The Heir to Disaster

Session 14
The Mossthorne Swamp

The Starhunters surround poor Eugenia, the miller’s daughter, using their mystic bond to draw out the alien power that she holds. In so doing, the power manifests as a burning, smokey brume that spills out of ’Zhenya’s’ nose, eyes, and mouth, to be inhaled by A’Kelah instead. The swamp itself becomes awakened by the discharge of aether radiating from this transference of power. A large mound of clay and moss, vines and branches arises. It is attended by grapefruit-sized motes of light that shock it with sparks while they orbit the thing.

Leonidas and Fendrys bravely move to drag the unconscious bodies of Andre and Zhenya away before they can be folded up inside the shambling mound of swamp-matter. The ‘creature’ is slow, but so are its opponents—held in check by knee-deep water. Leonidas and A’Kelah both are attacked but luckily escape a suffocating death as it attempts to engulf them and join them into its own matrix. A’Kelah is in fact tossed toward this danger by the haunting jolt of her key-bound companion.

The Starhunters, though, are veterans now of the elemental dangers posed by their contact with the Meridian’s wild conjury. The awakened pile of swamp matter and the sparks hovering around it are put down, Aelish is able to mend her wounded companions, however Andre’s life is lost in the chaos of spells, missiles, and stomping mud. It is A’Kelah who delivers the final blow—able to channel the power held within her to summon an exhalation of flame.

In the aftermath, it appears Eugenia’s voice has also been stolen by this event. Everyone recovers and Andre is lain to rest. While discussing how to proceed next, it is learned that A’Kelah and Eugenia both have grown dragon scales about the sides of their necks. Zhenya’s tongue even looks as though it has begun to fork. Unable to speak, the frightened miller’s daughter communicates back and forth with Aelish in the written word. The girl gives Aelish her Steel Protection ring in thanks for saving her. Aelish learns of how the ‘smoke’ came to the children as they were gathering reeds. At first, they all thought it was harmless fun (perhaps the work of fae mischief?)—but when some began dying, Zhenya took the smoke upon herself and fled into the swamp to keep others safe. In writing back and forth, Aelish also learns that she has a new note from Agrafena, stating that “Inquisitors are taking my blood”.

Next the Starhunters have a long discussion about their plans. They need to resupply before hurrying off into the wilds of the far Pallengothe and Eugenia needs an escort home. A’Kelah has ‘the orb’ for now, and its elemental competition with her Lurker-bond seems to aid her in the carrying the burden in steam-filled lungs. They will split up, going to the Willowbroom Inn and the miller’s—both along the River Graybrand—for these errands. Gage and Fendrys lead everyone south to river and out of the mist-ridden marsh. On the way, a giant hollowed out turtle shell is discovered, draped in the moss and vines of the swamp. Gage bravely approaches, parenthetical braziers alight as a welcome—or warning. Gage and Aodh both are eager to investigate, but Fendrys urges caution. Could this be an abode of Huyaba’s old witches from Leonidas’ tale? The Starhunters do not enter and Gage abides their prudent wish.

Fendrys and Aelish chaperone young Eugenia home, watchful near the roads for the Baroness’ agents. The girl’s parents are overjoyed to have their daughter back, understanding of the strange things afoot—and promise not to tell the Baroness about the presence of the Starhunters. They give a princely sum of money in thanks. At the inn, Aodh and Leonidas collect rumors, gossip, ale, bacon, clean laundry, and more supplies. Aodh’s unassuming stature and the illusions of Leonidas also keep them hidden from watchful eyes.

With the others away on their errands, Gage and A’Kelah step back into the Mossthorne Swamp to investigate the turtle shell. They find a large basin, an idol of the demoness HANEZAL, and pots of pickled frogs within. Whether because they are too wary, too incurious, or just unlucky, the pair does not uncover any greater secrets to be found here.

Reconvening by the riverbank, Gage and the Starhunters disappear from the barony of Vorhon, leaving no trace for Małgorzata and her pawns to follow. They head northwest, crossing over the clear path of a dwarven caravan of which they pay no mind. Miles later into lonely woods at the edge of Rynas, both Leonidas and Aelish are assailed by the scrying magic of some distant observer. Aelish’s abjurations are enough to stifle this scrying for a time, though it returns. Deep in the night, goblins arrive outside Leonidas’ shelter—their red eyes glowering like embers. A lit fuse in the dark means the goblins have with them a canon (and an accomplice large enough to move it about)! And they fire it! Twice! Two pieces of shot crack like thunder against the dome of the hut and ricochet into the sky through snapping tree limbs. The goblins hurl insults and curses and then disappear into the night.

EXP
A’Kelah 3600
Aelish 3600
Aodh 3600
Fendrys 3600
Leonidas 3600

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Session 13
Castle Vorhon

After a shadow attack sends Mr. Jarol and his valet into a retreat, the Starhunters rendezvous within the castle proper. They make haste for the rear in search of stairs down below. A second shadow attack hectors A’Kelah as the group hurries down the spiral stairs. Nimble-fingered Aodh easily picks two locked doors that reveal storerooms; one is full of religious iconography that catches Aelish’s attention, but the rush keeps her and the others moving.

Further on, they discover Andre and the blind kemik Gage, both jailed without cause in the dungeon by the influence of Małgorzata and her latest pawn, the Baroness. Andre and Gage are freed and conducted upstairs. On their way out, everyone hears the eerie choir of the baroness’ girls upstairs. Outside, across the moat, Baroness Ludmilla Vorhon, her knights and soldiers, along with Małgorzata herself have arrived. While the Starhunters debate on whether to deal with the armed men before them or the harrowing shadows in the castle behind, Małgorzata’s fiendish eyes can see them in the darkness under the portcullis. She calls out to them in challenge. They retreat as a cryptic word from the kemik convinces them they have better chances escaping below through the moat. Małgorzata follows alone, laughing merrily at their fear. A’Kelah adroitly raises the drawbridge, trapping the succubus on the Castle-side of the bridge, separating her from the baroness and her men.

A’Kelah then takes a misty step from her perch in the guard tower, down into the moat below where she is at home, in the water. Downstairs once more, Leonidas frantically blasts at a metal grating which bars their passage with his sonorous magic. Shadows attack from the darkness, injuring Fendrys and slaying Andre. Aelish gathers her courage just when it appears that doom has come for them all—the might of her righteous faith not only banishes the shadows into inky tatters, but spares Andre’s very life before his soul is lost forever. The moments are too tense for him to offer his thanks, however. One by one, the choir girls from the halls above begin to enter. Some of the girls are armed with knives. The sound of laughter up the tower stairs implies Małgorzata is not far behind. Exasperated, everyone flees into the moat.

In the dark, still waters outside, A’Kelah’s misty magic allows a rope to be let down and spur an escape from the moat. With night’s darkness in full swing, Andre leads the group north to the old, abandoned monastery of St. Estril. Though the baroness has sent another search party out on the prowl, Fendrys’ mystic stealth is more than enough to conceal them all. The search party checks the monastery and then doubles back, coming within a bow-shot of the group before receding again into the black of night.

The monastery is quiet and somber. It is home to a tollstone which A’Kelah uses. Later on, just hours before dawn, the infamous prosecutor Lukiria Vanator arrives. In talking with her, they learn that the political situation in Rynas has deteriorated yet further. She is not there to arrest them and seems to be at odds with her colleague who has tried to in the past. Being a magus, she wants to know what they are doing and what it is they hope it will accomplish—whose interests do they serve? Finally, she offers to impart a message from them which she can take to the Marquis Almdor. A’Kelah offers up an explanation regarding the fallen stars and their perseverance. Then, Vanator departs in a flash of light and gun-smoke.

Hearing from the Starhunters of the plan to track into the local swamp, both Gage and Andre are willing to join, but for different reasons. Heading out, the group sneaks around the Belar villages, hiding behind hedgerows and bounding over fences. The swine-herders and woodworkers of Vorhon are left to their devices as they approach the swamp in search of lost children and a fallen star. Aodh is guiding now, following a divination that has tugged on him ever since Mytha Petraea. They pass cow skulls marking the territory the locals know best to avoid. The skulls are marked with folk sigils that spur Leonidas’ long memory. He tells the tale of ancient Huyaba, the demon-witch who planted seeds of darkness in a prior age of the world. This swamp was home to one of her trees. The terrible roots from those nightmarish times could never be dug up and have poisoned the land ever since.

The swamp is blanketed in an oppressive fog while a lightning storm rages overhead. Progress is slowed to a trudge, but Aodh’s path is true and leads them past the grim evidence of bloated corpses (of searching parents and lost children) and torn bits of clothing. Andre and Fendrys are bitten by snakes and poisoned. As twilight nears, ahead in the murky air, the figure of the miller’s daughter Eugenia is beheld. She is unclothed, covered in swamp grime, and steam rises from her body. Andre rushes over to console her and is burned up by her embrace. At this, poor ‘Zhenya’ collapses in shame and anguish. The Starhunters steal this moment, using their power to draw the ‘orb’ away from her, which A’Kelah learns was trapped in the hapless girl’s lungs. This smoke is drawn into A’Kelahs veer lungs amidst a dazzling flare of wild aether and lightning.

Before anyone can catch their breath, the swamp rises up against them…

EXP
A’Kelah 700
Aelish 1000
Aodh 600
Fendrys 625
Leonidas 600

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Session 12
Fire!

YOU ARE SEARED!

The Starhunters disperse, scrambling away from the vivid heat of the elemental furnace that has erupted before them. An air elemental has also emerged, however it soars into the sky, eager no doubt, to join with its natural territory. Aodh darts for cover behind a nearby boulder as the party mounts a defense. Arrows fly into it from Aodh and Fendrys. A’Kelah and Leonidas blast it with shocks of sound and frost.

Just as swiftly, however, the veer witch is engulfed first as the being draws a fiery zig-zag across the forest floor. The competing elemental power of A’Kelah’s ancestral bond with the Lurker is all the prevents her from being charred to a lifeless cinder inside the living flame. Aelish is swatted at by a firey appendage as the flame races to Fendrys next where he too is all but dead inside the conflagration. Leonidas meets the same fate and is engulfed while Aodh scurries from one hiding spot to the next, fixated on escaping the burning gaze of the elemental. It is Aelish who saves her companions both with the Healing Word of Eladriel and by bringing forth water, dousing the fatal combustion like a great votive candle. All that remains of the fire elemental is a column of steam and smoke rising to the wind.


The Starhunters rest to soothe their burns before getting under way once more as soon as they can. Simple Aodh, unfamiliar with magic, does not yet understand the nameless feeling he has is drawing him inexorably to the next fallen star. During their travels, Leonidas catches A’Kelah being dragged away from their shelter by an unseen force. This obviously reminds everyone of the specter from the lantern-lit graveyard. Concluding that the key claimed from that incident is the cause, A’Kelah is cajoled into tossing it away into the deep darkness of the forest.

Days later they come to a river, the name of which escapes Leonidas’ long and learned recollection. Each step west they take brings them all closer to the fringes of civilized Rynas, to places on their map with names that are only memories. Not wishing to risk any more trouble with the halfling who is prone to drowning in river currents, they head downstream as the bard reckons there is an old bridge in the area. Sure enough, they find an ancient stone-arched bridge from the second millennium of Rynas, built when kings were yet men, when a tame dragon patrolled the skies, before even the sage Almdor came to this land. Now, the bridge is half-collapsed and with no toll-man. Only a pitted and mossy shrine to Myrnoch stands here amidst rusty offerings. No one takes or leaves an offering. The Starhunters cross the river and step into the barony of Vorhon. A’Kelah notices, when she elects to instead swim the river, that her accursed key has returned to her. She does not tell her companions.


Despite keeping away from trails and roads, they are found in the early dawn hours by one Mr. Jarol and his dwarven valet Gostan, a cointhane of Kathoom. Jarol is the father of Andre, a commoner wed to Baroness Vorhon. They listen to Jarol’s story who tells of a prayer to Eladriel that led him to Aelish. He knows the Starhunters by reputation. It seems the demoness Małgorzata has beaten them here and is up to her usual tricks. She has beguiled the baroness, using the noblewoman’s influence to have Jarol’s son Andre and others jailed unjustly.

Aelish and her fellow Starhunters debate vehemently about whether or not to pursue the fallen star or to help Jarol free his son. Unfortunately Aodh is still unaware of his ability to precisely locate the ‘new orb’. At length, it is agreed, Jarol will lead them to Castle Vorhon to free his son. He warns: the Baroness has departed her residence with loyal knights in tow—they seek the fallen star. A second group of her gendarmes is also searching for the Starhunters. Both parties likely have been tipped off about them by Małgorzata.


They approach the castle near twilight, devising a plan to have A’Kelah swim the moat and scout it. Her reconnaissance leads the group to send Aodh with A’Kelah back into the moat. In this way, the halfling can use his diminutive size to scurry up the filthy chute of the garderobe. Meanwhile Leonidas and Fendrys take Jarol to approach the drawbridge. Glib and persuasive, Leonidas has no trouble talking his way into the castle. The posted guard speaks of a curse within and shadows that move. He lowers the bridge and abandons his post with exasperation.

Inside the castle, Jarol is set upon by the moving shadows they were warned about. He lets out a scream which summons Aelish and A’Kelah from over by the moat. Not far from the foyer, all of the Starhunters reassemble. The shadows are indeed alive and malicious, only A’Kelah’s mystic lights are keeping them at bay. The group makes haste for the kitchen which is the best way down into the dungeon below.

EXP
A’Kelah 2500
Aelish 2500 (Inspiration Award: Roleplaying)
Aodh 2500 (Inspiration Award: Heroism)
Leonidas 2500
Fendrys 2500

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Session 11
The Pallengothe Forest

The Starhunters continue down the Foghand road and encounter crude, gruesome effigies erected along the roadside. At the first one, they see a make-shift cross displaying a torso and head that is being picked apart by carrion birds. Aelish uses her Thaumaturgy to scare the animals away. She blesses the remains and Fendrys works hastily to burn the sorry corpse on a pyre. As more effigies and human remains are discovered further down the road, Aelish blesses them still, but the others agree that no time can be spent on commuting them—either to the grave or the torch. The effigies have everyone on guard, and speculation abounds as to who or what might be responsible for what clearly seems like a warning.

The following day, Fendrys spots mistletoe—which he needs for his woodland folk-magic—and on his way to collect it, a gnoll spy looking on from the underbrush clumsily reveals itself. Cursing, it makes a getaway. Fendrys looses two arrows at the creature but misses his mark. Given the cunning new magic Fendrys can work with his plant ingredient, the gnoll spy is left to its devices. However, rather than allow the gnoll to lead others of its kind back to this spot to ambush them, they decide to press on late into the evening, this time keeping off the road. Fendry’s folk-magic removes any trace of their passage and keeps them all quiet (so long as they follow the ranger’s lead). Deep into the evening, the tables have turned as it is now the Starhunters who spy on the gnolls (who have gathered at a bridge crossing). There are at least a dozen of them, they are armed and look to have dragged a large boulder for some reason to this spot as well.


Hoping to avoid confrontation with the gnolls, they move north upstream to cross by swimming. It is agreed they will cross in the morning when there is daylight. A’Kelah of course has no difficulty swimming the river, and her compatriots do well enough also, however the bantam Aodh fights with his heavy gold and other valuables looted from Mytha Petraea, ultimately losing this satchel to the river’s current.

On the other side of the river, despite having entered a forest wilderness here, Fendrys’ guidance keeps everyone at a good pace. In two days time, they come to a second river; this one shallower but with a faster current. Again it is Aodh who falters, swept away this time and almost drowning before A’Kelah deftly rescues him from the cold rushing waters.

Further south, having moved through the woods parallel to the Foghand road, they reach the Undgarhat road which runs east-west between the titular dwarven hall in the eastern mountains and an inn the dwarves maintain at a crossroads to the west. Upon seeing this road, Leonidas, best knowing the surroundings, remembers the inn’s location and suggests they make way for it to gather news, rest in warm cots, and find good food. This idea is put down by the others who are too concerned over the seeming fugitive status they all share.


Crossing over the road, the forest thickens. The trees get an older, more primal look to them. They are robed in moss and huddle closer together, blocking even more sunlight. Several days pass without a sign of civilization until they spot a strange light through the trees as twilight comes on. Fendrys and Aodh volunteer to investigate, finding an ancient graveyard atop a hillock. The graveyard is a desolation of simple tombstones ravaged by time, however among a collection of several stone lanterns, they find one is curiously lit. Fendrys senses the presence of undeath and thinks it wise to return without disturbing the scene.

They make camp and post watches. Leonidas’ watch, the last of the evening, is plagued by the sounds of a phantasm rustling outside their shelter. The haunting movements of heavy boots and rustling chains become so dreadfully loud and close that he is forced to wake his companions. Outside in the darkness, something is trying to bind their shelter in chains. An invisible force tries to slam A’Kelah into a tree, but she fights off the attack. She instead flies straight up to avoid being hectored any further. Terrified, the rest of the Starhunters charge out into the blackness of the forest at night. They return at daybreak and find the ghostly presence has gone, but has left behind an old key (which A’Kelah takes).


Happy the sun has returned, they leave the haunted place and press on until the sounds of a carriage moving through the forest on a narrow trail can be heard. Scouting ahead, Aodh reports the sight of a carriage with Eladric markings on it. The carriage travels with a well armed escort. Aelish is eager to hail the fellow traveler but her companions insist the potential for danger is too great. No wiser to the presence of the Starhunters nearby, the carriage is allowed to pass without incident.

Although a steady pace has been kept, in a few more days time, the next star falls—still dozens of miles away as predicted by A’Kelah. Even at this distance, Aodh can somehow sense its presence after it makes landfall. Very soon after the flash in the sky announces the fallen star, a tree next to Leonidas cracks open and explodes. A Fracture has opened; an angry fire elemental rises up and begins torching everything it can. It looks down upon the Starhunters with ‘eyes’ of black smoke and whirling embers.

EXP
A’Kelah 600
Aelish 600
Aodh 600
Leonidas 600
Fendrys 600

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Sessions 9 & 10
The Colossus of Myhta Petraea

As the Starhunters come within view of Mytha Petraea, they see the ancient city wrapped within a sandstorm; its whirl offering only brief glimpses of the massive ‘Titan’ that Captain Perevis warned about. Their gnoll captain guide points to it, saying that the Sleeper, Lithok has awoken and walks upon Em.

As they travel, Fendrys becomes wise to a band of figures shadowing them all, and keeping their distance. The group sees an oasis ahead and decides to investigate, hoping it will be a good place to make a stand, should a fight break out with their trackers. The oasis’ waters have turned to boiling tar pits, its vegetation yellowed and dead, and the adjacent ranch wrecked, no doubt by one of the recent earthquakes. The trackers then reveal themselves, they are a group of gnolls from Perevis’ company. They have come for the horses, demanding two of the steeds so that they might avoid starvation.

A quick bargain is struck as the Starhunters agree to give up only Leonidas’ horse. They abandon Perevis just as quickly while he is caught between them and the mutinous soldiers. The gnolls are not seen again…


After moving on, the dust storm around Myhta Petraea envelops the group. Chaos erupts as everyone moves quickly to first shield their faces and then calm their steeds. Aelish’s horse panics and darts away into the dun clouds, taking some of her equipment with it. Leonidas is ‘swept away’ at this time, and isn’t found again until his companions cross through the storm. Strangely, the bard is seen to be climbing down from a building on the outskirts of town. Mytha Petraea looks to be just as deserted as the nearby oasis, but with one very important resident—a massive, several hundred foot tall colossus, formed of clay and parts of buildings that stands astride the river.

Half-blind and wearied from the storm, they decided to rest and allow night to come on, agreeing to tackle the city first thing in the morning. With the stars out, Leonidas has more of his arousing dreams while A’Kelah is plagued with a nightmare of spiders crawling on her brain. During his watch, Fendrys glimpses the woman called Małgorzata, seen to be looming around the sleepers during a few electric splashes of lightning.

The following morning, they plot a course to move north and eventually behind the colossus in hopes of avoiding its ‘gaze’, should it prove to have one. The giant anomaly must be their destination, for Leonidas recalls their goal—the tollstone—to be within the ancient pantheon of the city. High in the sky, the entire pantheon structure rests now on the shoulders of the massive edifice, its dome forming the semblance of a head.


On the way, strange sights are encountered. Bands of (brave but lawless) looters ransack the buildings. Elsewhere, as at the duke’s palace, materials have changed structure into glittering gems and pools of acid or quicksilver. They also cross evidence of large footprints, likely belonging to giants from the mountains and huge tunnels burrowed by gods-only-know-what. Rather than spend fading daylight on investigating these phenomena, they turn southwest and make for the riverside.

Three gargoyle-like creatures, assembled from chunks of bricks, clumps of sod, and pieces of monumental sculpture arrive and perch on nearby rooftops. A gargoyle sporting the marble, turban-wrapped-head of Myhtanian Emporer Varellion III sees A’Kelah with the orb and swoops down to snatch it away. Before it can escape, the group destroys the creature and fight off its wingmen. At the river, the true scale of the colossus—which stands bestride the River Striton—fills their hearts with awe and terror. Their goal is many hundreds of feet into the sky.

A’Kelah takes the orb and dives into the river, hoping to make use of the orb here, directly under the tollstone. Meditating on her magic and her connection to the Lurker, the sorceress veer attempts to will the colossus to life, hoping to march it forward. She meets with scant success, but success all the same as the titan shifts, dropping boulders and grinding its sand down into the river below. Her efforts are interrupted, however, by the arrival of an arrogant man called Mardus walking on the water.


Mardus is acting as though he is king here and these intruders must obey or remove themselves from the city. The Starhunters take none of the man’s guff, however. In front of their eyes, he transfigures himself into a hulking mass of clay and dried mud. Before he can do much damage or even walk onto land, Aelish traps him inside a Bead of Force. A water elemental called forth by A’Kelah then dribbles the force-sphere, with Mardus in it, a mile or more down river. The gargoyles, his servants, reassert themselves in his stead, but are dispatched by the spells and arrows of Aelish and Fendrys.

With Mardus out of the way, but only temporarily, they move quickly to surmount the colossus. It is an arduous project for which none of them are equipped. A’Kelah loses one of her prize keepsakes and then herself falls from a loose hand-hold, nearly dying from a terrible head injury. Leonidas is lost inside the structure itself when a rope snaps. Aodh’s armor is destroyed by the corrosion of jagged rocks and acidic slime. Fendrys too loses his sword when it slips from his sheath and turns end over end into the river below.

More than an hour after the sun goes down, the top is finally achieved. They make what rest they can and attempt to wash off the grime and dust of the ascent. An apparition of man who looks to be a foreign sultan or vizier is noticed up here near the tollstone before it becomes spooked that it is seen; it quickly fades away.


A’Kelah, tapping into previously unknown energies, has learned to fly. She uses this new talent to seek Małgorzata who it seems has been waiting up here for them all the while. She asks of the veer the same request that was put to Leonidas, “offer up Aelish’s blood to the tollstone.” A quick debate over the proposition leads to defiance on the part of Aelish and others. Frustrated, Małgorzata reveals herself as the succubus she truly is before soaring away into the night sky. The Starhunters make haste to finish what they came here to do before any further interruptions. The orb, just as at Imia, is united with the obelisk. The massive eldritch power running through Corinth’s Meridian is shut away once more, diverted now to Strondkard. As they perform this ritual, a scant amount of the mystic energy seeps into Aodh …


With the magic of the meridian no longer holding it up, the colossus of Mytha Petraea begins to rumble and come apart. Mardus arrives, having also climbed up, but he is too late. A’Kelah simply flies over him, out the ‘mouth’ of the temple. Fast thinking Aodh saves everyone else except Fendrys inside his own Bead of Force. The ranger does not make it to the halfling’s improvised shelter in time, but luckily still has his own bead and follows suit to save himself. The same impenetrable force fields, meant originally to trap Aelish and bring her to heel, now are all that stands between the Starhunters and certain death. The two magic cages, Starhunters inside, ride down a collapsing hill of stone and earth and gushing water before being deposited in the river, now partially damned with the wreckage of the colossus. The momentary duration of the beads comes to an end and again Aodh, thinking quick uses the Potion of Giant Strength to lift away the heavy boulders that trapped them all.


With the colossus no more than a pile of earth and stones, Myhta Petraea is an even less recognizable ghost-town than before. Exhausted, they wait out the night in a make-shift cave of toppled buildings, happy to be again on terra firma. In the morning, they scrounge together what valuables they can from the surroundings which includes a hoard of precious gems and rare metals (that look to have been gathered up by Mardus). Wishing to leave the scene before inquirers come looking, the group picks their way through what remains of the city, heading south for Taval. The road is not as deserted as one might expect. Others out on the move tell a tale of Taval experiencing the upheaval of so many soldiers and so much panic.

Aelish convinces a young Eladric acolyte (Brother Thelonious) and his two friends met on the road to join with her, rather than face the uncertainty of Taval’s martial law. So the Starhunters stick to the hard road of the vagabond, avoiding Taval for the second time. They head overland, trusting in Fendrys’ guidance, choosing a steady path to intercept the next fallen star as soon as possible. As they make way south-east on the Foghand Road, many dozens of human refugees are encountered also fleeing the turmoil behind. They beg for escort to Belendhin; Aelish feeds them with her miracles, but the Starhunters agree they cannot afford that diversion. Before the refugees are even entirely out of sight, two Tarimite inquisitors arrive on horseback. They are seen to interview the refugees and quickly catch up with Fendrys and those he leads. A’Kelah recognizes one of these mage-killers from the passive arrest of Almdor weeks ago. They bring news similar to that offered by the mercenaries slain on Vercetin lands, “Cease your travail and return with us to the capital.” A tense stand-off ends when they convince the Tarimites that their young Eladric acolyte companion, Brother Thelonious is one of them. The Inquisitors make detailed copies of A’Kelahs journals and notes before departing with the novice acolyte in their custody. Brother Thelonious’ friends, despondent over his fate, retreat to throw in their lot with the refugees a mile down the road.

EXP
A’Kelah 2800
Aelish 2800
Aodh 2900
Fendrys 2800
Leonidas 2800

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Session 8
The Trial of the Star

Those who fought and lost their lives against the earth elemental are mourned and buried, those lucky enough to survive are taken to the nearby Eladric monastery of St. Wavress to convalesce from their wounds. Recent events have stripped Aelish of her divine power, and the cleric retires to a private cell to fast and pray. Leonidas, however, is still able to use his elven magic to administer healing to his allies.

The free time bought by such a speedy recovery compels the idle half-elf to slip out of the confines of the monastery for a secret meeting, away from prying eyes, despite being under the watch of the duke’s guards. This meeting, and similar others before it, will soon be raised as a point of interest by his fellows.

Taras takes the opportunity of this interlude to speak with A’Kelah. The two magi discuss their mutual colleague Kohano, the Marquis, and many arcane matters. Taras has been appointed by the local Justice of the Peace as an instrument of the upcoming trial regarding the matter of the Fracture event that happened on palace grounds. Since he trusts Almdor’s judgement he assures A’Kelah he will do what can, within the bounds of the law, to aid them.

Before the trial is underway, Aelish and A’Kelah speak privately about the princess-cleric’s past—on the origin of her divine power. As the local commoners mass at the duke’s pantheon to act as public witnesses for the trial, Aodh busies himself warming them up with encouraging, self-serving tales and gossip about himself and his friends.

======

The duke is acting behind the scenes, using his influence to compel a trial as soon as possible. Once the defendants are healed, fit and well enough to stand trial, the summons is put out. The local Athemist magistrate, Lord Justice Valdas presides over the trial. The grey cleric stands beneath the marble allegories of Eladriel, Athemay, and the Velan psychopomp. He is flanked by an array of nobles dressed in their colorful brocade finery. The Duke of Vercetin’s chancellor, Rollo is present, and has the temerity to stand next to the slattern Małgorzata who has taken the place of his recently departed wife.

Caught between the marble idols and their terrestrial authorities on one end of the pantheon, and the pew rows of curious common folk at the other, stand the five ‘Starhunters’ on trial: the Arch-Guardian Aelish Samarkov, her sworn protector Fendrys Stonehollow, the lowborn halfling Aodh Chisholm Duncan, the mysterious veer scholar A’Kelah Can-Tan, and the talented elf Leonidas Darksbane. The purpose of the trial is to investigate the origin of the Fracture event that summoned an earth elemental and changed the astronomer Rustam into solid diamond; who among them is a sorcerer? Is Aelish truly who she says she is or no better than a mystic charlatan? With so much magic happening around this wild scene, who is responsible, and for what?

Aelish is called to the stand first, and after a convincing display of religious knowledge, she confesses about using an illusion to fool the Duke of Vercetin!

My lord, we have deceived you. In our haste to recover the fallen artifact, we turned to lies, borne of an anxiety that the truth would set your lordship against us, and the Orb would be lost to us, and with it, any hope of continuing our quest. The truth is that we are wanted fugitives, summoned to Elansory by the prosecutor Beris Tanum, on business that we know not. Whatever reason demands our presence in the capital, I cannot think of any reason so dire that would require sending a Gnostic cultist. Such was the man who led the mercenaries who came for us. The same man attempted to kill me, and only the intervention of my companions…three of which stand on trial today…. saved my life.
The document we presented to you earlier is a forgery.
I do not know if confessing to you will redeem me in the eyes of Eladriel. It may be that I have strayed too far off her path to ever again wield her divine power here on Em. Even so, I know in my heart that if by retrieving these orbs and sealing the fractures, we act out Her will—and, my lord, I believe that we do—we will not achieve our aims through deceit.
My lord, I am at your mercy.

A’Kelah is called next, and rather than admit she is a sorceress (which would require her to conform to blanche custom), she uses her deep intellect to cast doubts on what happened at the event and how the magic there originated. Leonidas faces the same line of questioning as his veer companion, however his glib remarks are seen as lacking in substance by the imperious Justice. Leonidas is outed as a magus, he is forbidden to cast magic without proper warrant—and must wear a black toque indicating his status. Any concern over the spell casting ability of the halfling is quickly put to rest when it is determined Aodh is an ‘imbecile’ who can scarcely read or write. Fendrys is last among his friends to take the stand, and though no formal accusations are levied against him, the examinations of the day leave the man to privately wonder from where does his own ineffable power arise? Is it the gods of men in whose pantheon he now stands or the pagan Titans of ancient Em?

======

The trial is a long inquest into the orb, those who were near when the Fracture happened, and the many documents and notes compiled by Almdor, A’Kelah, and Leonidas. The secular matter of Beris Tanum’s actions and the involvement of his mercenaries is set aside as outside the scope of the Athemist church. In the aftermath of trial, Burcard Vyn, the Duke of Vercetin opts not to arrest and hang the Starhunters for their treason against him or for the murderous melee that took place on his lands. A consummate blanche noble, raised to balance the merits of sorcery and religion, he trusts both in the Athemist Justice’s findings regarding the fracture event and also in Almdor’s guidance of these ‘Starhunters’. Therefore, he sends the group north, to Mytha Petraea as they wish—on certain conditions.

1. Aelish must act as a chaplain and do her utmost to heal the duke’s soldiers before all others.
2. Aelish is forbidden from using her presence to inspire those soldiers away from their duties.
3. Leonidas has been branded a magus and must conform to the sumptuary law of wearing a black toque.
4. The duke seizes magic scrolls, the contraband firearms, and the official dwarven letter that the companions had possessed. A’Kelah lets it be known that one of those scrolls is a powerful remedy that can probably cure Rustam of his diamond-form fate.

The five Starhunters, disgraced with scandal and intrigue, but safe from ransom or the gallows prepare for a rapid departure, north again. As they pack up their horses and make ready, news arises that the two ‘rat thug’ mercenaries which escaped their showdown in the woods have turned up dead, having been left displayed at the doorstep of the duke’s dog kennel in a violent mess—much as a cat leaves a mouse for its master. Given that Chancellor Rollo—and presumably Małgorzata by association—spend a lot of time there, this spurs Aodh to tell the rest of the group his secret.

Aodh had spied Leonidas en flagrante with the raven-haired beauty. A’Kelah, Fendrys, Aelish, and Aodh all inundate Leonidas with questions about his previous liaisons and this woman and how all of it is connected. Leonidas is incredibly circumspect, asserting that this woman has only been a boon to them all. He attempts to change the course of the conversation instead to Aelish’s footed box—that she uses to keep in secret correspondence with her Royal Providence, the princess Agrafena. Tempers flare and the group’s bonds weaken under this strain, but they ultimately press on together again as a group.

======

Days later, in Orina, a solider seeing Leonidas’ elven heritage assumes he’s come to see an elf called ‘Vallon’. This Vallon, they all learn, is none other than the sister of Marquis Almdor, and she has been sent to Rynas from far-away Gwyrl Ardun by their mother, to check up on him. Vallon is a haughty sword-master surrounded by a coterie of students. She casually challenges Leonidas and Fendrys each to a duel. The bout with the former is exceptionally close—and called a draw by Vallon herself—but Leonidas knows the truth that he lost by a fraction of a heartbeat. Fendrys on the other hand, is beaten soundly, and within seconds.

Further north, outside a town called Belendhin, many of the duke’s barons have gathered with their peasant levies. The soldiers are idle and anxious. The encampment is rife with vice of all sorts (that is mostly taken out on the local populace): gambling and prostitution, theft and vandalism, and excessive drinking. Rather than aid the innocents living here, Aelish is called upon to heal the injuries these scoundrel men inflict on each other. Aodh takes advantage of many sagging pockets and neglected purses.

As the long stretch of the Upperthrone Guideway marches ever north, the weather warms as mid-Spring comes on. The fertile Vercetin lands of the Striton become hilly and arid. The group enters the lands of Countess Rynemor, the only woman to sit upon the Interim council. Along the guideway they are met by one of her knights, Sir Arband. He demands a toll—4 crowns per head—for their use of the road during such upheaval. The Starhunters pay up, but ignore the knight’s warnings that a calamity in Myhta Petraea will be their undoing.

Outside Taval—the last town before Myhta Petraea—a lone gnoll approaches from off the road and begs in broken Myhtanian for aid, his fellows are ‘sick-hurt’. With apprehension but trusting in A’Kelah’s translation, they agree to follow the forlorn soldier. He indeed takes them to a displaced band of Myhtanian soldiers, all gnolls, who have bivouacked in the hills. With little food or water to offer, they provide what healing they can to the gnolls. Their captain, one called Perevis, agrees to take them to Myhta Petraea, to show them why his men have retreated to such a desolate spot…

EXP
A’Kelah 1000
Aelish 1100
Aodh 1000
Fendrys 1100
Leonidas 1200

Inspiration
Aelish +1 — props for the dramatic confession
Leonidas +1 — for handling himself well in the hotseat

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Session 7
Castle Oldecha

8827484668_e984ddfb33_b.jpg

In the deep woods, miles from the Striton river and its many dwellings, far from prying eyes and curious ears, a band of travelers has fought off an attack by bounty hunters. The hunters are killed or scattered. One of their mastiffs and one of their men lie on the ground, mortally wounded, but still clinging to life. Before the dying thug can be healed and interrogated, however, as his captors approach, his body shrinks down inside his clothes.

Scampering away out of a sleeve runs a brown rat, lost almost immediately in the underbrush of the forest floor. A strange bronze pentacle, like the one Aodh wears is found with the abandoned clothes. This one has the word “PHARROS” etched into the back. Aodh thinks this token—and the men sent after the group—may have some connection to a secretive clan of blackguards and spies who operate in the vast sewers of the ancient capital, Elansory. Bewildered by this, as Aelish puts it, ‘new devilry’ but aware there is little they can do to catch the retreating vermin, the party busies itself with the task of committing the dead men to their graves. Aelish blesses the corpses to prevent them rising again as vengeful revenants, or worse. Fendrys puts the wounded mastiff out of its misery and helps with digging a single, large, shallow grave. During the burial, a black and evil sigil of Gnost is found painted on the chest of the leader, causing Aelish’s blood to run cold. Perhaps this was the man’s protection against an Arch-Guardian.

Despite this interlude, the party’s goals are unchanged. With five new horses and two new guns, they head for Oldecha in search of the Duke Vercetin and his astronomer, the man who beat them to the fallen orb. Before reaching the river and the town beside, they use their magic scroll which places a lasting illusion upon the script of the official letter previously carried by the bounty hunters. The magic changes the ink, disguising it as a separate document from the one that has already passed through the duke’s court—as its signatures make plain. Whereas the bounty hunter’s held a dispensation from Beris Tanum, granting its bearers the authority to collect ‘Aelish and her apostles’, the newly disguised letter now reads like a charter in favor of the party and ‘their mission’, issued this time from Tanum’s fellow Prosecutor, Lukiria Vanator.

In Oldecha town, Aelish and Aodh greet a young Eladric cleric administering alms. They make arrangements to have supper across the river at the monastery on the duke’s grounds. The town is overrun with not only refugees from the disaster in Pallenever, but also with young men training for war; they loose arrows into packed straw and slowly twist and lock spear hafts in deliberate, meditative fashion. The town seems to be having a dissonant conversation with itself as hungry babes cry out to despondent mothers and veteran captains bark orders at nervous young men. The people of Oldecha look to be bending under this stress. Aelish trades some silver to a craftsman’s wife in exchange for her dress. Fendrys too spends some idle hours making himself presentable. Leonidas and Fendrys then sing songs to pass the time and are soon joined by glum refugees. A’Kelah elects to hide herself—and the horses—from anyone who might recognize them.

Supper at the monastery has Aelish surrounded by monks in awe of the elected Arch-Guardian before them. The next day, the party’s general haste concerning the orb collides with the plodding propriety of court life. Hours are lost simply traversing the long spans of formal gardens, corridors, and galleries. A series of formalities and introductions with valets and courtiers and footmen must be hurdled before reaching the final prize, the audience with the duke. The group dissipates and loses track of itself within the duke’s palace, only partially on purpose. Leonidas is summoned away with a missive by an unknown caller. Aodh slips himself away and steals down to the servant’s area, investigating the fishy tale of the Chancellor Rollo and his new mistress. While sneaking around the palace, Aodh sees something transpiring in a music room not intended for his eyes.

Sometime that afternoon, while A’Kelah crosses the river to examine the tollstone on the palace grounds, Aelish and Fendrys are called in to see the Duke of Vercetin in his study. He interviews them about the rumors he has heard regarding their travels. He is shown the mystically concealed document. Aelish and Fendrys are careful to say only what they must, stressing the importance of ‘a mission’ Aelish considers divine. Taras, a protege or Lord Almdor and guest of the duke is called in to verify some information. Sensing perhaps that he has been chosen to pick sides in a conflict he does not understand, Mr. Taras is noncommittal.

Suddenly, a boom is heard outside the palace, across one of its many well tended lawns. Another Fracture has opened up within Rustam’s carriage house laboratory! A swirling maelstrom of debris and gushing water surrounding the orb has taken hold. Within the maelstrom, the now familiar sight of an earth elemental forms. Rustam, the late possessor of the orb—has been turned into solid diamond. The astronomer’s many alchemical reagents have been mixed and corrupt by the orb’s magic. Pools of corrosive acid burble at the elemental’s feet. As the party rushes to their challenge, it’s plain to see the orb is seated within the elemental’s ‘face’. As the group moves to surround the creature, for a second time, Aodh is nearly smashed to death by the fist of an earth elemental. The acidic oozes are dealt with by arrow and spell alike. Leonidas casts a Bead of Force at an ooze but misses his mark. One of the oozes ‘climbs’ onto the spherical force-field near it, only to be Thunderwoven into the elemental’s behind; this action sends a deadly spray of acid in all directions as the ooze is whipped apart in mid-air.

The elemental, a dangerous and unpredictable visitor to this realm is distracted by the arrival of the duke’s guards just long enough for the party to access whatever quintessence they found within themselves at Imia. With focus and concentration, the Fracture is closed and the elemental collapses with it; the water gushing from the hole in space ceases to flow.

EXP
A’Kelah 1200
Aelish 1200
Aodh 1200
Fendrys 1200
Leonidas 1200

Inspiration
A’Kelah +1 — props for the Illusionary Script idea.

View
Sessions 5 & 6
When You Wish Upon A Star

Not long after Marquis Almdor is led away by Sir Kalag and the inquisitors, a second knight arrives at Ormuster. Unlike Kalag, this knight is in service to Prince Yuri Samarkov, Aelish’s brother. Almdor had the foresight to summon this man, Sir Graff several days ago. Alexei Graff is an old childhood friend of Aelish’s; the two are surprised and charmed to be meeting again after so long—and under such strange circumstances. It is curious how their lives have changed in the fifteen years hence. Sir Graff, as an agent of Prince Yuri, is keen to hear from Fendrys any news of Aelish and her travels. Yuri wants Aelish back at court. Those who command the blessing of a god are not easily dissuaded from their goals, however, and Graff learns what Fendrys already has; Aelish will go where she wishes. Who has the temerity to an coax an Arch-Guardian away from her goals?

With the pleasantries of the two nobles aside, the situation with Rothwar is explained to Graff. He accepts the news gravely and decides he will have a cage-cart purpose built for his endeavor to Encer. The party, wishing to spare no more time, leaves early the next morning, but not before Aodh and Leonidas fetch the bequest Almdor had entrusted. Their road is east, to Aletan where they will join the Upperthrone Guideway and head north. With Ormuster behind them, the road grows less and less wild. Overgrown hedgerows give way to sturdier and sturdier fences. Weed strewn meadows and fallen mile markers turn to freshly planted fields and white-washed trees. On the way, atop a hillock, a collection of ancient road-side shrines are found. It is an unusual conclave of many statues, Athemay, Eladriel, Eurserel, Gan, Myriath, Myrnoch, and Nephogar hold out their hands for offerings. Aelish leaves a token offering of a gold coin and one of her notes from Fenya, adding a prayer for her safety.

At a hamlet outside Aletan, the party comes across a spring festival celebrating the goddess Rana, youngest daughter of Rimanay. The villagers have prepared a feast and they dance and sing and eat and drink late into the evening. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. Fast friends are made. Even the outsiders like A’Kelah and Aodh are treated with warmth and respect. Despite the revelry, the party is early to bed and early to rise. Aelish spares a day to offer confirmation to a young man before moving on.

Once in Aletan proper, while staying at the Cloudgoat Inn, the group is approached by a messenger who sends word of a Prosecutor and three Athemist clerics in town looking for some itinerants matching the group’s description. A quick discussion follows about what to do next. A’Kelah and Leonidas, both unregistered magi, waste no time in making a hasty exit to escape Aletan entirely. Aelish is also cautious, but less so, taking Fendrys with her to bide time in the local Pantheon while Aodh investigates—first as a spy and then as a spokesperson. The halfling finds the bureaucrats cooling their heels in Aletan’s civic hall, but when eavesdropping proves futile, he presents himself. A heated discussion follows as the Prosecutor and the urchin trade ultimatums; the former insists he must speak with the group, in private, about highly sensitive matters. The Prosecutor, threatening arrest of the halfling, decides instead he will invite himself and his three clerics to the inn where they expect the rest of the group will eventually return.

Back at the Cloudgoat, Aodh, seeing no hope in a plan on getting the Prosecutor drunk, simply gives him the slip, using his small stature and streetwise to exit onto the street. He dashes back to the Pantheon where he encounters Aelish and Fendrys just exiting, both worried over what has taken so long. Aodh does not trust the Prosecutor and his ‘good news on offer’, and thus convinces his friends to leave Aletan as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.

The group is now divided, though A’Kelah and Leonidas eventually find each other, north of town, along the Upperthrone. Something unknown and unspoken soon tips off Leonidas to the same suspicion Aodh sensed. With everyone keeping a low profile, avoiding the thoroughfare of the Guideway, a journey north to Pallenever is made. That evening, a bright flash in the sky is seen overnight—the fallen star of Myhta Petraea has made landfall!

In Pallenever, everything is amiss. The river has risen. Farmers chase stray animals and repair cracks in their plaster and fallen timbers. The great gate to the large city is abandoned—the city is eerily quite. The church bells go un-rung. Numerous smoke tails rise from the wrong places. There has been an earthquake. It is here, just inside the gate, that the group is rejoined under tense circumstances. The turmoil of the earthquake has engendered an Earth Elemental! The good people of Pallenever, those who haven’t fled the destruction, have taken to their roofs to avoid drawing the creature’s notice.

=== End of Session 5 ===

A daring escape, which sees Leonidas cross between the buildings of Pallenever’s main street—with an extended rope, as though it were a rushing river—is conducted. Everyone agrees to make a mad dash back to the gatehouse where hopefully the ramparts of the walls will offer security, assuming the elemental cannot climb stairs. This plan is a success, but the elemental gives chase and nearly smashes every bone in the bodies of Aodh and Leonidas. Worse for wear, but still alive, the party uses much of what remains of their rope to repel down over the walls, away from Pallenever and its turmoil.

North again, following the river, as a fisherman ferries them to the east bank, the group learns they are being tracked by mounted men with large hunting dogs. A bribe to the fisherman buys their safety for now, but the last has not been seen of these bounty hunters. Once on the east side of the mighty Striton, Fendrys has little trouble picking up the trail of the many persons in the area who must have flocked toward the fallen star. A collection of these curious men are found a few days from the river; they have armed themselves and jealously guard the blasted out crater they found which was made by the star. Their jealousy is spurred by strange and precious minerals that protrude all around the site of the crater. After the party assures the salvage diggers they are not here to loot the crater—they inform Fendrys that an astronomer from Pallenever, named Rustam came on behalf of the Duke of Vercetin. Rustam collected the fallen object and is surely taking it to Castle Oldecha, back west along the Striton.

On the way there, the bounty hunters are met again. They claim the authority of Prosecutor Beris Tanum, again asserting the need for the group to answer questions in the capital. A parley fails and a tense standoff leads to a melee when Aelish refuses to be deterred from her mission and Aodh fires the first arrow into their leader. The forest rings out with the sounds of a battle many times larger than it truly is. Reports from the firearms of the bounty hunters and the Thunderwaves of A’Kelah and Leonidas shake the leaves from their branches, sending wildlife away in a panic. Aelish blinds the leader of the thugs, but her good fortune (of escaping a magic prison cast at her) runs out when he then fells her with wild, blinded sword swings. With Aelish’s life in the balance, the thugs are fought off by spell and arrow alike—only two escape into the woods. The wounded are tended to and five horses of the bounty hunters are captured.

EXP
A’Kelah 1000
Aelish 1000
Aodh 1000
Fendrys 1000
Leonidas 1000

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Session 4
Corinth's Meridian

Rothwar is bound and kept near Aelish. A night spent at Rothwar’s camp reveals a changed forest the following morning. Leonidas can sense the Faerie realm pulling close; it is clear this land is forever changed by the magic unleashed at the Lawstone of Imia. The trees and vines have overgrown. Wild Oriss plant, flora usually only seen in the tropics of the Great Archipelago have appeared.

Fendrys picks a safer path back to Polther, away from the strange magics of the forest—the deadly plants and the ghouls they make. Before the town is reached, however, Rothwar, during one of his morning trances, seemingly summons a dread Basilisk from an old tree. Aelish can sense the divine presence of Vartusk at work. A pair of trees are also animated in protectorate service to the Basilisk. Its duty is to freeze Rothwar in stone for all time, the same fate that befell many of his cultists not so long ago. At first, A’Kelah and her Mirror Images prevent the creature from meeting Rothwar’s gaze so it turns its attention instead to Aelish. The priestess is nearly turned to stone herself, saved perhaps only by the grace of Eladriel. Fendrys, A’Kelah, and Leonidas sink arrows, spells, and sword points into the beast clumsily—while trying to avoid its burning eyes. Leonidas is nearly killed, his ribs and face smashed by swinging tree branches. During the fracas, Aodh, wishing to put a stop to this, pin-cushions Rothwar with his sidesword. One blow in particular is deep, gliding between ribs and puncturing both lungs. Rothwar heaps over, using his last gasps of blood-choked air to try to meet the Basilisk in the eyes. Aelish calls upon Eladriel to blind this monstrosity, however, and his efforts are in vain. With the petrifying gaze of the beast nullified by Eladriel’s mercy, it is slain and its tree guardians are halted by Rothwar’s halted breathing. Aelish is quickly able to save both Leonidas and Rothwar from an early death.

After this episode, what scant trust was given to Rothwar is gone and his gagged, half-dead body is dragged into Polther like the lowest form of criminal. The townsfolk are eager to establish that pious Aelish is indeed safe and also to learn as much as they can of the adventure that was had in the deep mountain woods. Leonidas regales all who will listen of the great deeds and daring-do the party accomplished while Aelish keeps a dutiful eye on Rothwar. Cold-hearted Aodh, unconcerned with simple country praise as a reward unto itself, cannot help but relieve these bumpkins of their meager coin instead. A’Kelah and Fendrys keep to themselves amidst so many strangers.

Soon, the road is taken up again, and the party marches south back to the Marquis Almdor to deliver news of Rothwar, of Corinth’s Meridian, an enticing letter from the Dwarves of Kathoom, and the strange occurrence of the orb. Almdor expresses regret that he involved Fendrys in this event, but is able to confirm much of the arcane findings that A’Kelah and Leonidas made while in Imia. With the stolen folio and the other notes before him, Almdor realizes that the orb represents an alien influence, unknowable by the bounds of mortal magic. He supposes that Corinth’s Meridian, the ancient mystic superstructure that has ever provided Rynas with dynastic stability is possibly being usurped in some way. It is presumed more orbs will appear, their locations predictable at half-way points between the capital and each corresponding Lawstone.

If A’Kelah’s sensations are on the mark, Myhta Petraea will activate next at the Full Moon. But first, its orb will fall in less than 10 days on the New Moon. At length, Lord Almdor’s page rushes in, interrupting the proceedings. “A knight is here with some men asking for you, Lord Marquis!”. With measured and deliberate focus, Almdor entrusts his most valuable books and papers to Leonidas and bids he and Aodh make haste to hide them at once. Soon after, a Knight of the Tiger, Sir Vitomir Kalag and three Tarimite Inquisitors arrive. They demand Almdor’s presence in the capital, asserting that the new Provost of the University needs to speak with him in regards to ‘recent events’. Almdor goes calmly and willingly, but not before reminding his allies that the new moon is only eight days away…

At this time, Aelish is torn. She wants desperately to fulfill the wishes of her abbess by escorting Rothwar Whitearm to the Holy Court in Encer where he can face judgement before the divine Reverands. However, she wants also to join in what Almdor indicated must surely be their collective destiny, a fate bound up in the magic of the Meridian itself. Following that path would draw her away from both Encer and Whitearm. Ultimately, she drafts a letter to Abbess Greyheart explaining her extraordinary situation and that she has called upon a favor with her brother, Prince Yuri Samarkov to ensure Rothwar’s route to Encer is secure while she seeks a larger plan, trusting in Eladriel to have made the righteous choice.

While drafting her letter, Aelish uncovers inside a keepsake box given to her by an old friend, a hastily scrawled note penned by a familiar hand. It is that of her fellow sister of the cloth, Her Royal Providence Agrafena Ysaninka Dragomov I. It seems ‘Fenya’ is in danger, ‘taken away’ by ‘men’. Aelish, in total shock and amazement to learn of this unknown sending property her keepsake possesses, attempts a return message, asking ‘where’ and if Fenya is safe.

EXP
A’Kelah 800
Aelish 800
Aodh 800
Fendrys 800
Leonidas 800

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Session 3
The News of Forever

Fendrys ceases to glow when the orb he once held is ripped from his grasp, pulled by some invisible force toward the Lawstone of Imia. In this moment, the birds in the trees and the beasts of the earth sense danger and they take flight. Wild, arcane energies are unleashed with the colision of the orb and the obelisk—all ferrous metal in the area not otherwise held fast soon follows, drawn violently toward the stone. A’Kelah, standing near the obelisk, ducks for cover as a torrent of hammers, nails, swords, and sundry other metal objects clang over her head. Rothwar and his accomplices scatter and flee, some of them taking refuge in nearby ponds. The wild energy surge waxes: time is distorted, the surrounding vegetation writhes and mutates, vines and mushrooms sprout, some of the shoots and grasses are converted to crystal, others explode into puffs of glittery magic gas. At the center of this mayhem, where the Lawstone was is a Fracture in the Veil of reality. A winged Shadow Demon attempts to manifest in this world and it is attended by five lesser Shadows; they rise up from the ground like death-oil overflown from a terrible well.

By some unknown quintessence and instinct, working in concert, Aelish, A’Kelah, Aodh, Fendrys, and Leonidas are able to surround the entity and force the Fracture closed, banishing it to its proper home. A frantic melee with the shadows ensues, with most present splashing through knee deep ponds. Aodh is brought to the brink of death by the enervating touch of a Shadow, surviving only because he is passed over for the ‘easier meal’ to be found in the form of Rothwar’s helpless mistress. Two of Rothwar’s other cultists, a mason and carpenter working on the site are also felled by the dark grasp of the Shadows. What survives of the rest of the cult, within earshot nearby in the forest, can be heard fleeing in terror. It is likely some of them approached the event with the orb, perhaps with caution, only close enough to see the chaos and death spiraling out of control at the scene.

When calm returns, when the marsh waters go still again, only the goons Max and Artur remain. Rothwar is nowhere to be found. Fendrys and Leonidas interrogate them, but come away with nothing from the shocked and frightened men. At Aelish’s suggestion, A’Kelah dives into the pond where Rothwar was last seen and there she discovers a hidden portal to an ancient cairn-like area beneath the Lawstone. Rothwar hides down there, amid more statues of dragon-men and giant, poisonous snakes.

Inside Rothwar’s pavilion the group finds the stolen folio and a good deal of other material: maps, journals, logbooks, and a letter from a dwarven envoy. Whitearm was also sitting on a ‘vigorous tasting’ potion, a magic scroll, and roughly 200 GP in silver coins. The dead are laid to rest, given their last rites by Aelish. Overnight, they examine the materials at hand and make many discoveries. The Lawstone is part of network of obelisks forming ‘Corinth’s Meridian‘, an ancient magic-superstructure built from the bones of the blue dragon Corinth whose death precipitated the founding of Rynas some 3,000 years ago by Oran Dragomov I. There are nine Lawstones in total, eight of which form a wheel with the central, ninth stone resting in the capital, Elansory. Each obelisk is tuned to a specific type of magic. They learn other clues as well, such as the orb falling half-way between Imia (the present location) and Elansory. The appearance of the orb coincided with the repair of the obelisk—something Rothwar and his cult were only able to accomplish with a Vartuskan ritual. Rothwar it seems, was consorting with a demon named ’Hanezal’ in order to learn his secrets. The dwarven letter is from the Dwarves of Kathoom and it is a document of state proclaiming that they have uncovered the remains of the late King of Rynas, Grygor XII as well as the Crown of Rynas. They would return these items to their neighbor and seek the best course of action.

With the overwhelming arcane mystery of Corinth’s Meridian before them, the group concludes they must return to Ormuster to meet with Almdor. A decision about how to get Rothwar before the Holy Court in Encer also must be also made.

EXP
(The discrepancy: extra was earned for killing the Giant Poisonous Snakes)
Aelish 500
A’Kelah 500
Aodh 400
Fendrys 500
Leonidas 400

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