ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Explorer
Knights of Risur

As we now know that the ritual will be performed in the late afternoon, we try to save our strength as well as we can while still keeping Borne occupied. After some long, straining hours, we finally manage to lead Borne to the sea north of Cloudwood.

(Tiz told us that there are quite a few described paths Borne could have taken through the city and that some of them involve more or less casualties. We, on the other hand, thought that the whole idea of bringing Borne down to Flint central would be ludicrous, even if we managed to lead him through Stanfield canal. Getting him to the northern shore is much less risky, even if the colossus would take a longer path. But okay, not everyone can easily teleport to the King and back)

Thankfully, the whole fleet managed to arrive in time as well and it seems like one of the Danoran ships, the Freux Rouge, decided to help as well. Among the risuri ships are the Impossible, the Coaltongue, the Khalandurrin, the Roscommon and the Aurora, which is also the commanding vessel and manned by Dawkins and his crew.

We head to the Coaltongue to discuss the final plan: Carlyle will try to get close to Borne and use Sechim's acids to weaken the hull of the colossus. He'll then place the blockbuster bomb there and set it up, then teleport to safety. After the explosion, the Coaltongue will fire at any hole the bomb might have opened.

There is just one problem with this plan: It appears that the captain of the Coaltongue died to a heart-attack this morning and so the main ship in our plan is without a commander. Knowing the basics on how to command a ship from her time with Dawkins, Auryn volunteers to be interim captain despite her general exhaustion.

With everything else set up properly, Flying Spark, Auryn and Margit cast all their available protective magic on Carlyle and he proceeds to fly towards Borne with the blockbuster bomb. He then uses Sechim's acids and detonates the bomb at one weaker looking spot on Borne's back, teleporting underneath the ocean's surface in the very same moment.

(And thus the Carlyle-maneuver was born: Whenever there is an explosive object about to detonate, there will be some sort of deva-teleport involved.)


We quickly pick up a soaked and pretty shaken Carlyle and try to assess the damage the explosion has caused. Which is unfortunately much smaller than we had hoped. The Coaltongue then tries to fire at the very same spot, but Borne turns away the very last moment so we cannot shoot the magical laser cannon at him. Carlyle heads to the cannoneers who man the side cannons and helps them aim at the spot, but they do little harm. Meanwhile, King Aodhan starts his ritual on deck where he is protected by Harkover Lee, Margit and Flying Spark.

Borne realizes the sudden attack on him and tries to catch the Coaltongue in retaliation. The ship manages to escape last second, but the colossus damages one of the steam drives, limiting our maneuverability to a great degree. There's also witchoil dripping from his arm which lands on deck, and then manifests in form of slimes which threaten to attack the King. So Margit and Flying Spark pick up the fight with the witchoil blobs while we signal the impossible to lure Borne away to give us some pause.

Carlyle runs to the engine room to help the mechanics repair the damaged drive while Captain Smith successfully uses the Impossible as bait for Borne. Thankfully, he also tries to get him into firing range of our main cannon, even if that means risking his own ship. Borne slaps the Impossible and the ship's wooden hull cracks, even if it retains its maneuverability. We use this chance to fire our main cannon at the weakened spot and this time we do get a reaction as Borne cries out in pain and witchoil starts dripping from his back.

We all cover our ears at first as Borne's cry is pretty terrifying, but then get back to action as soon as we realize that Borne is – understandable – angry. He also realizes that it is “ships” that caused his pain, so he tries to slam the Coaltongue. Fortunately, we get the engines to full functionality in time and drive past him before he can smash the ship to pieces.

(I imagined Borne could easily do some Pacific Rim-like “shipping” with the Coaltongue, so... better get away before he uses our ship as a club against the other ships)

Auryn seems to get accustomed to the ship's command and directs a full turn followed by another shot of the cannon. This one hits the mark again and Borne again utters an agonized cry. Seeing Borne in pain almost tears her apart, but we also realize that shooting him is the best option if we want the ritual to succeed. So we perform our hit and run maneuvers again and again, even if we know that all we can do is causing pain and slowing Borne for the moment.

Then, the deck of the Coaltongue flashes in a vibrant green as King Aodhan completes his ritual. Waves of dreaming energy emerge from the Coaltongue. They seem to wrap around Borne and then the colossus vanishes. The ships have to fight a sudden current as the ocean reclaims the space that has been previously inhabited by Borne. There is a moment of silence and then – cheers from all around us.

We all meet again on deck where King Aodhan stands groggy but triumphant next to his Principal Minister. We almost have to drag ourselves towards the King to congratulate him on the ritual's success. Especially Auryn is beyond drained and so she excuses herself in advance as she cannot possibly stand up straight any longer. Aodhan looks at us for a moment, seeming completely satisfied.

“Then kneel down, both of you.”

We do as we're told and almost fall to our knees. To our surprise, Aodhan then draws his sword and touches our shoulders with the tip of his sword.

“For your bravery, your courage, your exceptional sense of duty and your unending loyalty to the crown and all of Risur, you shall henceforth be knights of Risur.”

He then asks the newly knighted Dame Auryn and Sir Gabriel Carlyle to rise again and the marine soldiers surrounding us go wild with their cheers of applause. Auryn is taken by surprise and while she is deeply honored, she also insists that they were just doing their duty. Carlyle on the other hand is totally awestruck and so deeply moved that small tears form in his eyes. He needs quite the moment to realize what just happened before he can also thank his King for this great honor.

(Yeah, this was basically one of Carlyle's dreams that just came true. Being elevated to the higher society and receiving a small title. Not that he'd ever tried to work towards it. That would be too daring for him)


We then reorganize the fleet and sail back to Flint harbor. It appears that the ship blockade has been dissolved and the people of Flint gathered at the docks to celebrate the banishment of the colossus that threatened them all. However, we can see smoke rising up from what appears to be Bosun Strand, so we guess that there has been panic, turmoil and plundering. Once we are back on solid ground, our groups split up for the moment as we head back to the RHC to report to Delft while the King plus Harkover Lee return to the Aurum.

We take the talks as an opportunity to rest for a while and get our thoughts sorted. Delft congratulates us on our new title, but it appears that Carlyle is a bit uncomfortable once Delft brings up the subject. We also tell Delft about Col. Harlock and that our initial suspect was quite correct. Delft wants to make sure that the guy is put under arrest as soon as possible and we call for Team B to help us gather evidence in the ruins of the Bleak Gate complex. This needs to be done as soon as possible as we know that Nicodemus is quick to act as well.

In the complex we manage to rescue and arrest Augst, but do not find any trace of Kell. We do hope that he's been crushed and buried underneath tons of debris though. We also arrest the surviving mercenaries and engineers and bring them all to the RHC. We also collect all research notes, designs and blueprints.

(yeah, our cells must have been quite crowded these days. We tend to arrest in a Monty Haull style. You never know who might have some crucial information)

As we also didn't find the corpse of Leone Quintal, Carlyle heads to the pool of witchoil and tries to make contact with his spirit. There are a lot of interferences due to the sheer mass of souls that were involved in fueling the witchoil, but he manages to get Leone after a while. To Carlyle's surprise, the metal mage isn't really antagonistic or vengeful, even if he regrets that the end came too soon for him. He also enjoyed playing cat and mouse with the RHC and is sorry for himself that it had to end that way. Despite this, Leone is quite satisfied that he had the honor to work on something truly magnificent and that his name and work will live on for all eternity. He also truly believes that his work will lead to good deeds and a brighter future in the end, so no need for bad feelings.

Carlyle tries to goad Leone as he tells him that while the Colossus is free, he has been banished and therefore no one will know about his magnificent work at all. But he might still regain immortality of some sort as he himself is immortal and could remember Leone and his work for all eternity. Leone lauds him for this clever trap, but he doesn't fall for it. But he does tell him about his reverence for Kasvarina and his hatred for Grappa who threatened to destroy that burning will and brilliant mind. Carlyle tries to comfort the spirit as he tells Leone that he's sure Kasvarina's memories will return in time. He also offers him to bring the Matriarch a last message from her most faithful disciple. Leone laughs again and asks him to tell her that he kept his secrets and took them to his grave.

Last but not least, Carlyle promises Leone that his wine and cheese won't collect dust in the forsaken complex as he knows “somebody” who knows how to appreciate high quality goods. Leone's spirit sighs for a moment and returns that he'd have loved to share a glass with such a worthy adversary.

(Hah, now he's acting all civilized and noble. He didn't show much civility when he tried to blow us, Recklinghausen and Lynn up. But maybe he's a tiny bit grateful that Carlyle dragged him out of this witchoil sea where he'd have spent his eternity next to people whose souls he tortured.

Also kudos to Carlyle that he was able to stay this calm and even friendly when facing one of our worst enemies. Guess things change once he ceases to pose a threat.)


After letting Leone slip to the afterlife, Carlyle realizes that there are still countless souls trapped within the remaining witchoil who are unable to move on due to the witches' (and the Obscurati's?) foul rituals. As he cannot really let them stay trapped there – he respects the dead as much as the living – he sits down next to the pool and opens up his self. This way he acts as a conduit for the lost spirits to guide them to their afterlife.

He keeps up this state for quite a while, but it utterly drains him until he's about to lose himself in the process. Auryn realizes that something isn't right with her partner, so she takes him by his shoulders, calls his name and shakes him softly. Fortunately, Carlyle opens his eyes again after her intervention although he's quite absent-minded for the moment. When he comes back to his senses, he explains to her what he was trying to do.

“There are so many of them. Lost. Hopeless. Confused. And I know I can help them. I simply have to help them.”

“You cannot help them if you let yourself become trapped there, too. So please, Gabriel, get some rest before giving it another try, okay?”

Carlyle nods in agreement before stating that he'll definitely try to find a way to eventually free every single soul trapped in there. Auryn is a bit surprised about this development, but she's quite glad that he found a new project for the future. On our way back home, Carlyle reminisces a bit about the man who helped him understand his “gift” of connecting with the dead, a guy named Jasper Smith who's called Smithee by everyone who knows him better. He muses that maybe Smithee could support him on this mission, so he might just ask him the next day.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
hmm... I honestly don't know if Aodhan got something special for our flying friend. But maybe that'd made Harkover Lee even more jealous ;)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Saying goodbye to the King

After a long and restful night, we meet again at the RHC to discuss our findings. The raid on the military academy didn't bring any new information or suspects as Col. Harlock has gone missing. So the only evidence the teams could find is that Harlock hired personnel (Mercenaries and engineers) for a secret project of the government of Risur. A story that sounds all too familiar. We do not find any direct connection to the Obscurati, but there has been a transfer of money from the treasury and mayor Macbannin.

We ask the corresponding team to do some further research on other possible contacts of Harlock as there might be more connections besides Macbannin and Kell's offshore companies.

We also question the three sons of Grappa who had surrendered after Borne's awakening. They don't know much, but mention a certain Tinker Oddcog who also worked on the project. We get that this Tinker might be the man behind a strange voice we heard before all hell broke loose in the project room, but also guess that he might have gone into hiding. They didn't really see Kasvarina that much and can only tell that she is a clever and determined woman. They didn't see a chain smoking guy either, but that might be due to the fact that they were busy studying with “father”.

Regarding Grappa, they don't know how to fix him either, but they do hope that he'll get well eventually. So we ask Serena and Justin Rollins to repair the Grappa-golem all over again.

Augst is the next suspect on our list, but he doesn't wish to talk about anything. We remind him that, as it is now, he's the highest ranking member of the Kell guild in our custody. So he'll definitely be the one who's going to lose his head in the most spectacular and public way of them all.

(So yeah, we basically broke our promise to bring Kell to justice. He's most certainly dead, but being crushed by debris isn't really the same as being judged and punished in a proper legal process.

Once could almost feel sorry for Augst. But "get rich or die trying" might get you killed in the end...)


Next, we head to the Aurum to brief King Aodhan about all the information we could gather so far. We tell both King and Principal Minister that we suspect that Kell was crushed by falling debris in the Bleak Gate complex and that the Obs got him mechanized in some way. We also tell them that it were Grappa, Leone Quintal and most likely Kasvarina Varal who were the masterminds behind the construction of Borne, even if we don't know what part Kasvarina might have played as the Matriarch is suffering from severe amnesia. Auryn also discusses the possibility that her ancestor could have been possessed by the Nicodemus spirit as she's quite certain that no eladrin Matriarch would endanger thousands of innocents.

(And she also doesn't want to induce any thoughts that could lead to persecuting Kasvarina. First, she wants to sort out Kasvarina's story on her own as she's her family and second, she doesn't want to risk her diplomatic endeavours regarding Elfaivar and Risur. And having her ancestor be an Obscurati mastermind and therefore enemy of Risur wouldn't play in her favors)

These three must have somehow managed to convince Macbannin that they were working for a super secret government project for the King which is why the mayor found some creative ways of funding the project. To further stress out that Kasvarina is most certainly not an enemy of Flint or Risur, we explain that Borne might have been built here because Flint might have been the only place where the Bleak Gate is accessible and both magic and technology are abundant. Also, Borne's goal is most likely “elsewhere”, even if we don't know where that might be.

We also discuss our plan of cleaning up all that remains of the corruption and connection between the treasury and the Kell guild. Then we suggest founding an anti-corruption office which has the authority to check any suspicious-looking activities of the other offices in Flint so that a catastrophe like Borne and the Obs operations cannot be repeated.

Regarding the Danorans, King Aodhan explains that he's thankful for their help in the fight against Borne and we encourage him to show this gratitude publicly. He still cannot make any statements about future negotiations yet and also isn't really settled about his stance towards Lya and his engagement. All he knows is that Han and Lya Jierre left aboard the Lux Profectusque and safely escaped before the naval combat started. He hopes to find a new date to continue the peace talks and we also don't see any reason why the diplomatic endeavors should end prematurely. Carlyle stresses out that he had the opportunity to talk to Lya before she left and he told her about the colossus being an Obscurati project. This way he hopes to make her rethink her stance towards the “oh so benevolent” organization.

He then switches subjects to the situation on Cauldron Hill and discusses the restless spirits, the souls who are still trapped in witchoil and the still vacant mayor's office. Carlyle explains that the evil of the hill will never be truly gone and Flint will never be safe as long as there are restless souls haunting the area. Souls that mostly stem from the era of the witches' coven, but also additional souls that were used in the Obscurati's witchoil experiments. He offers himself to act as a conduit for these souls, to frequently spend time on Cauldron Hill to seek and release the trapped souls.

King Aodhan thinks that this is a noble goal, but he's pretty sure that this is work for more than a single human's lifetime. Carlyle agrees and adds that while he does have lots of time to share on freeing the spirits, he'd like to found a society of spiritually sensitive people who are willing to help, too. He then suggests to appoint his mentor, Jasper Smith, as leader of this society. A wise man who'd also be a perfect candidate for mayor of the nettles, he adds. He hasn't asked Smithee yet though. The King agrees to this plan and asks Carlyle to recruit this mysterious Smith so that he can eventually interview him personally.

Aodhan would then like to thank us for all we've done for him in these last weeks. He also hopes that we'll continue our good work as we turned out to be invaluable for the RHC, Flint and all of Risur. We promise to always support our King, even if Auryn hints that she'd prefer to be assigned to operations abroad. She explains that Flint has lots of capable agents, like Sir Gabriel Carlyle, so she could use her talent elsewhere. Carlyle is pretty much thrown into cold water by this revelation as he fears that this means they'd have to part ways.

King Aodhan realizes that the two constables aren't really d'accord this time, so he tries to console Carlyle by saying that he'd probably need them both on his future peace talks with the Danorans. He explains that we're pretty much the most diplomatic agents he's ever heard of, so even administrative desk jobs may be below our capabilities. He then basically orders us to take some time to relax and refresh our energy as we most certainly didn't have any true vacation for years.

We agree that this might be quite the plan as we both wanted to visit Elfaivar and Auryn's family for quite a while. This way we could maybe gather more information about Kasvarina and her past as the Matriarch could be the key to all our Obscurati questions. Even if we hope that Asrabey and the Unseen might find a cure for her amnesia in time.

Aodhan sighs quietly and then says that this isn't exactly what he meant when he was talking about “vacations”, but who's he to make us stop doing research anyway. He then says goodbye to both of us with a firm handshake and a gallant kiss on Auryn's hand.

(Aodhan can be so sweet and down to earth. He's also much more empathetic to both constable's personalities than most other NPC. This might be one of the reasons why Auryn started preferring to directly speak with Aodhan instead of using the proper chain of command via Delft. Seriously, our boss is so oblivious from time to time.)

Carlyle then travels to Smithee's “office” to talk about Cauldron Hill. He explains that he could barely stand being close to these tortured souls and that something has to be done to help them. He also mentions the large pool of witchoild and its soul-consuming capacities. Smith can totally understand Carlyle's need to help those people, but he's a bit reluctant as his “gift” is a heavy burden and he had to flee more than once because people couldn't understand it. He's also afraid of being in the spotlight and totally hates doing paperwork. And being a mayor would mean lots and lots of paperwork.

Carlyle tries to encourage Smithee by telling him that he's the best mentor he could imagine when it comes to spirits and the supernatural. Regarding his fear of paperwork, he explains that a mayor would have underlings and clerks who could manage all the administrative tasks for him so that his main focus would be the living and dead people in the Nettles and on Cauldron Hill. Carlyle stresses out that the final say in this matter would be his own, so he simply asks him to think about the proposal and make a call once he's decided.

Auryn takes the time to visit the Dawkins again. She tells Morris and Milena that she'll most certainly be gone for a while as she'd like to visit her family. She also leaves one message for Milena, an essay about a new form of government for the Cloudwood as they'll surely need a replacement for the deceased Mayor Idylls.

(Auryn thought Idylls was pretty incompetent, but she also realized that the traditional mayor system wouldn't really work in a “district” like Cloudwood. She also read the many proposals of Miller's scrolls they'd found in the Crypta, so she had lots of ideas to choose from. So here's what she wrote:

“My dearest friend Milena,

I write these letters to you because I'm getting more and more concerned about the situation in our city. For many years, the governor and the mayors have been working hand in hand and their government has been pretty communal and focused on the needs of their citizens. But times change and I fear that Flint might break apart in the near future unless things change for the better. Industrialization changed much for Flint and put an end to conventions that were natural in the past. Simple men are lured by easy gold. And the city grows, almost without any control, leading to lots and lots of problems.

I didn't have the chance to meet many mayors personally, but all those I met were terribly short-sighted. Macbannin, Mayor of the Nettles, had a good heart, but he was easy to manipulate and he ultimately died during the great quake. Until this day, the people of the Nettles, simple men and women, workers, left to fend for themselves. They lack a counselor to listen to their sorrows. The mayor of North Shore, Aaron Choir, only cares for his own prestige and looks down upon the “simple people”, even upon the RHC. The Mayor of Cloudwood, Doyle Idylls, didn’t even know what was happening in his own district and he tried to separate himself from the brigand problem and the fey by hiding in his estate. The mayor of Parity Lake, Rosa Gohins, didn't really care about the massive reports of broken worker's rights in her own district and the fact that many of the workers were brutalized by the very police force that should protect them from abuse. She also couldn't bring herself to talk or listen to the families of the protesting workers.

You see, this city is in a pretty dire state. And I know that these circumstances cannot simply be changed overnight. Still, I recently stumbled across a very interesting albeit older text which gave me an idea. Who doesn't know the saying that Cloudwood is ungovernable? I propose the opposite. Cloudwood is governable indeed, even if not in the traditional form of flinter district government. As we both know, Cloudwood is composed of separate communities, farms and villages. Which is why a centralized form of government is set up to fail from the start. Still, the people of Cloudwood need a say in all of Flint and the district cannot be uncoupled from the rest of the city and left on its own. So what I propose is a council for the district of Cloudwood where all various groups of Cloudwood can participate and everyone can feel represented:

(she inserts an elaborate organigram consisting of all known communities and societies of Cloudwood which is inspired by one of Miller's proposals)

As you see, this proposal is highly unconventional as it includes Woodman's brigands and the druid circle. Still both groups play a central role in defending Cloudwood's citizens from rivaling elements of crime and also in communication with the local Fey. But of course, this council will need a speaker who collects all of the citizen's issues and who communicates with the governor. Only this it can be ensured that communication between the very top and the simple folk can be guaranteed. Maybe this experiment could be a model for other districts, a nod to the fact that every district has its own problems and its own social structure. Maybe it is time that the means of organization and government should be adapted to the needs of the citizens and not the other way round? Because if there was a thing like the “perfect government”, then Miller most certainly wouldn't have developed so many different models of an “ideal society”.

Maybe the governor could warm up to conduct such an experiment. He doesn't have much to lose after all besides the next incompetent mayor.

Your loving friend

Auryn

---

And yeah, the overall situation in Flint was also part of Auryn's frustration. She and Carlyle have worked time and again to improve matters for the workers and had to struggle with so many incompetent or disinterested people who cared for little more than themselves. This was basically her last try to reallystructurally change something for the better. )
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Pontifex

Simply winning the adventure is seldom our goal (okay, it kind of was in Rappan Athuk...).

But these societal efforts came quite naturally after Thames Grimsley and adventure 2. Auryn was raised to be a responsible leader and bit by bit adopted the populace of Flint to be something she cared for.

Carlyle on the other hand was one who helped to raise responsible "leaders" via the Vantrys children and I guess he got infected by Auryn's activism (and maybe his disgust for incompetent people in positions of power) as well.

The two projects they are starting at the end of adventure 5 are actually quite large-scale in terms of the amount of time needed to bring them to fruition and I don't know if the world as we know it will end before they can come to life. (Damn you, Ashima-Shimtu!)

---

After leaving her friends, Auryn meets with Carlyle in his home to share a cup of tea. As she expected from his reaction before, he sounds a bit let down when he asks her if she really wishes to leave Flint behind (and, in consequence, him as well).

Auryn explains that she doesn’t really wish to leave, but she starts feeling the very same constrictions that stopped her from growing when she was still in Pallita, the enclave of her mother. She feels as if she's struggling in vain to change things for the better and failing to achieve anything. In contrast, she didn't have this feeling at all when she was on her mission on the Avery Coast railway. There, she could help people like Damata Griento or Isobel and even convince Obscurati agents to reconsider their allegations. And this is the sole reason why she'd like to continue working abroad – still being an RHC agent, but not assigned to Flint.

Carlyle then asks her why she feels this desperate need for “growth” and Auryn takes a deep breath in response.

“You once told me that you believe in fate. And it turns out I do, too. Especially after all that happened over the course of the last weeks. We knew the prophecies of Nevard and still couldn't stop Borne from erupting from the Bleak Gate. Ekossigan, a Fey Lord, knew about the dangers, but he was doomed to fail as he already foresaw the future. You see, fate is inevitable for us regular people. Even for mighty Fey. But I cannot, I must not accept that. Which is why I have to grow stronger, much stronger, until I'm strong enough to defeat fate. Because I cannot stand the thought that you and I might bring doom to this world.”

Carlyle nods slowly and thinks about her words for quite a while. He then asks her to not judge herself too harshly. Because she did improve the situation for the workers of Parity Lake and managed to avert what could have been a total catastrophe on Cauldron Hill twice, even if Nevard's visions came true after all. Borne was so close to completion that Grappa's presence wasn't really the catalyst to his awakening and the colossus showing emotion and a sense of family could be something positive, something to build upon in the future. And regarding Ashima-Shimtu, he insists that she is an ancient demoness and will most likely have her own reasons for telling us her vague prophecies. So it may very well be that her prophecy was meant to convince Auryn to stop pursuing her goals.

Auryn thanks Carlyle for his encouragement, but insists that most of their accomplishments have been his doing, not hers. She's but one of many agents and one of many possible partners of him while Carlyle is someone who has been part of Flint for five centuries. She adds that he's incredibly competent and confident which is why he's able to master every task with ease while she fears she won't be able to keep pace with him.

Carlyle is a bit amused by her statement as he tells Auryn that his life had been pretty static for hundreds of years. Yes, he was able to protect the Vantrys family from the shadows, but he'd never used magic before or even remotely understood that divine spark inside him. He then adds that it was only because of her and her help that he was able to learn these things, to embrace what he tried to shut off because he feared losing control.

“You know, if there is something I'd call my 'true potential',then I'm pretty sure I can only unlock it with you by my side. Without you, I'm static and limited. And yes, you're right that I learned and mastered many arts over the course of the last year, but there is so much I can not do. First, you're really clever and think outside the box. And not only do you make people talk, you also somehow reach their hearts and make them think. Make the reconsider. As for me, I can only say that the last year has been the best of my life and I'd be glad if we could continue this journey together.”

Auryn is pretty much surprised by this confession as she'd regularly thought to have pushed Carlyle too far into a direction he wasn't comfortable with. She agrees that their teamwork is exceptional and also that their relationship is very important to her. She also cares so deeply for him that she also confesses that she's observed him over the course of the last month. This way she realized that Flint and especially the society of Flint mean very much to him. So much that it might be one of his biggest wishes to become part of the high society as a true nobleman. A wish that cannot come true in Elfaivar.

She then adds that she's never seen Carlyle as happy as he was when he attended the peace conference as an invited guest and even moreso when he was knighted by King Aodhan. Both are honors he truly earned and that he should be proud of. Auryn then says that seeing him truly happy touched herself as well and she came to the conclusion that dragging Carlyle away from Flint would be egotistical and cruel.

“I know that you feel a sense of duty when it comes to me and my people. But you know, you've earned the right to be happy and lead the life you dream of. And I fear I cannot offer you these dreams. I am no proper risuri lady. I am an eladrin hitiko. And you've earned to find happiness with a lady of your society someday.”

Carlyle utters a soft and strangely melancholic laugh and then shakes his head.

“But I don't seek the company of a risuri lady. The time we'd have together would be so short and I'd only see her grow old and die while I stay the same. And you are more than just a proper lady. You embody nobility, strength, elegance, compassion and wit. You are also a link between Elfaivar and Risur, at home in both societies. And this should be an asset, not a handicap. So I asked myself: Why should an enclave be limited to the Elfaivaran territory? Why should it not be possible to found one on risuri soil? Be the bridge you wish to be and connect Risur and Elfaivar.”

Now it is Auryn who laughs at Carlyle's proposal. She congratulates him on finally beginning to warm up to that “unconventional way of thinking” and agrees that his idea is quite genius. Both discuss the plan for a while and find little flaw in it: Risur's closeness to the dreaming and its ties to the Unseen are an ideal basis for an eladrin community. The enclave could be a home away from home for those eladrin who live in the diaspora, be that refugees like Gale and Isobel, ancient veterans like the mercenary company or established families of Flint. It could also help to get other risuri interested in elfaivaran culture and traditions, therefore strengthening the position of her people in risuri politics. And it would be open to all who'd like to live there and accept her rules.

Regarding Auryn's other worries about a future family, he states that he still believes that them meeting was always meant to be and he adds that he found another piece to that puzzle. For he has reason to believe that should they decide to eventually marry, they'd have at least three children. Auryn is a bit surprised by Carlyle's confidence as there is really no precedence that could support his hypothesis. He grins knowingly in return and then presents a mummified monkey paw.

“You know what this is?”

Auryn's eyes go wide as she takes a closer – magical – look at the trinket.

“This is a monkey paw. A relic of the old times. I've heard legends where people found it and had the strangest adventures. According to legend it grants its owner three wishes. Something that's seemingly impossible.”

“Exactly. I saw it among the vaults, picked it up and found myself unable to get rid of it. So I examined it and came to the conclusion that this has to be the very same artifact.”

“And you'd use your wishes for... us? You know that, according to legend, each wish comes with a terrible curse?”

“I don't care about the curses. Curses can be broken. I'm sure I can handle that after what happened with Borne.”

Auryn thanks him with a trusting smile. She then says she's very thankful for Carlyle's counsel and encouragement and adds that, considering all of what he said, she will try to give the enclave of Flint a chance. Still the King and governor will have the final say in this matter as she cannot simply annex risuri soil as her own. Also, her family needs to know about the plan and approve or at least tolerate it. Which is why they'd really need to go to Elfaivar next.

(I had completely forgotten about the monkey paw. Tiz sometimes uses randomly generated treasure for whole vaults and he didn't realize that this artifact actually granted wishes. Carlyle's player asked me if he could have it and as I'm usually bad at deciding when to use such big guns as wishes, I didn't object.

Now he immediately knew a way to use the wishes without breaking the game, but Carlyle himself didn't want to put any pressure on Auryn before she could get herself sorted a bit more ("Hey, let's have three kids" after their exciting but ultimately strange night in Nalaam and Auryn's confession to Ashima-Shimtu would have been really weird).

He admitted that he was tempted to use a wish on Borne, but we were both pretty sure that the colossus' magic immunity would extend to “impossible magic” as well. So far, he's totally committed to use them solely for the purpose of eventually founding a family. Which is totally adorable, especially in the context of trying to support Auryn through her struggles and also shows that he doesn't wish to be left alone again. But on the other hand he's also pretty bad at showing his feelings to the point where Auryn still isn't sure whether he's just trying to do her a favor again and again.

Regarding her own situation, she was totally sold on the idea of being unable to advance in Flint and she had planned to use the foreign ops to find other means of gaining power. She was basically on the brink of losing her hope for Elfaivar after what she had learned from both Gale and Asrabey, and Elfaivar was basically all that she'd been living for for most of her life. She stubbornly refused to give up – she *is* Kasvarina's descendant after all – and decided to find salvation in the pursuit of more personal power. Especially once she got the impression that Carlyle started to become larger than life. But he had the advantage of inheriting a part of Srasama's divinity, so how could she possibly be able to keep up with that?

All while these mysterious prophecy of “doom” that she and Carlyle would bring still hung around somewhere like a silent threat. Well... he managed to talk her out of going separate ways and take a look at the situation in Elfaivar before completely abandoning her course. And we'll see how that went pretty soon :)

Shortly after this episode I found one piece of music that kind of described her journey through these days quite well. Even if it is a pretty liberal translation from the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9055dqYAU0
(seriously, her channel is damn good if you are a fan of anime openings/endings)

As for a short review on adventure 5: Total chaos! In a positive way. There was so much stuff going on which isn't all connected to the Obs and the stakes were raised again and again.

We pretty obviously didn't use the anti-Kell-Minigame as we started our actions against them pretty prematurely and realized that we were far more effective and protective if we just used clever stealth and hit&run tactics instead of relying on our police force. Blame it on pathfinder and the open ended power scale in combination with our efforts to keep the common troops safe.

We did use team B a bit as we couldn't really be everywhere and they were quite fun to play. Bringing them down took us some time and we were a bit disappointed in the end that we couldn't drag Kell to Starke. He lost his wife to Kell's thugs after all.

I also really love the use of recurring characters like Asrabey, Lya, Fordren or the more obvious Morgan Cippiano, Dawkins, King Aodhan and Harkover Lee. Especially as we're able to let these relationships grow organically. Aodhan is maybe our overall favorite while Cippiano still has his plusses on Caryle's side while Auryn is totally intrigued by Lee and has a sweet spot for the hot-blooded dreadnaught.

Kasvarina remains a big mystery though and I'm really looking forward to seeing her full story once we'll get there. I got the feeling that she'd be totally OP had she full knowledge of her abilities. Which is why she's forcefully benched for now.

Oh and I really loved the dinner party and diplomacy sections. I hope that we were at least a bit able to make an impression on Lya over this adventure and the next one. We also didn't expect Borne as the colossus that he was – my previous “giant mech with a laser gun” was more or less a joke – because I honestly couldn't think that we'd see something like the Coaltongue colossus too soon.)
 
I always enjoy these heartfelt conversations between you two. Thanks for the commentary on the adventure overall. And my commendations to your GM for making the NPCs appropriately engaging.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
The ghoul nation of Ashanti

Before we travel to Elfaivar, Auryn needs to know about Carlyle's role in the Second war as she doesn't wish to be surprised by any accusation. So she asks him about the worst deeds the eladrin could rightfully accuse him of. Carlyle explains that he was more or less simply a combatant in the recon squad and got chosen to serve there due to his abilities to move quietly and unseen. He was also found to be a good judge of truths and falsehoods, so he participated in questioning prisoners, trying to use his skills to keep the level of physical force as low as possible. He also mentions that there were others who enjoyed torturing their prisoners, but he always found this abhorrent. All in all he was drafted to fight in a war that he then deemed necessary to defend his homeland.

Auryn replies that being a soldier in a war isn't really a crime by itself, so she guesses he will be fine. She then transfers her memory of a unique landmark near Pallita to Carlyle so he may teleport the two of them there.

(He always gets lucky with his teleport rolls. If I remember correctly, we never had a single mis-port so far.)

We land in the middle of the jungle near an old elfaivaran statue that's overgrown with vines. Knowing her homeland quite well, Auryn then leads Carlyle straight towards a place where the borders between Dreaming and the material world grow thin, then follows a narrow path until the air seems to blur and the reality shifts a bit. After a few more steps, Auryn's mood brightens as two familiar looking figures appear in front of us.

One of them is a man who's quite muscular for an eladrin. He's wearing leather armor, seems to be armed to the teeth and his head is crowned by lots of thick, ashen-blond braids. The other is far leaner built and more modestly armed. He has striking, emerald eyes and silken black hair that's already turning to a silvery hue at some spots.

“Kalaren! It is so good to see you again. And Meloreen, what a pleasant surprise!”

The two men seem pleasantly surprised as well to see Auryn return to Pallita after eight long years. Before they introduce themselves properly, Kalaren hugs Auryn tightly. Auryn then embraces Meloreen who she hasn't seen for almost three decades and the eladrin seems very relieved to see her in such a good state. She then introduces Gabriel Carlyle, her Sahomi, to the two. They react a bit surprised but are pretty sure that there is a tale behind that as well. Auryn then turns to Carlyle.

“Gabriel, may I introduce you to Kalaren, third husband of Matriarch Galadin, and Meloreen, veteran of the second war. He's the one I told you about.”

(Yep, he's Auryn's ex. They mutually went separate ways ~30 years ago, so no bad feelings between these two. I was still intrigued about why Meloreen was in Pallita and thought someone would suggest taking him as husband to Auryn, something she clearly wouldn't have objected to before. But he was just... there I guess. Still a sweet opportunity for a reunion.)

Carlyle greets the two men respectfully, but also makes it clear that he's not there for the hugging. Kalaran laughs a bit.

“Well then, Gabriel Carlyle, I wouldn't dare deny a Sahomi of my dear Auryn to enter our enclave. Welcome to Pallita!”

Kalaren then adds that he's also seneschal of Pallita right now as the Matriarch and her other two husbands are currently absent. He explains that they are investigating an unnatural darkness that has manifested nearby Pallita, but they should be back soon. Auryn is intrigued by the fact that this darkness seems troubling enough to warrant her mother and two of her husbands to leave the enclave, so she asks for more information.

“Actually, it isn't only the Matriarch and her two esteemed husbands, but also a small band of warriors in their company. They left immediately after I told them what I found on my way to Pallita. Necromany of the worst kind, I fear. Severed eladrin heads placed on spikes near the ancient temple city. I didn't dare to exame the place on my own.”

Meloreen sighs heavily after his revelation as he seems embarrassed by the fact that he's now a guest of Pallita while the others, including his old comrade Thorandil, are going after this darkness. Now this sounds troubling indeed, especially because Meloreen is a veteran and quite the capable warrior. So we decide to go after the small group in case they need help.

On our way through the jungle we find cadavers of half-eaten animals. A closer look reveals that they weren't eaten by other predators, but by something humanoid. Carlyle's fine nose smells something rotten and this way we're able to follow the culprit's trail to a high tree. To our surprise, a small group of what appears to be undead eladrin seems to be resting on the branches of said tree.

While we're no experts on undead behavior, we do find “resting” to be an odd activity for them, so we try to greet them in our usual fashion to examine their reaction. One of the ghouls, a guy who calls himself Alarak, returns the greeting. We ask him about his personal state and he explains that he feels an unnatural, insatiable hunger. He also feels drawn towards a place he calls Ashanti, a sanctuary for his kind. We explain that we're from the nearby enclave of Pallita, so we cannot let him or his brethren endanger our citizens. Alarak returns that “our kind” doesn't know about living in the wilderness of the jungle as the enclave citizens are sheltered and weak. He and the other ghouls simply wish to survive and to do so they need food.

Unfortunately, Alarak's hunger grows too strong after a while and he and the others attack us as they believe we're easy prey. But they're quite wrong and we cannot do anything else but slay them. We then perform a short funeral rite where we deliver their bodies to Srasama's purifying fire.

With the ghouls' possessions we find a crude map that leads to the ancient temple city, so we assume that the darkness might be the reason behind these ghouls' hunger. We continue our journey towards the city and come across a small farm after a day's travel. There we find signs that someone performed another funeral and more signs that a small group has rested here not too long ago. As these people might be Galadin's company, we follow their trails until we reach the outskirts of the temple city.

At first glance, the city seems to be as abandoned as it was when Auryn visited it the last time. Once we take a closer look however, we see erect spears that have been placed in the ground. We also see footsteps and smell the rotten smell of the undead. And last but not least there are occasional signs where the name “ghoul nation of Ahsanti” is written all over them. As we assume that this city might very well be filled with undead, we decide to continue our search for the Matriarch under the veil of an invisibility spell.

After a few minutes of searching, Auryn is suddenly attacked out of nowhere. Struck by an arrow, she turns around and sees a gruesome sight: Her mother, as well as her husbands Thorandil and Estelar stand in front of her, and they are all ghasts. They call her a traitor who deserves to die and continue to strike her with their weapons and magic.

Auryn is horrified by this development and tries to call out to the three. She draws her own weapon, ready to defend herself.

“Stop, please! Return to your senses! I'm not your enemy!”

Meanwhile, Carlyle is utterly confused by the situation. He tries to make sense of the scene he's witnessing and then hears a quiet, calm voice inside his head:

“This is not what it seems. Please help my child so she doesn't make a terrible mistake”

He then calls upon his inner magic to protect himself from evil influences. Now the situation shifts a bit. The ghasts are still there, but they don't spit any more curses at Auryn. Instead, the female ghast speaks words of remorse and grief as she has to put her “cursed undead child” to rest. Now this doesn't make much more sense, but he does believe that someone or something is trying to make Auryn and her family kill each other. So he reveals himself and uses another, more powerful protection spell to shield them all from evil influences.

He then asks them all to stop fighting as they've all fallen victim to foul magic. As Auryn lowers her weapon, the other three follow as well. And it turns out that both parties perceive the others to be ghasts instead of living people. We assume that this might be a strong curse that effects everyone who enters Ashanti, so we retreat for the moment to dispel the curse and discuss how to proceed further.

(Tiz almost got me with this one. While I had hoped that Galadin, Thorandil and Estelar were still alive, killing them off would be in his repertoire as DM. So yeah, of course Auryn would be wary and not strike first, but if they'd truly been undead, then she'd had no other choice but release them from their cursed state and become Pallita's next Matriarch. Which... would have put the two PCs in a rather complicated situation.)

Once the curse is lifted, the three eladrin are quite surprised to see Carlyle as the deva he is. They are even more surprised when Auryn introduces him as her Sahomi and partner. Carlyle courteously calls it an honor to be finally able to meet the Matriarch and her husbands before quickly trying to explain how he, a Risuri, ended up with Auryn. He adds that the divine spark of Srasama is quite influential, so he also feels responsible for both Auryn and the remaining eladrin. Last but not least, it was the voice of Srasama that warned him about the curse of Ashanti, so he thinks this is exactly where she wanted him to be.

The three eladrin seem satisfied for now and they agree to team up with us to find the source of the curse. We find out that the spears might be responsible for our shifted perception, so we dispel their magic and see that we're able to proceed without being “turned to ghasts” again. We cautiously proceed to enter the city and spot small groups of ghouls every now and then.

On our way through the city, Carlyle wishes to find out what might have happened here, so he tries to sense the presence of nearby spirits. What he experiences then is quite overwhelming as he hears echoes of thousands of female voices, all crying out as one before falling eerily silent. He realizes that this must have been a vision from the Fall of Srasama when all of the city's women – mostly priestesses – died 500 years ago, but it still shakes him to the core.

Auryn senses Carlyle's distress, so she quietly takes his hand to comfort him and let him shake off the cruel past. Thorandil takes notice of her gesture and grins happily while whispering to Galadin that their daughter and her Sahomi are quite the pair.

While we march through the city, we have to slay a lot of ghouls who cannot control their hunger and try to feed on us. After what seems to be an eternity, we finally reach the main temple, a grand pyramid made of stone which is at least partially overgrown with plants. There, we are quite surprised that this temple's entrance is guarded by two ghouls that must have once been ogres. As we're pretty sure that these were no eladrin in life, we confront them and bring them down as well, even if they last much longer than the other ghouls in battle.

Then, an illusory image of an old eladrin appears in midair. He's surprised that the living managed to enter his city and asks us why we've come to slay his citizens. He explains that all he wanted was to create a sanctuary for his ghouls who are obviously not welcome in other eladrin communities. This way, he also does his part to ensure that their people can survive in the aftermath of the Malice.

Meanwhile, the ghoul citizens see the illusory man and all kneel down before him as if he was a semi-divine being. Matriarch Galadin explains that this city is very close to the enclave of Pallia, her enclave. This alone would mean too much danger for her people, as the ghouls feel an insatiable hunger for eladrin flesh, but she also cannot let him and his undead defile this holy site any further.

The man returns that the eladrin people are doomed to die in their current state anyway. Humans already begun to claim their lands, to settle down on eladrin territory and drive away her people. He's certain that his path is the only way for the eladrin to survive and eventually kill the human invaders. As we grow more and more suspicious of the eladrin man's ambitions, we assume that he didn't kindly take in every tragic ghoul but rather created them himself. We also get the feeling that he wishes to use the eladrin ghouls as weapons against the human conquerors and that the curse which afflicted us all could have turned us undead in time as well.

So Auryn intervenes and adds that there are far less fatal ways of dealing with humans. She calls Risur a positive example of a place where people of all kinds and races can live together while sharing the same rules and rights.

“Don't try to educate me on these bigoted risuri.” the illusion curses. “They establish their colonies like every other foreign nation, chipping away our ancient homeland. If we don't slay them all, there will be no Elfaivar left for us survivors to inhabit.”

Auryn is a bit surprised by the eladrin's revelation. She doesn't change her mind though and says that she has the ear of the king or Risur and so he will most likely listen to the troubles of his trusted knight. This visibly enrages the illusory man who calls her a traitor. He then vanishes and the ghouls start attacking us. Fortunately, while they are great in number, they are not really strong in terms of power. The fight ends in a big massacre with lots of ghouls dead on the floor of the temple entrance.

After combat, we proceed to enter the temple. Inside we find a ritual chamber that had been adorned by several murals depicting eladrin gods and goddesses. Now the murals are lying on the ground, carefully removed and placed on the ground. In the center of the room lies a glass sarcophagus which carries a seemingly sleeping eladrin, the same man we saw in the illusory image.

Carlyle gets quite nervous in these surroundings, so he decides to check up on suspicious magic inside this room just in case we're about to get surprised by a nasty trap. He doesn't find one though, but what he does find troubles him as much: It appears as if the whole sarcophagus is just another elaborate illusion spell. He also sees a grand source of ever increasing magic in one corner of the inner temple. From the shifting pattern he can deduce that this is the place where the real necromancer must be hiding, so he just tries to hit the right spot blindly in hope to stop the mage's incantation.

To his and our surprise, he does not only land his strikes but also drops the frail eladrin unconscious in a few seconds. A quick dispel reveals that this is actually the real one who had been hiding under an invisibility spell all the time. Exhaling audibly, he hands the man to the eladrin trio.

“He's your prisoner now, Matriarch. Do with him as you wish. It is not my place to make judgments here.”

“Very well, Gabriel Carlyle. And while it pains me to put an end to one of our kind, he leaves me with no other choice. He threatened my enclave. He's responsible for the death of so many of our people. The sentence for his crimes shall be death.”

She then nods to Thorandil, her first husband and closes her eyes. Thorandil's otherwise relaxed, open and friendly stance and expression seem to shift and change entirely as he lifts his massive curved blade over his head. With a stern, hard and almost bitter voice he exclaims that he's carrying out the sentence of Matriarch Galadin of Pallita before he brings down the blade and beheads the eladrin in one blow.

He then drags the body of the necromancer outside the temple and raises his voice so that all of Ashanti can hear it.

“Your leader is dead! This holy site will be defiled no longer! Matriarch Galadin of Pallita claims this land as part of her territory as it has always been. Leave now or suffer the consequences!”

(It was quite intriguing to see Galadin's reaction of the necromancer's execution put in so much contrast with Auryn's when Carlyle carried out the sentence of the Unseen against Ekossigan.

Also, ugh, one can feel sorry for Thorandil. He completely abandoned using deadly force after the war of the Malice and embraced his new life as a poet and artist who almost always smiled and spoke in a soft voice. He also wouldn't speak about the war to anyone, including Auryn, and he really really loathes violence. This gave us a glance at the warrior he must have been before the tragedy. But yeah, the threat of the undead was big enough to bring back this side he had shut off)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
One night in Pallita

The ghouls seem to understand that staying inside the city is both pointless and dangerous and so they scatter one by one. Meanwhile, we take some time to ritually cleanse the temple city and deliver the dead to the purifying flames of Srasama. Fortunately, the smoke alerts the rest of the eladrin squad that got lost when the curse affected them all. These guys can hardly remember what happened, but they are relieved to see that no harm befell their Matriarch and also quite happy to see Auryn return to them in their hour of need.

When we're about to finish our hallowing rituals, Carlyle gazes over the remains of what must have been a magnificent city in the past. He then sighs deeply and states that he maybe made a mistake when he didn't take all of the ghouls down when he had the chance. He explains that even if some of them are sentient, they and their hunger are still a threat to the eladrin people.

He then turns to Auryn and asks her to accompany her family on their way back to Pallita while he has some unfinished business he needs to take care of on his own. When she's surprised to hear that, he explains that something inside him is telling him to make sure the citizens of Pallita are safe and he also knows that she might need some time with her closest family to tell them about her new life. Auryn says that she understands, calls him a true guardian of her people and makes him promise he'll return to the enclave in two days.

On their way back to Pallita, Auryn tells her family all about her journey west and everything she's experienced during these last eight years. She doesn't go into much detail regarding Fordren though and explains that Zahir died a hero's death while trying to protect her from pirates. She adds that she owes Zahir's mother, Zafira, an explanation about what happened to her son. Auryn then goes on to talk about the magnificent and chaotic city of Flint and Galadin is thoroughly impressed when her daughter tells her about the number of people living in the metropolis. She also talks about Risur and the land's connection to the Fey and the Unseen Court which has made living in Risur much more familiar than she had originally thought.

She then turns the subject to Asrabey and Kasvarina and tells her family about their several meetings with the dreadnaught and also about the rescue of their ancestor who's suffering from amnesia.

“You actually got along with Asrabey? I always thought him to be too... impulsive for my taste.” Galadin notes while Estelar agrees with a heavy nod.

Auryn laughs at her mother's statement and agrees as well about Asrabey's impulsivity. She adds that the warrior has a good heart though and seems to like her. Regarding Kasvarina, Galadin doesn't know too much about her and she's also surprised that Auryn actually crossed paths with her. Auryn explains that knowing more about the Matriarch's past and motives might be of utmost importance to them as she might have a huge impact on the future of the world. She also realized that she doesn't know too much about her family's secrets (despite her name) which is why she might need to contact Kaealys, her grandmother.

Galadin explains that she cannot be of much help indeed as she never saw her in person. But her own mother told her about the ancient Matriarch who was gifted with a will as strong as steel and burning with fire. She managed to gather lots of disciples and followers because of her radiance, but she also had quite the reputation of being dangerous and fearsome. And Kasvarina somehow never found peace and wandered the world restlessly.

Two days later, the eladrin squad returns to Pallita where they are welcomed back with a big cheer from the other citizens. Carlyle arrives a bit later, seemingly unharmed and strained beyond his normal limits while still radiating with energy. When Auryn asks him about his strange state, he replies that he just feels completely happy and is filled with the thought that he finally did something right. Auryn smiles at him and thanks him for keeping his promise before sending him to the bathhouse as he's all covered in ghoul-gore.

After a long session in the steam bath, she makes sure that her Sahomi is given a proper room in her mother's house. We're then invited to a family dinner with Galadin and her three husbands. While feasting on eladrin delicacies, we discuss the current state of the outside world, especially as there is a giant colossus running free in the Dreaming. We talk about the possible threat Borne might pose on the enclaves that are so close to the Dreaming and also explain that Kasvarina was involved creating him.

Auryn then notes that no one ever told her about Launga's death and asks her mother why she kept this a secret from her. Galadin replies that she didn't wish to have secrets, Launga just never mattered in Auryn's education and her own mother never spoke much about her mother's death. Kaealys did tell her that Kasvarina grew dark and distant after the death of her daughter, turning her inner fire to a dark flame.

Returning to his role as constable, Carlyle mentions the thought that, putting all these pieces together, someone might just have blackmailed Kasvarina to abandon her cause (whatever that may be) and threatened to kill Launga. He explains that Kasvarina sounded like just the woman who would never leave her path even if that might endanger her child. He lays down Leone's description of the Matriarch, which seems to fit in nicely with all the attributes he just heard. Auryn on the other hand mumbles that this sounds all too familiar as she's also set on a course she plans to follow with all of her power and bearing an inner fire is nothing new to her.

We then ask the four about a person named Miller, but this name rings no bell to any of them. Last but not least, Auryn tells her family how she met Carlyle during her time as an RHC agent. She explains that they are both somehow connected to Srasama and that she's pretty sure the goddess wanted them to walk this road together. Carlyle agrees and tells them about the inner voice he mentioned two days before. This voice, he explains, calls to him occasionally to warn him from danger or to help him separate wrong from right. It also somehow made him care for Auryn and her people.

Auryn then adds a final, but crucial statement: “During all these times, Gabriel grew from mere colleague to trusted friend to someone I made my Sahomi. He stood by my side, he acted like an esteemed husband would do. So even if this might sound daring for a hitiko, I would eventually marry him.”

(and this, mom, is how I met my deva ;)

A more paranoid mother might have tried to lecture her obviously mad daughter about not trusting a man who claims to be destined to be her connection to her long-lost deity. Seriously, were it not for the really obvious signs that their story isn't some lunatic's fever dream and was it not for the fact that Carlyle is the most honest man imaginable towards the eladrin, this would have raised a lot of red flags.

But yeah, Galadin believes that Auryn usually makes the right decisions.)


This revelation strikes the four of them like lightning, even if they knew that there was something going on between their daughter and this deva. Galadin blinks heavily and replies that she understand her daughter's needs for companionship and that she's used to having her own mind. But the last thing she wishes for is to see Auryn unhappy. And she's pretty certain that Auryn wishes to become a matriarch someday and continue their bloodline. Something that's only possible with an eladrin by her side as their race can only procreate with their own.

Practical Kalaren adds that she might just stick to her plan, she'd need just to marry a few more husbands that can provide her with children, problem solved. Estelar doesn't seem too happy about the possibility of seeing his only daughter leave her intended path for glory while Thorandil doesn't mind at all. Auryn then says that she doesn't believe that Srasama let her become connected with Carlyle only to be left to despair in the aftermath.

“I believe this has been enough ruckus for one evening.” Galadin interjects, ending the discussion prematurely.

“Gabriel Carlyle, would you mind joining me in my gardens tomorrow morning? There are some plants that I need to tend to.”

After the feast has ended, Carlyle is led to his room in the Matriarch's house. However, Auryn decides to visit him before he can finally get some sleep. She asks him for a little time in private and offers him to care for his seriously over-strained muscles. Carlyle agrees, even if he's a bit caught off guard when Auryn asks him to remove his shirt.

She then treats his back with tiger balm (made from tiger lillies, not actual tigers!) and gives him a relaxing massage, she again thanks him for taking care of the ghoul threat. Thinking about it, she assumes that the necromancer might have threatened her whole people's existence in time had he been able to continue his plan. Auryn then tells some anecdotes about her youth and how she learned this massaging technique from Kalaren when she was little and overdid her training regularly.

Afterward, she leads Carlyle to her own room to show him a little secret of hers. She opens her window and directs him to small climbing steps on the wall someone must have placed there a long time ago. Carlyle is at first a bit worried that criminals might use these as an easy means to enter her room, but Auryn just laughs in response.

“What criminals? My branch-sisters who'd try to snatch my brooches or my bow?” she says while climbing the wall all the way up to the roof. Carlyle is very much surprised to hear that there is no such thing as true crime in Pallita, but Auryn explains that this enclave consists of family and friends, people who know each other for decades. Visitors are rare as well, and most of them are either distant relatives or acquaintances from times past, so there's little reason for distrust. And if something happened, her mother would enact a swift judgement on anyone who'd violate the laws of Pallita.

In response, Carlyle states that, in his opinion, it would be highly unusual for someone who came from such a sheltered environment to actually become a person who actively fights crime. Auryn says that the element of crime is indeed something she'd needed to get accustomed to and that the “human world” is so much more dangerous and complicated than her own. But maybe it was this contrast that motivated her to make Flint and Risur a safer place for everyone.

We then talk a bit about Borne and the dangers he may pose for the enclaves. We discuss the possibility of Borne trying to find back a way to the material plane via overlaps between the Dreaming and the Material which would mean trampling through a few enclaves. We agree that this is something we have to tell to Kaealys as well as the “wandering Matriarch” might be well connected in modern Elfaivar.

We also talk about the possibility of Nicodemus trying to possess Borne and assume this might have been his plan all along: That he's the one controlling the world by threatening everyone with an unstoppable magic-immune giant. Auryn reminds Carlyle that Borne has a mind of his own, a mind he'll hopefully foster and protect from Ob influences. But we both agree that Borne either has to learn how to control his strength and how to treat “little people” with respect or be brought down.

The subject then changes to the various colonies that are being established in the lands of Elfaivar. Auryn fears that national conflicts might be transferred to her homeland especially with colonies being close to each other. Also, if this sort of expansion continues, she fears that her people who are only trying to return back to their original strength and population may find themselves in a situation where they have no homeland to inhabit anymore. Especially as Crisillyir and Danor established fast-growing colonies and we all know that they're not really friendly towards the eladrin.

“With the situation being as it is, I don't know if we'll ever have peace in all of Elfaivar”, Auryn sighs.

She then points to the myriad of stars lighting up the sky over Pallita and asks herself what a skyseer might see in these constellations right now. Carlyle agrees that the night sky is so much more beautiful without all the smoke and smog. They then share quite some time together watching the stars while Auryn leans her head on Carlye's.

(That place on the rooftop was actually her secret training ground and the only other person to discover it had been Zahir.

Also so much for not being romantic at all. But she'd never call it that way. “It is just the way I like it, so stay by my side and enjoy my company” sounds much more like Auryn.)
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
Four Fiends and a Covenant

Session 32

The next morning, Carlyle is treated with a traditional cabbage-chili stew (which is maybe just a more moist variant of kimchi?) for breakfast. He then takes a stroll through the enclave to get a feeling for this place and its inhabitants. This way, he can witness the birth proclamation of a new son who had been born this night. There is a small celebration as the baby boy is presented to the public and given symbolic regalia of a warrior.

Carlyle then comes across a group of kids playing in one of the enclave's “parks” and is a bit astonished when he sees a big tiger guarding them as they play. He's even more surprised when the tiger seems to be eying him closely. After a while, he comes across the very same tiger as he passes by the nearby gardens. This time, the tiger approaches him, sniffs his hands and then carefully snatches his sleeves and drags him towards the garden.

He's not much surprised when he sees Matriarch Galadin there tending to a bunch of small sprouts. The tiger releases Carlyle's sleeve immediately and greets her eladrin companion by bumping her head softly into the Matriarch's upper leg.

“Thank you, Rajh. And good morning, Gabriel Carlyle. I hope you had a good night's rest and can assist me with my duties?”

(Yeah, Galadin is obviously part druid and has a tiger as animal companion)

She then hands him a rake and asks him to clear a part of the garden from fallen leaves and weeds. Meanwhile, Galadin asks Carlyle about his occupation and discusses some of her plants' characteristics. She's positively impressed once she realizes that Carlyle has quite the knowledge about alchemy and botany himself. When he goes a bit into more detail about the city of Flint and mentions the smog covering large parts of the industrial center in Parity Lake, Galadin leads him to an old bush, picks a fruit and passes it to Carlyle.

“Feanor bush. Eat it, remove the seeds and plant them in Flint. There's no better remedy against noxious fumes than its leaves”

Carlyle does as he is told and he's quite surprised to find that the fruit tastes much like a mixture of pineapple and banana. Galadin seems satisfied and then turns the subject towards her daughter. More specifically, she asks Carlyle how a deva who had once been a crisillyiri human would devote himself to living a life with an eladrin.

Carlyle stresses out again that he didn't fight in the war because he believed in some holy cause. He became a soldier because he had to, and he believed that he did his part to defend his country from the eladrin invaders. However, that war left its marks on him and when Srasama died and turned his body to ash, he felt as if something fused with him while a part of him died and left this world for the Bleak Gate. When he returned days later on the battlefield, he knew that someone had marked his soul, someone he now knows to be Srasama. He couldn't stand to stay in Crisillyir after the war and was lucky to find a new job in Flint, Risur.

He explains that he eventually ended up in the RHC where he met Auryn who, later on, became his partner. Carlyle then slowly but steadily grew closer to her while some uncanny feeling inside him made him care more and more for the fate of the Eladrin and, more specifically, Auryn. He talks about feeling the need to protect her and give her advice should she need it on her path. In addition, he can hear the voice of the goddess quite clearly when she calls to him and he has learned to trust in her. Regarding his wishes for the future, he'd follow a peaceful path of building a better future together with Auryn. He hints that the two of them might have more concrete plans, but he doesn't want to spoil their ideas without her being present.

Galadin seems satisfied with both their work and Carlyle's explanations.

“Very well then. You seem like a honorable man who has proven his worth to my daughter time and again. However, one obstacle remains: I cannot see my Auryn leading a fulfilled life without any children of her own. And as her mother, her happiness is pivotal to me. But I guess the two of you have already spoken about that topic?”

Carlyle nods slowly in response. He then replies that he knows about that problem quite well and he's also pretty sure that they'll find a way to solve it eventually. Galadin remains skeptical, but she releases Carlyle from his gardening duties.

After his return from the garden, Carlyle tells Auryn all about his talk with her mother. Auryn seems a bit surprised to see her mother be satisfied so easily, but she doesn't dig deeper into the subject. She quickly changes the subject to Matriarch Kaealys, who might have more information about Kasvarina and who might be able to give her advice as well. Which is why we head to Estelar to ask him to send Kaealys a magical message to call her for a meeting. Estelar agrees to send out a sending tomorrow as he's rarely contacting someone outside Pallita.

As we have another day to spare, Carlyle uses the rest of the day to get further acquainted with the enclave and its citizens. During the same time, Auryn reprises her training with Kalaren only to realize that the fiery warrior (and possibly Thorandil) is the only one who's on par with her. She explains that living in Flint and encountering diverse threats and opponents have greatly increased her combat skills, so the decision to stay in Risur for so long wasn't for the worse after all.

There is also a grand feast this evening to celebrate the return of both the Matriarch and her daughter with lots of traditional dances, food, music and beverages. As time grows late, we use this feast as an opportunity to show the other eladrin some cultural impressions from Risur.

(Turns out, eladrin don't know about ballroom dances. Or paired dances in general. Which is quite logical considering the fact that there are still more men than women in Pallita. They seemed to enjoy the “intimacy” though.)

The next morning, Estelar sends our message to Kaealys who replies that she's currently facing problems in a place called Sawyer. Which is why she cannot come visit Pallita anytime soon. Of course, this is less of a problem for us, as we decide to instead pay the small city a visit ourselves. So we ask wandering Meloreen whether he knows about Sawyer and it turns out that he visited the colonial city a few years ago, so he can share a vision of a suitable landmark where we can teleport to. So we say goodbye to Pallita for now and journey to the outskirts of the risuri colony called Kellandia.

On our way to the colony's only city, we come across a dead man, a carpenter, who had been living in a nearby wooden house. As he's covered in wounds that can only stem from an elven weapon, Auryn initially assumes that the local eladrin aren't too fond of colonialists, but the man's possessions inside the house indicate that he must have been a friend of her people. She remains suspicious about the man's identity, but Carlyle finds the token gifts of the eladrin to be convincing for an eladrin-friend. So we decide to give the man a proper burial and continue our journey to Sawyer.

We then find signs indicating that there might be an eladrin enclave nearby and decide that this might be just the right place to start looking for Kaealys, even if this means a small detour from our path to Sawyer. Thanks to her general knowledge about possible pathways to enclaves, Auryn leads the way to the enclave's true entrance, which is guarded by two veteran guards. Just as we're about to declare ourselves, arrows fall from the sky, wounding one of the guards.

We instantly search the sky for any signs of attackers and see semi-humanoid, winged creatures with bows that somehow resemble fiendish versions of eladrin. They call themselves servants and emissaries of King Kalenian Vardanis, the “Shining Light of Elfaivar”, who are here to carry out the order of their lord. Which means striking down all traitors who sinned against his empire. When one of them fires an arrow at Auryn, she turns visibly furious.

“You dare to lay a hand on the daughter of Galadin? I will show you no mercy for your crimes!”

She then throws a fireball at the four of them, only to see them looking down at her in surprise. Then, they burst into laughter as they are all immune to fire. Carlyle shares a flying spell with Auryn and then uses a warping strike to get close to two of the fiendish eladrin. This causes them to split their focus on both of us, which is quite fortunate as their aim is shockingly precise and their arrows are quite wicked. After a while, we manage to strike one of them out of the sky, but both of us get struck with arrows.

(“Do the Boromir” is quite the recurring phrase at our table. These four were actually quit the threat as they were based upon advanced erinyes devils. Who are immune to fire.)

Carlyle dives after the falling fiend, manages to catch him and ties him up as soon as he's on the ground. As Auryn is still busy with the other opponents, a whole battalion of eladrin warriors rises to the sky to defend her. Just as she strikes down the second of them (and is about to go into a healing sequence), the warriors shield her and overpower the other two.

“Don't kill them yet! They may have crucial information!” Carlyle shouts from afar while dragging his prisoner behind him. The eladrin argue with Carlyle that these four fiends just harmed an eladrin maiden with an intent to kill and therefore deserve nothing but a swift death, but he can convince them to at least bring them to their Matriarch so she can judge them.

Some other eladrin warriors are worried about Auryn's condition as she pulls out the last of the arrows that struck her. She realizes that these are the very same eladrin who were wounded as well, so she asks them to stay calm for a moment while she uses a song of healing to close everyone's wounds at once. Only small scratches remain on her shoulder, and when Carlyle hands her a potion he prepared this morning to take care of the rest, she finds that it tastes very much like Feanor fruit.

(flavored potions are a pretty sweet idea. He also mentioned that he got the fruit from Galadin.)


We are then led to Matriarch Eshaya to tell her about the fiend's ambush. The younger Matriarch is very concerned about the attack and explains that her people are currently living under pretty dire circumstances. And now that her main enclave has become a target as well, she fears that keeping up her alliance with Kellandia might not be possible anymore.

(Yes, Eshaya shares her name with Cuin'halar's baby dragon. We're pretty sure that this woman is a whole different person though.)


We're intrigued about this mysterious alliance and ask the Matriarch to tell us more about her connection to the risuri colony. Eshaya seems quite relieved that we seem to be interested in her politics and so she tells us about the human settlers of Kellandia who, after some initial struggles, managed to co-exist peacefully with the people of her enclave. She explains that she has to thank Matriarch Kaealys for this opportunity as the “wandering Matriarch” helped her get in touch with the humans and their way of life.

After years of peace, Kaealys proposed a new project to both the governor of Sawyer and herself: Why not try something new, an open enclave where humans and eladrin can live together? She was a bit hesitant at first, but then decided to give this project a try, especially as the young eladrin grew more and more interested in their human neighbors and vice versa. And thus the “Covenant Enclave” was founded, an enclave not hidden behind fey magic.

Everything had been fine, until a week ago when merchants found the enclave completely abandoned. She can only assume that there must have been a battle inside the enclave as her own troops only found a few dead humans lying on the streets. As their alliance with Sawyer commands that matters of the Covenant Enclave are to be settled with all parties involved and her own enclave being rather small, she didn't dare to send her own warriors after the tracks left behind by the combatants.

Needless to say that we're both pretty shocked to hear about the enclave's fate. However, we can assume that the four fiends and their Mad King might have something to do with whatever happened to the Covenant, so interrogating them might be a good first step. We hint that we do understand that the eladrin want swift justice, but keeping them alive a bit longer might be more beneficial on the long run.

Eshaya replies that executing them wouldn't be her part anyway as the jurisdiction lies in the hands of governor Roderick who resides in Sawyer. She can allow us to interrogate her prisoners before they are being transferred to Sawyer though. Auryn reacts baffled at Eshaya's statement as she'd have never thought that a Matriarch would delegate so much of her power to a foreigner.

“More specifically, to a man...” she adds snarkily, only to be corrected by Eshaya that Roderick is actually governor Yvonne Roderick, she just goes by her surname as it is common in risuri tradition.

(First sign that something is amiss? Someone has to correct Auryn because she is making judgements based on mere assumptions.)

She still finds the project intriguing if that means that Kaealys, Roderick and Eshaya finally found a method to let humans (or “other mortals”) and eladrin live together peacefully.

We then turn to the four fiends (Rubicante, Barbariccia, Cagnazzo... okay... maybe calling them “Feladrin” is the more more elegant solution ;) ) and are being told by the guards that these guys are truly servants of King Vardanis. They were sneaking around and saw us enter the enclave, then decided to follow and ambush us. The guards also tell us that King Vardanis seems to view a collaboration between humans and eladrin as treachery, which is why everyone betraying the empire of Elfaivar has to be punished.

We ask the guys to maybe give us a try interrogating them as well and they fortunately see no problem with that. Auryn starts her questions being proud, even cocky, as she declares that “this little ambush” had been one of the worst-planned maneuvers she had ever seen, which is why these so-called “elite troops” of the “Shining Light of Elfaivar” aren't really as dangerous as they wish to be perceived.

“Now you're laughing at us, you arrogant little wench. We'll see how much you'll be laughing once you're the slave of our king.” one of them responds dryly.

“So your plan just turns from bad to abysmal. You would have deeply disappointed your slave-loving king then had you brought him my corpse, eh? Do you guys even think before springing to action?”

Meanwhile, Carlyle stares at Auryn with a good amount of disbelief as he'd never actually seen her taunting someone like that. Fortunately, the Feladrin are just as hot-blooded as they seemed as they try to taunt back and state that the citizens of “that undefended enclave” had been easy prey and got all caught by the Enlightened, the elite soldiers marked by Srasama herself. When she asks him whether they are part of these “elite Enlightened” themselves, they laugh and explain that they've been empowered by a powerful ally of their King. Bit by bit, they then reveal that this ally's name is Acheral, herald of the Golden.

“Ah. So he's a lackey of Egil the Shimmering, Lord of the Golden Legion. A remnant of the demonocracy. Thank you.” says Auryn dryly before turning around and stating that she's finished here and mentioning that they'll all die very soon at the hands of the people they despise so much. The Feladrin are stunned as soon as they hear the name Egil and take a few moments to regain their posture.

(And there it gets worse. The Mad Kings have always been a red flag for Auryn, but being actually attacked and heavily wounded by their agents really ticked her off. Heck, being attacked by eladrin alone shattered a good portion of her beliefs.)
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
Breaking down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Look who just found something worth fighting for again.)
 
I'm liking how involved y'all are getting with Elfaivar.

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

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

Lylandra

Explorer
Light of Elfaivar

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lylandra

Explorer
The Blooming

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“So, you're not a girl anymore?”

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

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

“Tell me then”

“No. It isn't suitable.”

“Now I'm intrigued”

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

“Just spill it out.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lylandra

Explorer
Zafira and the Matriarch of Flint

Session 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Lylandra

Explorer
Reports and a secret mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After we got the rings from the treasury, Auryn thanks Carlyle for his support and his rather quick thinking during the audience. He replies that he does feel the need to help these eladrin as well, so he isn't simply doing her a favor.
 
Nice to see how things are progressing.
My players also wanted to make sure Isobel's family was rescued and that bunch of slavers dealt with. Their method was to talk to Asraby and pass over all the information as they felt certain even if he was unnable to do anything he would know the sort of Eladrin who could arrange a violent commando raid , and indeed that is what happened.
My players will be off to Elfaivar before the start of episode 6 with some ideas inspired by this
 

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