as if I wanted to establish an elfaivaran colony in Risur, but think about it that way: Right now, there are quite a few eladrin men in Flint who decided to live in diaspora after the Malice. Then there are refugees or rescued women, like Isobel. People who don't know about Elfaivar because they've never seen their homeland. This enclave may bring them in contact with their ancient culture without giving them a cultural shock. And there might even be risuri who are interested in elfaivaran culture and who could be given the opportunity to learn more about Elfaivar, its culture and its rich history. And of course they would be allowed to join the enclave should they wish. Last but not least, Risur and Elfaivar are very much alike in terms of planar alignment with the Dreaming and alliances with the Fey.”

Auryn then makes a small pause before she tackles the issue of jurisdiction as usually the Matriarch is the one making and upholding the law in her enclave and she's usually not to be questioned. In her enclave, she'd definitely use risuri law, but maybe make some additions to let it suit the specific situation of a true enclave. Regarding herself, she'd have the same rights as a mayor or governor, so she'd still be subjected to the King's authority.

Aodhan takes some time to process Auryn's proposal. He then states calmly that he isn't really averse to her idea and completely understands her cause. But she'll most likely know that this is a politically sensitive issue that he cannot decide on his own if he wishes to keep the support of the nobles and governors. So he'd need the approval of the governing chambers as well. Therefore, he asks Auryn to write a full proposal for her project and adds that such a delicate issue requires a lot of bureaucracy will certainly need its time.

Auryn states that she didn't expect to start her enclave by tomorrow and that time is one thing she has plenty of. So she definitely understands that going the proper way will need a good amount of patience.

(Phew, talking about being daring... she's totally into acting as ambassador and speaking in her people's best interest. After thinking about the situation of the growing colonization, she realized that Elfaivar, being as vulnerable as it is right now, needs powerful allies to survive. And she understands that, right now, there is no one as trustworthy as the risuri King. So yep, bringing these two countries together her new long-term plan.

And yeah, she's quite obviously sowing the idea of a possible demonic incursion should the Mad King's reign of terror continue. Despite the obvious threat Acheral poses to Elfaivar, there's also the crisillyiri perception of the eladrin being tempting demons. And Auryn doesn't want to see this prejudices be fueled by actual demons or feladrin.)

Lastly, we get to the truly problematic news. Which means bringing up the issue of the Vekeshi mission to Danor. We shortly remind King Aodhan and Minister Lee about the situation of the imprisoned eladrin in the Traverse estate and explain that now the time has come to free these people. As for our reason why we wish to do this now, we mention the coming transfer of another girl, indicating that the death of Elanor Yanette and three possible buyers in Nalaam had no effect on the Traverse business. Plus this might just be the right time to show our friends in Elfaivar that we do really mean to become allies, even if this mission mustn't be made public.

Still we have to point out that this is a mission to Danor and may possibly endanger our relations with the one country we wish to make a lasting peace with. And we'll most likely have to shed danoran blood in the process. Which is why we came to ask the King for permission.

King Aodhan explains that this is a delicate situation indeed as the last thing he needs is a danoran excuse for Yerasol V. So if we really wish to see this mission through, we must ensure that no one will realize that we're Risuri, much less risuri agents. Then there is the issue of finding a refuge for the rescued eladrin as the Danorans aren't stupid and their spies will most likely draw the correct conclusions should a group of eladrin appear in Flint after they've gone missing from Danor.

Carlyle suggests that we might just bring them to the Covenant where they can get into contact with both eladrin and allied humans. Plus the situation in the Covenant is already turbulent and there are lots of “rescues” after the Enlightened raid anyways, so a few more won't raise any suspicions. Still, these eladrin will have to deny their danoran background and also have to learn the elven tongue as quickly as possible in order to fit in as people being rescued from the Mad King's claws.

“I don't know if I should hate or love you two for your neatly fitting plans. Permission granted. But if something should go wrong, then we'll deny knowing about your trip at all and call you rogue agents.”

“We know about the risks. Thank you so much, your majesty.”

We decide to spare the King and Harkover Lee any more details about our plan, but have one last request: To lend spellstoring rings for teleportation spells as we don't know how many people we'll have to get to the Covenant. Lee says that this won't be much of an issue as long as they'll be returned within a given time-frame.

After we got the rings from the treasury, Auryn thanks Carlyle for his support and his rather quick thinking during the audience. He replies that he does feel the need to help these eladrin as well, so he isn't simply doing her a favor.

Andrew Moreton

Nice to see how things are progressing.
My players also wanted to make sure Isobel's family was rescued and that bunch of slavers dealt with. Their method was to talk to Asraby and pass over all the information as they felt certain even if he was unnable to do anything he would know the sort of Eladrin who could arrange a violent commando raid , and indeed that is what happened.
My players will be off to Elfaivar before the start of episode 6 with some ideas inspired by this

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