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

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Sorry, the best I can do is this 'picture' of Round 3:

IMG_20200210_092601_943.jpg


We never got the netting. We used an old towel instead. It's the area of rough terrain where Borne fell. Place holders have cards with PCs' initials on them. Huge beholder = worm maw. Hulkbuster = colossal Conquo.

My notes on this session were quite sparse as I grew steadily more drunk as the session progressed. The rest of the report is more detailed and therefore loooonger...
 
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SanjMerchant

Explorer
Session 257, Part Two

The Axis of Revolution

Rounds 1-5


... Gupta ... steeled her mind and asked Nicodemus another question: “Are you ever going to shut up?”
Man, I know he's a problematic character and all that, but all I can think of is Apu saying "I can't believe you don't shut up!" to Homer.

Even in her goddess form Gupta was instantly killed, as the energy lit up her form from within.
NO! Who will deliver pithy one-liners now!? (Seriously, though, this does make me sad.)
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Another quick DM's note might be appropriate here. The whole of session 258 was underscored by the magnificent Hawk the Slayer soundtrack:


Gotta love the 70s disco vibe.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part One

The Axis of Revolution

Rounds 6-7


Across Elfaivar and the rest of Lanjyr, Gupta’s worshippers cried out in horror and agony. But the unit knew that death, for Gupta, was often a mere inconvenience, and, thankfully, so did her worshippers. Though pained, they did not die en masse as they might otherwise have done.

Despite the proximity of the deadly energy tendril, and despite Korrigan's injuction to stay out of this fight, Linia arrived next to Gupta’s prostrate form. She tried to reach in to grab her, but was repelled.

The Coaltongue lost forward momentum, as the plane of fire had been removed, but at least the Revolution could not fire her cannons. Quratulain’s boots lost power entirely and she plunged towards the ground. Thankfully, their sacramental immunity had been restored and all she did was scour a huge groove in the ritual site. She fired her blaster from prone and took out a third lantern golem; Rumdoom destroyed a fourth. Now there was only one left.

Borne arrived where the Death pillar lay, having been blasted out of its moorings when Av was destroyed. The colossus stooped and gently lifted it. Nicodemus removed the icon of Av, and replaced it with the icon of an unknown plane.

“Anyone who doesn’t follow the Ob’s plan will die!” said Kai, reading tha planar traits.

“Jiquus!” said Xambria. She recognised this set-up from the Convocation. It was the uncompromising solution put forward by the Watchmaker faction!

Korrigan swapped out Jiese for Etheax and Conquo released the fire pillar. But he could not move back to the Air pillar as he wanted to, because of the golem’s immobilizing ray. Leon teleported both Conquo and Korrigan over there. (They didn’t have Caeloon in hand yet, but they needed to replace the pillar to stop the Coaltongue from sinking.)

“I see you have a plan of your own,” said Nicodemus. “I told you earlier, imitation is flattery.” He paused for a moment to pull out a spectral cigarette. “You think you’re fighting me, but you’re using my own methods. Oh, we might have different goals, but at the core, you agree with me: this world needs to be changed. You already voted with us how we should do it, too. So let me be the first to say it. Welcome to the Obscurati, constables.” The cigarette glowed brightly as he put it to his ghostly lips.

“Do not delude yourself,” Korrigan replied. “We are here to repair the damage you have done, and provide a new, free future for the people of this world.”

Back up on the Revolution, Uru left the goings on in the infirmary behind, and shadow-stepped through the bulkhead, finding himself in confined crew quarters. He stepped through to another, identical room, before taking a different direction and coming out on what he correctly guessed would be a passageway linking all the crew quarters together.

Having reattached the fire plane of his choosing, Korrigan now found himself able to direct the point of origin of an enormous pillar of fire. He picked a spot beneath the Revolution. Her tail section was engulfed in roaring flames, but her arcane defences were sufficient to avoid all but superficial damage.

A soothing voice now echoed throughout the vessel. Uru recognised it as the voice of Han Jierre. “You are all doing very well,” he said. “Your part in our Grand Design will remembered. Just keep doing as you’re told and all will be well. Ignore the flames. Our vessel is sound. Repair crews, please report to the rear gantry.”

At that, the passageway was suddenly filled with running halflings and gnomes. Uru snuck past them on the ceiling and found a ladder heading down. Why didn’t I just shadow-step through the deck? he thought to himself.

Now the Revolution fired its guns again: a broadside against the Coaltongue which ripped a hole where the sick bay had once been; and a second, aiming each of its starboard turrets straight down at Rumdoom, Conquo and Korrigan!

Both Conquo and Korrigan were knocked flat, and the integrity of their armour was severely challenged. Conquo was badly hurt; Korrigan less so. Rumdoom, however, emerged completely unscathed. Nothing was able to harm him! He swung his hammer and destroyed the last lantern golem.

Quratulain tried to draw a bead on Nicodemus, but Borne was in the way; Leon asked Uru to describe the place where he was, and then teleported into the Revolution alongside him; Conquo flailed about on the ground, unable to get up.

Matunaaga had covered a huge distance across the ritual site, and now threw himself into the air to level another mind slice at Nicodemus. Nothing seemed to happen. They all knew his name; they knew his real name was William Miller. But still, nothing. (He remembered his old vision – of taking aim at a shining star that became the glowing tip of a cigarette. But he had eschewed firearms in favour of relying on his own body and mind. Did he need a gun after all?)

The energy tendrils swung back over Korrigan and Conquo. Linia placed her hands on Gupta’s recumbent form and closed her eyes. Gupta’s eyes open and flared with energy. Arcs of lightning played around her as she rose to stand without moving her limbs.

“Friends in high places?” said Nicodemus. “Time to introduce you to another old acquaintance. For balance, you understand.” He drew out another artefact - a clergy one this time - and used it to perform a second summons. This one they also recognised, from Uriel’s vision near the Perpetual City: a greater demon, powerful enough to slay the Hierophant and sunder his staff. The clergy must have imprisoned it again, after they used it against him. It flew on wings of shadow and infernal fire caused its massive form to shimmer; its great, flat head was something like a cross between a shark and a rhino and waves of pure malice radiated from it.

Worse still, now that the Death pillar had been replaced, the Ghost Council Swarm joined the fray. It swooped down to beset Korrigan, Conquo and Rumdoom with an oppressive moan that affected both in mind and body. Poor Conquo was very badly hurt. Once again, though, Rumdoom was completely unharmed. He crowed heartily, “You’re dealing with the Avatar of the End!” and charged at them fearlessly.

Korrigan helped Conquo to his feet; stoically sticking to the plan, Conquo pulled up the Air pillar as he stood.

Borne was on the move again, urged on by Nicodemus, but for now Nicodemus appeared to have abandoned his ritual in favour of disrupting theirs. In two strides, the colossus was across the battlefield and raised its foot, threatening to bring it down where Conquo and Korrigan were standing. Certain death if they remained where they were.

IMG_20200210_092551_502.jpg


(Image taken just before Borne crossed the battlefield to stomp on Conquo.)
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Two

Round 8


As sheer luck would have it, the energy tendril swung back around and almost struck Borne, forming a barrier between him and his intended victims. The colossus roared in fear. Nicodemus sharply admonished him, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and take a step back.” Borne obeyed.

With the Air pillar out, the Coaltongue listed alarmingly. The Revolution fired again, this time doing some serious hull damage. It also subjected Korrigan, Conquo and Rumdoom to another barrage, knocking Conquo down again. Korrigan threw himself clear. Rumdoom made no attempt to defend himself, yet remained unscathed.

“Pull the Coaltongue out,” said Korrigan. “She’s done enough.” He was concerned that the ship was already badly damaged and could only be effective against the Revolution if it came into close quarters – perilous, given her rate of fire, and difficult, given the conditions, when both air and fire energies could easily be denied.

“Wait, please,” replied Rutger Smith. “The brand is almost recharged. Let us take another shot!” Korrigan left it up to his trusted Admiral to decide.

“Iratha Ket!” cried Kai. Another icon. Korrigan switched out the existing Air icon and replaced it with Caeloon, then ordered Conquo back on his feet. Conquo got up and slid the pillar into place, then taunted Borne through the energy tendril, daring him to cross it.

Quratulain now had a clear shot at Nicodemus. She took it and hit but nothing happened. There was something going on here, and she said as much. Even as he lurked on the Revolution, Uru began to understand, as his memories from the Gyre slowly returned and his mastery over spirits intensified. The being they called ‘Nicodemus’ was neither himself, nor ‘William Miller’, whose spirit their reflected selves had met in the Gyre. The secret to his invulnerability was just that. He was neither one person, nor the other, and so the Sacrament could not be bypassed by learning his ‘true’ name.

Uru and Leon headed to the lower deck. They arrived, both invisible, in a guard room, with hatches to the fore and aft. Elite bodyguards kept watch over the hatch to the bridge, led by none other than Lya Jierre – in ghost form, of course. Judging by the deafening noise, the aft hatch clearly led to the gunnery deck.

Leon headed that way, opening the hatch and revealing himself, casting witchfire on one of the gunnery crews: there were six in here, and six guns. The crews were working in close coordination thanks to the hiveminds that controlled them, and as such, they continued to do their duty even as they were attacked from behind.

Lya Jierre stepped forward to confront Leon. “It’s an honour to cross blades with you again. Despite our past disagreements and their consequences...” She paused mid-sentence, and shook her head at her own words. “No, I said that before. I’m afraid I must apologize. I wanted an exciting contest of ideology, but it seems both my sword-fighting and my repartee are frozen in the past.

“Before I died, my uncle told me he feared the whole world would remain stagnant if we succeeded. Nicodemus and a council of ghosts, not a beating heart among them, would rule this world.

“Remember our first meeting, when I challenged you to break the rules of a puzzle? Well sadly, that’s impossible for me now. But perhaps you still can. Nicodemus has set the rules of our grand finale, but you don’t have to follow them.”

She jabbed at him with her ghostly rapier, still possessed of the same finesse. He parried and retreated across the gundeck.

“Give me an icon!” Rumdoom shouted to Korrigan, taking a swipe at the Ghost Council as he did so. The swarm of spirits quailed as the Stone of Not swept through them. Despite everything they had learned about how best to deal with ghosts, the Stone of Not turned out to be the ideal weapon!

The swarm then tried to subsume Rumdoom. They surrounded him and smiled spectral, rictus grins. “Nicodemus is our leader,” they chanted in unison. “He has guided you as he guides us. You are already one of the council and you do not know it.” Rumdoom was having none of it.

Matunaaga launched a psychic attack on the greater demon. Bolstered by bardic inspiration from Gupta, Linia struck at it too, burning herself in the process, such was the heat the evil beast radiated. Despite this, she whooped in exultation at this chance to strike at the eternal enemy. The demon ignored her; an angel was small beans when a goddess was on offer and it focused its ire on Gupta. As she defended herself against its incredibly powerful blows, Gupta transformed into a huge, blue tiger, wearing the Arsenal of Dhebisu upon her claws and launched herself at the fiend.

Nicodemus focused the ire of his worldwide worshippers on Korrigan, but Korrigan stood firm. Borne, unable to reach through the energy tendril, attacked all those around him with a soul cascade – necrotic energy released from the vast reserves of witchoil within him. Gupta hoped against hope that her family were still there to be rescued.

Round 9

Taunting Borne might not have been the best idea, as the energy tendril now swept behind Conquo, exposing him to the colossus once again. And again, Borne raised his foot up, to stomp on his half-sized rival.

With the Air pillar lowered once more, everyone could fly and the Coaltongue righted. Now that all of the energy pillars were in place, the huge gold disc – resting half-on, half-off the site, where the terrain had been damaged by Borne’s fall – began to rise into the air. So that’s how the Ancients did it!

The Revolution was still firing. She had now done a huge amount of hull damage to the Coaltongue, and continued to pound Korrigan and Conquo from above. Conquo was already in a bad way – his huge size and facility with the ritual stones marking him out as a target.

Quratulain was accustomed to using her vast, mathematical mind to remain one step ahead of her opponents. She focused all her efforts on doing so and realised that the spirit of William Miller was coming through from the Gyre, along with their reflected selves. Until he did so, there was no point in attacking Nicodemus while he was protected by the sacrament.

The Ghost Council Swarm lashed out at all those nearby with punishing spells. They did not hurt Rumdoom, Korrigan dodged aside, but Conquo was hurt again.

“I’m going to erase your existence,” said Rumdoom, striking them with the Stone of Not and driving some of them into the energy tendril. The spirits gave another oppressive moan and then vanished: not gone, but withdrawn and invisible, biding their time for another opportune moment to strike.

Nicodemus said, “I’ll admit, I was afraid people would reject my grand design, but now I can feel their faith. I’ve opened their eyes to the truth, and they empower me. They know I will save them.” Then he swept down and launched an attack at Conquo: He struck at empty air as if he was grabbing him, and then forced the golem to attack Korrigan, who was still by his side. Then he focused the power of the sacrament, shoving Conquo to the ground with the force of a million hands. Conquo could not move, save to raise up his arms to brace for Borne’s attack.

Leon and Lya were locked in a duel: She hit him; he burned her with tiefling fire; she burned him back; he teleported to the far side of the deck; she flew in effortless pursuit. Practised in eladrin warcasting Leon was able to both fend Lya off with his sword and still cast witchfire at the gunnery crews. He finished off the crew he had already injured, so one gun was silenced. But the process was too slow. His modes of attack were insufficient, and he teleported back down onto the battlefield, looking for an alternate.

Uru, meanwhile, had shadow-stepped through the bulkhead onto the bridge. Six pilots worked the controls. Behind them stood three figures: Lavanya, in mage cuffs; Bert Facie, bodyguard to the Sovereign; and Uru’s target, Sovereign Han Jierre.

Uru fired at once. Han cried out in alarm, but his numerous magical wards kept him standing. The infernal wrath of the Jierre dynasty punished Uru for his temerity, and Uru hid, wincing, in a cloud of shadow. Within it, he felt his life-force slowly regenerating, just as a titan should!

“Hunt him down!” cried Han. Bert Facie looked perplexed and peered into the cloud, but instead of firing any futile shots, he waited, lantern pistol at the ready. Beside him, Lavanya looked excited, hopeful of rescue.

“Prepare to launch the incendiaries!” Han Jierre ordered his crew.

Matunaaga, Linia and Gupta were still struggling with the fiery demon. “Leave me to fight this thing!” Linia shouted, knocking the fiend into Borne. “It is a mere distraction! Do what you came here to do.”

But Gupta had marked the demon as her prey, and as it rebounded off Borne’s vast heel, she pounced, rending it with her silvery claws. The eladrin goddess slew the foul fiend and it erupted in an infernal explosion.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Three

Round 10


The entire area erupted in a ball of fire, as the Revolution launched incendiaries and the ancient demon exploded simultaneously. Conquo and Korrigan were both set on fire. Korrigan ignored the flames and spent most of the rest of the titanic encounter ablaze or smouldering.

Quratulain used her firesight eye to fire at the invisible Ghost Council. Though she could hurt the ghosts a bit, she felt that her skills would be best put to use on the Revolution. “Get me up there,” she said to Leon. Leon obliged, and they reappeared on the gunnery deck.

The Ghost Council tried to grab at Rumdoom and Korrigan, to envelope them and carry them off. Rumdoom struck back, and again yelled at Korrigan, “Icons?!?

“Are you as clever as I thought?” asked Nicodemus. “Or was it just chance that you kept stumbling into my way? We first met in the garden of Mayor Macbannin’s manor, on Cauldron Hill. Do you remember? We talked about chaos.” Then he used his thoughtseize power on Conquo to stop him from defending himself; Korrigan negated it with his bracers of liberty.

Korrigan used Bolt of Avilona to escape the Ghost Council, and his worldwide telepathic network to heal Uru. Then he urged Gupta, Matunaaga and Linia to move to where they were most needed. Linia picked up Matunaaga and flew into the air, towards the Revolution, covering the whole, huge distance in an instant (even Matunaaga was not as fast as an angel in flight). Gupta reverted to humanoid form and studied Borne for weaknesses.

Uru shot Han; Bert shot at Uru before he could hide, freezing him in the open; Han urged him to shoot again, but as he prepared to do so, Lavanya barged into him and caused him to miss. Han Jierre slapped her across the face and cursed the mastermind’s adolescent devotion to Kasvarina.

Matunaaga crashed through the reinforced windows, spraying all within the bridge with broken glass. The pilots cried out in alarm, and hid behind their chairs. Without them, the Revolution ceased the ruthless circle it had carved above the axis seal, and veered off in a straight line.

Below, Gupta was looking for ways to breach Borne’s witchoil reservoir, but discovered several other weaknesses in the process, areas which the Ob’s hasty repairs had not rendered impenetrable. Even as Borne brought his foot down on Conquo, she shared them with the others: They should aim for his dorsal vents; the chest-plate around his wayfarer lantern; his left armpit; or either knee.

That was all the information Conquo needed. He braced himself for a last-ditch feat of strength!

Round 11

From the Coaltongue, Rutger Smith urged them to “Get the shields down!” The brand was ready to fire, but the Revolution was still immune to it.

Uru looked around. He could see lantern-tech shield generators close by him on the bridge, but he was frozen out in the open and badly injured. His memories of the Gyre were flooding in apace, and he summoned the rival ghost council he had formed in their struggle against the Voice of Rot: Amielle Latimer, El Perro, Lorcan Kell, Rush Munchausen and Olivert Boone coalesced around him. Linia, hovering outside the bridge, healed him.

The Revolution continued its bombardment of the Coaltongue and all available targets down below, though it was now one gun short. Quratulain used a magic item (where did this come from? did she find it in the Gyre?!?) to summon a wall of fire in a ring upon the gun deck, burning every crew, forcing them away from their posts.

Lya then appeared through the flaming wall and attacked both Quratulain and Leon, using their proximity and the cramped conditions against them. There was a horrible, gnawing sound and Leon’s blood splashed across the bulkhead – his right forearm (already severed long ago and reattached by Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen) clattered to the floor, still holding his Dreaming Blade. He fell back into a corner in shock. Quratulain interposed herself and counterattacked, as did Leon’s severed arm!

“Nice sword!” said Han Jierre, before urging Lya to attack again.

As she did so, poor Lya said, “Please, stop them. They’ve stolen my life from me.”

“The king is here, and he is forgiving,” said Quratulain. “We will stop them. Fear not.”

Matunaaga unleashed a flurry of blows at Bert Facie, dropping him in an instant.

Uru’s ruthless, ghostly warriors crowded around Han Jierre.

“Someone get these cuffs off me!” cried Lavanya, in a voice that sounded very much like Kasvarina. She barged her way out of the bridge, through the guard room and joined the fight against Lya, holding her cuffs as if she hoped to get them sawn off!

Down below, Kai crowed in triumph as – at last – another icon arrived. Ascetia! With it, memories of their time there, and of their meeting with William Miller.

The Ghost Council tried to take control of Rumdoom again, but he resisted and attacked back, shouting to Korrigan as he did so, “Are you going to give me any of those icons or what?”

The ghost council crowded round Korrigan too: “Nicodemus is our leader. Nicodemus is our leader.”

“He’s not my leader! Fuck off!” said Korrigan, letting his discipline slip.

A quiet, calm voice admonished him, half-jokingly, “Now, dear. Not in front of the boy,” and he realised that Elizabeth’s spirit was with him, and that he had brought her from the Gyre. (Helandra was with Gupta, too.)

Borne’s foot hovered above Conquo. The colossus was reluctant to kill him. He had not been raised for violence. “Go on, my boy!” urged Nicodemus. “For the good of all! Crush our opposition!”

Korrigan summoned his future self and both of him headed in separate directions. One healed all his friends – Gupta, Conquo, Leon, no matter where they lay on the battlefield – the other said to Nicodemus:

“The difference between us is that I care about the people, while you care only about fulfilling your plan. That is why I’ll succeed and you’ll fail.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” said Nicodemus, drawing out a scroll and casting a resilient sphere over Rumdoom, as one might place a glass over an insect. Then he urged Borne on a final time, and the colossus brought its foot down on Conquo.

Conquo was just under half Borne’s size – puny compared to him, but still strong enough, he hoped, for one last, desperate manoeuvre. As Borne’s foot descended, Conquo caught it and twisted with all his might, rending the leg to one side and causing the weakened gears in his knee to bend and sheer. Borne cried out and began to sob, but still his foot came down, inexorably, on Conquo. Conquo’s head and torso were utterly crushed.

Kasvarina cried out in double agony – both of her children were in pain; pain inflicted by each other!

Nicodemus admonished Borne. “Pain is fleeting! There are still more foes! Turn about!” Borne did as he was told.

Gupta stood in wonder at the colossus and realised that he did not want to kill and was beginning to doubt his master.

Nevertheless, Xambria had spotted her chance: As Borne raised his arm to steady himself on his lumbering turn, she fired the brand. It fizzled out uselessly, thanks to his all-but impervious wards.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Four

Round 12


“Borne,” shouted Nicodemus. “Pull yourself together and fight on! Towards the Space pillar! Go!” As Gupta tried to outpace the colossus on his ponderous way, Nicodemus summoned a blade barrier in front of her; she leapt over it and kept on going.

Hot on the heels of Ascetia, the icon of Av arrived. Their roster was nearing completion. But what would they do about Mavisha?

Rumdoom tried to smash his way out of the resilient sphere by invoking the Pathos of the Inanimate. It was insufficient. He was trapped.

The Ghost Council once again tried to subsume Korrigan. The effort to resist them was exhausting. Nevertheless, he stayed calm and said, channelling what he had learned from Miller: “I know what your greatest weakness is. It’s your arrogance. Your arrogance blinds you to your own faults. You think your idea of a perfect world is achievable. But it is not.”

As he talked, Korrigan realised that Conquo was still alive! “Of course he’s still alive!” said Kasvarina. “That body he’s wearing is destroyed, just like his old one. But his golem heart survived the inside of a volcano!”

Leon cast time stop. In the time he had afforded himself, he drew out a healing potion, which he swigged to stop the bleeding. Then he stood up, removed ‘Lavanya’s’ cuffs, lit his own wayfarer lantern with oil of Colossus, and teleported himself and Kasvarina out of the chaotic melee on the ship, down as close to Conquo as they dared.

When time restarted for everyone else, the first thing Kasvarina did was create an illusion of her usual self over the form of Lavanya. “I can’t believe you prefer blondes,” said the creator of his ideal woman, without irony. Then she realised where they were – within reach of Conquo’s golem heart. “Oh! Wow! I was about to say! My, you are quick on the uptake!”

Ignoring Lya, whose blows didn’t really do her much harm, Quratulain brandished as many weapons as she could in her multiple arms and stepped through the ring of fire. The crews had been driven back into the ring, despite their insistent hiveminds. Trapped, it would take a while for them to burn alive, so Q began to put them out of their misery, five or six at a time. Lya followed her. “It’s an honour to cross swords with you once again…” she began, before Quratulain slapped her across the face with a spare arm.

“Silly cow!” she said. “The king will sort you out!”

Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen appeared on deck, into all the chaos. He saw Uru, who was about to shoot him with his shuriken crossbow, when the doctor raised his hands. “Wait! I can help!” He ran forward and healed Uru, who suggested that he fetch Leon’s arm. Then Uru turned and put a shuriken through the forehead of Han Jierre. “El Extrano sends his regards,” he said to the dying Sovereign.

Matunaaga leapt through the wall of fire, unharmed. His meditations on the Palimpsest had rendered him immune to many forms of harm, and he was now close to immortality. Truly, a Living Weapon. Side by side with Quratulain, he helped finish off the remaining gunners.

The Revolution was more-or-less dealt with. Linia turned her attention to other matters, aware of her mortal allies’ concerns. She cast a powerful commune spell and asked the following questions on their behalf:

Where is the Icon of Mavisha? The answer came, Uriel has it.

How can we bring it here? Answer: It is on its way.

How do we bring back the sun? Answer: Place a fragment of a dead sun in the centre of the golden seal.

“Is that sun or son?” someone asked.

Round 13

Just as Kasvarina was about to reach out for the golem heart, the terrible energy arc swung back over Conquo yet again. Kasvarina recoiled. She was not protected by the sacrament! Leon spirited her far across the battlefield, in case the tendril moved again.

Nicodemus responded to her arrival on the battlefield, saying, “Chaos let my Kasvarina slip away from me, because I was distracted by your interference. Without her, I hesitated. I compromised my ideology. I put my trust in people. But we know that people are too selfish to be trusted to choose for themselves. Kasvarina, you know I am right. Cease your infatuation with sentimentality and rejoin the rational path.”

The Golden Icon of Teykfa arrived in Kai’s possession.

Quratulain ran the length of the ship, slapping Lya again with her spare arm as she tried to attack her when she ‘fled’. Then she leapt out of the windows at the front of the Revolution, and jetted towards Borne to exploit the weaknesses, Gupta had identified.

Initially, Lya followed Quratulain, but turned her attentions to the first cluster of enemies she ran into, as she always preferred mixing it up with multiple foes (even in her befuddled, faded state). She struck out at Uru, Von Recklinghausen and the Blade Council, hitting all but Uru. Von Recklinghausen fell back and cried out in alarm. He was a doctor, not a fighter!

Matunaaga stepped calmly through the firewall, and greatly weakened Lya with a mindslice. Then Uru bid her begone, and she vanished.

Rumdoom finally smashed his way out of the resilient sphere and headed after the Ghost Council Swarm. He couldn’t demand any icons from Korrigan, as both Korrigans had disappeared for the time being.

Nicodemus sent the Ghost Council after Kasvarina. As they came for her, he said, “You still haven’t forgiven me? You’d lost your way, Kasvarina! After all we lost against the Clergy, you and I were cutting them down. We were making the world better! But you wanted a ‘family,’ like some idiotic farm-girl! Yes, I had Launga killed, and I did you a favour! If I’d left you alone, the world you would have given her would have been as wretched as it ever was. Who cares if you lost a daughter? You helped me give birth to the future!”

The ghosts closed in on her. “Come back to us! Come back to the fold!” Kasvarina collapsed, shivering, having withstood enormous amounts of necrotic damage, but she did not give in to their siren call. Leon took her back to the Revolution.

Borne still limped across the axis seal site, raising his foot to stomp on Gupta this time. Nicodemus worked in tandem, striking her to the ground with the combined force of his worldwide worshippers.

Gupta reverted to her giant, humanoid form and teleported out from the colossus’ path.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Five

Round 14


Borne stomped on towards the Space pillar. Quratulain streaked through the sky towards him, taking a well-deserved breather as she fell.

Rumdoom couldn’t catch the Ghost Council, but Borne had come close enough to present a more tempting target – Rumdoom activated his Icon of Avilona and flew up to find one his weak spots.

Nicodemus used his thoughtseize power on both Rumdoom and Quratulain, making Rumdoom hit her and her fire at Gupta. (Gupta responded to the danger with alacrity, springing to her feet and running for cover.)

Korrigan reappeared on the battlefield and headed straight for Conquo’s fallen form.

“Icons!” demanded Rumdoom.

“You can come to me!” Korrigan yelled back at him. Then, to Nicodemus, he said, “Clearly you’ve never had children. I have. Only by letting them make their own decisions, suffer by their own mistakes, learn their own lessons, can you have any hope of their improvement. You want humanity to be perfect!” These words were largely aimed at Borne.

With Lya out of the way, Doctor Von Recklinghausen was able to heal Kasvarina and Leon. “If you want your arm back, you’ll need to give me a moment.” Leon stayed put.

The Ghost Council swept towards Gupta, sensing how weak she now was. Fast as they were, they could not quite reach her in time. She stood firm, summoned multiple drums, to beat with her many arms, and raised a bone-pointing curse at them. It faltered. Soon they would be on her.

Uru caused his ghostly entourage to seize control of the Revolution, bringing it to a halt. Both he and Matunaaga leapt out, flying down to help Gupta as fast as they could.

Round 15

A glowing spot began to appear at about ’11 o’clock’ on the face of the ritual site. Soon the energy tendril would jump there from its current spot over Conquo, at ‘9’.

Borne stooped and yanked out the Space pillar. Nicodemus removed the icon of Fourmyle, and placed the icon of Urim. He left the icon of Baden in place. With the Space pillar out, the immense golden seal began to fall again.

While they worked together, Nicodemus talked to Borne. “Don’t listen to them, my boy. I made you, and you trust me. This is a fight to the death, Borne, not the time to discuss philosophy. I can hear them, son. Millions of people crying out for you to save them! We finish this now.”

While scrabbling through the remains of Conquo for his golem heart, Korrigan replied to Nicodemus, and to the worldwide audience witnessing this climactic battle: “By saving them, you mean removing their will and turning them into helpless puppets. This is what you have been doing all these years – manipulating, coercing, blackmailing, killing, just to realise your own idea of a perfect world.”

“You’re right, Nicodemus,” said Rumdoom, regaining possession of his faculties after Nicodemus’ thoughtseize and flying back towards Borne. “Only I will finish this now!” As he swung the Stone of Not at Borne’s other, undamaged knee, he declared a fiat, and then struck with all the force he could muster. He all but destroyed the knee joint in a single blow.

Borne cried out, “Oh, papa! It hurts!”

Quratulain regained control of herself too and fired at the ghost council, some distance away, to try and defend Gupta.

Nicodemus used thoughtseize on Rumdoom and Quratulain again, throwing them at each other like toy soldiers.

“I have Conquo’s golem heart!” declared Korrigan, having located the shining crystal amongst the wreckage of his form.

“Get it into Borne’s chest cavity, behind the lantern!” said Kasvarina. Korrigan set off in that direction.

The Ghost Council enveloped Gupta and tried to welcome her into the fold. As they did so, they were suddenly attacked by a huge mechanical figure that had jetted over the jungle. It tore them apart with ghost-touched claws. “I’ve got your back, girly!” said Pemberton, who had arrived in draconic duplicant form. Matunaaga had her back too, dropping into the midst of the council and lashing about him on all sides.

Gupta then took on divine tiger form, and tore the council apart with the arsenal of dhebisu. It was gone for good.

Uru flew down to welcome Pemberton. “We need to put that golem heart thing into the colossus,” he said, hoping the industrialist might have some ideas. “Hop on,” said Pemberton. Uru leapt off Little Jack and on to the dragon. Then Pemberton said, “If you’re trying to do what I think you are, it might be best not to cripple it.”

Round 16

Rumdoom didn’t care, nor did he appear to be constrained, as others were, by the aftereffects of Nicodemus’ thoughtseize. Having clashed with Quratulain, he threw himself back at Borne’s badly damaged knee, and despite injunctions on all sides, took his hammer to the joint once again. This time, the colossus went down, causing the whole area to shudder.

“You ape! You moron! What have you done?” screeched Nicodemus. Again, he took control of Rumdoom and threw him at Quratulain, and forced Quratulain to try and bring Korrigan down. Korrigan flew on towards Borne, clutching Conquo’s golem heart. Telepathically, he asked Linia for healing, when she was able. Linia was alongside him in an instant, bathing him in holy light.

“Borne, my boy,” said Nicoedmus, “they’re lying to you; they want to harm you, isn’t that clear? Now, quickly, before they strike again. Lower the pillar.” Sobbing, Borne did as he was told. “Well done. Now the Time pillar, quickly!” Still sobbing, Borne obeyed. Nicodemus went on: “Order. Justice. That’s what I’m creating. Selfishness will no longer destroy what is good when free will is no more. People will be moral because they’ll have no choice. For a thousand years, chaos will be no more, and when the watch’s hand winds down, yeah, then I’ll give these worthless people their freedom back. But they won’t know suffering. I’ll have been their god, one who can truly answer their prayers, who won’t have to let evil into my world. I’m creating heaven, where no man will fear tyranny. Whatever empty value you place on ‘free will’ pales to the paradise this world will be.”

The energy tendril moved to 11.

The extraction of the Space pillar had trapped Leon and Kasvarina on the Revolution, unable to teleport. Kasvarina said to Korrigan, “We have to take control of Borne. I don’t know how I know, but that’s what needs to be done; that’s what Conquo is for. To help his little brother understand.”

Matunaaga was on the far side of the battlefield from where all the action was now. He ran across at incredible speed. Uru piggybacked on Pemberton.

From the Coaltongue, Xambria urged Gupta to lift the Life pillar and Gupta moved to do as she suggested.
 



gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Six

Round 17


A bright spot appeared at ‘4 o’clock’.

Nicodemus rallied Borne, who gradually lowered the Time pillar, once Nicodemus had replaced Illocus with Regulus, the lynchpin of the Watchmaker design.

Korrigan handed off Jiese to Matunaaga, who ran like the wind back to the Air pillar.

“Did you just give an icon to someone?!?” Rumdoom demanded, outraged.

Korrigan reached Borne’s chest-plate, where he said to the colossus, “Nicodemus is not your father. Your father was Alexander Grappa, who tried to free you; Kasvarina is your mother, who fights alongside us even now. You were made to view Nicodemus as your god, but you don’t have to follow a god unwillingly.”
Leon brought Kasvarina to Borne’s shoulder. There she tried to talk to her boy, who was clearly very worried about his actions.

Angrily, Nicodemus unleashed both worldwide rebuke and thoughtseize on Kasvarina. But even as she shrank back before him, he suddenly cried out, “No! No!” as if seized by some invisible enemy. The sky rumbled with deafening thunder that rolled in from the horizon where the Gyre hung low, and then Nicodemus fell to the ground and gripped his head in both hands. His form distended, as if a second person was trying to move inside a single body, hands and faces pressing out against his spectral skin.

William Miller had arrived.

Those who had been to the Gyre felt themselves joined by their reflected selves and were at once fully whole. All of their memories came flooding back and they were both versions at once, able to recall their odyssey in the Graveyard of the Planes and their confrontation with the Voice of Rot.

Matunaaga stopped running at the energy tendril, waiting for it to move; Gupta lifted the Life pillar; Linia took the Death icons; Uru found the weak spot under the chest plate and caused the wayfarer lantern to shatter. “Well, done, son,” said Pemberton.

Rumdoom had been still for a while. Suddenly, he flew towards the Fire pillar. When he landed, he said, “Nicodemus is right about one thing. Let’s not fool ourselves. We have become the Obscurati, and I, the Avatar of the End will not be tainted with that brush, not will I have breath! Korrigan, I said before that we are on different paths. My path leads to freedom for everyone, for ever!”

He struck the Fire pillar with the Stone of Not and utterly destroyed it.

Korrigan regarded him in abject horror.

Round 18

Quratulain’s rocket boots began to phut-phut and sputter. She complained, loudly, that they were a total liability. “Just alter the settings,” said Alden Wondermaker, calmly, via Korrigan’s telepathic network. “I’m not a complete idiot!”

She did so, and they propelled her on an intercept path with the falling Nicodemus.

Despite the removal of the Life pillar, the golden disc began to rise up again and slowly drifted towards the centre of the circle.

The tendril jumped to 4; Matunaaga set off at a blistering pace towards Gupta.

For everyone but Nicodemus time slowed, as he benefited from restoring the Time pillar. The others watched as he fell to the ground, struggling and arguing with himself at double speed, and in a very high-pitched and silly sounding voice:

“Whoareyou?Getoutofmymind!”

“I’mwhoyoushouldhavebeen.Weopposedtheholywarbecausethehierarchscaredmoreaboutvictorythanfollowinganysortofmoralcode.Nowyou’rejustlikethemandjustasblind.OurarrogancecausedtheMalice.Youshouldhavebeenhorrifiedbywhatyou’ddone,butyouweretooproudtostopfighting.Well,I’vespentfivecenturieswiththeghostsofthoseyoukilled.Feelwhattheylost.”


He struggled and screamed, and through the power of the sacrament of apotheosis everyone in the battle understood what was happening. Then, as time returned to normal, he stopped falling just above the ground, and righted himself. Miller, now in control of the ghostly body, called out, “I have only a moment. For now he’s overwhelmed, and I’ve ended his link to the sacrament. Quickly, destroy me. I don’t have time to apologize for it all, but I can help you stop him.”

Quratulain knew that this was the moment she had been waiting for. Matunaaga halted his run and watched as she landed and took aim. Was this the moment he had foreseen?

For Quratulain, this was just a test shot, to see if her hunch was right. She took aim at Nicodemus’ chest and fired. But that was all it took. The bullet ripped a hole and began to unravel him. A look of intense relief passed across his face and he dissipated entirely in just a few moments.

Matunaaga nodded, sagely. He had passed the baton of Living Weaponhood to Quratulain, and now she had done what was required.

“Wait! What? Was that it?!?” stammered Quratulain in growing alarm. Every sensor indicated that Nicodemus was in fact dead, but she could not accept it. “No, it can’t be. He can’t be dead. What about my vendetta bullet?” Then she fell to her knees and let out an agonised cry.

By now, Rumdoom had reached the Air pillar, and obliterated that too.

Borne groaned and shook his head in confusion.

Korrigan gave Conquo’s golem heart to Uru and flew towards the Life pillar.

From up on Borne’s shoulder, Leon teleported Rumdoom over to the Water pillar. “What are you doing?” cried Korrigan over his shoulder.

“I think he’s right,” said Leon. “I’ve been thinking all along that we’re doing the wrong thing. We should set things back the way they were before the Ancients interfered.”

“He’s insane,” Kasvarina shouted. “You’re following another madman!”

Matunaaga ran on towards the Life pillar.

The golden seal was now drifting over Gupta. Just in case, she replaced the Life pillar. Then she used Hildegaard’s voice to speak to Rumdoom. “Kagan, wait, maybe we can fix things.” But Rumdoom knew that Hildegaard was watching this, and was behind him every step of the way.

Pemberton gouged out the remains of the broken wayfarer lantern from Borne’s chest cavity. Uru crawled inside and found a slot at the back where the tip of the lantern unit fitted. It just so happened to exactly match the dimensions of the golem heart. Uru slotted it into place, then crouched in the cavity, thinking about which way to jump.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Seven

Round 19


As soon as the golem heart connected, Conquo found he was able to speak to Borne, just as Xambria had been able to speak with him when they shared a head. “Now, come on, Borne,” he said. “We both know what’s right and what’s wrong. Mother taught us both well.”

Still on her knees, grimly staring into the space where Nicodemus should have been, Quratulain shook her head. “I don’t buy it. He’s gotten away. It can’t have been that easy.” Her vendetta bullet was still burning a hole in her pocket. She looked up and saw the way the tide had just turned. “So, what’s next for this world? The End? Ok. It will have to do.”

Rumdoom whacked the Water pillar. That one disappeared too.

“Does anyone know what will happen if he destroys everything?” asked Xambria. She was supposed to be the expert.

Leon said something hopeful about ‘everything going back the way it was before the orcs’. “But do you know that? Do you actually know that?” cried Kasvarina.

Korrigan headed towards the Death pillar to intercept Rumdoom. Linia was already there with the icons. “Is this where we’ve ended up?” he asked. “Stop this madness. End has no purpose. End renders everything else meaningless.”

The immensely heavy golden seal continued to drift slowly and silently towards the middle of the site.

Uru stayed hidden in Borne’s chest cavity, debating which side to take. He could hear Borne saying, “Uh huh. Uh huh,” to Conquo. Then Borne slowly slowly turned around to see what was going on behind him. “I don’t know if that’s good,” he rumbled.

“It’s not!” Kasvarina shouted, directing her ire and frustration at Leon. Leon gave her an almost helpless shrug and teleported Rumdoom to the Death pillar. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” he said. “I’m sure it’s for the best.”

Xambria was furiously ruminating. “It can’t be. It can’t be,” she said. “Can’t anybody work it out?”

Matunaaga stood waiting for Gupta to lift the Life pillar. The golden seal had now passed over them, was almost in place over the rift. Gupta raised the pillar, and Matunaaga switched the icon for Jiese.

Gupta stared in wonder. What would happen if Rumdoom succeeded?

Round 20

“The Icy End of the World,” said Gupta. “That’s what the destruction of the ritual site will bring about.”

“Oh,” said Leon. Not a bucolic paradise, or a year 0, or whatever else he might have been thinking.

By now, Quratulain had him in her sights and was only waiting for Korrigan’s word. Rumdoom was immune, it seemed, bolstered by a combination of the sacrament, his inherent toughness, and his worshippers’ belief in his immortality. But Leon, of course, was not.

Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, the Fire pillar returned, whole and in place as if it had never disappeared.

Uru made up his mind. He leapt out of the chest cavity and flew down on Little Jack towards Borne’s knees.

Korrigan finished his intercept course with Rumdoom, and hovered before him just out of reach. Linia was there too. Rumdoom was looking at the returned Fire pillar, which – needless to say – had given him pause. He turned and caught sight of Korrigan. “Are you going to give me those fucking icons?” he asked.

Korrigan shook his head, then made a grab for the haft of Rumdoom’s weapon. Rumdoom was now gargantuan in size; Korrigan was not. But he was empowered by the sacraments. They began a titanic struggle.

Matunaaga wanted more icons. The energy tendril was in his way. He came to a halt, meditated for just a second, then ran straight through the tendril and emerged, unharmed.

“Here, Uncle Dobre,” cried Kai, using Matunaaga’s caji name. And he threw the time icons to the speeding gith, who caught them unerringly and ran on.

Gupta lowered the Life pillar.

Uru used the powers of creation, invested in him by the sacrament, to fix Borne’s broken left knee. No one else could have managed such a subtle recreation, but Uru had an instinct for such things.

Up above, Leon made his second volte face of the day, and teleported Matunaaga to the Time pillar. Then he tried to teleport Rumdoom somewhere he couldn’t do any more harm, but Rumdoom resisted his spell.

Kasvarina lowered her hands. She had been about to cast a power word at her errant lover.

Then the Air pillar returned!

Round 21

A glow began at 9 o’clock.

Borne gently lifted the Time pillar.

Gupta slotted the Life pillar into place. (She was not huge or mighty enough to move these things in one go.)

Uru buzzed across to Borne’s left knee and fixed that too.

Matunaaga plugged Ascetia into the Time pillar.

Leon cast timestop and used the time to open portals beside every planar column. Rumdoom couldn’t use them. He was too big.

Normal time resumed and Borne lowered the Time pillar. Teykfa had not been added, though that was the least of their concerns, and the third of their minor planes in order of importance.

Rumdoom wrenched himself free from Korrigan’s grasp and turned away.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion for a moment as Korrigan watched Rumdoom go. He experienced a strange moment of calm. It was if the universe was asking him, the unbeliever, to have Faith. Korrigan had to decide whether to trust such an instinct and in the moment he decided to give in to it. He just stopped. ‘What can I do?’ he thought. Then he asked Kai, “Do you think the icons have returned with the pillars?”

“They have! They have! They have!” cried Kai. “Someone’s looking after us, daddy! It will all be all right.”

Rumdoom began to run towards the golden disc, which was now gently coming to rest with its central hole over the rift, concentrating a beam of energy up into the sky. The energy tendril now arced off this beam, forming a jet rather than a wall.

Quratulain fired a shrink ray at Rumdoom. It worked! He shrank to merely large and carried on going.
 


gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 258, Part Eight

Round 22


The energy tendril jumped to ‘9’.

Two pillars had descended, and the unit benefited from two corresponding boons: they were bathed with the healing energies of the Life pillar, and they were all granted a little extra Time – time they desperately needed if they were to fix the ritual according to their design it before Rumdoom was able to destroy it.

Uru used his mastery over spirits to draw Gupta’s family out of Borne. Then, in desperate hope, he summoned what he called the ‘spirit of the world’ to help them by lifting up the Earth pillar. To his surprise, he received a reply:

“I’m already here,” said a soothing voice. “And I’m already doing it.”

Sure enough, the Earth pillar began to rise!

“Are you the one making all the pillars return, too?” asked Uru.

“Of course I am,” said the spirit of the world, benignly.

Gupta used Leon’s portals to move to Death and lift it. Linia had both Av and Iratha Ket in her hands. Despite warnings from the others, she felt she would be able to install both icons, and pressed on in her attempt to do so. She failed. At once, the energy tendril jumped to her position and Linia – not protected by the sacrament of apotheosis – was vaporised in an instant.

Korrigan lamented such a senseless waste. The angel had been too headstrong, and now she was gone. Anyone else would have survived the attempt! Shaking his head, he picked up the icons and put them in place himself. Nestled between them, he pinned a feather from Linia’s wings which had escaped incineration.

Matunaaga sped around the battlefield, picking up and handing out icons. Uru took Dunkelweiss.

Leon asked Borne to raise the Time pillar again, then placed both Ascetia and Teykfa within it. As a master of the arcane, his attempt succeeded.

Quratulain was flying to intercept Rumdoom, although she had no idea what she would do when she crossed paths with him: he was heading for the golden seal, hammer raised. As she sped along she tried to make a prediction – where would they find the icon of Mavisha? Even as she wondered, the icon appeared in Kai’s hands.

“Uncle Uriel knew we would need it!” shouted Kai, happily.

“You mean you fellas really didn’t have it?” mused Pemberton.

As Rumdoom flew past, Quratulain patted him encouragingly on the back. “Good luck,” she said. Then she drew both her pistols and emptied them pointlessly into his back.

Gupta stood in wonder, then said: “We need to complete this now. Something final is about to happen.”

Rumdoom arrived at the centre of the golden seal. He raised the Stone of Not and muttered runes of destruction. The Stone of Not began to glow.

Round 23

Uru ducked through Leon’s portal and placed Dunkelweiss in the Earth pillar, alongside Mojang. Then the Earth pillar was lowered. Uru gave thanks to the World Spirit, who he knew in that instant to be the being they once called Uriel.

Gupta lowered the Death pillar.

Korrigan stepped through a portal and Borne lifted the Space pillar. Korrigan swapped out Urim for Mavisha. “Much obliged,” said Pemberton, as Borne dropped it into place.

Matunaaga watched serenely. The need for further effort was over. Korrigan gathered the others to him, through the portals.

Rumdoom stood with the glowing Stone still raised above his head. He toyed with the idea of saying a few words, but realised that he didn’t really having anything to add. He’d proved his point. But he did have a yen to bring Hildegard here, if she wanted to come. Some time ago, they’d been linked with magic runes that enabled Hildegard to follow her husband across any battlefield, but as the sacrament could not extend to her, she had remained behind. Now Rumdoom asked her if she would like to join him in this moment, though the risks were great, and when she said yes, those runes brought her to him. A moment later, with his wife by his side, Rumdoom struck the golden seal with the Stone of Not.

With the fragment of a dead sun driven firmly into its centre, the ritual was complete, and the sky blazed brightly. A final burst of energy bathed everyone at the site.

Rumdoom and Hildegard vanished in a blaze of light.

In later days, Skyseers the world over reported the appearance of a new, binary star system in the night sky, and at once understood its origin. It would come to be known as ‘Avatar Plus One’, and would be revered by Rumschatologists everywhere.

End of Session
 


gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
We took a month off after the finale and will meet for the final denouement session in two days. I have a few observations to make about how the finale went down, but wasn’t sure where to begin.

Is there anything you’re particularly curious about?
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I would love to hear, once you're done, how this played out among the players.
Finally got some time to piece together a response to this. I think the first thing I should say is that the finale of Zeitgeist lived up to the rest of the campaign, at least for us. The roleplaying gods smiled on us, and the 'big event' approach paid off, lending the final session the weight it deserved. With just a few modications, I was able to make the final encounter sufficiently challenging for my large group (adding a few powerful additonal foes instead of hordes of weaker ones, which the players later said they had been expecting).

Luck also played a substantial role in the encounter itself. Without my direction, little set pieces found their place, and the dice made all sorts of dramatic stuff play out. Then there was the pre-planned twist involving Rumdoom. Neither I nor his player were certain how that would go, or when exactly. But both of us were thrilled when Korrigan started ignoring Rumdoom's demands for an icon. Mostly, this was perforce: he couldn't get the icons to Rumdoom. But the repeated demands and repeated failures added a lovely build-up of tension between the two characters.

It can't have escaped readers' notice that this twist dominated the end of the fight, and Nicodemus' demise was all-but sidelined. This was accentuated by the odd twist of fate which saw Nicodemus speeded up by his addition of a new time plane at the very moment he and Miller came into conflict. Their exchange became quite ridiculous. Then, of course, he was slain with a single bullet, which had an unexpectedly negative impact on Quratulain's player, who took quite a while to get over it.

I have to say I loved the way this played out. Being written out of the story in this way was a fabulously tragicomic way for the prideful mastermind to go. And the shock of his sudden demise will certainly live on in the player's mind longer than any run-of-the-mill epic showdown. (And, I mean, come on: we'd been playing for about ten hours by this point, so a hit-point grind would have been horrible.)

In any case, no one was given a moment to think about it, because events had already taken a terrible turn for the worse. Rumdoom hobbled Borne and then set about destroying the Axis Seal. Again, the timing was perfect. There was no prearranged signal, he chose his moment, and took out the Fire pillar even before Miller exposed Nicodemus, so the two huge moments overlapped.

When he took out the second pillar, everyone needed a break. Korrigan's player was looking ashen-faced and I've no doubt feared that the campaign would end in ruin. But I had told Rumdoom's player that, while I liked his idea of turning on the team at the last minute (something we'd been building up to throughout the Gyre odyssey), it mustn't allow the whole finale to become 'the Rumdoom show'. I'd got the World Spirit waiting in the wings to set things right.

What I couldn't know was whether the team could fix the ritual the way they wanted it before Rumdoom struck the seal. I was almost certain they wouldn't. What may not have come across in the write-up was how close and tense that all was. Without Matunaaga's speed and Leon's network of portals, there would have been no chance at all. Matunaaga's inclusion was a tip of the hat to his absent player, who had hoped to make it if he could. (And his initial appearance - another nod to Nic's possession of Andrei - drew groans from the others, who couldn't know how easily he would shrug Nicodemus off, and were all too well aware of what a dangerous foe Matunaaga could be!)

Then there was Leon's little 'wobble'. His surprise decision to help Rumdoom took everyone by surprise, including me. Rumdoom's player was thrilled. He began openly taunting Korrigan, and enjoining other players to follow suit. (Uru, who loves throwing a spanner in the works, was severely temped.) The others were appalled. As was I. I realised that a few off-the-cuff remarks I'd made earlier had given Leon's player the wrong impression about how destroying the seal would turn out, and used Kasvarina to set him straight. But his choice was fabulously in-character, focused on misgivings that were brought into sharp focus when Nicodemus taunted them for imitating his grand plan.

It was also the culmination of a seven-year character arc in which the consummate traitor sought to demonstrate that he was in many ways the most trustworthy unit member of all, only to throw it all away in the final furlong. I'd spent so long tempting him to betray the others, to no avail, only for him to suddenly do so of his own accord! Magnificent!

All of this added up to an incredibly intense final hour. We could easily have lost focus by then, gotten punch-drunk, but the way fate and great roleplaying weaved these disperate threads was a joy to behold.

Our session didn't end when Rumdoom struck the seal. I finished the account there because it felt right, and will add the coda (or the immediate aftermath) to the start of my next session report, which I'll post in a few days. Something for everyone to read in self-isolation!
 
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I've been eager to see the aftermath. I want to know how the stories of these characters settle into an ending. And of course know how the players felt about how things turned out for their PCs.

Also, I'm pretty sure I asked, but if you could make sure Korrigan's player is okay with it: for the ZEITGEIST setting book set 20 years later, I've created a gestalt with a bit taken from each of the campaigns posted on these messageboards. I needed to decide who was Risur's ruler, so I picked King Baldrey.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 259 - Denouement, Part One


As the enormous energies released by the Stone of Not washed over Gupta, she realised that she could now make the same choice she had rejected in the Gyre: relinquish godhood and restore life to the thousands of eladrin women who had died during the Great Malice.

Gupta chose to sacrifice her divinity. She was thereby cleansed of the taint of Hewanharimau too.

She saw thousands of glowing threads (or were they roots, or branches?) spreading out in all directions from her. At the tips of some of these threads were women she knew, or knew of, who had died not just during the Malice, but at other times, and she found that she could restore them to life too: her mother, her little sister, Helandra, Launga and Dala, and finally, in an act of pure kindness, Lya Jierre.

What about her father and her brothers, though? They were not to be found on this tree of femininity. Could she make her family whole again? Or would they have to live through a different kind of tragedy? For a moment, she considered letting them all pass on, if only raising half of them was the alternative. All of a sudden, she realised her wish had been granted and her father and brothers were alive again.

After Rumdoom’s wish, hers was the second to be fulfilled. All who stood in the energy of the seal, and had had a hand in completing it, felt themselves able to wish for something dear to them, and somehow understood that this was so.

Uru wished for Pemberton’s daughter Teraklir to be alive and whole again, to thank the dragon for all that he had done.

Quratulain toyed with the idea of bringing back Nicodemus, so that she could kill him all over again, but on reflection, she decided to let it go. Rumdoom had taught her that, sometimes, you just can’t stop things. Instead, she wished for her father to be restored to life, so that he could meet his grandson.

Conquo wished for new bodies for him and Borne – smaller ones (but not human size – that would be silly; just large). Likewise, Xambria chose to create a new flesh-and-blood body for herself, but her experience of living in a metal shell for so long meant that her new body was stronger and faster than her natural form.

Matunaaga wished to restore the Hidden Valley to its former glory, but to leave it open, and embrace a future without the fear of the gidim. The elders were dead – drowned in the wreckage of their citadel – but many of Matunaaga’s people were still alive, held hostage in the Ob’s fortress on Axis Island. Despite Nicodemus’ orders to slaughter them if Matunaaga rebelled, his minions had chosen not to do so, such was their respect for the legendary maustin caji.

Leon wished for wise guidance should anyone choose to alter the world in the future. Little did he realise, but this would enable the World Spirit to communicate directly with anyone who sought to interfere with the seal. (The World Spirit now surrounded the world with a protective psionic shield that would deflect intrusion from hostile outsiders like the gidim. Uriel had transcended mortality, and this was his final form. He had sacrificed himself for the good of others for the last time.) Leon also wished that the story of what happened here would not be corrupted over the generations, but who could tell if that one would be granted?

Korrigan considered returning Elizabeth to life, but decided that death should not altered and undone in this way; that such an act would be jarring and upsetting for Kai, who had learned to live without her; indeed, who had never really known her. It would be selfishness on his part to do so. In fact, the king chose not to make a wish at all.

When the radiance of the Seal subsided there were many more apparent strangers standing around the Seal, all of whom were embraced by those who had wished them back to life. The area was suddenly rather crowded.

Around the world a great cheer erupted, as the victory of the Heroes of Lanjyr became clear. In Elfaivar, thousands of women rose from where they had fallen when the Great Malice occurred and wandered out of the jungle in astonishment.

A beam of sunlight shone above the mountains at the edge of the valley and illuminated the jungle forest on the far side. Dawn broke for the first time in months. A new sun rose: The Avatar, followed a few hours later by his Bride.
 

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

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