The Heir to Disaster

Session 19.5
Stepping Sideways

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I’m pushin’ on the door
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
There you go
Standin’ with the look of avarice
Talkin’ to Huddie Ledbetter
Showin’ pictures on the wall
Whisperin’ in the hall
And pointin’ a finger at me
There you go, there you go
Standin’ in the sun darlin’
With your arms behind you
And your eyes before
There you go
Takin’ good care of your boy
Seein’ that he’s got clean clothes
Puttin’ on his little red shoes
I see you know he’s got clean clothes
A-puttin’ on his little red shoes
A-pointin’ a finger at me
And here I am
Standing in your sad arrest
Trying to do my very best
Lookin’ straight at you
Comin’ through, darlin’
Yeah, yeah, yeah
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss-a my eyes
Lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
To be born again
In another world
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high
Ain’t nothing but a stranger in this world
I’m nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high
In another land
So far away
So far away
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
We are goin’ up to heaven
We are goin’ to heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
In another face

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Session 19
Goriseld

At first, the sage Goriseld is certain his visitors are here to arrest him and bring him to the capital to the share fate of so many of the University’s magi. Though he is a retired wizard, living a secluded life on his land by the lake, alone and at peace, he has been in contact at least with ‘Lukya’. She has kept him apprised of events near the capital—of the imprisoned Agrafena, of the collected magi, and the political turmoil. Goriseld welcomes them all into his home which is an old Vartuskan temple ruin, kept in semi-repair now as a sprawling garden.

The humble country wisdom of Aodh’s fine people means that warm, soothing cook fires and clanking pots attend the long hearth-side talks of the next two days. While the halfling is busy, hopping from stool to stool, using his stone hands as spice-grinders, the sage is told the tale of the Starhunters, and of Oksana (who drops her incognito guise here). Her Royal Providence seeks a council on her next move, for she remembers Goriseld as a trusted confidant during her younger days under Almdor’s tutelage.

===============

Oksana would know if she should return to Castle Slatewind and deal with her mistake there. Should she free the captured magi and rally them to her cause or should she raise a conventional army and retake the capital by traditional force, embroiling herself in the civil war? Goriseld cautions against the Castle and its dangerous pagan monks. Leonidas and A’Kelah both argue in favor of courting the magi to further her aims. Aelish pleads caution, favoring a conventional military and political strategy as a show of lordly force.

All this while, Perren and his crew stay mostly aboard the Swiftlight so as not to overwhelm their host. The dashing treasure-hunter plots a return to Lost Lokken and redress for the death of Jaina.

While in Goriseld’s home, the Starhunters have a chance to learn more secrets of the magic they carry with them. Fendrys trades with the sage the obsidian shield found in Lokken for an elven hauberk of bright mail. Goriseld tells him it was the armor of Galan Ardryll, an elven hero of old and friend of Marquis Almdor. Goriseld seems happy the armor can be put to use again in exchange for a brilliant new mantle-piece. A’Kelah too trades, offering 50 of her prized dragon scales. In return, he gifts her with a ‘Scarab of Protection’ that will ward against the evils of the undead (which figure in the foretelling of the Watcher’s visions). Goriseld explains to Aelish the properties of her ‘Eversmoking Bottle’, such that she no longer desires to possess it. Leonidas meets privately with the sage, discussing other matters.

===============

Importantly, the crystal ball recovered from the goblin bounty hunters is also shown to the old man. Goriseld finds it magic impenetrable, mysterious, and perhaps dangerous. He argues they should be rid of it, fearing a curse or some or other sinister force.

Also during this interlude, A’Kelah is asked by Goriseld to return here so that she might examine the deep sunken roots of ‘an old elven tree gone bad in his lake’. Aelish meets with Zita and the two talk of Eladriel and of Oksana. Aelish gives Zita her signet ring and asks her to spread the truth of her holy mission. Zita is moved to tears and vows it will be done.

Deep in the night, with dawn only hours away, Lukiria Vanator arrives—in her inimitable way—by magic teleportation. Cautious Aodh is the only one roused by this disturbance, and Lukiria is being very secretive. Later in the morning, they learn ‘Lukya’ has a young girl with her, Marietta, and that said girl is injured. The two repair to Goriseld’s tower, where others are forbidden; little is seen of them. Marietta is in pain, and frightened of so many strangers. Lukya is so protective of her, she spares no time for pleasantries despite her prior ‘acquaintance’ with the Starhunters.

===============

Though suspicious and curious of Lukiria and her young charge, the Starhunters can spare no more time with the Goriseld and his peaceful, garden home by the lakeside. Early on the morning of Crowning, 5th of Terentius, they are off. Following a rapid farewell to Goriseld, Oksana, and Zita Nemeth, the Swiftlight carries them all aloft once more.

En route to Hinturnal, ideas are put forth about what should be done with the dangerous crystal ball. Some say it should be tossed overboard, others argue to keep it, but out of sight. Fendrys blindsides everyone by suggesting the device be fired out of one of the Swiftlight’s cannons (a decision he will come to rue for the rest of his days). Opinions are mixed on this plan. Hoff, Elaina, and Gage are stridently opposed to the proposal. Perren, however, as captain of his ship and owner of his cannon carries the day by favoring this “once in a lifetime chance!” Sascha volunteers to ignite the gun, being fearless of powder toxin. Everyone keeps a safe distance—some even remain on the Swiftlight—away from the cannon which gets moved to a ground position.

===============

The fuse is touched. The spark burns down in four heartbeats time. The cannon explodes in a splatter of wild ether set forth by the detonated magic glass! Sascha is thrown from the scene. A fiery, purplish, scintillating miasma of magic energy and reality distortion hangs in the air after the explosion. Emerging from this vortex is a giant floating eye ringed with tentacles, each tipped with yet more eyes. The alien eye-beast assaults Rashid, Fendrys, Aelish, and A’Kelah with deadly spell-like rays that issue from its many optics. A’Kelah is pulled toward the creature with an inexorable force. Rashid is slain outright, his mind overcome by a psychic blast. Fendrys is held in check, being shown his worst fears as the shuddersome thing witnesses his mind. Aelish however, strides forward to meet the creature, confidently bolstered and sanctified by her unshakable faith. Leonidas and Aodh are quickly conducted to the scene from the deck by his magic while Perren and crew rush to their battle stations.

Aodh joins Fendrys is his arrow assault as Leonidas rallies behind with warcry and song to drown out the thing’s mind-twisting powers. A’Kelah, pulled up close, is bitten savagely. Therefore she moves to protect herself with her bead of force. But this only makes it effortless for the creature to fling her, bead and all, behind it and into the vortex. With A’Kelah no longer in the way, Leonidas, Aodh, and Fendrys all have clear shots. The beast is slain—its death signals the end of the vortex. Aelish bravely leaps into the fast closing vortex after her companion, hurriedly handing a length of rope to Fendrys on her way. The ranger, still terrified and in shock, reflexively tugs with all his might on the rope, yanking it entirely from Aelish before she can finish tying it to her waist. The vortex closes. Aelish and A’Kelah are gone from the world.

EXP
Aelish 1700
A’Kelah 1200
Aodh 1200
Fendrys 1200
Leonidas 1200

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Session 18
The Heir to Disaster

The elemental backlash of the Strondkard Lawstone, being so ‘hot’ and ‘dry’ overwhelms the sea-born veer, A’Kelah, who is a sorceress of the cold, watery Lurker. A’Kelah has fallen into a daze that even magic will not countermand. At Mytha Petraea, some of the mystic power there was encouraged to find a home in Aodh, and here again the Starhunters use their union to coax a similar power into A’Kelah—fearing the backlash has killed her and the power may spare her life. What this power is and how it might manifest, they do not yet know.

After realizing A’Kelah cannot be roused, Oksana is helped to her feet by Aelish. The two women have an abrupt conversation, but are cut short by encircling wyverns. These creatures, small as dragons go, but large by any other measure have appeared perhaps from the volcano, or else attracted to its eruption, or as a Titan’s response to the angel’s deific intervention. Whatever the case, they have drifted above like vultures before swooping down to attack. Monks from the adjacent castle arrive on the scene to defend their home, trapping the Starhunters outside with the wyverns and their poisonous tail-stingers.

Aodh is felled by a wyvern trying to carry A’Kelah (using his newfound stone-strength) to safety. Aelish saves him while Gage springs to defend all three of them. Fendrys too is brought down after helping Oksana (who looks to be adept with her famous sword) to drive one away. It looks as though all is lost until Air Elementals, summoned by the monks, aid the Starhunters in killing and dispersing the wyverns.

The monks are angry with the lot of them and demand that they surrender their weapons and speak with their ‘oracle’. Oksana herself and each of the Starhunters speaks with the mysterious man with eyes of black-glass and singed robes. He talks in riddles and bids them to speak with the Watcher-in-Flames. Leonidas and Aodh have only brief interactions. Aelish and Fendrys, however, each are treated to the mad, fiery visions of the Watcher who peers into the world from a seat of chaos and destruction…

A’Kelah, who was unconscious during the recent battle, finds herself revived in front of the oracle himself. She too peers into his glass eyes, but he chides her coward’s mind for not asking the right questions and sends her away.

Oksana it seems has placated the angry Slatewind Monks—who view them all as interlopers. The Starhunters all want to talk to her, but she is eager to speak with the ones who brought her here first. The would-be queen then uses magic, as A’Kelah does, to fly to the ship in the sky that has hovered nearby all this time. As arrangements to leave are being made, the Starhunters privately share their experiences with the oracle. Aelish and Fendrys both had a vision of a bejeweled skull being unearthed in catacombs under the capital Elansory. The sight of it slays Fendrys outright.

The fantastical air-ship, known as the Swiftlight is seen to lower, while Oksana returns saying they are welcome aboard. The captain, one Perren Sparrowhawk, is a half-elf wearing a careworn doublet. He greets them all enthusiastically and introduces his crew. They all look to be people of the desert from far beyond these mountains. The Eladric cleric Elaina and two other men, Sascha and Rashid, are all dark skinned and wear strange garments from those lands. Perren’s first mate, Hoff, looks to be a legionnaire of the Mythanian Empire and has the bearing to match. It seems they too were assailed by wyverns. Two blanche knights, Royal Lancers here with Oksana and an elven magus named Jaina were all killed in that attack. Jaina was a dear friend to the crew of the Swiftlight and the mood aboard is grim.

The ship, spared though it was by an angel, is damaged from the volcano. The Starhunters are in awe of the ship and see it as a boon in their race along the vast Meridian. Perren insists his ship is not going anywhere until it is repaired however. Four days pass and they all labor to repair the ship down at the foot of the mountain, beyond the fire ravaged area, where the local woods can lend resources. Jaina and the two knights are given what Perren calls a ‘burial at sky’. Jaina’s body is committed to the Traveler in a somber elven ceremony. The two knights are also cremated, with Gan and Eladriel invoked in equal measure.

With the ship ‘cloudworthy’ again, it is agreed that Oksana’s wishes will be met first—they will journey west to Lake Strovkel, meeting with a sage there named Goriseld. Perren though does agree to take the Starhunters to Hinturnal with all due haste; he is curious to see the university there. En route, A’Kelah trades thirteen of her red dragon scales in order to read from thirteen books and scrolls from the Swiftlight’s modest library. At Lake Strovskel they meet Lady Zita Nemeth, a Volodine, and her footmen. Goriseld eyes them wearily.

EXP
Aelish 3000
A’Kelah 2700
Aodh 3000
Fendrys 3000
Leonidas 3300

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Session 17.5
Saint Samarkov

Standing at the mouth of a tunnel and looking upon the ancient and monumental stairs ringed by statues of giant sentinels, the exhausted Starhunters are paralyzed with indecision about how to proceed. Moments later, a ghostly apparition which is possessed of its own silvery light emerges from the tunnel. It looks to be a twin of Aelish Samarkov herself. This Aelish, however, is clad in glorious raiment, befitting a duchess of Samarkov. The phantom Aelish bears a forlorn comportment. Moved to great pity, she reaches out to hold the cheek of her twin.

The volcano erupts. The awesome force of nature is unleashed, making ants of the Starhunters who crawl, myopic upon the surface of Em. The phantom Aelish’s Eladric, holy figure is shining. The grey sky cracks and a burning white rose is seen in the heavens. Eladriel has sent one of her intercessors, the Angel Levesath down to safeguard the Starhunters from this calamity. The angel is so bright and pure that mortal eyes cannot grasp its true form; they know only that wings have embraced them and carry them aloft amidst a maelstrom of cinders and smoke and splashing lava. They are deposited at the rim of the mountain, near the statue-warded castle overlooking the crater. A promontory there, dangling over the edge is home to the Lawstone of Strondkard. The ‘orb’ sought by the Starhunters is present here too, along with a prostrate figure who is cowering from the eruption below.

With A’Kelah acting first, the Starhunters reflexively take command of the ‘orb’ and use their power to seal the Fracture here. All the while the angel keeps the titanic dangers of the mountain at bay. As before at Imia and Myhta Petrea, light streams from the palms of the Starhunters as they wrangle the Merdian’s unstable energy. Wild snaps of ether are expended from the Lawstone and mingle with the volcanic lightning coursing through the pervasive clouds of ash. With their deed done, the mountain goes quiet. Levesath departs in a vortex which clears the atmosphere.

Looking up at the strangers now surrounding her is the bewildered (self-supposed) majesty of Rynas, Oksana.

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Session 17
Air and Fire

The battle with the demons is won. Aodh has torn off into the darkness ahead rather than stand and fight. Behind, Leonidas notices something strange is afoot with the fireball spells he cast. He and Gage backtrack in order to investigate. A flickering echo of the fireball’s light dances upon the walls, fumes waft in the air. The demoness Hanezal casts her sinuous silhouette from some other realm. Her shadow hints at many arms, naked-breasts, and a serpentine body. She implores the bard to surrender the item she seeks. Fendrys detects a sisterly familiarity in the honeyed voice of Hanezal that reminds him of Małgorzata. Leonidas balks at the request and urges everyone to leave.

Aodh, stumbling in the darkness, crashes through an old wooden balcony and falls into an empty theater. The Starhunters catch up with him there. They find old props, exposed trap doors, and broken pulleys. Aodh tries on a dwarven helm with a rune set inside, but does not uncover any magic properties (that he’s hoping for). A continued exploration of this ‘Shrine’ level of Lost Lokken brings them all to a classroom. There they find a bronze door, protected by a lightning ward. Leonidas investigates the door and convinces Aodh to leave it be. A’Kelah uncovers some curious orange-red ‘Fire Chalk’ (which draws ephemeral strokes of flame) and a silver coffer holding a cherished set of red scales that once belonged to some large creature. Aelish puts her knowledge of Dwarven to use and pours over some old scrolls, learning more about Lost Lokken in the process. She and Fendrys, who are both weary, agree it is time for a breather. The dark halls of Lokken are warm, still, and silent—like a womb. The resting of the Starhunters goes undisturbed.

Adjacent to the classroom which houses their rest, they move next to the Watcher’s ‘contemplation rooms’. These are mostly empty and devoid, though Leonidas finds a bottle of processed oriss flower and Aelish finds a silver raven marked “Hilda”.

The final chamber to explore on the shrine level is found behind enormous, elaborate bronze doors. These stand un-warded, opening with little difficulty—a testament to dwarven craftsmanship. This chamber is a circular, domed room ringed with eight niches; a massive stone crib rests in the center. Most of the niches are empty save for a live oriss plant, a curious water-crystal, and a magnificent clock. As part of their investigation, Aelish sees that her new raven, the oriss plant, the crystal, and the obsidian shield are all suffused with magic energy. The Starhunters puzzle over these curiosities, perplexed at how a flower can grow out of stone in the deep darkness, how water can hold a crystalline shape—and turn a dagger’s blade touched inside it into yet more water. Aodh and A’Kelah, examining the clock, feel a rush of déjà vu. A’Kelah, Aelish, and Gage each drip their blood over the crib—treating it like a Tollstone. Each of their blood drips reform and are translated before their eyes into various creatures: beetles, worms, and a gecko, respectively.

Unsure of how to proceed next, they retreat to the lower ‘stronghold level’ home to the golems. Leonidas’ elven eyes then spy, down in the dark bottom of a cistern, a skeleton. A’Kelah investigates the warm, placid water. She resurfaces with stone gauntlets and some old dwarven coins. Aodh begs to put on the strange stone gloves. A’Kelah refuses to hand them over, but’s Aodh’s nagging wins in the end.

The inquisitive halfling watches in horror as the gauntlets turn his hands into solid stone! He sits down and begins to weep. The Starhunter’s spare little time consoling their companion and instead move on, leaving him to wallow. The sounds of dwarven drinking songs and firelight are found coming from behind a nearby door. A host of ‘dwarves’ made of solid, living bronze with beards of pure flame have been interrupted by Fendrys. Like Aelish, he too speaks the dwarven tongue and does his earnest best to announce a peaceful entrance.

These burning dwarves are having none of it and one of them bellows, “INTRUDER!”. Fendrys thinks quickly and uses his magic to disrupt the ground, making a hasty retreat. The leader of the dwarves suffers as he stomps through the ranger’s hidden trap. He orders his men to remain in the drinking hall rather than suffer the same fate.

Thanks to Fendrys, the Starhunters make a stand against only one bronze dwarf instead of seven. It is however the largest and toughest of their number. This commotion is enough to draw Aodh from his sorrows. Both Aodh and Gage charge at the dwarf, suffering burns each time they come to blows with it. Everyone else stays back, getting spells and arrows in where they can. Aelish suffers a terrible blow to the head but is saved by Leonidas as Fendrys deals the killing stroke. A’Kelah places the solid bronze warhammer—a prize from the fight—into Aodh’s pack.

Wary of the half-dozen angry burning dwarves now alerted to their presence, the Starhunters make haste to explore other chambers in a direction away from the drinking hall. They come to a range of holding cells, arrayed behind the sealed throne room of King Lokken. They find a hole in the floor leading down. They find a stone dragon egg and another unknown egg of smooth, black glass. They find the severed head of Bohogor (now only a massive skull), a fire giant slain by King Lokken. They stop at a chamber door where smoke seeps from the cracks but they do not disturb it.

In this area they find a message written with A’Kelah’s fire-chalk in her own handwriting warning them of another dwarven trap-rune. The veer pulls out their crystal ball and attempts to locate ‘herself’. It does so, creating a cascading view of herself viewing herself down into a diminishing infinity. The Starhunters pause and consider what this writing could mean. An impostor? A fluctuation in time? Or something else unconsidered? While they talk it over, the sound of Aodh’s pitons scratching arrows into the stone is heard. This means whatever these messages mean, they are not isolated to only A’Kelah—for how can Aodh, with fists locked into stone, have scrawled another arrow?

One arrow points to another, forming a trail that leads to the hole down. Aelish stops them here, and consults her goddess with an Augury.

WEAL AND WOE.

Descending down the hole, they come into the silver mine of Lost Lokken. Aodh finds an old leather cap the miners wore to keep their heads safe from falling rocks, He has it put on his head. Nearby, in a chapel dedicated to the Traveler-in-Winds, Aelish finds an iron bottle, still stoppered. Hereafter, the Starhunters choose a fortunate path and are able to escape Lost Lokken. They find themselves halfway into the bowl of the volcano known as Mt. Pyrebreeze. The unrelenting, almost supernatural heat below saps their strength and they stop to consider their options. Aodh can sense the ‘orb’ is high above them in an airship that has stopped over a castle which perches at the lip of the volcano.

The pool of lava down below begins to hiss and rumble…

EXP
Aelish 3000
A’Kelah 3000
Aodh 3000
Fendrys 3500
Leonidas 3000

Inspiration
Everyone earns inspiration for the nail-biting, crazy-dramatic demon-spewing volcano, princess-saving, angel intercession chapter finale that was this session.
Aelish +1
A’Kelah +1
Aodh +1
Fendrys +1
Leonidas +1

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Session 16
Fire Under the Mountain

The Starhunters arrive at the massive stone doors of Lost Lokken—Leonidas having just seen the invisible force that assailed them vanish through the cracks. They use their might to push the doors open, achieving only inches of progress. Worried the old doors will fall and crush them, they consider other options. A’Kelah, though voiceless for now, has a strong enough connection with the Lurker-in-Waves that she can summon one of its servants from some adjacent hot springs; she conjures a roiling tongue of steaming mineral water to act upon the doors.

Curiously, before the water servant can even touch the doors, they give way to it. Fiery swirls dance over the carvings and the dwarven portal yields amid sounds of grinding stone and falling dust. The scene inside is vacant, dusty, and dark but the Starhunters make haste into the mountain hall. Without A’Kelah’s spell-light, Aodh lights his lantern and takes the lead. They move through grand but empty halls, hewn ages ago into solid rock, where only cobwebs, bits of broken glass and ceramics remain. Aodh knows always where the ‘orb’ is and follows after like a bloodhound, but stumbling through dark and unfamiliar chambers leads to many dead-ends and back-tracking. Continually Aodh leads them down and down again as this is the only way to proceed deeper into Lokken.

Throughout all this meandering, Fendrys, Aodh, and A’Kelah take steps to avoid getting lost—and it works for a time. A’Kelah avoids her temptation to slow down and study the ley lines and magical energy of the place. Leonidas too curbs a desire to slow down and examine the places he passes through; he will have less to sing about the history of Lost Lokken. One diversion they do afford themselves is into a natural cavern. Gage explains he can sense another dwarven chamber beyond the cavern. The Starhunters enter the cavern, traipsing through guano and under sleeping bats as they go. Aelish, Gage, and Leonidas enter the chamber which Gage described. They find barrels of phosphorous and broken tools within. Worked seamlessly into the wall are dragon bones arranged in a heraldic manner. A disembodied voice whispers in the dwarven tongue. Aelish’s noble education allows her to understand the voice,

What would thou ask of the Watcher-in-Flames?

She converses with the spirit, asking, among other things, “What happened here?” and it ultimately tells her she ‘died here’. Then it laughs. Disturbed, Aelish urges her companions to leave the chamber and they do.

Pressing on, they find a collapsed corridor with a small opening that only Aodh can squeeze through. However, as he does so, the rubble collapses further and he is both crushed and separated from his companions. Aodh, sorely hurt, but still able to walk, dusts himself off and willfully deserts the rest of the party in a deeper search for their prize—using only dim vials of phosphorous for illumination. The Starhunters call out, and when Aodh does not respond, they set to work excavating the collapsed hall which is exhausting work costing them hours.

Aodh and the Starhunters eventually reunite deep in the heart of the old dwarven stronghold by the sound of mysterious ‘Birthcrafter Golems’. Their chisels pinging in the darkness is the only thing to disturbing the silence in Lost Lokken. The golems work at a glacial pace, carving life-sized dwarven effigies from cold bronze. A third, headless golem in a central chamber along with some stairs is found nearby. Following Aodh again, who senses they must go up, they take the stairs up two levels to an area filled with smoke and steam (NICHE NOTE). Unable to see or breathe on the third level, they descend one level. There they find an obsidian shield which Aodh takes and another, more elaborate ritual chamber with a similar wall of dragon bones. Again Aelish speaks with the Watcher-in-Flames.

Just as Leonidas before her saw something he did not reveal to his fellows, so too does Aelish here see a vision that goes un-shared. The watcher laughs at the priestess a second time. Again she is disturbed and wishes to leave.

Not far from there, they are attacked by shadow demons and their thralls which arise from a fracture event, no doubt caused by the Meridian’s continued instability. Aelish turns the shadows with her Figure of Eladriel, but this only serves to manifest their true, hideous form of corrupted and demonic flesh beneath. The spells of the Starhunters are enough to defeat these monsters though Aodh immediately flees in terror through the darkness, through the very shadow-form of a demon itself.

EXP
A’Kelah 1200
Aelish 1250
Aodh 900
Fendrys 1200
Leonidas 1200

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Session 15
Scorched Earth

On their journey to what they hope is a ‘ Lawstone’ of the Meridian, the Starhunters approach the Silverstrike mountains in the northwestern reaches of the far Pallengothe. Beyond these mountains, lies the great Myhtan Empire. There is smoke on the horizon and soon it hangs low in the air. A massive fire, perhaps caused by the eruption in the distance, moves to wipe out the forest before them. The travelers back-track, and change their heading numerous times, but the fire encircles them. The sheltering magic of Leonidas saves them again—keeping the heat, smoke, and flames at bay while the forest is incinerated around them.

Fendrys notices that the dread presence clinging to A’Kelah’s strange key, which is ever patient, seize this vulnerable moment. By now the key has collected another phantasm, the spirit of dead Andre Yeremough, who the Starhunters could not save from the risen thing in the swamp (or from themselves). Fendrys calls the alarm as the key-bound specter rifles through Aodh’s pack and tosses his map out into the blaze. Meanwhile, Andre’s vengeful ghost takes possession of Leonidas—using his body to call away the magic shelter that protects them all. Aelish, however, wastes no time in calling upon the grace of Eladriel to banish these phantoms.

With the shelter cancelled, the smoke and heat rush in. Leonidas, his body his own again, races to re-cast his sheltering spell. As he does so, Aelish summons water and douses everyone to stave off the flames. A’Kelah vomits up the vapor held within her and cajoles it into a funnel to whip away the tongues of fire. The bard manages to create his shelter again and when they’ve cleared the tears from their eyes and finished coughing up smoke and soothing their burned skin, they discuss A’Kelah’s key. Leonidas angrily tosses it out into the blaze. A’Kelah rolls her eyes and explains that it will dutifully return within a day. A day is all the time Aelish needs in prayer however to break the curse—and when she does so, the object shatters, releasing its imprisoned spirits.

What the Starhunters do not realize however, is that a febrile spiral of death in another part of the world is calling wayward spirits like these to it, as moths are beckoned to a flame…

It will later come to light that A’Kelah’s use of the vapor has again changed her, this time altering the shape and color of her eyes. Her pupils are now slivered like a serpents, her irises are the color of garnet. The great fire burns down, leaving an alien landscape of ash and smoldering stumps in its wake. They press on. A’Kelah takes daily sojourns into the sky to view the surroundings. Fendrys is at a loss to properly guide his companions now that everything has been ravaged by fire and rains of ash. Aodh and Fendrys are scryed upon just as Leonidas and Aelish were a few days prior.

Only a day out from the mountains, during her time in the air, A’Kelah spots a dozen riders headed their way. The Starhunters scramble for what passes for high ground and take cover behind some boulders. A dozen goblins mounted on cruel worgs ride forth. In reserve they have an ogre carrying the cannon that was previously fired upon them. The goblins misjudge both the range and deadly accuracy of Fendrys’ arrows and are unable to fire their cannon with impunity. There is a fierce melee of cannon fire, criss-crossing arrows, and slung spells. Goblins die to bolts of magic. Arrows find their marks. Slavering worgs topple their quarry. The Starhunters slip and fall on the loose field of pebbles and stones but they are victorious in the end. Had A’Kelah not scouted for this party, the battle would likely have been their doom.

Among the spoils they find on the dead goblins are dossiers and fine chalk portraits of each of them, both most likely made by human hands, but in a language they do not understand. They also find a crystal ball, the magic of which locates only the five of them; it cannot locate Gage. Leonidas relies on his magical artifice to decipher the writing, and although he is successful, his spell reveals something else (that he does not share with his companions).

A’Kelah gets back to her aerial reconnaissance and spots what looks to be an ocean-going ship hovering in the air, but miles away. She also finds magical ‘fire-flags’ which mark a trail up the mountain. Much of the trail has been buried or ruined by slag, mudflows, and other debris from the recent eruption. While following the fire flags, A’Kelah is arrested by an invisible force which steals the ‘orb’ from her very lungs and dashes off with it at a speed they cannot match. Leonidas gives chase nonetheless and sees it slip through the cracks of a pair of large stone doors worked into the mountainside.

EXP
A’Kelah 1310
Aelish 1210
Aodh 1210
Fendrys 1210
Leonidas 1260

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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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