The Heir to Disaster

Sessions 24 & 25
The Painted World

The Starhunters explore The Maze of the Blue Medusa.

Session 23


The Starhunters (minus Aodh) arrive in Hinturnal amid rumors of a painter in a nearby village who has mysteriously disappeared. A’Kelah visits the university in town while the others head north to the painter’s village. Sir Galkin remains behind with the veer, worried that if Aelish is in danger from assassins, her friends may be as well. A’Kelah studies the university’s maps and other lore to learn all she can of their destination, Arsam, the Dragomov skull, and of the Meridian. Most of what she turns up will help in locating the latest fallen star or else about the rural monastery of Arsam.

Fendrys, Leonidas, Vallon, and Aelish go north a few hours outside of town to visit the painter’s house and investigate his disappearance. In his absence are his triplets, Tomas, Ekaterina, and Eva. Each child is displaying a particular talent that has only recently come to the fore. Fendrys learns of Tomas’ great facility with numbers. Leonidas is intrigued and amazed by Ekaterina’s violin playing. Aelish talks with Eva about her father’s painting. Eva produces a sketch of the last painting her father worked on, a canvas which has also since gone missing—along with his easel—not long after the disappearance of the man himself. The sketch depicts a youth in chains and hints at the qualities of the painting itself which all who have seen it agree is ‘shamefully perverse, mildly significant, and not very good’.

Keen-eyed Fendrys, sensitive to disturbances in his environment, locates a set of tracks both in the painting studio and also leading away from the house outside. They all spend the evening there, summoning A’Kelah and Damir to join them that evening. The next day, they set out bright and early, traipsing into overgrown lands that were years ago sold to the Duke of Odenva. On their way, Leonidas chats up some of the locals to learn more about where the tracks lead and if they might be on the right track. He and Fendrys are both satisfied they are indeed on the right path. The ranger also discovers a raven following them just as an albatross does a ship at sea. He calls attention to it and all but Vallon think it an ill omen.

As evening descends, they arrive at the old Harkin farm described by the locals. As they ride their horses through a copse of trees, they are ambushed by three burly hobgoblins who mean to take them prisoner. When they do not submit, one goblin vanishes but is heard rushing away to presumably raise an alarm. Vallon and Damir quickly gallop their horses after the invisible goblin, leading Aelish along with them. Fendrys, Leonidas, and A’Kelah are left behind—on their more stubborn mounts—to deal with the other two goblins by themselves. Fendrys comes to blows with the creatures, his skill at arms being disrupted more by the chaotic magic of his friends than anything else. Further on, Aelish’s faith unmasks the third goblin who is subdued by Damir.

The old farm, where the alarm would surely have been raised, is nothing but a dilapidated barn and a crumbling dovecote. Dozens of ravens—at a dark, unnatural hour—are perched all over the rotting timbers of the barn making a cacophony of gurgling cries and caws. Fendrys and Vallon barge into the dovecote where a lantern’s light can be seen; Aelish realizes she can understand the raven cries and is happy to join the rest inside, to get away from the overwhelming chorus. The first Starhunters in catch a glimpse of a tall, floating, ominous figure right before it vanishes into thin air. The only one who does not enter the dovecote is A’Kelah, who instead flies up to the oculus at the roof to peer down from above.

The scoundrel Dougal—ever a thorn in the side of Aodh—is within. Just like them, it seems he has come all the way from the capital on his wicked business. He has a lantern and an easel and the stolen painting. He also has a pistol leveled at Vallon’s chest. Fendrys acts first, bravely and adroitly disarming the highwayman, but not without taking direct fire in the process. The gunshot sends the ravens outside swiftly into the night air. As this action quickly unfolds, a beam of moonlight enters the structure which appears to work some magic over the painting; its surface begins to undulate and ripple. Vallon springs forward to tip over the painting and shield it from any further moonlight. The elf strikes the easel with her blade, a risky and haphazard move that tips the painting directly onto the gut-shot ranger; Fendrys is gone from sight as the painting crashes down. Dougal screams at something he sees behind them all at the entrance, for the moon’s light has catalyzed not only the magic of the painting.

Aelish has transmogrified into a terrifying hybrid creature that is part raven and part woman. She has grown tall, sprouted wings over her arms and talons instead of feet, leaving her clothing in tatters. Dougal scrambles, lifting up the painting and scurrying under it like a trapped animal. He too is gone now. Crow-Aelish bellows out a screaming caw which signals freedom and agony in equal measure. She flies upward, through the oculus, right past A’Kelah, scattering dust and loose bricks as she goes. A’Kelah of course can also fly and pursues her raven-creature friend. Leonidas stands the painting back up to better assess what is happening with it. Soon after, Crow-Aelish wheels around and dives straight back to the dovecote through the doorway. She shudders her feathers as she comes to a stop and then steps into the painting right before the eyes and Leonidas and Vallon and A’Kelah. At this, Vallon jumps in right after her. A’Kelah gathers up their things and entrusts the knight Damir to guard this spot with his life. The half-elven bard and the veer sorceress ride their mounts under the pale moon light into the painting after their friends. A bewildered young knight remains, tempering the silence with his prayers to Eladriel.

Aelish 1000
A’Kelah 1350
Vallon N/A
Fendrys 1350
Leonidas 1350

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.

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

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

Session 21

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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