The Heir to Disaster

Session 22
As The Crow Flies

Aelish sends her knight, Sir Damir Galkin as a messenger to inform Dr. Taras of the matter of Ambrus Dragomov’s skull and to inquire after the supposed other Aelish. As luck would have it, Taras was personally underway that evening (10th Terentius) to reply—in person—to A’Kelah regarding those same topics. Thus, Damir and Taras return together to the Citadel Rosette. Damir and Vallon break away to prepare and plan for the journey ahead, east along the Holy Road.

Taras receives a full accounting of the fantastic exploits of the Starhunters, as told by Leonidas’ expert tongue. He omits their experiences with Goriseld, with Lukiria, and although he mentions Oksana, her whereabouts and plans are not indicated. Taras then speaks of the skull of Ambrus Dragomov, and how it is something of an anomaly. The remains of the 138 Dragomov monarchs, their consorts and children, from Oran I and Eugenia I all the way up to Marina most recently, are all ensepulchred in their royal crypt here in Elansory, within the Great Pantheon. It is true the skull was found in the University’s private collection however—and it is marked with runic inscriptions. Only recently was it found, when a letter arrived from the monastery of Nephogar at Arsam inquiring after it. It seems the scribes there, hard at work on their translations, uncovered something that mentions the skull—and they would like it sent to them. Taras also says that this matter with the skull is fully enmeshed in red tape at present and that it isn’t going anywhere soon. A’Kelah, when she is not rudely insulting Taras’ performance as headmaster, requests a rubbing of the skull be made for her. He assents to this, but is clearly offended by his treatment from the veer, and takes his leave.

In the deep hours of that evening, as the Citadel slumbers, Aelish is stabbed in the heart by an intruder. Brutally awake, yet alive, she stammers out a scream and enough of the Verses to call upon Eladriel for aid. Fendrys is woken by Aelish’s miraculous calling. He stirs Leonidas and together the pair steal in the shadows to the rectory. The bard uses his Chime of Opening on its locked door while the ranger masks the mystic sound. Mother Superior Ludmilla is found dead in the hallway, her head and skull cracked wide open; a grisly smear of blood leads from the cavity of her head into the privy. They make haste to Aelish’s chamber which emits a holy light through a crack in the door. Fendrys removes the blade just as Leonidas heals the wound with the strongest exertion of his elven healing arts.

Aelish bolts out of bed and immediately works to help determine how this happened. They find a horrific scene in the privy. A strange creature, some crossing between a brain and a mosquito is flitting around, spattering blood and other effluvia all over the white marble and plaster of the room. Its basic escape instincts are failing. Leonidas and Fendrys dispatch it while Aelish raises the alarm.

Soon after, Vallon is encountered, providing the news that ‘the other Aelish is on her way’. They all make for the Citadel’s Holy Sanctum, but sure enough Aelish is encountered in the now simmering chaos of the church. Questions fail as Aelish appears wounded to see her friends have abandoned her for an ‘imposter’ and she cannot remember many of the details they ask her for. Aelish fades away from sight, looking increasingly terrified and confused and alone as she does until she is gone completely.

The Starhunters spend the rest of the night in the Knight Commandery while an inquest is made. Even A’Kelah is summoned from her watery slumber by Aelish. Knight-Commander Mikhail confers with Aelish about what should be done; Knight and Arch-Guardian agree that her mission calls her to be elsewhere. He provisions the priestess with food, horses, and other gear, hoping the distant trials she next faces will help rid his temple of more misery and conflict.

On the next day (the 11th), short of sleep, the Starhunters spend an overloaded day in various shops and stables. They gather supplies, new clothes, weapons and armor, as well as procure vital spell reagents. Some time is taken, during this interlude in the capital, to learn more of the pregnant women as well. The Starhunters see firsthand one miscarriage and it is clearly not human. Another report says a woman who opted to terminate had a snake pulled from her body. And Gage, also a scaled creature, suffers a rash that pains and embarrasses him.

As a final transaction, the platinum ore unearthed from Myhta Petraea is converted into an astonishing sum: over 5,000 gold thrones. This they store with dwarven Braided League bankers in exchange for letters of credit. With their business affairs and necessities in order, the Starhunters take again to the road.

They meet finally again with Aodh only to hear from the halfling that he is keen to pursue other exploits in the north. He has joined up with his associate Wolverton, a.k.a. ‘Blackjack’, in a scheme to steal the Crown of Rynas from (supposedly) the Duke of Vercetin for an unnamed client. The Starhunters plead with Aodh not to go, going so far as to consider tying him up against his will. In the end, Aodh is let loose, promising to return to them all when the deed is done, Crown in hand. Gage voices his interest in going as well. Finding the fallen star near Hinturnal—and any others later—will be much more trying without the halfling.

The Starhunters take the ancestral Holy Road toward Encer, staying at some of its famed hostels like the Inn of the Blue Cup and the Square Queen Inn (supposed birthplace of Aleksandra IV). When he is not singing rousing songs or spinning elaborate embroidery into already bombastic tales, Leonidas’ magic translates the runes from the rubbing of the skull. Doing this reveals Meridian symbols and, of course, the name of Ambrus Dragomov XI. A’kelah too uses her own magic, determining that neither Vallon nor Aelish are bewitched by any spells. Two days later, Fendrys confers with a fellow wanderer, an esoteric dwarf, and hears news of increased goblin activity near the monastery at Arsam.

As they near Hinturnal, Aodh’s reports of the scoundrel Dougal riding a fine swift charger are confirmed by the locals. His path leads toward a bit of interesting news: an eccentric painter locked himself up in his house, and then disappeared.

EXP
Aelish 900
A’Kelah 900
Aodh 900
Fendrys 1125
Leonidas 1125

Inspiration
+1 Inspiration to Kathy (for RPing the townsperson)
+1 Inspiration to Dov for clever idea (that I still need some clarity on)

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Session 21
Elansory

With the Capital only a jaunt away, the Starhunters split up into two groups, with Gage going on his own. Fendrys, Aelish, A’Kelah all make way for the famed University of Arts and Lore, the most renown school of magic in Rynas. Aodh and Leonidas head first for the Green Dragon and then ultimately to Meppollin Palace to investigate the message from Aelish. Being separated, and all so changed—Leonidas in a simple disguise, Aelish and A’Kelah transfigured by the Astral Plane, and Fendrys and Aodh filthy and threadbare from their harrowing journey—the Starhunters avoid recognition based on their prior notoriety.

At the Green Dragon, Aodh meets with his fellow halfing friend Meriadoc. Merry explains that he thinks the reports of monsters after dark is all bullshit but that the rumors of the pregnancies are very real; and furthermore he says a few of the pregnant women were said to contain large eggs in their bellies and that yolk spilled out of their nethers!

Fendrys has never set foot in a habitation so large as Elansory and is overwhelmed by its glorious sights and sounds and perhaps dismayed by the ugly and dark edges a city requires. Fountains and broad plazas, tall facades of guild halls with arrays of glass windows sit almost adjacent to alleys where rivers of putrescence issue from tallow-chandlers and tanneries. He is moved to purchase some flowers from a destitute young maid out of sheer pity for her privation.

At the university, the ranger, the cleric, and the sorceress are held up until the headmaster arrives to meet with them. The new headmaster, it turns out, is Dr. Taras who is very surprised to see Aelish. He swears the priestess was recently his guest only a few days prior while she asserts that in fact it has been almost two months since their last meeting. Flummoxed, Taras sends a raven to convey a message—but what it might speak and at what destination is unclear. Shortly thereafter, while in a kind of detention ordered by the confused and flustered headmaster, Prosecutor Beris Tanum and his personal guard arrive to apprehend them. Tanum moves to place an iron collar about Aelish’s neck, but she vanishes from sight! Tanum casts a divination spell to try to find her and gives chase, leaving A’Kelah and Fendrys under arrest with his personal guard who then escort them to a holding cell at the palace walls.

Elsewhere in the White City, Aodh and Leonidas bump into another familiar face, that of the elven sword-master Vallon and two young maids near the Great Pantheon. Vallon is brusque and coy, offering to deliver a message to Aelish for them. Eventually, Aodh and Leonidas meet with Aelish at the Citadel Rosette. They explain the strange mystery of there being at least two Aelishs to her their Arch-Guardian friend. Likewise, they receive her story about the palace and her mysterious arrival at the university. Some of her story is cut short by a strange power that makes her unable to speak and at one point she gets a headache and bleeds from the nose.

Meanwhile, Tanum returns and uses his magic to read the minds of A’Kelah and Fendrys before escorting them to have an off-the-record and informal meeting with Oksana’s mysterious vizier, Azdar Ig-hazaret Usa Kalar, inside Meppollin Palace. After having defiantly rankled Beris Tanum’s feathers, A’Kelah’s charm somehow moves Azdar to fury as well. The vizier calls upon Aelish at the Citadel, making a show of his influence by inviting the priestess to ‘pardon the two flies he’s caught’. She of course asks for their pardon and so all three of them are sent away.

Once the Starhunters all finally reconvene as a group, again at the Citadel, they discuss the meaning of Azdar’s confounding words, who the vanished Aelish is and why she wants the skull of Ambrus Dragomov. Anxious Leonidas presses the group to take action and leave the city, to head east for their original objective, the ‘fallen star’ near Hinturnal. Even more restless than Leonidas, Aodh sneaks away from the group during their talk to return to his old haunt where he meets up with Gage.

EXP
Aelish 900
A’Kelah 900
Aodh 1000
Fendrys 900
Leonidas 900

Inspiration
+1 for Fendrys (for avoiding the meta-game)

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Session 20
Echoes and Mirrors

Sascha, A’Kelah, and Aelish have vanished inside a collapsed vortex in space and time. Rashid lays dead. The three remaining Starhunters and the dwindling crew of the Swiftlight look on in mute horror and shock. In the aftermath of the monstrous debacle caused by the detonation of the crystal ball, Fendrys goes quiet. He removes himself from the group in contemplation and grief. None of the present Starhunters wish to return to the hovering platform of the Swiftlight, favoring the solid ground near to where their friends were lost. Perren also is heartbroken and frustrated, but the rest of the day is a blur of picking up the pieces. Gage and Hoff and Elaina pitch in to make arrangements for the burial of Rashid whose body is nearly all that remains out of the four lives lost. Rather than Perren’s usual command for a ‘sky-burial’, to honor the customs of Rashid’s people, his body in set in the ground following rites Elaina understands. This process consumes the rest of the day until twilight.

With the sun over the horizon and the first stars out, Hoff spies something strange aboard the Swiftlight. He fetches Leonidas, hoping the learned half-elf will understand what to do. Leonidas examines arcane, purplish runes dancing in their own mist and light on the main-deck of the ship. He casts a spell which helps him recognize the tracings, understanding it to be Aelish’s name. The markings impel him to touch them, and he does so. This catalyzes a strange conjuring that sees Aelish reformed before them! She arrives in a theatrical pose, dressed in glorious raiment not of this realm. She is bereft of much else; no possessions but clothes and only a portion of her wits. Through her befuddlement, Aelish tells a story of nightmares and horror at the hands of monsters, of being rescued by Marquis Almdor, and ultimately how she was sent back by his great magic. There are gaps in her memory, large enough they will later discover, that she remembers not even enough of the Verses to underpin the casting of her miracles. Aodh and Leonidas welcome back Aelish cooly, unsure of what to make of her strange tale. Fendrys, mired in his own self-imposed castigation, is perhaps the most suspicious of her new wide-eyed and vivid mien, and how it might assuage some of his guilt. Aelish is overjoyed to be free from her ‘nightmare’.

That same night, in the deep hours when the faint sickle of Embo is high, a second runic mark is spotted. This one is on terra firma, near to where the vortex had opened. These glyphs are in silver—again it is Leonidas who translates mystically—and this time A’Kelah returns from the beyond. Unlike her human companion, the veer sorceress is without a thread of clothing. Instead, she clutches onto her few magic items from the fetal position (having added a glowing, plucked cat-eye to her collection). A’Kelah’s body has completely altered in color, gone from white to black and vice versa. She looks now like a head-to-belly striped Silque rather than a cousin-to-Orca. Still hairless, she looks even more alien to these flatlanders than ever before.

She tells a similar, though also confused tale of being lost in the Astral Plane whereupon she saw Aelish ‘die’. A’Kelah is mum about exactly how she returned, citing gaps in her own memory, though she knows nothing of Almdor. Rather than grow suspicious of the veer as they did with Aelish: Fendrys, Leonidas, and Aodh all seem much more trusting of their physically altered, but acerbic as ever, friend.

Aelish wants to go the capital, as Almdor has told her that they’ve been going about their great endeavor all wrong. After long hours of talking, Aelish convinces the group to change course for the capital. Perren is not against it and agrees to take the Starhunters most of the way. En route, Aodh receives a miraculous vision of Aelish, containing a divine message from her for him. The halfling confides in Leonidas only about this, though Gage overhears with his keen hearing.

The Swiftlight deposits them in an expanse of trees and they make their way south, finding the road which ultimately leads back to Vorhon and its swamps in the other direction. Not far from the town of Etrotha where they ultimately find themselves, they lodge at an inn called Makar’s Home on Threemoon, the 8th of Terentius. The beautiful Aelish in her splendid clothes causes a stir at the inn, but she retires and keeps to herself. The rest of the group remains in the common room to plot ahead and listen to gossip.

Locals talk of a rash of strange pregnancies and monsters within the Capital’s walls after dark.

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

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Session 19.9.5
Tassology
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Session 19.9
Strange Visitors
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Session 19.8
Ill News is an Ill Guest
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Session 19.7
Name Saying
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Session 19.6
Memory and Thought
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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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