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ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra, do you know if Tizbiz is using the original release of the standalone adventure PDFs, or whether he's using the Act One compilation? I ask because I think we forgot in our revisions to actually follow through on something we teased in this adventure, so I kinda want to take to him in case he wants ideas on what to do if you and Mr. Carlyle's player start asking, "What about that thing that guy mentioned...?"
 

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Lylandra

Adventurer
He actually uses both. If I remember correctly, he first got the standalones and then the hardcover compilation of the first act. When he read through the first adventure he realized that the versions were not 100% the same which confused him a bit, so I did some research and found out that the compiled version was the final one and also included some story clear ups. He's still using both of them as he doesn't have the compiled pdf and loves using both documents in parallel (i.e. using the book for the statblocks and a quick page jump and using the pdf on his tablet to increase the font size or provide quick battle maps)
So I really hope he doesn't get too confused about which version had which content as I don't really know if he uses both for prep.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
An Audit! With Price-Hill! And an all out attack on the RHC?!

We stand guard for the whole night until we are interrupted by an invitation coming from Viscount Inspector Nigel Price-Hill in the morning. He asks us to attend to an audit and a corresponding lunch in the Silver Swan.
(Finally! A meeting with Price-Hill! Excited! The timing... put us under some stress though)

Margit and rookie Flying Spark offer to take the first round which leaves Auryn and Carlyle to take care of our sleeping maybe-monster. They return after a pretty short while and say that everything went smoothly for them and that there were not too many questions raised about the Faerie Dragon's status as he was a good help so far.

Auryn and Carlyle are in for the next round of audits. Price-Hill takes some time for our audit as he congratulates us for our damn fine job so far. He adds that he hopes we might in time become the most successful foreign missions team so far as we might just replace Team 3 who traditionally held this role. He says that both of us have a foreign background so this might come in handy in the missions to come.

When matters turn to our involvement and alleged friendship with some members of the Familia, he asks us to handle these matters discreetly and make sure to not let them get out of hand. Having connections to a more or less trustworthy criminal organization can come in handy from time to time, but getting indebted to them might easily lead to becoming corruptible. We agree to this point and promise to separate private friendship and professional contact.

He also gives Carlyle a small warning to not put Lord Vantrys' interests over those of Risur and Carlyle insists that while he's still trying to protect his former Lord, he would never betray the interests of the RHC for some Vantrys business benefit. To Auryn he adds that he knows about her troubles with Fordren, but he has to be sure that her personal feud with the businessman won't cause a bilateral scandal, by causing, for example, a premature death of said industrialist. He says that the peace summit next spring has to be successful and it mustn't be overshadowed by such an unwanted incident. Auryn promises to not go actively after Fordren, but she also explains that she'd totally defend herself should that guy try to get too close to her or plan anything funny.

We tell Price-Hill that we really wish for a lasting peace between Danor and Risur and wouldn't do anything to endanger that process. After all, all of our actions, all of our talk with King Aodhan and Prime Minister Lee, including the discussion of a conspiracy of possible war mongers who might profit from a fifth Yerasol war, were all aimed at preserving peace. When we bring up the conspiracy, Price-Hill asks us about the progress of our investigation and we tell him everything we've learned about the causa Macbannin so far (including a possible connection to our current case and Bergeron). We add that this case is no longer in our hands though and that he'd have to ask Team 1 for further information. The Viscount Inspector says that even though getting put off case might be pretty frustrating we should continue to keep our eyes open for any clues.

As the audit comes to an end, Auryn signals Lauryn Cyneburg, who was also present during the whole thing, that she'd like to have a conversation in private. We carefully explain her that we've found a mysterious trail of our “New Ragman” which led us to Lady Saxby's private estate. We then tell her about the very reserved guards who hindered our investigation. We then add that we surely don't want to denounce our boss, but simply needed someone to share this information with as we cannot really investigate any further and doing or saying nothing would be wrong as well. Lauryn thanks us for this information and says she'll keep it in mind.

Once we get back to the RHC, sleeping beauty is about to awake. When Dr. Meredith comes back to her senses, she convinces us that it is truly her this time. She tells us that she's slowly beginning to understand what Sijhen has done to her. It seems like this creature is able to modify and manipulate thoughts, memories and senses. Thankfully, the creature is sleeping right now which she demonstrates by pointing at the closed eyes on her arm. Xambria Meredith goes on and says that she and Sijhen have learned that Bergeron belongs to a mysterious group called Obscurati. Sijhen is interested in these people, even if she's not really sure why (might have something to do with the fact that Bergeron was after the seals?). She adds that it is also after a certain star chart but it hasn't found that artifact yet.

Just when she comes to this conclusion, Dr. Meredith suddenly realizes that being brought to the RHC was Sijhen's plan all along. While she's trying to warn us from her upcoming loss of control, we hear screams from the other part of the cell block. As we really don't want to leave Dr. Meredith alone, we ask Flying Spark to carefully find out what is causing the ruckus.

The Faerie Dragon is pretty surprised to see that black cloaked people somehow got into the cell block and started questioning the other prisoners about the constables Auryn Galadin and Mr. Carlyle. As soon as Flying Spark returns to report on what's going on, Dr. Meredith turns into Sijhen, blasts out of her chains and turns the whole world into an opaque scenery which seems only quasi-real. And while the word “solid” seems to have lost its meaning for Meredith as she jumps directly through the ceiling, the four of us are unable to move at all.

(So much for the antimagic cell... seems like some forces are unable to be contained with our standard magic arsenal.)

Meredith/Sijhen turns into two clones of herself and heads directly to Lady Saxby's office where she's about to attack our boss. As we can at least momentarily see through all the building's walls and ceilings, we see with horror that alien mind monsters appear all over the RHC HQ and start attacking our hapless, panicking colleagues.

Once our surroundings turn solid again, we are finally able to move. We know Saxby and all the others are in grave danger, so we head for the fastest way out of the dungeon. Unfortunately, the people clad in black are still in the cell block and so we have to get rid of them first. As they seem to be interested in Carlyle and Auryn, we'd like to get some information from them in return and so we try to make best use of our surroundings and lock them up instead.

Flying Spark scares them up with a well-aimed lightning bolt (yay for straight lines!) which causes half of the attackers to take cover in the cells. Mr. Carlyle turns invisible and locks the cells stealthily. Auryn starts her alluring fey song in the other corridor which makes the rest of the blackcloaks go after her in trance. She then heads into one of the cells, climbs up to the cell's ceiling, waits until all of the attackers are in there with (or underneath) her, then jumps out of the cell and locks the door (yay for acrobatics!).

This way we can avoid a lengthy fight and rush to the stairs where we are caught by another wave of unreal incorporeality. Through the opaque ceilings we can see that Saxby is about to hand a golden object to Sijhen she got out of her desk. As soon as Sijhen gets its hands on the object, it jumps back down and runs through a wall where it soon gets out of our sight. We can also see that Dima and Team 1 are in a fight with some of the attacking monsters.

We rush upstairs and throw some well-aimed fireballs at some of the monsters who are currently attacking our staff in hope of getting their attention. Our plan succeeds and we continue our ascent while being followed by a group of flying eyeballs.
(so much for “playing it safe”. Still better to have the monsters follow us – who have experience with fighting these kind of beasts – than letting them brain-munch our secretaries and rookies)

Once we arrive on the second floor, even more blackcloaks enter the scene and this time we can actually see them emerging from the walls. Ac loser look at them reveals that these guys must be only partially in this reality as they have some bleak gate taint on them. Which leads us to the conclusion that they might be actually some of Leone's thugs. Fortunately for us, Team Blackcloak isn't exactly on Team Sijhen's side and so the monsters attack these guys as well.

Margit uses her magic to turn some of the monsters tangible again while Mr. Carlyle rushes to Delft's office as he assumes that our Assistant Chief Inspector might be in serious trouble. Auryn heads to Saxby's office to protect our Chief Inspector from two flying eyeballs while Flying Spark continues to harass every opponent with elemental magic.

Carlyle arrives just in time to save Delft from a phaerimm-like monster, but is then wounded by a seemingly confused Delft who shoots at him. Seems like Delft sees a mimic in Carlyle. Luckily Margit is nearby who is able to soothe her love's fear and confusion with a calm emotions spell. In all of this madness, we also witness an illusory stag who appears momentarily and rejuvenates some of our powers.

(“Now I would have emerged from all of this madness unscathed if it wasn't for our boss and his irrational fear of mimics...” Maybe Carlyle's constant teasing returned back to him this time. As for the stag? That's totally just the Guardian of the threshold to the Dreaming *cough cough*. Yeah he just likes you, Mr. Carlyle...)

Auryn is able to strike down the flying eyeballs thanks to Recklinghausen's rapier, but is then overtaken by Team 1 who form a defensive wall in front of Saxby. To her shock, Saxby orders “her team” to arrest Team 3 who she claims to be traitors. Mr. Carlyle returns just in time to call this the nonsense that it surely is as Lady Saxby is clearly out of her mind and Delft has fallen victim to some sort of mind control as well. Auryn asks Dima to scan Saxby for signs of compulsion magic before anyone gets seriously hurt as this might very well just be another one of Sijhen's tricks.

We then continue to strike down the last of the attackers and lay down our arms afterward as a sign of good will. Dima uses her magic and confirms our assumption. Mr. Carlyle then tries to dispel the magic on Saxby which fails. As we know that Sijhen is on the run right now, we don't want to waste any more of our precious time and ask Team 1 to help us bring Lady Saxby to the antimagic cell where any kind of magic would be instantly suppressed. Saxby continues to call us traitors and urges her team to not fall to our tricks as we clearly want to get rid of her. She is able to convince Carlao about our hostile intentions who turns against us and our colleagues. Auryn fears that the whole situation might get out of hand, so she uses her own charm to “override” Sijhen's spell and politely asks Saxby to accompany us to the antimagic cell while the rest wrestles down Carlao.

(That was some rather difficult diplomacy there. We were kind of shocked first to have Saxby call us traitors and demanding our arrest. But it was pretty clear that Sijhen must have done something to her and using Delft's case of madness helped a lot to convince Dima to scan for magic.)

Once we get Saxby into the antimagic field, she's her usual self again and asks Carlyle to try to dispel the spell on her again. He succeeds this time and we promise Saxby to clear up this whole mess once we finish our business with Sijhen. Delft arrives shortly after and asks us to go after Sijhen immediately and leave clearing up the RHC to him.

(Better late than never, eh? Not that we'd have done anything else but go after the monster who just tried to kill us all...)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
We try to extrapolate Sijhen's escape route and find that it crosses quite nicely with a newly built railway tunnel. So we head there as fast as possible.

Inside the tunnel we find two trains and their corresponding drivers who seem pretty stupefied. The trains are ready to go, so we ask Margit to keep an eye on them and KO them once they show signs of being mind controlled or trying to overrun us with their trains. (Does anyone know Operator Thogar from Blackrock Foundry? He's an Orc boss encounter and you have to dodge trains when you fight him. So we kind of suspected this might be the case here as well...)

We sneak ahead and see a pretty twisted looking “Xambria Meredith” who's standing inside a ritual circle surrounded by lanterns. Behind her is the golden seal of Apet. She has the golden star chart in her hands and uses it to summon some kind of portal which forms behind the seal. We agree on a stealth attack, so we leave Margit with the trains and ask her to take out one of the drivers once we attack Sijhen. We tell her that we'll try to shut down the portal, but should things go downhill, it will be up to her to use one of the trains to smash the seal into the portal.

Then Carlyle, Flying Spark and Auryn turn invisible and sneak up to the very busy Sijhen who's about to conduct a ritual. Then Mr. Carlyle attacks to draw Sijhen's attention to him. Meanwhile, Auryn rushes into the ritual circle and tries to gain control over the whole thing. While she mentally wrestles with Sijhen, the creature splits into two again as soon as Carlyle shows himself and starts his attack. Fortunately, Flying Spark and Carlyle are able to put Sijhen down this time while Auryn strengthens her mental presence with fey magic.

As soon as Sijhen goes down, Auryn gains control over the ritual and starts floating while she's about to contain the strange planar energies. However, Sijhen goes down with a bang, completely obliterating Dr. Meredith's body and leaving behind nothing but the star chart. Carlyle sees what's about to happen and shields Auryn with his own body to catch the explosive burst. He and Flying Spark then make sure to put all the lanterns back to their intended places. Carlyle then uses his time magic to buy Auryn additional time. After a while, she returns to the ground and her eyes cease to glow as the portal shuts down for good. Margit runs up to Mr. Carlyle to heal the wounds he got from the explosion.

All of them are completely exhausted when suddenly the spirit of Dr. Meredith appears in front of their eyes. She's afraid to fade into nothingness and begs us to help her. Auryn seems completely helpless and doesn't really know what to do with the spirit which is growing weaker every second, so she asks Mr. Carlyle for guidance as he's the mortal spirit expert of their team. Carlyle seems a bit hesitant, but helps to guide Dr. Meredith into Auryn's body where it can find a temporary home. Dr. Meredith appears in front of Auryn's eyes and thanks them for their help. She hopes to find a method to create a new body though as she knows that it wouldn't be wise to occupy a host like her for too long.

( I guess Tizbiz kind of expected that Carlyle would be the one who'd take Dr. Meredith's spirit. After all, he's the spirit medium of the team and has already successfully guided a lot of spirits. He seemed a bit irritated by the spirit's request though and doesn't really want to have anyone too close to his “inner sphere”. Carlyle refused to be part of the bonding with Nevard as well as he feared some weird backlash due to his immortal spirit and divine spark.)

We head back to the RHC, barely able to walk but still happy to call Flint safe and monster-free again. We are pretty surprised to see Viscount Inspector Price-Hill in the entrance room who seems to be utterly disappointed by whatever happened when we were busy searching for Sijhen. When he sees us he puts up a rather relieved expression and congratulates us on our successful mission. He has some serious business to discuss with us though and leads us to Saxby's office. On our way there we come across a very downtrodden Team 1 who are all silent and barely able to look each other in the eye.

Delf is already waiting for us in the office and both he and Price-Hill bring us up to date. Once we got out to catch Sijhen, Lady Saxby asked to be released from her cell as she wanted to contact Lord Price-Hill and tell him about the attack. Delft finally realized that this was sounding fishy as hell and insisted that they should rather send some errand boy to get Price-Hill. Saxby then demanded to have Delft locked up as he was clearly still under some mind control and Delft objected heavily. Team 1 had to make a tough decision which ended in ugly infighting, but in the end Delft got the upper hand, insisted that they'll both be locked up and have someone call for Price-Hill. When the boss of the two finally arrived, he found some rather incriminating evidence in Saxby's office as she had stored a lot of expensive archaeological artifacts in her office. Xambria mentally tells Auryn that these were some of the artifacts she originally sent to Bergeron and which he then gave to MacBannin. And it also turned out that the blackcloaks were only able to enter the RHC because Saxby green-lighted some renovation work in the HQ where iron rings were somehow incorporated into the walls. So yep, she basically opened the RHC door for the Blackcloaks.

We are horrified by this revelation and have to assume that Saxby – unknowingly or knowingly might have given away details of the MacBannin case to Leone or Bergeron whomever had been her contact within the members of the conspiracy. This is where Xambria asks Auryn to swiftly explain things to the rest of the crew, so she lets her take over. Dr. Meredith says that she's now resting inside Auryn and would like to contribute to their case. She says this “conspiracy” sounds a lot like the Obscurati guys Sijhen was so interested in and that they are shortly called “Obs”. Now the ring code becomes pretty clear to us as it has to be “OB + X”.

As disappointed as the Viscount Inspector might be about his “fallen Star Inspector Saxby”, we nonetheless need a functioning hierarchy in the Flint bureau and so he promotes Stover Delft to Chief Inspector. Congratulations!

(Phew, catastrophe averted. What a furious finale. Now this time we couldn't take the blame of letting Sijhen escape again on us as the creature was clearly out of our league. The attack on the RHC was both overwhelming and awesome at the same time and we only succeeded so well (as Tizbiz said) because we tried to synergize the team's abilities to their best effects. Unfortunately the blackcloaks disappeared before we could question them, so we still don't know who sent them after Auryn and Carlyle. Money's on Leone though.

Regarding Saxby, we did expect some shady affairs, which is why we alerted Lauryn in the first place, but no outright betrayal. That reveal was a tough one, especially for Auryn who always held her “RHC Matriarch” in high esteem while Carlyle has been more or less Team Delft since the beginning.
)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
The Gala of the Ancients

Session 17

It turns our that our former boss, Lady Saxby, is now imprisoned in one of our cells in the basement. We finally invite Teams 1 and 2 to join our discussion about why Saxby would have betrayed everything she once held dear. We can only guess that she might have gotten used to a rather expensive lifestyle over the years and might have entangled herself in her intricate politics and schemes. Or maybe someone of her contacts simply blackmailed her?

To offer Team 1 some sort of redemption as they are clearly the guys who have it worst right now, we offer them to take the case Saxby and clear up the mess she left behind. After all, they are already involved in case MacBannin and have some good background knowledge. Plus Saxby might be more susceptible to her former favorites. However, we agree to have a close eye on Team 1 and even if we want to believe that they had no knowledge of Saxby's misdeeds, we still don't want to take chances. We say that we wish Team 1 could mend the rifts that have opened up between them (after all, Carlao defended Saxby till the very end and had to be overwhelmed by Dima and Serena while the dwarf was the first one of them to doubt Saxby's words).

We also offer our (or rather Mr. Carlyle's) assistance in questioning Saxby as she might just turn out to be a pretty good bluffer.

Then Auryn asks Delft what to do regarding the presence of Xambria Meredith. She thinks that the archaeologist might see everything she does and doesn't know whether their connection will strengthen over time and whether or not she might get insight into her thoughts and memories. A thought that frightens Auryn the moment she talks about it.

After some back and forth Delft decides to give Dr. Meredith the same rookie status as Flying Spark. The faerie dragon adds that he kind of likes this “constable job thing” and that Auryn has quite a nice garden he could inhabit for an indefinite time period. So he'd really like to continue his training with the RHC.
(Carlyle of course wanted him to be really, really sure about that. After all, being an RHC agent isn't simply an ordinary job, it is a calling. Plus Flint might not be the best place for a nature loving creature to live in. Flying Spark's response? “Oh my, because a Swamp is much more beautiful than your city, right?”)

Auryn then asks Xambria whether she'd like to do the rookie training with Flying Spark first. Plus she'd be able to experience true flight! Our small friend doesn't object, after all this might help him understand human culture and feelings a lot better. Margit realizes something's amiss and adds that she could be Dr. Meredith's host from time to time as well. So Mr. Carlyle helps to transfer the spirit from Auryn to Flying Spark. After the transfer is complete, Carlyle, who had been unnaturally nervous in Auryn's presence seems to relax a bit.

(Now handling Xambria was more difficult that we had first thought. Auryn has her secrets and many of them are dangerous. She's a vekeshi for a start. Now she wouldn't be able to attend to any meetings with Xambria as she'd keep this knowledge once she'd get her new body. And the good Dr. Meredith doesn't really seem like someone who'd be into joining a secret society. She also wouldn't be able to talk about this “little problem” to any of her contacts without also telling Xambria.

On top of that, having Xambria take over, even briefly, pushed her to the edge. She lost control over her body once when she was transferred to Fordren and that experience traumatized her. She's all about being the one who's in control, so the prospect of someone – maybe even forcibly – taking over scares the hell out of her.

And then there's Carlyle who's already barely comfortable with Auryn's “close” presence. Now the least thing he would want is someone else who's haunting his mind and might stumble across his thoughts and secrets. Which is why he instantly distanced himself from his colleague the moment Xambria entered Auryn.

So both wish to help Dr. Meredith, but both have their fair reasons to not host her personally. We really hope to find her a new body soon as she might become a valuable team member in time.
)

As things finally calm down a bit, Auryn suggests that Team 3 might attend to the Gala of the Ancients. After all that happened ending the messed up day on a high note could help us get over the fact that we barely escaped certain death a few hours ago. Especially Flying Spark/Meredith take an interest in the new Ancient exhibition and the rest of us is in serious need of some relaxation as well. Plus the Gala might just turn out to be an intriguing societal event. So we head back home to take a bath and change clothes and agree to meet up at the museum.

It turns out that many of the “authentic” exhibits are not that authentic at all. We already know that our three artifacts are fake, but both Auryn and Xambria are disappointed that the museum got so many facts just wrong. They lecture some visitors that, for example, the Ancients were mostly Orcs and not human cavemen and that the dragon skeleton is clearly a replica. No one else seems to mind though.

We also meet a group of students from Pardwright which includes the mathematician Buck Chilton, “philosopher” Hennet and the botanist Nymeia. The latter uses this opportunity to approach Mr. Carlyle again and shyly invite him to her favorite tea house to share a cup of tea. Carlyle excuses himself and claims that he's really busy right now, but might have time in a few weeks. Or so.

Once Nymeia and her group leave, Auryn suggests that Carlyle might be better off to simply have a cup with her friend or simply say “no” for she won't cease to ask him if he keeps on delaying the inevitable. He answers that it should be pretty clear by now that he wasn't really interested in some affair with this young woman and directly saying no would be utterly rude. Which gives Auryn a good laugh as she explains that Nymeia actually means every word she says: Drinking tea means drinking tea and not much else for a start. Plus she's probably taking his “maybe later” as an invitation to ask him again and again. After all, she's a scientist and not speaking societal code language. To which Carlyle responds “Okay, so maybe later”.

Next, we meet Michael Carlyle and his wife and it turns out that Carlyle the younger is pretty tired and only doing Julia a favor. He says that managing Goodson's inheritance affair is really straining and he's hardly getting some rest. He adds that Lord Vantrys got himself some fine lawyers and that Fordren's own lawyers and them are constantly arguing over details which are too small to grasp even for a professional like him. We do some smalltalk with him which seems to be just the kind of diversion he needed.

After our chat with the Carlyles, Buck approaches us again. He knows from Hennet and Nymeia that the two of us are RHC agents, so Buck seizes the opportunity to complain about the confiscation of his team's mechanical steam powered exo-skeleton. He says that all exhibits were examined after the KATE incident and that theirs was deemed too dangerous for the public. (“That's ludicrous! These Fordren guys could get away with fully functional robotics and our prototype was 'too dangerous'” he said).
Auryn is a bit outraged first, but Buck then adds that he and his friends at least got a job prospect at the Flint Military and the RHC showed its interest as well. This changes her opinion and she and Carlyle give Buck the advice to make good use of this opportunity.
(Now it would be pretty amazing if Buck&co could become the “Qs” of the RHC in time...)

After a bit of champagne and canapés, Carlyle and Auryn take a stroll to the “druid grove” in the museum's garden. They talk a bit about the fate of Team 1 and both agree that they'd probably never disagree that much, at least not when it comes to RHC affairs. Still, Auryn confesses that Carlyle had her confused more than time as he seems to care about her on one occasion only to distance himself from his colleagues on another one. He replies that he's sorry to say that, but it is her who's confusing him with her constant teasing and joking about his “beauty”.

Auryn laughs quite a while at this comment. She then explains that she wasn't joking at all. She's only grown quite fond of her colleague and would even deem him a friend. She then admits that on top of that he is a pretty attractive man, so all her compliments were actually made with nothing but blunt honesty. Auryn adds that maybe Risuri women would play shy around men, but she's an Eladrin and used to speak her mind, at least when she's in the company of people she trusts.

She then says that she hopes Mr. Carlyle feels at least a bit the same about her company so he wouldn't always feel the need to “send her back to Elfaivar” whenever they disagree about cultural affairs and traditions. Carlyle negates this notion and says that he wouldn't want to send her back. He just switches to a more “provocative vocabulary” whenever he's under the impression that Auryn tries to paint Elfaivaran culture as superior and Risuri traditions as archaic. Auryn counters that it isn't as simple as that. Every culture and tradition has its pros and cons, including Risur and Elfaivar. Her own culture had to change and adapt after the Great Malice, so analyzing other cultures and see what's good and what's bad are essential for someone who will most likely define a culture of her own someday as she'd still wish to found her own enclave. (For example, even the long lived veterans will die of old age some day so it wouldn't make sense to place more value in her daughters than her sons or to hold them to different standards)
She then says that even Risuri culture has changed over the years and the ongoing industrialization will surely leave its mark on the country. Which is why they might very well learn a thing or two from the survivors of Elfaivar. Seems like Carlyle can agree to that statement.

When we arrive at the RHC the next morning, a still tired Chief Inspector Stover Delft calls us to his office to assign us to our next mission. He wants us to gather more information about this Obscurati group, so he asks us to take the same train Beregeron mentioned in his letter to Finona and try to identify their members and plans. Ideally we'd make up some cover identities for ourselves as Leone, who's more than obviously part of the conspiracy, knows who we are. He also advises us to make several backup plans should something go amiss. So it's time for some spy business!
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
thinking about all the twists that happened during the intermission and over the course of adventure 4... that's probably quite accurate.

Even if I inititally had more of a modern Avengers relationship in mind (the british agents, not the superheroes)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Prepping with Burton

As we all don't have any experiences in foreign missions and spy operations, he already contacted Burton, the sole survivor of the original Team 3 who's an expert on this field. As we know, he's moved to Slate though, so we'd need to take a train to visit him there.

We get the impression that Delft would surely love to help the mentally traumatized Goblin and get him back to business. So this mission with Flint's new “top team” might just be the right way to help Burton overcome his grief. We applaud our new Chief Inspector on this clever plan and add that while we've unsuccessfully tried to help Burton before, this one might actually work.
(Delft's developing emotional awareness? Times and wonders... but maybe it's just the relationship with Margit leaving its mark on him)

We decide to travel to Slate as fast as possible, so we take the next best train to the capital and then head to a tavern which also functions as a secret operation and training center for the RHC. Burton is already present and it seems like he's actually eager to go on a mission with us. We hand him the key information of our mission and ask him for his expertise.

Burton begins with the most basic tip of all: Preparing an escape route. He suggests to maybe have a ship travel in parallel to the railway, so we have a safe escape in every port city. Escape might be necessary if, for example, our cover gets blown. We add that this boat should be rather inconspicuous, maybe camouflaged as a trade ship. We'd also prefer small but fast escape boats in the port cities which may then bring us to the seaworthy vessel.

He then goes on to discuss our cover identities. This is where he advises us to do lots and lots of research about the identities we'd like to display. There will be lots of people in the train and chances are high that someone would actually come from the area we'd claim to stem from. So it would probably be a good idea to at least visit our “home town” and pick up some details, names and news to make our stories believable.

We discuss some basic options and come to the conclusion that we'd better avoid sticking out of the crowd too much. On the other hand, our covers should not diverge too much from who we are or we'd not be able to make a realistic impression. Magical disguises are also problematic as good parts of Danor are dead magic and we'll also be crossing the Malice Lands. Mr. Carlyle explains that he got this covered (heh) as his alchemy skills are also useful to create disguises, make-up, fake body odors and hair dyes. We also agree that forming a four-to-five person team would be rather suspicious, so it'd be better to form smaller teams which can then observe all of the train.

Auryn muses a bit about playing a traveling singer who's about to go on a grand tour, but rejects the idea as soon as she realizes that she'd have to do actual concerts and lose too much time for observation. However, this brings us to the idea of inviting an actual “Rock Star” to our journey. After all, Rock said he wanted to go on an adventure with us, so here's his chance to prove that he's trustworthy. We agree to not tell him about the Obscurati but would rather explain that we're trying to catch a dangerous serial killer who's trying to escape. Flying Spark could then play Rock's pet dragon and we all know that Rock' is prone to causing lots and lots of commotion.

Carlyle is a bit skeptical at first, but Burton convinces him that this is actually a sound plan. He then suggests using a rookie agent to play an actual RHC agent who's trying to catch said serial killer and who could then blow his cover due to a mistake. All this planning really incites Burton's imagination and so he agrees to join their espionage mission in his favorite role as professional (cheating) card player/wannabe pirate.

Auryn then jokingly suggests that she and Carlyle could play a married couple. She's more than surprised when Carlyle actually agrees to this plan as long as she's a good agent and not trying to do anything funny with him. Which makes her raise an eyebrow in return before giving him a heartfelt laugh. We agree that it would be wise to maybe not all impersonate Risuri citizens, so Carlyle and Auryn decide to play a couple from Ber who are on their honeymoon world trip. As it would be hard to disguise Auryn as anything else but an Elf, Half-Elf or Eladrin, we settle on the latter which would kind of make sense as Ber has been traditionally friendly towards Elfaivaran refugees and could explain why the couple would end their trip in Vendricce, the gate to the lost Empire. Plus we actually have friends in the Beran embassy who could help us out with acquiring genuine papers.

We then talk to Margit about the perfect opportunity to go on a romantic trip with her dear Delft. We quickly realize though that the new head of the RHC in Flint would surely have his hands full with work in these troubled times, so bringing him with her wouldn't be an option. We agree to have her impersonate a Doctor from Flint who's traveling to a scientific congress in Vendricce to present her research papers. Margit has the medical background after all and Auryn is kind of proficient with presenting scientific results from her prep time with Nymeia.

(and so suddenly all that happened in our first “Get together” adventure turns out to play into our hands. Wolmi Heffanita is currently working at the embassy and Nymeia's presentation gave us some basic ideas. Also helps that I am used to attend to such conferences and yeah, that involves a lot of traveling by train)

Once Burton is satisfied with our rough sketches, he invites us to stay in the inn for the night.

This night both Auryn and Carlyle dream of floating over the swamp of the High Bayou. After a while they notice the presence of the Voice of Rot who is curious whether they have forgotten her. The Titan says that she clearly felt that presence from beyond vanishing but got no message that the deed was done from either of them.

Both answer in their respective dreams that they have surely not forgotten their promise, but didn't want to disturb the mighty Titan who most certainly wants to go back to sleep again. Also, such a magnificent creature would probably be able to sense the fading presence anyway. The Voice says she understands our reasoning. She also senses a great power within us and that we've been already claimed by “someone else” with great power. The Titan doesn't say who this someone is, but we both kind of understand that she's thinking of Srasama. The Voice then adds that fortunately there is still some space left for her to leave her mark on us and gives us her blessing.

(So that was pretty scary and neither of us is really sure what this whole “marked by a Titan” means besides some mechanical goodies. Hope that doesn't come back at us someday. Now for the whole Srasama part, we kind of expected her or whatever might be left of her to be our connection to each other. Auryn knows that the Goddess died but she still adheres to her faith and tradition while Carlyle carries a sliver of her divine essence)

The next morning, Auryn is finally able to convince Carlyle to do some one on one training with her. In the end she's satisfied as she knows no other person would be able to pose a real challenge for her in combat
(well, besides Jack and she didn't use magic on him while impersonating Aubron
).

After the training she unsuccessfully tries to get him to address her in a less formal way. Citing a proper etiquette manual, Auryn says that it would be usually up to the person of higher rank to switch means of address and as both of them are equals, the honor then falls upon the elder person – who he clearly is. He answers by smiling and saying that he knows that rule. He pauses for a moment and then adds that he isn't really used to be called Gabriel anyway, so using his first name would sound weird, if not wrong to him. Auryn shrugs off the rebuff and says she's simply getting confused by the ever increasing group of people named Carlyle.

(Regarding names and means of address:
First, Carlyle's player told me that Mr. Carlyle wasn't that honest with “no one calling him Gabriel” as the homeless people and one old comrade he cares for do call him by that name. Auryn had no reason to doubt that statement though.

Second, we do put a bit of a thought on who to address by which name. For example, we always include titles when addressing or talking about people who have one, like Dr. Meredith and Dr. von Recklinghausen as long as they are only acquaintances. Or Carlyle's using “the Rear Admiral” when talking about Dawkins while Auryn speaks of “dear Morris” within her team - her peers who know of their relationship.

Within the team, Carlyle goes by Mr. Carlyle and we all address him formally (There is this difference between informal “Du” and formal “Sie” or oldschool “Ihr” in the German language and it can be quite a big deal). Auryn on the other hand insists to be called by her first name, even if she's addressed formally (Ms. Auryn) as her “family name” is actually her mother's name which she used as last name when registering in Risur. This can come in quite handy when someone asked for a “Ms. Galadin” as she instantly knows that this person isn't her acquaintance. Margit and Auryn use first names and informal address while Carlyle stays formal (even if Carlyle's player has this habit of avoiding to call people by their names, so we've yet to hear a “Ms. Stenz” from him). Flying Spark is simply Flying Spark, although we use a formal address for him to get him used to Risuri customs.)


We say goodbye to Burton and he mentions that he got lots of preparations to do as well, so we will most certainly only meet again when we get on the train in winter.

We arrive back in Flint the next day and start our own preparation work. Auryn and Carlyle plan to make it seem like they were asked to accompany an archaeological follow-up expedition to Ber to explain why we'd be absent from Flint for such a long time. So we head to various cartography and book shops and get material on Ber. We then meet up with Delft and inform him about our plan to which he has no objections.

Our first step is to go to the embassy of Ber to ask for a chat with Wolmi Heffanita. We tell her that we have to go to a secret undercover mission soon and would like to impersonate a married couple from Ber. Meanwhile, we'd like to make it seem like the two of us are sent to an official mission in Ber. We add that this information has to be handled confidentially, but we also trust her in this matter and hope that she can help us. Once we swear that this “secret mission” won't go against the interests of the nation of Ber, and that we consider her country a close ally and friend of Risur, she warms up to the idea as this might just lead to some joint ventures in the future.

She sends us to a military attache who's working in the embassy. After some back and forth, he agrees to support our plan as well. The minotaur explains that he'd get us official identity documents. Constables Auryn Galadin and Gabriel Carlyle will then go on a follow up mission to a remote region in Ber to dig for more artifacts of the Ancients and protect their fellow archaeologists from possible curses. Once they arrive Reo Pedresco they'll meet up with their contact, Stella, who hands them their documents. The constables then “continue their mission” while a newlywed couple from Reo Pedresco can go on their long planned honeymoon. In return, the constables Auryn Galadin and Gabriel Carlyle will owe the nation of Ber a favor, so they'll come to their aid should the need arise. This seems like a plan we both can agree on.

Next we head to the military command post in Flint harbor where we ask Rear Admiral Dawkins for a ship. We don't goo too much into the details of our mission, but explain that the ship has to be fast and inconspicuous. He recommends a seaworthy steam supported schooner (the Roscommon I guess). We also discuss using a second ship as backup should our original ship be discovered or get into a sea battle. After all, the inner sea is pirate ridden, Auryn is quite nervous when it comes to pirates and the Dracon de Mer was pretty heavily armed as well.

Last but not least, we search for our Rock Star. Turns out that he's out of prison on parole and spent his first night of freedom partying in the Golden Sawfish. Where he celebrated Rock style and had quite an orgy afterward with some of his groupies. Once we are in Rock's suite, Margit and Mr. Carlyle don't really seem to be comfortable with the sight of so many naked people, so Auryn sneaks in, wakes up Rock and asks him to get dressed and talk to us in a more modest appearance.

Once we are sure Rock can actually understand what we are trying to say, we tell him that there's a way for him to get rid of his sentence altogether. Thing is that he'd have to assist us in a tricky case as we're on the hunt for a dangerous criminal and he could help us by creating a bombastic distraction. All he'd have to do is to go on a Rock World Tour. Rock is totally enthusiastic about this prospect and we kindly remind him to discuss this matters with his manager so he'd make sure to catch the right train even if he's busy rocking the groupies. We also magically remind him that his “dear friend Bergeron” also talked about a trip with the Avery Coast Railroad, so that has to be en vogue right now.
 
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Should I expect the title and formality lesson to be pertinent for understanding some future scheme of yours? Or is it a digression that you thought would be fascinating, just not plot relevant?

It reminds me of a scene in the Japanese animated movie Your Name (which is phenomenal and everyone should watch it). A young woman has woken up in the body of a young guy in a different city, and when she runs into the guy's friends they ask 'him' why 'he' is acting so strangely. The woman starts a sentence four times, using four different versions of the Japanese word for "I."

First 'watashi' which has a more generic and somewhat feminine. One of the guys responds with 'watashi?'

Thinking that she's perhaps being too informal with people she doesn't know, she sort of instinctively switches to a more formal 'watakushi.' That confuses them even more, because they're not expecting formality from their friend.

She realizes her mistake and switches to 'boku,' which is properly masculine, but not informal enough for close friends.

Finally she uses 'ore,' which is appropriately informal.

In subtitles the joke is a little hard to grasp without some awareness of Japanese. I'm not sure if it's been dubbed to English, but I think it'd be difficult to convey the same confusion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oaYvQg9MCY
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Oh, it will be brought up again in later sessions. Our means of address isn't that plot relevant (it might become though) but it is one aspect where differences in character become visible. For example, Carlyle using an informal address to some seemingly random person would be a strong sign that something just isn't right.

It is also a bit of a digression, yes, as I don't know whether the strong distinction between names is confusing for someone who doesn't know the background. Carlyle's player and I talked a bit about it when Tizbiz brought up "Xambria" at some point and we simply didn't know who he was referring to. Turned out that he read some other story recaps for inspiration and got used to her first name while we only knew of Dr. Meredith. We sadly missed to mention the jaw-dropping reaction of Carlyle when Auryn was addressing "the Rear Admiral" informally in adventure 1.

For Your Name: I haven't seen the movie yet, but I saw a good deal of subbed Anime in my youth and find the Japanese language fascinating. Still I can only comprehend the pure basics without subtitles.
So yeah, I can understand the resulting confusion when someone uses the seemingly wrong version of "I" in Japanese :)

Which... makes me wonder how Japanese groups would handle their naming conventions in their campaigns.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
To kill a Rock Star

This evening, Lord Vantrys asks Mr. Carlyle to accompany him to a most certainly long and tedious battle of the lawyers concerning Goodson's will as he doesn't want to get outsmarted by the representatives of Fordren Industries. Carlyle surely agrees to help his former Lord. He isn't all that surprised to see that Michael Carlyle is said representative who brought his battalion of experts with him. It seems like Fordren Industries is showing an unusual interest in Goodson's recently founded newspaper publisher. As they are willing to pay a good fortune to get the newspaper, Carlyle advises Lord Vantrys to leave the publisher to Fordren as he assumes that Risuri wouldn't be interested in a danoran-owned magazine anyway. He could still hire the publisher's staff should the project eventually fail.

Carlyle is also able to grasp that Fordren Industries will try to expand to the Risuri market and import goods they produce in Danor. Once he explains this to Vantrys, the young Lord gets nervous that he wouldn't be able to compete with Fordren who has far lower production costs. Carlyle suggests in private that Vantrys could establish some sort of “made in Risur” or “Risuri quality” label for his goods. He's already negotiating with partners for a common “humanistic industry standard” anyway, so maybe he could also get people like Sechim on board. Plus the people of Risur are patriotic, so maybe they'd prefer to buy goods from their nation without the need to badmouth danoran products.

The next morning Auryn finds a message which claims that Old Stag wants her to kill Rock Rackus. As she's pretty sure that her mentor has no reason to see the fabulous singer dead, she calls this off as nonsense. She's still unsure whether someone wants to test or prank her and decides to keep an eye open for other possible means of contact.

One day later we receive a message from Asrabey Varal who asks for a meeting at the border to the Dreaming. Carlyle is a bit astonished when Auryn says that she'll guide them to the spot the Eladrin warrior mentioned in his letter as he doesn't know too much about the Dreaming and its fey inhabitants. She leads him on a small pathway through Cloudwood until they reach a small, enchanted clearing.

There we find Asrabey sitting serenely on the remnants of a long fallen tree. Once he realizes that we've arrived, he opens his eyes and and hails us. He first asks Auryn whom he calls “little flower” in elvish whether she's been doing well. He seems pleased once she says that everything is alright (he was giving Carlyle side-eyes before that) and goes on to discuss the matters of Kasvarina, his revered wife and matriarch.

We tell Asrabey about Mr. Carlyle's vision of Leone Quintal, the dead A.G. and Kasvarina. As Leone led her back to the metal gate, we guess that he might have taken Kasvarina prisoner and that she might have been drugged by someone. Auryn adds that this Leone guy is our enemy as well as he tried to kill her, Carlyle, Margit and two other innocents (Lynn Kindleton and Dr. von Recklinghausen) and murdered one RHC agent.

(one could almost feel sorry for Leone. Having the dreadnaught of Axis Island at his toes when you abducted his wife and tried to kill her great-great-granddaughter is surely no easy fate.
As for the “little flower”: Auryn is rather small for an Eladrin and pretty young as well, so it seems like that's where Asrabey got the inspiration for her nickname. She really doesn't object to be called that way and sees it as a sign that Asrabey likes her.)

We then talk about Nathan Jierre and the information the tiefling may hold. Asrabey says that he cannot simply order the Unseen Court to release the boy as they still got their own questions. However, Nathan is alive and kicking, so we shouldn't be too worried and be patient. His own investigations on Axis Island revealed that Kasvarina was in the company of a Danoran and spoke unusually friendly to him. He can confirm that Fordren Industries is involved in the Axis weapons research and that these events must be somehow connected. Concerning his wife, Asrabey will need to gather information in Flint and it seems like Parity Lake would be a good starting point. As we know that Asrabey isn't really used to deal with humans, we kindly ask him to rather bribe the people he'd like to question with “shinies” than to resort to violence.

(now that would have been a perfect opportunity to tell Asrabey about Auryn's special relationship with Francis Fordren, but she promised Price-Hill to avoid causing Fordren's premature demise and involving Asrabey would have guaranteed a bloody massacre...)

A few days later the grand Docker cultural charity concert takes place in Bosun Strand. As Auryn is one of the event's organizers, she's partaking as well and it turns out that the event got a lot bigger than she originally planned. It seems like the program got changed at short notice when Rock Rackus agreed to perform as well.

(“I wanted a cultural event and not a party...” Auryn sighed. But she's satisfied that Rock takes his promise to care more for Flint and its populace to heart, so she didn't protest)

Auryn sees that at least Cecilia Fordren got her invitation, so she uses Calla Aurea to explain the upcoming program to the young Danoran to maybe get her interested in the Docker movement. It seems like Cecilia is more interested in the also attending Lord Vantrys though... which is totally okay for Auryn as long as the young woman finds her means to deal with the tragedy of losing Goodson.

Calla Aurea and Bronk, the minotaur bartender, perform excerpts of a Crisillyiri opera as well as some comedic duets from Ber and it seems like their performance goes down well with the audience. Rock Rackus is the next one to perform after them and he does so with lots of pomp and flashy effects. Just when his big show is finished, a masked assassin looking like a true Vekeshi avenger emerges from the crowd, runs at Rock and stabs him repeatedly with a rapier while proclaiming that he's been tried and judged by the Vekeshi. Despite her mask and all, the person looks strikingly similar to Auryn. The real Auryn (who is still disguised as Calla Aurea) is frozen in shock for a second and then rushes to Rock to save his life. Meanwhile, the masked assassin runs away and disappears in the crowd.

Luckily, Auryn is able to save Rock. She calls the events the “stunning finale” of Rock's show, so no need to worry. It just seems like he cuckolded the wrong Fey Lady this time.
(Rock loves telling the story about how he got to the moon and had an affair with a Fey Lady. And Auryn regularly adds that one could never know whether he'd had the affair with the Lord and incited the Lady's rage instead as Rock surely wouldn't know the difference. Gave Carlyle a good laugh when he first heard of the story.)

Mr. Carlyle, who's also present at the festival, is also unable to catch the assassin. Still he immediately starts searching for clues on the person's identity. He's able to smell traces of a refrigerant he cannot really place at first. Putting our magical knowledge together, we assume that the “person” could actually be a Simulacrum as they are made from ice sculptures. What Carlyle doesn't understand is the fact that the Simulacrum looked like his partner and wore a mask on top of that. He thinks that it would be more logical to reveal “Auryn's” face should someone try to frame her, especially if the culprit knew that she'd be Calla Aurea at the festival. Auryn sighs at this comment and agrees to tell him more once they are in private.

Once we arrive in Auryn's home, she brews some strong tea and tries to explain that someone probably wants to see Rock Rackus dead because he gravely misunderstood a joke. She tells Carlyle of a secret gathering of people who've protected Risur from the shadows for years and who try to contain both spiritual and physical threats to Flint's populace. There, a high ranking member made a joke about Rock's music being bad enough to warrant a death sentence and now she guesses that someone could have taken the comment seriously.

Carlyle understands her assumption but doesn't really get why someone would use a fake-Auryn to do the deed. After all, she's surely no member of a secret society who's prone to vigilante justice (yeah, he got that she was talking about the Vekeshi...).

Auryn sighs again and confesses the whole story: After living in Risur for quite a while, she wanted to help those who could not defend themselves and who were suffering because others exploited them for their own gain. She had a friend who introduced her to the Vekeshi and who are clearly not the crazy murderers everyone wants to paint them for. She explains that the “true Vekeshi” use lethal violence only as a very last resort and would rather utilize official ways and their network to bring down their enemies.
Carlyle is very surprised when he hears Auryn's story and quickly responds that she cannot truly serve two masters without getting into conflicts of interest. He admits that he understands the need to take justice into one's own hands, especially in times like these. After all, he protected the interests and members of house Vantrys in times past and sometimes used less than legal ways to do so. But that was before he became an RHC agent.

Auryn replies that there is a difference between being a lone vigilante who's protecting one family and a group of peers who actually discuss their problems, means and methods to keep an entire city safe. She adds that the Vekeshi are more than just a league of punishers, but rather protectors who also keep spiritual threats at bay. She then brings up the story on how they used their communal magic to empower the seal MacBannin left after his death so that the malevolent magic of Cauldron Hill could be contained.

To Auryn's surprise, Carlyle says that he knows exactly what she's talking about as he witnessed said ritual and contributed to it in his dreams. She takes the chance to explain that her mentor felt that he could be a valuable ally in their cause as he is inspired by both the magic and the power of the goddess Srasama.
Carlyle doesn't want any of this though. He says that he's actually pretty shocked that the colleague whom he put his trust in probably gave away secret information of the RHC to an outside group of vigilantes and that this is nothing short but treason. Auryn responds by saying that whatever she gave to the Vekeshi were hints about possible threats to Risur: The death of Macbannin, the complex near the Bleak Gate and its danger to the Nettles, Sijhen and the awakening of the Voice of Rot. Compared to this, the information he gave to the Familia, a criminal organization, were much more sensitive. He rebuts this argument and says that he included all of his business with the Familia in his reports to Delft who had seen no problem in what he did.

Carlyle goes on to say that there's now one of two ways out of this mess: Either Auryn needs to give Delft a full report on her Vekeshi business or he'd have report her to their boss. She responds by saying that such kind of action would be impossible lest she'd risk her own life as revealing the Vekeshi to such an open space as the RHC would be a betrayal in itself, punishable by death.

In one flash of inspiration, Carlyle then suggests a rather unconventional and radical approach: As the Vekeshi need some sort of outside observer, there could be someone they'd actually trust and this person is none other than the true High Guardian of Risur, King Aodhan. As the King is the superior of even Viscount Inspector Price-Hill, the RHC would also accept the King's judgment in this case. In any case, Vekeshi actions need to be reported to someone and the King could be just the right person to hold all threads of information in his hands, especially when RHC information is to be passed to the Vekeshi via Auryn and vice versa.

Auryn lauds Carlyle for this brilliant idea and she can agree to his plan. However, she's unsure whether the King would grant such a hearing priority as he's surely busy with his own work. “'Tis a plan then and you'll keep your life” Carlyle says and then quickly excuses himself. He leaves Auryn's home saying that he's still not sure whether he'd ever be able to trust her again after her betrayal.

(So much for being sure that there'd never be a rift between the two head members of Team 3. So Carlyle felt like Auryn's been leaking sensitive information to the Vekeshi and he feared that all of our progress in terms of the Obscurati could be in vain if there was only one member of the Vekeshi who was secretly an Ob. While Auryn felt like she was always 100% in control and sure which kind of info she would give to the person she trusted even more than Carlyle.
I honestly didn't know how to get out of the “either you kill me or I get myself killed” dilemma and was positively surprised by Carlyle's elegant solution
)
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Mr. Black Panther

Now Auryn knows that she has to sell Carlyle's plan to the Vekeshi first so she dons her Barn Owl garb and travels to the border of the Dreaming where she's already been expected. Three other Vekeshi elders are present at their secret meeting point: Old Stag, the Wolf and the Ursa who Auryn knows to be the druid Eilean. They demand an explanation for the incident with Rock Rackus as they clearly didn't order the execution of the “loud boy”. Auryn explains that she's clearly not responsible for the attack on Rock and even used her powers to save him and call the attack part of the show to avoid a panic and more questions.

She then tells the whole story from her perspective, starting with Old Stag's joke about Rock's music (which she totally understands) to the letter she falsely ignored as she thought it a crude joke of one of their fey brethren to the attack on Rock Rackus by a Simulacrum, a creation of very potent magic. She adds that Old Stag had nothing to do with all of this and if someone should be to blame, then it would be her for ignoring the letter and not acting more proactively. Nonetheless, Wolf and Ursa insist on following the rule that a mentor is responsible for his student, so she and Old Stag are given a full solar cycle to clean up the mess.

Auryn thinks about the incident for a while and then objects to the sentence as she's reminded of the intrigues and betrayals that followed her over the last weeks. She assumes that this outcome might be exactly what the real culprit was planning and that he'd either want her and Old Stag occupied or executed. She goes on to say that the magic of the Simulacrum is not easily recreated and even less mundane, so someone put great effort into this plan. She also knows that not all Vekeshi are d'accord with Old Stag's “gentle” course and might envy his influence on their circle. Auryn then muses that whoever did this might have seen her, Old Stag's student as his weakness to either discredit him or get rid of him completely.

The two female Vekeshi cannot really find arguments against Auryn's logic. They take back the ultimatum, but still order her to solve this mystery and to bring the culprit to justice. Auryn replies that she wanted to catch whoever did this anyway and that she'll be more than capable to do this on her own.
(Yep, Auryn really wants to keep her mentor out of this mess as she feels responsible for what just happened. She adores him and sees him as family, so she'd totally fight for him and his good name with all available means.)

Next Auryn brings up the issue of Mr. Carlyle. She explains that her revelation was at least partially due to the Vekeshi's interest in him and his powers, so the assassination attempt was simply the last straw needed to get him involved as well. She adds that her telling him the truth was maybe premature but that she had no other choice as she needs him to solve the case and lying to him would have made the whole mission even more complicated. She says that Carlyle himself had an idea how to solve her conflict and would like to propose this idea to the council. This is where Old Stag intervenes. He draws upon the magic of the Dreaming to transform them all into their respective animal spirits (Wolf, Bear, Stag and Barn Owl) and then calls upon Carlyle whom he also leads to the clearing. Carlyle appears in the guise of a spiritual black Panther who looks a bit confused at fist but then quickly realizes what's going on.

(Having a Panther as spirit form was Carlyle's own interpretation and he started liking his alter ego after this encounter. Black Jaguar could have been fitting as well, but Leopards/Panthers are slightly more lithe and Carlyle is an agile and elegant man)

Once he realizes that he's on Vekeshi grounds, Carlyle half-jokingly asks whether he's been called here to get tried and executed now that he knows about their secret society. They all share a quick laugh as they all know a Deva would simply be reborn if they killed him and chances are that he'd somehow retain his memories of their encounter. Auryn/Barn Owl stays quiet while the other three try to explain the Vekeshi ways and purpose to Carlyle. They make sure to focus on their spiritual responsibility to fend off creatures like Sijhen - a job that was given to Auryn - or to soothe malevolent fey. They say that they can feel a strong presence of the Goddess Srasama inside him which would make them follow the same spiritual course as well.

Carlyle however is surprised that the Vekeshi pay so much attention to a dead Eladrin goddess as she wasn't really involved in Risuri affairs and the Eladrin population of Risur is rather small.
He then reiterates his fear that the Vekeshi as they are now are pretty much without any kind of control and thus susceptible to manipulation. He explains that organizations like the RHC, for whom he decided to work, have someone superior to report to and to be held accountable by.

The Ursa acknowledges the value of the RHC but adds that even official instances like the police of Flint are often incapable and inefficient and that its members are more than often corrupt and more likely to serve people of power and wealth than the general populace. She adds that the Vekeshi often use the jobs and positions they have in their “real lives” to serve justice by going the official way. Carlyle replies that he welcomes this approach, still he criticizes the uncontrolled decision-making and the illegitimate means by which they obtained critical RHC information.

They go on to talk about the idea to have the King know about the Vekeshi operations in Flint. Not like Aodhan doesn't have his secret special forces who surely do more severe stuff every day...
Carlyle says that the King should be informed about the external information that are given to and discussed by the Vekeshi and also suggests that whatever problems can be solved by the RHC should probably be delegated to the RHC. He says that Delft, their new Chief Inspector, is a fair and capable man who serves all of Flint and doesn't pay favors to anyone.

After a while all of them can agree on Carlyle's proposals. As Carlyle is able to recognize his colleague even in spirit form, he says that he and the Barn Owl will contact the King as soon as possible and inform him about their plan. He then promises to help her with her assassination case – after all the wanted person could very well be one of their enemies.

After the conference of Spirit-Animals is concluded and Mr. Panther has vanished, the four Vekeshi are transformed back to their humanoid forms. Old Stag almost collapses afterward as he used up too much of his power to make this meeting possible. He seems so weak that Auryn feels the need to gently support him as they cross the border back to the material world. While she's really worried about his current state, Old Stag says that he's fine and simply needs some rest. He then uses what's left of his magic to transport her directly to the hedge of her garden.

When we meet up in our office the next day, Carlyle is extremely dismissive of Auryn. Margit senses that something must be amiss, but neither of them seems content to talk about their problem. Both simply explain that they need to contact the King via light-messaging and go on to do so. Fortunately for us, we almost immediately get a respond from Slate which says that King Aodhan invites the two of us to an audience in his palace.

Both constables are eerily quiet during their train ride to Slate and it seems like they've been never more distanced from each other. While their initial meet-up at Nymeia's presentation and in the club might have been awkward they've never tried to actively avoid each other. Getting to Slate and into the palace seems to take an eternity even though only a few hours pass.

After a short waiting in a salon in Torfield Palace, we are summoned to a private meeting room where King Aodhan and Prime Minister Lee are already waiting for us. (Guess what? They just finished dinner. Seems like these two are really close... even if Mr. Carlyle would surely scold Auryn would she muse about King and Prime Minister maybe being "more than just friends")

We quickly explain our mysterious problem to the King and his first man. Auryn says that whatever happened falls under her responsibility which includes every misstep she might have taken. She confesses that being part of two organizations sworn to secrecy could easily lead to conflicts of interests and also lists every occasion where she gave information to the Vekeshi or to the RHC. She then defends the Vekeshi of Flint as people who try to uphold Risuri ideals and who try to protect the common folk. Auryn also mentions that this group is very old, has maybe been around for centuries and brought justice way before the RHC was even founded. Carlyle then intervenes and adds that this kind of “justice” can quickly lead to vigilantism, which is why there is a judicial system and a police force in the first place.

King Aodhan says that he understands the problem and conflict of interest. However, the Vekeshi of Flint are actually tame from what he's heard compared to those who operate in other areas of the world. He's also never heard of any official complaint about vigilantism even if some sensationalist reporters try to link common murder to the Vekeshi. The King also sees reason in Carlyle's opposition, so having some contact inside the organization seems like a sound plan, especially if the Vekeshi already agreed to have an observer. So he'd like to make us both observers who report serious Vekeshi activities as well as any transferred information to him. Both men then ask for a little time to set some things into motion.

After a while, we are summoned to the meeting room again only to find Viscount Inspector Price-Hill and Stover Delft sitting right in front of King and Prime Minister. Once we sit down as well, King Aodhan declares without beating about the bush that the constables Mr. Gabriel Carlyle and Auryn, daughter of Galadin, will be reporting directly to him in some sensible cases. Both our superiors look pretty surprised, but Aodhan asks them to not inquire any further. This surprises them even more, but they surely don't try to talk the King out of his decision.

(So we really didn't expect that. We tried to make this a rather “intimate affair” and now Price-Hill and Delft probably think we've been elevated to very special royal black ops agents or be his personal eyes and ears in the RHC or something crazy like that...)

Our journey back to Flint proceeds without any incidents. Still Mr. Carlyle and Auryn barely exchange any word and it seems like both feel deeply hurt by the other's actions and stances.
Carlyle, because he trusted her and because she was the first person he'd open up to after losing touch with Nathaniel Vantrys. And Auryn because she knew she had to make tough choices and decisions every day and now that she tried to share this burden with a person she trusted, she got pushed away as if their friendship was nothing but a lie.

(In a hindsight, there is even more to that rift than I thought when I first wrote the recap. From what I know now about Carlyle's character, I'd also guess that he might have feared that Auryn's “vigilantism” might defect him and lead him back to his old ways of his previous life and this time he was desperate to always play by the rules. So he had to make sure to shut her “corrupting influence” out.

Auryn on the other hand placed her trust in Carlyle, and even tried to understand his oftentimes “alien” conventions and views. She expected him to do the same for her but felt like he hadn't changed at all. She's also a bit stubborn what it comes to her decision-making skills as she insists that she's been prepared and raised to be a ruler, not a servant. And while she knew that she maybe made a mistake, she surely didn't feel remorse or guilt as she was still sure that she'd be able to balance the interests of the Vekeshi and the RHC.

There was also this short exchange between them during this episode, and I guess it was shortly after their return to Flint where Auryn said something like “I've stripped naked in front of my King and offered him my throat, yet he chose to wrap his mantle around my shoulders. Are you going to defy his judgment and shred me to pieces?” to which he replied “So you'd have taken any sentence of King Aodhan and just lived with it?” to which she then replied “Of course, he's my matriarch!”. Even if both knew from the issue with the Duchess that the King's sentence wouldn't be too draconian anyway.)


Nevertheless, we immediately proceed to search for the culprit behind the attack on Rock Rackus once we get back to Flint. After all, he could be a compromised Vekeshi and therefore a possible member of the Obscurati. So we first wrap up all information we have: The culprit has to be quite new to the Vekeshi or alternatively needs another reason to have no knowledge of the mentor-student relationship of Barn Owl and the Old Stag. In addition, he or she needs to have access to powerful magic and have had means to find out the true identity of Barn Owl. Thinking about their past meetings, Auryn remembers only two Vekeshi who openly criticized Old Stag's decisions: One who wore a goat mask and another who was completely disguised but had a scythe as a weapon. We also have to consider the fact that the attacker might not work alone.

As we know that summoning the Vekeshi to a new gathering might take some time we decide to search for people involved in creating the Simulacrum first. We search Flint for possible registered or unregistered sales of a scroll and find that the only ones capable of obtaining and selling one are RHC and government officials and the Familia. None of them sold such an item however. Still one scribe can give us hints on where to search next as he knows the addresses of Flint's most talented ice and stone sculptors. Time to ask whether one of them got hired to work on an icy double of Auryn over the last weeks.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Skeletons in the Closet

Session 18

We manage to get a list of three known sculptors who are also adapt at working with ice. The first two turn out to be dead ends, although Auryn finds that one of the sculptors is working in a factory with less than ideal working conditions. It comes with no surprise that this factory was previously owned by Goodson and is now in the hands of Fordren Industries. As she finds several violations against already existing occupational safety standards, Auryn makes sure to write down every little detail and hand the list to the officials so they maybe send in an inspection team.

The last sculptor, an artist named Janine who's working in her own atelier can confirm that she's been working on a statue that looked just like the “Elf constable” who's questioning her. She says that the statue was finished three days ago and that it got picked up by a pimply red-haired boy who was working for the art consortium of Flint. The transport carriage also bore a familiar logo as it belonged to no one else but Jules' transport company.

We ask her about any further detail or strange coincidence that could be of interest. Janine replies that she did find it strange that the concept sketches for the statue looked very much like her own which is strange as she has no students and her teacher went out of business after the death of his wife. When we ask her for the name of her master, we are pretty surprised to hear that it is none other than Lord Byron, now better known as Lord Byron-Saxby, the husband of Lady Saxby who is said to never leave the Saxby estate on the Avery Isles.

We thank Janine for her cooperation and decide to pay our dear friend Jules a visit. The businessman gives us a broad smile as soon as we ask him for assistance yet again. He mutters something like “life's been boring before I met you two on the train” while searching for the statue's transport documents. Jules says that the one who signed the contract is a certain Tyler Starke who we know to be the good-for-nothing-but trouble son of prosecutor Starke. Going by the transport protocol, the statue was delivered to the harbor where it was deployed onto the “Bride”, a small ferry boat.

While we now have at least one suspect for our attempted murder case, we are not at all happy to have the son of one of our contacts involved. So we decide to pay prosecutor Starke a visit to inform him beforehand – after all, we don't wish that the good man is taken by surprise should we arrest his son. So we head to his office in Central and tell him about our case while leaving out the whole Vekeshi involvement. It turns out that Starke is not at all surprised by this development as his son has been delinquent before and everything turned much worse after he killed a member of the clergy in self defense.
(It wasn't mentioned before, but during our very first team-forming adventure, we met Starke and his son who bragged to his friends about cutting “the old pervert” into pieces. Starke then told us that this may be his son's way of dealing with the attempted rape by said member of the clergy. Which is why he didn't intervene.)

Starke then adds some details about why his son might have turned out the way he did. When he was a young prosecutor his wife was murdered by a thug and he tried to get the murderer locked up or executed. However, he made mistakes in the process and the culprit got away. Because of this he had sworn to never do the same mistake again and now always double- and triple checks his paperwork. Due to his mistake, he felt like his son lost all faith in the judicial system and started to despise him. He turned to spend more and more time with his godfather, Lord Byron. Which wasn't that bad, he thought, as he hoped that Byron could teach him art as a means to express his feelings.

So it seems like our circle of suspects just grew by one Lord Byron. We ask Starke for an arrest and search warrant and then head to Starke's home.

Unfortunately, Starke's housekeeper is only person present in the prosecutor's home. She's deaf on top of that, but seems satisfied that finally someone wants to take care of the little rascal Tyler. So she leads us to Tyler's room and lets us do all the searching we like. As we carefully examine every little inch of his room, we come across two explosive runes traps placed on his diary. We also find a mimic under his bed (so much for children fearing monsters...) and the crude making of the mimic makes us guess that Tyler maybe created this thing on his own. We also find remnants of an alchemy lab and decide to catch the mimic so no one gets hurt.
(at least the mimic was able to lighten up Carlyle's mood a bit. The prospect of shocking Delft again is always tempting)

Then we find a hidden safe containing unused Vekeshi avenger regalia and a cloak that could fit the scythe-wielding Vekeshi. As Auryn doesn't want Tyler to be a known Vekeshi, she decides to remove the items before any police officer may find them. Needless to say that Carlyle is not really happy about this approach.

Next, we try to meet up with team 1 as they are the ones in charge with case Saxby and might have more information about her husband (mh, we see a pattern there). Unfortunately, they are on a mission right now as they try to find the missing husband of Lady Saxby who they originally intended to question today. Seems like we are out of luck, but we ask Delft to assign someone to keep watch on Janine's atelier.

As we cannot get our hands on Lord Byron-Saxby, we try to at least find as many evidences that could be pointing to his connection to the Vekeshi as possible. Carlyle suggests that we familiarize ourselves with Byron's art style so we might recognize his works should we come across them. As we know from the art consortium that Byron got a lot of his works destroyed after his first wife's death, we assume that artworks which are private property might have survived. So Auryn heads to the former estate of Goodson on the Avery Isles as we know the late industrialist to be an art enthusiastic. Meanwhile, Carlyle pays visit to a local art gallery to search for Byron's sketches.

Auryn does find a statue of an elven woman in the estate which is currently being rebuilt into a hotel owned by none other than Lord Vantrys and it is easily among the best works she's ever seen. Carlyle gets his eyes on some impressive sketches which depict surreal visions of Srasama and a world in flames. He chats a bit with the gallery's curator, a fellow deva who lived as an Eladrin before his death. The two men talk a bit about their former lives (or what they remember of it) and are both glad that they could leave the horrors of war behind.
(Guess who Carlyle never mentioned to Auryn... she's still totally oblivious that there is a former Eladrin in Flint who's been present during the Malice)

After we meet up again, we go to visit the Saxby estate. As Carlyle is by now pretty known for his good eyes, he not only finds a small empty potion vial on the beach, but also a very well hidden secret compartment in one room where a Ragman costume is hidden. It seems like it hasn't been used for a decade or so though.
(So... either the couple was into some really strange Ragman kink or Byron used the Ragman figure to commit crimes. Both thoughts are a bit disturbing.)

We also find a well equipped, but pretty much plundered alchemy lab and a library containing books on magic where some tomes seem to be missing. One old diary of Byron reveals that the man has had a manic-depressive phase before marrying Saxby and we assume that this Lord might not be the most mentally stable individual.

After our investigation, we ask for a second meeting with our Vekeshi contacts to discuss our findings. The Wolf confirms that Tyler Starke is the man behind the “Reaper” as she was present at his initiation. We also talk about our assumption that Lord Byron could be the man in the goat mask as the mask shows signs of his art style.

Carlyle guesses that Byron could hate Auryn for being among the agents who took his second wife from him. He muses that the RHC Chief could have been the Lord's last hope that there could be some sort of justice left in the world and now that she's been arrested Byron's world might come tumbling down.

The Vekeshi see reason in our assumptions and decide to take from Goat and Reaper what they have once given to them. Auryn also insists that they should lose their memories of being Vekeshi as they know at least her real identity. The Wolf also gives us a hint that Byron might own more than one piece of land in Flint and that his family was once known for having mills and a hunting lodge. We thank her for her tips and promise to take care of the rest.

As we still got preparations to do for our upcoming “mission to Ber”, we head back to the RHC to get some reading on foreign laws. There we realize that our HQ is under surveillance by some shady figures. We decide to memorize the spy's faces and rather stick to observation before we find out more about them.

When Auryn gets home this evening, she finds a new letter on her dinner table. To her shock, no one can tell how the letter got there as Flying Spark saw neither a messenger nor a burglar. What's even more disturbing is the fact that this one is trapped with explosive runes. As she doesn't know how to deal with traps, Auryn quickly summons Carlyle to her home who disarms the explosives in no time. In this letter, “Old Stag” orders his fellow Vekeshi to kill the mayor of North Shore and to not screw up this time.

We inspect the dining room and come to the conclusion that someone must have teleported in there via dimension door or the like. Needless to say that Auryn is terrified by the thought that someone could just enter her private place unnoticed and place a deadly trap there. So she packs up some of her basic items and asks Carlyle whether he got a room to spare. While he seems a bit confused at first, Carlyle then quickly agrees to let his colleague move in as long as the two mad men are still out there. After all, his home (a former Vantrys estate he got as gift for his centuries-long service) is pretty spacious and has more than one guest room.
(Not that Auryn would have objected to sleep on a sofa. Even if Carlyle wouldn't have her take the sofa. He's a gentleman with a ring of sustenance on top of that.)

After Carlyle's morning routine, which includes commando training in the attic, we meet up in the kitchen for a cup of tea. We talk a bit about the unused rooms that seem to be in a pretty good condition despite having no real inhabitants and Carlyle confesses that he's just used to keep everything presentable as one should always expect unexpected visitors.

Auryn thanks her colleague for his hospitality despite their recent differences which he brushes off as it it was no big deal. She then muses that having a butler like him would surely raise the expectations of the daughters of house Vantrys to unusually high levels and that they'd be most likely disappointed by their future husbands. While Carlyle realizes that her comment was meant as a joke, he becomes quiet and thoughtful for a moment. He then carefully agrees to her statement and adds that not every man of noble birth comes with a corresponding noble character or even good looks. Which leads Auryn to the thought that maybe some Vantrys daughters were dissatisfied or unhappy with their marriages and might have sought comfort with their former butler. A thought that never leaves her mouth though.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Mad Men

Before the two fall back to awkward silence again, Carlyle is handed another one of Nymeia's invitations by a messenger. He says that this girl is surely persistent and Auryn reminds him that her friend probably won't cease to invite him until he either agrees or says no. He'll think about it he says, even if he's unsure whether he would have anything in common with her.

(What about romance novels, tea and plants? But honestly, as much as Auryn only wants to help Nymeia with her crush on Carlyle, she's also sure that handling him would be far more easier if he were in a committed relationship...)

We head to the RHC and hand our findings about Lord Byron-Saxby to team 1. The missed Ragman costume embarrasses them quite a lot and they thank us for this evidence that will surely help them with questioning Saxby. We also tell them about the other properties of the Lord and it turns out that they didn't know about the mills either. Therefore, we plan to team up with them to search for more clues in the other Byron estates.

Before we go there, Auryn and Carlyle first go to the mayor of North Shore to warn him from an imminent assassination attempt by a madman. The mayor doesn't seem too much concerned though as he thinks the “plebs” would be the only ones who wish to see him fall and everyone knows that they have neither the money nor the influence to harm him. We don't wish to spend more time with the arrogant prick, so we decide to pay Janine another visit. She confesses that there has been another request for a statue. As this might just be the opportunity we need to get to Lord Byron or Tyler Starke, we ask Janine to hide one of Carlyle's tie pins inside the statue so we might trace it via locate object.

Then we meet up with team 1 and travel to the mills which are located in the outskirts of Flint. We find one miller who's taking care of the business here and he can tell us that he has seen the landowner just a couple of days ago and guesses that he might have been on his way to the hunting lodge, so that's where we might start looking for him. Still we want to take a closer look at the mills first.

Team 1 decides to search the external area for hidden trapdoors while Carlyle and Auryn take the mill's interiors. Once we head into the underground cellar room, we almost stumble into Lord Byron Saxby, Tyler Starke and four Simulacra. Auryn, who's sure that the two men know her secret identity, decides on a diplomatic approach.

She tries to remind Tyler of the values of the Vekeshi, most importantly that no one should use unnecessary violence, order severe punishment on his own whim or trick fellow Vekeshi into executing innocents. Tyler seems to have lost his mind though as he calls Auryn a disgrace for any true Vekeshi and also a traitor who needs to be put down. She replies that he's lost all touch with their spirit if he honestly plans to kill an Eladrin. Tyler goes on to say that none of the others besides Lord Byron has ever been a true Vekeshi and starts to reveal that he has learned the secret identity of every single one of them. Meanwhile, Byron watches the scene in amusement.

Auryn then declares that she'd prefer to talk to the brain, not the crude hands and casts a sleep spell on Tyler. Unfortunately, the boy resists the spell and so Tyler orders the Simulacra to attack her while he turns invisible and retreats to the back of the room to set up a massive bomb. Lord Byron turns invisible as well and makes haste for the exit. Auryn insists that she'll handle the Simulacra and Tyler, so Carlyle tries to follow and catch Lord Byron. As soon as the Lord realizes that he has someone on his trail who's actually able to find him despite being invisible, he teleports away. Carlyle runs up the stairs to catch Byron, but unfortunately the Lord seems to emit no smell at all.

(Carlyle learned a scent technique somewhat earlier which turned quite handy in cases like this. But a fellow alchemist like Byron seemingly knows of such tricks.)

Auryn fares quite well against the Simulacra, but Tyler descends more and more into madness. He re-emerges from his invisibility, cuts his arms open and bleeds fire. Then he summons a twisted image of Srasama whom he calls his goddess of vengeance and uses it to hurl fire at Auryn. She sees this of another sin committed against the faith of her people as her goddess would never harm her children. She then calls upon her own connection to Srasama's fire to battle Tyler.

Carlyle returns just in time to see that a freaking big bomb is about to explode and disarms it quickly. Together we take on the burning, bleeding Tyler Starke who threatens to perish in his own, consuming flames. We manage to knock him out and fortunately the flames go down with him. Then we carry the unconscious boy upstairs and start looking for clues on where Lord Byron could have gone. We remember that hunting lodge the miller mentioned earlier and decide to head there first.

As soon as we arrive there, a massive detonation takes place and obliterates the whole building. This alerts team 1 as well and we suggest they go ask for help while we search for details that might point to a possible suicide of the missing Lord. When we arrive at the site of the explosion, we see that what might have been a magnificent lodge once is now completely obliterated and turned to noting but debris. We search through the crater and debris that's blown all over the place and find traces of organic material that might have once been part of a humanoid creature.
(Luckily we always found reasons to avoid dragging Team 1 deeper into this mess...)

On closer examination, the flesh turns out to be artificial though. We also find remnants of tomes containing powerful alchemical formulae, so we suspect that the one Byron-Saxby who ran away earlier might have been nothing more than just another simulacrum. Which is why he could have alchemically erased the simulacrum's signature smell in the first place. Anyway, the real Lord might very well be out there somewhere and now we know for certain that he's more than just dangerous.

So Carlyle proposes to use a trick on Tyler to maybe get some information out of the boy. He drugs Tyler with some strong hallucinogens and disguises himself as Lord Byron-Saxby while Auryn uses an illusion to appear as the image of the goddess Srasama. Then we wake him up and congratulate him on his victory against the Vekeshi traitors. Carlyle mentions that this was only the first step to true vengeance and he asks “his student” to meet him at their secret meeting place. He just needs to be sure that dear Tyler remembers the correct spot, to which the hallucinating boy answers “right behind the wedding falls, I'd never forget this place.”.

As we sense a certain urgency to find and detain Lord Byron, we knock Tyler out again and try to contact the other Vekeshi so they'd be able to take care of the lunatic before team 1 arrives back on scene. Auryn asks Mr. Carlyle to follow her to Cloudwood where she can surely use the Dreaming to send the others a message when we both are suddenly struck by a flash of insight. Combining our mutual connection to Srasama in combination with Carlyle's divine spark, it seems like we are able to mentally contact the other three.

We tell them about what happened with Tyler and the supposed Byron-simulacrum. As soon as we mention the wedding falls, we feel a sudden flux of rage emerging from Old Stag. He explains that the cave behind the wedding falls was once the secret meeting place of him and “the Old Goat”, back in the days when they were close friends.

We promise Old Stag that we will make things right for him and offer him to take care of Byron. The Vekeshi doesn't agree to our plan though, as this score is his to settle. Auryn, fearing for her mentor's safety (as he already used too much power for her taste during their spiritual meeting), begs him to leave the matter to her and Carlyle as she doesn't want to lose the one human that means most to her. “That's why I don't want you to go there, dear. He's too dangerous for each of you, ever with your powers combined.” he replies before leaving our mutual connection.

Shortly after, we see a violent storm arise over Flint, heading directly to the cliffs of the wedding falls. We also leave the mental connection and hurry towards Cloudwood to the place where we last met Asrabey. To our surprise, we find the very same Eladrin warrior sitting on the same fallen tree, looking up to the stormy sky. “Ah, so the winds of vengeance finally blow again...” he mumbles before greeting us with a grim smile.

Mere minutes later some other Vekeshi arrive to take care of Tyler. They and Auryn/Barn Owl talk about what should be done with the traitor among their ranks. Auryn insists that this has already been decided: The boy's mind has been poisoned by the treacherous Goat ever since, so the sentence was to take from him what has been given by the Rites of Srasama, forever erasing all knowledge of the Vekeshi. Wolf and Ursa speak both in favor of her plan, so the group prepares a ritual of cleansing. Meanwhile, the storm rages on and we can only assume that the battle between Old Stag and Old Goat still goes on as well.

While Auryn and the Vekeshi are busy conducting the ritual, Carlyle and Asrabey chat a bit about times past and the Eladrin's ongoing search for his wife. Asrabey wasn't able to find Kasvarina in Flint and couldn't use the iron portal to get to the Bleak Gate hideout, so the only thing he can do is continue searching. He adds that his wife sent him to the unseen court two centuries ago, but he is kind of weary of fighting and longs to see her again. Meeting Auryn, a descendant of Kasvarina who reminds him so much of his wife and who was still able to make friends with “the enemy”, kind of rekindled his hope for the future and he asks Carlyle to take care of the little flower.

Carlyle says that he doesn't see any reason for strife between himself and the Eladrin people. 500 years ago, he enlisted in the Crisillyiri military out of patriotism, not hatred and he was horrified when he witnessed the reality of war, especially torture, Srasama's death and the aftermath of the Malice. All that remains is his wish to lead a peaceful life and to protect those he cares for.

After a while, the Vekeshi ritual is finished and the group is sure that they extracted all remaining Vekeshi magic and alchemical alterations from Tyler Starke. All that remains is a pure essence of fire and determination which the Ursa offers to use on our weapons to enhance their potency. We are kind of hesitant to use this power however, as we witnessed its sheer destructiveness and effects on Tyler. Auryn adds that her weapon, which she got from Dr. von Recklinghausen, was forged for defense and protection and she doesn't want to corrupt this gentle spirit. The Ursa answers that a strong soul like her or Carlyle would surely be able to control a passionate fire, so we agree to take it in the end.

Before we say goodbye to the Vekeshi and Asrabey, we cautiously suggest that the Eladrin might wish to return to Axis Island to search for more clues on Kasvarina. If Nathan Jierre spoke the truth, then she still had her free will back then and surely had something important to do there. He has to be careful though, as we don't know what the Danorans might be up to right now.

Auryn also asks Asrabey to tell her mother Galadin, daughter of Kaealys, that she's doing well in Risur should he ever return to Elfaivar and come to her enclave. She adds that she's sorry for what happened to Zahir and that she's still grieving for her deceased branch brother. In return, Asrabey gives her an ancient brooch symbolizing the old Elfaivaran crest which once belonged to Kasvarina.

We leave the clearing and the storm fades slowly, revealing a clear, open sky. Still there is no sign of Old Stag's return and Auryn begins to worry about her dear mentor's fate. She tells Carlyle about his previous life as storm fey who gave away much of his powers to live as guardian and protector of Flint when he realized he really cared for mortals and their lives. He turned to live a human life so he wouldn't endanger the people he loved due to his destructive nature.
“Quite an interesting background for a decorated rear admiral” Carlyle replies, pointing to his nose before smiling with amusement. “Don't worry. I'll keep this one to myself.” he adds before asking Auryn to better not mention his fine nose to the other Vekeshi.

(Yeah, better not tell anyone that your partner has basically the skills of a highly intelligent bloodhound. Scent is so immensely powerful when it comes to investigation.

So now Carlyle kind of understands the full extend of Auryn's relationship with Dawkins when she talked about Old Stag's true nature. And I guess he sees it as a special kind of father-daughter relationship.)
 

I'm really digging this additional plot thread, since it fits so well with the setting (and I think with the tone of the adventures) while being unique for the PCs.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
We enjoyed this Vekeshi-centered episode as well, especially because it didn't feel tucked on and both "bad guys" had relatable motives. The general mood was perfect as well - both of us like supernatural mystery and drama and we love to debate our characters' ideologies and ideas for hours.

What I found interesting was that this story arc got to life because Auryn simply shrugged off the "kill Rock" note of the Vekeshi side-quest. Originally, Tizbiz wanted to have her recieve the letter a bit eariler in adventure 3, but he wasn't really satisfied that this sidequest wouldn't be much of a controversy for us. ("Other players just killed him and had to get away with murdering a celebrity" he said afterward)

He toyed a bit with the idea of substituting Rock Rackus with Francis Fordren in the letter, but that would have led to a completely different arc (i.e. Auryn thinking that Old Stag truely wishes to get rid of Fordren behind her back, interpreting that she was the wrong addressee, struggling with her need for revenge etc.).

In the end, he asked me to delay the whole affair until the end of adventure 3 and just went with a plot that could finally introduce Mr. Carlyle to the Vekeshi, as Tizbiz didn't feel comfortable with giving only one of two players a lot of "secret society sidequests" throughout the campaign. Also, he felt like Carlyle's connection to Srasama would be a perfect opportunity to let each PC enter the respective "world" of the other (Auryn was already treading on Carlyle-ground due to her connection to Cecilia Fordren and the whole industrialist subplot)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Concepts

As Mr. Carlyle and Auryn just finished their Vekeshi inter-mission, I'd like to take the time and discuss our character development a bit. Well, truth is Carlyle's player (who's also reading this thread from time to time... hi, Mr. Carlyle!) suggested that this might just be the perfect occasion to do so as our characters developed quite a lot since we first started playing Zeitgeist. Which was, by the way, over a year ago.

So Tizbiz mentioned somewhat earlier that Mr. Carlyle's player was a bit skeptical about the setting as he's a big heroic, if not epic fantasy fan and really loves WotBS where he's playing Cuin'halar, a character that felt natural to him since session 1. Mr. Carlyle, on the other hand, took some time to get warmed up to.

Originally, I saw the character as a deva who's been a crossover of an ex-Batman, his trusted butler Alfred and a member of the Downton Abbey household staff. However, he was not fully satisfied with his character's portrayal and also felt like he wasn't playing to the setting's full potential. Also, he wished for a more meaningful connection to both the world and my character, Auryn, and therefore to somehow ease Tizbiz' job.

So he took some time to think about his character's connection to the world's history and how he could intertwine both the Pathfinder mechanics and the Zeitgeist themes with what happened and formed the character of Gabriel Carlyle.

As you might know, Carlyle started as a deva stalker/alchemist gestalt, being a veteran of the big war between Elfaivar and Crisillyir that happened 500 years ago. He used both skillsets, which he acquired during his time in the Crisillyiri military, to serve the Vantrys family as trusted aide and, more or less unknown to them, as their “sword in the shadows”.

Carlyle's player wasn't really happy with the alchemist mechanics though and changed his class to arcanist during adventure 2, as he wished to provide more utility magic and also explore the theme of his (magical) divine spark and his connection to the goddess Srasama. He made it so that Carlyle had these strange visions of Eladrin and this habit of unconsciously writing theological and magical texts into an old tome which led to him developing a suppressive elixir so he wouldn't feel these foreign urges anymore. And after all the world-shaking archfey stuff that happened in adventure 1, he was kind of desperate, thinking that he wasn't really ready to face the threats that were yet to come. He knew that something powerful was hidden inside him, so he decided to release his suppressed magic, no matter the effect it could have on him. As he knew that Auryn was an Eladrin who was adept with the mystical ways, he asked her to help him learn to use his magic and understand the nature of the goddess, thus opening up the arcanist path for Carlyle.

So in the end, he came up with the following interpretations for his character:

Gabriel Carlyle didn't become a deva by chance, but by Srasama's choice. During the war, he quickly regretted what he had to do for his unit and especially resented the rather sadistic torture methods of one of his comrades. He never saw the Eladrin people as enemy and even felt sympathy for those who suffered, which is why he was much more susceptible than other Crysilliri for receiving Srasama's divine essence after her death. This led to him questioning and rejecting the Clergy after his first rebirth and an even stronger sympathy for the Eladrin. He also feels somehow responsible for those who survived after the Malice, especially women as they are the focus of Srasama's essence.

As Arcanist, he chose the Empyreal bloodline as source of his magic which switches his casting attribute from Charisma to Wisdom and also links his source of magic to a divine origin – in his case the divine spark of Srasama. This lets him gain the ability to call down heavenly fire, which is able to heal his friends and also harm evil creatures. Plus he gains the ability to channel energy once per day. So yeah, divine powers of life and fire.

For his Spirit Medium theme, he also used his first death as catalyst for his powers to see and speak to the dead. When he died during the Malice, a part of his soul went to the afterlife and got substituted by a part of the goddess who's dead as well. He also witnessed the deaths of thousands of people (soldiers of both sides, and especially Eladrin women) which traumatized him deeply.
After a long while (and putting quite a distance between what happened and who he was much later), he decided to become a guide for dead spirits. This is why he tries to connect to the dead on an emotional and personal level to send them gently to the afterlife where they may find peace. As he has a special connection to both Srasama and the dead Eladrin, he also thinks that he may expand this soothing influence to the living, especially Eladrin women like Auryn.

At this point I must admit that he played his role perfectly, as I didn't know about his character's interpretation for much of our play time and still got the feeling that Carlyle was able to calm Auryn's spirit whenever she was under duress, acting as both her friend and adviser.

Then there are the three (like in three aspects of Srasama) stalker art disciplines which define his fighting style:

First the “Riven Hourglass” which utilizes time and space. Carlyle already mentioned that time is his friend and that he'll always be a constant in the flowing river of time as he is basically immortal. Which is why he chose to utilize and manipulate time. Also, Srasama's theme of the three stages of womanhood symbolize aging, which fit this “time” aspect perfectly.

Second, the “Thrashing Dragon”, a dance-like, aesthetic, disciplined and still wild dual wield style. This style is both elegant and passionate as well and a fitting link to an Eladrin goddess. Oh and did I mention that this style is quite similar to Auryn's?

Third, there is the “Veiled Moon”, a style that uses crossing dimensional borders and hiding in the shadows. We all know that Fey Step is a signature power for Eladrin and Carlyle has learned to use this sort of ability as well.

What's remaining of his alchemist path (Tizbiz allows him to gain some low level alchemist abilities as well as they don't really power up the character) is the chirurgeon archetype which is more or less a healer type. (Hi, Dr. von Recklinghausen!)

Regarding Auryn, I discussed a lot of her design process here: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?544918-Designing-Auryn .
Setting-wise I'm more of an omnivore, so I quickly fell in love with the setting and especially with its otherness. Conceptually, I combined the flamedancer bard archetype as an interpretation of her connection to the fire of Srasama and her growing ability to lead and inspire others with the inspired swashbuckler who mixes personality, wit, beauty and perfection (plus a really superior defensive) to create a unique kind of swordplay. Also, her bard magic is really a legacy of her fey blood.

She started off as being overly cautious after being a captive (or, as he'd call it, “property”) of Fordren, and losing Zahir to the pirates, which lead to her hiding her true heritage and shielding herself off from the influence of others. Auryn had one person she fully trusted: Morris Dawkins, the man who freed her during Yerasol IV, who initiated her to the Vekeshi and who recommended her for the RHC. (There is another NPC, the Aurora's ship doctor named Telluriel Rommath who was her second best friend, but we haven't really seen her yet)

Carlyle had just recently started a new life (quite literally) after his death during the assault at the Vantrys estate when he became part of the RHC. He had been basically the same butler for centuries before, so the prospect of change was unknown territory and, possibly, even scary. So he tried to stick to what he knew and what he could do best: Disciplined work and following the rules.

Auryn had avoided the one Deva in the RHC because she didn't know how to handle him. She had been told that Crisillyiri were the enemy and thought that Deva had somehow stolen the essence of her goddess, but she could sense no ill will from this man, and so she let him be. Carlyle on the other hand saw right through her disguise, but didn't know how or even why to approach his colleague who so obviously tried to look like someone else.

This all changed after the first adventure when it became clear that whatever they had gotten themselves into was much bigger than they thought and also somehow related to the Eladrin people. The civil war on Axis island had left Auryn sickened and she saw herself unable to deal with the fact that so many people had died right before her eyes. That was the first time Caryle tried to reach out to her, telling her of his own experiences in the Malice war and finding himself to be able to see the dead who still haunt him.
Carlyle on the other hand felt the need to re-open his suppressed magical connection to the goddess and, after seeing Auryn dealing quite naturally with all sorts of fey magic and mysticism, decided to ask her for guidance.

Over the course of events, Carlyle learned that he'd need to tap into all aspects of his powers, including skills he originally wished to bury in the past. He got the impression that nothing that happened to him had happened by chance, but rather because it was his fate, his destiny. The world is about to change and he's going to be a part of this story, so he needs to be ready to fight for the people and ideals he cares for. So he's right now training both his commando skills and embracing his connection to Srasama. For his stoic following of the rules... this is about to change as well, but I don't wish to spoiler too much of adventure 4 :)

Auryn tested the limits of her powers and as she grew more powerful, she also learned to slowly let go of her fears. She started proudly showing off her eladrin heritage and to trust in her own skills. Meanwhile, she opened up to Carlyle, who turned out to be her equal (unlike Zahir), leading to her relying on him when things turn ugly (she's constantly buffing the hell out of them both, knowing that Carlyle is going to knock out their priority targets no matter the obstacles). She's also growing as a leader and has a special knack for connecting people. Speaking of becoming a leader, Auryn is always re-evaluating her ideas of a perfect society, as she wishes to become a matriarch in time, and she knows for sure that she won't sit idly while other people risk their lives for her.
 
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A) Gestalt characters confuse me, but I'm glad it's making for some interesting character growth.

B) That's some cool, interesting character growth. I'm intrigued at different groups that run with the campaign in their own ways. Some go a bit like a pulp novel with high emotions and melodrama, some dig into the intrigue and secrets and mysteries, and then you've got a tight personal bond between characters who are helping each other grow.

So, a year in, do you feel like the group is going to stick with it for the whole campaign? If I could ask you to guess where you think things are going, what would you predict? Or might getting you to ponder that spoil the surprise?
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
A) Gestalt characters confuse me, but I'm glad it's making for some interesting character growth.
For Gestalt, you choose two classes and level both of them. Their numbers (HP, attack, saves, skills) don't stack, but overlap. Same thing with class abilities.

We use this method because we only have two player characters and don't want to force someone into playing a class he/she doesn't like just because game dynamics would demand it. None of us is too keen on playing two characters in parallel either, which would be the other alternative.

So you can basically broaden your skillset without dialing up your power level to ridiculous heights. At least in theory. But as 3.x and PF are, there are classes that synergize quite well and others that don't. Fighter/Rogue is an example that could totally break melee combat. Strong PrCs are problematic, too. Which is why we ruled that our two classes should harmonize, but also primarily expand what a character can do. In our case, we both chose a physical (combat) aspect and combined it with more skills and magic.

As this is now the third campaign where we do this, at least Mr. Carlyle's player and I agree that gestalt isn't the most elegant of solutions for the two player problem, as a DM needs to keep the player's stats in mind and having two players leads to a massive Exp influx (Yay for milestone leveling!). We'll most likely try base class + additional custom (story-based) skills that are gained over the course of the adventure next time.

B) That's some cool, interesting character growth. I'm intrigued at different groups that run with the campaign in their own ways. Some go a bit like a pulp novel with high emotions and melodrama, some dig into the intrigue and secrets and mysteries, and then you've got a tight personal bond between characters who are helping each other grow.

So, a year in, do you feel like the group is going to stick with it for the whole campaign? If I could ask you to guess where you think things are going, what would you predict? Or might getting you to ponder that spoil the surprise?
Thanks! I think right now we're a mix of a traditional, but often supernatural cop/agents team who are also on a journey of discovering who you are and who you wish to be. While trying to save, and possibly change the world.

From my point of view, I think (and hope) we'll stick to it till the very end. We're at the beginning of adventure 5 right now and still feel like we're only scratching at the surface of the Obscurati conspicary. So we're definitely keen on finding out more about them.
Mr. Carlyle's player is now feeling much more comfortable with both his character and the setting - he felt both lost and overwhelmed in Flint in adventure 2 and sometimes it felt overly arduous to find even the smallest piece of info, especially at the beginning.

Other reasons why we'd go the full distance?
1) We love playing from small to epic, which is why we're always looking for cohesive campaigns that use the full level span and don't fear the high levels.
2) I loathe cancelling a good story prematurely, even if there is a good point for an alternative ending.
3) The prospect of unearthing the world's secrets and maybe having that tied to our characters. Tizbiz teased us a bit with the famed "adventure 8" and that we'll finally understand all that's going on once we get there. (He's afraid I might take the chance to go on a big Tour de Elfaivar though)
4) I really love playing my character and being part of that wonderful story.

Right now, it is really hard to predict where the journey might lead to. We're trying to save and secure the peace summit and have the gut feeling that things are going downhill now that we know that a certain bride-to-be is totally an Ob (even if a well-meaning one).

So... I guess the prospect of peace might be shattered, and we have to rescue the King from assassination. Or someone of the Danorans (Lya? Han?) is killed and it is blamed on the Risuri. There could be a Yerasol V, but this time it turns really ugly because of the new weapons of mass destruction. This wakes the Kraken for real and there could also be some unknown planes-seal-stuff happening, causing further chaos.

Meanwhile, this was the Ob's plan all along. Now that Danor and Risur, the two power houses, are busy fighting each other, they can continue their plan to rule the world (because that's obviously where they are going with this "make everyone tolerant" Hippie prospect. Tolerate our overlord's tyranny. Peace through submission.). So we may have to decide where our loyalties lie: Fight for Risur against Danor or go after the real threat.

This might lead us to other nations like Ber, Drakr or Elfaivar where we'd have to find new allies and unearth ancient secrets, maybe rescue Kasvarina from Leone's clutches, un-drug her and get to know what happened 500 years ago. While stopping the Ob's mind control plan. As we are then only in adventure 8 or 9 and the Obs are no classic enemy nation, they have to have more and more contingency plans, so after taking out the one we thought to be their leader (that chain-smoking "Doro"/"Nicodemus" guy), we realize that we were still only scratching at the surface and they are hiding somewhere in the planes, which is why we must change the planar rules to be able to go after them. (This could be related to what happened on Axis Island during adventure 1 as this is the only place in the world - besides the portals - where plane shifts happen)

But this is just a really wild guess. All I know is that there will be enough time for many, many ups and downs.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Oh and one more thing, as I mentioned the "Tour de Elfaivar" earlier and Tizbiz and I are right now in a bit back and forth about the current state of the enclaves: If any of you who are reading this have more information on that matter, I'm sure he would gladly take it.

He's thinking about Gale's background right now and whether or how to adjust it and from what I got from him is that there are some blanks for him to fill. Just toss anything that's spoiler-free at me/us/this thread :)
 

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