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[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 227, Part Two - Through a Glass, Darkly

Through a Glass, Darkly

Here in the Bleak Gate, Cauldron Hill had not been eroded. An incongruous fire now blazed on one side of its saddle-like peak; on the other they could see three figures.

Not wishing to alarm Rock and his friends by teleporting unexpectedly, they took the gith’s stone discs down to meet him, and left the Coaltongue circling at a safe distance, with Rumdoom and Uriel staying on board to defend the ship if needs be.

Rock waved both arms furiously, as if they were passing by happenstance and might otherwise have missed him. He was wearing an oversized, floor-length bearskin coat to fend of the cold of the Bleak Gate, and was stood inside a circle of blood to fend off evil spirits, but most of those had been attracted to the bonfire. Rock greeted them enthusiastically and introduced them to his ‘ghost-chick’.

To their surprise, it was Lavanya, who give a helpless shrug as if to dissociate herself from Rock. With her, also introduced by Rock was “this old dude, who’s beginning to cramp my style”. Another surprise – it was Alexander Grappa, visible now for the first time, here in the gloom of the Gate. (Though not in spirit form, in his case, but a psychic projection, like Xambria).

Multiple conversations broke out at once, with Lavanya talking to Leon, Rock sharing his plans with Korrigan and Quratulain, while Uru and Gupta talked to Grappa.

Grappa was as bemused as they were. “We’ve been here a long time,” he said. “Since Mutravir. Waiting for you.”

Lavanya explained that infiltrating the convocation had been her last act on Lanjyr, and it was a mistake. She had gone in to warn them, and to rescue Grappa, but hadn’t fully ensured her escape. “My aide proved unreliable. My body is still in Trekhom,” she said.

That reminded Leon of the strange sensation he had had the last few times he went there – a sudden impulse that told him Lavanya was close. “You should have told me,” he said. “I could have helped you.”

“That always causes a problem,” Lavanya explained. “If I tell you, and you try to help me, you fall into the Ob’s trap. They’ve already found me and are waiting for you. But soon I think they’ll get tired of waiting and wake me up. So I don’t know how long I’ve got. We need to get Alexander to the plane of time.”

“Don’t ask me why,” said Grappa with a shrug.

“This is all she talks about,” said Rock, breaking off from his conversation with Korrigan. “Soon as we get down here, she’s all chilly – all business. This is worse than that time I dated an ooze druid.” He shuddered. “Never again. Maybe you heard the song I wrote about it? It’s called ‘Oozie Lover’?”

Now they all shrugged. It wasn’t one if his biggest hits.

“The only trouble is, I can’t leave this place,” said Grappa. “Not without a host. I’m not a ghost, you see.”

Uru nominated Uriel. “He’s used to it. There’s someone else in there already. But don’t mention her, or things will get frosty.”

“Ghost chicks, am I right?” exclaimed Rackus, rolling his eyes.

Keen to get going, and having already filled Korrigan in on his plan, Rock now summoned his own ship, using a snippet of old sea shanty he had picked up from Uru. At once, the tune was echoed by a distant baritone chorus, and the Ghost Pirates of Mutravir appeared. Uru gave a cheer. This was cause enough for another swig from his hip flask!

Rock jumped on board and said he would guide them to the crack in the Dreaming. Rumdoom decided to fly on the ghost ship with Rock, to bolster their defences. (Amielle and Bhalu went with.) Lavanya and Grappa returned with the others to the Coaltongue.

They followed the ghost ship for a long time. Rock had already reassured them that they would arrive in the nick of time. “Everything in the Dreaming happens when it’s most melodramatic!”

While they went, they caught up with Grappa and Lavanya. As always, Lavanya was forced to be cagey, for fear that anything she told them could alter the future. “Although I’m pretty certain this is the last thing I’ll do.” She squeezed Leon’s hand when she said this and flashed him a smile.

There were many spirits flitting about in the Bleak Gate.

“The way the afterlife used to work was that the souls of the recently departed would briefly appear in the Bleak Gate, then travel on to Nem, the plane of ruin,” Lavanya explained. “From there, they’d move on to some other realm whenever a line from the real world through Nem pointed at the appropriate destination in the multiverse. Those who had particularly traumatic deaths might linger in the Bleak Gate until they either went mad or were able to find rest in some way.

“Now, though, Av (and, therefore, the Bleak Gate) no longer orbits the real world. So the souls of those who die linger, invisible, in the real world, and they lurch toward places like Cauldron Hill that were once closely linked to the Bleak Gate. Those souls are then drawn into the Bleak Gate whenever Av (and the Gyre) is overhead, but there is nowhere for them to go to because the world is too far from the rest of the multiverse. Instead of going on to a final reward or punishment, the souls just crowd around the Bleak Gate analogue of Flint.

“When Av reaches the Gyre and shatters, tens of thousands of souls of those who died since the Ob’s ritual will be scattered across the planar motes in the Gyre. If there’s any unfinished business you have with someone who has died recently, or anyone you think may have lingered, it might be possible for you to draw them to you, and take them away from the Gyre.”

This sent many of the unit into deep thought.

Uru wondered if it might be possible to rescue one of their old allies. His first thought was Krazy Krauss, but Krauss’ death had caused his lifeforce to be drawn into the golem heart that went on to power Conquo. So that wouldn’t work. He focused next on El Perro and, sure enough, the young warrior had lingered in the Bleak Gate all this time, so violent and sudden was his death. His spirit was faint, barely self-aware, but grateful to be drawn into the warming throng of Uru’s many ghostly inhabitants.

“All of my loved ones are trapped in the colossus,” said Gupta. Then she remembered something of the story of how Jenny Greenteeth had possessed Helandra, and asked Lavanya what she meant when she said Helandra was the “first of many hosts”. Lavanya said that Kasvarina did not create a body for her, as Greenteeth was form from all of the bitter, twisted parts of Kasvarina that had led her to follow Nicodemus so ruthlessly. “I am all of her good aspects, and act purely out of love. Greenteeth is pure spite. She has no form of her own, but possesses others, discarding her hosts when she sees fit. My fear is that, having escaped through the same portal Kasvarina created, she may have begun her journey not in a faraway place, but in a faraway time. If she abandoned Helandra back then it is possible she may have died in the meantime.”

Gupta focused as Uru had done, and was rewarded with similar success. Helandra’s spirit came to her, though similarly faint and feeble, and unable to say what had happened to her since her encounter with the evil hag.

Finally, it was Korrigan’s turn. The Ash Wolf had told him he would find his ideal mate on the dark side of the moon. Now he was beginning to understand what they meant. Without bothering Kai, for fear it might upset him, he called upon Elizabeth, his late wife. Her spirit was also still here, unhappy to have left her son before she even met him. Faint, too, but of all the three, the most aware. She responded faintly, like someone half-delirious from a sick bed, and gladly accepted his offer to flee.

Rock and the ghost pirates guided them to an immense fissure near what would be the capital city Slate in the real world. With a bit of careful manoeuvring the both vessels piloted through what appeared to be a ten-mile deep canyon of black glass, where reflective shards span in freefall. Rivulets of black fluid seeped between the cracks, and that oil positively glistened with souls trapped within it. (Uru was tempted to fly out on Little Jack and fill up his hip flask.)

At the ‘bottom’ of the canyon they needed to flip their vessels again, as down became up once more. This was an easy matter for the ghost ship; having done it once before, Admiral Smith was also able to carefully flip the Coaltongue.

Having done so, they rose up amid a burning forest – the Chessboard Forest near the fey capital city Clover.

Overhead they could see the Gyre looming stupendously close. The two cog-shaped nebulae spanned the sky from horizon to horizon: it was clear that they were mere hours from being ground by the immense teeth. Jagged fragments of other worlds floated overhead like shattered moons.

While they took in this spectacle, their arrival was noted by a patrol of the Golden Legion of Egal the Shimmering. Five huge, winged demons dove under the cover of the burning canopy and flew towards them, but they were spotted by the ever-observant Uru. Forewarned, the ghost ship vanished, while the occupants of the Coaltongue were quickly forearmed.

Thinking they had the element of surprise, the demons stayed low until they were right under the Coaltongue. Then they ascended at speed – too fast to take out with the Tyrant’s Eye – and loomed impressively over the main deck: a pit fiend and four horned devils.

Hoping to cow them with their mere appearance, the pit fiend, Brhan Kinoro, flared with fire and bellowed, “Hubristic mortals! Think you can ply these skies? They belong to the Golden Legion! All wealth is ours! Those who oppose us shall be enslaved. Show loyalty, however, and we shall share our limitless wealth with you. Loyalty is prosperity! Prosperity is freedom!”

He was understandably surprised when the unit opened fire.

End of Session

Soundtrack (NSFW):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sxZ4tsp8gc
 
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Finally, it was Korrigan’s turn. The Ash Wolf had told him he would find his ideal mate on the dark side of the moon. Now he was beginning to understand what they meant. Without bothering Kai, for fear it might upset him, he called upon Elizabeth, his late wife. Her spirit was also still here, unhappy to have left her son before she even met him. Faint, too, but of all the three, the most aware. She responded faintly, like someone half-delirious from a sick bed, and gladly accepted his offer to flee.
Aww.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 228, Part One - Legion’s Initiative

Legion’s Initiative

For countless aeons the pit fiend Brhan Kinoro had wrought chaos and destruction across the multiverse, even before he was pressed into the service of the Golden Legion. In his case, the servitude was not onerous, for his duties were to kill, enslave and destroy – all activities to which he was naturally inclined. The fact that he now did these things at the behest of Paelyrion XVIII was neither here nor there. Paelyrion was general of a detachment of the Golden Legion that had been stranded in the Gyre for thousands of years, ever since one of worlds they were conquering was destroyed by its inhabitants out of spite. However, the legion had survived, and went on to thrive in the Gyre by attacking all the new worlds that arrived, plundering them of gold, enslaving useful warriors, killing and torturing and eating the rest.

Though the ground of the Gyre was inexorably drawn into the teeth of the nebula, the legion forever marched on. Or at least they did until a few short years ago, when they conquered a plane of volcanism and strange steam-powered machinery. They renamed it Egalitrix and now it served as the flying fortress of the legion, invincible and unassailable. Brhan Kinoro was justifiably proud of the Golden Legion, and equally certain of his own terrible might.

Eighteen seconds after demanding the surrender of these hubristic mortals, he was dead.

Uru shot him, vanished, and shot him again. He didn’t even have time to shrug off the bone-pointing curse inflicted on him by Gupta. Instead, he charged blindly forward, conscious that something was wrong and that this might in fact be the end. He got a couple of sound blows in – one with his molten mace against the impassive mortal issuing the orders; another with his poison tail against the female who had cursed him – but neither of them died, as he expected. Then the second shuriken struck and that was that.

The horned devils in his squadron did not survive much longer, pinned in holy light, encased in ice, lacerated by tiger claws, stabbed, slashed and shot at, all while they tried and failed to enslave the unit with their golden chains. The two-dozen legionnaires Brhan summoned – having proven themselves able to deflect bullets with their shield – were torn apart by Quratulain’s grenades. (Most fired from the grenade launcher she had designed; one artfully tossed to Gupta, who had found herself surrounded by devils, and was excluded from the blast by Quratulain’s firesight eye.) Once reduced to manageable numbers, they were finished off by Amielle and the rest of the crew, whose fighting prowess had been raised by the leadership of Korrigan.

Among the last left standing, one of these poor creatures threw down his golden spear and shield, and positively quaked in self-revolt. “Curse these chains!” he screamed, “For without them I would yield to you, you who are more mighty than my lord, His Celestial Eruption General Paelyrion the Eighteenth! But the legion demands I defend our territory! I owe no loyalty; take my treasure! Take my prosperity! I renounce my freedom!”

Uriel stepped up and rent the chains from him, but the devil only smiled bleakly and said, “It is too late for me…” In his final moments, he told them his story, which was a sad one, and included much of what Brhan Kinoro might have told them, boastfully, had he lived. His story was interrupted mere minutes after he defied legion, as the spots on his body where the chains were wrapped turned black, and his body was eaten away like burning paper, until his bones crumbled to dust and he died in terrible agony. The last thing to be consumed were his eyes. Uriel tried to save his soul, but he no longer had one to save. Korrigan told them the end of his story, courtesy of the Humble Hook.

Though quick, the fight had not been easy. Most of the unit were exhausted now, having rode the storm from Cauldron Hill, and benefited little from the lull in the Bleak Gate, where the very air was inimical. Now they regrouped, shared healing, and prepared to assess the situation below:

A century of Golden Legionnaires marched a slow perimeter around the city of Clover, gradually widening the area it covered as it searched for fey in hiding. By now they were east of the chessboard forest, and the woods burn in their wake. They were led by a horned devil, and were accompanied four steam-powered golden thopter golems. Occasionally one of these roughly humanoid craft, having been filled with fresh prisoners, would lift off slowly and buzz like a laden bee towards a larger craft in the distance:

High above the palace, at the heart of the burning city, the legion’s grand airship, Aurum Treasure, hung in the air. For now, it seemed oblivious to their presence.

What to do? Save the fey from the legion below? Head straight for the palace, and try to rescue the Unseen Court? Or deal with the enemy vessel?

They opted for the latter, so as not to leave the Coaltongue under threat; meanwhile, Rock and Rumdoom headed for the downs to the south of the city, where Rock had many friends. He would find them, rescue all he could, then meet them at the palace.
 
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arkwright

Explorer
Ooh, my party will reach this point in a session or two. Should be good to see how it works out... I might pinch a little of your narration, just warning you.

My personal theory is that the Demonocracy are freed former Golden Legionnaires. Once the Axis Ritual was enacted, the chains fell off and they reverted back to demons, emerging a few centuries later after they had killed all the non-demons among them.

I made a map for the Golden Legion skiff, here. Maybe you'll find it useful: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1fThWUQdjP6XHSh8plEM-_bMqSOTRPHp-
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Ooh, my party will reach this point in a session or two. Should be good to see how it works out... I might pinch a little of your narration, just warning you.
You'll find most of it comes from the original adventure, but you're welcome to use anything you like.

My personal theory is that the Demonocracy are freed former Golden Legionnaires. Once the Axis Ritual was enacted, the chains fell off and they reverted back to demons, emerging a few centuries later after they had killed all the non-demons among them.
I like that idea. It's a subtlety I may pinch if need arises.

I made a map for the Golden Legion skiff, here. Maybe you'll find it useful: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1fThWUQdjP6XHSh8plEM-_bMqSOTRPHp-
That's a fabulous map, thanks. Sadly, I'm just a few weeks behind with these reports, and we ran the session with the windskiff (on Urim, with the vaknids) only just last night. I forgot to provide a vessel, so we improvised, using someone's smartphone, and the 'reserved' tile they leave on our table in the pub.

I think one or two skiffs might show up later, so who knows, this may see use. Thanks again.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 228, Part Two - Aurum Treasure

Aurum Treasure

Admiral Smith gave orders for the ship to proceed at full speed towards the enemy vessel. While they passed over the legion below, they couldn’t resist harrying them from above. Uru opened the bomb-bay doors, clambered into the Sunfish and fired on the devils with the Tyrant’s Eye. Uriel summoned a violent storm and lanced them with lightning. Gupta, Quratulain, Korrigan and Leon clambered into dragon fliers, and strafed the legion, keeping clear of the thopters and the horned devil, before returning to the Coaltongue as it neared the city.

Clover burned in places, and the Great Delve River had drained through one of the cracks in the world, bisecting the city with a muddy gorge. The noble east bank had seen the most damage, with its wealthy houses thoroughly ransacked for gold. The poorer west bank was too chaotic for the Golden Legion to bother with, aside from Thistle Palace.

As they neared, the Aurum Treasure responded to their presence, turning slowly, lethargically in their direction. All of a sudden the sky was filled with an enormous booming that emanated from the airship, an infernal chant that thundered out for miles in every direction, an alarm and a warning.

As the airship flew to intercept them, Uriel cast silence over the Coaltongue, and Korrigan linked the unit and the crew in a telepathic network.

They studied the Aurum Treasure for weaknesses. Nearly two hundred feet long, the airship belched diesel smoke from behind two broad steering wings woven of gold thread. Narrower stabilizing fins lined the port and starboard, also gold. In fact, the entire hull was painted gold, and anything that could be made of metal was ostentatiously gold. There were even golden grills on the bottom of the hull, in a bid to conceal the churning arcane fans that acted as the ship’s levitationals. Dozens of arcane fusils sat behind closed weapon ports along each side of the ship. The Aurum Treasure was much slower than the Coaltongue, but certainly more manoeuvrable.

Confident of her prowess, it was clear she intended to close for boarding, flying low to approach through thick smoke. The Coaltongue ploughed onward, and the Aurum Treasure rapidly flew up to try to bring her guns to bear from above. Again, the Coaltongue was too fast, but the Treasure was able to bring her broadside to their bow (ordinarily, an ideal position). Uru was right: the rusty, untended guns misfired and they could hear explosions from within. Then Quratulain fired the brand, timing the shot to perfection. It ripped through the enemy’s hull, shattered what remained of her guns, and damaged her propulsion.

“Well done, girls!” cheered Quratulain.

Down in the engine room, Uru and his engineers took an invigorating snort of mountain soil before redoubling their efforts to charge the engines. The Coaltongue was moving so fast, the Treasure was finding it very difficult to close, but in the end it succeeded. There was just enough time for another broadside. Could they take the ship out before hand-to-hand combat ensued?

Unfortunately not. The Aurum Treasure was badly damaged, brought to an almost total standstill, and many of her lesser occupants slain, but she stayed in the air, and drew close enough for the golden legion to teleport aboard the Coaltongue:

The boarding action was led by Star Marshall Lacacia: Beautiful, statuesque, this woman’s blond hair was woven with gold chains that trailed from piercings in her cheeks and in the scales of her bare skin. She wore a long black captain’s coat that hung seductively open, leaving her shoulders uncovered, threatening at any moment to fall free from her perfectly-curved figure. Strands of barbed gold threaded in and out of the fabric and wrapped around her arms and legs.

Quratulain tried to take her our first, but the elite legionnaires to either side of her threw themselves in harm’s way, desperate to defend their mistress.

Two more horned devils tried to enslave the unit; elite legionnaires swarmed aboard, thrusting with golden gearlances, which exploded with chains when thrown. Worse still were the mantis-like ‘supplicants of elofasp’ with claws so sharp they could pierce even Quratulain’s armour.

But Star Marshall Lacacia soon revealed herself to be even more deadly than the supplicants: “Before I joined the legion,” she crowed telepathically, “I was a general of the abyssal hordes.” She pulled open the breast of her captain’s coat, revealing a necklace whose pendant, nestled just above her bosom, was a six-armed woman with a serpent’s tail. In the moment it took the unit to recognize this image, four golden weapons manifested and lashed at them to great effect. Korrigan was knocked backwards and struggled to get to his feet. Desperate, he unstoppered a potion of giant strength to restore his might. Leon, who was also flagging after dodging blow after blow, teleported Korrigan out of harm’s way.

Gupta was having difficulties too, as were many of the others. It took much of her resolve to shrug off the mental charms of Lacacia, who invited her to her cabin where she would expect to find her naked. She responded by taking on tiger form again, determined to fight on. Hidden, and also running out of stream, Uru reloaded.

With the unit exhausted and the legion relentless, the battle could go either way. ...

End of Session
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 229, Part One - Silent Cavalry

Silent Cavalry

The next few moments were even more desperate: Gupta succumbed to the dominion of the Star Marshall and began to disrobe; the enslaved mantis-creatures created insane illusions of praying statuary that prevented the unit from seeing their foes and blinded Leon completely. Hidden outside the radius of this, Uru realised that Lacacia must have issued fresh, telepathic orders to her minions, as they separated into two groups, intent on heading belowdecks and attacking the crew. In response, the unit was forced to separate too, with Uriel Quratulain and Leon heading one way (Leon levitating blindly upwards), and Korrigan – still wounded and weakened – heading in the other, knowing that Uru could provide some support.

Sternward, Korrigan found himself surrounded by Elite Star legionnaires. Then he was set upon by the horned devils, who caught him in their chains. Towards the bow, Star Marshall Lacacia unleashed her mind-controlled weapons once again. Quratulain blocked the scythe, but Uriel was struck by a poisoned longsword and Leon found himself pinned to the funnel by a spear.

Then, silently, the cavalry arrived. Above the Coaltongue, Rock’s ghost ship appeared, deck crowded with fey refugees from the Warrens. Rock stood upon the prow, monologuing, but thanks to the silence spell on the Coaltongue’s deck, no one could hear him. In giant form, Rumdoom leapt off the ghost ship and landed on the Coaltongue – again in incongruous silence, though they could feel the reverberations through the deck. Knowing Korrigan could withstand it, Rumdoom unleashed a burst of intense cold upon the legionnaires. Korrigan stomped on the deck to finish them off. But this was the second time he had unleashed Urimshock on the deck of the Coaltongue and it collapsed beneath him, striking crew members who cowered below. Korrigan himself did not fall, but flew. Uru killed one of the devils that had Korrigan chained, and Korrigan yanked another one over. It fell in front of Rumdoom, who hit it with the Stone of Not, whereupon it simply vanished from existence!

Other combatants leapt down from the ghost ship: Rock, Amielle, Bhalu and Sly Marbo (who had been rescued by Rock, along with his wife and thirty-odd children, and the rest of the inhabitants of the Warrens, including Rambylon).

Quratulain unleashed a barrage of gunfire at the supplicants and the Star Marshall. Lacacia took on Quratulain’s form, and Quratulain staggered. This might have confused lesser mortals, but Quratulain used Korrigan’s telepathic network to tell the others she was fine and had switched places with the Star Marshall, who was now feigning injury, hoping they would target the wrong one.

No longer blinded, Leon cursed a supplicant, causing it to attack and kill one of its kin. Realising the tide had turned, Star Marshall Lacacia abandoned her attempt at subterfuge, teleported a huge distance away and fled through the air. At once, as if responding to another mental command, the Aurum Treasure shut off its arcane levitationals and fell towards the rooftops of Clover, where it crashed into the empty houses.

With their commander gone, it did not take long for the rest of the devils to succumb to the unit’s attacks. There was only a brief time for healing, as Rock urged them on towards the palace. Though he didn’t say as much, it was evident that he was concerned for his lover, Thisraldion, whatever the current state of their relationship might have been. Rock was keen to come with them when they searched the palace, so Gupta took his place in command of the ghost ship, helping Sly to calm the others.

Korrigan decided to leave Kai behind for this mission, and left Elizabeth's ghost to watch over him too.

Admiral Smith took the Coaltongue over the palace, where they could choose a safe place to put down.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 229, Part Two - Thistle Palace

Thistle Palace

They chose the very far northeast corner of the palace to enter, in the hopes of finding some fey holding out in the bunker. Leon teleported them down there, leaving the Coaltongue airborne, then he got them into the palace with a dimension door. The whole eastern wing of the palace was eerily empty. Magic designed to keep the place in fine condition was busy scrubbing away blood. On entering the palace, Leon immediately knew that several other members of the Unseen Court were being held in their own audience chamber. The whispers of palace ghosts told Uru that there were several other pockets of captives elsewhere, and that hordes of devils still roamed the building, searching for gold and slaves. He stole ahead on the ceiling and reported back what he found in the chamber of the Unseen Court:

Elite Star legionnaires encircled three important prisoners – Furg, the Toadstool Sage; Sallin; and Olazdor of the Hedgehog Court. All were dishevelled and beaten, but had not been enslaved. Sallin was tending Olazdor, who bled from an invisible headwound. Commanding the guards was another horned devil. This one was having fun piling dead fey onto Thisraldion’s throne. What may have begun as an attempt to test its magical defences had now become a game to see how many he could stack before the whole lot collapsed. (Next to the throne, Uru passed over a detail he would not recall until later, and only then would he realise his significance: a gilded birdcage on an ornamental stand now stood empty, its bars prized open.) But Uru’s eye was drawn from all of this to what he suspected might be the most significant threat in the room: a huge, squat creature something like a cross between a beetle and a boulder, enslaved in gold chains and – though very different in form – perhaps kin to the deadly supplicants. For now it simply squatted, still and emphatic, as if storing energy for a sudden act of destruction. (This, they would later learn, was an Elofasp Ravant.)

Uru let the others know what was happening. Rock was outraged and would not listen to caution. He drew his pistol and forged ahead, muttering imprecations and abandoning any attempt at stealth. The unit warned Uru he was coming (as were they), and Uru decided to make the safety of the courtiers his priority: With the help of friendly fey spirits, he caused the palace itself to rise up in a barrier all around the prisoners. Having revealed himself again, he swiftly hid, unnoticed by all save the ravant, which sprang into sudden, lithe motion, climbing the walls in a manner that seemed impossible. Uru kept his head and remained still, as the ravant sniffed the air around him.

Suddenly, it was teleported away: Leon brought it down from the ceiling and planted next to Rumdoom and Quratulain. Reinforcements had arrived!

Rayo flew into the air and ensared Leon. It also set off a mechanical alarm it carried on a belt over its shoulder, alerting all of the hostile forces in the palace.

The ravant tore into Quratulain. It smashed through her armour and ripped off an arm. Rumdoom hit it with the Stone. It fell over, but did not vanish. Then it struggled to get up again. Uriel urged Rumdoom to attack again. He did so. The ravant still struggled up! The thing was impervious! One-armed, but undaunted, Quratulain stabbed at it with her remaining armblade. Nope! They were beginning to wonder what on earth they could do to stop the creature when Korrigan hit it with the Sword of Maur Granatha, and it fell still.

Back in the throne room, Rock had summoned a posse of admirers who had dutifully interposed themselves and soaked up the devils’ attacks. From the corridor to the north, they heard a mechanical thrumming that grew louder and louder as a golden thopter golem burst into the chamber. Behind it – some distance away – came more legionnaires. Before it could do anything dangerous, Uru used his spirit friends to take control of it, and turned it back upon the other new arrivals. While it fended them off, they dealt with Rayo and the Elite Stars.

Leon confused Rayo with a spell. Still bleeding, Quratulain threw grenades (no longer able to use her launcher). Rock finished Rayo off, and his exuberant victory cry was infectious: the unit soon put paid to the rest of the devils. Leon stuffed the klaxon, still blaring, into the absurdist web.

Uru lowered the barrier he had created so they could talk with the Unseen Courtiers.

Uriel moved to heal them, but Furg held up a hand. “Don’t waste time on us,” he said. “The Dreaming is about to be destroyed. You must flee. They have taken Thisraldion prisoner. This realm exists as a figment in the mind of its monarch. If he is rescued, the Dreaming might be restored.”
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 229, Part Three - Cracked Shell

Cracked Shell

Before anyone had time to start making plans for a rescue, a roar and flash of light came from outside the palace. “Constables,” said Rock Rackus, with awkward solemnity, pointing out of a window , “Is that an asteroid I do spy?” Streaking across the sky, it disappeared from view, but a moment later light flashed and the ground shuddered. Moments later came the ear-splitting noise of the impact.

“Son of a bitch!” cried Rackus. “There’s more of ‘em! Follow me!”

Leon bid him wait. If he focused, and drained his magical reserves, he should be able to teleport everyone to the Coaltongue. They gathered round him and he cast the spell, but it did not work. It was as if the space between them and the ship was cracked or distorted.

Word came from Admiral Smith: he had been forced by the asteroids to ground the Coaltongue. The ship was about five-hundred feet from the palace. His words crackled, though delivered via sending.

Without further ado, Uriel formed a hole in the wall and they poured out onto the lawn. Uru bid a reluctant farewell to his new toy, determined that he would one day make a better one.

The Gyre filled the sky in all directions, but dark shapes loomed before it. To their right, Gupta, Sly, Rambylon and the other fey refugees surged towards them, having been forced to abandon Rock’s pirate ship after it dissipated. They had come down to aid a few fey stragglers in the grounds of the palace, and suddenly found themselves scuppered.

Behind them – in fact, on all sides, came legionnaires in pursuit. In their midst was a hideous demon – a glabrezu, enslaved by the Golden Legion.

This was their vision of the far future from Ingatan’s Refuge, only now they didn’t have Matunaaga to one-shot the glabrezu. (Nor could Quratulain, in her current condition. Hildegaard now carried her arm.)

Some of the devils were still intent on capturing slaves; others were setting off across the lawn towards the Coaltongue, intent on hijacking it now that the Aurum Treasure was gone.

They set off, each trying to outpace the devils in their own way. Gupta took on tiger form; Uru leapt on Little Jack; Uriel polymorphed into a bird of paradise; Leon created dimension doors for the slower party members. (As they went, their route took them past the Fey Titan Shrine, another detail that didn’t seem too important at the time, but came back to them later: the statue of the Voice of Rot had grown so large it no longer fitted on its plinth; Granny Allswell was gone – her statue reduced to loose gravel – and was that a tiny replacement standing on the plinth?)

Now they could see the terrible affect the meteors had had on Av: the world was coming asunder. But it wasn’t just the surface of the world that splintered and cracked, the cracks extended into the sky as well. As a piece of the earth tilted to one side, so everything above it pivoted, as if a mirror was being turned. Behind – the blackness of the Bleak Gate.

They ran, fighting off devils, severing chains. Any that came near Rumdoom were struck by the Stone of Not and dissipated. Uriel cast a powerful spell and pinned the glabrezu in holy light. They ran, though devils still hounded them, and captured many fey. Sly Marbo and his family were able to keep pace – in fact, Marbo was only slowed to their speed by the need to corral his youngsters. Rambylon kept up too, with his odd, high-kneed, backward-footed run. Onwards, across the facturing landscape, they ran.

They had cleared about half the distance when a mighty chasm opened up before them – thirty feet across and hundreds of feet long. The wailing of souls from the Bleak Gate could be heard as that realm too was consumed.

Quratulain leapt the gap with her rocket boots, taking pot shots at the legion as she went. Uriel flew on, keeping the glabrezu pinned. Heedless of Leon’s injunctions, Rumdoom tried to Fourmyle Jaunt. Instead of arriving on the far side of the chasm, he emerged several hundred yards away, and had to turn several times before he could see the fires of the Coaltongue in the distance. Grimly, he began to run.

Korrigan was concerned about the refugees and waited to help herd them through Leon’s portal. Just then, the area where they were standing broke away from its surroundings and began to sink. There was a great cry, as some the refugees were on the sinking fragment, and their family members were left above. They began to try to haul their friends and relatives out, when devils arrived from behind. Korrigan gave a shout that bolstered their resolve, and Uriel fired beams of radiance at the devils, all while keeping the glabrezu, trapped in agonising holy light.

Leon stopped to fill his lantern with the light of menagerie. Now all bathed within could turn into any animal form they chose. Accustomed to such strange tricks, the fey at once took advantage of his magic and turned into a host of birds. The devils were baffled as the trapped fey at once became an admixed flock of geese, sparrows, thrushes, owls, cranes, swifts, swallows, budgerigars… the list was endless. In this bizarre fashion, they escaped the legion.

Their ecstatic flight was cut short when a massive meteor slammed into Thistle Palace. The fiery shockwave bloomed outward, and consumed everyone and everything that had not crossed the chasm. Those on the other side now saw that these meteors were just the vanguard: Above the Gyre was blotted out, eclipsed by thousands of massive, pitted stones, some of them hundreds of feet across, all of them etched with veins of gold. Av was crashing into another world. The Dreaming shattered into splinters around them, all of its magic released in a sudden blast.

Released in an instant from all their cares and concerns, they lost consciousness for a time, and then:

You awake, scattered across the ground in a snowy forest. The fey are not here. And nor is Uriel.

Embers of blazing thistles drift by on a wind, briefly providing enough light to make out the debris of the Coaltongue, nearly crippled but otherwise lying without even a hushed whisper in this night-time wood. Your injuries won’t kill you, and the damage wrought on your vessel can be repaired, but as your gaze drifts upward, you see a starry abyss looking back, its nebulous teeth poised to crush your world.

You are back in Risur, many months after you left. Your mission has failed. Your path to the Gyre has been cut off, and what little hope you had left has, like a candle reaching the end of its wick, guttered and turned to smoke.

Then you awake, gasping in pain, disoriented by the roar of explosions and the thunder of shattering stones. You shake the dream away and take stock of your quite-real peril. …

End of Session
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Sorry about laughing.
It's quite understandable. You've waited almost eight years for that particular bucket to fall on my players' heads. And I worked very hard to have it fall right at the end of the session, so I'm glad you appreciated the comic timing.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 230, Part One - Motes of Gold

Motes of Gold

When they awoke, their circumstances were bizarrely different. Wind whistled and whined around them. Each unit member found themselves stretched out on a rock, alone, and only as they began to pick themselves up did some of them realise that one or two of the others were close by: Rumdoom was on the same, large expanse as Gupta; Leon was on a smaller body above them. Uriel and Uru were on similarly-sized chunks fairly close to one another. Korrigan was far away from everyone else, and linked them up telepathically. At once, Quratulain informed them that her boulder had collided with another at the very moment she awoke, crushing her lower body and pinning her in place. (She felt no pain and remained calm and matter-of-fact throughout). None of the others could see her; Korrigan ascertained that she was far below them, and that the Coaltongue had crashed onto a truly enormous rocky mass some distance away.

“This is Urim,” said Korrigan, who felt his stony form strengthened through contact with the plane. Teleportation would not work here; veins of gold ran through every rock.

Collisions were not the only danger: Uriel gave a yelp of alarm and ducked as an arcing field of glass shards swept overhead – the remnants of Av. Such jagged fields were all around them, as were thick webs, more like cables, that joined the rocks to each other. It was these webs that whined and sang in the bleak winds of the Gyre. Uru investigated them gingerly. They were extremely sticky, he warned.

Now it was Leon’s turn to give a cry of alarm: from his high vantage he could see a golden vessel sweeping towards them at some speed. Golden Legionnaires massed on its deck, a terrifying glabrezu among them. As it arced through the field of asteroids, the devils leapt off to attack Leon, Rumdoom and Gupta, then the windskiff swept on towards Korrigan. The glabrezu looked confused (insofar as it was capable) when its teleport power failed to function.

Gupta and Rumdoom were both ensared. In response, a bat-winged succubus swept off the deck of the windskiff and sunk her teeth into Gupta’s neck. Gupta cried out, but refused to be dominated. Growing weak, she dug deep and released the healing aelectricity which Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen had gifted her. Not only did it heal her in an instant, but the shock hit the succubus, and coursed along the devil’s golden chains, causing them all to yelp in surprise and let her go.

Leon ducked, dodged and parried with the Dreaming Blade, then struck out and killed one devil, creating enough space for him to leap off the rock. Better to free-fall than to fight four elite stars toe-to-toe.

By now, after what seemed like hours of fighting, even Rumdoom was growing weary. He unleashed the Icy End of the World to see the legionnaires off.

Korrigan transformed into a Bolt of Avilona to come to Gupta’s aid, but his lightning form was disrupted by the gold-laced rocks and he only went half-way, appearing suddenly in mid-air. He arrested his fall by invoking his Lightness of Being power.

Having flown from his isolated rock on Little Jack, Uru emerged from hiding and killed the succubus. “Sorry, Gupta,” he said as he vanished again.

The glabrezu leapt off the windskiff, which was circling back round, and tried to chase down Korrigan by using the thick webs; it found itself trapped and struggled to free itself.

Rumdoom finished off the devils around him with another cold burst. Korrigan flew to aid Gupta.

Leon, calmly casting a levitate spell as he fell, noticed movement on the underside of several rocks: huge spidery forms, invisible to any other eye but his. If they had not moved, their pitted shells might have camouflaged them, but now they unfolded their great legs and picked their way upwards. Leon warned the others as soon as his spell kicked in and he began to float slowly upwards.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 230, Part Two - The Not-So-Nice Spiders

The Not-So-Nice Spiders

As the monstrous spiders crawled up from below, the whining from the web vortices became a deep growl, and in this manner, the Voice of Rot spoke to them: “What have my precious little vaknids found for me? Ah, I witness the last lords of a dying land. Come, foes, if you can.”

Three huge vaknids pounced on isolated foes: one attacked the devils Leon had left behind him; another emerged behind Uriel; a third leapt upon the glabrezu. As they moved, two of them twitched their vast abdomens and spat out a fibrous orb the size of man. They pitched these into open space, where they created a vacuum, sucking in everything nearby. The windskiff was pulled sideways and its crew fell away; Korrigan resisted the pull of the other with help of his trusty military issue boots – one of the legionnaires was swept towards it instead, plugging the hole for a time.

Uriel felt the air sucked out of his lungs. These creatures created a vacuum wherever they went. It was a frightening thing to witness the speed with which one of them dispatched the legionnaires, while the other even seemed to have the edge over the glabrezu.

A truly gigantic vaknid now emerged onto the biggest rock and stomped at Rumdoom, shattering the rock silently where it struck. Webs spread out in all directions from its footfall.

Uru fired at it; feeling his sting, it caused one of the metallic webs to reach out and snag him, dragging him through the jagged field of glass. Pained and alarmed, Uru flew high on Little Jack and hid.

The Voice of Rot sneered, “I sense an upstart rival! Another titan is it? Intriguing…”

Gupta declared, “It was a mistake to send mere minions against the titan of the mountains!” She drew her bone wand and pointed it at the largest vaknid, before realising that this vast, alien thing could not comprehend the curse she meant to use against it. Her words died on her lips.

Leon’s progress was too slow. He filled the wayfarer lantern with oil of Walking On Sunshine, and ‘fell’ upwards. Now all those bathed in its light could choose their preferred direction for gravity: Uriel ran around the side of his boulder to get away from the vaknid, then leapt across to the other.

Rumdoom ran at the vaknid webmaster, but found it covered in desiccated skeletons which attacked him and drove him backwards. He steeled himself and ploughed onward, striking at the webmaster’s leg with the Stone of Not. The leg crumbled and vanished. “Keep it up!” said Korrigan. “Do that seven more times and you’ll have it immobilised!”

The webmaster spewed up acidic webbing that caught up Rumdoom, Uriel, Korrigan and Gupta. Then Rumdoom took out another monstrous leg.

Uru reappeared again, and almost killed one of the lesser vortexweavers. Its legs gave out for a moment, and Uriel spotted its weakness. He invoked Jannick, his dragonslayer incarnation, and drove the Arsenal of Dhebisu, sword-shaped, into its abdomen. A killing blow!

Gupta moved back out of the vacuum surrounding the webmaster, but found herself drawn towards the vacuous orb spun by the vortexweaver. At the last second she transformed into a tiger, reached out and grabbed one of the vaknid webs.

Rumdoom activated his icon of Avilona, flew at the webmaster’s head and struck it with the Stone of Not. Now the entire creature crumbled and vanished.

The Voice of Rot then said, “At the end of time, I await you. Our homeworld has withered, but I cannot kill it until its last champions have lost either their lives, or their will.”

Then the boulders on which they stood cracked and began to crumble away. This action freed Quratulain, and the whole unit was able to use the power of the Wayfarer Lantern to ‘fall’ west towards the Coaltongue.

The two remaining vortexweavers scuttled off with their prey.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 230, Part Three - Strange New Worlds

Strange New Worlds

The Coaltongue was crippled, laying on its side. Alongside it was a scorched, dead vaknid – killed by the Tyrant’s Eye. Admiral Smith welcomed them on board and they quickly established that no one had seen Rock, Sly or any of the other fey refugees.

Uru began repairs at once. Korrigan and Gupta volunteered to help. It was vitally important to get the Coaltongue moving. Quratulain began repairs on herself. Only one of her limbs was fully functional.

Meanwhile, even while going about their tasks, the whole unit conversed telepathically. Each spoke of their dream of returning to Lanjyr, and discovered it had been shared in precise detail by everyone except Uriel. Uriel had dreamed that he had been there, while the others dreamed that he had not been. But in Uriel’s dream, he had been trying to speak to them, to get their attention, but they had not been able to see or hear him.

“I think it is the future,” said Korrigan, grimly.

No one wanted to think about what this vision of failure meant. Right now, their job was to focus on what to do next. One thing they knew they had to do was find Thisraldion, on Egalitrix. Korrigan tried to locate him mentally, but failed. Leon pointed out that, as the ruler of the Unseen Court, Thisraldion could not be divined. So Korrigan tried to make contact with Rock Rackus, but that would not work either. Uriel said he might have a few tricks he could use, but for now he was focused on a more immediate problem – navigation.

He fetched the gidim vortex array, and enlisted the aid of both Kai and Xambria, to examine the nearest planes. This took some time, and became all the more urgent when Uru announced that the levitationals would no longer fully function, as the energy from Perlocus was too faint. He estimated that the most they could cover before an eight-hour recharge would be about twenty miles; same for propulsion (which required fire energy from Jiese). But if they could retune the levitationals to use energy from another plane, the problem could be fixed.

Using the vortex array, they examined the adjacent planes:

Due north (taking the Gyre itself as their lodestar), they detected no energy of note, suggesting it was altogether desolate. Indeed, with a spyglass it was possible to see that it was comprised of nothing but plundered ruins, which appeared to have been abandoned for aeons. However, the sensitive array was able to detect minor energy of fire and time coming from the plane north of that.

Likewise, north-east there was no energy of note. Visual inspection revealed a field of dead motes, barren rocks of a world torn apart by the churning edge of the Gyre. Frustratingly, the north-west plane was also plundered ruins, though the array faintly detected magical energies of life and time coming from beyond it.

By good fortune, to the south-west, the plane registered air and life energy. They could just make out forested hills beyond the tumbling asteroid field of Urim. The plane even further beyond it showed traces of fire and water magic.

South lay Av, utterly destroyed. And south-east was another empty void. No planes lay beyond, as this was the southernmost reach of the Gyre. Nor were there any stars or planets on view, though Lanjyr must have been out there somewhere.

While they scanned the Gyre and Uru fixed the Coaltongue Leon took a moment to speak with Lavanya, who had been ably hosted by Amielle in his absence. She wondered how long she had left: she felt sure that the Ob would find her recumbent form and break the ritual that allowed her spirit to roam. Where this strange foreboding came from, she could not say, although it might be her mother’s connection with the plane of time. (Lavanya would occasionally refer to Kasvarina as her mother, which was slightly disconcerting.) In any case, this voyage through the Gyre was borrowed time; her final act was to reunite them with Grappa. Now they had all the ingredients they needed save one: Conquo. She had said this before, but it bore repeating: “I created him on Axis Island for a reason. It is a shame you took him from there. Then you lost him in the Dreaming, and I rescued him from there too. And then you lost him again! It’s a pity I couldn’t tell you how important he was at the time, but it always creates problems if you know too much. We will have to manage without him I suppose…”

Their conversation was interrupted by a voice that reached them on the wind. A mild female voice, it said, “I am Calily Buen of the Kinava monastery. I know disaster has befallen you. Will you promise my safety if I come to render aid?”

End of Session
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 231, Part One - Half A Hundred Years of Solitude

“If safety is in our power to grant, it is yours,” Korrigan replied.

Calily thanked him, and half an hour later she jogged into view, wearing loose-fitting sand-brown clothes, hooded and carrying a staff. When close enough to make eye contact she pulled back her hood to reveal the white hair and wrinkled face of a woman far older than her agility would suggest.

Enthusiasm bubbled from the old monk as she came aboard and greeted them. She offered them bits of a salted fish, which she calls an Amrou Hunlow Snapper, in an act that was clearly symbolic. Some accepted, lest they offend, and the gesture was duly resolved. Calily warned them to ration their food because there was very little to be found here. She mentioned that her own monastery was raided by the Golden Legion, and she only has survived the past… she guesses fifty years… because of her ring of sustenance. “A gift from the Golden Legion, believe it or not.” She flashed the unassuming band.

Calily was seventeen when her world died. The plane of Caeloon was scoured in fire by the Demon of the West Wind, but Calily’s monastery survived by flying on paper wings. When the smoke cleared, she and her fellow monks found themselves in the Gyre, and the only remnants of her world was a scorched forest. Shortly thereafter they were raided by the Golden Legion, who took slaves from among the survivors, but left enough to nurture the forest back to health because they desired regular tribute in the form of lumber.

There was no food, and no animals survived in the smouldering woods, but the legion gave the monks enchanted rings that would sustain them without food. It was an act born of efficiency, not mercy, but the monks – divorced from even the mundane comforts of food – devoted themselves wholly to asceticism. Their master, Chyak San-Cho, guided the monastery to enlightened detachment, where the goal was to be empty, like the air. In the wake of their world’s death, they endured without purpose, looking inward and awaiting their own inevitable deaths. Fifty years later, only a few dozen of the monks survived.

Calily also mastered the techniques and self-discipline, but she was defiant of the oppression of the legion. Though she has the body of a woman of nearly seventy, her training has spared her the infirmities of her long years, and she acts with a cultivated, youthful optimism. She told them she had ranged to all the worlds of the Gyre she can reach – and has even brought back the occasional game animal to feed her fellow monks.

Recently, however, several new worlds crashed into the Gyre. The legion sent scouts to investigate these new planes, but found them devoid of potential slaves. Not wanting to return to Egalitrix empty-handed, they came to Caeloon, where Chyak San-Cho agreed to go with them if they left his students alone. Their master’s sacrifice dispirited her fellows and they had abandoned the monastery entirely. Now she was the only one who remained, determined to honour the memory of her master.

Initially, Calily assumed that they would want to return to the remnants of Av and offered to guide them back there, but when their true intentions became clear, she became excited and asked what experience they had of the golden legion: she could see a pile of gold chains on the main deck, gathered up by the crew. Their response caused her enthusiasm to build even further and she offered to help them affect repairs to their ship. When she learned what this entailed, Calily said that her own realm was deeply infused with air energy. They worked out that it must be the plane to the south-west registering Air and Life. Calily also said that she had a map of most of the Gyre that they were welcome to use. She didn’t have the map with her; it was back at the monastery on Caeloon.

She warned them that if they went of searching at random, they were liable to run into trouble: Shabboath and Hunlow had deadly foes living there, while Wilanir and Padyer were fatally inhospitable. She mentioned that a half-dozen worlds crashed into the Gyre in the past year, and Av was the seventh. She hadn’t explored them yet, but she knew where they were, except for one that was shaped like a silver ring. She saw it dragged away by something like a comet, white and serpentine, toward the mouth of the Gyre. Korrigan warned her about the Voice of Rot and asked if she had had encountered the vaknids before. Calily said she had, but that the spiders were usually docile.

They decided to accompany her back there while the Coaltongue powered up. They would take the stone discs, and offered one to Calily. Given that her ascetic mind-set closely mirrored that of the gith, it was no surprise that she found the disc easy to use. They left Uriel and Leon on the Coaltongue as both were able to augment the levitationals by releasing magical energy into the capacitor. Quratulain did not want to be left behind, although repairs to her limbs were not finished. Then they remembered the duplicants Pardo had brought on board – both stowed belowdecks since Pardo’s had collapsed in a heap as soon as they left Lanjyr: link severed; experiment failed. They knew the ritual that enabled Quratulain to use one of the duplicants and so she came along to guard the king and Kai, albeit in a slightly weaker body than her own.
 
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