ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Adventurer
Auryn returns to Gabriel's house to tell her partner and Kasvarina about the charred rocks being the site of a possible fight between her and the Old Stag. As we don't know whether or not there might be more of Kasvarina's memoried hidden in the city, we take a carriage again and travel to the city's northern border to find the beach with the rocks. There are many people who are sunbathing there, so we close the area off for a RHC investigation.

This was not a moment too soon as Kasvarina is drawn to this site once again. The Arc of Reida does its thing and the scenery shifts to one beautiful evening many years ago. There, we see a slightly younger Kasvarina in a verbal fight with a masked druid. The contest with words ends quickly and the two start to combat each other with magic: Kasvarina hurls fireballs and meteor showers at the man, while the druid retaliates with lightning strikes. The fight becomes more heated and the weather turns dire as the masked man summons a mighty storm. As the land itself seems to help the druid in his fight, Kasvarina understands that she has lost this confrontation. The exchange ends with the druid banishing her from Flint and forbidding her to ever set foot on this soil again.

The vision ends and Kasvarina is busy catching her breath. She is very much surprised by the raw magic power she and the druid hurled at each other, leaving scars all over the place. Hence the name “charred rocks”.

“I... don't understand what I could have done to anger that man this much. I know that I was trying to both make a point and a stand there, but he...”

“To him, Flint was all he had, all he wanted to protect. The Guardian must have seen a true threat in you or he wouldn't have expelled you with this much force. He is the incarnation of the fisherman and the Stag we saw when King Lorcan fought the witches on Cauldron Hill”, Auryn explains.

This amazes Kasvarina who has never before heard of a fey being reincarnated as a mortal man again and again. But then Carlyle points out that he, too, as well as all the other deva, once were mortal beings who are are being reincarnated through their connection to Srasama.

We then discuss the Vekeshi branch of Flint and agree that, like the enclaves, each group appears to have their very own culture and view of the world. Just like people interpreted the teachings of Miller in very different ways over time. Auryn points out that she, too, had been inspired by his teachings which led her to believe that Miller had originally been a genuinely good person despite everything she has learned about Nicodemus. She offers Kasvarina to lend her the copies of Miller's scripts which we got ourselves so she may form her own opinion on the philosopher and his ideas from the perspective of the woman she is right now.

As we didn't find any more hidden memories on our journey to the charred rocks, we agree to move to Cauldron Hill next as we definitely know that Kasvarina has been there not too long ago. After all, it was Alexander Grappa who erased her memories in the very same place. So we warn Kas that this memory might be traumatizing. Despite the warning, Kasvarina is still eager to know what she might have done in the Bleak gate complex, so we climb up the hill to the Mayor's mansion and discuss our plan with Captain Dale. The Captain is now officially working for Mayor Smithee and glad to see us all alive and kicking. He is accompanied by ghostly counselor Macbannin who thanks us again for giving him the chance to kind of return to his former life.

Smithee is rather happy to have Macbannin by his side as he's still getting lost with all the paperwork that needs to be done. He also mentions that giving the spirits relief is at least making some progress. Oh and yes, we may totally climb up further if we like.

So we go to the destroyed complex and enter the corridors that are still somehow passable. Kasvarina places the Arc on her head, but this time it takes quite a while to get a reaction from the artifact. Only as we find the place where Borne was constructed months ago, the Arc starts to draw us into another one of Kasvarina's memories. Which is maybe the newest one we may ever find.

There, the complex is whole and Kasvarina is busy working on and conditioning golems alongside Leone Quintal and Alexander Grappa, who is still in his original body. It appears as if the trio is doing their best to train the golems to be loyal, obedient servants. Time passes rapidly and then some when later Grappa starts discussing philosophical questions with the golems. He makes them question their orders and lets them think more critically. All in all we see that Grappa starts to somehow regret being part in this project and is trying to correct some mistakes here.

Of course, old Kasvarina and Leone Grappa are not too happy about their colleague's change of mind. They discuss what to do with the disloyal Obs officer and then catch him in the act of eavesdropping on them. So they lock him away in his room. A few days later, Grappa asks Kasvarina for a talk and she accepts. But then Grappa ambushes Kas and wipes out her memories. As she's losing consciousness, Grappa utters his hope that Kasvarina may become the good person again that she most likely once was, by peeling away layers of pain, regret and bitterness around her kind heart. He then walks up to Borne and applies the same technique to “his child”, wakes up Kasvarina and leaves with her.

Then the memory event ends and Kasvarina is her old-new self again. She is very much shaken by her icy cold demeanor and doesn't really understand how she could have treated the friendly, sweet old man like that. Still she knows that even old Kasvarina must have respected the mind maker as she only imprisoned him and accepted his request for a conversation. She doesn't show any sign of anger regarding Grappa's decision to erase her memories and is on the contrary surprised that he treated her with gentle kindness and believed in her goodness despite her cold display. Carlyle explains that he saw what happened next in a vision: That Leone Quintal followed them, killed the old man for his treachery and brought her back to the complex. But he also adds that Grappa was one clever man as he managed to bind his mind to his golem and survive.

He then reminds her that Grappa gave all he had to ensure Kasvarina's second chance, so it should be fully up to her to decide what to do with it. Still none of us can fathom how Kasvarina could turn from the hopeful, strong and compassionate woman she obviously was in her youth to such a cold, calculating Obscurati leader.

We return back to Carlyle's house and Kasvarina has much to think about. She's much quieter than usual and guesses that this must be the ultimate memory of her in Flint. We let her rest for this day and meet up with Dr. Meredith the next morning to discuss her research on Rilego.

Dr. Meredith tells us that the Dragon Tyrant Rilego is a rather curious case as he is very much unheard of in the libraries of Flint. All she got was the fact that he was said to be a consort of Widoreva of Seobriga and that he vanished from one day to the other. And then, some time later, his remains were found in a forest near Seobriga, so it was assumed that he also died there back in the days.

Carlyle listens to this story carefully and then mentally reminds Auryn that they both know that dragons are a clever lot and surely capable of faking their deaths. So even if Rilego died in this forest, we should maybe research the Dragon Tyrants more and make a list of all the dragons that “suddenly vanished” without a trace so we're not in for yet another nasty surprise.

We thank Xambria Meredith for her work and ask her to continue her research in Ber before we ultimately go there for Kasvarina's memory event. We, on the other hand, would head for Shale as we got the hint that old Kasvarina went there after she got banished from Flint.

So we travel to Shale and instantly spot the large number of war ships in construction in the wharves and dry docks. So it seems that Risur is preparing for yet another war as the political relationship with Danor is still very tense. As we don't know where to start, we lease yet another carriage and travel through the city. As we pass some homes, the Arc finally resonates and we stop the carriage.

Kasvarina enters one of the homes in her usual trance and meet up with another, younger eladrin woman named Chatwood. The woman appears to be a Risuri and a skyseer who's working for the people of Shale. Kasvarina asks Chatwood to work for duchess Ethelyn and serve her loyally. But she must promise to give the duchess false visions regarding Axis Island and later tell her abotu a fabricated vision which Kasvarina will reveal to her when the time is right. Chatwood replies that she's totally willing to work for Duchess Ethelyn, who is both a patriotic Risuri and the sister of the King. But she'd absolutely decline feeding her false visions as she'd never lie to the Risuri. After all, these people gave her a new start after her exodus from Elfaivar and welcomed her as one of their own. Kasvarina pities Chatwood's decision and then casts a blinding spell on the eladrin. She then puts her in the Fisher Asylum on the claim that she's gone mad.

Once again Kasvarina is shocked by her deeds. She says that there might still have been something redeemable inside her as she knew she was hesitant to hurt or even kill a fellow eladrin. So she used the blackmailing and the spell to keep her quiet. As we understand that this vision wasn't too far in the past (and most likely didn't happen during the “trip to Shale” that Morris Dawkins mentioned), we assume that Chatwood might very well still be alive and imprisoned in the asylum. So Kasvarina might actually get a chance to set things right this time.

We all agree that we will search for Chatwood immediately, so we go to said Fisher Asylum. The establishment turns out to be well-kept, but nevertheless dubious and we guess that this is the place where the powerful and wealthy would place their unwanted or otherwise embarrassing relatives. At first, our request to see Chatwood or her files is met with resistance, but as we cleverly use our positions as RHC agents who need to question said woman in a case of national scope, the assistants lead us to Chatwood's room. But they warn us in advance that the girl is quite the lunatic and we won't get any coherent answers from her anyway.

Once we see Chatwood, it becomes clear that the blindness is the least of the woman's problems right now. Carlyle sees multiple symptoms of sedatives and mild poisons in her erratic behaviour and hands her an antidote. It takes a while and Chatwood's mind recovers a bit. We carefully explain the still-blind woman that we've come to get her out of this hellish place. Of course Chatwood is cautious at first as she cannot see us and fears that this might be yet another way to torture her. She also mentions the “secret group” that Kasvarina belonged to and that she cannot be sure that we're not simply her goons.

We tell her that we're Knight of Risur and patriotic citizens of Risur as well which is why Chatwood would have nothing to fear from us. Auryn also adds that she, too, is an eladrin who has found a new home in Risur. Bit by bit Chatwood understands that we're not trying to trick her. In return she warns us of the woman who did all this to her, an eladrin matriarch named Kasvarina who has a powerful organization on her side.

“And this is exactly why we are here.” Auryn says. “We've been tasked by King Aodhan himself to stop this organization and their plans. It was by chance that we found you, but we'd really like to help you heal.”

So Chatwood agrees to accompany us to Flint where our dear colleague might find a cure for her blindness. We take her from the asylum on the rightful claim that Chatwood isn't mad and we really need her for our investigation while threatening the staff that we'd start a full-fledged investigation in an asylum that's obviously keeping sane people locked up.

(not that we wouldn't do this anyway once we're back in Flint and do our mission report...)


So we travel back to Flint and Kasvarina keeps her distance from Chatwood as she doesn't want to get in the way or re-traumatize the poor woman. While Chatwood is sleeping in the train, we meet up with Kasvarina who is also facing quite the mental troubles over how to deal with Chatwood. We suggest that she'd think deeply about whether or not to face Chatwood and try apologize for what she has done. Even if no one can tell whether or not Chatwood would accept an apology. After all, Chatwood seems to be terrified by the mere thought of being near Kasvarina or her agents.

“Honestly, I don't know. How... how can I look her in the eyes after all that I've done to her? All these years I've stolen from her, all the pain...” Kasvarina shakes her head as she's completely disgusted by the deeds of her previous self.

“It is your choice, but there's something I had to learn: That the path that leads us to a new dawn is rocky and long. And may also lead through utter darkness. In the end, trying to make amends might be the only way to prevent a new cycle of hatred and fear.” Auryn says.

Back in Flint, we take Chatwood to Margit who heals her of her blindness. Seeing the light of day once again is overwhelming for the Eladrin and she takes a while to adapt to the new brightness. We tell her that she may stay in Flint for as long as she wants to, and that she'd be safe from the Obs in the RHC. Also, no one knows her in this city so this might be the perfect place for a new start.

And then the tricky part begins as we try to explain her how we found her in the first place. We tell her about Kasvarina who we met without any memories of the past 500 years and who would be crucial in knowing more about and dismantling of the Obscurati. We also mention that it was someone else who took her memories as he wanted her to become a good person again and that this new Kasvarina agreed to help us on our quest. She also accepted what had happened to her and is shocked whenever she sees any of her wicked deeds. After all, it was either luck, fate or chance that Kas memory of her encounter with Chatwood was so important to her that the Arc of Reida reacted to this event. We then add that the Matriarch wants to apologize for what she has done to so many people.

This revelation shakes up Chatwood again. She fears that we're being manipulated by Kasvarina, just like she wanted to manipulate her in the first place. We promise her that we're neither working for Kasvarina, nor do we allow her to double-cross us as we already had to defend her from an Obscurati attack.

Chatwood is wary and explains that she'd need time to consider, but she'd gladly take our offer of staying at the RHC. We ask Margit to spend some time with her as we're filling out our reports to make sure that the Fisher Asylum will be properly investigated and eventually closed down. During the investigation it turns out that a certain tiefling named Bergeron was involved in Chatwood's case and we point out that this man was also an Obscurati member.

After a while, Chatwood is fortunately willing to face Kasvarina, but she insists that we're present at first so nothing can happen to her. Kasvarina breaks into tears the moment she sees Chatwood and she sincerely apologizes for her attack. She promises that she'll do everything she can to right her past wrongs. Chatwood on the other hand accepts the apology but she doesn't know if she can ever forgive Kasvarina. Not that it was forgiveness that Kas had sought in the first place.

We also have several other points to catch while being in Flint. First, Carlyle is still unnerved by the teleportation mishaps, so he visits the magical academy of Pardwright and asks the researchers whether the problem is know to academia (it is), whether there are precedents (no, maybe on Axis Island), and whether there is a solution (unfortunately not). The scholars explain that they're working on a device called “teleport compass” that may stabilize the teleportation magic again, but its development will take time. A lot of time. Of course Carlyle isn't too happy to hear that.

He returns back home where we make mental contact with Vitus Sigismund via sending. We ask him about the state of the investigation on the Obs officers that were sent to Crisillyir and get some really dire news: It appears as though all of the Obs officers died under mysterious circumstances during their imprisonment as if someone would want to keep their silence. So now the investigation has turned to investigating the cases of their deaths. We warn Sigismund that there might be more Obscurati in higher positions in the Crisillyiri hierarchy who might try to erase all traces of the conspiracy that could lead to them. So he'd better be careful and trust no one. Well no one except one Ottavia Sacredotte who we deem to be trustworthy. In return he gives us the name of “Bishop Rivaldo” who is a true man of the faith.

(yeah, that flamboyant Bishop from the peace conference. At least he's not an Ob.)

We also discuss on when and how to contact Asrabey as Auryn (and only Auryn) is worried about his well-being. We're not sure if the time is right yet as we don't want to frustrate him yet again.

So next up is Seobriga where we travel to after one final night in our cozy beds in Flint. There, we're planning to ask for an audience with the Bruse regarding the vision of Rilego.

(And that sums up session 50. That later part with Chatwood really came out of nowhere but it gave a pretty good insight into Kasvarina's conflicting character and it really crawled under our skin. Seems like Kas has a lot to answer for and we hoped that she wouldn't break and just run at some point.)
 

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Lylandra

Adventurer
A Nic in time

We travel to Seobriga to meet with Corta Nariz, the new minister for Dragon Affairs to talk about out request of getting a vision of Kasvarina's past with a full-fledged dragon tyrant. As Corta is very much concerned about the city's safety, we stress out that getting Kasvarina's memories back might be the most important step in unraveling the Obscurati's plans yet. Especially regarding the Colossus that may eventually return to our world and that may trample a beran city as easily as it could have trampled Flint. Corta understands our plea, but is still wary that a battle between a powerful mage and an adult dragon might be too much. Which is why she asks us about the specifics of the site and all we've learned about the incident so far.

(damn, that woman is one hell of an organizational talent and a skilled politician. Also we didn't tell her about the Charred Rocks which was “merely” a fight between her and an equally skilled druid/fey incarnation)

We suggest that we may turn the situation into a win-win situation as we might frame the memory event as a show off of a hero facing down and killing a dragon tyrant which might therefore raise the spirits of the Seobrigans. But as Corta Nariz digs deeper, we have to admit that we don't even know whether or not Kasvarina actually beat Rilego in Seobriga as we know that he died in a nearby forest. Which might bear the risk to have the sequence in Seobriga be just Rilego torching a bunch of eladrin soldiers. So we all agree to gather more information before we just let the Arc do its thing in Seobriga.

As Corta Nariz suggests to meet with dragon scholars to research Rilego, we decide to search for the spot where the tyrant met his end according to history. But before we actually leave the city, we very cautiously check for Arc resonances in Seobriga to get a glimpse on the measurements of the Rilego vision site. And find that the area must be really huge, so better leave it to Corta to take precautions.

So we travel to a forest not too far from Seobriga to find the place of Rilego's demise. It only takes us half of a day on horseback to reach said forest and find a cave where the Arc starts to resonate. Before we let the artifact do its thing, Auryn suggests to contact Asrabey first as this previously unknown memory of Kasvarina might help him understand his wife a bit better. After all, we know that Kasvarina has had her secrets and she does want to be more honest this time.

Kasvarina agrees, even though Carlyle jokes that he will miss his Asrabey-free time somehow. So we send a magical message to the eladrin warrior in which we ask for his whereabouts and invite him to join us. He seems a bit reluctant at first, but the moment we signal him that Kasvarina would like to see him, he's already on the move.

But Asrabey takes much, much longer to travel the Dreaming that he's thought and told us he would need. When he hasn't arrived at sunset (as he had planned), we set up camp for the night and agree to wait for the warrior. The delay isn't too bad as Carlyle (who only needs 4 hours of sleep) goes on a hunt right before dawn and brings back a boar for breakfast. So both Kasvarina and Auryn wake to the tasty smell of well-roasted boar.

Asrabey arrives finally with a half day delay. He says that he had to take a very old road to the waking called the “silk road” and that most of the crossing points between Waking and Dreaming appear to be inactive. We tell him that this might be a side-effect of the Obs trying to manipulate reality and he doesn't inquire any further. All he needs to know is that he is where he needs to be.

Kasvarina then places the crown on her head and lets it do its thing. All of a sudden, the rubble that's been lying around all over the place disappears and a hidden cave opens up in front of us. Kasvarina turns into a younger version of herself once more, draws a blade and walks straight into the cave. Her eyes are filled with a mixture of coldness and grief as she states that Rilego will die this very same day. Even for her, the sharpness and brutality in her voice makes us feel uneasy and Kasvarina jumps at the hidden figure of a trapped dragon in full, cold rage.

Kasvarina unleashes a barrage of magic and slashes at the dragon and Rilego retaliates with his breath and claws. Both wound each other very badly until we decide to heal some of Kasvarina's wounds as we are really worried that she might faint at any time. After a long, bloody battle, the tyrant collapses and dies. Kasvarina turns away from Rilego without ever looking back, visibly broken. She's shaking, but still standing and we once again heal her wounds to help her recover physically.

Once Kasvarina is back to her senses, she shares the moments she relived from her perspective with us. She explains that she hated Rilego with every fiber of her being and wanted him dead. Which is what she accomplished even if she felt lost and hollow after the deed was done.

“This is the power of my matriarch, the woman I married. I don't know why you felt this rage, but I see that it was justified.” says Asrabey who doesn't seem to regret coming back from the Dreaming.

We tell Asrabey that after seeing what happened here, we have to go back to Seobriga and try understand the reason why Kasvarina was in the state we saw. After all, we haven't learned much more than that she was filled with rage and that Rilego did die in that forest.

(Welp, who would have thought that Asrabey would come back? Told you that we're very much invested in the friendly neighborhood Dreadnaught. Things will get... interesting with him by our side ;) )

So we go back to Seobriga to share our new information with Corta Nariz. Together, we discuss how to safely induce Kasvarina's vision within the city's boundaries and agree to evacuate the whole area under the pretext that someone just found a dragon bomb or other ancient trap from the time of the Dragon Tyrants which needs to be disassembled by experts. Combining this story with a couple of illusions may be able to disguise the whole affair (including possible dragon fire) as a well-planned blasting. Corta agrees to this final plan, but tells us that this will need at least two weeks of preparation to not cause a panic in the general public.

We don't want to just sit idly by, so Kasvarina, Asrabey and the two of us agree to go searching for more memories. As Elfaivar is very close by, visiting Ushanti would be the most logical step even though we still have Matriarch Athryalla's warning in our minds. Asrabey reassures us that the former enclave of Kasvarina would be among the safest places for the Matriarch, but we warn him that this might also be one of the places where the Obs would expect us to go.

Kasvarina is quite able to lead us to her former home, but it takes us as longer while to enter the enclave as the whole place is constantly drifting through the Dreaming without being tethered to a fixed place in the Waking. We finally find the entrance near the border to Kellandia and enter.

On the other side, we are immediately being hailed by a group of Rajputs who ask us where we're heading to. We tell them that Kasvarina, their Matriarch, has returned and that she doesn't need to answer all of their questions, thank you. We get the impression that these guys are much less respectful towards Kasvarina than appropriate, especially if one considers the fact that she once was the supreme leader of this place. They invite us to the palace to visit Ajit their “Patriarch” and Kasvarina agrees even if she has no memory of this guy.

And this is is where Auryn really starts to believe that something isn't right as in her mind there is no way that her ancestor would have installed a man to lead an enclave. She tries to ask Kasvarina hushed questions about the possibility of this story being a lie, but Kas honestly doesn't know.

(yeah, she is really biased and conservative when it comes to Elfaivar...)

We find said Patriarch leading a luxurious life in the palace of Ushanti. Ajit recognizes Kasvarina as the one who left the care of Ushanti to his capable hands and immediately invites her and her entourage to stay in the guest rooms and have dinner with him this evening. We're still wary but decide to play our part in hope of getting more information this way.

After leaving our luggage in the guest rooms, we take a longer stroll through the enclave in search of more memories. On our way, we see that the older Eladrin seem to revere Kasvarina as their Matriarch and we hear quiet voices who mock and despise the displayed life of overwhelming splendor that Ajit puts on display. We also find two places where the Arc resonates with a memory of Kasvarina but stay at a distance to let the event play out later where there are less people around.

(aaand he's immediately a disgusting no-good in Auryn's eyes. Way to have your biases confirmed :/ )

The sun sets early and we return to the palace to have dinner with Ajit. The guy seems to be superficially friendly, but we get the impression that he'd rather be left alone. And he also didn't know that Kasvarina had a small family branch left, so she had reason to keep this information a secret.

After dinner and nightfall, we sneak out of the palace to go experience the memories of Kasvarina. The first one leads her to a garden where a calm Kasvarina seems to lead a peaceful life. We see Nicodemus, who inhabits a new body, approach her and call out to her. Kasvarina recognizes Nic, and we check that this man is indeed a memory to not be deceived by present-day Nicodemus once again. Nicodemus is very excited to tell Kasvarina about his new plan and asks her on the state of her own mission as he hasn't heard of the tigress in a long time. But Kasvarina brushes the matter off and tries to avoid talking about missions or any plans at all. She explains that she has had long and frequent talks with “that fool” Athryalla and came to the conclusion that her way of trying to forge a peaceful coexistence with Crisillyir might actually be successful. Nicodemus nevertheless tries to convince Kasvarina to carry on with their plan as he is sure to succeed this time, but she's having none of it. Instead she makes him leave and let her be.

We memorize the details of this memory and deduce that this must be a really old one, and maybe happened only a century after the Fall. Both Auryn and Gabriel get the uneasy feeling that something terrible must have happened as Kasvarina later became a fervent member and officer of the Obscurati, which is much more unnerving when they consider the fact that she just sent Nicodemus away to have her peace. Kasvarina states that she was being honest with Nicodemus and merely wanted to live her life, free from all that foolishness her back-me associated with the man.

She feels comfortable enough to seek out the second memory directly afterward, which is why we continue sneaking around. The next resonance is close to a locked up old house which Kasvarina opens with ease as it turns out that this one was once her own home. Once inside, the vision starts and a smell of Leaf of Nicodemus fills the air. She is again approached by a man, a different one than the once we saw in the garden but who is still very obviously Nicodemus.

Kasvarina calls that man William at first, but he asks her to call him Nicodemus instead. He tells her that it took him many different voluntary hosts to get to her once again. And despite his partial happiness to see her again after what might be an eternity, we also get that both of them are uneasy around each other and don't want to talk about their actual feelings. Both Auryn and Gabriel get the impression that they could very well have been a couple after a miserable break up even if the circumstances appear to be different.

Nicodemus tells “Rina” (a nickname we've never heard anyone use before) that he will travel to Methia, which discomforts Kasvarina as if something really bad has happened in that place. She offers to accompany Nicodemus to Methia as she doesn't want him to go alone. But he reminds her of the teachings of Vekesh, asks her to continue living her life and to regrow until he calls for her aid once again. Kasvarina replies that she finds that thought pretty ironic after the Clergy had just killed Vekesh, but she lets him change her mind nevertheless.

The memory ends and Kasvarina explains that this very much felt like a possible final goodbye and that she didn't want Nicodemus to go alone. Somehow she must have had feelings for that man, but the pain she felt when she heard “Methia” was much more overwhelming than any affection she could have felt towards Nic. Needless to say that Asrabey isn't too happy to hear that, but even he understands that these memories happened long before he even met Kasvarina.

(I have to admit that I really liked that "immediately after the Fall Nicodemus". He still feels very alive and shows believeable emotions. kudos to the writing of these scenes)
 

I love each of these updates. I'd say more, but I just got my Moderna vaccine booster shot, which has left me rather out of it for the past day, so please pardon my brief praise. It's a delight to see your characters piecing the mystery together.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Nothing to apologize, I am very happy to hear from people who enjoy these write-ups :)
We figured out Nic<->Miller quite early on, but the whole story was a totally different beast.
as you see, things are going to run a bit differently than the book route, partly thanks to Tiz' creativity and party thanks to our... umm... insistence on using different strategies. You may all bet on who is going to end up where in the end (alive? dead? loyal? position?)

Hope that you recover quickly and gratz on the boost! I am due in roughly a month.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
The day her world broke down (...again)

We return to our rooms in the palace just in the same sneaky way we left earlier. But we all immediately realize that someone must have been in our rooms and searched them. We find no magical sensors or poison, so at least nothing too nefarious, but Gabriel's fine nose tells him that these smells belong to the Rajputs of Ajit. Gabriel and Kasvarina confront them about that fact, but they deny any involvement and don't give us any hint about their possible motive. We suspect that the Rajputs must have operated on the orders of Ajit, so we discuss on how to deal with this obvious violation of trust.

We suspect that, coming from all that we know about the time when Kasvarina installed Ajit as the leader of Ushanti, that Patriarch may very well be an Obs officer and loyal to Obs-Kasvarina. Carlyle makes it very clear that he doesn't want to stay any second longer in a place that's obviously not safe for them. He fears there might be a nightly ambush and also that our whole mission might fail if we take too many risks here. Auryn is even more disgusted by Ajit and his character as he's someone who dishonors the privacy of his guests, and more importantly his matriarch. But unlike Gabriel, she doesn't want to leave. Instead she argues to dethrone the guy and rid him of his power so that Ushanti may become a safe place again without being in control of the Obs. She adds that several older Eladrin appear to be loyal to their original matriarch and would certainly support that change of direction. This wouldn't need a violent coup, she explains, as Ajit's power was given by Kasvarina and so it would be her privilege to strip it from him again.

Carlyle isn't too happy with the prospect of a coup, no matter how peaceful as it will still cause trouble, disruption and draw attention. In addition, he points out that Kasvarina might not be comfortable with taking on the role of High Matriarch again, especially as she is still missing pivotal memories from her past life.

“She doesn't have to stay here. All she has to do is to invoke her right as the High Matriarch and change the way Ushanti is run. Think of all the good she could do with one single act.”, Auryn says.

“And I fear that you are projecting your own political ambitions on Kasvarina. This isn't your decision, it is hers. I know that you would gladly take this political responsibility, but Kasvarina might not want to be part of this conflict. She is still vulnerable.”

“She is no child you need to protect... she was, is, a Matriarch of Elfaivar. No matriarch would sneak away like a criminal in the middle of the night. And you know the danger of having Obscurati be in charge of a well-connected, powerful Eladrin enclave. ”

“And maybe she doesn't want to fulfill this role. Even if you would. Remember, we both agreed to not influence her in any direction.”

“We both did...” Auryn agrees with a sigh.

So we turn to Kasvarina and talk about all of her possible actions so she may choose which path to follow.

(That is... some sort of recurring theme with both our characters. There are several points in the campaign where we got the strong impression that it wasn't our place to decide, but to have the person who is either in charge or the center of the story forge their own path. Which... of course put more pressure on the DM.

Oh and yes, Auryn is totally projecting how she would handle things on Kasvarina. Even if removing Ajit was a legitimate option. Also Ajit...Cajit? I somehow imagined him to be a fat guy with cat ears)


Kasvarina decides that regaining her memories need to have priority as she doesn't feel comfortable deciding on anything without getting the full perspective. She isn't keen on sneaking away though, so she'd rather stay till morning to say goodbye properly. We offer her to take on Ajit should she feel the need to confront him. But for now she prefers to simply watch him and his actions.

Carlyle sleeps with one eye open, and so does Asrabey. When the morning breaks, Kasvarina wants to leave, so we inform Ajit that we'll have to leave this very same day. He treats us with an opulent breakfast where many of the enclave's inhabitants are invited as well. Despite this obvious attempt on making us stay, we formally say goodbye and continue with our journey.

While we're on our way back to Kellandia, we're suddenly being ambushed by a group of Eladrin warriors. On a closer look we are quite shocked to see that these guys are actually Rajputs from Ushanti. Fortunately they don't pose too much of a threat for the four of us and so we manage to bet them unconscious without getting more than scratches.

We tie them all up and question them on their motives for attacking us. After all, from all we've seen, they just attempted to take their Matriarch's life. But the group decides to stay silent. While we're merely frustrated, Asrabey is not having it. He demands justice and agrees with Carlyle's assessment that these guys attempted to murder two noble Eladrin women, both the High Matriarch and her descendant. A crime that is being punished with death.

When the Rajputs don't show any emotion or motion at all, Asrabey takes his sword, sentences the first one to death under the rule of the Enclaves of Elfaivar and decapitates him. None of the others intervene; Kasvarina because she is still too confused on what's going on, Auryn because she is heavily repulsed by Ajit and his goons and still adheres to her people's traditions and Gabriel because he knows that this isn't a Risuri's place to intervene in a foreign country's system of law and order. Asrabey continues to execute the Rajputs without remorse while the other three watch the cruel spectacle in silence. When he is about to put the last of them to the sword, the Rajputs pleads to explain himself and we finally find an excuse to stop Asrabey.

The Rajput says that he was acting on Ajit's orders (as we suspected) and that both he and the Patriarch came to the conclusion that Kasvarina must be under some kind of spell. After all, she didn't display the secret signs she had shown them so long ago which would signal her safe and free return to Ushanti. And as she wasn't showing any signs of distress or giving them hints on what was going on, a charm spell would be the only logical explanation.

“You fool.”, Kasvarina replies. “There is no spell on me, and you could have checked this quite easily. I don't want to drag my family into this old business. And who is Ajit to question my reasons for not giving stupid signs? Now go back to Ajit and tell him that I'll be watching him. And that I have changed and he'd better leave me and my family alone.”

She then orders Asrabey to release the Rajput who runs off to Ushanti immediately.

(Again, leaving the choice for Kasvarina and dear, she has some growth here. While Asrabey demonstrates that he's made from a totally different kind of wood.)

We then return to Seobriga as we hope that Corta Nariz' preparations for the memory of Rilego have progressed since we've over a week ago left. And just as we thought, the daughter of Bruse Cavallo has already established a plan on how to safely trigger Kasvarina's memory. She shows us how she would have her clerks, specialists and mages prepare the whole area: They would evacuate the block and restrict the area of the memory site. Then the mages and we should add some illusions to make the dragonfire bomb defusing look real and explosive.

We agree and proceed with her plan the next day. The mages establish the outer illusions to block any view on a maybe emerging dragon figure and Kasvarina dons the Arc of Reida. The scenery immediately shifts and suddenly all surrounding buildings are on fire. Next to Kasvarina, a group of Eladrin soldiers emerges out of thin air, including Latika and Sor Daeron.

The very same moment, Auryn disappears and reappears in the character of Launga who is being carried by Rilego in his claws. The massive dragon lands on one of the buildings' roofs and pins Launga to the ground. Kasvarina rushes to the building and begs Rilego to spare her daughter and turn to her instead. But then she is suddenly stabbed in the back by Sor Daeron.

“I know what you have done, High Matriarch”, Latika proclaims coldly. “And you and all of your family will pay the price for this ultimate treason”

With this signal, Rilego uses his fiery breath on Launga and Kasvarina cries out in terror. Auryn-Launga shrieks as well, but falls immediately silent the moment the fire touches her. The two women split, leaving Auryn unconscious next to Rilego's claw and Launga half-charred and still underneath it.

Kasvarina's warrior and maternal reflexes set in after that brief moment of terror and she rushes into the building to get to Launga and Rilego. Sor Daeron orders his men to follow and kill her, but Kasvarina retaliates with a quick chain lightning, roasting them all and making part of the building collapse on Sor Daeron. She then hurls powerful spells at the dragon who lifts off. Rilego then picks up Latika who tries to take him as a ride out. But Kasvarina orders the dragon with a word of power to drop her and Latika falls to her death. Kasvarina then picks up her dead child, holds her close to her chest and utters cries of rage, despair and pain.

Carlyle meanwhile moves closer to the building while making sure that he doesn't cause an accidental collapse. This way, he can see that one-armed Sor Daeron has actually survived the falling walls as he crawls out of the rubble and flees the scene. Auryn regains her consciousness only to see Kasvarina in her worst state possible. The memory event ends and Launga disappears from Kasvarina's arms. Still the tears are running down her face and the Matriarch is still very much overtaken by feelings of grief and despair as she now not only knows what truly happened to Launga, but also that she failed to prevent her daughter's death and was betrayed by people she trusted.

Auryn wraps her arms around Kasvarina to comfort her while Gabriel checks that neither of the two has suffered any dangerous injury.

“Thank the gods that Sor Daeron didn't know about Launga's daugher...” Auryn whispers.

“Neither did I.”, Kasvarina adds, her voice still shaking. “In that moment, I truly lost all I cared for. Now I understand... why I hated Rilego with all of my heart.”

“I... am so sorry.” says Asrabey who really didn't know jack about his wife's cruel past.

Gabriel waits for Kasvarina to take a breath and get some distance to the memory before he tells her with a fair bit of reluctance what he, and only he, saw in the vision: That Sor Daeron managed to survive and flee. And as he left the remaining part of Kasvarina's family alone, he was either oblivious to their existence or just moved on to hide from what he had done there. Which is why there would be a tiny chance that he'd be still alive and a potential way to understand what it was that “Kasvarina had done” to make both an Eladrin General and a High Matriarch want to hurt Kasvarina that much before they would eradicate all traces of her existence.

Of course Asrabey isn't having it as he would gladly end the traitor's life for the pain he had caused. Kasvarina is terrified by the thought at fist, but realizes that her hot wrath doesn't reappear when speaking or thinking about a possible present-day Sor.

“What's done is done. And if this worm of a man is still alive and we can use him for information, then so be it. I may decide whether I need revenge after we got what we need.” she says.

So we agree to first check whether Sor Daeron would still exist and where we could find him. The first one is be a bit obvious as our divination attempts are being blocked and do not simply fade without reaction. But it appears as if the man is warded by quite the powerful protection spells. After a few minutes, we realize that someone is trying to scry us back, to no success as well.

Being the only one without a direct connection to either Kasvarina or Sor Daeron, Gabriel offers to contact the man in his position as agent of Risur to get a chance to talk to him. We agree with this plan as he wouldn't have any reason to fear an RHC agent. So Gabriel uses a sending spell where he introduces himself as a Knight of Risur and secret agent who is trying to unearth a conspiracy which is threatening the world. Which is why he would need to know what atrocities Kasvarina had committed in her past. Sor reluctantly agrees to meeting him and asks Carlyle to come to an eladrin community near Citada de Cavallo.

We travel there immediately and Gabriel proceeds on his own from there. He meets the ancient Eladrin in a tavern where he appears to be a senile old man. But he quickly learns that this is only a partial truth as several of Sor's mannerisms are actually a guise. He sits down next to Sor, introduces himself and orders the local soup before he proceeds in a telepathic exchange.

Carlyle tells Sor that he knows he escaped Kasvarina's wrath in Seobriga the day Rilego killed her daughter and as Kasvarina's past might be the key in unlocking the secret society threatening the current state of the world, he needs to know what Sor and Latika had learned about the Matriarch's crimes. Sor Daeron seems to feel remorse for what happened in Seobriga and explains that the man he is today would have never dragged an innocent girl into this mess as both he and Latika wanted to kill Kasvarina first and foremost. But their plan failed and so he had to hide from her wrath for centuries. For what she had done, he explains that there was this merchant who smelled like he had too many cigarettes who gave him documents that proved that Kasvarina was the one who had killed Srasama and ushered in the Fall and the Malice. In addition, he had given them hints on where to find Launga and one thought lead to the next.

Unfortunately, Sor doesn't remember the details on the “proof” the merchant had given them and alas, all of this wasn't really worth it in the end. Just like Vekesh said, revenge only causes more and more pain and he is past living his whole life in fear of Kasvarina. But what he feels most sorry for is that they had abducted Launga.

Carlyle clenches his teeth before he stands up. “You didn't 'abduct' Launga, Sor Daeron. You sacrificed an innocent woman to a dragon tyrant so that beast could maim and murder her. May this memory stay with you for the rest of your life.”

(...just Carlyle things)

Then he leaves the tavern and returns to the rest of us. He tells us all that he's learned and makes sure that Asrabey understands that Sor Daeron's current existence would be far more miserable than giving him the mercy of a quick death. He stresses out that Sor had lead a life full of fear and then asks Kasvarina whether she'd want to face the man one last time to maybe find closure. To our all surprise, she accepts the offer.

It takes quite a while until she enters the tavern and even longer to leave it again. When Kasvarina returns, her eyes are filled with tears once again and she states that she didn't want to kill Sor Daeron, even if he'd understand it if she felt the need to end his life. But she wouldn't forgive him either as his crime cannot be forgiven by any means. All she could do was to shake off her old feelings of needing revenge.

“You don't have to forgive him.”, Auryn says, “and he isn't important. All that matters is that you can find closure and move on so maybe the cycle of hatred can finally come to an end.”
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
this will happen in the next post (it is still the same session) ;)
First, confronting Kasvarina before giving her the chance to get more stable wouldn't be a good idea and second, well... they knew that there was something fishy the moment Nic was involved and it was also pretty clear that he manipulated Sor and Latika to kill an innocent. So no need to rush.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
The case of Miller - Part 1

We decide to travel back to Seobriga as we plan to take a closer look at whatever Kasvarina was up to in Alais Primos, and maybe go visit Pala afterwards to gain more information about Miller. As soon as we're on our way, Auryn and Gabriel hold a brief mental conversation on what they have learned so far. They first discuss the matter of Launga's death and the events that led to this tragic moment. Both agree that Kasvarina would have never killed Srasama out of her free will as all that we saw so far pointed to the conclusion that she was – and maybe still is – a devout follower of the goddess. So if she had any role in her death, it would most likely have been an accident. But then again, Sor Daeron didn't remember anything about the proof he got from Nicodemus, which means that it most likely wasn't truly convincing. But nevertheless this might still mean that Nicodemus knew some secret about the death of the goddess.

Before they turn to Kasvarina, Auryn mentions that being in Rilego's claws as Launga was really terrifying, that she'd never imagined such a raw power from a dragon and that Rilego wasn't even the most powerful of Dragon Tyrants. That title would go to either Yeref or, well, Gradiax. Gabriel reminds her that one, her and Launga's personality got mixed up and that he's glad the experience didn't seriously injure her. And two, she'd probably have more power regarding this dragon than she's willing to believe and that Gradiax didn't appear to be one who enjoys violence. But should he ever try to harm her, they'll both rip him to shreds. Promise.

Then they ask Kasvarina about her thoughts on the whole memory and exchange with Sor Daeron, now that the man is miles away again. She says that she cannot remember anything regarding the death of Srasama, but that she does remember her bitter, heart-wrenching grief shortly before she made the choice to go on living with Athryalla and Latika at the Dirge ceremony. And that there was no fear of having a secret unveiled or something like that. So we agree that this is just one more hint that Nicodemus incited the murder of Launga to hurt Kasvarina so much that she'd turn her back on Elfaivar and follow the path of revenge once again. Kasvarina is understandably shocked by the conclusion that the man she once held feelings for would betray and manipulate her that much, especially at the expense of someone she loved so much and someone he also knew personally.

“Whatever happened, I do believe that you are innocent regarding the Malice and I also believe that if we follow the trail of your memories, we'll find out the truth eventually.” says Auryn before they continue on their travel.

(I guess other groups had more reason to distrust Kasvarina at this point. But seeing her interact with her daughters and also Kasvarina's ceremonies regarding the births of the girls, we knew that she had no interest in betraying her people and her goddess. We thought that she was present during the Fall, but didn't know if she had any - unwilling - part in it)


As soon as we reach Seobriga, we realize that it wouldn't be too easy to travel Crisillyir in a group with two Eladrin women, so we agree to turn to Morgan Cippiano for help. Which means that we'll have a small detour via Flint.

We discuss our request in Cippiano's Cafe in Stray River, and the Don is very much intrigued to see to Eladrin who almost look alike. We ask Cippiano to help us enter Alais Primos as we'd seek out crucial information there (which would not endanger Crisillyir. Promise.). In return, we reveal that we're chasing the history of one of the conspiracy's architects, which is why we have to get into the city with the “Tigress” to do more research. He eventually agrees to help us if we also promise to not let her murder any high-ranking Clergymen in the process. Kasvarina agrees as she explains that she is past her need for revenge.

So we travel to Alais Primos via ship and put on large cloaks and enchantments to look more inconspicuous. Kasvarina then uses the Arc to look for potential resonances. As the city is rather large, we find more than one potential spot: One seems to be located in the library where Ken Don had worked in the past, one appears to be near an old chapel, one close to the city wall and one outside of the city.

We decide to visit the library first and see that it is inhabited by ghostly librarians. To not cause too much trouble by releasing a memory event, we force-push one bookshelf so it collapses into another. This causes the librarians to seek out the source of this ruckus and gives us a chance to move past them and trigger the memory.

It manifests itself near a large window. Kasvarina turns into her younger self again where she is accompanied by Miller. They meet up with several bishops and a young woman of the Clergy. The small group discusses a possible peace between the warring nations of Elfaivar and Crisillyir. Kasvarina tells the group that the Ranamandala agreed to negotiations should Crisillyir be willing to join in. This causes the bishops to muse on ways on how to deal with the corrupt and war-hungry Hierarchs in Methia. The quickest and safest, but not easiest way would be to dethrone them entirely, they say. But then the conversation is brutally interrupted as a group of pretorians storm the meeting after being alerted by a light signal from the young woman.

Kasvarina and Miller are being arrested while the bishops claim to be innocent and are apparently left alone. Miller tries to call out to the men in an attempt to reason with them, but then turns more and more angry as his words fall on deaf ears. Kasvarina on the other hand seems to accept her fate and their failure with stoicism. The pretorians talk about bringing the two of them to Odiem, and the vision ends with Kasvarina and Miller being dragged away.

“These idiots...” Kasvarina whispers as she turns to her current self again. “Cowards”, Asrabey adds. “All words, no act.”

We agree and also regret that the scene turned out to end so tragically after such an hopeful beginning. Especially as this might have just been the best chance of actually ending the ongoing war in a peaceful manner. We all condemn these “corrupt Hierarches” who are most likely responsible for the conflict in the first place, as well as other atrocities like locking up Linia.

We head to the chapel next as Kasvarina wasn't that strained by this first memory. As soon as she dons the Arc, the chapel turns into a sick bay where a young Miller is busy tending to wounded Eladrin. They are chained to their beds, but he appears to be sincerely caring for their health. We look at the Eladrin and find out that Kasvarina is one of them. Time passes by and we see that Miller is talking to the Eladrin about their reason to fight in the war. Kasvarina explains that she is seeking revenge for her husband, who had died in the first war and who was her one and all.

(Poor Asrabey... he had been quite stoic the whole time, but this must have reminded him that he is number 2 at best)

Days go by and several of the Eladrin either die or are being dragged away by soldiers once their health is sufficient to be locked up in a prison and questioned. But Kasvarina stays and slowly but steadily she and Miller befriend each other. Then Kasvarina tells Miller about her daughters who she hopes will lead a better life and have a better future than the once she had, and she finally agrees that peace might be the better option for them. But in order to have peace, she'd have to convince the Ranamandala first. In this moment, only three Eladrin are still in the sick bay, but following this conversation they die quickly and we see that Miller delivered them poison. He then releases Kasvarina and leaves with her, but regarding her fellow Eladrin he tells her that they had succumbed to their wounds.

We're finally back in the present day and both Auryn and Gabriel are furious at this very first lie of Miller.

“I thought he was an honest, good man back then, but there was darkness and poison inside him from the start. He killed them to have a better chance with his plan of forging peace. Talking about going the wrong path get to to the right place”, Auryn growls.

“They were in his way, so he removed the uncertain variables. At least their death was quick and painless, but still...” Carlyle adds.

Auryn muses that he might already have had a special interest in Kasvarina, even if there was no real, tangible clue for that deduction.

“No matter his cause, seeing this gives me just another reason to not trust Miller and expect the worst from that man. Not that I am really surprised to catch him lying.”, Kasvarina states with a regretful sigh.
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
The case of Miller - Part 2

As the city walls of Alais Primos are constantly being watched by attentive guards, we sneak out of the city to use the veil of the night to get to the vision outside of the city. Especially as all the farmers would be fast asleep at this time of the day – or rather night. Kasvarina dons the Arc and we are heavily surprised, and also a bit shocked to be standing in broad daylight all of a sudden. Six large, blazing bonfires appear around us and one after another male Eladrin warriors appear, their faces pale in shock. We look around us and see bodies of numerous female warriors scattered on the ground, lifeless. And as we look up and see the dissolving, ashen outlines of a six-armed, huge Eladrin woman, we know that this must be the moment right after the Malice had happened.

Kasvarina is in the center of the six flames, right underneath the image of the goddess, holding a charred, still girlish body, crying out in terror. Botch Auryn and Gabriels want to rush towards Kasvarina to care for her, but a strange presence draws each of them towards one of the flames. As we draw closer, we see that the flames are actually erupting from the fallen blades of Srasama. And as we draw close enough to the blades, the fires jump to our own weapons. This causes the resonance between the blades to collapse, leaving Kasvarina crying alone on a dark field while the cheers of victory emerge from distant Alais Primos and Asrabey watches silently and in awe.

(Yep this just empowered our blades with the presence of two Blades of Srasama. As for the lingering Star of Dhebisu... it will get its moment of glory)

While we still feel a hot presence running through our bodies, Auryn rushes to Kasvarina to look after her. But as soon as the quick blaze of Srasama's flame ends, Gabriel collapses as well, feeling a resonance of what had happened to him that day. Kasvarina is still devastated, mourning the death of the one she held in her arms. Auryn comforts both of them and reassures both Kasvarina and Gabriel that they lived their lives after this tragedy. She urges them to move to a safe place as well as the sudden burst of daylight in combination with two large armies might have alerted the guards of Alais Primos.

And just as she thought, the citizens of the city appear to be joyous at the sight of the vision after a short, initial panic. We watch the city cautiously and see that some Clergyfolk proclaimed this vision to be granted by the gods to praise their past victory and remind them of their greatness, which is replies with joyous cheers.

“So much suffering and all they can think of is their victory...” Gabriel scoffs, still holding his dizzy head.

When Kasvarina shakes off her grief, she explains that she has never ever felt that much pain. Maybe Launga's death came close, but she was also fueled by a thirst for revenge on Latika and Rilego back then. Gabriel also recovers as he feels that this time, there would be no rebirth and no lingering sense of death or souls of recently deceased driving him mad. Still the memory reminded him of one of the most tragic days of his life.

We agree to rest from this straining vision and set camp nearby. The next morning, we sneak into the city once again to see if there would be still a high level of alert. What we instead see is rather surprising: The celebrations of the night have continued and apparently someone called for a spontaneous, religious holiday to celebrate the coming of the Victory.

We're a bit baffled but not too surprised to see that Crisillyir hasn't changed one bit regarding the Malice and that the biggest tragedy in the history of Elfaivar is reduced in complexity to simply the cheerful celebration of winning a war. Still we opt to seize the opportunity of the citizens' distraction to come close to the last memory site. We're still cautious as we suspect that this memory might just lead us to the core of the tragedy: the moment of Srasama's Fall.

Both Gabriel and Kasvarina prepare for the worst, but when Kasvarina uses the Arc of Reida, an Eladrin army forms around us, with Kasvarina and Sor Daeron (who still has both of his arms in this period) in the center. The army is positioned at a distance to the wall of Alais Primos, and the city seems to be protected by a golden, glowing, magical sphere. Sor Daeron steps forwars and calls out to the Crisillyiri that he will kill their human prisoners one by one until a champion of the Clergy is willing to combat him one on one.

We're not sure on the General's tactics, but to our disgust, he does order the execution of human prisoners of war right in plain sight of the city. And we hear screams of anguish coming from within the city walls. As the cries grow louder, the golden shield opens up for a tiny passage and a human Cardinal, Richelmont, comes riding outside alongside a small troop.

But Richelmont doesn't answer Sor's demands, as he calls upon the power of his gods to conjure pillars of salt that disintegrate a few of the Eladrin soldiers. One of these pillars strikes Sor Daeron's arm who takes the loss of the limb without batting an eye.

“Kill him! Kill that coward!”, Sor orders his soldiers and the cardinal doesn't last much longer.

“So that's your champion? Look at him now, kissing the mud formed by his own blood! Soon you will all join him!” Sor shouts toward the city and its defenders.

His words are met with panicking cries and in this moment, the golden shield begins to flicker and fade for a moment. Now we understand what this cruelty was all about and just in this same moment, Sor signals Kasvarina and a group of Eladrin soldiers to advance. They make a beeline for the small gap and manage to get inside before the shield is made whole again. This doesn't help them that much though, as the Eladrin are quickly outnumbered by Crisillyiri defenders and slain one by one until only Kasvarina is left standing. She fights against a group of Paladins and is then knocked out by a massive mace blow. But just as the Paladins are about to kill her, one priest orders them to stop and we see the familiar face of young Miller. He states that this should be enough and that they'd be better off with gaining information from a few prisoners than killing every last of the enemy soldiers. And that he may provide them with the information if they'd hand him the unconscious Eladrin.

The memory fades and Kasvarina comes back to her senses, her mind still dizzy from the blow. We understand that this must have been the moment when Miller and Kasvarina had first met, but we also see that more than just a couple of Crisillyiri saw the vision of the shield and the advancing army, so we withdraw as quickly as we can. As this doesn't seem enough, Gabriel dares a short-distance teleportation effect which fortunately works as intended.

We quickly talk about atrocities being committed at both sides during wartime, which is something that Gabriel Carlyle, Asrabey and now Kasvarina know too well. Auryn however feels as if the legacy of her people was tainted as she, too, has heard the stories of the heroic last stands of her people during the Defeat and the Malice.

“Don't think that either side has clean hands. I've seen enough...” Gabriel starts and then whispers “and probably hand enough part in... all of this...”

Asrabey on the contrast stays silent, being unsure about what to say.

(and also these events happened way before he was born...)

With heavy hearts, we agree to travel to the ruins of Pala next as we knew that Miller was around this place before his death, which would most likely warrant at least one visit of Kasvarina. Still we don't know where exactly to find Pala, so we kind of agree to turning to the most unlikely guide we know to have been in the ruins of the city: Rock Rackus.

Carlyle isn't happy with the prospect of having Rock anywhere this ragtag group of psychologically unstable people (including probably himself), so he decides to ask a couple of people once we are in Orithea whether anyone might know the way to Pala. Once the rest sees what Gabriel is up to, we join him and follow a few breadcrumbs to the Clavel Ranch.

(He'd do anything to not have Rock Rackus around. I'd honestly think that having to endure both Asrabey AND Rock at the same time would be the stuff of nightmares for Carlyle)

The trail seemingly ends there as no one of the workers of this ranch claims to have heard of Pala. But we sense that these claims doesn't have too much truth behind them, so we stay for a little while. And when all of a sudden the ranch is attacked by a rabid Malice Beast, we of course do what we do best and defend the people of Clavel alongside one really potent fist-fighter named Pete.

Pete thanks us for saving the local Axebeak population, a special breed the Clavel Ranch is famous for. He then carefully asks more about our background and as soon as he is convinced that we are no Danoran secret agents, but part RHC, part Eladrin nobility, he warms up even more. We are a bit baffled that Pete had thought that three Eladrin and a Deva to be Danorans, to be honest. But when he shows us his tattoo, the “Fist of Pala”, he has us all intrigued. Pete tells us about his band of brothers and sisters who wish to uphold the legacy of Pala, the lost paradise. He himself and his family left Danor to a place where people could be truly free (albeit in constant danger of a random Malice Beast attack). We ask him once again about the way to Pala, and this time he is willing to lead us to the city's ruins.

Pete gladly takes us to the place and his most holy site: A pillar with an inscription that talks about brotherhood and a dream. Pete explains that this pillar inspired the Fists of Pala and that those who caused the fall of the city-state shall never be allowed here. We get that this inscription might be just tied to the Obscurati and are glad that the script inspired a wholly different group to do real, tangible good for their region. We thank the man for his trust and promise that he'll soon witness a vision of the past he'll probably never forget.

Then Kasvarina uses the Arc of Reida and an older man sitting bench appears out of thin air. We see that this bench is the very same rock that got later erected as the lonely pillar in the ruins of Pala, and we also see that the city is engulfed in flames. Still the man casually sits on his bench and smokes a leaf of Nicodemus while the rest of the city's inhabitants are in panic and trying to flee with all they can grab while bunch of Crisillyiri madmen is on a happy murder spree against the “infidels”. And then we see Kasvarina approach the man, holding a blood-stained sword.

She pleads with Miller to let go and flee with her as she can fight a way out for the two of them. She adds that this way, the two of them could survive – and live – together. That they may still have tomorrow and the day after waiting for them. That they may yet find their peace. But Miller just casually reads in his book, barely taking notice. He then tells Kasvarina that he will never have peace as Crisillyir will always come back to hunt him. But even if he dies now, the cycle will not be broken as he'll simply return in another body. Which is why she, not him, should make haste to flee and be safe.

Kasvarina continues to talk to Miller and beg him to leave, but to no success. And as the Crisillyiri soldiers are finally approaching, she takes cover and the soldiers drag Miller away. The form a pyre from his scripts, tie him to a stake and burn him alive.

The vision ends and Kasvarina is still in turmoil about the death of Miller. She talks about her helplessness in this situation, the despair she had felt and her furious anger towards the Crisillyiri. Pete on the other hand is astounded and in awe to see that man, who he knows to be the founder of Pala, be so unafraid while facing his death. Still he is very much surprised to see that Kasvarina, who was undoubtedly part of this vision, is looking almost the same after centuries. We explain that Eladrin don't experience age the same as humans and Pete seems content with it.

Auryn feels Kasvarina's anger and as we talk about Miller's death, she states that no matter the cruel laws of Crisillyir, these people simply had no right to invade a foreign state in this no-man's land and kill their leader.

“This is what they do. What they've always done. Waltz into foreign territory as if they owned and ruled everything, imposing their wretched 'justice' upon others who just wish to live their life in peace. Our hands are undoubtedly bloodied, but they are atrocious, merciless beasts. And we are right to never forget and never forgive.”, Auryn whispers.

(Seems like most of Kasvarina's defining memories were cruel and we haven't come to the core of it all yet. No wonder she turned out to be unattached and cold.)

We leave Pete with his new knowledge and discuss on where to go next. And as we see that the Crypta would be the “easiest” place to go next (since Methia is very much off limits), we understand that we'd need a thorough plan first. Carlyle isn't happy at all with the prospect of seeing “that demoness” once again and we are very much concerned that we may need more secrets to sell to her in order to get in and out in one piece.

As our knowledge is quite delicate in nature, Gabriel and Auryn agree to take the matters to King Aodhan so he may judge the nature of secrets we may share with Ashima-Shimtu. So we send a sending to Delft that we'd need an audience with the King once we return from Orithea. Delft reminds us that he is no secretary, but he'd still ask for the audience since time seems an important factor.

Once we're back in Flint, we visit Chatwood and see that she has grown a bit more accustomed to this new city. We offer her to work for the RHC as a Skyseer should she be interested in a new occupation and she returns that she'll seriously consider it once she has figured it all out. We then give a short report on our missions' progress to Delft before we continue our travel to Slate.

When we are called to the audience, we are surprised to see that it is only with King Aodhan this time. Aodhan is a bit surprised to see Asrabey joining the crew, but we explain that he barely made it out of the Dreaming and might have a positive impact on Kasvarina and her memories as he'd been part of her memories for quite some time.

(despite the serious lack of Asrabey in the recent visions. Still feeling pity for the man.)

We also take the opportunity to formally introduce Kasvarina to Aodhan and our King appears to be pretty impressed by our deeds so far. He then returns to his roguish charm and asks whether we'd have more of this tasty veteran's elixir. We share a quick laugh, and Auryn promises to ask her mother whether she'd have more to spare.

(that's the Aodhan we all love :) )

We then tell King Aodhan about our plan to visit Ashima-Shimtu and stress out that we'd never give the demoness any secrets without the sovereign's permission. At least no secrets that'd be tied to our roles as agents of Risur, which would be those secrets she'd be most interested in. Asrabey and Kasvarina appear to be completely confused by our discussion, so we tell them all about our previous encounter with Ashima-Shimtu in the depths of the Crypta Heraeticorum. Also, we add that she already told us that we'd meet again so she probably foreseen it all to this day.

King Aodhan explains that he'll need a moment to decide on which secrets would be safest to share with an ancient demon. When we suggest that she'd possibly know nothing about the Obscurati as the Geas and the divination shield would prevent her from seeing what they're up to, King Aodhan agrees to add knowledge about the Conspiracy to his list of possible secret candidates. He also agrees that this knowledge might be especially tasty since she does seem to know about Borne, but that he'd need to think more about the possible consequences.

(and thus ends session 51. Where it seemed like the memories of Kasvarina were growing more and more grim despite not being at the bottom of it all. Seeing all of the Crisillyiri history gnawed at Carlyle's own memories, but I guess it also reminded him that he made the right choice to leave his home for good. Auryn however is a more mixed bag. She finally saw with her own eyes that her people could be just as cruel as the Crisillyiri, but then her previous beliefs were reinforced when she saw the culling of Pala.

Miller is a completely different beast though and I guess that he is meant to be that controversial figure from the start. He is sympathetic, but cruelly flawed from the beginning. Unlike Kasvarina, who is portrayed with a righteous albeit misguided anger. We'll see a more thorough analysis from the view of Auryn and Carlyle once we get to that spire. I sometimes get an eerie Demona vibe from him, but unlike her, he managed to keep his followers and expand his influence through the ages. Also, he sees himself as an altruist while she is more racially driven.

And while we haven't yet seen the whole story of Kasvarina yet, I'd leave this musical piece here. Stories not related, but the theme and lyrics fit her perfectly:

Up next: Will Asrabey finally find satisfaction at the icy ends of the world?)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Session 52
The other Fey Stag

While we're waiting for King Aodhan's final call on the matter of secrets, we return to Flint and use the spare time to catch up on the case of Ulrik as knowing more about his experiences might be key to helping Andrei. Or more precisely, the progress of his questioning. Our colleagues at the RHC tell us that they already managed to get a bit more information from the young man, but that we're also free to ask our own questions.

(We regularly check on old threads if we got some spare time ;) )


Ulrik appears to be a bit more open this time. He tells us that he wasn't forced to play Nicodemus' host, he rather volunteered and was payed reasonably well so that Lya Jierre could talk to the summoned spirit in this delicate mission of hers. Ulrik doesn't know too much about the mechanics of the process, just that he's been injected with an alchemomagical substance and always lost his consciousness shortly after. He wasn't able to remember a thing when he woke up, which would make this the perfect process if one tried to keep the exchange between his mistress and Nicodemus a secret.

We thank Ulrik for his honesty and ask our colleagues to treat the young man fairly. Then we discuss on how to apply this knowledge to the case of Andrei. We assume that, like with Ulrik, his mind might be unconscious and usually unable to realize what's going on. But unlike Ulrik, the possession of Andrei appears to be permanent (at least that's what Macbannin hinted at), so separating Nicodemus from Andrei might be trickier. But also unlike Ulrik, Andrei had shown one case where his mind woke up and was able to gain control for a moment. But that might be related to Andrei being an unwilling host. So we guess that one strategy could be to make Andrei an uninteresting host for Nicodemus by beating him until he's unable to move. And while that might sound cruel, we know that Andrei will heal the damage eventually, so it would simply be a matter of time until Nicodemus got fed up with being caught in an unusable body.

We keep that thought in mind and are then handed a sealed letter sent by the King, containing a secret we may use in case of demonic emergency.

(Reading “break in case of emergency”. Aodhan is one hell of a witty character)


As we want to bring as many of Kasvarina's fragmented memories back before we enter the really dangerous places, we decide to enter the Pardwright Library to let her scan all the maps we can find with the Arc placed on her head. And to our pleasant surprise, our plan works as she feels a faint tingling while looking at a map of Trekhom and of Cherage.

(don't know if Tiz was being generous or if the Arc is meant to act that way. But it was a nice shortcut to get a potential “full completion”)

We discuss this with Kasvarina and she agrees on a small detour to Trekhom before going to Sid Minos and ultimately Odiem. While planning our trip, Auryn tells Gabriel that he was right about what he said regarding Ushanti: That the decision on whether or not to keep Ajit as the “Partiarch” was Kasvarina's alone, even if that included ending the factual reign of the Obs in the enclave - one of our main goals. She explains that it is hard to hold back when it comes to her home nation, as she sees making Elfaivar a better and safer place for her kind as her duty. And that doing more (and maybe too much) feels better than doing (too) little.

Gabriel is positively surprised to see Auryn coming to this conclusion this quickly. He is glad that she is able to let Ushanti be for now. Also, he isn't sure whether it would be a good idea to reinstate the image of “Kasvarina, the High Matriarch” in everyone's mind as none of us (including Kasvarina herself) has a clear picture on who this person truly was. After all, Kasvarina used a good portion of her time as Matriarch to hunt down members of the Clergy, even before Launga's death. Which meant that this Matriarch undermined all efforts of forging peace with Crisillyir, as impossible as this peaceful solution might have seemed, and also betrayed the philosophy of Vekesh.

“Is you see it in a radical light, the old Kasvarina might be the complete opposite to the new one. And I don't know whether it would be wise to revive such a potentially hollow symbol”, Gabriel states with a thoughtful sigh.

Auryn doesn't see old Kasvarina that negative as she states that, when everyone was in despair and felt as if the nation of Elfaivar would fall apart, it was her who had the resolve to carry on and survive. And that by being one of the three High Matriarchs, she became not only a symbol, but a pillar of this tiny new elfaivaran blossom. She also points out that, right before Launga's death, Kasvarina was, in her function as Matriarch of Ushanti, willing to let go of her hatred and give peace and renewal a true chance. Which is why it is likely in her eyes that “new Kasvarina” might utilize the positive aspects of her past and continue on this path.

“But I guess we can agree that after all she and we have seen and learned about Nicodemus, she will not simply follow him and their Obscurati again. Not after knowing that it was him who was directly responsible for my great-grandmother's death with all of his lies and schemes”, she says with a bitter undertone.

Auryn adds that Kas also saw that even young Miller had lied to her from the start, so this would be another reason to not trust him ever again. But what is still uncertain would be the question whether Kasvarina would rather join us in our fight against the Obscurati or whether she'd simply want to find peace and live a life free of conflict. But no matter what, we agree to support her in her decision.

Then we seek out Kasvarina to discuss a wholly different and more present matter: The state of her relationship with Asrabey. We tell her our assessment of his behavior as we feel like he is still acting purely out of a sense of duty towards his Matriarch, and that we are not sure if this might lead to a large problem if not addressed. We ask Kasvarina how she thinks about Asrabey and it seems like she isn't too sure herself. Which also isn't too ideal of a situation. So we suggest that it would be fairest towards Asrabey if she made up her mind regarding her stance towards the Dreadnaught and then start giving him the right signals no matter what her decision may look like.

Kasvarina then says that she knows she isn't the person Asrabey married and that she might never go back to being this version of herself. But she feels much more confident now that she knows who she had been and which parts of her past persona she likes and loathes from her present point of view. We agree that she managed to regain much of her strength and encourage her to seek a solution to the Asrabey problem depending on her own feelings.

We and Kasvarina also agree that Asrabey has to decide on his stance towards Kasvarina should he be freed from his duties and vows. Auryn points out that this holds a certain risk as to her knowledge Asrabey has never been without duty or at least a concrete task, so this might leave him hanging in the air and without bonds. Still it would be a risk worth taking as Kasvarina doesn't want to feel as if he's simply her servant. So she decides to take Asabey on a picnic and talk to him about their future before we depart to Trekhom.

While Kasvarina is off with Asrabey, and we are busy packing our equipment for the trip to Trekhom and Odiem, we hear someone knocking at the door. Auryn is a bit wary as she didn't expect any visitors nor did she expect Kasvarina and Asrabey to return so soon. Her gut feeling turns out to be right when she sees two satyrs standing in front of the door who immediately attack her. One of them tries to grab her, while the other one gives her a quick grin and tries to get her to undress with an enchantment spell. For a moment, she is baffled and manages to evade the grab and shake off the enchantment. But before she can ask what the heck would be wrong with them, she feels a sharp pain as a formerly invisible pixie stabs her from behind with a rather long dagger.

Her surprised scream alerts Gabriel Carlyle while Auryn, now fully alert of the threat enters a fully defensive stance. While fighting, the satyrs argue with their smaller companion that they'd rather humiliate than mincemeat their enemy while the pixie seems to be in a more stabby-zealot mood. It doesn't take Gabriel too long to grab his weapons, teleport to the front door and surprise the attackers in return. Being fully armed, it doesn't take him too long to overpower and knock out the three fey. He then tends to his partner's wounds and is very much relieved to see that despite having a knife in her back, she is very much alive and going to recover with a few healing potions.

(It has been a while since Auryn had taken that much damage in a single blow. If I remember it correctly, the sneak attack from the pixie dealt 1/3 of her hp or so. Also, Tiz somehow has a habit of ambushing my characters with rogues/assassins... my very first character death was four ninjas vs. my very harmless, sleeping 3.0 bard. Who got also stabbed by Cyric with Godsbane in a prior ToT adventure. Weird :D )

We drag the fey to the basement to question them on their motives to attack Auryn. Turns out that the Satyrs are bounty hunters, following their fellow hunter pixie, who has personal ties to another fey called the Stag of the Winter Field, who is a member of the Hedgehog Court and follower of renegade Olazdor. The Stag, they say, put a good bounty on our heads, so they decided to give it a try.

(In retrospect, this was a rather good foreshadowing. Unfortunately, we both had forgotten the name Olazdor when we arrived in the Dreaming in the next adventure)

As we have never heard of a renegade Court in the Dreaming, we decide to meet this mysterious Stag on his own turf. So we hand the satyrs over to the RHC together with a report of their attack on two RHC agents and have the pixie lead us to the Winter Field, a place right next to a faerie circle near Parity Lake in the Dreaming. As the crossings to the Dreaming are highly unstable right now, we ask the pixie what this Stag might be up to and why he'd put a bounty on our heads. The pixie tells us that both the noises and the pollution stemming from the Lake are deadly for the Fey on the other side of the circle. And that the Stag, being responsible for his Winter Field, saw that we're allies of the King who encouraged Flint to continue this practice of pollution.

We explain the pixie that we are both against the ongoing natural disaster that is Parity Lake, and that this pollution is dangerous for humans and animals in the Waking as well. So we'd rather fight for a habitable Parity Lake on both sides of the border, but that would obviously only be possible if we're alive and use our influence to sway politicians like Stanfield or the King. The pixie seems to understand our reasoning and we let her free on the condition that she'll arrange for a meeting with this mysterious Stag of the Winter Field.
 

Who got also stabbed by Cyric with Godsbane in a prior ToT adventure.
I haven't thought about the Time of Troubles since the 90s. I was only reading Drizzt novels at the time, not actually playing D&D, so I never considered actually having a game set during that period.

Thanks for this installment.

By the way, the Adventures in ZEITGEIST setting book has finished the post-layout proofread, so it won't be long before we release the PDF.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
I haven't thought about the Time of Troubles since the 90s. I was only reading Drizzt novels at the time, not actually playing D&D, so I never considered actually having a game set during that period.
There is a short-ish AP that lets your party accompany the major characters from that Realms-shaking event. It is fun (especially if you are a newbie, like I were, and don't know anything about the Realms), but it can be frustrating as the AP is very railroady and the NPC get to shine more than the PCs for obvious reasons. Especially if your DM is so new to DMing that he's afraid to make any changes since he could completely destroy the FR he'd like to utilize further in the campaign (but to be honest, it was a Planescape campaign at heart, so losing the "known Realms" wouldn't have been too tragic). But he was way more comfortable in the end.

Why my character got stabbed? Well, she managed to grab the Tables of Fate from Myrkul during their encounter and would most likely have become goddess without Cyric's intervention (which originally would have happened to Myrkul). Fortunately, Cyric decided to not kill her and turn against bloodthirsty Godsbane/Mask since they had originally been friends, so this became known as Cyric's last good deed.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
The bare necessities

We return back home with the uneasy sense that something is stirring in the Dreaming, but with the pathways at least partially cut off and with Kasvarina still being our main priority, we see no way of getting more invested with our mirror world.

Kasvarina and Asrabey eventually return home and they appear to be a bit more at ease. We assume that they managed to set at least some parts of their relationship straight, but Asrabey still emanates his aura of being concerned and brooding. We don't want to interfere too much with their private matters, so we agree to let them come to us if they'd need an open ear.

The next morning, we start our journey to Trekhom to search for more of Kasvarina's memories. When we arrive, we take a long tour through the city and finally get a resonance when we pass by a philosopher's tavern the same evening. Cautious as we are, we decide to play it safe and take a closer look at said tavern before allowing the vision to fully form. So Kasvarina hides the Arc and is very much surprised to see a fellow Eladrin debating with some dwarvish philosophers. She gets the feeling that she somehow has a connection to that man, but leaves it to us to scout for her.

So we enter and learn that this man goes by the name of Balu and is, in fact, a pretty old Eladrin veteran who managed to stay middle aged on the outside. Balu appears to be invested in drinking and Eschatology as he enjoys talking drunkenly about the possible ways the world could come to an end. We bluntly ask him whether he'd know an Eladrin woman named Kasvarina, to which he also very bluntly responds that he already told his ex-wife that he'd quit killing Clergymen a long time ago and wants to be left alone to hang out with his buddies.

We carefully tell Balu that we are friends and family of Kasvarina and that she might want to talk to him the next morning when everyone would be sober again. And of course Balu isn't too happy about this prospect. We assure him that Kasvarina has changed her mind regarding the slaughter of Clergymen, so he might be in for a pleasant surprise. But as Balu is really intoxicated right now, we decide to leave him be for now.

We then tell Kasvarina and Asrabey what we've learned about that mysterious Eladrin. Kasvarina is a bit surprised to hear that she had another husband whom she apparently sent to the icy end of the world. Asrabey however rolls his eyes as soon as he hears the name “Balu”.

“That incompetent drunkard is a complete waste of time. We should just gather our memory and be done with this place”, he scoffs.

Auryn giggles at this remark as Asrabey just displayed very obvious signs of jealousy, a trait he had never shown before. Kasvarina looks at Asrabey and then suggests to maybe wait until every other guest has left, then get to the vision and then decide whether or not Balu would be worth the time as it was very obvious that he was kind of happy with his current life.

So we wait till later that night and then have Kasvarina use the Arc. She joins her past self with ease and then enters the tavern in large strides. A bucket of water appears in her hand as she moves toward a sleeping Balu, pours the water onto him, grabs him and drags him outside where she releases him in a pile of snow.

Then she releases a heavy tirade as she berates Balu about his obvious abandonment of the mission she had given to him. And that her do-no-good of a husband would be a disgrace as he'd preferred drinking ale and spirits with dwarves to keeping an eye on possibly dangerous or hostile philosophies.

Balu looks at his then-wife with confusion, sits up and returns in an equally polite manner:

“You know what? I do prefer the company of these guys to being ordered around by you! These nights we shared, good nights I confess, aren't worth the trouble. And I'm really fed up with doing the dirty work for you!”

He adds that it would be all for nothing in the end as the Eladrin are doomed to die, just like the rest of the world. Which is why he'd rather spend his last days being at peace and enjoying what's left for him.

“Ha! Told you, that guy is worthless!” Asrabey exclaims with a mix of amusement and being piqued by this obvious disregard for his Matriarch and his chosen way of life.

After this vision, Kasvarina is quite glad that Balu wasn't close enough to be drawn into the whole scene. She is also very much shocked by her own behavior as it was quite clear to her that she saw Balu, her husband, as a mere tool. As soon as she realizes that Asrabey is still around, she glances at him with discomfort, but he doesn't seem to mind.

(Either because he doesn't draw the parallel to himself, or he is actually alright with this role, or he really doesn't mind...)

Kasvarina quickly adds that she now remembers that she got a letter from Balu where he announced that he'd consider their marriage to be over. And that she hasn't seen him ever since. Which is why she now feels the need to talk to him maybe one last time. Asrabey isn't too happy to stay much longer, but Gabriel gets him in a more positive mood by agreeing with his assessment of Balu.

The next day, Kasvarina finds Balu in the very same tavern where he is a bit more sober than the night before. She talks to him and makes it clear that she doesn't wish to ask him to work for her again. All she needs is to assure him that she left her violent past behind as well. Balu is a bit amused and invites her to join their next “Drink 'n Debate”, but she rebuffs him and claims that she has more pressing issues to tend to than to join a nihilistic party. She still leaves on good terms and promises to leave Balu alone for good.

We then head to Trekhom station to take the train to Sid Minos. But when we're about to hop onto the train, Asrabey declares that he'd stay behind and wait for our return in Trekhom harbor as he'd need some time for himself to get his mind sorted. We tell him that this would be no problem as Kasvarina will be fine with our company. Then we leave for Crisillyir.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Return to the Lady of the Forked Tongue

The Avery Coast Railroad brings us safely to Sid Minos where we all go straight to the pier where we last left for Odiem. A few gold coins buy us a small ship that will bring us to the haunted island, but from the talk of the sailors we get the clue that we're not the first ones who sailed to Odiem. All in all we conclude that there might have been two different groups of people who landed there before.

We thank the crew for the safe passage and then cautiously search for more traces and signs that could reveal the identities of the two groups. We're surprised to find hints on a previous combat with quite the number of people and conclude that the two groups would have most likely ended up fighting each other. This of course raises our alert level even more and we agree to proceed under the veil of an invisibility spell.

After a short while, we spot a couple of tents that are guarded by a dwarf lady and her guards wearing the insignia of the Clergy. As their camp is really close to the entrance of the Crypta, we also see that the door is currently warded off by a force field.

To not draw too much attention and get some information without conflict, we opt to also look like fellow faithful of the Clergy via hats of disguise and ask Kasvarina to stay behind so she'd not draw attention. We then withdraw a few steps, turn visible and hail the dwarf. She doesn't seem to be too happy to see us and introduces herself as Secula of the Inquisition and shows us her insignia. We ask her what a Secula would be doing here, to which she replies that, by decree of the Hierarchs, she is to guard this island as there have been multiple incidences with foreign intruders in the past.

She then asks us what would bring us to Odiem as she surely didn't expect any reinforcements so soon. We explain that we've been sent by our higher-ups to retrieve devilish artifacts in a safe and secure manner.

While we're talking to her, we get the gut feeling that this good lady isn't being honest with us, so Carlyle uses a truesight power to see whether she'd be hiding something from her fellow colleagues. It comes as quite the surprise to see that this woman is in fact Grandis Komanov, leader of the very same sect of “World's End” Eschatologists who tried to blow off Sharon Baker Station almost a year ago. Which also means that Grandis managed to overpower the Clergyfolk who were sent here to secure the island.

We don't want to start hostilities just yet, so we tell her that we did not come here to fight battles for the Clergy. Now Grandis is intrigued and tells us that her divinations revealed that three very interesting people would come to Odiem today. Even though she wonders why there would be just the two of us. We stick to our story of wanting to retrieve the artifacts and Grandis offers to help us with our task in a pretty demanding way.

After a quick mental exchange, Auryn and Gabriel agree that bringing a possibly crazy but clever terrorist leader to Ashima-Shimtu and a vision of Kasvarina's past wouldn't be the wisest of ideas. On top of that, we should also seize the opportunity to arrest the culprit behind the attack during our peace conference. So we politely refuse the offer and call for her surrender.

Komanov reacts just as we'd expected: With a sudden attack. She summons black ice to turn us into living icy statues. Fortunately, we are too quick for her and manage to overpower her before she can even launch the icy bolts. Unfortunately though, this Grandis turns out to be a mere Simulacrum which shatters as soon as we'd knock her out. We then turn to her “guards” or rather disciples, knock them out and put them in the absurdist web for later delivery to Chief Inspector Delft.

(Really didn't expect to have that thread be picked up again here. Regarding taking Komanov's goons with us: We just thought it would earn us a few bonus points and rid the world of a couple potentially dangerous terrorists if we'd bring them to the RHC for further questioning)

We then return to Kasvarina and tell her that it would be safe to use the Crown now. She promptly places the Arc on her head and walks toward the warded entrance. The island shifts quite extremely and leaves us in a much more pleasant and inviting version of Odiem.

Kasvarina shifts into her younger self, wearing prisoner's clothes. Miller appears by her side and both of them are dragged to the Crypta where they are being locked off. We slip through the now not-warded entrance alongside the two and see Miller talking about the doomed place from which no one has returned yet. The don't give up though and so start making their way through the enchanted corridors.

We accompany them and see how they first meet Linia and try to free her. Gabriel tells Auryn that this was just what he had seen in his previous vision and that he is still glad that Srasama let him release the angel from her torment. During their tries, we see Miller getting more and more desperate and infuriated, even if he isn't too surprised to see that the corruption of the Clergy made them turn against the noblest of beings.

They finally agree that they cannot help Linia and have to try save themselves. On their way, they then come across the chained Architect, but also cannot help him. All in all the pair manages to traverse the Crypta quite well. They walk past the cursed paladins and finally come to the door leading to Ashima-Shimtu's room. The door is locked and they open it by sacrificing a drop of their blood.

Again we see Ashima-Shimtu chained to the ceiling, but this time her mouth is sealed by yet another hook. After assassing the situation for a while, Kasvarina climbs up to the demoness and removes the hook so they may talk to her. To our surprise, Ashima-Shimtu thanks Kasvarina for her kind deed.

She then asks the pair how they'd end up in such a godsforsaken place as they don't look like other demons or cursed souls. So Kasvarina and Miller explain their whole situation to Ashima-Shimtu: That they had been betrayed and only wanted to secure a chance for peace. And that they are enemies of the corrupt Clergy who apparently wants them to rot down here.

Ashima-Shimtu laughs when she hears these words and tells the two that her story is of a similar betrayal. She talks about not wanting to be a pawn for the Demonocracy and working together with Triegenes to bring the empire to its fall. She speaks fondly of Triegenes, but then says that she had been imprisoned down here by these thankless humans shortly after his death. But Triegenes, dear Triegenes had been clever enough to not give his corrupt brothers the means, the tool that she had given him so long ago: The Ritual of Apotheosis, the power to become a god. And she didn't want to give it to them either. Which would also be one of the reasons why they'd imprison her here.

But she, Ashima-Shimtu, aptly ignored them. Instead, she had centuries of thinking about the nature of good and evil. And whether she'd want to distance herself from evil despite being a demon, just like Triegenes had suggested.

She then looks at Kasvarina and Miller with a fiendish smile as she offers them a plan that could give them all want they truly wanted: She'd teach them the Ritual of Apotheosis. Which the two could in return trade in for their freedom. Then, she guesses, the power-hungry Clergy would use the ritual to create some war-deity to defeat the Eladrin. But, she adds, the Ritual has one major flaw: If someone knew the true name of the God, then this God would become vulnerable. And by killing the God of War, one could kill war itself.

(Such is the power of the True Name. It is known.)

Ashima-Shimtu then teaches the two the Ritual and we make sure to memorize it as well. The vision ends and the current Ashima-Shimtu appears in front of our eyes to greet us one more time. We ignore her first as we are still very much shocked by this revelation. Besides the fact that having this knowledge is indeed very scary as we'd basically have the secret to create a god, we also now know how Triegenes managed to ascend and probably how Srasama ended up being on the battlefield. Even though this was totally not what Kasvarina and Miller had planned.

Kasvarina looks at us in confusion and apologized that she doesn't know how the summoning of Srasama would have happened as this was clearly not what she had intended in this moment. We also point out that Miller and therefore Nicodemus does know the ritual as well and that we should be ready should he try use it another time.

Then we turn to Ashima-Shimtu and ask her whether she'd be willing to share some more information with us, now that we know what might be her biggest secret. The demoness grins at us and says she told us we'd return and that we cannot outrun fate. But also that she is willing to share information in return for information. We agree to this trade and offer her knowledge about her nasty blind spot (due to their wards and Geases): The Obscurati.

Ashima-Shimtu is indeed interested and so we first ask her about the Demonocracy and her role in their empire as we'd seen that she betrayed them and joined Triegenes. The demoness explains that she was no disciple or true member of the demonocracy, but rather a seer that happened to be born a demon. The demons and devils found her talents to be useful, so they used her for their own gain. And she didn't like that. During the early days, she adds, it was easily possible for planar creatures to come to our world and they did so in great numbers. Most of them didn't care too much for the local inhabitants, but they used our “plane” to fight in their planar conflicts. Some of them though found the natives to be useful, which is why they enslaved them. But then everything changed when the Ancients found a method to limit planar travel by forging a seal that set the current planar configuration in stone.

This lines up nicely with what we've learned during the Obscon, so we ask her to continue. Ashima-Shimtu then tells us that this seal caused the demons and devils to become trapped in our world which led to the reorganization into the demonocracy we know from our textbooks.

We also ask her about the plane of air and what could have happened to it, but she returns that we'll soon find out ourselves.

Our next topic is Srasama and the Malice. We sternly ask her whether anything in her teaching of the ritual would have been flawed or rigged to summon the wrong god. But Ashima-Shimtu insists that she had no hand in the catastrophe and that she did want to usher in the downfalls of the Clergy. Also, she has no deal with Nicodemus, even if she is intrigued by that man.

“So he did tell the truth after all...” Carlyle mumbles.

She concludes that she has been very much neutral so far, even if she doesn't know yet whether she wants to abandon her true nature as an evil entity.

“This decision is purely up to you. A matter of free will. No one forces you to be good or evil.”, Auryn says. “And from what I know, most people ignore these extremes altogether and simply strive for happiness without hurting others in the process.”

When hearing these words, Ashima-Shimtu looks her straight in the eyes, turning her own to tiny slits.

“You speak of free will while Triegenes is getting more and more hold on yours. Soon his ideas will be your own. You already sound very familiar, dear...”

Auryn closes her eyes and place her hand on the Humble Hook hidden beneath her robes.

“You cannot taunt me, Ashima-Shimtu. Triegenes' relic is merely a guide for me, like the voice of a dear friend who tries to bring out the best of me. And if all you've said about Triegenes is true, then I respect him even more than I did before.”

(She would have totally gotten Auryn worried like crazy just a year before... that part of her self-consciousness has surely grown)

Gabriel then has a more personal question himself, as he asks the demoness about her opinion on the source of Miller's rebirth as Nicodemus and whether that would be akin to a Deva reincarnation. She doesn't know for sure, but can tell him that it was caused by the death of Srasama, just like his new life as a Deva. She also casually mentions that this nature would make it quite impossible for her to see him, unlike Kasvarina who is easily visible for her due to having been offered a drop of her blood.

Auryn then asks about her connection to Kasvarina as they share many characteristics. Ashima-Shimtu claims that a part of Kasvarina died during the Malice as well and that this part was obviously reincarnated in Auryn.

(not that this was any less cryptic. I now know what she might have meant with that statement)

She then tries to gain more information about the prophecized End of the World, to which Ashima-Shimtu says that the Serpent wants to devour the world and is looking for proxies. Which is why it chose us and wanted to infuse us with its essence. We reply that while this is true, the essence of the Voice of Rot only gave us a bit of power but couldn't get a hold on our souls as they were already “claimed by another”. All in all this sounds a bit far-fetched, but concrete enough to not cause too much stress right now.

Then it is our turn to tell her all we know about the Obscurati, including their plan to alter the planar configuration. We closely watch Ashima-Shimtu's reaction and find that she doesn't appear to be too interested in having planar travel options back. After our exchange, she appears to be satisfied and offers us to leave through her basin again. After all, she remarks with a smirk, we will see each other soon enough as we are still destined to free her.

Auryn rolls her eyes at this cockiness and tells the demoness straight up that she'd honestly considered freeing her after she had told them about her time with Triegenes and her mental challenges. But now she came to the conclusion that Ashima-Shimtu should just spend more time thinking about the “nature of evil” a bit more as she believes in change in exchange for change.

We bid her farewell and use the basin to get to “a place close to Cherage”. We end up in a small village where we gather a few clothes from the local populace at night to dress more discreetly and go searching for the hidden memory.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Now before we enter the final session of adventure #8, I'd like to take the time to give a quick detour into something that I somehow didn't manage to sweep in properly in over the last recaps as we dealt more with the plot, Kasvarina and the exchange between Auryn and Carlyle: The inner thoughts and motives of Auryn herself. I basically kept a parallel thread to the recaps only for Tiz and me so he'll be able to understand when she acted strangely from time to time. And dealing with Kasvarina had a major push on Auryn reflecting herself.

Starting with her realising that she does love Morris Dawkins like a father figure, maybe even moreso than she loves one of her mother's husbands, just like he'd see the (adult) daughter he never had in her. She also managed to grasp and accept the concept of fated threads tied together for the first time when they both vowed to have a friendship that persisted through time, and that she'd be his mentor in his next incarnation. Which also somewhat eased her worries about his eventual demise. For now that is.

(Wonder if there is another group that used the lovely Rear Admiral as excessively as we did...)

This mirroring theme also reflected in her dealing with Kasvarina. After her initial reflection of her own desires onto the more vulnerable Kas, she had to confront and witness the cold, cruel deeds of her ancestor. And despite the oftentimes horrifying experience, Auryn understood that she had to actively embrace Kasvarina as turning her back on her would be the easy but wrong path. All while trying to understand the situations Kas had been in and fearing that she had the potential to walk just as cruel a path as she had. That her family's legacy, her own legacy, would be of great power and will, but also of ruthless determination.

Oh and what a relief had it been that Kasvarina turned out to be that resilient when faced with her past tragedy. And that she did appear to truly regret and make amends for her past misdeeds.

And then she learned about Launga, her own great-grandmother. She knew exactly how it felt to lose a loved one, to see them perish before her own eyes being unable to prevent it from happening. But losing her own child to treachery and betrayal by those you trusted would be on a wholly different level. She knew she would have slaughtered the pirates just like Kasvarina slaughtered Rilego had she been given the chance.

She had reacted somewhat like Kasvarina, shutting off everyone and being reluctant to form personal bonds until Morris had reached out to her. And until Gabriel opened up to her.

Auryn secretly admired Kasvarina's fire, her will to stand up even after she'd been stripped of all that was left living for. Even though all these experiences turned a once bright flame dark and twisted. And she saw what she could potentially become should tragedy strike her in the same way.

But she knew she had been blessed where Kasvarina had been cursed: Gabriel wasn't Miller. She had someone to rely on and to trust. She could express her turmoil, at least to such an extend that she didn't feel alone. Which was especially valuable now that she had to be a stable safehaven for the new Kasvarina. Gabriel had no secret agenda of his own, but instead was a voice of reason and pragmatism while she was free to be a visionary and follow her ideas of peace and prosperity for all. And like Miller, he couldn't die and would recover as long as she found him and help him restore his memories. But Gabriel also needed her visions and her moral compass as he'd otherwise let his pragmatism when facing problems turn to utilitarianism. Meanwhile, Kasvarina and Miller might have been too similar in nature to balance each other. Instead, they (and most of all Miller after becoming Nicodemus) amplified each other's path to darkness.

After they had met Ashima-Shimtu, Auryn also reflected on the demoness' claims that a part of Kasvarina had been reborn and given a new chance way before Grappa did the same for the still-living Kasvarina. The potential effect on causality worried her a bit, especially as Kasvarina would be helping herself if she took it literally. But it would explain how their fates were tied together. And she wondered if Gabriel and Miller shared a similar connection. But then there was the tiny (or not so tiny) chance that Ashima-Shimtu was just playing games with them all....

Not that Auryn was overly worried at that point. She knew who she was and who she wanted to be.

(Well, at least for now...)

Regarding Nicodemus, Auryn's opinion had shifted quite a lot. She had found him to be charming when whe first had the chance to talk to him, she even admired his perfect albeit merely displayed attitude. But now she realized that all of this had just been a facade. That all of this immaculate exterior was just crumbling down on the inside. Miller might have had noble goals, and it was likely that Nicodemus still thought he'd follow the same ones he always had. But his methods were cruel. Today's Miller would walk on the corpses of enemies and allies alike should they happen to shand in his way. And that included Kasvarina, his closest ally and maybe former partner. And then one thought came to her mind, clear as the sky on a mirror moon: If Miller, or Nicodemus, knew only the dichotomy of either ally or enemy, then what would be left to set him apart from the Clergy he despised so much? What progress could be made by exchanging one tyranny for another?

(and yes, there will be more dissection of Nic in the next chapter)

Lastly, Auryn grew really fond of the Humble Hook's presence. And after meeting Ashima-Shimtu, she also held Triegenes in the highest of regards. Being incorruptible while also being all alone in a world of corruption, walking his set path without faltering really impressed her. She didn't know if the man had to witness his former comrades or disciples locking up his ally Linia, or why he didn't interfere when he had the power of a god. Which left her to wonder where Triegenes would be right now. Was he in the Bleak Gate, unable to act in our world? Or was there a divine realm, cut off from our system by the Ritual? All she knew was that the emotions she felt, the whispers she heard when focussing on the hook came from Triegenes himself. And that maybe he had the Hook with him when he ascended to godhood with the help of the Ritual of Apotheosis.
 
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Wonder if there is another group that used the lovely Rear Admiral as excessively as we did...
I haven't seen one, no. I like how you fleshed him out and made him really influential in the life of one of your PCs.
But she knew she had been blessed where Kasvarina had been cursed: Gabriel wasn't Miller.
The two pairs are yeah, wow, such an amazing parallel.

I'm extremely touched by the depth you've gone into with your comments and analysis of the characters.
 



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