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ZEITGEIST [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 251, Part One

Prologue


There was no time to mourn for Harkover. The threat he had posed to Flint was averted; they had reclaimed the city, snapped the citizens free of the hivemind, and shut off the gas lamps. The first part of Operation Ettin was complete. To begin the second, they needed to get back to Cauldron Hill.

At that moment, they noticed that the clouds over the hill were roiling and parting to form a gap through which the night sky could be seen. It took the form of a raven, perched atop Cauldron Hill, and through it they could see the sparkling glow of the Gyre. It was an incredible sight. (“Just so you know,” said Gale, via messenger wind, “that’s not me.”) Korrigan vaguely remembered something similar to this contained in the prophecies of Nevard Sechim.

The gap did not last long – just a few minutes. Its source was not apparent, not even to Leon. However, Leon was able to say that its appearance coincided with the disappearance of all of the hivemind filaments. But there was no time to ponder the mystery of all this in any depth.

One or two matters could be dealt with hastily before they made for the hill. The dragon had done significant damage to the Coaltongue, but there was no time to waste on repairs. To get to Axis Island in time, the ship would have to set sail now and that was the order they gave.

Nor did they have any time to spare on Linia’s message from the Gyre. All of that would have to wait until they had dealt with the distant capitals.

So they left Delft, Gale and Grimsley to rally the city and made their way back to Isaac’s hideout. There they found Wondermaker, in his dapper gentleman form.

Wondermaker had set up his duplicant tech a short way up the hill. Seven tall, metal chairs in a circle, with all manner of cables and doodads protruding from them. Fitted to the top of each one was what appeared to be a black top hat with a dial at the front, depicting a variety of draconic icons. His assistants – four wererats – were just putting the finishing touches to these mechanisms.

Wondermaker explained that this device would capture a fragment of the occupant’s soul in witchoil, and cause their entire being to be transferred into the corresponding duplicant – identified by the combination of draconic sigils chosen by pointing the three hands on each dial.

“I have also solved the problem of sending someone to help Pemberton,” he said. “But it will require someone with a mastery of spirits and a knowledge of how to command them. A residue of Pemberton’s soul remains in this duplicant, just enough to trace it to any other he has occupied. My guess is there will be others on Pemberton’s island that he has used, and we might be able to glean their draconic sigils, although we won’t be to occupy them.”

Uru was the obvious choice; he did as he was told by Wondermaker and was able to ‘look’ out of the eyes of another duplicant. This duplicant appeared to be underwater. That wouldn’t do. Could Uru access another? The answer seemed to be no. So they tried Pardo’s duplicant instead, and this one scored a palpable hit: Around him, Uru could see many other duplicants; in the distance he heard gnolls talking in their harsh, gnashing tongue. He looked down at the duplicant’s chassis and found the sigils etched there. Using Korrigan’s telepathic network, he was able to relay them to Wondermaker.

This had caused a delay, but there was another problem still to solve: they needed to send seven powerful individuals to seven different places. How could they send Conquo anywhere? He had no soul. “It depends on where he needs to go,” said Cyneburg. “I might be able to take him there.”

Uru would head for Pemberton’s Island; Leon called dibs on Cherage – his old home; Rumdoom wanted to go to Trekhom, for obvious reasons, although Wondermaker said it would be useful to send someone able to use a sniper rifle, to make best use of the towers. Rumdoom shrugged. He’d had some basic firearms training in the military, he wasn’t worried about that. So that left Seobriga, Slate, Alais Primos and Sentosa. Gupta chose Sentosa; Korrigan would go to Slate. Of the remaining two, Cyneburg had only been to Seobriga since the Great Eclipse; Conquo happily said that it was also the only place that he had been, so at least he would know his way around. That left Alais Primos to Quratulain. Poetic justice, perhaps?

At the mention of Sentosa, Wondermaker raised another problem – he had no duplicants there; Leon hadn’t been to Elfaivar since the Great Eclipse; nor had Cyneburg. Gupta asked Gale if she could get her there fast enough. Gale replied no. Then Gupta idly wondered if her connection to Hewanharimau would be strong enough to transport her to the temple. It felt like a vain hope, but it sparked recognition in Linia. “You need no connection to another god,” she said, “for you yourself are divine.” Gale thanked her for the compliment, and said she wasn’t too shabby herself, before Linia insisted: “I know something of what transpired in the Gyre. You became a god there, claiming all aspects of Srasma. Your sundered spirits may not yet have unified, but divinity knows no bounds; you carry its spark within you even now.”

This was something of a shock, and begged questions Gupta did not have time to ask. But she recognised the truth of it at once. Elfaivar was hers, much as the mountains belonged to Uru. But if she tried to go there and succeeded, how would she get back? “Take the sending stone,” said Leon. “I’ll follow the voice and bring you back.”

And so it was decided.

They sat in their respective chairs and final preparations were made.

“Remember,” said Cyneburg. “To free the people, you need to take out the focus of the hivemind. To save them, you have to destroy the lanterns.”

“My telepathic network will keep us all in touch,” said Korrigan. “But don’t use it within a hivemind until your presence is already exposed; even then, use wisely, as you may expose another whose mission is not complete.”

They nodded in agreement. Wondermaker waited for Gupta before he began the procedure. She closed her eyes and meditated for a moment. Then she vanished! Cyneburg whisked Conquo away too. At that, one of the wererats threw a lever and the top hats descended.

“Wait!” cried Quratulain, who realised that, morally, she had come to rely very heavily on Korrigan and now did not want to let him down – released without qualm like a fox in a chicken coop. “Any tips for dealing with the clergy?”

Korrigan gave her a pithy answer, then all were subsumed and awoke… elsewhere.
 

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Echolocation

Explorer
I read it, mainly to see how someone else interprets parts of the campaign and try to steal idea's , I have read the start and the later sections of the thread but never had the stamina to read the whole thing as it was well underway before I started to look at Zeitgeist
I've read this campaign log in a similar style and with similar objectives to Andrew Moreton. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. Along with others in the forum, your ideas and stories have helped me flesh out my version of Lanjyr. I think my players have a better time because of it :)
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 251, Part Two

The Chancellor's Motorcade


Rumdoom pulled off the sheet covering his duplicant and discovered that it was standing in a closet, along with a couple of others. These duplicants of Wondermaker's were different to Pemberton's - less like a solid skeleton and more like a wire mesh impression of a humanoid form; able to take on the shape of the occupant more precisely. There were a number of implements lying about, including the aforementioned sniper rifle. He took that, and a hammer, which immediately took on the shape of the Stone of Not. He was alone, though. No retinue; not even Hildegaard. There was a certain clarity about that. A sense of purpose and freedom.

The closet was locked so he barged it open and found himself in an impressive public building, where high, vaulted ceilings echoed to the sounds of silence and emptiness. The corridor he was on led to a vast chamber lined with rows of seats and tables facing a large podium. This was the Drakren parliament building. But there was no one hear.

Just then, he heard a cough, echoing from across the way. He followed the noise and came to the main exit, lightly guarded by two dwarves. The saw him and told him to halt. He didn’t halt. Instead he ‘notted’ them both, except the Stone did not ‘not’ them, it merely worked as a hammer might and dropped them to the ground instead.

Out of the building into the street. Signs that a parade had passed; abandoned banners, ticker tape and barriers to keep back crowds that had since moved on. In the distance – cheering: the parade was still going elsewhere. He began to follow, tireless but slow. He’d never catch the parade at this rate. Would his clockwork carriage be accessible, he wondered? He reached into his coat pocket, where it was normally kept, and there it was! His entire being had been translated, belongings and all. Incredible what they could do nowadays.

Following in the carriage caused him to gain on the parade in no time. Soon he began to pass through streets where the crowds had yet to disperse. They began to cheer him too, thinking he was a latecomer. He waved back, just to play along. Ahead, in the distance, he could see the parade itself – huge numbers of soldiers, mechanical and otherwise, along with military hardware on show for the people of Trekhom, who had made them.

Rumdoom didn’t fancy getting too close and pulled up at a nearby tower. There were a lot of them in Trekhom. This one was heavily guarded. Rumdoom jumped out of his carriage, ran into the middle of them, froze them solid with a cold blast and entered the tower.

It was a long climb, but he kept up a stolid pace, reaching the top in about five minutes. The roof was open and gave a commanding view of Trekhom. He could see several lantern towers in the distance, and one close by – about half a mile away, in the centre of a triangular industrial district which the parade was now passing through.

Through his scope, Rumdoom could see that the focus of the parade was a carriage drawn by a spidery Ob contraption. In the carriage sat the philosopher Hastenschrieft Willimarkanova, a tedious and long-winded Ob officer Rumdoom had already had the misfortune of encountering on Mutravir. Alongside him sat Vlendham Heid. Rumdoom felt an unexpectedly strong connection between him and Vlendham, but he shrugged it off. Both Heid and Willimarkanova were waving to the crowd; Heid somewhat lamely; Willimarkanova with regal poise. At this distance, either one of them could be the focus of the hivemind. Rumdoom decided to pop them both.

He took aim with the sniper rifle and focused first on Willimarkanova. He took a deep breath and uttered an eschatological pronouncement to render his aim true.

Then a shot rang out. Not his! It whistled past his head and sprayed him with masonry and golden sparkles, lighting him up like a firefly. He ducked back behind cover and then took a peek out to see if he could locate the shooter. It wasn’t hard; they weren’t attempting to hide: stood in the Ob lantern tower, reloading, was Kvarti Gorbatiy.

Rumdoom shouldered his rifle, grabbed the Stone of Not, and used Fourmyle Jaunt to get to the lantern tower. He found himself in the midst of an Obscurati construct squad that was too slow to react to his sudden arrival. Not so Kvarti, who cracked him on the head with the butt of his rifle and knocked him to the floor. Rumdoom was so taken aback by this turn of events that he lost his grip on the Stone of Not, which clattered across the floor. Rumdoom used another empowered cold burst to freeze the constructs, but Kvarti shrugged it off and fired at point blank range. Rumdoom flailed about him. Where was Thurgid when you needed a weapon? He jumped to his feet as Kvarti reloaded and fired again.

“Stop being such a cunt!” he shouted at Kvarti with all the volume and ire he could muster. “It’s me! Rumdoom! We’ve butted heads!”

Kvarti blinked and squinted and all of a sudden snapped out of it. “Rumdoom? What am I doing? I am very sorry, my friend. I did not know you.”

“It’s the hivemind,” said Rumdoom. “To snap everyone out of it we need to take out the focus. Come on. You take Willimarkanova, and I’ll take Heid.”

“What? Wait. Why are we shooting at Heid?”

“He might be the focus for all I know.”

“Well, I can tell you, he’s not. It’s Willimarkanova.”

“Let’s shoot him, then.”

“Her. Willimarkanova is a her.”

“Really? I could have sworn she was a man. This new fashion for shaving confuses things. Right, well, let’s both shoot him, then.”

Her.”

Even before they levelled their rifles, the lantern towers began to glow red. The Ob’s hand must have been tipped by activity elsewhere. Should they take out the lanterns first?

“No time,” said Kvarti, with a nod to a military bunker the parade was heading for. “Now’s our window. But the Ob has granted me the power to teleport between towers, all the better to provide overwatch for our dear leader. I can take allies with me. Let’s shoot Willimarkanova first, then see what we can do about the lanterns.

Rumdoom agreed.

The happy cheers of the crowd, soon turn to cries of fear and dismay as the head of Hastenschreift Willimarkanova was turned into a fine, red mist. Shortly after that, the nearby lantern tower exploded. It was followed by another, then another. It wasn’t long before all the towers and their clockwork defenders were dealt with. Then Rumdoom flew down to address the crowd. …
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 251, Part Three

Alais Primos


Quratulain found herself lying beneath a sheet. She stayed still for a moment, to absorb Korrigan’s response to her question: “Don’t punish people for the faith that came to them with mother’s milk.” Quratulain let her hand stray to her belly. She was not alone after all. Would she be able to nurse her baby, she wondered? Would that be with milk or with machine oil?

When she threw off the sheet, she saw that she was in the top floor of a tower, where a cracked skylight had let in rain, causing the whole of the building’s wooden frame to rot. The floorboards creaked alarmingly as she stood. Glass double doors opened out onto an ornate marble balcony that gave her a majestic view of the city, and the magnificent Grand Librarium, nearby. As everywhere else, snow had fallen and the air was below freezing. Alais Primos did not have the ubiquitous gaslight lamps of Flint, but it did have four lantern towers dispersed around the valley, glowing a docile brown. Another, reddish glow emanated from the caldera of Enzyo Mons, throwing the great cathedral into silhouette. Quratulain noticed that the building looked different – its towers appeared to have fallen.

Before she could ponder this matter, she registered sobs that had been a distant background noise since her arrival on the balcony. They came from the square down below, where a huddle of defiant worshippers knelt and prayed together. No doubt this was in defiance of the Ob - at this very moment city guardsmen approached the crowd from two directions.

Quratulain jumped off the balcony and used her jet boots to slow her descent. On the way down she noticed one of the praying figures was very different from the others: a gigantic man in golden armour, around whom the others seemed to be clustered as if for his protection. He was a clergy godhand and now Quratulain recognised him as Aulus Atticus, whom the unit had left in charge of Alais Primos, after the wresting control from Vitus Sigismund. She remembered that he had been an especial friend and ally of the king, who had made a great impression on him some time before she was rescued from the Vault of Heresies. He stood protectively over his followers as she descended; his piercing blue eyes bespoke great concern for them.

Quratulain spoke loudly to rally the prayerful and warn the approaching soldiers: “The king of Risur has returned and this world will be restored.” Though her words staved off more sobbing, she knew the soldiers wouldn’t listen, but she felt she ought to at least read them their rights before disposing of them. “I have to K before I am Q” she thought to herself. Then she opened fire.

Aulus Atticus joined her, felling the soldiers with radiant fists. When they were done, he said, “I know you. You are the Mechanical Devil of Kurat-Ul-Ain, murderer of hierarchs. But I also know you as a friend and ally of King Baldrey of Risur. Are you here alone?”

Quratulain confirmed that she was, that she and her allies were stretched thinly trying to save the whole world at once.

Atticus told her that Alais Primos was now under the sway of Arch Secula Natalia Degaspare, the venal Ob officer and sole remaining hierarch, whom they had found skulking in the Grand Librarium, back when they came to get the Axis Seal Ritual. Now she presided over the methodical deconstruction of the Cathedral of Triegenes. Hundreds of dominated people clung to scaffolding around the building, chipping free bricks one at a time, then carrying them down so Natalia could disenchant them. She was heavily guarded.

Quratulain decided to head for the cathedral first. Atticus went with her. When they were only halfway up the mount, she stopped to look over the city again and saw where the lantern towers were positioned. The Ob had simply repurposed the old bell towers that had once guarded against the fey, ringing with golden Urim energy to prevent teleportation. Quratulain worried that if they challenged Degaspare, the lanterns would be lit, and there would be no time for them to reach them all. So she changed her mind and decided to start with the towers.

She and Atticus now set off at a run. Both of them were very fast, he despite his golden plate. The first bell tower was surrounded by soldiers. They ran through them as they opened fire, bullets ricocheting off them. Atticus smashed through the locked door, while Quratulain stood behind him deflecting more bullets. Inside was a construct squad. Quratulain drew her pistols and blasted a path through them towards the stairs, which they instantly took. The constructs waved their grindsaw arms and gave pursuit, along with a press of soldiers.

On the narrow bottle-neck of the stairs, Atticus held them. Each of his blows summoned an angel, until there were three blocking the way. Then he joined Quratulain up top just after she blasted the lantern apart. From there, they each used Fourmyle Jaunt to travel to a separate tower. They took those out too, noting that there was no explosion from the first one as there had been in Flint, perhaps because the towers had not turned red yet? Maybe it would happen once they did?

But their actions had been noticed, and warning bells began to peal across the city, filling the air with futile, golden radiance. Through this noise they ran, separately, converging on the final lamp. Before they could get there, it turned purple.

This wasn’t the light of Jiese, but of Av, now the plane of death. At once, Quratulain felt something plucking, tugging at her very essence. She resisted at first, but in the end both she and Atticus succumbed, as did everyone else around them – everyone in the light of this final lantern was drawn out of their own bodies, to float above the streets in spirit form. Quratulain looked down and saw her baby curled up inside her. She was not surprised or perturbed to see its little bovine head.

The common-folk were wailing, freed from the hivemind, but terrified. Quratulain and Atticus stayed focused and flew towards the tower, where – even as they did so – the purple light began to dim as everything real receded.

In this form, they had no way of affecting the lantern. Atticus thought perhaps to summon an angel, but he had summoned all he could this day. Quratulain wondered if she could somehow reverse the power of her icon of Nem, and render herself tangible? But, no.

So she used her power to calculate an answer from all of the available data and deduced that the only way to solve this situation was to inscribe another spell on the golden bell, something that, when it rang, would shatter the lantern.

Easier said than done. She had no spells; only guns.

It did not take a predictive equation to realise that she needed to get someone else involved…

End of Session
 
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I like the thematic connections in these bits. Q disliking the Clergy and then working with one of them. Rumdoom wanting to assassinate me.

I wonder how the others will play out.
 



gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Mini-Session 252

DM's Note: I was fairly confident my group would enjoy sitting through each others' solo missions (or, at the very least, put up with it). But it helped that the solos got started around the patchy Xmas/New Year period. As it happens, one of the players was going to a miss their 'slot' in the regular sessions, but a bunch of us were round at his house playing Gloomhaven, so I ran his solo mission at the end of that.

Sentosa


When Gupta first translated herself into the Temple of Hewanharimau, her senses seemed to be magnified by the act of invoking her own divinity. Although the temple was dark and quiet, she could sense turmoil, noise and arcane energy without. Her mundane senses registered the immediate stench of death. Bodies littered the floor of the temple; more dead eladrin. Gupta saw that they were covered in disfiguring buboes: a plague had taken them. She stood in wonder and realised that this plague had been introduced deliberately. Maybe one or two of those quarantined here were still alive, but they remained beyond her power to heal them.

Just as she made to leave, a light bathed the chamber. She turned to see a bright object hovering above the altar, over the bowl full of tiger’s blood Gupta had once drunk from. It was the arsenal of Dhebisu, which once belonged to Uriel. It’s presence her served to confirm his absence; Uriel would not be returning from the Gyre, it seemed.

Gupta reached out and claimed the arsenal.

She went outside, and found a raging storm and rains so heavy she could barely see her way. There was no one close by, so she oriented herself and headed for the Temple of Srasma. As she went, despite the storm, she could see that some of the buildings here in Rumah Terakir had been restored to their former glory; or rather, had been supplanted by their echoes in the pocket plane of Sentosa, when the plane had been ‘emptied’ by the Great Eclipse. She also noticed glyphs of warding and other, physical landmines that ought to have been hidden from her, and was thereby able to avoid them. “How are you able to sense all these things?” asked Xambria, but Gupta did not know.

As she negotiated her way through the muddy streets, a pair of rajput emerged up from hiding and challenged her. They were weary and twitchy, but slightly mollified when one of them recognised her. He went to speak to the matriarch while the other waited with Gupta. She maintained a military professionalism and in that way, coaxed him to open up a little. He told her that the forces of the Obscurati were camped in the jungle just outside Sentosa. (They were calling it ‘Sentosa’, then, this mish-mash of two cities.) The glyphs and mines served as their only ‘wall’, but there were enough humans – ‘over ten thousand’ – that they could enter the city at any time. Instead, they waited for the matriarch to surrender, while subjecting the populace to a variety of horrors: First, they bombarded the outskirts, which was why they were abandoned now; the matriarch could raise magical shields, but only in a much smaller area. Then came the storm, which had raged for weeks. And the humans had sent a plague, too…

This part of his story was interrupted when the other rajput returned. The matriarch wished to speak with Gupta, and so they led her through to the centre of the half-ruined city, to the foot of the Temple of Srasma. They passed by the remaining inhabitants along the way, who came out to look at her despite the storm. They were exhausted and starved. Most were clustered in homes beneath the great tree of the Akela Sathi, which made Gupta think of poor Helandra.

At the foot of the Temple of Srasma stood a magical dome of force. Inside was Athrylla Valanar and her closest advisors. Gupta could see that the storm had denied them rest and so they had few spells remaining. They were helpless. The Ob forces could sweep in and take them at any time.

Though weary, Athrylla remained beautiful, proud and austere. “Gupta Porras. I last saw you leaving Sentosa in the company of Kasvarina Varal. " (It was nice of her not to mention Helandra's murder.) "Our situation since then has deteriorated somewhat. Can you give me a reason not to regret my decision to free Kasvarina?”

Gupta said that those responsible for the Great Eclipse were camped outside the city. Kasvarina was now a foe to them, not an ally.

“Shortly after the initial bombardment that began this siege,” said Athrylla, “a child messenger came to Sentosa bearing a letter. It purported to be from Kasvarina and demanded our surrender. I am to hand control of all the lands that were once Elfaivar over to Cula Ravjahani, who was for many years Kasvarina’s second-in-command at the enclave Ushanti.”

Gupta remembered Cula Ravjahani from the Convocation. She had led the Miller’s Pyre faction, and been a ruthless participant in the purge of the Colossal Conclave. Matunaaga had felled her and taken her vekeshi blade, but he must not have finished the job. (“She’ll be the focus of the hivemind,” whispered Xambria.)

“It was only a few days later that we realized the child had been magically infected with a plague that rapidly spread through the city. We depleted our stock of scrolls and other healing items in a fight against the disease, and those whom we could not cure we quarantined at the temple of Hewanharimau, without anyone to tend them.”

“They’re all dead now,” Gupta confirmed. She noticed as she spoke that one of Athrylla’s older male advisors had been staring at her intently, wide-eyed. He leaned in to whisper to Athrylla who then said, “I am told you bear a spark of the female divine. Not the curse you stole from Hewanharimau - another.”

Gupta told her, matter-of-factly, that she had claimed that spark from Srasma herself. “I am not Srasma,” she said, “I am the god that is needed.”

With that, she raised her hands and shared healing around the dome, restoring the vigour of the exhausted eladrin elders. It was only really a very small thing. Practically speaking, it would not help at all, but it was sufficient to alter Athrylla’s mood to one of positivity and optimism. Maybe Gupta was the answer to their problems after all? So when Gupta asked if there was any way Ravjahani could be convinced to come to Sentosa, instead of dismissing the idea, Athrylla embellished it: “No. But she would come out into no-man’s-land to accept my surrender. …”

*
About an hour later, Athrylla Valanar and her retinue walked out through the same gate where the unit had faced the ten-headed-lion, and came to a halt in the deep footprint left before the gate by the colossus, Borne, as he searched for his ‘mother’. Among Athrylla's retinue was an unusually short, female rajput, bearing a very bright, silver spear. (It was most unusual for eladrin to risk their women in combat –perhaps this was a sign of their desperation?)

The magical storm abated suddenly and the tree-line shook, as Ravjahani’s army advanced to observe the surrender first hand. As they stepped out from the jungle, their line stretched out for a mile in either direction: thousands of soldiers drawn from every colony in Elfaivar.

The vekeshi apostate, Cula Ravjahani walked out to meet the matriarch, accompanied by bookpin bodyguards.

“There are no ghost councillors with her,” said Xambria. “But she is the focus of the hivemind.”

Gupta made her mind up to strike before Ravjahani could even begin to speak, but even as her body put her plan into motion – to use the icon of apet to teleport behind her foe – it did so in a way Gupta could not have bidden, nor anticipated. Since the revelation of her divinity, she had noticed a frisson of power within her – as more and more eladrin began to hear that Srasma had returned. (Xambria had said how strange it was to be inside her head right now. Like witnessing a miracle first-hand.)

Instead of teleporting, her body began to grow, to expand, until, in an instant, she towered over twelve-feet tall. Her skin was blue, with green tiger stripes, her eyes blazed with fury; her rajput’s helm became a towering crown; the arsenal a flaming sword. Her other hand reached out for Cula Ravjhani, who quailed and sank to her knees.

When the goddess touched her, her whole personality was stripped away. She was suddenly no one, just like Catherine Romana.

End of Mini-session
 



gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 253, Part One

Seobriga & Slate


Lauryn Cyneburg brought Conquo into the outskirts of Seobriga, shrouded by an invisibility spell. She warned him to be cautious, nonetheless, as the spell would not silence him, but for the time being neither of them could see anyone around. The huge golem climbed a nearby building to get his bearings and saw four Ob lanterns dotted about the city. Unlike those in Flint, these were purpose-built wooden structures. He could also see something going on in the light of one of those towers: a huge public gathering by the look and the sound of it. Conquo knew Seobriga reasonably well, and thought that it was the square where he and the unit had first arrived, searching for Tinker Oddcog.

He decided to take a closer look, and was about to set off when Cyneburg suggested she teleport them there. Conquo was enthusiastic about this, and asked her to take him straight into the wooden lantern tower. Cyneburg refused. “We don’t know if it could take your weight.” How about a nearby roof, then? “Again, who knows if that’s safe. I’ll bring us close to the square at ground level, if it’s all the same to you.” They bickered a bit more and Conquo thought, ‘she’s worse than Xambria’. In the end he gave up: “If that’s all you could do, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”

They teleported to a trash-filled alleyway at the edge the square. Their arrival caused quite a din, as the rubbish was displaced noisily, but the nearby citizens did not appear to notice. All of the streets leading to the square were crowded with people, facing the square intently, despite not having any clear view. The reason for this soon became apparent, when both Conquo and Cyneburg received the same mental broadcast as everyone else – a moving image of what was happening in the square:

Wearing a leather mask over his hideously deformed face, Bruse Shantus himself stomped a long row of prisoners, flanked by a pair of king-bred tyrannosaurs draped in royal raiment, and accompanied by Brakken of Heffanita, whose telepathic projection this must have been. Other Berans of note were present, Zarkava Ssa’litt and Kenna Vigilante among them, and the square was also crowded with orc soldiers. All seemed to be under the sway of the hivemind.

“Don’t look away, citizens!” bellowed the Bruse. “These savages before us were given a chance to obey our laws, but they rejected us. Disobedience is an uncivil serpent, and we must strike off its head before it poisons us. Let all who would resist our unity smell the blood spilled today, and know we shall come for them soon!” Brakken then handed him a ceremonial greatsword.

“This is too dangerous,” said Cyneburg. “You can’t go up against all of them!”

“Then I will focus on the lanterns,” said Conquo. “We’ll stop the Ob from burning the city and come back to free the people later. Can you teleport me to the towers?”

Cyneburg shook her head. “I blew most of my dailies fighting you guys. I’m pretty drained right now. I need to save some juice to get you home.”

Just then, as the Bruse began to approach the prisoners, hefting the greatsword threateningly, a prisoner at the centre of the line stood, even though she had to awkwardly heave up two goblins who were manacled to her. It was the gnoll, Glaucia Evora, and she spat her words at the Bruse:

“We were never a nation of obedience, tyrant! We were a nation of justice. On this killing field, you might cut us down, but our blood will water a new crop of revolution. Better a savage than a slave.”

The Bruse snarled in reply, “You have volunteered to die first, executore!” The crowd roared with relish. This is what they had come to see!

Conquo looked down at Cyneburg. “Sorry, but she’s a friend. Got to help now.”

“Wait!” hissed Cyneburg. “Give me a second!”

*​

Korrigan found himself lying under loose floorboards. They lifted easily, only for the space to be filled by an avalanche of stale hay. He struggled up through it, and found himself in a hayloft above a stable – and quite a grand one at that. He recognised it as the royal stables in the grounds of Torfeld Palace. A couple of young grooms were tending the horses, but they didn’t see him. He opened the upper door and flew out into the night.

It was strange to be without Kai after all this time. He made a mental note that a couple of the powers he drew from Kai were not available to him (as Kai enabled him to access all the planes, not just those he was attuned to himself).

There was an Obscurati lantern tower right here on the palace grounds, planted with some effrontery on the enormous oval lawn. This one was a simple wooden structure, not like the ones in Flint. It did not appear to be guarded, but rather than investigate it straight away, Korrigan decided to head back into the stables and get some answers, which he extracted from the stable-hands, once he’d freed them from the hivemind. It wasn’t clear whether the two young lads were more surprised to be free, or that their king was now addressing them. They told them that Viscount Price-Hill was in charge here in Slate, and that he was resident in the palace. Korrigan told them to lay low, and if possible not to leave the stable. Then he went to check out the lantern tower.

Inside, he found large barrels of oil which he quickly identified as being identical to the oil currently burning with a sepia light designed to dampen emotions. There didn’t appear to be any pipes or mechnisms connecting this lamp up to another site; no refinery like the one they had discovered in Flint. So no means of turning this lamp into a killing machine. Korrigan sent his mind’s eye up into the sky and saw about nine more lamps dotted about Slate. All were of similar construction. The Ob had no plans to use Slate as part of their scorched-earth contingency.

Still, to reclaim his capital, he needed to address the hivemind situation, and free Viscount Price-Hill.

Before he could even begin to formulate a plan of action, he received a coded sending from Lauryn Cyneburg:

“Conquo is in trouble here, your majesty. Can you or any of the others be spared?”

Slate could wait. They had good friends in Seobriga. Korrigan gave the signal for his extraction, and reappeared on Cauldron Hill.

As Wondermaker fiddled with the dial on the top hat, he said, “The duplicants in Seobriga are far from the city centre. The Berans are alert to such technology!”

All of a sudden, Korrigan was off again, hoping he would arrive on time. …
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 253, Part Two

The Master & the Apprentice


Before the Bruse could take more than a couple of steps towards Glaucia, there was a sudden series of explosions from within the square and without. The crowd began to panic; the mental broadcast was disrupted. Conquo wanted to see what was happening and swiftly climbed the building in front of him.

A giant ‘S’ hundreds of feet across had been lit on the ground in the square. More harmless, arcane pyrotechnics were causing the panic in the side-streets. Across the square from him, Conquo saw another figure standing on the rooftops: windswept, with a billowing black cloak, broad-brimmed black hat and black mask. The Bruse saw him too, and gestured towards him; soldiers levelled their rifles; the figure ducked out of sight, only for another to take advantage of their distraction, and the chaos around them, to leap into the centre of the square and attack the Bruse himself.

This newcomer was an elderly eladrin man, with what appeared to be an arm made from salt. “I am Sor Daeron, and I defy the Obscurati!” he cried. “Tell Kasvarina to come and face me!”

The Bruse laughed, and his tyrannosaurs attacked the eladrin.

“Korrigan is on his way,” said Cyneburg, appearing alongside. “Let’s go!” She vanished, and reappeared in the square, where she began to free the prisoners.

Conquo leapt off the rooftop and thumped a t-rex. This thing was a lot bigger than the ones Conquo had faced before; it didn’t seem fazed by his blow and bit him back. The two huge foes ending up wrestling with one another. Recognising Conquo, even in his enlarged form, the Bruse gave an order. Soldiers atop the lantern began to make adjustments. More soldiers at the foot of the lantern began firing on Conquo in unison. There were so many of them, and their volley was so sustained, that they threatened to slowly chip away at his rock-hard form. Glaucia struck them with a pillar of radiant fire, forcing them to break formation.

Sor Daeron didn’t trouble himself with details such as who his new allies were – while fending off the dinosaurs, to anyone who cared to listen, he said, “We should do something about that lantern!” At once, the mysterious masked man tight-rope-walked across to try to stop the soldiers from activating it, but second later the dull brown glow became a bright, strobing red and white. All who saw it felt their blood boil, and the red mist descending.

The Bruse struck Conquo with his ceremonial greatsword. It wedged in Conquo’s jagged hide and was torn from his hands. One of the tyrannosaurs chomped down on Sor Daeron, but he let it take his salt arm, before teleporting away. His salt arm then regrew. The masked man made a fighting retreat from the lantern tower, swinging out and down in style to join Cyneburg in helping to free the prisoners. The orcs fired at him as he went, but he had clearly read Kenna Vigilante’s How Not to Get Shot.

Once he was clear, Conquo lifted the t-rex he was wrestling clear off the ground and hurled it bodily at the lantern tower! The wooden structure couldn’t withstand the impact and collapsed. Any orcs inside that might have survived did not survive the thrashing of the wounded tyrannosaur as it struggled to get up.

Glaucia charged at the Bruse ferociously, no longer bound by any sense of loyalty to him. But the Bruse was a formidable opponent and fended her off. The gnoll then snarled at Brakken, who was standing around uselessly, “Since when have you been a lackey to this blithering fool? I thought you valued your freedom?”

This gentle nudge was all it took to free Brakken, whose mind had always been resilient to hiveminds; the Ob must have taken pains to ensure his domination. But now he was free, and looked around, as if taking in the scene for the first time.

Orcs charged Conquo, mobbed him. Even acting in concert, they didn’t pose much of a threat, but they were able to distract him enough for the Bruse to get in a resounding blow with his horns. Conquo punched him back, and then grabbed him.

One of the t-rexes remained uninjured and this one attacked and grabbed Glaucia, thrashing her from side to side in its huge jaws. Brakken called it to heel and it dropped her and stood, snorting and licking its chops. “Don’t harm it,” said Brakken, “and it will remain calm.”

Not so the other t-rex, which had struggled free of the wreckage of tower and now attacked Conquo in defence of its master. Conquo threw the Bruse at the orcs.

Sor Daeron, outmatched by the Bruse and the dinosaurs, focused his efforts on the troops. Glaucia too. Brakken gave a piercing whistle and Feroz answered his command, charging into the square to defend him.

Unable to reach Conquo to attack him immediately, the Bruse bellowed in frustration and trapped the golem in a psychic labyrinth, preventing him from moving – the city suddenly became a confusing maze of irregular geometry that Conquo could barely navigate. Then the Bruse ordered his troops to open fire on the pacified tyrannosaur. Freed, it gave an enraged cry, stomped Brakken into the dirt and threw itself on Conquo, who was now battling both of them.

This new, improved and enlarge version of Conquo was tough – even tougher than the original version – but he wasn’t as skilled a fighter as other members of the unit. He would win by brute force alone, and in the tyrannosaurs and the Bruse, he had met his match. He might take out one of them, perhaps two, but in the end, he would be defeated. Cyneburg could see all this, and she cried out, “Where the hell is the king?!?”

“I’m doing my best!” came the telepathic response: Korrigan was streaking across the rooftops of Seobriga, having taken possession of a duplicant in yet another hayloft. He’d kept an eye on the fight as best he could, and was almost, but not quite, there.

The Bruse joined the dinosaurs in mobbing the golem. Feroz attacked one of the tyrannosaurs, but it shrugged him off. Sor Daeron tried to help, but he was exhausted. Conquo began to stagger back under the weight of three foes. Their thrashing was dangerous to be around and Brakken, Glaucia, Cyneburg, Sor and the masked stranger withdrew from the square.

Conquo knocked out one of the tyrannosaurs and grabbed the Bruse, who now tore off his leather mask, revealing the fleshless bovine skull beneath. “Master Nicodemus told me to say you brought this upon us. We could have been civilized, but you force us to become savages!” Heedless of Conquo’s stony form, the minotaur tried to bite his face off, shattering his own teeth in the process.

Now Conquo heard Korrigan’s voice in his head. “How are you doing? Do you need healing immediately?”

“I can… manage… for a couple of… seconds,” Conquo replied.

The king covered the final distance in the form of a lightning bolt, arriving with his holy sword raised above the ugly head of the Bruse. He was about to strike him down without a word, as he had never respected him, and a salient rejoinder was almost beneath his dignity, but in the end he could not help saying at least, “You are not fit to rule Ber.” Then he felled the minotaur.

Of course, the Bruse was sustained by the Blood of Ostea, but that only lasted for a moment, as Conquo began to use him as a club to beat the tyrannosaur. “Who bites someone?” said the golem, outraged.

Now Korrigan bestowed healing upon Conquo, and said, “Finish the job." While Conquo finished off the last t-rex, Korrigan turned to their allies and thanked them individually, saving the masked man til last.

“Hello, Damata,” he said. Damata Griento took off his hat and gave a low bow.

End of Session
 


gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I was saving the Bruse's bite until Korrigan got there - to target something more fleshy! But I'd used my patented 'random reinforcement mechanic' where you roll a dice each round to see if back-up arrives (with the size of the dice depending on the likelihood). In this case it was a d6. Korrigan would get there on a 6 in the 1st round; 5-6 in the second; 4-6 in the third, and so on.

It took him until round 6 to get there! By this time I was worried that Conquo would drop the Bruse so I had the crazy minotaur gnaw on a golem, which did more damage to him.

But the delay did add a lot of tension to the encounter, especially when things were getting tough for Conquo and all Korrigan had to do was roll a two or higher...
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 254, Part One

Somewhere in the Yerasol Archipelago


Uru was the only unit member to find himself transferred into a heavy-duty, solid Pemberton Industries duplicant. The duplicants designed by Wondermaker employed the kind of new-fangled, half-living, ‘bio-tech’ approach made possible by the new world bond with Mojang. Unoccupied, they looked like twisted wire mesh in a vaguely humanoid form. They responded more subtly to occupation, but provided less protection than the metal exoskeleton of the Pemberton model.

So Uru was slightly less stealthy in duplicant form, but as his abilities relied as much, if not more, on a magical manipulation of shadow itself, the difference wasn’t major.

Little Jack had not transferred with him. Objects and items did transfer, but Little Jack had been badly damaged by Pemberton, and Uru hadn’t had time to fix him. However, his ghostly occupants had transferred – Winkin, Blinkin & Nod, and the many other spirits whom he had rescued during their travels throughout Lanjyr.

Just as he had during his test run, Uru heard gnollish voices. He took to the ceiling of the cave he occupied and made his way towards them (answering Leon’s unintended question about the rats in Cherage as he went). There was a group of gnolls in a rough stone passageway, clustered tightly in the dim glow of rudimentary spark-gap lighting similar to that Pemberton had employed in his volcano lair on Isla dolas Focas. They were very still, and chanting the same phrases over and over. Uru might not have been able to understand them, were it not for the help of a Beran spirit who knew their guttural language: “It is best for the master. It is good for the master. This is a sign of our loyalty. It is best for the master. It is good for the master…” They were clearly locked in a hivemind.

Uru let them be and crept on through a network of tunnels and side-rooms full of supplies, passing more clusters of gnolls, all chanting in the same way, until the tunnels eventually opened out into an enormous, echoing chamber, which Uru took to be a hangar of some kind. It echoed to the sound of an argument:

Gradiax the Steel Lord, in his great, draconic form, lay belly-up in the centre of the hangar, limbs, neck and tail chained. The great beast was more-or-less unconscious, but twitched and moaned spasmodically. Around him were four senior ghost councillors, all of whom Uru recognised: Shuman Larkins and Glaz du Sang Magi focused their efforts on a huge, sharp shaft of steel that now hovered, suspended telekinetically, some distance above the restrained dragon’s breast: a failsafe, no doubt, lest he escape. The other two councillors were bickering loudly: they were Charles Ormond, who bounced around excitedly, yelling at Uru’s old host, Gran Guiscard, who he had last seen running screaming into the night on Mutravir. How he had met his end was not clear, but he was now objecting in the strongest terms to Ormond’s insistence that he join the host of ghost councillors that had already occupied Pemberton’s brain. Also standing by, looking disconsolately at his restrained master, was Pardo – the real Pardo this time, not a duplicant.

“When I agreed to continue my service to Nicodemus despite my condition,” Guiscard opined. “I was assured that I would not be required to undertake any services that compromised my dignity. I have no intention of squeezing into a confined space with dozens of other councillors!”

“You would not be squeezing, you fool!” cried Ormond. “You are a ghost! An infinite number of us could enter his mind and there would still be room for more! He has not yet succumbed to our satisfaction; he still resists; Nicodemus would have him turned. Will you be the one to say you failed him?”

“Why should I go next? I don’t see any reason why you can’t get in there.”

“My skills are needed out here! What use are you? I have no idea why Nicodemus even offered you a place on the council, you jumped up troubadour! Do as I say or face the consequences!”

While this argument raged on, Uru assessed the situation, wondering how best to deal with it. He checked out the chains binding the dragon. They looked solid. He looked for machines in the hangar that could be put to good use, but all he found was welding equipment and the control panel for an enormous hatch overhead.

He turned his attention back to the ghosts. Would he have enough authority over these spirits to free Pemberton? He had been able to free Cyneburg, but not Harkover. He decided to start small: stole close to Pardo and said, “Pardon me, Pardo!” before he banished the councillors possessing the gnoll. It worked! They could not help but do his bidding.

Simultaneously, he released the ghostly entourage, to shove the steel spike aside, out of harm’s way. Larkins and Magi gave a cry of anger and alarm, and they and Ormond prepared to attack. But Uru was faster. His crossbow could only load three shuriken at a time – one for each of them. He hoped to injure them all and then hide, but things went better than expected: Three shots; three wails; three vanished ghost. Guiscard recognised Uru as his erstwhile tormentor, gave a high-pitched scream and ran away all over again (failing to grasp the possibilities now open to him).

Uru turned to Pardo and said in gnollish, “I have come to free the Steel Lord. Help me with these chains.”
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 254, Part Two

Another Kind of Chain


No sooner had she been freed from the Vault of Heresies, the demoness Ashima-Shimtu was tracked down by Nicodemus. He told her she was free to roam his new world unmolested, free from domination. After all, he had her to thank for everything. Were it not for the Ashima-Shimtu’s offer of the sacrament of apotheosis five centuries ago, the Obscurati would never have been formed; the people of Lanjyr would never have been freed. She was escorted at all times by a pair of ghost councillors who were to ensure that no one accosted her. The only restriction Nicodemus placed on the demoness was that she must under no circumstances travel to Axis Island.

So Ashima-Shimtu went to Cherage, thinking to witness the glorious new age in the mastermind’s seat of power. Thus far she thought it seemed closer to the rule of the Demonocracy than the rumoured perfection of the celestial heavens.

While Ashima-Shimtu was in chains, she indulged in the idea of abandoning her evil nature and pursuing some form of noble redemption, but the demoness was having second thoughts now that she actually had the option to enjoy malevolence again. Her first taste of freedom in centuries was tempered with the cloying moral imperative of the Obscurati’s new world order, and she was uncertain if she actually had any choice in how to act.

She also found herself oddly affected by the propaganda that was present everywhere in Cherage. The Obscurati’s master of propaganda Gardienne du Cherage, had implemented a widespread campaign to teach the people of Danor the proper way to live in the new world, and slogans adorned the streets of Cherage, on posters and in newspapers:

“Visit Your Local Library for Detailed Tracts on the Proper Way to Live.”

“You Need Only Ask! The New World Will Provide.”

“Create Progress! Aid Your Fellow Man.”

“Reject Your Greed. Your Community is More Important Than You.”

“Know Your Talents. How Can YOU Best Help?”

“Is Your Neighbour a Threat to Order? Be Brave! Report Him.”

“This is the Best of All Possible Worlds.”

Struggling to understand her place in this world, Ashima-Shimtu followed thousands of other confused and yearning souls to the Cherage Rail Enclave. People knew that this was where undesirables went when they were to be carted away to the ‘re-education centres’. So prevalent and affecting was the Ob’s propaganda that many citizens had been filled with despair. Wishing to no longer be a burden on their community, they wanted their government to kill them.

The enclave was cast in a dull brown light, as a wayfarer lantern had been added atop the clock-tower. Enclave guards lined the edge of the platform to keep suicidal citizens from flinging themselves onto the line; disconsolate people crowded the streets, pressing forward to board the next train and be disposed of for the greater good: Yerasol veterans who never fitted back in to society following the war; single mothers whose children had died; orphans who had no one to guide them; desperate drug addicts who, perversely, were now helped by anyone they ask to help fund their habits. All of these people saw the ‘inspirational’ propaganda and determined that the way to help their fellow man was to cease to be a drain on society.

Ashima-Shimtu, wrapped in a fine robe of red silk, sat on a rooftop beside a withered old tiefling woman who went by the name of Ruby. Ruby shivered from fey pepper dementia. She became dependent on the drug to lift her spirits when the sun disappeared, but a few months ago when Av was shattered in the Gyre she could no longer get glimpses of the Dreaming. Normal life was too mundane for her to tolerate, and so she took ever increasing doses of the pepper, hoping to recapture the high that would never come. Instead, every time she smoked she would hallucinate that she was lashed with chains and pulled in a thousand different directions. This struck a chord in Ashima-Shimtu, and she wished to help the woman, though she did not know how. For the time being, she kept her close by, while she scrutinised the chaos all around her:

Gardienne du Cherage had now come to the enclave, and stood at the top floor of the clock-tower in front of the lantern, shouting at the suicidal masses, trying to undo the psychological damage she had inadvertently wrought. Ashima-Shimtu was fascinated to hear what the tiefling woman would say – these tieflings were an intriguing breed, she thought – so she was somewhat irked to see an invisible figure floating over the heads of the crowd and entering the ground floor of the clock-tower. It was another tiefling, whom she recognised, and his actions promised to disrupt Gardienne’s big speech…

Leon had woken up under a sheet behind some pallets in a disused warehouse in the dockside area of Cherage. He went out onto the street and tried to get his bearings, and figure out where it would be best to head. There were a few people around, but they couldn’t see him – or so he thought. A woman dressed in hoop-skirt, holding a parasol, despite the lack of sun, with a veil over her face and long gloves on her hands, walked right up to him and said, “You’ll find the lantern fuel depot in the clock-tower at the rail enclave.”

Taken aback, Leon scrutinised the woman and saw that she was composed of densely packed and intertwined rats! His surprise at this must have been loud enough for others in the telepathic network to register, as Uru replied, “El Extrano formed them into a hivemind and bribed them with cheese. Don’t you remember?”

Slightly mollified, Leon decided to follow this tip-off, and thus found himself at the enclave, where he determined to enter the clock-tower and disrupt the fuel lines if he could.

It didn’t take him long to figure out how to do so, but the depot was full of guards who might notice what he was up to when the valves started to turn. There wasn’t much he could do about the noise, but he plastered the illusion of an unmoving valve over the real one while he gingerly turned it (all the while wondering why they hadn’t thought to do it this way before).

Just as he was tightening the valve, there was a sudden noise behind him, and he cried out, as hooks imbedded in his flesh. Instinctively, he tried to teleport, but could not, and so found himself yanked bodily out of the depot, over the heads of the crowd and dashed onto the rail-line where he was pinned to ominously vibrating tracks.

Above him, chains writhing all around her, hovered the demoness, Ashima-Shimtu.

Despite his pain and fear, Leon studied Ashima-Shimtu for hivemind possession, and could see no sign of it. Before she could strike again, he cried out a reminder that it was he who had freed her from her prison and allowed her to go on her way.

“A train approaches,” said Ashima-Shimtu, “Time is short. Why do you disrupt the workings of the Obscurati?”

Human geopolitics must not have been her strong point. Before Leon could reply, Gardienne du Cherage gave the order for her troops to open fire on whatever the demoness had pinned. The bystanders could not see him, but could clearly see that the demoness was focused on something, and her writhing chains told them exactly where he was. Immediately, Ashima-Shimtu hissed at them like a wild cat and flailed her chains in their direction, catching a couple with blows sound enough to floor them. Gardienne du Cherage belayed her order and the demoness turned back to Leon.

Leon used all his wiles and powers of persuasion to convince Ashima-Shimtu that all of her doubts and fears were due to this flawed, sunless world, which was not a world in which she could experiment with free will, and the power not to do evil. He and his friends – who had parleyed with her in the past and freed her from the vault – were now trying to fix what the Ob had done. Whatever Nicodemus might have told her, this was a mistake, one which he had no right to make and even less right to fix. (As he spoke, the rail lines began to thrum all the more urgently…)

Ashima-Shimtu nodded. “What the mortal says is right, Ashima-Shimtu sees that now, and for that she ought to free him and let these factions settle their affairs for themselves. Indeed, she would do so, were it not for the fact that she knows the man who speaks these words is a LIAR!” She pulled herself close and spat that word into Leon’s face, inspecting it for signs of the word she had carved into it many years ago. “Ashima-Shimtu will let the train do its worst.”

At that moment, Quratulain spoke telepathically to Leon: “Leon, if you are able, I need your help.” She began to fill him in on the precarious situation in Alais Primos, blissfully unaware of his equally dire predicament. Meanwhile, Ashima-Shimtu sniffed the air about him, as if searching for the source of this voice, which she could apparently hear. She seemed perplexed, suddenly full of doubt. As Quratulain finished her explanation, the demoness said, “The prisoner of ages recognises her cellmate. She desires to speak with her. The liar must bring her here now.”

Leon was desperately trying to focus on two conversations at once, all the while conscious of the growing vibrations in the tracks beneath him. He told Ashima-Shimtu he would do what he could, but quickly let Quratulain know that he did not have a quick fix for her. He could not think of a magical solution to her problem, or figure out how to get there without becoming subject to the same effect. But he passed on Ashima-Shimtu’s message, that she wished to speak with Quratulain.

Quratulain understood why at once (although she did not know that her sundered self had chosen to bond with the demoness, her feelings here on Lanjyr were very much in lockstep). But she had been dragged out of her duplicant shell by the Ob’s lantern, and could not swap with Leon, even if she wished to.

All of a sudden, a powerful blast of lightning struck the bell from above, smashing the lantern to pieces. Before reaching out to Leon, Quratulain had only half-heartedly made an appeal to the powerful father of her unborn child, never imagining he would hear her, let alone respond. But now he had! The Father of Thunder had reached across the sea and struck the bell from above. The purple light winked out. Suddenly, Quratulain and Aulus Atticus – and all the souls in the area around the final lamp – were snapped back into their bodies; in Quratulain’s case, her duplicant.

Sounds of sobbing echoed through the streets all around her, as the people of Alais Primos were freed from the hivemind and unified by their shared out-of-body experience.

Quratulain didn't care about any of that. She told Leon what had happened and they agreed to switch – for him to come to Alais Primos and for her to go to Cherage and speak with Ashima-Shimtu.
 



SanjMerchant

Explorer
I can only hope to remember the Rat Hive mind when I get this far
I wouldn't care how thoroughly my allies briefed me. A bunch of rats impersonating a humanoid by filling up a set of clothes is freaky.

Oh, and I'm glad I finally got back to reading this. To answer your question, I'm just enjoying the great yarn you guys are spinning.

Also, not sure which to be more freaked out by: Gupta as an angry goddess literally un-personing someone on the spot or the ease with which Rumdoom decides that he should just shoot both, just in case.

And finally, every time I've read the Cherage scene, especially the potential ending where Ashima goes off into the not-sunset to liberate more of Danor, I imagine the painting "Liberty Leading the People," but with Ashima swapped in for the title character.
 

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