ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Explorer
Oh my gosh, yes. It will take some time to get there as I'm currently still in the middle of adventure 5 and we had quite the intermission afterward. But everything regarding "that guy" (even the corresponding parts of Auryn's background down to the finer details) turned out to be a perfect fit since adventure 1.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Scoundrels, scoundrels

Next, Auryn wishes Carlyle a pleasant evening as she has to discuss lending a ship with her friend Dawkins. She then heads to the Rear Admiral's estate to tell him all about the threat of the terrorist dawarves, the death of Ekossigan and the dangers of the Bleak Gate all while sharing a good glass of brandy. Morris thinks that strengthening and renewing the seal of Macbannin would be a good idea under these dire circumstances, so he'd schedule a secret meeting for the next midnight.

Auryn also explains that she'll take Carlyle and Asrabey and travel to the Bleak Gate as soon as they find a way to get there. This way, she hopes to prevent the coming of Nevard's prophecised second darkness. In addition, Morris agrees to lend the Khalandurrin to the RHC for their operation against the Bezna.

The next morning, we meet up again to search Stanfield Canal for hidden ways to bring cargo to the Bleak Gate. To our surprise, we find iron rings worked into every bridge of the canal which means that they could interact with fitting amulets or the like. We question all workers who are working in the barge transportation system around the canal and who match up with Hammrton's descriptions of Kell guild contacts for any clues on what the hell might be going on there.

Fortunately, some of then can tell us that they did ship large crates through the canals which lost much of their weight in the process. They don't really know how this would be possible (besides the obvious “it's magic”), but all these crates had some strange, rusty-red symbols painted on them. So it seems like we finally found our way to the Bleak Gate. The only thing that's still missing is the
rusty paint itself.

Then it is time to finally strike against the Scoundrel's theater. So we team up with Asrabey once again, take our remaining police force and perform a cunning pincer maneuver against the building. This way we hope to prevent any rat from fleeing the sinking ship. Thanks to the dreadnaught, the scoundrels pose little threat to our police as many of the Kell guildies are simply too scared to fight the fearsome guy with the whip-like flaming sword. The three of us also have little problems with their witchoil golem. Inside, we find a lot of Kell's accounting books and a sample of the rusty paint. Carlyle says that he'll surely find a way to reproduce the material. We also find clues that the Guild was involved in smuggling and shipping tons of high quality material to the Bleak Gate over the last few years. So whatever they are building in there, it is most likely a gigantic project.

Unfortunately, there is no sign of Kell. Nor of Augst. So we do try to verify our suspicion by checking up with Jules' logistics and Sechim's shipments over the same time span. And it is as we already guessed: the Obs are working on something huge. Something that needs masses of Alkahest and other chemicals, as well as adamantine and steel.

Next, we meet Harkover Lee once again as he promised to bring one of the dwarves under his spell. Literally. He manages to dominate the terrorist with ease, and then orders the guy to spill everything he knows. To both our shock and relief, he knows about three mode bombs which are placed in the harbor offices, the backside of the danoran embassy and the Navras Opera house. All of them were placed by Soknik's when they got hired to do some refurbishment. Needless to say that Auryn is furious as two of the bombs endanger something or someone she holds very dearly. So we make sure these bombs get defused as well before anyone can get to harm.

Regarding the “big blockbuster”, we manage to calculate the timing of the countdown and compare it to the subrail's velocity and distance traveled and are shocked to find out that they actually plan to detonate the bomb while the train is underneath the Aurum. So their target is less likely Stanfield and more likely the whole danoran and risuri peace delegation, including our King and Principal Minister.

(Okay, so this turns Zubov's plan into a V for Vendetta meets 9/11? I mean... Bomb in a subway train and fanatic suicide bombers who try to destroy the city's iconic twin towers. Especially if you consider the staged hostage scene that happened afterward.

We also had a few jokes about who the designated survivors of the delegations might be “just in case” and came to the conclusion that adding devas, like Stanfield, to the team might be sufficient. Could be quite hard for the danorans though.)


Meanwhile, Team B is charged with guarding and escorting our two VIPs to the harbor where they welcome Bishop Rivaldo from the Clergy of Crisillyir. As Brakken already managed to book a table at the Sunset Beach for lunch, the group heads there directly after Rivaldo's ship has landed. Inside the restaurant, both Brakken and Team B immediately recognize the striking amount of Bravuras who guard the area. Most of them are working as waiting staff though, so neither Steffan Eberhardt nor Rivaldo take much notice.

After they just started to place their orders, Team B recognizes two additional guests who enter the Sunset Beach. And it turns out that these two are none else but Augst and Spinning Wheel. Unfortunately, they appear to be guarded by two additional guys who appear to be affiliated with the Kells, so neither of them seems like an easy target and they are all on bodyguard duty themselves on top of that.

So they secretly decide to tell the Bravuras about their targets (“Carlyle wrote that they hate the Kells as much as we do”), so Gaethan agrees to go to the barkeep to give him the news about their rivals. The Bravura seems to understand and hands Gaethan a fine bottle of wine, making elaborate gestures to describe the exquisite taste while also telling the half-elf that they'll take care of them without disturbing their guests.

“Ah. Nice wine. Thanks.” says Gaethan, before murmuring “....so...did I really order that? Guess it's drinkable...” which leaves the Bravura (who really happened to know a good deal about wine) speechless.

(Yeah, Gaethan tends to forget what he just talked about and he doesn't know jack about wine. Poor Mr. Carlyle, he'd mourn the loss of such a good bottle.)

While Gaethan is busy, Serena takes her messenger feather and heads to the restroom. She then uses the feather to send a message to Auryn and Carlyle about the news that they found Augst and Spinning Wheel but have their hands bound as they have to accompany the VIPs and don't really wish to drag them into combat yet again.

During all of this, the three guests of honor start exchanging experiences and views after they finished their lunch. It turns out that the Bishop is both xenophobic (poor Dima) and seems to have rather strange fetishes (in a hindsight: poor Brakken). Once Serena and Gaethan return, they all notice that someone is setting up a stage and it turns out that none else but Rock Rackus is scheduled as today's act.

Carlao turns all fangirl when she hears about it “Gosh, I'd LOVE to see Rock. His music is so cool!” she exclaims before reminding herself that she cannot possibly dictate her guest's schedules. Serena agrees and they kind of decide to go to his next gig together.

After a while, our team arrives at the Sunset Beach, but we decide to stay in the background first. The two Kell lieutenants slowly realize that this restaurant is not what it used to be, so they pay and decide to split up and leave. The two of us leave Spinning Wheel in the care of the Bravuras and take care of Augst and the two bodyguards. But when we are happy to have finally found Augst, we find out that Augst was merely an illusion spell worn by Spinning Wheel.

So we take this guy and his goons to the RHC all while we are still wondering who the other Spinning wheel might be. We find out that Spinning Wheel was only tasked with organizing the Guild's smuggling activities, so he pleads for mercy and offers to spill everything. We agree to get him charged for a severe case of smuggling, but not high treason. In return, he can get us more intricate information about the materials he had been smuggling for the Guild: in most cases high priced metals like mithril, adamant and specifically treated steel, but also acids. He's been doing this for three years now and yes, we can totally have that rusty amulet that's needed to take the route through the iron rings in the canal to “that other place”. He's a bit proud when he tells us that he stole that thing from Kell's pocket.

Regarding Augst, he can tell us that the lawyer vanished and that “this guy Norm” convinced him to stay and keep their contacts alive. Even if he was scared to the bone and simply wanted to leave the Kells after having heard about the charge of high treason. So this sounds all suspicious as hell as Norm is the one Cippiano called his inside job in the Kell Guild.

Shortly after, we get a pretty badly beaten “Norm” delivery who turns out to be another smuggler called Slylyx. He tells us that Kell found out about the real Norm weeks ago and turned him to fish food.

(Isn't that usually how the Familia handles things?)

He basically tells the same stuff as Spinning Wheel, but he's a bit more self-confident and almost proud. But he knows one intricate detail Spinning Wheel didn't: If one wishes to stay in the Bleak Gate for longer than 5 minutes after transitioning, then one would need to use a magic wand to make the transition permanent. And he happens to have one of these wands inside his home. He also had a magical amulet, but it was a one-time use amulet only and he used it up while trying to flee the Bravuras. However, if we got a hand on the rusty paint, then this might suffice as well.

So it seems like we got all we need to go to the Bleak Gate once Carlyle finishes his alchemical reproduction procedure. But there's still unfinished business as we still have to intercept the Bezna. So we take the hint of Team B that Kvarty Gorbati might have been the shooter at Soknik's and find him in an inn in Central. He's terribly sorry that he didn't know these guys down there were no attackers, but RHC agents and he also didn't know that his employers were followers of Grandis Komanov. We accept his apology and offer him a chance of redeeming himself: We'd like to intercept another shipment of the terrorists and he might be our backup shooter on the Khalandurrin tonight.

Kvarty is glad to be of help after that embarrassing situation so we plan to meet him in the harbor at the Khalandurrin's dock in the evening. A few hours later, we find ourselves and the dwarf aboard the mighty steam ship and drive large patrol circles through the Flint bay area. As the sun sets and the stars rise, we get a bit anxious that the terrorists might have just played us a second time. And we both know that the Vekeshi will be meeting pretty soon to re-empower the seal of Macbannin.

At midnight, we then suddenly spot small ripples on the ocean surface, indicating that there might be a ship driving closely by. When we see no corresponding lights on the sea, we come to the conclusion that this might just be the Bezna, driving without lights to avoid getting caught by our harbor police. So we ask our captain to head to the supposed ship's general direction and flash the Khalandurrin's lights brightly so that Kvarty can get a perfect aim.

As we already guessed, we can see the Bezna as soon as we put our lights to maximum. In reaction, the drakran ship accelerates almost immediately as they try to outpace their pursuers. We fear that these mad dwarves might just try to kamikaze-run into the harbor, so Carlyle takes Auryn's hand and teleports the two of us onto the deck of the Bezna.

The dwarves who appear to be just as bald as our Komanov terrorists are pretty shocked to see two people appearing on their deck and so they sound an alarm and try to fight us. They don't pose much of a threat, but soon after the alarm is rung, hatches open and several grotesquely deformed and mutated bulettes emerge from the decks below, ready to attack anyone who stands in their way (including some of the remaining dwarves).

We are soon surrounded by these abominations and agree to leave the Bezna via teleportation should we get totally overwhelmed. Thankfully, Kvarty throws in some well-aimed shots from his sniper position on the Khalandurrin to distract the beasts a bit. We're also pretty relieved to see that, while the mutated beasts are pretty resistant to our standard tactics, they are quite vulnerable to von Recklinghausen's rapier and time-space-based attacks.

(As I took it, Tiz used the bulette as basic creature and added some nasty random templates to them. If I remember correctly, one of them got turned into an ooze, another one was a bulette swarm, the next one was part construct and one was a multi-headed/hydra type. Whatever happens when you throw a normal monster into the Malice Lands I guess :D )

After a long and tedious fight we manage to slay the beasts and come out alive. Being already strained and tired, we then receive a call from the Old Stag to gather at Macbannin's seal. So we take a little time to thank Kvarty for his help and then excuse ourselves as we got another important appointment tonight.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Chaos at the Station, or: Sleep's for Sissies

We make haste to get to the Nettles and the Mayor's estate. On our way through the forest, we are joined by many different, colorfully clad spirits who head towards the same direction. There's also the occasional Vekeshi elder in person, like the Ursa or the Wolf. When we reach the estate, we are quite surprised to see the front door open and all its inhabitants, including Dame Jillian, in a strange trance. We get that the Fey and Old Stag put that kind of enchantment on the Green Knight and her fellows, so we can empower the seal without interruption.

We spend the rest of the night channeling our powers into the diminished seal of the late Mayor and manage to strengthen the barrier between the planes to a safe level. As dawn is about to break, we are all more than just exhausted and tired. One by one the Vekeshi leave and we, too, try to get at least some sleep before the Grand Opening of the Sharon Baker Station. As Carlyle needs only two hours of sleep to be fully rested, Auryn volunteers to go to the station right now so she may gather some information in advance while he can take a short nap.

On our way back, we suddenly get a hasty message from Delft that the Green Knight has been attacked and she doesn't know what happened on the estate so we may wish to help her out. We answer that we'll discuss this with the King via feather and promise that everything will turn out fine. Then we explain Aodhan what actually happened with Macbannin's seal and that Fey and Vekeshi were in need of an undisturbed ritual place, so “someone” must have put a spell on Dame Jillian and her fellows. Aodhan seems kind of amused that some fey actually managed to trick his Green Knight and thanks us all for our effort to keep Cauldron Hill safe.

At Sharon Baker, Auryn is quite happy to see that her dear colleague Margit has already arrived at the station. After telling her about our late night mission atop the Bezna and her severe lack of sleep, Margit casts a refreshing spell on Auryn which at least suppresses her acute exhaustion. The two women check all security measures at the station and try to find signs of a trap or something indicating an imminent attack. We find that everything seems just fine, so we decide to wait for Carlyle before we continue checking the surrounding tunnels for terrorists and explosives.

Once Carlyle joins us, we venture down into the tunnel system and head towards Pardwright first. We only find one (bearded) dwarf who's busy cleaning up the rubbish. He didn't see anything suspicious and we can sense no lie in his words, so we follow the tracks until we reach the campus and find a group of eladrin security who are patrolling the area and who haven't found anyone suspicious yet.

(yeah, they are part of the same company that got hired by Michael Carlyle to guard the Aurum. Seems like our friend upped the security levels after the dwarves' previous attack as Fordren Industries invested a lot of money in the new arcanoscience building. Thanks Carlyle!)


We continue our search and reach an area with maintenance tracks. There we find a maintenance engine and four bald dwarves who are busy trying to get the engine running. A quick look at their equipment (lots and lots of rifles) indicates that these might just be the terrorists we're looking for. So we use a sleep spell to send them to the realm of dreams, then tie them up and place them on a draisine so we can get them to the police. Unfortunately, they don't have any explosives besides their gunpowder, so the bomb is still out there somewhere.

We head back to the station and hand the dwarves to the police so they can arrest them while we continue our search for the blockbuster. As more and more guests and dignitaries arrive, we decide to check each of them in a quick talk for possible connections to Zubov, Komanov or Soknik. Unfortunately, they all appear to have a clean history regarding the radicals.

So we follow the tracks to the opposite direction, towards the Aurum. Just when we arrive at the next underground station (having found nothing but more dust), we hear the quiet echoes of fired shots coming from the Sharon Baker Station. Carlyle doesn't waste any time and performs a teleport spell that brings us closer to the station. (which was risky considering the fact that he didn't have time to memorize the spot) Then we turn invisible and try to get a full picture of the situation.

Back at the station, we find a terrifying situation: 10 dwarves managed to gain control over the whole bunch of people on the platform, including Lord Vantrys, Cecilia Fordren, the Carlyles and Governeur Stanfield. They are all pointing their guns at their hostages, so simply attacking them is not an option. As desperate times call for desperate measures, Auryn takes Carlyle aside and asks him to put all his mental resilience together so she may try to freeze almost the whole station in time. She then moves to the center of the platform and utters a single, sharp and perfect note that leaves everyone stunned. Well, everyone except Carlyle and one of the dwarves, the one who's threatening Lord Vantrys and his fiancee.

But Carlyle finishes off the dwarf before he can even know what hit him. As Auryn is unable to do anything else but keeping up her note, it is up to Carlyle to take care of the rest.

(Yeah, Frozen Note is a really powerful spell. But it affects everyone in the radius and the caster is unable to even move while keeping up concentration, so you need a partner with an insanely good will save to make full use of it. Fortunately, Carlyle is a master of resisting Auryn's spells. Fun fact: she's totally aware of it and knows Carlyle would be her worst and probably deadliest enemy should he ever switch sides)

Just when Carlyle drops the last dwarf, we suddenly hear some desperate gunshots coming from outside the station. They soon die off and we hear the familiar roar of a lion's shield, indicating that Asrabey did remember that we wanted to discuss our further plans after the grand opening. One could almost feel sorry for the dwarves outside...

Next, we hear some heavy steps coming from the tunnel which leads to Pardwright campus. We assume that they might belong to those involved with the still missing bomb, so we decide to intercept them before they can even get close to the station. Our assumption turns out to be correct as we see six heavily armed dwarves carrying a massive object towards the station. We put them to sleep as well after scaring their leader (who turns out to be Zubov) so much that he accidentally shoots his own foot.

Carlyle then asks Auryn to tie up the dwarves while he tries to check up on the bomb. While he carefully removes the upper parts of the bomb, Auryn finds a letter, written by Zubov that says that he claims to be speaking for Grandis Komanov who, going by the letter's contents, seems to have some beef with Price-Hill after his campaign against the necromancers in the Anthras Mountains. Still we know that this letter and the whole taking hostages plan was simply a distraction for their true target, so Auryn takes it back to the station to explain the whole situation to Stanfield and the police.

However, there is still chaos at the station and the Governor is currently unconscious as he's been struck down by a dwarf after trying to stand up for his people (or so one witness said). Auryn takes this as a perfect excuse to take a closer look at Stanfield's rings to find out whether he might be carrying an OB ring. To her surprise, he doesn't! But he does carry one ring with the mayor's sigil on it, giving Auryn a quick laugh.

(Unfortunately, this joke doesn't really work in english: The ring reads “Oberbürgermeister Stanfield”, which just translates to “head mayor Stanfield”. But the really common abbreviation for Oberbürgermeister is OB. So yeah, an OB ring indeed.)

She then calms down the panicked guests and asks them to help her gather the injured so she may heal them all up with her soothing song. The people, especially those who know her better, thank her for all her help, but Auryn takes a sorrowful look at the tunnels and says that it is actually Carlyle who deserves this praise as he's the one who took out the dwarves and who's still busy with the dangers deeper down in the tunnels.

Just when she finished speaking, Carlyle emerges from the tunnels and says that everything is under control now. What he doesn't say is that he finished diffusing the bomb, brought the separated explosives to the RHC labs (store them SEPARATELY!!!) and then returned to the tunnels. Auryn is very much relieved to see him unharmed and together they take Stanfield aside to tell him the truth about this attack.

The Deva doesn't understand at first as he's sure one of the dwarves insisted to see Price-Hill and said dwarf claimed that their leader, Zubov, wanted give him their manifesto. We insist that the terrorists wanted to use this distraction to get their bombing team the time they needed to set up the bomb and blow up the Aurum. Considering the fact that this building is a no-teleport zone, it would have been a death trap for everyone in there, including the King and Lee. Stanfield is horrified at this revelation and then quickly mutters that someone should give us a medal of honor or so for saving everyone without causing a panic. We reply that we're just doing our job, so no need for special honors.

Then we meet up with Asrabey to thank him for taking care of the attackers outside. He says that this wasn't a big deal and he got pretty much caught by surprise, so this turned a bit messy. He's also glad that the “small flower” made it out of this hell unharmed. Auryn returns that she wasn't really in danger as Carlyle was the one fiddling with the bomb. And while we promised Asrabey that we'd go to the Bleak Gate as soon as possible, Auryn is still deprived of sleep and needs to regain her powers for this potentially dangerous trip.

(for her, this was the same “day” as their attack on the Scoundrel's Theater, the capture of Slylyx and Spinning Wheel, the Bezna incident and the Vekeshi gathering. So Auryn was basically out of everything, even if Margit countered the exhaustion with her restoration.)

Asrabey seems to understand that and he adds that going to the Bleak Gate unprepared would also pose a risk on his mission of rescuing Kasvarina. Just when it seems as if we all got one happy agreement, we receive a message from Delft via whispering wind. He explains the the Danorans suddenly changed the schedule of the peace conference and are about to arrive this very same afternoon. We also got a letter in advance from Lya Jierre and it seems as if she's asking for our presence at the welcome banquet in the Aurum. So, to put it in Delft's very own words, it it time for us to put on our best garments and get our sorry selves presentable.

This news mean nothing but a catastrophe for the still tired Auryn who now, sincerely upset, has to explain to Asrabey that he needs to wait even longer till we can go to the Bleak Gate.

“I'm... I'm so sorry. I honestly don't know what to do. I desperately need some sleep, the Danorans just shipwrecked our plans by enforcing their own schedule – though I honestly got no nerve for their stupid power play right now – and their Sovereign's niece personally asks for our attendance at her party. It is as if fate's threads are tightening around us every passing hour. So Asrabey... if you'd just wait a little longer and... maybe take care of Isobel for me? I promise, no, I swear that we'll go find Kasvarina as soon as the ceremony is over.”

Asrabey seems a bit disappointed at first, but seeing the desperation and sadness in his grand-grand-grandniece's eyes, he cannot resist her plea. So he takes her “oath” and promises to be her humble guest until the diplomatic business is finished. Carlyle then offers to attend to the welcome ceremony for the Lux Profectusque alone should Auryn need more time for herself.

“Just go home and take care of yourself. Dress up, take the time you need. I guess I can manage the arrival of that one danoran ship by myself. If not, then the Chief Inspector will surely help me out with his supreme charme.”

Carlyle puts on an almost roguish grin and calls for a carriage to bring them all back to Stray River. Auryn then goes to sleep while Isobel tries to warm up to Asrabey. Meanwhile, Carlyle puts on his best suit and gets himself ready for what might be the biggest diplomatic gathering he's ever attended to in his whole life. He then takes a long stroll to the harbor, musing about what may or may not happen this evening.
 
I actually recall when I was tooling around Sächsische Schweiz seeing a poster for someone running to be Burgermeister, which is just a funny word to American ears.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Haha, right. As streetfood is currently really trendy and people over here love puns of all kind, they actually use Burgermeister as a name for their burger bars. Some sell Meisterburgers and some even big Oberburgermeisters. :D

And don't get me started on the madness that is "Hamburger Bürger" and the like.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
The grand banquet

(As a pre-emptive note: Some of the upcoming parts of the conference dinner may seem as if it was majorly Auryn doing the talks. This is not because Carlyle's player wasn't interested in the dialogue, but he had to do a bit of work during the second half, so we agreed that I use the spare time to talk to various NPC with Auryn as this would let him join in again later without too much hassle. Sometimes it sucks being an IT guy ;) )

Auryn wakes up early enough to realize that she just might make it to the arrival of the Danorans in time. So she puts on this gorgeous gown she got as a gift from Don Cippiano, receives a quick hair-do from Isobel and then hurries to get a carriage. To her surprise, she runs into said Mr. Cippiano who is just about to leave his cafe. When he sees her, he looks positively surprised as if he'd just see a perfect plan coming to fruition.

“Oh how wonderful! Marvelous! I knew that dress would suit you perfectly. So it is to your liking, I guess?”

“It is very beautiful indeed. Though I fear I can never repay you adequately. This was... so much more than just coffee cans and tea pots and herbs. But maybe you'll be happy to hear that even the Danorans might be speaking about it after tonight.”

“No, no. You're not indebted to me. It was a gift and seeing this perfect pair right before my eyes warms my heart more than thousands of gold pieces could.”

Seeing that Mr. Cippiano seems genuinely happy, Auryn performs an elegant volta in front of him before feigning a courtly bow with a smile on her face. She then says that she, unfortunately, doesn't have much more time to share as she's already running late for the arrival of the Lux Profectusque. This coincidence surprises Cippiano as he explains that he just called for his private carriage since he'd like to see this important social gathering, being a fan of such grandiose events. So he'd really be glad if Auryn would take a seat and accompany him. As she sees no reason to decline his offer, she gladly accepts and so the two of them manage to arrive just in time.

(Well, it seems as if Cippiano's love for haute couture is even bigger than we thought. As much as we always suspect that he might be up to something, he again and again turns out to be a likeable, kind person. As long as you're among his buddys that is. But he had all the reasons to be in a good mood after we basically eradicated the headquarters of his biggest enemy the morning before.

Oh and did I already mention that Don Cippiano is among our all-time favorite NPCs? He usually has the stronger bond with Carlyle, but this little scene was totally adorable.)


As the Lux Profectusque arrives in Flint harbor, we witness how the Danorans, most likely the ambassador, managed to set up a perfectly timed show of raw military power and rich splendor. King Aodhan and Sovereign Han Jierre just shake their hands as the danoran anthem reaches its climax and the Sovereign proclaims that he appreciates this precious opportunity to make peace after so many years of war in the Yerasol Archipelago. He is flanked by Lya Jierre and also accompanied by Eloise Duffet, the minister of war.

Once the ceremony is over and King Aodhan asks the delegation to accompany him to their temporary residence in the Aurum, Lya Jierre turns her attention towards us. She guesses that we'll most likely be curious about her personal invitation and explains that after our last “crossing of blades” in Vendricce she got thoroughly impressed by our determination and force. She also realized that there have been misunderstandings about the nature of the society she belongs to and she wishes to explain her point of view so we might just clear up all of the issues of the past months.

We reply that we'll gladly take this opportunity to discuss the Obscurati and also hope that her brother, Luc, is doing well in Cherage. Lya explains that her brother is quite the introvert and a difficult character but besides that, yes, he's doing just fine.

(we kind of feared that the Obs might have liquidated Luc and/or Ottavia after they had been our guests and helped us with understanding the Lantern. Especially after we were pretty sure to have left an impression on the two. As for the "crossing of blades", we had to laugh quite a bit at Lya's over-exaggeration as we put her to sleep after she drew her rapier. Even if there would be quite a lot of people who'd love to see a swashbuckling duel between the two female scions. One day, maybe.)

Then we just split from the group of dignitaries as we'd like to do a last minute check on the security details in the Aurum, especially in the banquet hall and every room that's somehow involved in the grand dinner tonight. We find that everything seems just fine and Flying Spark tells us every little bit about his routine as well. Carlyle's gut feeling about a potential disaster can't be stopped though. Still it can't be helped right now as it is already dinner time and we're required to meet up with the rest of the invited guests in one of the antechambers.

We're quite surprised to see so many people with so many different backgrounds together in one big room. We identify most of them as various industrialists from both Risur and Danor, as well as politicians, nobles and members of the military. Among the guests are Lord Vantrys and Cecilia, Heward Sechim (Vantrys and Sechim seem to be getting along pretty well) as well as Francis Fordren and Brakken Heffanita. Milena Dawkins turns out to be the Master of Ceremonies this night and she asks everyone to form a line after welcoming everyone to the festive peace banquet.

Carlyle is already used to such societal gatherings and so he explains that your place in the line is actually representative of your social standing and your connection to the host. He seems quite touched by actually waiting in such a line himself, so Auryn asks him whether everything is alright.

“Oh yes, I'm more than just fine. It's just... I've always been asking myself what it would be like to actually be part of these spectacular events, rather than just standing at the sideline. This is like a dream come true.”

Seeing her partner genuinely happy for a moment puts a smile on Auryn's face, and she squeezes Carlyle's hand briefly.

“Then enjoy this evening. You've earned it. And I'm sure this won't be the last time we'll be asked to attend a grand banquet.”

Just when it seems like Carlyle is utterly struck with societal bliss, he turns around to take a look at the other attendants and spots Lord Vantrys, who's stranding far behind him among the other nobles.

“Oh no, but this isn't right. How can I possibly be introduced before Lord Vantrys?”

He shakes his head in disbelief before he realizes that we're actually personal guests of Lya Jierre, which is most likely the reason why we've been placed right behind the risuri and danoran ministers. Even if this seems quite unusual indeed. This awkward situation for Carlyle only intensifies when we are then seated right next to the danoran dignitaries, leading to a lot of eyes staring right at the rather unknown guests of the Minister of Outsiders.

(Auryn was quite astonished to see Carlyle put such an emphasis on where he was standing in the queue. Or that he was actually standing there at all. Seeing that the spheres of service personnel and guests/nobles are that much separated that even standing in a line feels as if one is part of another world is something she's yet to get used to. And she just realized that Carlyle can be really touched or confused by such small details.)


Fortunately, dinner starts soon after and both King Aodhan and Sovereign Han Jierre express their hope for peace and their desires to make the upcoming conference a success. After Governor Stanfield offers a few warm words where he welcomes both delegations to his city and stresses out that Flint will have much to gain from such an unprecedented peace treaty, it is time for someone else to give a toast as well.

As the seconds pass by and no one actually says anything, Lya gives the two of us an encouraging wink which leads to Carlyle deflecting the arrow to Auryn. So she raises her glass and first thanks Lya Jierre, a true friend of Risur, for the opportunity to be here tonight before stating her hope that this conference will bring an end to the hostilities between their two countries as the path war will only lead to suffering and pain while peace may allow old wounds to heal in time.

(She was a tad bit uncomfortable as she was kind of speaking for the foreign delegation and also had to draw everyone's attention in the presence of Fordren. It's always the personal stuff that unnverves her.)

The first part of dinner goes down smoothly with lots of smalltalk and little interference. Only Eloise Duffet, Minister of War, almost causes an eclat by hinting at an orphanage that got supposedly bombed by King Aodhan himself during the third Yerasol War. When she also tries to make a fuss about the soup, Lya Jierre quickly and diplomatically diffuses the explosive situation and explains that no one in this room will be truly innocent and that the poor farmers of Shale will not have murdered any Danoran by growing tasty vegetables.

During the first courses, we get the impression that Lya is trying really hard to keep up the diplomatic atmosphere and is genuinely striving for peace first and foremost. Then we all take a break and get the opportunity to stroll through an art exhibition on the sky bridge. Shortly after, lovely music starts to play and Auryn gets totally overwhelmed with joy as they got the actual hurricane violin for their string performance.

(She's quite the Navras Opera House nerd, so she took this as an opportunity to tell her hapless conversation partner all about the violin and its past. Also, Hurricane Violin and Fable of Seaquen. Well played ;) )

Meanwhile, Carlyle tries to ease his gut feeling by patrolling the sky bridge and looking out for any sign of danger. But it turns out that his guts were wrong this time. Once the musical performance is over, Eloise Duffet takes the time to talk to us and ask us about our opinion on the events on Axis Island. We explain that we're pretty upset about Duchess Ethelyn's betrayal and remind the Minister of War that we Risuri took great lengths to end her rebellion and give the Island back to Danor. We add that many risuri lives were lost these days and we hope that it wasn't for naught.

Carlyle then says that Axis Island was one of many errors that happened in the past regarding our two nations and, having seen the face of war far too often, he hopes that one day generations of Risuri and Danoran children will grow up knowing nothing but peace.

Minister Duffet then claims that there's been too much chaos in Flint the last weeks, with security issues being so severe that she feared for the delegation's safety. Auryn gets that she's hinting at the terrorist's attacks and explains that these acts were committed by foreign elements whose only goal is bringing suffering and the end of the world. She says that they didn't specifically target Risur, but rather the peace conference, no, the whole concept of peace itself. Fortunately, the RHC was able to lock them all up in time and so they can pose no threat anymore. She concludes that these radicals would have tried to strike Cherage as well had the conference taken place there instead.

Taking another try, Eloise Duffet then changes the focus to the many protesters in the streets of Flint, claiming that such chaos wouldn't be possible in Cherage as the police would manage situations like that with ease. Carlyle laughs softly at this comment before saying that the Dockers and all the other protesters simply express their love and care for their city and community. The citizens of Flint always strive to make their lives better, so they use – legal – protests as a means of venting their frustration or issuing their problems in a peaceful manner.

Then, with a disarming smile on his face, he asks Mrs. Duffet whether she's ever fought a guerrilla war. Because he did and fighting against people who are desperately trying to regain what they've lost and who are fighting for their homeland with everything they got is the most horrifying experience one could imagine as a soldier. He then asks her to imagine a city like Flint, full of passionate people, being faced with military-like oppression.

“There's only one outcome I can see in this scenario. You'd have a guerrilla war in this very city. Fighting your own populace is futile, Minister, and it only causes suffering that will take centuries to heal”

We then return to dinner and are treated to some of the best dishes from Danor, Ber and Risur.
 
I like how your group has expanded the circle of power players and made a bigger deal of the high society. I admit it was a bit of a weak point of my own writing as I often focused on the plot and mystery over politics and courtesy.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Originally, it was just a coincidence as NPC like Lord Vantrys and his staff or Francis Fordren were part of our character's backgrounds and yeah, of course being a 500 years old ex-butler means you know and care much about society. And then we just happened to connect all of these people with those already present in the adventures.

I don't necessarily see it as a weak point as I'm pretty sure politics and intrigue and courtesy are not that much fun for every player. So every group will have their own focus and ours neglected getting more involved with technology or the criminal elements of Flint (we never developed a personal enmity with the Kells, for example).

But I guess you will enjoy reading the second part of the banquet then. And the intermission between adventures 5 and 6 :)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Diplomatic matters

Before dessert, there is another break and Lya Jierre turns to us to talk about the “misunderstandings” we had. We sincerely ask her what these “misunderstandings” might be as she's probably already talked to her brother Luc. She says that she's quite adamant that the Obscurati are a group of people who are working towards making the world a better place. As it is a multinational society, keeping their existence hidden is only natural as the occasional war would make cooperation almost impossible. For herself and Luc, bringing the magic back to Danor is among their top priorities which is why Luc developed the Lantern and tried to conduct experiments on planar energies. Without magic, she insists, it will be hard for Danor and Risur to be on equal terms now that Risur takes great leaps in terms of industrialization.

Carlyle replies that while he understands this noble goal, he cannot trust an organization that's so desperately trying to stay hidden at all costs. This sort of intransparent secrecy can easily lead to dark paths, especially when one considers the fact that this Nicodemus figure is the only one who's keeping all the different strings in his hands.

Regarding Nicodemus, we explain that his malicious, raging attack on us during the Vendricce convention should be enough evidence that he's not the nicest character. Also, we know that he's directly involved in the Macbannin incident and the Bleak Gate factory we've unearthed. We then add that her very own brother uttered his fear that someone might be able to gain world domination by abusing his Lantern technology.

Lya answers that she's sure the Lantern will turn out to be a tool like the steam engine. Potentially dangerous, yes, but with so many opportunities to be used in a peaceful manner. Carlyle again stresses out that the steam engine wasn't developed in secret and also no one tried to use lethal force to protect it from seeing the light of the public. Still we do believe her regarding her and Luc's own altruistic intentions of trying to make the world a better place.

Auryn then tries to remember her about the evidence we've shown to Luc. She talks about all these horrible acts that the Obscurati committed in Flint, stressing out that Macbannin, a genuinely good-natured man got tricked into endangering those he cared for the most (the citizens of the Nettles). She adds that we got evidence that the guy who's responsible for this, Leone Quintal, might still be conducting research at some dark place. Research that might, again, endanger the lives of thousands of innocents.

As Lya has a hard time believing us, we then suggest that she might ask her fiancee, King Aodhan, whether she could take a view at some of the OB files and the speak to Luc again to check whether these reports and his own experiences after his visit of the witchoil factory match up. Carlyle stresses out a second time that he's more than concerned by the cell structure of the Obscurati, especially considering the fact that an altruistic individual like herself didn't know that one of the other cells is up to something malicious. We only hope that she's now able to understand our point of view and our skepticism as our first contact with the organization was directly tied to preventing mass murder.

Still we can understand how someone wishes to improve life on this beautiful yet terrible world. But we'd never risk so much collateral damage or use unethical methods for reaching our aims.

Last but not least, Auryn asks Lya about her stance on slavery as this still seems to be a custom in Danor. The tiefling replies that she's no friend of serfdom, but it might be hard to change this system from one day to another, so changing this might take a while.

(Haha, what an euphemism. Lya is surely one master diplomat.

All in all we got the impression that we got her thinking. Like Luc, Lya seems to be benevolent and idealistic at her core, but she's far more cunning than her brother. And she's far more convinced that the Obscurati are the well-meaning secret society they'd like to appear as.)

We are then called back to dessert and get to taste some of the best sweets from both Danor and Risur. This concludes the formal part of the dinner and most guests use this opportunity to split into smaller groups and do some private talks.

We return to Lya to continue our talks with her. She doesn't know too much about Bergeron besides the fact that he's an archaeologist and she suspects that he might have tried to spy on her brother. When we link him to Macbannin, she supports the thought that this whole group might have gone rogue under the influence of Quintal. Auryn mentions that Bergeron seemed to have been a caring individual in life whose letter indicated that he simply wanted to attend to a “business meeting” - probably with the Obs.

She then asks Lya why Danor is trying to use technology to solve their problem with magic as this seems a bit antithetical. In her eyes, the anti-magic zone is more likely a spiritual problem or the result of a goddess' dying curse. So the most logical way to approach this problem would be to ask those people whose goddess has died for help.

“To put it bluntly, have you ever considered... doing penance? History tells us that it were the clergy's Hierarchs who first got turned into your people, the people who founded Danor. And it were the Hierarchs who were responsible for Srasama's death and the near annihilation of my people. Yet your people did nothing to reconcile with the surviving Eladrin. On the contrary, your rich citizens still torment us to this very day and prevent us from being whole again. I cannot see how this divine curse can ever be lifted if you don't change your ways.”

Lya seems pretty surprised at Auryn's proposal as this is clearly an idea that never occurred to her before. She then says that the Eladrin's approach is surely fascinating, albeit a bit esoteric for her taste. Still, conducting research about divine curses might be an interesting thought. Auryn on the other hand isn't really sure whether Lya actually understood what she was trying to say.

(Yeah, this was her basically saying “you'll never have magic if you don't make peace with Elfaivar and acknowledge that your ancestors did wrong. Oh and let my people go!” and Lya responding “this is not science, but thank you anyway”

The two women's ways of analyzing and solving problems is so completely different even if they both are highly logical creatures. But while Auryn was born with the gift of magic and close to the Dreaming, Lya probably never approached magic in any other way than distant, scientific equations.

Auryn is also trying very hard to getting people to sympathize with the struggles of “New Elfaivar”, even if this might be hard in the case of the Danorans. Still she's ready to fill the gap should the King put his attentions to other possible allies after the Obscurati troubles regarding the Danorans and Lya.)


As it is time for private talks, we see that King Aodhan and Sovereign Jierre retreat to one of the separate chambers, leaving Harkover Lee pretty much alone. So Auryn takes him aside to one of the the many balconies of the Aurum to discuss their planned trip to the Bleak Gate. She tells the Principal Minister that we'll take Asrabey with us, as we do hope to find and rescue Kasvarina there. But we still haven't made up our mind regarding Grappa. We'd also take our friendly neighborhood dragon tyrant with us, so Flying Spark won't be able to guard the King from now on and Lee will be on his own again.

This leads to Lee giving her a heartfelt laughter as he asks how that tiny faerie dragon possibly earned this fearsome title. She answers that Flying Spark occupied her garden the moment she offered him to use it as a base to explore Flint. And as it seems, he has a fondness for Matriarch's daughters, who are not the princesses of old faerie tales, but share enough similarities to qualify.

Auryn then turns to Lee and asks him cautiously who he truly is as she's pretty sure that he's lived longer than 50 years. Lee blinks a few times as the question clearly irritates him and then asks her about her own guess without denying her assumption. Auryn replies that she thought he was a Fey Lord for some time, but then had to dismiss this thought.

“This doesn't seem too far off, does it? So why do you think I can't be one of your kind?”

“Well, I don't wish to offend you in any way, but, you see, your knowledge regarding the Fey is so convincingly basic that I can rule this option out. However, your magical prowess is beyond anything I've seen so far, so you must be quite powerful.”

Harkover Lee turns quite stern at Auryn's logic and stares at her with growing interest. He then asks her why this would matter to her at all as he usually isn't the most interesting of people.

“But that's not true at all.” she answers. “You are a truly fascinating person. Regarding my motive, I'm merely curious and interested in knowing more about the King's best man and most loyal guardian. There might be a time when we all need to combine our resources in order to protect our King and, in my opinion, making plans is much easier when you know all about your possible options. So please, don't take my curiosity as a sign that I don't trust you. Because I truly believe that the King and Risur could have no better Principal Minister than Harkover Lee.”

After a few seconds of silence and continual stares, Lee clears his throat and then excuses himself as he's pretty sure someone just called for him and “this War Minister” needs a watchful eye. Just when Lee is out of Auryn's sight, she receives a mental message that sounds cold as ice and dead serious:

“Do NOT inquire any further, young lady. Take this as a warning.”

It takes a few minutes and Carlyle finds his partner still standing on the balcony, her skin slightly paler than usual. He asks her how her talk with Lee went as, judging by her posture, the Principal Minister must have scared the hell out of her. Now Auryn gets that Carlyle meant this as a joke to break the ice, but she replies that he did just that before telling him about their encounter. She adds that she still trusts Lee, but there's something mysterious and powerful about him and he surely has this killing intent when it comes to keeping his secrets.

(Uh yeah, regarding Lee... while Auryn only tried to express her honest feelings towards the Principal Minister, I'm still not sure whether he'd again taken her comment as part flirtation. She's naturally curious and we've been talking about the true identity of Lee ever since the Coaltongue incident. She also knows that he's loyal and trustworthy, but she also knows that she's capable of thinking outside the box like few others and would love to put Lee's true colors into the equation when making plans. Also, her name is basically "keeper of secrets", so his identity would have been safe with her.

As Lee was so totally irritated and needed a few moments to get himself sorted, I guess that scaring Auryn was his best chance of getting her off trail. And maybe she almost got him with her arguments and he realized what kind of dilemma he ended up with. Now that we know a bit more about him, that reaction was pretty natural.

Also note that Lee was totally okay with being a hypothetical Fey Lord. Something a "real" Fey Lord in disguise would have made more fuss about. But Lee surely doesn't know that Auryn is so close to one of those)


When we return to the banquet hall, King Aodhan approaches us and asks us to have a few words in private now that his talks with Han Jierre are over. The King says that Lee told him about our Bleak Gate plans and he's quite relieved to hear that we found a probable way to get there as he'd otherwise have to use a very straining ritual to get us there. We add that we're still not sure about Grappa as he could be the catalyst for a catastrophe. Still, he's the only one who can lead us to the complex safely and we might need his help.

Aodhan says that he trusts our decisions in this regard and suggests that we could simply go there, take a few peeks and return later. We explain that this won't be possible as the wand we got has limited charges and we don't know how to return once we get there. Auryn thanks the King for his trust, but adds that she has quite the hard time making a decision as she fears that she might be fated to cause a calamity. After all, Ashima-Shimtu prophecised that we'll doom this world and Ekossigan's and Nevard's visions might all be related to this fate.

“So you prefer to let a prophecy paralyze you? Don't let this demon scare you away from making your own decisions.”

Auryn nods at his advice and says that she didn't plan to not decide, it is just so damn hard to make the right decision. And if she decides, then she'll have to bear the consequences of her actions afterward. The King seems satisfied with her answer and then turns the subject to Harkover Lee as he's heard that a certain someone has shown her interest in his Principal Minister. He's sorry should Lee have scared her as he's sure that Auryn and Carlyle have only Risur's best interest in mind. But the matter of Harkover Lee's identity is something that should exclusively stay part of the pact between the King and his Minister. Which is why we should better end our inquiries.

“Well, I'm still intrigued. But if this is an order from my Matriarch, then I'll gladly obey.”

The King chuckles at her words and then adds “I'd rather be called a Patriarch, but yes, this is an order”

(I tried to translate this wordplay as far as possible, but unfortunately it lost most of its absurdity. Originally, Auryn called Aodhan “Matriarchin”, which is a feminine word and the one usually used in German. He preferred to be called “Matriarch” which would be a masculine word for a female-exclusive title, thus agreeing to her titling and simply adjusting the gender.

And yes, these prophecies begin to really unsettle her. Remember the episode in the Crypta where we simply pushed Ashima-Shimtu's "doom" aside as if it was nonsense? Times change...)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Reunion in the Bleak Gate

Session 30

After our final talk with Aodhan, we take Flying Spark who used the spare time to get stuffed at the banquet's leftovers and head to the RHC. Auryn takes a small detour to get Asrabey on board and together we meet in our office. There, we tell Asrabey about another person who might accompany us and who might be the perfect guide as he was the one Carlyle saw in his vision of Kasvarina: Alexander Grappa. We then tell him about the Mindmaker's new body and also that we have yet to decide whether we should take him with us.

Margit nods as she gets that now is the time to cast her prepared auguries and divinations. She then shares her results with us: Bringing Grappa means both weal and woe (“Who would've guessed that?” Auryn says) and she can also say that joy, grief, happiness and pain await us in the Bleak Gate. So we decide to take the risk and let Grappa be part of our group. We then venture down to his Workshop and introduce him to Asrabey. Grappa is still eager to come along even if this means danger due to his metal body and Quintal's metalbending.

We already calculated this in our equation and so we don leather armor and present our druidic ironwood weapons. This leaves only one last problem to discuss: Carlyle and the spirits of the Bleak Gate. As it is right now, Carlyle is highly sensitive regarding the spirits of the dead and we all fear that he might lose his sanity should he cross the border to the realm of the dead and be exposed to the constant wailing of the dead. He thinks about this fact for a while and finally says that it cannot be helped, he simply has to take this risk.

However, he hopes that maybe those spirits he personally guided towards the Bleak Gate will protect him from the harsh environment. Auryn then closes her eyes for a long time and finally promises that she'll protect him from the malevolent screams.

So we head to Stanfield Canal and see that a small group of sailors await us with a barge and a specially prepared, large box. We all try to fit into the box and the sailors agree to drive our barge through the canal while we're inside. Auryn then takes Carlyle's hands and starts singing ancient eladrin songs her mother sang to calm her when she was a child. After a while, the sailors learn the melody and they start humming along while we're crossing the bridges to the Bleak Gate.

Despite the song, Carlyle is soon able to hear the dead and their endless screams and after a while they are loud enough that the rest of us can hear them as well. Once we cross the last of the rusty gates, the voices suddenly stop and the sailor's humming disappears as well. We see this as a sign that we arrived at our destination, so we open the box again and find ourselves at the end of the canal in a gray world with little vegetation.

As the barge vanished as well, we use the box to get to the riverbank and leave the “vehicle” one by one. Grinding marks on the ground indicate that this isn't the first box that arrived here, so we guess that this is where the smuggled material ended up.

Grappa points at the single path that leads towards what appears to be the Bleak Gate version of Cauldron Hill. So we take the wand of Slylyx to make our transition permanent and head towards the hill. On our way there, we see that this whole area, including our path, is warded with some kind of giant, violet glowing shield. Grappa finds the intensity of the color rather strange and he says that usually, you should be able to hear the wailing even past the barrier. So he believes that something or someone must have strengthened the barrier. We guess that this might be the physical form of Macbannin's seal and are quite happy regarding our request to the Old Stag.

Grappa then explains that there are two ways into the complex: One direct way, leading through the grand entrance and one secret path, leading through the vent system. As we're all for secrecy, we decide to head towards the vent system and cause as little noise and light as possible while going there.

On our way through the strange, bleaky wilderness we spot some stray shadowy creatures here and there. We remember our first encounter with Leone and suddenly understand where he and Creed might have gotten their reinforcements from. Asrabey musters the creatures at a distance before he deems them too dangerous. Carlyle agrees to his assessments as they seem to be slowly approaching like predators. So the two men toss a die to determine who'll have the honor of eradicating the threat. Turns out that it is Carlyle who has to stain his new weapons first.

After a while, we reach more difficult terrain. As neither Margit nor Grappa are among the best athletes, the rest of the team does their best to help the two ascend. We manage to avoid several patrolling shadow trolls and finally arrive at the vent shafts. Unfortunately, they emit a constant stream of hot fumes, making it nearly impossible for normal people to enter the shafts unharmed.

Grappa cannot really help us out here as he doesn't really know how the vent system is controlled, but there has to be some sort of shutdown mechanism, he guesses. We fear that any kind of manipulation might draw some unwanted attention towards us, so it is time to make a plan that'll get us in there without causing trouble. Fortunately, Margit, Flying Spark and Auryn got all we need to protect ourselves from the heat while making sure that we can see through the smoke unhindered.

So we cast our spells and climb into the shaft. After a short while, we reach a crowd barrier and see a massive fan underneath it. We can see a door leading to a maintenance shaft beneath the barrier, so Carlyle uses a spell to shrink himself and slips through the barrier.

(So we just added chibi-Carlyle to chibi-Hana. And Flying Spark was pretty amused to have finally someone of his size in the team)

Carlyle doesn't need much time to enter the shaft, spot two engineers and knock them out. He then turns out the fan and helps us slip through the barrier. We proceed into the maintenance station and decide to disrobe the engineers so two of us may pass as part of the crew. We also find rusty amulets in their possession and put them on as well. When taking a closer look at their uniforms, we are quite surprised as they appear to be decorated with risuri emblems. So we guess that these people, too, might be misguided Risuri.

We proceed to scout the complex with as much caution and stealth as possible. We soon reach the worker's quarters and find that the “employees” there have little work to do and are pretty much relaxing. Fortunately, this means laxer security levels as well, so we can get around much easier than we anticipated. We also spot guards who appear to be mercenaries (no official risuri soldiers among them) and avoid these guys.

To get more information, we enter one engineer's private room and search his personal chest. We're quite lucky as we find a diary where the engineer describes his work and his thoughts on it in detail. He seems to believe that he's working for a secret government project of Risur and is quite proud that he was chosen to work here. They payment is high as well, he writes, even if there is one higher-up who's quite the creepy guy.

He also mentions a beautiful elf who he describes in detail and who fits the description of Kasvarina (or Auryn, but he does mention black hair at one point). He guesses that this woman might be a high ranking clerk who's involved in planning the project. This reminds us of Ekossigan's words and incites Asrabey even more. The engineer then mentions two strange men who fit the descriptions of Augst and Kell and he asks himself whether these guys even belong here.

So we ask Grappa to lead us to the guest's quarters as we might just find everyone of interest there, be that Augst, Kell, Leone or Kasvarina. We stealthily knock out some more engineers to get more uniforms and amulets. When we find trolls guarding another section of the complex, we put them all to sleep via fey magic and knock them out while they're sleeping.

As we follow the smaller hallways, we suddenly realize that getting these amulets was the right move as we're now entering an area with a higher security level where said amulets are needed to proceed without getting hurt.

(Oh forbiddance, how I missed you!)


This way, we also manage to avoid a giant golem who's patrolling the larger hallways. We find a magical sensor in the next corridor, but Carlyle can cut its vision off with an illusory wall before anyone can see us.

(Carlyle's player surely loves wall spells. And I didn't even know he had that spell, or even know that such a spell exists. It is really niché, as the wall with the illusion is rather small, but it is permanent and perfect for fooling patrols or magical sensors)


We get to the kitchen next and see one drunk cook who's easily fooled by our uniforms. As it is currently lunch time (yeah, they seem to have a different time zone here), we take a peek into the dining hall and spot Augst among the elite mercenaries. He seems to be quite chatty and distracted, but Kell is nowhere to be seen. As Augst isn't our primary target, we decide to let him be and move forward. From the conversations, we also get that this “project” is about to be finished very soon.

When we finally reach the guest quarters, we come across several private rooms and laboratories. We first find the room of a static's specialist, then bioengineering labs and an alchemist's lab. Among these rooms is Grappa's old workshop where we find sketches of several golems. We take the sketches and also find clues that some of these materials might have come from the military academy in Pine Island. We also spot the name Col. Harlock here and there, so it turns out that our initial theory after the attack on Nevard was quite correct, even if we could not find any proof.

(So the space pirate is working for the Obs? Oh noes!)


Just as we leave Grappa's workshop, the soldiers and Augst have finished their lunch and our groups kind of bump into each other. Before they can get cause much ruckus, Auryn captivates them all, except Margit, Asrabey, Carlyle and one troll with her music. So the latter one is knocked out by the others. They then proceed their KO routine and lock them all in one of the guest rooms.

The next room we find turns out to be Grappa's private room. As we open the door, we are quite surprised to see Kasvarina sitting on the Mindmaker's bed, seemingly absent-minded. The whole room is decorated with beautiful elfaivaran tapestries, so someone must have made this the Matriarch's new home.

Before we can greet her, Asrabey shoves us all aside and then kneels before his wife. He seems overly moved to finally see her again, takes her hand and kisses it gently.

“My matriarch! I've found you! After all these centuries, we can finally be reunited.”

To Asrabey's surprise, Kasvarina looks at him in disbelief and surprise. She seems utterly irritated at Asrabey's behavior, then shakes her head before her eyes fall upon Auryn.

“Matriarch? No, you must mistake me for her. Is that you... mother?”

Understandably, all of our jaws drop at once. Auryn then carefully tries to explain that she is not Kasvarina's mother, it is more or less the other way round and yes, she is one of the first matriarchs of Elfaivar. Regarding Asrabey, we tell her that he is her most loyal esteemed husband who did everything he could to find her. We cannot convince Kasvarina though as she is very much certain to be a maiden of 30 years who got captured and brought here by a strange man.

Asrabey is devastated as he begins to understand what Ekossigan meant when he said that Kasvarina wouldn't remember him. Then, a mechanical voice mutters strange words of regret:

“I'm sorry. I only wanted to help her start anew. Like I did with my son. I really didn't wish to turn her into a hapless child”

“You did WHAT?!” Asrabey screams in rage, drawing his blade in an instant and threatens to use it against Grappa. Auryn intervenes and places herself between golem and Eladrin while Kasvarina whimpers in terror. This causes Asrabey to cease his attack and he demands that Grappa explains what he did to his wife and how he can revert it.

Grappa then tries to convince everyone that Kasvarina, while being a proud and impressive woman was so much torn apart by hatred and pain that it hurt seeing her that way. Still, he saw remnants of the woman she had been once, so he only tried to help Kasvarina become the person she was before whatever tragedy happened to her. This way, he wanted to let her see the world with different eyes, and maybe bring back the goodness inside her. So what he did was basically suppress her memories. Then he tried to bring her to her homeland of Elfaivar, but Leone Quintal found out about their disappearance and killed him. Sort of.

Asrabey is still furious, but he seems to understand what Grappa was trying to do. He then says that he's sorry, but he has to leave us right here, right now as Kasvarina needs to return to the Dreaming where he or the Fey may find a cure for her amnesia. Before anyone can react, he pulls out a magical staff, places it on the ground where it sprouts leaves and summons a portal to the Dreaming. Asrabey then asks Kasvarina to come with him, takes her hand and leaves the facility.

“Asrabey, please wait, I can help...”

But Auryn's words don't reach him and the portal closes. She sighs about the impulsivity of her kin, even if she can understand Asrabey's desire to bring Kasvarina to safety. But with Asrabey gone this also means that Grappa is now safe from the dreadnaught's blade. So we ask the Mindmaker about his motives regarding Kasvarina and who he meant when he was talking about “his son”. Grappa repeats that he only wanted to help her and that he sensed that all the tragedies of her life made her so miserable and spiteful that he feared her hatred might consume her fully in time.

“She's a very special woman, you know. Full of determination, a fire within that attracts all those who can see it like moths. Especially people like Leone Quintal. He's been drawn to her since he first met her, a true follower of her cause, even if she never let anybody come close to her emotionally.”

(Uh yeah, Auryn was pretty much upset about Kasvarina's state as well. She didn't know much about her as her relatives didn't talk about their ancestor, but Kasvarina was one of the first Matriarchs, so she had to be among he wisest and most powerful. Someone to look up to. Seeing her pretty much helpless was the last thing she'd wanted.

Also, the similarities are quite striking...)


“I see” says Carlyle, then he takes a short look at Auryn and asks Grappa about this mysterious son of his. Grappa explains that he wiped his memory as well after he figured out what “they” wanted to do with him. He fears that they wanted to control him, even if he had a mind of his own. He calls his son Borne and can only say that he's placed inside the project chamber. Judging from what we've seen in this complex so far, this chamber must be really huge. Grappa then says that they wanted to make Borne indestructible, shielding him against any kind of attack.

Carlyle is a bit shocked at this revelation, so he asks Grappa how on earth somebody would keep Borne from committing horrible crimes against humanity once he was set free. Grappa explains that there would have been a security mechanism, but “someone” decided to remove it. This upsets Carlyle even more (that old guy really does fiddle with things that are far beyond his responsibility), but it can't be helped for now. So we decide to continue our search for Leone, Kell or Borne.
 
Excellent stealth mission.

I don't think any other groups I've read about brought both Grappa and Asrabey with them. Most folks don't seem to get along with Asrabey that well.

Captain Harlock was very irresponsible.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Thanks :)

We tend to prefer stealth to brute force whenever possible. Getting Margit and Grappa stealthy wasn't easy though. If I remember correctly, we used invisibility on both and levitate on Grappa to eliminate the thump-thump of his mechanical feet. So yeah, we dragged him around quite a bit.

Regarding Asrabey, I guess it really depends on your experience in the first adventure. We managed to persuade him to let Ethelyn be arrested so that Aodhan can have "his revenge". On top of that, Auryn looks up to him quite a bit because he's this mystical, powerful dreadnaught. He also married into her family and she knows he wouldn't harm her. Plus their goals often align, like saving Kasvarina.

Carlyle and Asrabey really respect each other as veteran warriors although Asrabey saw a potential enemy in him at first. I guess Carlyle thinks that Asrabey is too impulsive and bold while Asrabey might think that Carlyle is the living embodiment of understatement.

So I guess the group's chances for getting along well with Asrabey are directly linked to either having an eladrin in your group (increased if said eladrin is female) or having someone who's interested in fey matters.

Oh and we definitely used his killing ability to a great extend when we took out the Scoundrel's Theater. Better not risk more casualties among the police when you can just make a pact with Asrabey.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Shadow of the colossus

Next, we find a room with exquisite storage racks for both wine and cheese, so we guess that this room has to be either Kasvarina's or Leone's. Just as Carlyle is about to appreciate the taste of whoever got this collection, we find traces of teleportation magic and get that someone left this room quite hastily not so long ago.

(guess what? Leone heard Asrabey shout at Grappa and realized that something was amiss)

“It has to be Leone! We need to get to the project chamber, now!”

So we cast a haste spell and let Grappa guide us through the various corridors at high speed. Unfortunately, someone sounds an alarm while we're halfway through and one by one large bulkheads seal off the corridors. Auryn, Flying Spark and Carlyle, all fleet-footed, manage to outrun the bulkheads but Margit and Grappa fall behind. Looking at both the golem and his other partner, Carlyle has to make a decision and so he twists the flow of time to push Margit's time forward by a few seconds. This way we can draw her through the closing corridor, leaving only Grappa behind.

“Just go, leave me here! I take care of the rest and then find another way!” his robotic voice calls to us as the final bulk closes.

After some long seconds we finally reach the gigantic project chamber where we freeze for a moment as we see one enormous colossus made of adamant standing in what appears to be a pool of witchoil. We also spot Leone Quintal who's standing on top of the colossus' head and who is surrounded by a swirling cloud of metal. The whole chamber is swarmed by other, smaller golems who patrol the ground floor and the bridges, therefore standing between Leone and us.

“Ah my guests have arrived. Take care of them.”

With these words Leone waves his hands and the smaller golems turn around to approach us. Carlyle doesn't have time for Leone's minions, so he uses a teleportation spell to bring the three of us next to Leone on the colossus' head.

“Like I told you before... you started a fight with the wrong people” Auryn says, being confident that this will be over soon. We then proceed to remove the first layer of Leone's metal cloud shield.

(This was a direct reference to her comment she gave Leone when he demanded to get Recklinghausen and revealed that his goonies had killed a young RHC agent in adventure 2. She never forgets and rarely forgives. At least not when her family and friends are involved)


Leone isn't really surprised though he seems a bit unnerved by the fact that he cannot control any part of our equipment. He instead orders the colossus to bring three of his minions to our “platform” on top of his head. The three golems agree to follow Leone's call to defend him and seem to have distinct personalities. Which is why Auryn asks them whether they'll really want to attack the relative of Kasvarina and her friends.

“Are you friends of father, too?” one of them asks before casually adding “Oh, how rude of me. I'm Linus.”

“I'm Mr. Carlyle. nice to meet you, Mr. Linus” says Carlyle, and reaches out to the golem to shake his hand. He then confirms that Mr. Alexander Grappa is indeed our friend and ally, so we do not wish to hurt his children.

Auryn does the same and introduces herself to her two opponents with her full name. One of the golems, Hunting, is quite impressed by her long list of ancestors and he ceases all hostilities immediately. The other one, Colin, heeds Leone's orders however and lands a massive blow on her.

“What are you doing, Colin? You damaged father's friend!” Hunting protests.

Leone is obviously not very happy about this turn of events and so he proceeds to hurl metal objects at us. This doesn't help him either as we ignore the golems for now and cut down the metal mage's iron shield. Once that obstacle is removed, Leone doesn't pose much of a threat and he soon collapses, slipping off Borne's head.

In this very moment, Grappa finally enters the project chamber. He calls for his boys to stop attacking his friends and says that everything is fine. But with a last twitch of his hand, the falling Leone manages to manipulate one of the metal cranes to crush the body of Grappa. Fortunately, he doesn't hit the golem's head though. Just when the life leaves Leone's body, he falls into the pool of witchoil and vanishes.

Then the whole complex begins to tremble as a loud voice screams one word: “FATHER!”

The colossus suddenly breaks free of Leone's command. He steps out of the pool and we hurry to get off him and rescue the three golems and what's left of Grappa. We then take shelter in one of the side labs as the whole complex seems to collapse and the fabric of reality tears down.

Once we get the impression that the collapse has stopped, we carefully enter the main project chamber again and see... starlight. It appears that the ceiling of the chamber is somehow missing now and we seem to be back in Risur again. Another thing that's apparently missing is Borne.

We fear the worst and so we hurry, climb out of the destroyed complex and reach the top of Cauldron Hill where we find the colossus staring up into the starry sky. As much as this view makes our worst fears come true – the colossus managed to escape to our realm and is “alive” - we also realize that he is free of external control. So Auryn dares to approach him, believing that she may reach the “son” Grappa spoke of.

“The stars are beautiful, aren't they? Even in the far east, we revere their shining light.”

She then sings a calm elfaivaran song about the stars and the guidance they provide at night while moving in Borne's direction. The colossus seems to hear her song and so he turns his head in her direction, looking at her with a good amount of curiosity. He then tries to pick her up with his large hand, but Auryn realizes that this giant of a child doesn't know the full extend of his strength and so she dodges him.

“Careful, big boy. Tiny people like me are quit fragile and you don't want to crush me.”

Borne obviously doesn't seem to understand Auryn's words, so he continues his attempts to catch her. We realize that this is bad news indeed as the colossus might cause massive destruction should he get the idea that the city down there might be a more interesting playground. As he's more then 100 meters high, Borne could easily crush whole buildings with a stomp of his foot. We also spot one cavity inside his chest that appears to be fitting for the Wayfarer's Lantern but cannot grasp what the Obs would want to do with that as the golem is very obviously immune to magic.

We quickly decide that the officials need to know about this threat to the whole city, so Auryn asks Carlyle to head to the Aurum immediately and warn the king. As Borne seems to react to her, she'll try to keep him on her track even if this game will be pretty exhausting. She also asks Margit and Flying Spark to get Grappa's head and care for those who might be buried in the collapse.

Carlyle is a bit reluctant to leave Auryn, but he realizes that he's the only one who may reach the King in time and Auryn is the best bet when it comes to keeping Borne occupied. So he teleports in front of the Aurum and makes haste to reach King Aodhan. The latter just appears to have finished a long talk with the Danorans and so he's at first quite irritated when Carlyle warns him of an impeding catastrophe and proposes to evacuate the whole city. Carlyle then leads him outside to show him the towering giant atop Cauldron Hill and Aodhan turns pale.

“As I said: If that giant decides to come down here, our city is doomed. We need to evacuate everyone immediately. This is a force no one can dare to control.”

Aodhan takes a moment to sort his thoughts, then turns to Harkover Lee and nods.

“There may be a way to deal with him. An ancient ritual to banish him to the Dreaming. But it will need some time to be set up. And we need to bring him to the sea. By the way... where is your partner? I hope she's alright.”

Carlyle turns a bit nervous and then responds that his partner's whereabouts and bringing Borne to the sea might just go hand in hand as the colossus is currently chasing her and she's trying to keep him from moving down to the crowded districts. Aodhan seems relieved at this information and he then immediately orders his staff to bring the Danoran delegation to safety as dead diplomats is the last thing he wants.

Carlyle takes this as an opportunity to help explain the danger to the Danorans. He then gestures at Lya and asks her to have a few words in private. Carlyle points at the colossus who's now heading for what appears to be the Nettles and tells her that this is what the Obscurati were hiding in their complex in Cauldron Hill. It appears that their project is finished now, but something went wrong and now this monster is threatening to destroy a whole city. He asks her to think about her allegiance to this organization and to ask herself whether this can truly be the work of philanthropists.

Lya appears to be shocked about this development and hints that there is much she'll have to think about. Lastly, she also asks about Auryn and Carlyle, again, explains that she's the one who's trying to lead the giant away from the city.

(at this point we started making jokes about the Benny Hill theme as everyone imagined Auryn running away from Borne making use of all her crazy ideas. Carlyle's player always got his tablet ready so he played it at least one time :) )

Meanwhile, Auryn does her best to lead Borne towards the areas of Cloudwood and the Nettles that are only sparely inhabited. The boy also seems to have a short attention span as he's easily distracted by larger trees or buildings. This gives her some time to breathe, but she also has to work a bit to get his attention back. During her chase, she runs across Dame Jillian who helps her out with a flying spell just when Borne is about to run into a smaller community. She's able to get his attention back before he can cause much destruction, but she also has to witness how the colossus tramples over Mayor Doyle Idylls, leaving only a smashed puddle behind.

After a while, Carlyle returns and tells her about the plan of the King. After a while, Borne comes across a field full of flowers and he seems mesmerized for a while. We use this opportunity to call upon our connection to Srasama to send a message to the Old Stag: We tell him that a colossal, invulnerable, metal child has escaped the Bleak Gate complex and threatens to trample all of Flint under his feet. We explain that we'll try to lure him to the sea near Cloudwood, as he somehow reacts to Auryn or her songs, so the Bay area will be spared. He returns that he'll rally his crews to get the ships ready as soon as possible.

(Leaving this as a cliffhanger as this session really ended at this point. Phew, what a day.

So it turns out Margit's divinations were spot on. And yeah, we didn't regret bringing Grappa with us, even if this guy is still strange and we don't fully trust him yet. He got a good heart, but he's far too chaotic to be really reliable. Not necessarily in terms of alignment though - both our characters are derivatives of neutral good themselves but with strong outliers in certain aspects.

Also, the colossus... I remember making theories about the "true patriot conspirators" building a walking Coaltongue back in adventure 2. I even sent Tiz this video about the spirit vine giant mech from Legend of Korra as an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwMUtHzHBdo
And Borne is even bigger and less... controlable. He fortunately doesn't have a giant magic cannon mounted on top of him.

Carlyle also did his best to convince Lya that the Obscurati are dangerous and not as honorable as she may have thought. I thought his last-minute intervention was pretty genius and it surely helped getting Lya a bit more sympathetic in the next chapter.

For Auryn and Borne... we'll see more about her relation towards the "big boy" in the next session. For now, she's trying to chase him through the woods.)
 

Tizbiz

Explorer
Ack, the mayor!
I was trying to add some sense of danger. Auryn was handling the colossus like you would a handle naughty toddler or a playful puppy and some scenes got to serene. I believe i said Borne destroyed the mayor's residence and somehow the players believed the mayor was killed and as it suited the mood i did not object. The mayor was never a well liked NPC anyways.
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
But...but... he *is* basically a toddler who hasn't learned how to not step on his minifigs yet and who doesn't understand the concept of death.

His whole story so far is terribly tragic :/
 

Tizbiz

Explorer
But...but... he *is* basically a toddler who hasn't learned how to not step on his minifigs yet and who doesn't understand the concept of death.

His whole story so far is terribly tragic :/
I wonder what the agents are going to do, if they ever confront an awakened Borne. Auryn would probably like to adopt him or something like that. I am looking forward to what the other nations think about their security, if Risur has a 104 meter colossus at their disposal ......
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Preparing to blow up a giant

Session 31

We continue our efforts to keep Borne as far away from central Flint as possible. After Calrlyle tells Auryn all about the plan to banish the colossus to the Dreaming, we agree to send Asrabey a warning as we don't wish to avert one catastrophe by causing another. So we tell him that something enormous made of steel with a free will just escaped from the Bleak Gate and might be coming to the Dreaming soon. So if he wishes to get Kasvarina to safety, he should put as much distance between the Dreaming equivalent of Flint and themselves as possible. Oh and warning the Fey of the Unseen would be a good idea as well.

At some time Borne seems to lose interest in Auryn, so she thinks about a new plan and realizes that Borne might recognize Kasvarina. She then uses a quick spell to turn her hair black and her eyes as green as those of Kasvarina and calls for Borne again. This causes a sudden change in the colossus' behavior as he fixates her for a while. He then calls her “mother” and tries to touch her yet again. This way we manage to get him down the mountain a bit and lead him through the wilderness, supported by one or two fly spells every now and then.

Whenever Borne's attention threatens to be focused elsewhere, we do our best to get it back again, be this by firing elemental spells up in the air or summoning columns of divine light, as well as conjuring local flashes of lightning (thanks, Margit). We soon learn that this sort of magic really doesn't hurt him and it seems like this is all just one big game for the “big boy”.

(Does anyone still know the phrase "kiting Kazzak to Stormwind"? Because luring Borne through Cloudwood surely felt like kiting one of those damn big bosses around... where one single delay or moment of lost attention could kill you in one blow.

And as much as Auryn was intrigued by the fact that Borne called her/Kasvarina "mother", she didn't want to risk getting crushed by his hands)


We use the short breaks when Borne ceases his movement and musters his environment to continue making plans. Carlyle thinks about rebuilding the blockbuster bomb to maybe blast a hole into Borne's shell so someone or something may take him out from the inside. As Borne is pretty much immune to any influence from the outside, he plans to ask Sechim for his strongest acids to maybe weaken his hull a bit. He also discusses the use of sea water to slow his movements and fill him up through a blasted hole.

Auryn isn't really happy with the prospect of dissecting a childlike being with an obvious consciousness, but realizes that the threat for Flint may call for more desperate measures. So Carlyle forms a magical telepathic bond and returns to the King to talk about the current situation and his progress in preparing the ritual. He tells Aodhan the planned vector of Borne's movement and also mentions that he sent a message to the admiralty regarding the fleet.

Aodhan is really grateful for his effort. However, the whole mission might be doomed as many people wanted to flee Flint by boat after they saw the colossus. And panicked people tend to make bad decisions, so the harbor area is currently blocked by all kinds of ships who crashed into each other. Carlyle explains his idea of using the blockbuster and insists that we'd need the Coaltongue to fire at whatever hole this bomb might tear open. He suggests to evacuate the wedged ships and to destroy those ships which are in the way of the fleet.

But the harbor isn't the only problem the King and Flint are facing. Due to the general panic, plunderers used the opportunity to loot the local shops and simply using the police might be seen as an act of brute force by the Dockers. Who are about to protest in the middle of said chaos. So maybe “he and his colleague who's a good friend of the Dockers” might try to calm everyone's minds down.

Carlyle takes a deep breath and then replies that while this is tragic and terrifying, but he cannot really help with this problem.

“Your majesty, I know you wish to help secure all of Flint, but with all due respect... my partner is out there on this hill, running for her life. She's doing everything she can to keep Borne away from Flint. And while it is true that she could probably calm her friends with ease, I simply cannot imagine what would happen if she left her post. And every second I spend down here she's without the support she desperately needs”

He then suggests using the police officers who were tasked with Operation Fallen Curtain to restore order in the city while simultaneously briefing Auryn mentally about the situation in Flint. Once she can sort her thoughts, she suggests that Carlyle and the King write a message in her name to explain the whole situation to Thames Grimsley. She asks them to tell Thames that she's currently occupied with keeping the city safe from what appears to be as powerful as a mechanized Titan, but she's quite sure that the police officers she and Carlyle chose will manage the situation with dutiful grace.

Aodhan sees reason in our proposal and so he clears his throat and dons his mantle.

“It seems as if we have to reverse our roles today. The time has come for a king to face his citizens and stand by them in their hour of need. It has been a long time since I had to rally my crew.”

He then winks at Carlyle and leaves the council in the Aurum, ignoring all protest of his advisors. Carlyle nods in agreement and then tells Auryn about Aodhan's decision. She seems happy about this outcome as she always told Thames and the Dockers that their King was a reasonable, honest and empathetic man, so it would leave a great impression if the King actually showed up in person to take care of the citizens.

(Yeah, that's one drawback of having such a small party. And we got that keeping up the morale in Flint would have basically been our job by the book. But we found this to be quite the elegant solution.

We don't really know what Aodhan told the Dockers and protesters, but I'm pretty sure he did a damn fine job as monarch of the people.)


With the king gone, Carlyle asks Harkover Lee to lend him all the scrolls he might have left. We're especially interested in flight magic as we need to keep Borne's attention and Carlyle also might try to plant a bomb on the colossus. The Principal Minister wastes no time, opens his large briefcase and hands him a couple of scrolls. Carlyle thanks Lee for his support and then makes haste to reach Sechim's factories as quickly as possible.

To his surprise, Sechim is still working amidst all this chaos, even if he is a bit nervous about the whole colossus threat. He's surrounded by the hard core of his working force who try to keep up the morale and run the machines no matter what. Carlyle quickly explains his plan to him and mentions that he also suspects that whoever built this giant might have used some of Sechim's acids in the process. The chemist hurries and gets him some samples of his strongest products, but he also warns him that enchanted adamantine is one of the most robust materials he knows, so dissolving that might be difficult.

Carlyle wants to give it a try nonetheless, so he thanks Sechim for his help, takes the acids and heads to the RHC to rebuild the blockbuster. He leaves out the complicated timer however, as he'd need to detonate the thing immediately. He then asks the RHC staff to bring this thing to the Coaltongue (handle with care!) before returning to Auryn.
 
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