Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#51
Hey loyal readers, note there was a post last week with some background on the area and participants in this story. If you haven’t checked it out, do so! Anyway, ahem (cue Dramatic Announcer Voice)

A twisted contest, at the behest of a Fey. A vision of a long ago horror. A battle of wills. The Lumina saga continues.

Session XXIV

The Bard’s Tale Part II

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 16 Anwanar

And round one goes to the living residents of Lumina, courtesy of the efforts of my friends and travelling companions, those clever Sovereign’s Finest and Rose Knight (plus one pop star). I, on the other hand, went on a lovely night time stroll to a waterfall. Lumina, and the White Forest in general, is a truly beautiful place. I think I’d get bored of the peaceful atmosphere after awhile, but this place has definitely moved to the top of my vacation spot list. Maybe next time I’ll try to book a time without a vampire invasion.

So, as I mentioned last message, Caelia set a challenge for the two parties to take out the leadership of the attacking mongrels. It was just about time for the mists to ascend when the meeting ended, so they got right to it. They brought Ling along, since she ought to be safe enough singing from a high perch with so many big hitters in the mix for the mongrels to deal with, and this way she got a taste of adventure.

The fight went well, from what I hear. 25 mongrels, I believe the count was, as well as their leadership, an ogre and a naga (I should tell Tavia the snake with a face is dealt with). Jadzia got to use her big flaming club, and not just as a torch, so she was very happy with that, not to mention with fighting 27 foes to a standstill. The naga had the temerity to light Maria on fire, and one of the mongrels knocked Maria’s owl Calypso out of the fight, but for the most part, a rest and some basic bandaging got most everybody in fine fettle, and some healing from Tanith and Jana got Jadzia, Alexis, and Calypso set to rights.

My place was elsewhere. I could have scratched a few of them some – apparently some of them hung on for way longer than they ought have, maybe I could have helped with that – but I was far more useful in checking out where the cats played while the cats… were… I was going somewhere with that. Anyways, I was looking for the vampire’s hideyhole, hoping to take a look while they were out mongrel hunting, maybe even follow their tracks. That worked, luckily enough, and I found my way back to the lake.

Behind the waterfall, there was a cave, accessible by a narrow ledge. It’s a little precarious, not to mention slippery, and very, very loud. But as long as I was careful, that loudness was a help with the small infiltration – while there was one guard left behind, with a skeletal minion, he couldn’t hear me over the waterfall, so all good there. It wasn’t a big cave, probably just enough for about half a dozen or so to camp in, so no ambushes once we got inside. That part wasn’t going to be easy though.

I stayed and watched for them returning, confirming the count of 8 (and a heretofore unknown predilection for tea parties and skeleton couture on the part of at least one of the vampires), as the others reported on their progress to the fae court. The fae were pleased, and set up a time later today for a formal beginning to negotiations, with the advantage on our side. Ling’s concert is tomorrow night, and she was canny enough to offer a second concert, should the town be the victors of the competition.

Even more interestingly, Tavia was poking about Maria’s presence, using scrying, I presume, and noticed a hatch set in the pagoda of petrified wood. The hatch was covered up with living vines and branches, and was right in front of the tree-throne Nicnevin was sitting in. However, Tavia was quite insistent that she get in there now! as that’s where the ruins she was looking for was. Maria, wisely, decided not to distract them by either taking her clothes off, creating a tornado, or turning invisible and freezing the vines away. Our current plan is to ask for access as a favor should we win, which has the exciting side effect that Tavia is now inclined to help out with negotiations…

Unfortunately, her first bit of helping out was to raise all the dead mongrels as undead and use them to attack the vampires. She was originally going to use them to attack the forest as another distraction so Maria could get to the hatch, but Maria managed to channel the apparently already created undead to a… better purpose? She was a bit flippant about it, perhaps, and Darcy was feeling a bit on edge about the vampires in general, so there was a little bit of tension there. Not for long though – I’m not sure Darcy is capable of holding a grudge against anyone who exists within the Eternal Dance. Besides, he apparently had a fun night with Dana.

This morning we’re at a bit of a lull. Right after breakfast, we all trooped down to the ruins beneath the Temple. The security there was very odd, some kind of beams of, well, light, I would have said, except that it was hot, like fire. Vatazin magic is odd. It is keyed to react to something in Alexis’ eyes – or really, the eyes of anyone from the town. It has to do with the Light the mayor mentioned, it seems. Anyway, we went down there because the chamber itself has some sort of amplifying effect on visionary’s powers, and Tanith wanted to see if she could get any insight from it. And, well, we got some, if not quite what we expected (though I do suspect Jadzia was not entirely shocked by it).

Tanith got a vision of the attack on Jadzia’s clan, the one that killed her family. This was odd on multiple fronts as visions of the past are neither Tanith, nor the chamber’s MO. But Tanith saw things from the eyes of one of Jadzia’s mothers, and spoke in a babbling way (in Rezean) of “the Witch” and “the Black Star of Drunac”. At one point she flew across the room as if she been backhanded by an immense power, though she suffered no ill effects that her current nap shouldn’t be able to take care of. When she came to herself, she was able to clarify a little – the Black Star of Drunac was a relic of the Sorcerer Kings that had come into the possession of Jadzia’s clan, and a witch had come to reclaim it. There was also something about “razor winds”, but nothing concrete.

So that is where things stand. The negotiations are later today – I might try and sneak off to the Forest, and see if I can’t speak with Aiobhell before them. Who knows? Perhaps I’m interesting enough to get to see what’s inside the fae’s secret parlor separate from the negotiations and how well they go. Or perhaps I’ll manage to some information useful to our actual mission. Either way, I’m sure it will be fun.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered in Rezean beneath the canopy of Lumina)

“Do not fret so, Salkhi… I am fine. Well, no… I cannot lie to you, Dear One. I am not fine. At some times my heart pounds within my chest, and at others it flutters like a trapped bird. My thoughts are filled with women’s faces: Tanith, Jana, Savar-mama, Tuya-mama, Ling, Alexis… and now a face I do not know. It is different every time I imagine it, but always haughty, cruel, and cold. It is the face of the witch who took everything from me; the face of the woman I must kill if Clan Tenniral is ever to find peace.

“What is that? Yes, Dear One… the battle was magnificent, and you are kind to remind me of it. Twenty-five of the mongrel-men, most of them mounted on twisted monstrosities, led by an ogre warlord and a foul man-faced serpent creature. How many of them fell before my lance and the polearm I crafted from Dark Magmus’ club? I confess that I lost count. I know that I felled the ogre, though I was not the only member of our group to injure it. I know that my Sunflower struck the final blow against the naga. I know that many of the mongrels fell before me, but there was plenty of glory for all of us… Alexis included.

“She was magnificent upon the field of battle. The darkness and the mist clouded my sight, forcing me to take more care with my charges and strikes than usual… but she navigated the woods like a cat, weaving here and there without a care for either obstacles or enemies. Her blows were as heavy and true as either Jana’s or my own, and more than one mongrel-man learned the price of crossing her to its sorrow today. She and Squall moved as one creature… as horse and rider should.

“Ling also played her part today… she asked to accompany us when we hunted the mongrels, and we saw no reason to deny her. Tanith reasoned that she would be safer in the woods with us than alone in town when Alil and his vampires had already threatened to turn her. She and Maria sat upon a low tree branch, safe from the chaos of the battle for the most part. Ling sang to us, her voice giving us strength and robbing our enemies of their resolve. This combined with Tanith’s beneficial magic may well have transformed a difficult battle into a simple matter of disposing of a few rabid curs.

“As we rode back to town, confident of our victory over the Black Company in Nicnevin’s little game, Alexis urged her horse up so that we were riding side by side. We expressed our admiration for each other’s prowess, as warriors will do, and she commented that it was the first time we had fought together in earnest, outside of the confines of the Rose Knights’ training yard. She used the word ‘magnificent’ to describe me, echoing my earlier opinions of her own abilities. I felt the color rise in my cheeks, but repaid her compliment in kind.

“The vampires were, to no one’s surprise, poor losers. Alil claimed that the contest was unfair because he was not allowed to join the rest of the Black Company on the hunt, as he was detained by the Fae royals (who seem to find him amusing for some reason). He soon had other concerns, however, as Maria convinced Tavia to send the small army of mongrel-men she had resurrected against the vampires’ hiding spot… a location Ashlin had uncovered while the rest of us were engaged in the hunt. I do not like Tavia, nor do I trust her, and I wish Maria would remove herself from further associations with the demented nudist… but at least I can take comfort in the fact that the zombies she created were almost certainly destroyed by the vampires during their assault. Darcy was not so forgiving about employing the enemy’s tactics in dealing with them… he stormed out after Maria informed us of Tavia’s actions, and did not return until the following morning.

“During our conversation with the Fae, we had set up the meeting between Nicnevin and her entourage and the people of Lumina for the following day. Ling had also informed the Fae Queen that she would be performing a concert the next evening, and would perform again a few days later if the negotiations between the Fae and Lumina should prove successful. This was a remarkably shrewd move on her part, and she received no prompting from any of us to my knowledge. Perhaps I have underestimated the young woman after all.

“We returned to the quarters provided by the town, and began cleaning off the gore and grime of the combat. I suffered my lovers to wash and brush my hair… an experience which I must admit I am beginning to find quite pleasant. I had not yet returned my locks to their usual braid when there was a knock upon our door. I opened it, wearing only a brief robe, to find Alexis on the other side, looking a bit shocked at my appearance. Though it is always dim in this place, I fancy I might have seen a bit of color rise in her cheeks. She stammered out that she had found Darcy; he had met up with a Night Person laevvel we had met the previous day, and so was safe and in good hands. Before she left, she smiled and softly told me that I looked beautiful.

“I found myself unequal to the task of crafting an intelligent response, so I simply thanked her… both for the compliment and for looking after my best friend. She took her leave and I turned to find Tanith giving me an infuriatingly knowing look. She asked me if I had intentions toward Alexis, and I replied that I was not yet certain of that myself. She then asked me if she should decline to pursue Alexis, and I replied again that I did not know and required time to think. I did take the time to reassure both of my lovers that my attraction to them had not waned in the slightest.

“All such considerations paled this morning over breakfast, however, when Maria mentioned that she had explored an interesting Vatazin ruin beneath the town. The ceiling of this chamber was festooned with shas crystals which somehow depicted the stars of the night sky, accurately, as they currently appear. She also stated that the chamber was purported to bring powerful visions to those who were prone to experience such things.

“All thoughts of our current mission fled from my mind, and I glanced at Tanith. She nodded, and suggested that we visit the chamber in the hopes that we might gain some insight into the current situation with the Fae and the Black Company. The chamber could only be accessed by a native of Lumina, one who has ‘the light,’ so Alexis joined us in this venture. The chamber was protected by beams of deadly light, which only deactivated at her approach.

“As soon as we entered the chamber, Tanith dropped to her knees and began babbling in Rezean. Much of what she said made no sense to me, though I caught flashes of clarity amidst the chaos. ‘Quickly, find Jadzia!’ she gasped out at one point. ‘The Black Star of Drunac’ and ‘the witch’ both featured prominently in her ramblings. As the vision reached its crescendo, Tanith flew across the room as though hurled by a mighty force. She shrieked the words ‘razor winds’ thrice, and then collapsed, lying still.

“I rushed forward, gathering Tanith in my arms, with Jana half a step behind me. I apologized in my native tongue for bringing her to that accursed place, but she brushed my remorse aside and gave me a smile. Claiming that she was unhurt but merely fatigued, she told me what she had learned: that Clan Tenniral had discovered or protected a powerful artifact known as the Black Star of Drunac, a relic of the darkest days of the Sorcerer Kings, and that a powerful witch had come to Fallen River to claim it. She had seen this vision through the eyes of one of my mothers in her final moments, though she did not know which.

“This then is the reason that my family died… the reason that Iyara died. It must not go unanswered, Salkhi. It must not. I shall not abandon my friends and lovers here in Lumina, but I think perhaps that after this situation is resolved, I might hire the Cat’s Cradle myself and journey back to the plains of my youth. I must find this witch, and, before the end, ask her why she felt the need to destroy my life.

“But before that, there is something I can do here and now. The mercenary who calls herself Blackstar is here in Lumina, hired to protect the town from the rampaging mongrels. I think perhaps I should seek her out and ask her how she came by that most distinctive moniker…”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Marcus,

Today we had a great fight, if fighting could be called great anyway. Jadzia sure thought it was great. We went looking for mongrel shadow spawn. Our goal was to kill as many of them as we could and impress the Fey queen. The group consisted of me, Tanith, Jadzia, Darcy, Maria, Alexis and even Ling. Tanith made the argument that Ling would be just as safe with us as she would be alone in the room. Probably more so since I’d be there to keep her in one piece. I didn’t want the others to go hunting for the mongrels without me, so I reluctantly agreed to allow Ling to come with us on the hunt. Ling was all excited and talking about adventure. I wanted to slap some sense into her. Hunting shadow spawn is not an adventure. It was something that we did to protect the townsfolk and further our relationship with the Fey leadership. As it turned out we had a rather easy time of it. Finding the mongrels was easy enough and defeating them took a matter of minutes, and there were a lot of them. Maybe 25 or so mongrels, one ogre and one naga.

The fight looked like it was going to be imposing at first, but everyone did their best, even Ling. Ling and Maria climbed a tree and stayed up there for a majority of the fight. I was fine with that. Of the remaining fighters Darcy was the only one on the ground with me so I decided that I would do my best to protect him. Tanith, Alexis, and Jadzia were all mounted. I can’t use a shield while mounted so I decided to do my fighting from the ground. I will also admit that fighting from the back of a mount reminds me a bit too much of my days as a Skull Knight. Fighting from wyvern back is different than fighting from horseback, but there are still enough similarities. I did not explain all that to my friends and allies. I just said that I would be more effective guarding someone on the ground. Darcy said it was fine if I protected him with the understanding that if Maria or Ling came under attack then I would shift who I put behind my shield.

They came at us in groups of five. Well the first group was ten individuals, but after we dropped them, they came in groups of five. It was a pretty intense yet one-sided fight. We dropped them like flies and yet they did not do much more than scratch us. Ling even did her part making it easier for us to hit the enemy and causing them to fail at hitting us. Her singing was quite inspiring. The exceptions were when the ogre and naga came to find out what was happening to all of their mongrel warriors. Maria used her ice magic on the ogre and the naga retaliated by setting my friend on fire. Maria dropped from the tree branch she was sitting in and began rolling to put out the fire. I immediately turned my attention to the naga and did my best to end its life. I regrettably did not get the final blow on the naga, Tanith did, but that’s okay. I did it grievous harm and that was my intent. Jadzia did get hurt more than she let on, but I noticed. So it wasn’t a quick fight per se. I think Jadzia killed the ogre and the rest of us mopped up the remaining mongrels. Once the fight was over Jadzia started taking trophies so we could bring them back to the Fey queen and prove how many mongrels we had killed. The vampires did the same thing, but we had killed more of the shadow spawn than they did. Alil complained that it had been unfair because he had not been allowed to fight with his men. The Fey queen countered that they had the advantage anyway since they are supernatural beings. She seemed amused by his complaints over all.

The interesting thing about our meeting with Nicnevin was the fact that she was sitting on a throne made from a living tree, which was in turn sitting on top of what looked like a pagoda of some sort. The branches and vines were covering an opening that led under the pagoda. While we were talking to the Fey queen, Tavia contacted Maria and kept insisting that she go under the pagoda. She was very persistent about it, but Maria did not follow her suggestions of causing a distraction and then going for the tunnel. Maria communicated with us then that she was curious about the tunnel under the pagoda and that she wanted to explore it. We talked briefly using the mind speak and agreed to talk about it more later, after we had all met back up in town. We agreed to meet with the Fey again later for official talks. Nicnevin asked Ling when her concert was going to be and she said it would be the following day. She also mentioned that she would put on a second concert if the townsfolk won the negotiations. I think we all agreed that was pretty clever of her.

We met up with Ashlin in town and related our exploits to him. He seemed interested in our description of the fight but I know that combat is not really his thing. He is more clever and tactics-oriented than pure martial might oriented. I can understand that, but I know that I’m not clever enough to come up with truly good tactics against the enemy. I managed to stay alive in Kern, so I know I’m not completely without intelligence, but I know I’m not as smart as Ashlin is. Anyway, he said that he had found tracks leading into the forest and followed them to a secret cave hidden behind a waterfall. He snuck up and took a peek inside. He saw a single vampire and an animated skeleton. The rest must have been in the forest hunting mongrels. We discussed our possible options as far as the tunnel went. We decided that if the Fey queen grants us a boon we will ask for permission to explore the Vatazin ruins under the pagoda. We figured going before negotiations would sour the Fey against us in the upcoming talks. We also figured that we might undo any good that we accomplish with the negotiations if we go explore the ruins without their permission after the talks. I think it was about that time that Tavia contacted Maria again and said that she could raise all the mongrels that we’d killed and those that had been killed by the vampires and have them attack the trees as a distraction. Maria immediately vetoed that idea, but apparently Tavia had already raised the mongrels. So, Maria suggested that Tavia send the mongrels after the vampires and described their location to the crazy sorceress. Maria eventually told us that a benefactor had done all that and we immediately knew that she was talking about Tavia. Darcy got upset by the use of sorcery in such a way and walked out of the room. I think he said that he was upset at the way Maria talked about using sorcery like that. I know that it was not great, but if Tavia had already raised the mongrels it was probably better that they were directed towards the vampires than the town or some other innocent. Alexis went after him and came back a little while later to say that he had been found by Dana and was spending the night with them. Jadzia had just come from bathing and her hair was down. Alexis commented that it was beautiful and Jadzia was speechless for a moment. After that there was some tension between Alexis and Jadzia. Just a moment of pause. Alexis left and Tanith immediately asked Jadzia if she should have invited the Rose Knight to stay. Jadzia blushed a pretty color and said that she didn’t know. Tanith also asked if she should refrain from inviting Alexis to her bed. Jadzia answered again that she didn’t know. I’m not blind, I picked up on the fact that my lover has feelings for another woman. I cannot fault her that. I have feelings for another man, if he ever gets out of Kern.

Anyway, at least we knew that Darcy was safe. I can understand my friend getting upset by the use of sorcery, but I’ll admit that it didn’t phase me much. I am used to people talking about doing this and that using sorcery for fun or research. The research was usually the scarier stuff, especially if they used human subjects. So to find out that Tavia did something using sorcery didn’t make me blink at all. She is a sorceress after all. She uses sorcery like other people breathe, without thought. So, it didn’t really upset me to hear that, but I suppose that I am in the minority there. I know sorcery is bad but I’ve been so used to people just using it whenever they want at home that it didn’t occur to me that this was not the norm. I’ve been living in Aldis for several months now, you’d think that I’d have changed more than that, but I suppose that I haven’t. I had worried that you might not know me when you saw me again, but I guess I haven’t changed all that much since I left. I hope to see you soon.

Yours Always,
Jana


Dear Mother,

We are on another negotiating job, this time between a town and the neighboring Fey. It’s been interesting so far, but the most interesting thing that happened today was not related to our job at all. We meet up with everyone at the inn for breakfast, including Darcy. He explained to Maria that he was not upset at her, he was just upset with the flippant use of sorcery. She explained that she was just trying to make the best of a bad situation. She couldn’t stop Tavia from raising the mongrels, so Maria had to choose quickly what to do, and she chose to target the vampires. As I explained to Marcus, that made perfect sense to me. Might as well redirect the undead out our other enemies. Darcy also said that he was sometimes worried about Maria’s fascination with knowledge. My friend conceded that it had gotten her into trouble in the past but said that she’d be careful. Tanith said something about some people being able to handle it. I’m not so sure that it is really a matter of someone “handling” it. I think it’s more the fact that someone can start researching something that seems innocuous and then it leads them to darker and darker arcana. I’ve seen people go down that road. I went down that road in some ways. It got easier and easier to just do what I was told rather than try and fine some clever way to save the people that I was sent after. I had to fight my way back from that and I don’t want any of my new friends to start down that path and tell me that they can handle it.

Maria also mentioned that she had gone to the ruins under the temple and described them in vivid detail. She even said that they are a good place to trigger visions, if you are so inclined. Tanith and Jadiza exchanged a look and both said that they’d like to go to the amphitheater under the temple. So we went to the Vatazin ruins. Alexis, a Rose Knight from Aldis and Jadzia’s friend, let us through the defenses, which consisted of several powerful beams of light. It was interesting. Anyway, we went down the stairs and as we got closer to the room that Maria described Tanith’s eyes glowed more than usual and she seemed to stare into nothing. A moment later she started babbling in Rezean. She was saying something about the Black Star of Drunac, and “Get it away,” “escape,” “find Jadzia,” and “No don’t.” It was all very jumbled and panicked. I know what panic sounds like in someone’s voice and that was panic. She then almost hit a wall before coming back to herself. She explained that she had seen something called the Black Star of Drunac. Someone came looking for it. A witch. She also said something about Razorwind. I’m not sure what that was referring to and from the look on Jadzia’s face I’ll guess that she didn’t either.

Alexis apologized for the severity of the vision and said that people don’t usually have such intense visions, or those of the past either. Whatever it was that Tanith saw, it was from Jadzia’s past and it was not a good memory. My guess is that it was from the day that Jadzia’s family was murdered. I think Tanith said that she saw what was happening through the eyes of one of Jadzia’s mothers, which kind of cemented it in my mind that that was what she had seen. After the vision and explanations were over it was also mentioned that the Black Star of Drunac is a powerful sorcerous item that dates back to the time of the Sorcerer Kings. I’m not sure how it found its way to Jadzia’s home, but it did and it was bad. Tanith just kind of sat there on the floor after that and stared at the wall. We made sure that she was okay. She explained that she was just really tired and that visions can take it out of her when they happen. I helped my lover to stand and Jadzia and I walked her back to the cottage that we were staying in. The only thing that we really discussed before Tanith lay down to rest was finding Blackstar in town and finding out how she got that name. I’ll let you know what happens with that.

Love always,
Jana


Tanith’s Diary

The work on our new assignment continues well. We got involved in the unfortunately violent contest to kill local Shadowspawn, and that worked in our favor. The Cradle, save Ash (who was scouting), along with Alexis Winter and Ling Raida proved more than a match for the raiders, cover of fog or no. They ultimately seemed to be led by either a Naga or an Ogre, as both came at us once their immediate raiders were slain. Regardless, we made short work of them, Jadzia collected trophies, and we brought them to Caelia.

And Tavia animated the corpses which Maria managed to redirect her to attacking the vampires with it, which pissed Darcy off. Gee Darcy it’s almost as if it were annoying when people go and do things you don’t want them to without caring about pissing you off or something. Maybe grow a little.

Anyway, we arranged for a meeting today, and tonight will be a concert…with Ling promising a second concert in the near future for the Fey if the town succeeds. Good job Ling. And this will put the Fey and the humans in the same place, which will hopefully have the effect of building unity, though I am going to have us in the audience making sure no fights start. Hopefully everyone will behave themselves.

In personal news, there was an adorable interlude in which Alexis came by to tell us Darcy’s grand sulk led him to the local herbalist’s house, and that he was fine. But she saw Jadzia with her hair down in her nightdress, and there was a…. moment I think between them. Eye contact, blushing, it was adorable. I would have invited her to join us but I did not want to make Jana uncomfortable. I did ask Jadzia about helping her get with Alexis or if I should invite her to join us, since she is more awkward than I, but she was not sure. I playfully asked if I could seduce the white-haired knight again, and she was still unsure. I did not pressure her past that. Teasing my Rezean Flower of the Plains is fun, but I do not want to actually make her uncomfortable. Her still waters run deep.

I visited the Vatazin observatory and was hit with an intense, powerful vision, but not one of the future. I saw Jadzia’s parents die; they were killed by an artifact they found, the Black Star of Drunac. The Black Star seemed to have had an intelligence of its own, and when its will was resisted it summoned razor winds butchering and skinning people alive. A Witch arrived in the chaos and collected it, using it and her sorcery to finish off Jadzia’s family. I was seeing through the eyes of Jadzia’s mother, I think? One of them anyway. I heard myself trying to protect my wife and worrying about Jadzia surviving. The Witch turned her Sorcery to me, and I was blasted into momentary unconsciousness, in which I felt the vision leave me. It was, I admit, completely disconcerting. I was not object reading anything, and I have never had a glimpse of the past. It is clearly something built into the workings and nature of the observatory. Part of the magic of this beautiful, mysterious town. Maybe liking it is in my blood. It is a comforting thought, anyway, that I might be that close to my mysterious forbearers.

I have been recovering in bed since then. The whole thing took a lot out of me and I slept a short while. I think it is now time to get up and get some food though. Then we have a meeting to do.

End Session XXIV

Let’s see…

The battle was interesting. I applied general penalties of -2 due to darkness and -1 due to fog. Those who could see in the dark (Tanith, Jana and Darcy) did not suffer the former, nor did Jadzia in melee due to her Maul. Alexis I applied her Blind Fighting effects to the penalties so she did suffer any. The Mongrels suffered no penalties, but the Ogre and Naga did for fog.

The team fought 10 Mongrels, half mounted, then two sets of 5 in waves. Whoever killed theirs fastest won game, and fought the bosses. The game was I used a computer system to quickly model the vampires fighting so I knew how long the heroes had. The interesting thing is the vampires had skeletons which the Mongrels wore through, so their fighting actually slowed down as it went on. Meanwhile, Ling was adding a new buff to her song every turn and even adding rerolls and penalties to the bad guys, and Tanith, in addition to passive buffs, was jacking up people’s Strength and Dexterity, so the PCs started taking them down more and more rapidly. While initially behind they pulled ahead fast.

Mechanic wise, the other part was I had the Vatazin Observatory give Tanith a +4 to her Vision, at a cost of an automatic level of Fatigue and a forced roll (she passed). She also took a tiny amount of damage, 1d3. However, she got a vision of the past, one that revealed in no uncertain terms who killed her lovers family, so she would say, I am sure, that it was worth it.

There is very little game effect to “The Light.” Locals can see in the gloom of Lumina slightly easier than others (penalties are halved) though this does not apply to other darkness They just don’t struggle much with Lumina’s dim light. They can also get through security measures because the whole old Vatazin lab sees them as rightful owners if they have lived there long enough.

Tavia is fun to play. I enjoyed having her insist Maria sneak into the underground part of the pagoda till Maria distracted her. Ah Tavia, ever be free of the tyranny of pants.

Only big part we missed was discussion of how Lumina was discovered by refugees, many of them Human and Night People slaves, and that the Night People helped the Humans settle in there and prejudice against them there is pretty much nonexistent. The town exists in harmony, even more than many places in Aldis, as the work of the Vatazin still functions, and the locals are learning more and more of how to use it. In fact, the Fey are sort of guardians themselves, if not precisely martial ones. Dana is not a local, they fled after being run out of their home, and heard of a place Night People were accepted and had many unusual herbs. Dana and Darcy had a nice conversation.

Needless to say, the PCs will be returning to Lumina at some point.

Well I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks to all the players following us this past year of play. You are awesome. Also thanks to those joining us along the way. See you in two weeks. In the meantime comments and questions welcome, and I or my players would love to hear from you.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#52
Capricious fey, sinister vampires, impenetrable mysteries and chilling visions. But a light begins to shine from the darkness, and the pieces begin to come together.

Session XXV

The Bard’s Tale Part III

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 17 Anwanar

Well, the past 24 hours have certainly been enlightening. And fun – it’s not everyday you get to go to a super-star’s live performance in the presence of royalty. The enlightenment only partially provided answers, but it did give hints at solutions, and cleared up at least one worry we had in this whole deal. I may have made a new friend too, and isn’t that the most important thing?

I’ve met with Aiobhell twice now. She has a very interesting way of entering conversations, vines snaking out of the underbrush to sort of converge into her form, and then there she is. She was… very easy to talk to. I even wound up talking to her about my mom (don’t be too jealous). See, she doesn’t know who her father was, and her mother died long ago trapping the Sorcerer King that wiped out the vatazin, there in the forest. She pretty much opened up the conversation asking if I had children – she thinks her father may have been human. It makes her even more of a liminal being than her fae nature would alone, and more sympathetic to the plight of the mortals in town.

It’s her influence that they are even there. Nicnevin was not inclined to allow the original group of seetlers shelter there, especially with the night people among them, but Aiobhell was able to convince her that they were refugees, not soldiers. With that acceptance, however, the settlers took the place of the vatazin in the fae’s, well, bindings, for lack of a better word. Geas, perhaps? Anyway, the fae are bound to protect the vatazin, or their replacements (the current inhabitants of the town, and any vata count), and to make sure the workings of their machinery are kept in order, and this has been causing the problems. The current residents of the town don’t know how the machinery works, how to maintain, and what not to do. So the fae’s bindings to forcefully stop those who might damage the machinery, and to forcefully stop anyone of using force against the residents… are causing the obvious problems.

Anyway, that has Nicnevin testy, and she doesn’t particularly super care for humans in the first place. She had, of late, been taking out her aggression on Alil and his vampires. The fae think the vampires were sent by a name that was familiar to us, one Nyassa Hyades. Aiobhell confided in me that the fae had no intention of siding with the vampires, but were stringing them along in order to keep them under a watchful eye. So at the very least, the town being given over to the vampires is not on the table, though once we deal with the vampies, figuring out an outlet for Nicnevin’s anger issues while we figure out how to resolve the paradox of the geas on the fae.

The whole situation is even more complicated by the fact that, as the servants in the relationship, the fae are not allowed to just, tell the mortals what to do. Our current angle is to 1) find the users manual to this whole deal and get it into mortal hands somehow or 2) bypass any mystical restrictions by having Aiobhell explain the way things work to an outsider (very, very different from ordering around a resident) and then the outsider (no geas involved!) can tell the residents. Apparently the town has some instruction manual type things, but they all refer to some other primary book, which they do not have. We’ll see how that goes – it’s likely in the ruins in the forest, the ones Tavia wants to go down into, and that’s a tricky subject.

For one, Tavia is not going to get to go down there. Not even Aiobhell is allowed down there – only Nicnevin. Those ruins contain the impaled body of the Sorcerer King I mentioned, the one that slaughtered the vatazin. They sacrificed much, from the sound of it, to lure the thing down in there, where the only trap sufficient to contain him was. Understandably, they feel very strongly about keeping everyone out. But, perhaps they will bring us things from it, like the user manual, should it exist there. I don’t know about the likelihood of them gifting us this crystal Tavia wants, but we’ll see. Perhaps it’s harmless, and perhaps the help it might give Tavia will move them.

The others had fun too. Some of them – Darcy, Maria and Jana, I think – fought a vampire who was after Ling, killing him handily. He came in from above, crawling on the ceiling. His mistake really, considering they just knocked him down off of it. He did get a bite in on Darcy, but Tanith was able to cure him of the vampire disease he passed on. Jadzia was a bit miffed at missing the ‘fun’ but she was tracking down Blackstar and asking if her name was a just a coincidence, or if it was related to the artifact that Tanith had her vision about. She didn’t share what she learned, but presumably she will if something comes of it that we can help with.

I filled in the others about what I learned, though I did hold back on telling Maria about what’s actually in the ruins in the forest. Not that she is untrustworthy, but she is not the best liar (I mean, that’s me of course, so naturally not that, but I’d go so far as to say she’s not even the second best liar) and Tavia’s pantslessness is often distracting for her. And, by Selene’s wisdom, Tavia is not to know about the Sorcerer King trapped within there (if she doesn’t know about it already, there’s always the chance that all/any of her scatteredness is an act). Not only do I not want Tavia succeeding at such an infiltration, but if she tries and doesn’t succeed, Aiobhell was pretty clear that the penalty would be death.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened at the negotiation table so far (other than Alil apparently being mystically tethered to Aiobhell, which is a neat trick, if a dangerous one). Same for the concert, other than it being a Ling concert, which meant it was amazing. I got an opportunity to chat with Dana (they helped me clarify why Aiobhell led with asking about children – it seemed odd), and other folks had some fun conversations as well. Jadzia and Alexis spent much of the concert holding hands, and Jadzia didn’t spend the night at the guest house.

Darcy didn’t come home last night either, but he did wake up here – a perk of sleeping with a Lotus Eater, I suppose. He did come home safe, which was good (even he was concerned it might have been more than one night he’d been out of it). Aiobhell warned that such courses of action were not advisable for anyone without supernatural stamina, and even for those that do, sleeping with the Queen’s concubine is not often the best way to ingratiate one’s self with the already tetchy monarch. I plan on warning Jana to try and steer Tanith away from such things – I think she’s the most likely to try out that particular new experience.

Next up is more negotiations, which, since that means I need to be scarce, is my opportunity to peek around for wherever the vampires have moved their camp too. Less of a trail to go by this time – that is, unless the vampires have made plans to assault the negotiations, or use them as distraction to attack somewhere else. But maybe I’ll get lucky and find something. And not get found in return. To be fair, there’s not as many of them as there were – not only was their stealth guy killed (I’m only presuming they sent their best infiltrator to take out our ace in the hole) but Tavia’s assault took out at least one. Aiobhell gave me a boon, too, for if I do get caught out and over my head, a stone I can crush that will summon Redlin (big tree elemental guy) so long as I’m near a tree (which is hard to not manage around here). So while I would prefer that it work out that I be all self-sufficient and impressive in front of the fae, I feel pretty secure in the ‘just in case’.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered in Rezean beneath the canopy of Lumina)

“It is strange, is it not, Salkhi? With everything that is happening around me, with everything that I have learned about my own history over the past few days… all I seem able to think about is her. Her smile, the shine of her eyes in the glow of the shas crystals, the warm, feather-light, soft touch of her lips…

“What? Oh, yes… our mission in Lumina continues to progress well. Ling remains safe. Ashlin has made contact with the Fey known as Aiobhell, who assures him that Nicnevin is merely toying with Alil and has no intention of giving the town over to the vampires. Aiobhell also spoke of the Fey’s current dilemma… they are bound to serve those who maintain the Vatazin creation in this area and to destroy those who would harm or otherwise despoil it. The mortal residents of Lumina have traditionally kept up the ancient machinery, but have gradually lost the proper techniques over the centuries. If they can be re-trained, the whole situation will resolve itself. Maria is searching for a Vatazin text which might help, I believe. Oh, and apparently the ruins beneath Nicnevin’s throne house the impaled corpse of a Sorcerer-Queen, and Alil’s vampires are attempting to resurrect her on behalf of their leader… none other than Nyassa Hyades. Needless to say, Tavia must be kept away from those ruins at all costs.

“As you know, I managed to question Blackstar about her most unusual moniker, and she confirmed my suspicions that she had previously come across the Black Star of Drunac. Before the cursed object came into my family’s keeping, she and Justine had discovered it. Blackstar – who had at that point possessed another name – attempted to wield it, and it nearly destroyed her. It stole her name until such time as she can reclaim it. Justine fared better; she refused to make use of the cursed relic, and threw it into the sea before the witch who sought it could claim its power. Blackstar noted that either the witch or the artifact – she knew not which – possessed the abilities to summon a wind which could flay skin from bone. This must be the ‘razor wind’ of which my Sunflower spoke in the throes of her vision. I can only assume that the Black Star of Drunac washed up on the shores of Rezea for some poor doomed member of my family to find.

“Elsewhere, my friends had encounters of their own. Jana, Darcy, and Maria were looking after Ling when they spotted a vampire creeping across the ceiling. Obviously the creature had been relying upon stealth to achieve its goal, and my friends’ powers of observation proved more than a match for it. They fired several bolts and arrows at the beast, eventually succeeding in knocking it from its lofty perch. Maria once more proved herself a master of battle-magic, piercing its foul flesh with barbed spears of ice, and Jana ensured that it would not return by beheading it with her sword. Unfortunately, the creature had bitten Darcy before its death, and had Tanith not been available to cure him, he might have succumbed to the vampire’s profane affliction.

“Nothing else of note happened yesterday save a chance encounter between Maria, myself, and Pima Gallaccio. That impudent brat approached Ling as she was preparing for her concert and loudly began demanding preferential treatment, and even a seat in the section reserved for Nicnevin and her entourage. What is worse, it seemed for a moment as though she might get her way, as Ling was obviously flustered in her presence. I firmly told her that she would waste no more of my charge’s time, and that put paid to her tomfoolery. There was some question as to whether this encounter might have damaged the town’s prospects, as the Gallaccio family could bring great trade opportunities to Lumina, but I am confident that her wounded pride will heal.

“And then there was the concert itself. I was sitting to Tanith’s right side, Jana to her left while we watched the show. Alexis was seated on my own right, and seemed to enjoy the music as much as anyone. At one point she commented that it was her bad fortune to have suffered a recent breakup just prior to hearing Ling sing of love and romance; it left her unable to fully appreciate the beauty of the music. I retorted that I doubted she would be single for long, as she is virtuous, brave, strong, and beautiful…

“I realized a second later that I had said more than I had intended to say. Her eyes widened for a moment, and then settled back into their normal shape and position. She smiled slightly, and looked pleased. She turned back to regard the stage, but her left hand lay next to me, palm up and open, in a clear invitation. I glanced helplessly at Tanith, and though her eyes were fixed upon Ling, I could swear that I saw her smirk. I took that as permission, and gently dropped my own hand into Alexis’. Her fingers clasped my own, and my heart soared.

“The concert ended two thousand years or so later, and the two of us walked out, still hand in hand. Alexis asked if I would like to accompany her to her home, and after briefly checking with Tanith and Jana, I accepted her offer. It was late following the concert, and the two of us retired to her bedchamber almost immediately. She has never been involved with another woman romantically, though she is not cepia luath, and she said that she would like to see where things go between us. As I did not wish to push her into anything for which she was not ready, the two of us merely stripped to our smallclothes and lay side by side with our arms around each other. She dropped off quickly, muttering ‘love you Jadzia’ sleepily. I lay awake for some time after that…

“We woke the next morning, dressed, endured some good-natured ribbing from her mother, and made our way back to the guest house shared by the rest of our party. I spoke with Tanith and Jana more extensively about Alexis then, and both of them gave our relationship their blessing. Tanith was enthusiastic while Jana was typically reserved, though she did tell us both that Richter is currently attempting to free her old lover Marcus from Kern. Marcus is like Jana, a good person who is trying to escape an impossible situation, and I offered whatever help I could give in rescuing him so that they can be together once more. Tanith did likewise, though I think I detected a hint of hesitation from her in that instance. I can only assume that this is because Marcus is a man, though I cannot be certain of that.

“When discussing my burgeoning relationship with Alexis, Tanith was as supportive as I could have hoped, of course. She even offered to send psychic messages to Alexis on my behalf on those occasions upon which we are necessarily separated. I had fretted that my developing feelings for the Rose Knight might interfere with my existing relationships… I now see how groundless those fears truly were.

“Alexis and I spent the rest of the day in each other’s company. She gave me a tour of her home town, pointing out places of special significance as we chatted idly, both riding upon her horse Squall (it means ‘shuurga,’ if you are interested). At one point she received a mental communication from the Rose Knights; they wished to redeploy her to the front to help Trebizond coordinate military actions with Zacchaeus the Silver Lion, a Jarzoni Knight of Purity of her acquaintance. She begged for a few more days to see that matters in Lumina are truly settled, and was granted this brief reprieve. I confess that I am glad of this… when she leaves for the front, the two of us shall be parted for the gods know how long.

“Alexis also regaled me with tales of Zacchaeus… one of which might concern my own history. The Knight of Purity was not always so wholesome; he began his career as a tomb robber of some note. Alexis said that he gave up that career when he ‘robbed the wrong tomb’ and uncovered an artifact of great power and malevolence, which convinced him to turn over a new leaf. While Alexis did not have the full details of that life-changing event, a part of me feels certain that this artifact was in fact the Black Star of Drunac. Is it not strange, Salkhi? I have searched for information regarding the slaughter at Fallen River for years, and found nothing. And now, in the space of a day, I have found not one but three potential clues of great significance.

“And still, as I said before, my mind drifts elsewhere. Strands of silver hair, unbound for the night and splayed across the soft down of a pillow. Milk-white skin, smooth and soft, belying the strength within… like silk atop steel. That tiny blemish on her right cheek, which I kissed for the first time this morning. Bright blue eyes, like sunlight on the waters off the southern coast of our homeland…

“The witch has waited nearly three years for my vengeance; she can wait a bit longer. Now that I know what to look for, she will not long escape me. But Alexis could be called to the front any day now, and I would spend what time remains to us in her company.

“Be well, Dear One… I shall visit you again upon the morrow.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Marcus,

So, we decided to split up to cover more ground. I know, it sounds like a bad idea, but it seems to have worked out for us today. Jadzia had planned on going to talk to Blackstar about her name and how she came to have that particular moniker. Ashlin went into the woods to talk to Aoibhell and see if he could find out anything interesting or useful from her. For me there was some excitement this afternoon. I was guarding Ling while she practiced for the show tonight. It was Darcy, Maria and I who decided to stay behind and guard the young singer. About halfway through the practice Darcy and I noticed a figure crawling towards the stage on the ceiling. We both figured that it was a vampire and fired at the approaching figure. The figure decided that discretion was the better part of valor and went for one of the windows. We knew that he would just try again if we let him escape, so Darcy fired at him one more time and dropped him from the ceiling to the floor. He started to run and I shot him one more time. I could not hope to run after him. I was wearing my full armor and am not the fastest sprinter on the best of days, so I fired at him in the hope that I could slow him down. Then suddenly Jadzia appeared at the front door wielding her flaming maul and the vampire decided to turn and go for a window. Darcy intercepted him and prevented the vampire from fleeing through the window. The vampire then attacked Darcy, biting him, and I ran as fast as I could towards the would-be attacker. Maria hit him with her frost attack a couple of times before I even got close. The second time she killed the vampire. As his body was falling to the floor I arrived and cut his head from his shoulders mid fall. I know that arcanum can kill a vampire, but I wanted to make sure. At that point Jadzia, who was still near the front door, did an acrobatic stunt with her maul and disappeared. It seems that my lover was nothing more than an illusion created by the creative Ling to help us keep the vampire contained. I will admit that sometimes Ling annoys me, but she has some good ideas and that was one of them.

After that we eventually met up with the rest of the group and told them of the fight with the vampire and how we killed him. Jadzia looked a little put out that she had not actually been able to be there for the fight, but I got the impression that she had her own news to tell and would do so in her own time. I was right, but that came later. Darcy admitted that he had been bitten by the vampire and Tanith quickly healed him of the disease before it could take hold. More than one person’s life has been ruined by that disease. I am glad that Tanith is a skilled enough healer to cure that. A moment later Ashlin surreptitiously made the signal for mental communication and Tanith established a link. The funny thing was Ashlin was keeping the communication from Maria. He quickly explained what he had found out and Tanith told the rest of us. Ashlin had indeed found Aoibhell and talked to her and found out that the Fey queen is hiding something beneath her throne. It turns out that a long time ago a Sorcerer Queen came to this area looking for whatever the Vatazin were working on. She attacked, and the Vatazin defended as best they could. Their Elemental friends managed, through tricks, to seal the Sorcerer Queen beneath the throne. They impaled her and sealed the area so that no one could get to her and inadvertently awaken her. It also seems that should the Sorcerer Queen be released from her imprisonment she will immediately become a lich. That would not be a good thing. That would in fact be a very bad thing, so I can see why Ashlin wanted to keep this news from Maria. She can be a very trusting sort and would probably tell Tavia what we had found out. Tavia may or may not have been looking for this lost Sorcerer Queen from the beginning. It might explain why she was so keen on Maria going below the Fey queen’s throne in the first place. There might legitimately be something down there that will protect her from Melisandre, but I don’t trust Tavia as far as I can throw her and so I will not allow her to go down there. If Ash is correct in what is below that throne in the woods, then no one should be allowed to go down there. I will not be a party to waking a Sorcerer Queen and helping her to become a lich.

Out loud Ashlin told us about the servant/master relationship that the Fey have with the townsfolk whether they know it or not. The townsfolk were accepted into the area as refugees and they became the stewards of the Vatazin ruins and labs. The Fey became their servants and as such have no authority to tell their masters when they are doing something wrong. They are however tasked with keeping the labs and ruins safe from those that might do harm. This unfortunately includes the townsfolk, who have inadvertently caused problems by digging in the wrong places and other such offenses. So the Fey are frustrated at the townsfolk for what they are doing wrong with the ruins but are unable to tell them what they should be doing. Ashlin offered to be a mouthpiece for the Fey to explain to the townsfolk what they are doing wrong so they will stop it. And as if that wasn’t enough information to come back with he also mentioned that the vampires currently in town were sent by Nyassa Hyades, a name that we have not come across in a little while. Nyassa was the woman behind the attacks on the current Hyades family and the one who tried to ruin the wedding. I know that you remember the adventure that I speak of. After that we attended the negotiations, which went as well as I thought they might. Nothing really to note about it.

While Tanith, Alexis, Darcy and I were at the negotiations the others had a bit more fun. Maria, Jadzia and Ashlin stayed behind to keep an eye on Ling to make sure Alil didn’t send any more vampires to try and capture or turn our charge. Ashlin stayed in the shadows and watched from there. I think he was hoping to follow any vampires that might show up back to their new lair and find out where that was. Their old lair was overrun by undead mongrels and so they abandoned it. No more vampires showed up while we were gone, though there was a little excitement. Pima showed up and walked right up to Ling and started asking to get a seat on the front row and which songs she really wanted to hear. She apparently was really flustering Ling, so Jadzia stepped in and told the entitled brat to go away, but in less polite terms. Maria also stepped in to help get rid of the bored merchant’s daughter. And eventually Pima left in a huff and Ling was able to go on practicing on stage without interruption.

After all that William came by and told of the problem that he faced with the lake. The undead mongrel attack left some bodies floating in the water, which is also the town’s drinking water, so he was tasked with getting the bodies out of the lake. Maria offered to help get the bodies out by using arcanum to move the water and push the bodies onto shore. I thought that was a nice thing for her to do. My friend is frequently thinking about others before herself. So, while moving bodies is not a pleasant task, she still offered to help doing it because she could.

Before the show when we had all gathered together Jadzia asked to talk to me and Tanith alone. She wanted to tell us what she had found out about Blackstar. As it turns out Blackstar came across the Black Star of Drunac in her travels and attempted to wield it. It didn’t work out so well and it took her over. I think Justine helped her let go of the device, but before she could do that it had already taken Blackstar’s real name. She didn’t know what it was and neither did anyone else that knew her or had met her. That thing possesses some dark arcana. Justine later stole the device with no ill effects. It seems perhaps that Justine possessed more willpower or a firmer sense of self than her friend did at the time. Blackstar had just found her again when the witch came looking for the device. Justine cut off the old woman’s hand and threw the device into the ocean. Not only did she hold the device with no ill effect, she was able to give it up just like that and throw it into the sea. The witch jumped into the ocean after it and neither was seen again until that fateful day in Rezea when the witch found the Black Star of Drunac in the Tenniral clan’s possession. And we know what happened after that. Blackstar even offered to help Jadzia hunt down the witch if we get a lead on her and she is available. I have a feeling that she will make herself available should the witch be found.

The show itself passed without incident. I was prepared should anything happen, but my service was not needed. The only vampire that showed up was Alil and it seems that he is bound to stay close to Aoibhell… something that seemed to annoy him and amuse her. And speaking of things that amused… Alexis was flirting lightly with Jadzia who looked to Tanith to see what her response was. Tanith just had an amused kind of smile on her face and Jadzia took that to mean acceptance and took Alexis’ hand. It was cute how they smiled shyly at each other and kept looking at one another. I’m not sure how much of the show they actually took in. It was worth it though I’m sure. Jadzia looked quite happy and asked us after the show was over if we minded if she spent the night with Alexis. We both gave Jadzia our support and our lover went to spend the night with her new sweetheart. I envy her in a way. She was able to let her flirting be seen. She could be sweet with her new paramour in public and not have to worry about repercussions. We had to be so much more careful than that. The Skull Knights understood sex for the sake of sex, but not what we had. We could never draw that kind of attention to ourselves. We had to keep any known encounters with one another casual and make sure that we were not exclusive. I didn’t like that very much, which is why I haven’t slept with anyone other than my two lovers, Tanith and Jadzia. They became close to me quickly. I did not expect it, but I was not fool enough to push it away. I hope that you will like them. I hope that they will like you too.

Yours Always,

Jana


Dear Mother,

My lover Jadzia has found a new paramour and it is sweet. She got back this morning with her new lover, Alexis, a little flushed with embarrassment. Alexis was annoyed at her mother’s ribbing, but they were fine. While we waited for the others to get ready, I heard that Darcy had an interesting night with the Fey, Jadzia asked to speak to Tanith and me privately. She said she had spent the night with Alexis in her bed, but they did not have sex. She wanted to make sure that we were okay with her relationship with the Rose Knight and we wholeheartedly supported her. I think she was afraid that we would be jealous or otherwise upset by this news. Alexis is a sweet girl and strives to be a good person. I know that she will not hurt my Jadzia. There will be trouble if she does, but I do not see her doing so intentionally. I in turn admitted to Tanith and Jadzia that Richter was in the process of helping my lover get out of Kern. They both seemed supportive of this, until I mentioned that his name was Marcus. Jadzia took it in stride, but Tanith’s expression soured for just a moment at the mention of his gender. I do not think that Tanith has ever had a male lover and generally doesn’t look at men that way. That’s fine by me, but I hope that she understands that I have feelings for Marcus and have for a while now. I could no more give up my love for him than I could stop loving her. Do I mean that? I think I do. I haven’t admitted it to Tanith or Jadzia yet, but I think I do love them. Our relationship happened so fast. I think it started as just an attraction, but it has turned into something else over time. How do I tell them this? I don’t know how. I’ve never done it before. I never told Marcus that I love him either. I couldn’t risk being overheard. I’ve never had a situation like this, where I could be honest with the people I care about. Hell, I even had to pretend to not be close to you in order to meet their expectations. You know this. You’re the one that told me to do it. Now I live in a place where I don’t need to hide my feelings and yet I do, constantly. How do I open up to the people around me?

After our heartfelt conversation, Jadzia went with Alexis and Maria to talk to Maggie about possible written instructions that might have been left behind by the Vatazin. All so the townsfolk could more easily understand how to take care of the labs and the ruins left behind. As it turns out there were some books left behind that refer to the machines left behind, but they also seem to refer to an original book that was not in the lab. All the books that were found refer back to this master text, so it was almost useless to read the books that were there. It was possible to figure some stuff out from context, but not everything. Apparently, the townsfolk guessed on how to do some of the stuff to maintain the machines. It was decided that someone should talk to Aoibhell and see if there are any more books left behind in the ruins beneath Nicnevin’s throne. We cannot go and get them if they exist. The Fey could. At least Nicnevin could. She is the queen and can go where she pleases. She also presumably knows how to enter those ruins without awakening the Sorcerer Queen impaled down there. So, Ashlin talked to our Fey friend and told her what we needed. What the townsfolk needed. And she agreed to do what she could to find the missing text. She also admitted that she has been the one advocating for the townspeople all these years. She says that she’s closer to the humans than Nicnevin is and doesn’t know who her father is. She has suspicions that her father was human. Whatever the case may be, she has been a friend to us and I hope that things will continue along those lines for a long time to come.

And now we wait to see if Aoibhell can find the texts that we need to help the townspeople. I will keep you apprised of what happens.

Love always,

Jana


Tanith’s Diary

Things are looking pretty bright on the work front. The first meeting went well, and everyone, well except Alil, were very pleased with the concert. Aoibhell, their representative, seems to be eager to get peace restored. She and Alexis got along fine in the meeting, and Alil was mostly unable to cause strife between them.

Off the record, Ashlin, a person of many talents, has figured out the crux of the issue: namely that the Fey were summoned as Elemental helpers by the Vatazin, and are still doing their work tending to the White Forest and protecting the core of the Vatazin’s laboratory. They accepted, nudged by Aoibhell, the new owners of the Observatory and such to be the Human and Night People refugees who found the place. However Nicnevin, their leader, is less sanguine toward the humans, and does not in any way seem inclined to obey them. Now obeisance was never really their job. Rather, it was to protect the area. And when the people of Lumina unknowingly did harm to it, they Fey were trapped between obligation to protect them and obligation to destroy them or at least chase them off. Aoibhell seemed inclined to help them while Nicnevin chafed somewhat at being unable to directly stop them. Also, an impaled, trapped, Sorcerer Queen Lich is trapped inside the main lab, which Nicnevin guards fiercely. This was incidentally the lab Tavia wanted into and possibly the Vampires’ ultimate target as well.

Ashlin convinced Aoibhell to speak to Nicnevin about getting a certain book from it the people of Lumina can use to properly maintain the Vatazin’s creation. This is easier said then done as the trapped Sorcerer is there. But they seemed confident something is being worked out.

Oh, and the Vampires are apparently just being jerked around for Nicnevin to work out her frustrations on. They have no intentions of siding with them. Which is good since Darcy just slept with Nicnevin’s concubine Caelia. One Vampire did try and take Ling, but Jana, Maria and Darcy wiped it out.

Personal notes… last night at the concert Jadzia hooked up with Alexis and it was adorable. They wound up holding hands during the love songs. Being between Jadzia and Jana I had no lack of hands to hold myself. It was super romantic though, just all-around; Ling does great concerts. Jadzia retired with Alexis so I decided to give Jana my full attention. It was lovely, and I always do what I can to improve her mood.

Jadzia asked Jana and I for permission for the relationship this morning and of course I agreed. I don’t mind adding a star if Jadzia cares for her. Plus, selfishly, Alexis is cute. Jana also mentioned having a lover in Kern, one Father is already working on getting out for her (of course). The snag is her lover is a man, Marcus. I…am more bothered by that than I should be. I mean, Jana should be free to love who she wants, love is beautiful and sex is beautiful, so long as this Marcus does not try and break our union. But he being a man bothers me…I don’t know, I like men but the idea of I or Jadzia or Jana in bed with one sits poorly with me. I know Jadzia has had male lovers before, so this is clearly my problem. We shall see; I will meditate on it.

Jadzia is dealing with more than Alexis, though. Blackstar, the mercenary guarding the door, revealed her name had been taken (?) by the Black Star of Drunac and it actually possessed her awhile. She had it till it was stolen by Justine (who seduced her and stole it while she was asleep.) Justine apparently threw it in the sea when the Witch came for it, as she was able to resist it’s draw. And if she can I can. Anyway.

I was feeling slightly left out with all the talk of romance when outside my door as Jana and I left Ling was waiting, hair artfully tussled wearing only a long shirt, complaining of being bored in a…provoking voice. Jana left with an air of resignation just before my hand was on Ling’s throat and knee between her thighs against the wall. The past couple hours have actually been marvelous. Ling knows how to build tension in a good way very well and I think with all going on it was cathartic for both of us.

But now is our second negotiation session. Ling plans to speak on behalf of the town, and encourage reconciliation. Admittedly she is wobbly on her legs like a new fawn, but she is eager to help. I find myself eager to get this job tied up, but in no hurry to leave. Perhaps my Vata aspects are intrigued by this place. After all, I really feel like with that Vision it accepted me as Vata. Or so I like to hope.

We will see.

End Session XXV

Nyassa was the vampire plaguing Cassilda and the Hyades family, remember?

Justine has a significant amount of Willpower and managed to shake off the control attempt of the artifact, unlike Blackstar

Aoibhell’s nature is a notable story point, but not mechanical point. In game terms she is a Fey Reveler without anything unusual beyond being more empathic toward humans than most Fey. But the question is, being in a Vatazin lab, is was she changed magically? Was she actually half human? A special experiment? That is not going to be answered yet. This is not the last story concerning Lumina I have plans for.

Darcy had to make a Constitution (Stamina) and Willpower (Self-Discipline) roll to be functional the next day and not be addicted to Caelia after sleeping with her. He made both as fully as possible.

To be clear, the Fey do not precisely understand how everything works around Lumina. They know the residents are messing things up, they know some of how things work, but while they cannot (in their mind) advise the humans, it is not pure stricture to the rules (not that they would admit that, of course).

The Vampire fight was very one sided (by design) once they saw the stealthing vampire (the real challenge). A Knock Prone stunt was used to make the creature fall and he was pretty screwed at that point. Ling used Light Shaping to create the illusion (that and Sound Shaping are the Arcana she knows).

Alexis asked Tanith with Psychic Communication if her and Jana’s relationship with Jadzia was open. Tanith encouraged her to go for it if she wished.

Ling imitated Pima’s petulance to be bratty in her seduction of Tanith the second time.

Well I hope you enjoyed it. I expect the story to wind up next session, but we will see. Comments and Questions welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#53
The Cradle completes their task in Lumina. A final battle with vampires, a final concert, and a high-risk mission into the heart of the Fey territory.

Session XXVI

The Bard’s Tale Part IV

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 18 Anwanar

Well, Sen always did say that if diplomacy failed, it was time for espionage to pick up the slack. Not that diplomacy failed, per se (yes, I know that Sen always thinks that diplomacy has failed unless she has everything she wants and the other party has nothing), but it did reach something of a stand-off. But! The day was in fact saved, all will be well with the fey, the crystal was recovered, and no one got eaten by Too Many Teeth. Not bad for a few days work.

As you recall, the plan was to get the instruction manual and help the humans figure out what they needed to do. Maria even offered to translate a copy of the book under supervision, so that the fey would be assured that all was well with it. Aiobhell snuck by last night to let me know last night that that plan was a no-go. Apparently Nicnevin has been in a mood (for a couple of centuries) and feels like the humans are just being purposefully obtuse – they should just know what to do, like the fey just know what to do.

Luckily, Aiobhell had a plan! She had communed with the guardian magics about the place, and determined that they would allow the vata in our party in. So she, Jana, and Tanith could sneak in and retrieve the book, if we could come up with a way to distract Nicnevin, Caelie and Redlin. As it turns out, Ling had promised a concert, provided the fey come down on the side of the vampires, and wouldn’t you know it, but those dang vampires went and got themselves killed, which, I mean, pretty means you lose, right?

That happened right after negotiations yesterday. Apparently, Alil showed up to them with… well, with flowers growing out of his empty eye sockets, and a vine occasionally sprouting through his mouth. He was a bit indisposed, that is to say. Tanith thankfully didn’t bless us with a visual of that – I know that his very existence is an affront to the gods (Darcy has mentioned it a few times), but I’m not sure I could help but feel guilty for being the cause of something like that happening to someone who at least looks like a person, as that was definitely a punishment for sending someone after Ling.

Anyway, with him being as indisposed as he was, and I having made good use of the negotiating time to discover the hill the vampires had decided to die on, it seemed like a good time for an ambush. They went for height and vantage over cover, and complained loudly enough about their 10 arrows, that I at least was considerably less worried about a frontal assault (Jadzia, for her part, was never worried). And everything worked out about that well, especially after Maria blew four of the five of them (and their poor, falling apart skeleton pal too) straight down the hill into our open arms, and then Darcy charged up the hill to kick the last one down. I even got a hit in. They were focusing on Tanith and Maria, but nothing they couldn’t heal or handle, respectively. Darcy did apparently cut a dashing figure – Maria was very straightforward about rewarding her valiant protector.

Alil wasn’t there, of course, and I did say all the vampires were gone (actually, I implied there were all killed, but why would you trust anything I would say?). He upped and disappeared, while Aiobhell was talking to me it seems. We tried the whole scrying thing (for the record, having one’s eyes and optical nerves does not aid in that particular mystical endeavor). Still, Tanith was able to get eyes on him - unfortunately, he was in a dark building hiding from the sun. So, no real clues other than he was far enough away to be out from under the canopy, and it probably wasn’t worth chasing after him. So Nyassa Hyades is going to be super-de-duper happy with us. It’ll be great!

Well, since we won by default, and since Nicnevin wasn’t really going to argue about another Ling concert, we planned one for that night. Maria and I had a tete-a-tete – our secondary plan for distracting Nicnevin, if they needed more time, was to have Maria engage her in scholarly discussion of the cultivation of crystals, as that seems to have been the main purpose of this whole laboratory system. Or at least one of them. Not only would this hopefully give the, lets call them a scouting party, more time, but it might give us some information about the crystal Tavia wanted, if Maria could slip it in there carefully enough.

In regards to that – Tavia is a strange woman. I found her yesterday having a tea party with the thankfully non-animated head of a mongrel-man (who is apparently named Clarence). I was in fact looking for her, to get a description of the crystals, so it wasn’t one of her usual surprise visits. The surprise visit came later, and was actually to Dana – they came by as they had heard we might be looking for a naked lady who snored very loudly and had a sign saying she would lick your eyeball for money, and there just happened to be one in their attic.

Maria and I went to see if we couldn’t encourage her to move back into a room at the inn or some such. Apparently, her room had had too many teeth in it, which was why she had left through the window in the first place. Her room was still paid for, so we managed to convince the innkeeper to just let her change rooms for one without quite as many teeth. As we passed by her old room, we could hear something gnawing at the door, something the innkeeper said hadn’t been happening in the two times he’d been in there since Tavia left.

After we got her settled, and the others came up from the guest house, we checked the room out and found… nothing. Well, other than the teeth marks of something with an overbite wider than my armspan. It matched something Tanith had read about a kind of darkfiend, and since it only seemed to be active when Tavia was nearby, it seemed pretty clear it was after Tavia. So we went back to Tavia’s room – well, I did. Tavia was pretty intent on, let’s call it seducing Maria, and Maria was trying to subtly avoid such things, so I bit the bullet. But I did manage to convince her to go towards Aldis City (not to it, as apparently the roads there burn her feet) with a promise that should we be at able to, we’d bring her the crystal, and introduce her to some people that would be able to help. We’ll see how that goes, but I have decently high hopes.

So, the espionage! Jana, Tanith and Aiobhell managed to slip out safely. Ling picked a particularly romantic one, which served well as an excuse once Nicnevin did notice. Redlin noticed first, and even went after them, but I got some distance as soon as he made himself scarce, and then used the stone Aiobhell had given me, the one that summoned him. He believed me right away when I said I thought I’d seen Alil (I think he had a hankering for stomping on vampires) and went tromping off in the vague direction I pointed in. Maria had slightly less luck distracting Nicnevin when she left early, though she did give enough pause that the others were able to safely away, and managed to put the seed of the assignation excuse in her mind. One that Tanith, Jana, and Aiobhell were happy to turn into the truth, as well.

They had the most fun of all, and I don’t just mean after the excitement. Tanith kept up a steady stream of pictures and commentary, which had Maria salivating. Passages formed from gem-encrusted roots, singing gem bugs that spelled out lyrics, a large room full of glass bookshelves with stained glass flowers that unfolded into lanterns shining directly onto the book you choose and other stained glass flowers that unfolded into comfortable seating. The perpetually dying Sorcerer Queen impaled upon a giant tree a couple hallways away might have put a bit of a damper on things, but I’m sure Maria could come to ignore it. They found the book relatively quickly, and the gem they found by asking for it – apparently just asking for gems got them showered upon them, and asking for one by a description got a serious of flashing crystals that led them straight to the laboratory where just the thing was resting a pedestal labelled ‘Mind’, which seemed fitting. It didn’t seem to be any sort of linchpin, or corrupted, or anything that would give a reason for it to need to stay, so they grabbed it up and booked it. There was apparently an epic dive necessary to escape through the slowly closing doorway, but with Tanith’s magic, they made it, if just barely.

And so, we have the crystal, Maria is currently translating the book for the townsfolk as I write this, nobody is in trouble with the capricious fey queen, many vampires are dead, and Tavia may very well actually speak with a practiced Mindhealer. All in all, I think we did good. And now, since we’ll likely travel much faster than Tavia, I can spend some time with Aiobhell and help her get in touch with her human side. A miller is an odd choice, but I can understand wanting to try on different clothing now and again.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse-Sense

(Whispered in Rezean beneath the canopy of Lumina)

“Yes, Salkhi, I know that the others have been ready to go for some time, and that I have checked your tack three times already. I confess that I am loathe to leave this beautiful town. I have grown fond of the trees, the glow of the shas crystals, the vampire-free streets…

“…and yes, Alexis most of all. While we prepare for the long ride back to Aldis City, she is readying herself to ride for the Kernish front, where she will serve as a liaison between Zacchaeus and Trebizond. The gods only know how long we will be parted, and I would delay that parting as long as I might.

“The town’s troubles seem to have been resolved, though such an outcome was not achieved purely through mediation in this instance. Despite Ashlin and Aiobhell’s best efforts, Nicnevin was not inclined to allow the people of Lumina to inspect the Vatazin text which would instruct them on the proper care of the Vatazin systems; she seemed to believe that if they were meant to do so they should inherently know how to. This may be the way things work for the Fey, but it is rarely so with mortals. I was not present for this discussion, though Tanith did send me a mental image of Alil, who had been punished for the crime of sending a vampire to turn Ling. His eyes were gone; they had been replaced by flowers. Another flowering vine grew up from his throat, preventing him from speaking. It was most humorous.

“Ashlin managed to track down the rest of the vampires (and their single remaining skeletal servant). They had taken refuge on a small shelf on the side of a large hill, reckoning that the high ground would give them the advantage if anyone should attack them there. Without Alil’s guidance, they seemed to be contemplating a strategic retreat. Rather than allow that, we sought them out… but you remember that combat as well as I do, I am sure. Maria summoned a powerful wind to knock the vampires off of their lofty perch, and then we descended upon them and struck.

“I will give the vampires this much credit: they were not fools when it came to choosing their targets. They recognized that our adepts posed the greatest overall threat and fired their bows at Maria and Tanith, eschewing more obvious combatants. It did not save them in the end. My soul burned when I saw my beloved Sunflower pierced by the fiends’ weapons, but I know that she is more capable than most people realize, and her healing magic was more than up to the task of keeping her safe. And besides that, I knew that Jana would allow no true harm to befall our lover. My Starlight was magnificent today, wading into the thickest part of the combat and hurling threats and insults at our foes to ensure that they kept their attention focused on her. Their weapons never so much as touched her. Darcy and Ashlin played their parts well… the former rushing up the hill to engage the sole vampire who had managed to retain his perch while the latter used his knives to finish off our weakened foes. Maria had enchanted our weapons, ensuring that the vampires could not recover from our death blows.

“And Alexis and I – and you and Squall – we were truly a magnificent fighting unit. The effectiveness of well-trained cavalry cannot be overstated. We dashed in and out of the fray, spearing our foes upon our lances and lashing at them with hooves, and then riding away before they could retaliate. With so many of our compatriots in the thick of the battle, our foes could ill afford to fire their few remaining arrows at us. At one point, the two of us rode down the same foe from opposite directions, laughing and grinning as our blows struck home.

“When the fight was finished – our last remaining foe was a pathetic skeleton with but one arm and one leg – we briefly took stock of our situation before returning to town. My Sunflower had used her magic to bolster my strength, and that always leaves me a bit winded. After assuring that none of my friends or lovers were seriously hurt, I sat down upon a flat stone and closed my eyes to catch my breath.

“I felt a hand running through my hair a moment later and leaned into the caress, believing it to be Tanith. I was, however, only mildly surprised when I heard Alexis’ soft voice in my ear, asking if I would like to join her once more at her home that evening. I glanced over at Tanith and Jana, but they both encouraged me to go with Alexis, knowing that our available time together would be limited.

“The two of us made our way to her house, where I learned that Alexis had apparently moved past her uncertainty regarding physical relationships with other females. Her seduction was slow and uncertain at first; she offered to help wash the blood and dust out of my hair if I would do the same for her. I agreed that this was a good plan, and the two of us retired to her bathing chamber and slowly helped each other out of our respective armor. Scrubbing and combing progressed to massages and caresses, which in turn led to kisses and… other things.

“We spent a great deal of time in the bathing chamber and in her bedchamber discovering each other. Alexis seems to have no lingering doubts about our relationship; she was tender and attentive and altogether… loving. When we had sated our desires, I lay there in her arms, my head nestled on her left shoulder while my fingers traced lazy patterns on her lower belly. She expressed how glad she was that we had found each other, and I replied with similar sentiments… even going so far as to confess that I had found her very intriguing for some months.

“I awoke the next morning still in her embrace. Her soft breath stirred my hair, and her own long silvery hair lay across the two of us like the first snow of winter. I kissed her throat softly until she woke, and I called her my tsas, my Snowfall. Her breast rose and fell, she opened her eyes, she smiled, and my heart soared. We lay there a while longer, gazing at each other, comfortable and happy.

“For the most part the day was pleasant and uneventful. Ling spent most of the day preparing for the promised second concert, while my friends devised a way to use the concert to get what the town needed. Aiobhell had informed us that the Vatazin ruins beneath Nicnevin’s throne were riddled with deadly traps, but that these traps might not be triggered by those with Vatazin blood in their veins, like Tanith and Jana. While Nicnevin and her subjects were distracted by the concert, my lovers planned to infiltrate the ruins, find the book the townsfolk needed, and escape with Nicnevin none the wiser.

“Aiobhell also told us that Alil had fled during the night, leaving bits of himself behind where the roots and plants had bound him. We discussed the possibility of scrying his location or tracking him down, but both seemed impractical. Tanith was able to use her magic to catch a glimpse of the vampire’s location, but all that she was able to determine was that he was in an abandoned shack, somewhere out from under the canopy. I have no doubt that I could have tracked him, but vampires can move very swiftly by night, and I would have been slowed by the necessities of following his trail. So we decided to let him go. For now.

“Oh, by infiltrating the Vatazin ruins, my friends also hoped to locate a particular crystal which Tavia believed would shield her thoughts from Melisandre’s psychic espionage. It was unfortunately evident that the bitch has not given up her hunt for Tavia; we found evidence that she had sent some sort of darkfiend assassin to kill the lunatic in her room at the inn. Ashlin, being a kind soul, convinced Tavia to journey toward Aldis City to a place where we could meet her… a place which he believed could help her.

“The concert was excellent as always, and by all accounts the infiltration of the Vatazin ruins was even more breathtaking, but I only had eyes for my Snowfall. After the first romantic song, Alexis and I fell into each other’s arms and did not emerge for some time. Do not look at me so, Salkhi… I would have gone with them had I been able, but my human blood would have triggered the traps within the ruins. And I trusted them to keep each other safe. As there was no way I could contribute, I chose to occupy myself with… other pursuits.

“Tanith, Jana, and Aiobhell slipped out early in the concert, giving the impression that the three of them were off to engage in a tryst (a deception which they made true later that evening, apparently). Tanith used our psychic link to send back marvelous images of a system of caverns lit by glowing crystals which bloomed from the root system like flowers. The ruins were sentient, providing guidance and amenities at the barest suggestion from one of my vata’sha lovers. It took them a while to find the book they needed, but the crystal Tavia had requested was provided as soon as they asked for it.

“Nicnevin did eventually become suspicious of their absence, and she sent the tree-like Redlin to investigate their departure, but Ashlin was able to divert him with the aid of a magic crystal and a hastily crafted story about spotting Alil on the outskirts of town (well away from Nicnevin’s pagoda, of course). Redlin was so eager to do harm to the vampire that he did not question this story at all, but immediately began searching for his elusive (and long absent) prey. Nicnevin herself left the concert shortly after that. Maria attempted to detain her with a scholarly discussion, but the Fey monarch would not be deterred. Luckily, my lovers and Aiobhell managed to slip out of the caverns – which were in the process of sealing themselves – before Nicnevin returned to her home.

“Over the course of the next day, Maria was able to copy and translate the manual into a form usable by the people of Lumina… and I rather suspect she made a copy for herself as well. There should be no further trouble between the humans and Fey of the area. We have fostered peace, ensured the continuing function of a Vatazin machine, and slain a large number of shadowspawn. Our mission here is done.

“Which means that the time has come for me to say goodbye.

“Forgive me, Salkhi… I need a moment more.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Marcus,

If you ever wanted to know just how capricious and cruel the Fey can be I can answer that for you now. We arrived at the negotiations to find Alil a little worse for the wear. Apparently the Fey had taken offense at the attempted vampire attack on Ling and punished Alil for it. He had flowers growing out of his eye sockets, and something growing out of his throat that Aoibhell plucked a few times during the course of our talks. Alil seemed rather calm about his situation though. At least he wasn’t thrashing about or anything. He seemed resigned to his fate. I was just a little bit horrified by what they’d done to him. I mean, he’s a vampire so I didn’t really feel that bad for him, but it was more the idea that that is how they punish those who cross them. To be fair people were punished in just as creative ways in Kern. Usually involving sorcery. I know the whole thing disturbed my lover and she did not share the image with anyone that wasn’t there unless they wanted to see it. On the ironic side the flower that was growing from Alil’s eyes is usually one found growing on graves.

After the negotiations we all got together to compare notes. Ash told us about having found the rest of the vampires in the woods. Apparently they were hiding on a ledge on a hill not far from where we were. They were awaiting word from Alil but had not heard from him in a while and were concerned. We decided to just sweep the area clean of them and attack them in one go. We went to the site and Maria used her arcana to summon a wind to blow the vampires off of the cliff face and down into the valley where we were waiting. One managed to stand his ground, but that was not necessarily to his benefit. Before we got to do that though they all got to fire arrows at the targets of their choice, which in this case turned out to be Maria and Tanith. I guess that they figured the adepts would be the biggest threat and attacked them first. Once their first round of arrows was done we managed to bring them down to our level and fight them one on one. Mostly. I managed to antagonize several of them into attacking me so they would leave my lover and my friend alone for a moment or two. Maria’s arcana was essential in bringing them down the hill so we could reach them. They fought back, still mainly aiming for the arcana users, but we were able to fight them on our own level and take many of them down before they could do more harm to my friends. I was happy about having so many of them focus their ineffectual attacks on me since that meant that they were no longer attacking the people that I care about. Jadzia and Alexis made a formidable team attacking the undead from this way and that from horseback. They managed to time their attacks just right so the enemy felt each and every blow strike home.

There was one vampire that was not blown down the hill by Maria’s arcanum, so Darcy made his way up the hill and engaged the vampire still up there. He landed a few blows and sent the vampire falling down the hill to where the rest of us were. He followed, sliding down the hill like it was a natural thing for him to do. Darcy then proceeded to attack the vampire, dealing great wounds to it before the rest of us could even register its presence. Ash did his part, killing one of the vampires that was attacking my friends. The vampire was not looking all that great beforehand, but Ashlin managed to land a critical strike on it killing it once and for all. The last thing standing, ironically enough, was the skeleton that the vampires summoned. We had focused on the vampires and the skeleton was mainly trying to hit me and missing so we left it alone until the end. Then we finished it off, or should I say Jadzia finished it off in one fell swoop. I don’t think that I got hurt at all during that fight. I mainly spent my time guarding Ling and fighting vampires. I suppose that I should have been protecting my lover or my friend since the vampires seemed keen on killing them first, but they gestured for me to keep protecting Ling when I started towards them. Ling helped in her own way, providing advantages to us and detriments to the vampires as we fought; such is the way of her arcanum.

The next day Aoibhell came by with the news that Alil had fled during the night, leaving bits of himself behind. She asked if any one of us wanted his eyes or part of his insides, but we all turned her down. I don’t think any of us wanted anything to do with him. Plus it was just kind of gross. After that though we discussed our options. Our plan was to have Tanith and myself go down to the cavern underneath the pagoda with Aoibhell during the second concert that Ling was going to put on after the negotiations were done. We rightly figured that with all the vampires gone there was little more to discuss. At least as far as who got to keep control of the town goes. It was obviously the humans and nightfolk that had settled here that won that argument.

Also, before the concert Ash and Maria went in search of Tavia, who they heard was sleeping in Dana’s attic. Dana directed them to the less than fully clothed sorceress and they proceeded to try and help her. She did not want to go back to the room in the inn because she said there were too many teeth. They went back to the inn with her and arranged to get her a different room. While walking down the hall Maria and Ashlin heard a loud gnashing of teeth against the door to the room that Tavia had once inhabited. After a quick exploration, and not seeing anything but teeth marks, we determined that some sort of shadownspawn or darkfiend assassin had been sent to the town to kill Tavia. It seemed to stay in the room that she had rented but only became physical when Tavia herself was present. For any of the rest of us, it was simply not there. Ashlin came up with the idea of Tavia leaving town for her safety and us meeting up with her later to give her the crystal that she wanted, if we could get it for her. She agreed and took Ashlin’s offered cloak before scampering off out of town.

As for Tanith and I, we were going to go down to the ruins beneath the pagoda with Aoibhell. She said that the traps that were lain in the ruins under the pagoda would ignore Tanith and I since we were descended from Vatazin blood. It made sense to me. As long as we stayed away from the sorcerer queen I was okay with us going down there to look for the book. Aoibhell assured us that we could enter and leave the area without disturbing her, so we made our way down while the concert was going on. We attended the concert at first, but then after a couple of songs, during a particularly romantic song, Tanith, Aoibhell and I snuck out, holding hands, to presumably have relations. That was what we wanted folks to think anyway. And it worked, for a while. The three of us made it to the pagoda and followed the now open tunnel leading down. It was lit by blue crystals glowing out of the vine covered path. Crystals lit the whole way down until we came to the chamber underneath the pagoda. Inside there was the figure of a woman with a great tree growing out of the middle of her. She was splayed out like she had been caught mid-stretch. She wore a fetching tiara that seemed to call to me when I looked at it. I looked at it for a moment before realizing that it was an evil artifact and ignored it after that. Tanith looked at the tiara for a moment as well, before looking away. I was prepared to pull my lover away from the evil artifact if necessary, but it turned out that precaution was not called for.

After the sorcerer queen we saw wonderous things. There were glass flowers that bloomed out of the walls and glowed faintly when we passed. If we touched one it chimed softly with a beautiful sound. The crystals and flowers also provided light whenever we looked at a particular book and even went so far as to form chairs should we want to sit and read awhile. It was truly a magical place. We had a mission to complete though and so we continued on through the ruins. Maria was mind linked to us so she could help us find the book that we sought after. After a little while I managed to find a book that fit Maria’s description. We got a message around that time that we needed to get out of the ruins fast because Nicnevin and Redlin were starting to become suspicious at our absence. We then just asked out loud where the crystal that we were looking for was. We needed one that was red with blue veins going through it. It was a hybrid crystal and the ruins lit up a path until we found the exact crystal that we were looking for. It was on a pedestal that was labeled in old Vatazin “Mind.” We did not have time to confirm what the mind crystal could do, we just grabbed it and ran out of the ruins fast. The exit was closing itself as we approached and we all ran and jumped out of the tunnel before it closed on us. We then ran for the town and met up with Darcy. We gave him the book to give to Maria and the crystal. We also made our clothes look disheveled so we could say that we had been romantically involved with one another. Aoiblhell then invited us to her bed for real and Tanith immediately accepted. The Fey woman asked me if I’d join them, and Tanith looked at me longingly, so I considered. I did not know Aoibhell very well, but she is rather attractive, and I found myself curious about what it was like to be with a Fey woman. So I agreed and lost myself to them for the rest of the evening.

And now it is rather late and my lovers have fallen asleep. I will send this to you in the hope that its spirit will reach you and you’ll know that I’m thinking of you. Be safe.

Yours Always,

Jana


Tanith’s Diary

Success! The operation in Lumina has been completed. I confess, I will miss this place. It was so beautiful and so…right. I’d try to get a home here, but residency requirements are strict given the limited space.

The second meeting happened, complete with a disturbingly…infected…Alil. Apparently Nicnevin disapproved of the attempt to turn Ling. He had flowers in his eye sockets, and vines in his body. He could not speak, only write. Aoibhell took great pleasure in his suffering, which was a bit disturbing.

First, we attacked the vampires. Ashlin managed to find their base, and we drove them into the ground. They targeted Maria and I, but we were tougher than that. Maria knocked all but one off the ledge they were on, and Darcy took care of the last. Jadzia and Alexis ran them down on horseback. Ling sang a ballad behind us. It was brutal and over quickly.

We returned, and Jadzia retired with her new love Alexis, and I spent the night with Jana. Darcy and Maria spent the night too…apparently the fight got things going between them. Ain’t love grand?

The next morning Aoibhell appeared at our house and revealed Alil had fled. She had not been able to convince Nicnevin to give over the book, due to in part her annoyance at Darcy sleeping with Caelia and also her general…issues…with Mortals. She and Ashlin proposed we distract Nicnevin and company with a victory concert and she lead the Vata, Jana and I, into the base against the Fey Queen’s wishes. The defenses in the base would not target Jana or I, due to our Vata blood.

While we waited, Dana appeared at our door, saying a strange nude woman was sleeping in their house. We figured it was Tavia, and we were correct. Maria and Ashlin got her from there to the hotel, where her room was paid up. Apparently she talked about teeth in her room, and something monstrous could be heard chewing at the door…but only when Tavia was there. Ash summoned the rest of us, who investigated and found it…very empty. Some magical assassin. Ash went and talked Tavia into fleeing to Aldis City. Hopefully she will be safe. I can’t believe I am saying that.

That evening of the concert came, and Jana, Aoibhell and I slipped out during “Your Friend for Now” which Ling, to her credit, really went out of her way to up her visual effects for. Aoibhell unblocked the throne, and we descended. The inside started as a twisting hallway surrounded by stone like roots, but after the trapped Sorcerer Queen (whose Tiara seemed magically tempting to Jana and I, though of course my iron willed beloved easily ignored it) turned into beautiful gemmed flowers, and gems in the hall. Some gems even played music, and the whole place seemed to obey my verbal commands (in Aldin) and as Aoibhell predicted, the traps ignored us. There was a gorgeous library, but nearly all was in Old Vatazin and we were pressed for time, so I did not get much time to browse. A few were in Old Aldin, often with titles I remember from the Academy though not all. Jana stumbled over the book first, and we managed to get the flowers and gems to guide us to where Tavia’s stone was. We took it quickly and withdrew.

Meanwhile, apparently first Redlin then Nicnevin grew suspicious. Redlin started to make his way up but Ash cleverly used the stone they were given to summon him for help a good hike in the wrong direction. Maria slowed Nicnevin best she could. Meanwhile Nicnevin closed the doors, and Jana, Aoibhell and I had to take a running leap out! I used my newfound skills to enhance my strength, and it worked!

Aoibhell’s cover was having seduced us during the love song, so we…made sure to be thorough, first passing Darcy the book so he could get the material to Maria. We have every confidence that once she translates it the people of Lumina will take better care of their gift now knowing how to.

Situation dealt with, Alexis has to leave, which makes her and Jadzia quite unhappy. I will be taking extra good care of my flower of the plains in the next few days, and Alexis and I both have Arcana we can use to keep communication. Ling should really get back to the irate Fairlights and has noted, with eagerness, that she hopes I come by for a sleepover soon. There is not much romantic between us, but we have strong sexual chemistry and are definitely parting ways as friends. Just as well, I have a very tough, resilient girl with a tender heart who needs taking care of, and I am glad Jana is with me to help. I really am very fortunate.

End Session XXVI

The Bard’s Tale Completed

I love a happy ending.

Okay let’s see…Vampire fight, Maria used Wind Shaping to summon such a hefty wind only one Vampire managed to resist and stay present. Knowing the Adepts presented the biggest threats to them, the Vampires targeted them almost exclusively, save when Jana could Threaten them off of them, which made the battle more hectic. The Skeleton was obliging enough to go after Jana. Fortunately, Tanith and Maria are not newbies, and Tanith is a strong healer so the outcome was not really in doubt.

So the tricky thing was with the final leg only Maria knows Old Vatazin. She and Tanith both know Old Aldin, but Vatazin is all her, so Tanith had to rely on the written title and double checking with Psychic Contact. She managed to use Enhancement to help herself and Jana escape the rapidly closing doors to the lab.

Tavia will get help, maybe? You have not seen the last of her.

So next week we will see part of the handouts for the next story Dark Tides Cresting. Then in two weeks that story begins. Hope to see you there. Comments and Questions welcome
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#54
It’s an off week, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into the next story. As I often do, I sent out handouts to the players with info on the story. Because some had personal background there, some were ranking spies and this was enemy territory, and other reasons they accounts were a bit more…varied this time. Rather than telling you who got what, I will post a subject then at the end of each paragraph who got it with A for Ashlin, D for Darcy, J for Jadzia, N for Jana, M for Maria and T for Tanith. Jana’s initials being J and T made this a bit more complicated, but this should work out. If several paragraphs have a letter at the end, the player got a longer entry. You get the idea.

This time I am only posting stuff that came up in session 1. It could constitute mild spoilers but it is info the players got so I would not worry too much. Still, you can skip it if you wish, as always. Anyway, enjoy.
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Auchindoun

A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. It is easily accommodating Aldis’s forces and their Jarzoni guests. Commander D’Val has recently been recalled to Aldis City and the Knights of the Blue Rose have taken command, indicating something may be happening soon. (A)

A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. Romer legend has it there may be artifacts and even magical experiments trapped in the unused portions. (D)

A fortress just inside the Icebinder Mountains on the Aldis side, carved by Shapers from the mountain itself. It’s so old and large much of it is no longer even used. It is easily accommodating Aldis’s forces and their Jarzoni guests. Alexis is there. (J, M, T)

A fortress on the Aldis/Kern border where Trebizond, Laodice, Saoirse and Alexis are at present. (N)


Trebizond and Laodice

Trebizond and Laodice have been moved to Auchindoun due to increased activity from Kern. Worries that some of the Shadowed Seven may have allied and seek to spread some of their claim into Aldis are apparently significant enough to have the strategist up there. Trebizond was summoned up by the veteran Commander D’Val. As Saoirse was also recently called up there, you can but assume there is no awkwardness whatsoever. (D, J, N, M, T)


Alexis Winter

Jadzia and Alexis have been doing well. Alexis “calls” once a day and talks about activities. It is dull, mostly, and paranoia inducing. She has killed several undead there. She gets along with her old friend Zacchaeus the Silver Lion, not so much his counterpart Amaiala Arrora, who is as much a stick in the mud as most Knights of Purity are. They have had at least one argument that has nearly turned to blows, broken up by Saoirse.

Saoirse has been doing well, though she and Laodice have some serious UST going on and been snapping at each other. They are likely going to kill each other or fuck sometime. Or both.

Captain D’Val has been pulled back and command given over to Trebizond and the Knights. Something must be happening. (J)


Saoirse

Saoirse is doing well. She gets along better than expected with Zacchaeus the Silver Lion and poorly with his counterpart Amaiala Arrora, who Saoirse regards as prudish. She notes she has been clashing with Laodice, which makes her sad. She also notes Captain D’Val has been pulled back and the Knights and Trebizond given control, which means something is going on but she is concerned about D’Val not being present as he has been doing an excellent job. (M)


Lastlight

A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight is the closest major town to Aldis. The Burgermeister’s name is Lovinia Staunton. (A, D)

A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight shows signs of once being large and prosperous. The large, impressive buildings are decaying, now, and the population stays in whatever building they can keep up. Lastlight was one of the places you have bad memories of, as you were present for the death of the Burgermeister Torrance Staunton. (N)

A trading city on the Kern side of the Icebinder Mountain passes, Lastlight shows signs of once being large and prosperous. The large, impressive buildings are decaying, now, and the population stays in whatever building they can keep up. Lastlight once had a prominent role in moving adepts out of Kern, but that was ended a few years ago and you were forced to abandon the city after Melisandre Nocturna found out and came down on the town. Since then it has been a spot to avoid due to occasional checks. (M)


Torrance Staunton

Torrance was the Burgermeister of Lastlight. He was executed by Melisandre for helping to smuggle Adepts out of Kern with the Travelers of the Sunlit Path. You and Marcus were present for the execution. He was turned into a Shadow serving Melisandre. (N)

Torrance was the Burgermeister of Lastlight, who was an ally to the Travelers of the Sunlit Path in helping smuggle Adepts out of the city. He was killed and turned into an undead by Melisandre. (M)


Lovinia Staunton

The Burgermeister of Lastlight who took over when her husband Torrance was killed for helping adepts and Vata escape Kern. Unlike her husband she was less inclined to work with Aldean agents, but then, can you blame her? She is carrying on a secret relationship with Isabel Renier, who is in charge of security in the area. It would be mildly embarrassing if this came out and could cost Isabel her job but not life unless someone was having a bad day. (A)

The Burgermeister of Lastlight and Torrance’s widow. You and Marcus were present when Melisandre killed her husband Torrance in front of her. She seemed suitably cowed. (N)

The Burgermeister of Lastlight and Torrance’s widow. She refused to have anything to do with the Travelers of the Sunlit Path after the murder of her husband. You suspect much of this is fear rather than loyalty. (M)


Harkon Timothy

The new guardian of Lastlight after the last was…forgiven…by Melisandre for looking the other way when the Travelers of the Sunlit Path used the town as a stopover (thus was allowed to return to the cycle). Pretty much the entire town ships Harkon with Lovinia, but Harkon is more easily swayed by pretty men, the bishier the better. (A)

The guardian of Lastlight after his predecessor was killed by Melisandre. You don’t know much about him except he is apparently very loyal to Lovinia. (M)


Isabel Renier

Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. She is carrying on a secret affair with Lovinia which means her ability to monitor Lastlight, and it’s Burgermeister, for sedition is compromised. Also, she had a Vata’An sister who was hidden as long as they could but was discovered and murdered, so between these things you may be able to leverage her one way or another. She has a soft spot for blondes. (A)

Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. She is loyal to the Seven so far as you know. (N)

Isabel Renier is responsible for security in the general area of Lastlight, outside military operations, of course. Her friendship with Lovinia Staunton was enough that she never apparently investigated Travelers of the Sunlit Path passing through Lastlight. She was never specifically an ally, however. (M)

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Hopefully that has piqued your interest. Next week we start Dark Tides Cresting, and then in two weeks anyone who came up in next Friday’s game and we have intelligence for gets posted.

Just as a note, Auchindoun is a castle in Scotland. There is a Child Ballad about the burning of it. Yes, I know there was a castle in WoW named that. Yes, I am tired of it being brought up. (I should have just called it Mel Senshir)

Hope you enjoyed and see you next week. Of course, Comments and Questions are welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#55
The icy wastes of Kern represent the greatest threat to all life in Aldea, or so they say. And the Cradle are going to walk into it.

As a reminder, any information the PCs got on handouts about what they already knew about the backstory is in the post above. Feel free to consult it.

Session XXVII

Dark Tides Cresting Part I

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 5 Gravihain

I mean, I know this is like my test for master spy and everything, but I always imagined it a bit a daring do with me out on my lonesome, and only me to take the fall if I screwed up… Not that lives aren’t on the line whenever a spy is sent out, it’s just a little more, hmm, visceral? Personal. Something like that. However, we have, collectively, come up with an excellent cover, and the fact that we are over the border and solidly in Kernish territory is only completely nerve-wracking.

You know the situation of course, but to lay it all out - Trebizond asked for a very particular team of Sovereign’s Finest to infiltrate Kern to look into the movements going on just across from Auchindoun, movements Trebizond thinks are precursors to trying to take the fortress and possibly have the backing of 3 of the Seven. So, serious stuff. As it turns out, Melisandre (one of the key orchestrators) has a leak, someone working for her that’s been feeding us info, and wants out. Our task, now that we’re here, is to wait for an unspecified ‘package’ to show up in an abandoned barn on the other side of Lastlight, which will provide us with information on the next stage of the operation, which will likely involve, at some point, extricating our contact.

There’s some political stuff going on at Auchindoun too, thankfully nothing we have to do with, yet. The Knights of Purity are not the most easy going of individuals to deal with (except for Zacchaeus, who is easy going enough for all of them, so it balances out, I suppose – they definitely should give him that wenching allowance, he’s shouldering so much of their easygoing burden), and our Knights of the Blue Rose are making showboat-y style political moves to show up the regular army here, getting Commander D’Val recalled and all that. Tensions that are either going to be really exciting once the fireworks start, or sort themselves out immediately in the heat of battle. Amaiala did want direct reports, but Trebizond’ll be deciding about that – clearly the most reasonable psychic contact target, and probably the first person who’ll be told when we get back in person.

Anyway, our job was to get into Kern. Now, thanks to Maria’s work smuggling people out, and Jana having been smuggled out at some point, folks in Lastlight would probably have recognized them. Poor Maria, in particular, by the way – a lot of the intel we’ve gotten and/or been over has been a list of people she once knew who are dead or undead at the point. She has not been the happiest of folks, though Darcy and Saoirse did their best to distract her, and she has enjoyed getting into character.

The original inspiration was largely hers, in fact. Well, we had decided to go in as ‘traders’/smugglers – an easy explanation for whatever suspicious behavior we might get caught at, easy to explain our, let’s say, less concealable traits, easy to cover at least a slightly extended stay. When Maria was getting her face changed by Tanith, she asked to be made into a canny old woman, ‘smuggler grandmom’ I believe was the wording. So we became ‘Momma’s Family’. I, Oskar, am clearly her favorite, because I am the prettiest. Not a thought in my head, but who needs those when you have exactly the kind of androgynous pretty boy look that Sheriff Harkon likes so much? Darcy is Enzo, the surly disgraced Roamer, ejected from his caravan after stealing from his own family, can you believe it? He’s our teamster, naturally. Jadzia is Gan, a Rezean mercenary we’ve hired. Jana also had her face done by Tanith, and is Sara, the oldest daughter, a plain woman who works metal, doing the odd tinkering job, sharpening knives, that kind of thing. And Tanith herself is Imke, clearly the obvious heir to Momma’s canniness and sharp wit, and the lead barker. She very firmly chose not to go for any Shaping alterations, just some good old fashioned costuming – could be risky, but I can’t say I disapprove, even if we have very different reasoning. She’s got a history of Shaping, apparently, so it wouldn’t be easily reversible, if it went beyond basic cosmetic stuff.

Any road, we got good and set in our personas in the roughly day and a half it took us to go the long way ‘round to Lastlight. We ran under a couple of wyvern patrols, but passed muster, apparently, so no worries there. We did have a bit of excitement after we camped. Something with, just, entirely too many appendages (I think Maria called it a chaos beast?) attacked in the night, but Darcy and Maria dealt with it handily by the time the rest of us finished shaking off sleep.

Here in town things have gone swimmingly. We fiddled with the cart that we borrowed from Auchindoun (as well as enough doodads and geegaws to pass as ‘traders’) so that it looked damaged enough to require some repairs, thus giving us our cover for sticking around for awhile that would allow us to leave as soon as we got our next steps – if we’ve been delayed by a broken wheel, we’ll be behind schedule for… whatever it is we’re planning on doing. It was a sleepy town, much bigger than it needed to be these days. It was full of mansions, many of which were unoccupied, and those that were clearly only were partially occupied. It was an odd feeling, as odd as all the general ‘feelings’ of things had been since we got into Kern. It’s not a super great place, in case you were wondering.

Anyhow, we caught the eye of the guardian Harkon, as well as Isobel, the head of the region’s militia. I mean, we caught the eye of everyone in town, s’kinda the point, but they are who we were fishing for. I had let Tanith in on the dirt I had on Isobel, so her goal was to play up both the blonde and the vata angle, and see what she could get on that front. Best case scenario, she and her militia would defect and help out in whatever fight broke out. Well, let’s be real, that’s not actually the best case, cause it would likely mean at least one town would get slaughtered off the map, if not all of them out of spite. But having her at least sympathetic to our side would be nice however.

Harkon was my mark. We didn’t have anything in particular on him, other than his tastes, but I was hoping to keep tabs on him, or at least help him have a better view of us itinerant folk. It worked like a charm. He mostly bragged about how awesome a job the guardian of the town had done recently (leaving out that he had become guardian even more recently than all that), and warning me to be careful around Isobel, since she had ambitions and an excess of control of the local burgermeisters. Poking around his room (I got him good and drunk first , don’t worry, and since he can obviously out-drink lil old me, I couldn’t have gotten up to anything while he was passed out) revealed more about Isobel again than him, as he had stolen the letters she’d written to Burgermeister Lovinia, love letters that also laid out a plan to have her militia take advantage of the fighting to loot the area, take a cut of the profits, and run away with Lovinia to somewhere they could be together openly. The burgermeister seemed to have not be entirely sold on it, as the letters kept pressing it.

I also found some musings of his about how he’d really like to kill the particular Skull Knights that killed the former guardian, who had been his lover. Can’t say I blame him – more power to him really. Who knows, maybe we’ll wind up helping him out too. Hopefully it won’t come to out and out combat, but I don’t know why we’d hold back from taking out a Skull Knight if we needed to. I’m sure Jadzia would enjoy it.

Tanith had similar luck. Isobel seemed a little less steeped in the propaganda of the area, or maybe was just playing it up less for the benefit of her audience. Tanith found less direct evidence of Isobel’s plans, but was pretty sure that she was preparing to flee the area even before I reported in. There’s definitely not a whole lot of strong loyalty to country there (the box of bones of a vata teenager probably has something to do with that) and on the whole, that’s looking like it has solid possibilities.

Sara and Momma made some new friends too, as people gradually were drawn by the pull of the well-made sharpening tools, and the prospect of something new and interesting to look at. We apparently dodged a bullet in camping – we’d briefly considered pending the night on a rise near Ice Finger Lake, trusting in the mist and high ground to protect us, but there is, it seems, a monster in the lake, one that the Skull Knights are interested in bagging. Of course, it avoids the Skull Knights, somehow, but that doesn’t mean we’d have been safe. Momma asked after ‘those people who took my favorite son and my daughter’ (I’m definitely the favorite) and got mostly good news about our marks. Harkon is not as bad about abusing his position as the people had come to expect, though they were all pretty sure he was sleeping with the burgermeister. People were afraid of Isobel (as one might be expected to be, in their situation) but seemed to legitimately not have anything bad to say, even in a sideways way.

So, we’re all set up, and got here before the package (I checked last night). Now all that remains is to wait it out, and I am cautiously optimistic on that front. There was apparently even talk of Imke getting together with Isobel and Lovinia in the near future, so maybe she can send a little encouragement the burgermeister’s way about getting out of here. And, really, anything that destabilizes the organizational structure of the area is a boon, on the large scale… though, we’re going to have to be careful to not get the countryside slaughtered for it. Gods, this place is wretched.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse-Sense

(Whispered in Rezean in the stables of Lastlight)

“There, Dear One… calm yourself. No, I do not like this place much either, nor do I care for the necessity of hiding our identities while we remain here. I hope that our stay in Kern will be brief… yet I very much fear that we shall need to venture further into this vile country before we shall be allowed to leave it.

“Believe me, I would like nothing more than to return to Auchindoun and the arms of my newest love. The castle was impressive, was it not? I suppose they made it so very tall due to the lack of flat ground upon which to expand. Though I found the view of the castle – and from the castle – somewhat vertiginous, I had no choice but to admire its strategic value. No army can traverse that pass without first taking the castle, and that would be… problematic to say the least.

“Our all too brief stay in Auchindoun was punctuated by alternating periods of joy and frustration. My Snowfall was glad to see me again, and greeted our party personally as we entered the fortress, though the two of us spent much of this meeting displaying admirable restraint in front of the others present. Her good friend Zacchaeus was also a delight; as light-hearted and boastful as anyone I have ever met, belying the stereotypical image of his Jarzoni countrymen. The two of us got along instantly and made tentative plans to share drinks together in happier times.

“His fellow knight Amaiala Arrora, however, was as priggish and self-righteous as you might please. I was already prepared to dislike her, based upon Alexis’ accounts of their recent dealings, and yet I was not prepared for the sheer immensity of her ego and her audacity. As Tanith had previously warned me against ‘making waves’ by upsetting any of our nominal allies, I was able to restrain myself – barely – and refrained from punching her in her smug face. And this was following one brief meeting with the woman. Truly, my Snowfall must have the patience of a saint.

“It was nice to see Trebizond and Laodice again. We all thought so, though Maria had eyes only for Saoirse. Trebizond believes that Kernish forces – likely led by that bitch Melisandre – intend to move on Auchindoun shortly, and thereby gain a foothold in Aldin territory. This play has the support of at least three of the Seven, according to Trebizond. We do not know how they intend to take the fortress, but they must have some viable plan or they would not dare to begin the attack. That they are going to attack is not in question; Trebizond has a source within Melisandre’s household.

“Our task was to penetrate the Kernish borders and reach a small hamlet about a day’s journey away known as Lastlight. There we would receive a message at a prearranged drop point. This message would not only illuminate Melisandre’s plans, but would provide us the information we need to extract Trebizond’s source safely. Trebizond allowed us to look over some of the missives from his informant. Jana did not say anything, but I saw her face when she read the unsigned missive. She recognized the hand and the cadence of the words. Trebizond’s source is Marcus.

“Jana was quiet as we took our evening meal and prepared to bed down for the night, though the mood among the rest of us was jubilant. I boasted at one point, as I am sometimes wont to do when in high spirits, and Jana snapped that I should not underestimate the challenges which awaited us in Kern. I felt myself… chastened. Under other circumstances I might have been angry, but… the look in my Starlight’s eyes was most sobering. She faces the darkest pieces of her past, and she is afraid. Kern has taken much from her, and she does not want it to take the new life she has found as well.

“Before Alexis and I retired for the evening, I stepped up to Jana and slipped my arms around her from behind. I told her in hushed tones that I had not meant to make light of her concerns, and that I would stand by her no matter the obstacles in our path. I kissed the top of her head – only possible for me because she was seated – and then allowed myself to be led away.

“The evening was most pleasant, even if most of it was spent in actual slumber, following a brief but passionate reaffirmation of our affections. Our prolonged separation has not dimmed our feelings for each other, and we fell asleep in each other’s arms, still caressing and mumbling sweet endearments to each other.

“We rose early the next morning. The Cat’s Cradle intended to disguise ourselves as a family of traveling peddlers. Maria and Jana, both of whom are known in this area, opted to change their appearances with Flesh Shaping arcana. Jana merely looks older and plainer, but Maria has undergone a full transformation, becoming a toothless, wrinkled old crone. Tanith, Jana, and Ashlin will be posing as her children, whether naturally or by adoption was left vague. Darcy is posing as a drover and teamster, while I am playing the role of a Rezean mercenary guard. This character’s name is Gan, so if you hear the others refer to me so, do not let it concern you.

“We rode out early after saying our farewells, taking a somewhat circuitous path to Lastlight so that we might avoid the ghoul-infested battleground which lay astride the most direct route. Consequently, traveling as we were by wagon, it took us more than a day to reach the settlement. We spotted one wyvern patrol from far off, but they did little more than mark our presence and move on. We camped one evening, setting three watches as usual. Nothing of note occurred on my watch, though Maria and Darcy were forced to lay waste to a creature known as a ‘chaos beast.’ The battle was over before the rest of us were even roused from our slumber, so it can’t have been much of an opponent. I take some solace in that fact for missing the battle.

“This country is a miserable place, and we all felt it as soon as we rode past its borders. Lastlight itself is a fairly dismal, oppressed village… though I suppose that is not the fault of its inhabitants. We immediately took rooms and set ourselves up as traveling merchants (or possibly smugglers). Jana employed herself as a tinker, sharpening knives and mending kettles. Darcy and I kept a wary eye upon her and Maria, while Tanith and Ashlin set about gathering information.

“Ashlin allowed himself to be seduced by Harkon, the town’s ‘guardian.’ He seems an earnest if none too bright fellow, and Ashlin learned much about the inner workings of the town’s politics from him. Chief among these revelations was the fact that Isabel, the leader of the town’s militia, is engaged in an illicit affair with Lovinia, the town’s ‘burgermeister,’ which is I think a sort of mayor or chieftain. Isabel has written her lover letters urging her to run away with her, and outlining plans to utilize the coming battle as a distraction so the two of them can loot the area and escape together.

“Tanith, in the meanwhile, had seduced Isabel herself. As the leader of the local militia, she is of key strategic import in any battle which might occur in the coming days. If we can convince her to withhold her militia – or perhaps even to turn them against the Kernish forces – then we will have struck a powerful blow for Aldis. On the other hand, if Lastlight acts against the Seven in this matter, we shall need to evacuate the town. None of us wants to leave these people to their tender mercies… especially not for the crime of helping us. But in any case, Tanith is in Isabel’s good graces at the moment, and might have the opportunity to extend her influence to Lovinia in the near future.

“Ashlin also crept out to an abandoned barn on the outskirts of town to check on the package from Trebizond’s contact. It had not yet arrived as of last night. And so we must wait.

“I hate waiting.

“I hate this country.

“The idea of waiting for something to happen in this country is intolerable. Perhaps we should take a ride together.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Mother,

I’m coming home. I didn’t particularly want to, but our assistance was asked for specifically by Trebizond in Auchindoun. He said that he needed our services for a very important mission. When we arrived in Auchindoun we talked with him, Laodice, Saoirse, Alexis, and two Knights of Purity, Zacchaeus and Amaiala Arrora. Trebizond wanted us to go to the town of Lastlight and meet up with an agent of his and extract said agent, who was a member of Melisandre’s staff. This agent had sent missives to Trebizond explaining what was going on. It seems that three of the Seven are planning an attack on Auchindoun so they can get a foothold in Aldis. That would be bad. It’s especially bad that three of the Regents are actually working together to accomplish this. I wonder which of the Seven are involved? The thing that startled me a bit was when Trebizond showed us the letters from his spy. It was Marcus’ handwriting. It was his words. I’d know them anywhere. I was both overjoyed and scared beyond reason that Marcus is the spy within Melisandre’s staff. If he is found out then he is facing a fate worse than death. Melisandre is a vindictive bitch and would delight in turning him into a Shadow or some other undead to serve her. That’s of course if things go wrong. I can only hope that they go right. I don’t know how much weight my words have with the gods, but I can only hope that Marcus will be safe.

After we had made our plans about going to Kern I took Maria aside and talked to her about some things that I’ve wanted to tell her for a long time. I admitted to her that I had been in Lastlight when Torrance Staunton had been killed and turned into a Shadow for being a part of the resistance that helped adepts get out of Kern. He was then forced to serve Melisandre. I admitted to Maria that I’d been there as a Skull Knight. I told her that I had been forced into their service and made to watch the execution. She was visibly upset by the news that I had to tell her and I decided that I would tell her that I’d been a part of the destruction of her lab at a later time. I figured that what I had told her was enough for a single day. She told me that we were still friends but that she would need to think about what I’d told her. She left our meeting visibly cowed and I felt bad that I had been the reason for that. I had wanted to tell her the truth for so long but was never sure when the right time was. I thought that since we were going to Kern and I might be killed I better tell her what I wanted her to know before such a thing could happen. She was definitely upset by my words, but promised that we were still friends. I could only hope that was true.

Tonight we finalized our plans for going to Kern. I helped everyone pick through their gear and decide what they should take with them and what would be recognized right away. Immediately we put aside our Sovereign’s finest gear and Jadzia put aside the flaming mace that she’d gotten from the magma elemental. It would be too distinctive for her to carry. Kern has its spies in Aldis and they know what our group has achieved. They likely know who we are. So we had to put aside anything that identified us as us. At one point after we had gone through our gear we were talking around a fire and Jadzia was especially excited about our upcoming trip. She was not acting out of turn per se, but she was excited about the things that she would do and how she would beat back the forces of Kern. I was not especially happy with her showing and made no secret that I was not in a celebratory mood. She later came by and apologized for making light of my concerns and said that she would be there for me no matter the obstacles in our path. I nodded my appreciation to her for her words. I wanted to be able to tell them that Kern was like a living hell on earth, but I could not make the words come out. The best I could do was advise people about the gear they should carry and warn them about patrols and the secret police. I told them that the secret police could be anywhere, but I don’t think they fully grasped the idea of how terrifying that is. They can be anyone, a friend, a neighbor, a trusted confidant, anyone. We are going to Lastlight, which has already drawn the Seven’s attention for its role in the underground activities of the people that came before. The Sunlit Path. We are going to a place that has drawn attention before. I know that we are there because of Marcus and his intel, but I need my friends to understand just how careful we need to be. We’re supposed to pick up a package left in a barn. I don’t know if that package is supposed to be Marcus himself or something or someone else. I wish I knew. I wish I could talk to Marcus right now and find out exactly what’s going on, but I have to make do with quick reports and suggestions that he has passed along to the Aldin forces. I can only assume that Richter got him in contact with the Aldin forces and Marcus, being the man that he is, agreed to be their eyes and ears. I can only pray for his safety. I pray for all of our safety, for we are going into hell and so few of us really understand that, but they will soon enough.

Love always,

Jana


Dear Mother,

Today went better than I was expecting it to. We had planned out our cover story last night and agreed that we would take the longer, but safer path through the mountains, and that we’d be disguised as traders/smugglers. Because Maria and I had been to Lastlight before and may be recognized we had Tanith use flesh shaping to alter our appearance. I chose to look older, plainer and more careworn. Maria really got into it and decided to look like an older, yet spry, woman. Maria would be the matriarch of the group while the rest of us would be children or employees. Ash took the name Oskar, Maria was Mama, Darcy was Enzo, Tanith was Imke and Jadzia was Gan. I took the name Sarah. I looked in a mirror after Tanith finished and was impressed by how different I looked. I don’t know if Tanith noticed or not, but I was terrified by the idea of her using flesh shaping on me. It has been used so many times in Kern as a method of punishment or torture that it was hard to see it as a good thing. I knew I couldn’t go looking like myself though. Granted the last time I was in Lastlight I wore my helmet for a good bit of the time, but I couldn’t take the chance that someone in town might recognize me or someone might be secret police and report my presence. We are infiltrating Kern to prevent the Regents from succeeding at their plans and to get Marcus out. I wasn’t about to take any chances. Tanith herself adamantly did not want to be flesh shaped, and eventually explained to Darcy why. Well, partly why. She said that she’d been flesh shaped in the past and couldn’t risk doing it again because removing the arcanum from her might revert her back to her original features. So, instead Ashlin disguised her with make-up and different clothes. He really is very good at that.

So, traveling along the path we chose worked out as well as it could have. We passed a few other travelers but not many. We also saw a couple of wyvern patrols overhead. One slowed down and circled us for a brief time but then moved on to continue their patrol. They have made note of our presence and will likely have someone keeping an eye on us as we travel through Kern, and probably once we get to Lastlight. I would be surprised if they didn’t.

We camped in the lee of a hill and set watches throughout the night. The night passed mostly uneventfully. There was a brief scuffle between Maria, Darcy and a chaos beast. The chaos beast was quickly taken care of and everyone went back to sleep after being woken briefly. I should probably do the same. Tomorrow is going to be a trying day and I need my rest. I miss you.

Love always,

Jana


Dear Mother,

We arrived in Lastlight today. It looks a lot like it did the last time I was here. The only difference is how people are looking at me. Before they looked at me in fear and probably more than a little bit of hatred, but mostly fear. This time they looked on in curiosity and suspicion. Tanith immediately set to work trying to sell our wares and I set up shop as a tinker offering to mend pans or sharpen knives. I had a number of customers and struck up conversation with a few of them. Those that seemed predisposed towards talking anyway. I asked about their town and the surrounding area feigning ignorance. They told me that in the Ice Finger lake nearby there is a monster that lives beneath the surface. It is dangerous, though it seems to dislike Skull Knights and hides from them whenever they come to town. That led to me asking how often the Skull Knights come to Lastlight and they said sometimes. Apparently they don’t come by as much as they used to, but that was due to “mistakes” in the past. I’m assuming that was referring to Torrance Staunton and his execution and possibly some fallout from that day. I didn’t press for too much more. I didn’t want to seem overly interested. Expressing an interest in the town and nearby monsters is normal. Anyone would do that, but expressing too much interest in the Skull Knights could bring the wrong kind of attention. Especially if the person you’re talking to is secret police.

I also found out that there was a mysterious stranger in town recently who talked to the Burgermeister and then left. No one was sure if the stranger was a man or woman either. There is also the general fear among the townsfolk that Aldis is planning to launch an attack on Lastllight. I couldn’t tell them the truth, but I expressed my doubt as far as those suspicions went.

While I was talking to the townsfolk and putting my still new skills as a blacksmith to use Ash/Oskar chatted up Harkon, the town’s defender. Ash was playing the pretty boy who wasn’t too bright though beloved by “Mama.” He managed to get Harkon to seduce him and they went to the inn to get drinks. After Harkon had passed out Ash went through his stuff and found letters between Isabel (the leader of the town’s militia) and Lovinia (the Burgermeister). Isabel, in the letters, is trying to get Lovinia to leave town with her after they amass enough wealth to get by. Ash also discovered that Harkon has a secret dream to kill the Skull Knights that killed his predecessor, who he was secretly lovers with. The problem is that Knights always wear their helmets so he couldn’t identify them if he wanted to. Before he got too drunk Harkon did warn Ash/Oskar that his family (us) shouldn’t speak too loudly in front of Isabel because she has her own ambitions and has the Burgermeister in her hands.

Tanith on the other hand was spending time with Isabel, who she also allowed to seduce her. She too allowed her mark to drink too much and went through her things. Tanith discovered that Isabel is in fact planning a trip. She has maps to several places hidden in her room. She also has the remains of a vata teenager among her belongings. I can only assume that she is hiding them so they cannot be used to raise the poor girl from the dead as something evil.

Maria found out much the same information that the rest of us did when she asked the townsfolk about the two locals who’d seduced her “children.” Those people that she talked to said that Harkon was not a bad man and generally had good things to say about him. They said that Mama would likely get Oskar back okay. When it came to Isabel though the people were very careful about what they said. No one said anything bad about her, nor overly good either. They were just cautious in their phrasing. It turns out that Isabel is part of the militia and can press anyone she wants into service whenever she wants. Hence the locals being really careful about what they said and trying not to anger her. I know the feeling. I tried very hard not to attract the attention of the local militia, but I think my father had other plans. I got recruited to be a guard but only after it became clear that besides a little healing I was not going to be doing much with arcanum. Once in the guard I still tried to keep my head down. I didn’t want to draw too much attention, but somehow I did. Or my father pushed someone, and I got recruited to be a Skull Knight. And it’s not like I could say no. You don’t refuse such a vaunted position without repercussions. I really didn’t want to find out what those repercussions would be either.

So, there we are. We made it to Kern unharmed and have spent our first day here with nothing untoward happening. Ash even checked that barn that the package was supposed to be left at and found it empty. It seems that we will have more time here than I was hoping for. Thankfully we had planned for that. Darcy grumbled when we arrived that one of the wheels would need to be repaired before we could leave and immediately set about to doing just that. I think he had done some damage to it himself, being careful to make it look like it was just regular wear and tear. So, we have our excuse to stay in town for longer than the townsfolk would expect us to. They’re not going to complain that we are staying. We bring in outside money and trade; it’s all good for them. I doubt that they’ll trust us all that much being strangers and all, but the fact that most of us don’t sound like we’re from Kern will lend credence to the idea that we’re foreigners. I can’t hide my accent, nor can Maria, but having one or two locals among the trader’s group also makes sense.

I don’t know if Kern is what my friends expected it to be. Jadzia seems more subdued than she had before, as does Tanith. Those were the two that seemed the most excited to be coming here. I think though that their mood dampened when we crossed the border. Kern has an undeniably oppressive feeling. It’s almost palpable when you cross the border. You know that you’re no longer safe. Not even death is a guarantee of peace. So many sorcerers wouldn’t think twice about raising someone from the dead to do their bidding. Either that or they get changed into a vampire. Neither way is good. Though not long ago Tanith mentioned that she can raise someone from the dead if she can get to them within an hour or two of death. At first I was horrified, and a look must have come across my face because my lover was quick to reassure me that she can restore someone to life, not un-life, and that is a big difference. To be able to bring someone back to the land of the living is a wonderful thing. I’m sure it must take a pure heart to be able to do such a thing. The people I know in Kern, like Melisandre and others, would never consider bringing someone back to life. They would just raise them as undead and gain a servant. I don’t even know if that woman is capable of doing what Tanith can do. Sometimes I forget, but today it seemed plain to me that Melisandre and Tanith are related. I could see my lover beneath the makeup. I know her face so well, and her looks and mannerisms remind me of that evil woman. I hate to think such things, but they are family. There are bound to be similarities. Though I wish there weren’t. Tanith and Melisandre are like opposite sides of arcana. Tanith is pure and light while Melisandre is evil and dark. I can only hope that my Tanith is not tarnished by being so close to her grandmother and this place. She is my bright flower amongst the grey surroundings and I want her to stay that way.

Love always,

Jana


Tanith’s Diary

I am in Kern in one the most dangerous missions of my life.

Auchindoun was lovely. I had heard of it, and seen images from mental connections, but never stood at the foot of the mountain fortress before. It is awe inspiring, it really reminds you of your role in the eternal dance. That you are part of something greater. Inside, we were greeted by lovely knights, old friends. Also Zacchaeus, a Knight of Purity who was…remarkably laid back. Former tomb robber, his rough and tumble upbringing shows, especially compared to his counterpart Amaiala Arrora. Alexis Winter and Saoirse, as well as Trebizond and Laodice were friendly faces to see. Trebizond wants us to go to the town of Lastlight, which both Maria and Jana have been to, and get a communique from an agent on the inside. We need to extract this agent and follow any instructions they give. It’s exciting and dangerous.

Ashlin, cunning fennec as they are, came up with a cover story for us, with Maria’s enthusiastic help. She was “Mamma” and the rest of us were family, blood or otherwise, as traveling merchants and smugglers. I was to be Imke. Ashlin had me (consensually) change Maria and Jana. They wanted me to change too, but while I love Flesh Shaping, and am happy to make changes to people; given my own history and path to womanhood, I value it, and periodically have had my hair color changed (though I have pretty well stayed blonde most of the time, which feels very right). But a full-face change is going to need a full reset, and that cannot happen. So I had Ash disguise me. It seemed the only way.

We spoke to a scout named Lakshmi and following her advice took the long route to Lastlight. We were smugglers/merchants, so not being too sneaky. We saw some Wyverns overhead but they paid us little mind. We camped that night in the lee of a hill; apparently we were attacked by a Chaos Beast overnight, but Darcy and Maria killed it before we fully woke.

We arrived in Lastlight late morning. Ash, who was playing the soft, handsome son of “Mamma” she loved most, had directed me toward Isabel Renier, the leader of the local militia. Ash themselves pursued Harkon Timothy, the town guardian. Neither were the mayor, or Burgermeister; that was Lovinia Staunton, who was the widow of the previous Burgermeister. Apparently, he was killed breaking up Maria’s Sunlight Path, and Jana was involved but did not kill him herself (that I know of.) Isabel was not prepared for a sophisticate such as myself; she was in the palm of my hand very quickly. I lead her up the path but stopped her at the gate, so she would be all riled up that evening. Ash seemed to pick a similar tactic. That night Isabel picked me up, got me dinner, and we spent a wild night. I did not go all out, but enough to make her go to sleep before I was too tired.

Ash similarly worked over Harkon, and we both searched the respective houses. As far as we found out, Isabel (who has been carrying on an affair with Lovinia, and I am not going to ask how Ash already knew) was trying to convince Lovinia to have her use the militia to do some looting of bodies (and towns…) so they could run off together. We only had it from her side, but Lovinia was apparently a hard sell. Isabel is apparently devoted; she wanted to either share me with Lovinia or have me spend a night with just Lovinia without her.

This puts me in an ugly place. I want to, of course, help Lovinia and Isabel…but not at the expense of their neighbors. And especially given history of the town it will likely be put to the sword. We can’t move the whole population out…can we?

I was looking forward to finally visiting Kern, the head of my bloodline. Now I can’t wait to get out.

End Session XXVII

Nothing ominous there, yeah?

So for those curious, Alexis is a Knight, Zacchaeus is a Shapeshifter, and Amaiala is a Sacred Warrior.

The PCs had to leave their Sovereign’s Finest gear and artifact from the Elemental behind, limiting their combat abilities, though they still made short work of the Chaos Beast, Darcy and Maria killed it before anyone else woke up.

Next week will be any places or people who pop up in the session tomorrow and were in the handout will have that info up, and in two weeks we continue the story. Comments and Questions welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#56
It’s time to look ahead to see what the group is heading toward. The same abbreviations apply to this list as before. Enjoy.

--
Marrowgarde

A large city a ways north of Lastlight. Several wealthy citizens are there, several of the Seven have homes there but none spend most of their time there. (A, D, N, M, T)


Ivania Ducas

Ivana Ducas is one of the owners of Scarletglass, a home in Marrowgarde with her wife Nostalia. A sorceress and thoroughly unpleasant woman, she bullies anyone, man or woman, who her wife (who is also in her 70s but still looks young being Vata) seems to take a shine to, which makes her so ridiculously easy to manipulate Jadzia could do it. (A)

Ivania Ducas is one of the owners of Scarletglass, a home in Marrowgarde with her wife Nostalia. A sorceress and thoroughly unpleasant woman, she bullies anyone, man or woman, who her wife (who is also in her 70s but still looks young being Vata) seems to take a shine to, which has included Marcus in the past. Fortunately, she retains a healthy respect for Skull Knights. (N)


Nostalia Ducas

A Vata’Sha and other owner of Scarletglass. Nostalia is flirty, charming and a Domme. She loves extravagant parties and she and Melisandre get along like a house on fire. Many in Marrowgarde look ahead to when her wife finally kicks off. If you don’t have ideas already change specializations. (A)

A Vata’Sha and other owner of Scarletglass. Nostalia is flirty, charming and a Domme. She loves extravagant parties and she and Melisandre get along like a house on fire. She is also a good friend of Irena. Many in Marrowgarde look ahead to when her wife finally kicks off. (N)


Camille Monette

An activatable agent in Marrowgarde, Camille is a noble who has lost too much to the Jarek and the Seven to forgive them. She is considered reliable if you bring her into your plans. On the downside she is stabby when angered and most vampires would sort of suggest she dial back her fascination with blood. Neighbors regard her as a friendly psychobitch. (A)

A noble in Marrowgarde. Rumor has it she is a psychopath who loves killing people. She has always seemed quite pleasant around you, does not seem fond of Melisandre, so no sign of it but then it is Kern, you would not be surprised. (N)


Romaine Foxglove


A daring rogue operating in southern Kern. She occasionally does favors for varies parties before Jarek’s fall, now she is taking advantage of the chaos. (A, N, M)
--

Intrigued? I hope so. Next session is next week, and that was the last of the handout information. See you then. Comments and Questions welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#57
A mysterious ball is held in the depths of Kern, with ghosts and other undead. The Cradle must infiltrate and come face to face with a long time foe.

Jana’s entry starts with a short story taking place after the end of the session. Also, note some characters are discussed above.

Session XXVIII

Dark Tides Cresting Part II

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 9 Gravihain

For the record (cause I know you were wondering) writing in code on a trader’s wagon racing down the road with potential sorcerous pursuit on your trail and definitely sorcerous artifacts (yes, it’s plural) in your parties possession is… less than fun, we’ll say. Gotta get this out there though – no better activity to spend your last hour alive than finishing up the paperwork, am I right? To be serious though, for a moment at least, the mission has been a success so far – all that’s left is the running the fuck away part.

So, the package showed up the next day, too all appearances dropped off by the only raven I saw in the entire town, our entire stay. It was a letter, from one Marcus Wynn, a map detailing the route to Marrowgarde, and three elaborate masquerade outfits. As it turns out, this Marcus was a good friend of Jana’s, from her previous life in Kern – Skull Knights are frightening friends to have, I presume, but she insisted he was a good man, and he did defect, so there’s that.

His letter detailed Melisandre’s plan. She had forged a soul gem, created from a Sorcerer Queen’s soul. It would enable her to control large masses of undead, making them focused and of one mind. It would also allow her to control darkfiends, regardless of their summoner, and gave her some sort of scrying ability. That would, of course, be a devastating attack on Auchindoun, and couldn’t be allowed to go forward. She was planning to attend a masquerade party at Marrowgarde, hosted by the Ducas family. Marcus was to be one of her bodyguards, and Irina (Melisandre’s lover, who Maria pulled down out of the sky) was the other. The gem would also be there, a strange choice, unless, of course, you wanted to lure your granddaughter into a position where she could be corrupted to follow your path…

So, yeah, it seemed like a big trap. Only three people can use the soul gem, Melisandre, Tavia, and (drumroll please)… Tanith. It has a horribly corrupting influence on everything around it, and is extremely powerful besides. Darcy hasn’t reported any problems (he’s been holding onto it) but I, for one, look forward to locking the thing in a deep, deep vault, far out of the reach of anyone who might want to use it. And don’t worry, we didn’t just assume trap and go from there – I figured it was more of a win-win-win for Melisandre: either she has an extremely powerful soulgem to take Auchindoun with, or she lures her granddaughter in and captures her, or her granddaughter gets a hold of a terribly tempting evil artifact, specifically attuned to her. All bad options, but I believe the one we chose was the best of them.

Once we got the package, we left – as soon as our wagon was ‘fixed’ of course. Isabel’s mood had changed significantly the second day, obsequious in a ‘please don’t kill me’ kind of way. It seemed fairly clear that she had recognized a family resemblance between Tanith and Melisandre, so that was worrying. Lovinia also had a paranoid aspect to her – it seemed like a bit of jealousy at first, but after Isabel’s mood change, it seemed more likely Isabel had shared something. It seemed best to get on the road, and lean on the Lastlight crew only if it seemed like it was going to be helpful.

I filled the others in on what I knew about Ivania Ducas’ jealousy issues, and Nostalia’s flirtations with Melisandre. I also maybe spilled a bit about Camille Monette – we didn’t wind up having to activate her (I wasn’t looking forward to managing the whole stabby thing anyway), but since they were going to be in a position to call upon her help, and I wasn’t, I thought it would be good if they knew who to look for. We did wind up getting help from Romaine Foxglove. She’s scarpered off on her own, but we may be needing to give someone asylum soon.

See, she was rescued as a child by a rhy-raven named Lucifer – the very same raven that delivered Marcus’ package to Lastlight. He’s a damn good spy/informant, apparently, since nobody notices a raven sitting on a tree, at least most of the time. He got spotted at least once, or else he’d still have both eyes. He’s getting on in years though, and Romaine’s worried about him, trying to get him to retire to Aldis. He’s worried about her as well, since she’s like a daughter to him. We’ll see how that goes once the immediate problem has been solved.

So our plan was that Tanith, Jana, and Maria all go to the masquerade, in mask, of course. Apparently it is custom in Kern, or at least in Marrowgarde, to attend such things in threes. Darcy, Jadzia, and I would be joining Romaine in her pilfering of the house – when we approached her (Darcy did a spectacular bit of showmanship at the inn when we arrived to get her attention, and thus an invitation to a meeting), she had already been planning on stealing from Nostalia, a ring that bound a young woman named Tatiana away from the Cycle as a ghostly presence under the Ducas’ control. She had no problems with joining our purposes, as the only reason she hadn’t considered stealing the soul gem in a serious way was that she had no way of dealing with it once she had it.

Things started off well (and I’ll be honest, went fairly well throughout). Romaine knew a good way in (leaping down from the nearby city wall into a side courtyard) and out (jumping from the highest part of the obsidian glass mansion onto the walls again, then down a rope ladder Lucifer had left for us). She also had handy vials of highly flammable oil, perfect for immolating your own head if things turned bad, which at least prevented necromancers from raising you as anything but a ghost. Bran’s heart, but Kern is a wretched place.

There were a couple of shades guarding the door in, but we took them out immediately in an ambush. It took us some time to rifle through the rooms that Romaine thought were most likely to contain something like the soul gem. We found a couple of nice-looking knives – I took one cause you never know when you need a good knife, Jadzia took one as a trophy, I’m pretty sure – but thankfully it wasn’t too long before we found a room with a large black vault. It was being guarded by a hell of a spectre, so we figured it for our eventual target. Just in case, we left it be until we found the ring.

That was right where Romaine expected it, hidden in Nostalia’s jewelry box. Tatiana was set to guard it, but I managed to distract her with some kind conversation long enough for Romaine to grab hold of it, and put her to sleep. She was hired to steal it by the girl’s parents – hopefully they, or someone they know, knows how to help her find true peace.

As it turns out, we needn’t have worried quite so much about the spectre. I held myself ready, and dived into the room as soon as Darcy and Romaine engaged. I rolled to my feet, ready to multitask, and dodge while I picked, to find that there was nothing in the room but the afterimages of Darcy’s blasts of holy light. So I only have to single-task, which got me in in a lickety-split. It was in fact the hiding place of the soul gem, as well as a small skull that seemed to be made of ruby. Darcy grabbed that, tucking it into a pouch, while putting the soul gem in a small box Maria had created just for that purpose, a sturdy wooden box lined with a thin layer of very hard stone, which she thought might help shield whoever was holding it. Four shades popped up as soon as he had taken it from the vault, but they were just as easily dealt with.

So we snuck on down to a balcony overlooking the ballroom. It was an absolutely striking place, filled with a twisted version of the most grandiose balls I’ve ever seen in Aldis. The lighting was ghostfire, as opposed to sha crystals, and the servers wandering the room were skeletal, and I am, of course, not being euphemistic. The masks seemed all the more sinister for their surroundings. Especially Melisandre’s. She seemed to be wearing an oddly distorted vata woman’s face as her mask. I wouldn’t have made the connection, considering how distorted it was, but with how much Tanith was muttering over the mind link at the beginning of the event, I managed to piece together that it was Tanith’s mother’s face.

When us sneaky folks got around to the balcony, Jana was dancing with a Skull Knight, who I presumed (correctly) was Marcus. Maria was whispering a few subtle words to Ivania, who immediately strode off towards Nostalia, who had been dancing with Melisandre. Unfortunately, that was not enough to pull Melisandre’s attention from Tanith, so while everyone else was able to slip away and join us, she was still on the dance floor when we decided to perform our final non-running away act of the mission. Oh, did I mention? We deciding to leave by (metaphorically) setting the place on fire, by which I mean take the opportunity to return Maria’s friend Torrance to the Cycle. He was a shade, part of Melisandre’s entourage, and there was no way we were leaving him as he was.

So, we all attacked (well, those of us with the range for it), releasing Torrance’s spirit with a single volley. Melisandre swung around immediately, a red psychic blade slicing towards Tanith. She got her own yellow light-blade up just in time, deflecting the blow so that it was only a scratch. Even as she struck back, Maria was reaching out, and grabbed and pulled Tanith to join us using her magics. Jadzia released another arrow, burying it deep in Melisandre’s shoulder with a glare and a promise to see her again. Then, since Irina was well on her way up the decorative banners and almost in swinging range of our perch, we ran.

Tanith guarded our back with a ward, and Darcy shone with holy light, keeping most of the undead away. A few shades tried to slow us down, but we powered through without even properly stopping. We made it out before Moroes, the insanely dangerous undead butler, caught up with us, there were no accidents jumping down to the wall, and the ladder was there, just as Lucifer promised, though Maria chose to walk down on the air, which is still just the coolest trick. Lucifer was waiting with our cart and horses too, and once we were off, he and Romaine disappeared into the night. I’m sure she has a safe place to lie low for awhile – she did mention that she had been looking forward to getting almost caught by Nostalia, again.

We’re on our way home now. Leave the light on?

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered in Rezean on the road from Marrowgarde)

“This is better, is it not, Dear One? Even this pestilential country seems bearable when we are given leave to run free… though all the forces of our enemies might be in pursuit. And victory always increases the savor of the day.

“As you know, we did not spend much more time in Lastlight following our last conversation. In part this was due to the fact that we received the promised intelligence from Trebizond’s source… a rhy-raven named Lucifer delivered it to the abandoned barn, though we did not know his precise identity until later. The parcel contained three elaborate costumes and valuable information about our goals.

“Marcus Wynn was indeed Trebizond’s informant, and he identified himself as such in his missive to us. He mentioned that he wished to defect, and that he had a loved one in Aldis. What? Yes Salkhi, of course he was referring to Jana… who else? He also told us that Melisandre had managed to create a powerful sorcerous artifact called a Soul Gem… one which would allow her to control large numbers of undead at once, and even darkfiends summoned by other sorcerers. With such a large and powerful force assaulting, even such an impressive fortress as Auchindoun could not long stand unconquered.

“Marcus warned us that the gem would attempt to corrupt its bearer unless they were possessed of a potent psychic shield. With this in mind, Maria set about creating a strongbox in which we could transport the vile thing… a box of shaped wood lined with a thin layer of stone. She hoped that this might provide some measure of protection from the artifact’s influence, but confessed that she was uncertain of its efficacy.

“Marcus also told us that Melisandre and a cadre of her bodyguards – himself included – would be attending a fancy-dress party at the home of the Ducas family in the nearby city of Marrowgarde, and that she would be bringing the vile gem with her on this occasion. Why she should do so was unclear… it seemed a foolish and reckless thing to do, unless she was hoping to draw us out with the prospect of an easy raid. Some of my friends brought up a more disturbing possibility… that Melisandre might want Tanith to gain possession of the stone in the hopes that it might corrupt her.

“Obviously, we cannot allow this to come to pass.

“We had another reason to effect a hasty exit from Lastlight as well… the attentions of Tanith’s would-be admirer Isabel had changed subtly overnight. Their interactions had gained a fawning, obsequious cast… possibly indicating that Isabel had noted the family resemblance between Tanith and Melisandre. It was clear that we had outstayed our welcome, and thus left at first light the following morning.

“The two-day journey was uneventful, though we frequently sighted wyvern-riders from afar. I found Marrowgarde more impressive than Lastlight, with its tall walls and towering architecture… though it shared the smaller hamlet’s oppressive air. We took rooms in a less reputable – and therefore more interesting – boarding house, and Darcy and I set about teaching this town the true meaning of humility. We each subdued many foes in the common room, and then bought a round of drinks for the house. For me this was just a way to let loose some of my pent-up frustrations upon this vile country… but Darcy used his winning ways and flair for the dramatic to attract the attention of a potential ally.

“This ally was one Romaine Foxglove, a thief who has been working tirelessly against the regime of the Seven from behind the scenes… and a close friend of Lucifer, the very same rhy-raven who had delivered Marcus’ message to us in Lastlight. Darcy and Ashlin met with her the following evening and enlisted her aid in our imminent raid on the Ducas manor.

“Our plans were as follows. Tanith, Jana, and Maria would infiltrate the party itself while wearing the costumes Marcus had provided and help to extricate Marcus from his current employment. Meanwhile, Darcy, Ashlin, Romaine and I would slip into the unoccupied portions of the manor and seek out Melisandre’s Soul Gem. Romaine had her own reasons for infiltrating the manor; the ghost of a young woman named Tatiana was enslaved to the Ducas manor, and her family wanted Romaine to free her. To do this she needed to find and take possession of the ring to which Tatiana’s soul was bound. We agreed to help her in this endeavor in exchange for her assistance with our own goals. Once we had the gem and the ring firmly in hand, we would cause a distraction (by killing Torrance Staunton, a shade whom Maria had known when he was alive) and then flee to the tallest tower of the estate, leap to the city walls, and make our escape via a rope ladder left by Lucifer… who also promised to have our mounts and cart waiting for us.

“In the end, it went almost exactly as we had planned. Tanith, Jana, and Maria successfully infiltrated the ballroom and made contact with Marcus. Unfortunately, Melisandre recognized her granddaughter almost immediately and swooped in to dance with her. Maria did her best to sow dissent and jealousy among the ballroom’s denizens, but in the end it did not matter much.

“For our part, we cut through the Ducas mansion’s defenders like a scythe through grass. Shades fell before us in groups of four; we barely slowed our advance when we fought them. A spectre provided a marginally greater challenge, but it too failed to stand before us. We located the vault in which the Soul Gem was kept in short order, but decided to forgo obtaining it until after we had freed Tatiana and were ready to affect our exit.

“Luckily the ring was not far away. Tatiana attempted to stop us from pilfering her master’s possessions, but went to sleep at Romaine’s command once she held the ring. With that out of the way we returned to the vault in which the Soul Gem was held and Ashlin picked the lock. Inside we found not just the Soul Gem, but another artifact as well… a small skull carved from a single ruby. We could all feel the palpable evil emanating from both of the objects, and hastened to put the Gem in the box Maria had created.

“With the objects of our quest in hand – plus an unlooked-for bonus – we made our way to the balcony surrounding the mansion’s grand ballroom, letting our companions know that the time of our escape was nigh. Jana, Marcus, and Maria managed to extricate themselves from the dance floor and meet us on the balcony, but Tanith was unable to slip away from the watchful eyes of her grandmother.

“The game was up once we loosed our attacks upon Staunton, of course. The shade fell quickly before our combined might, but Melisandre reacted instantly, summoning up a glowing red blade and leveling a strike at Tanith. My lover drew forth her own blade of light and deflected the worst of the attack, but she was still hurt by her grandmother’s assault. I saw red, and vowed that I would not let such an affront go unpunished. I bent my bow, took careful aim, and let a shaft fly straight and true toward the bitch’s heart. Alas, she turned to regard me at the last moment, and the arrow found purchase only in her shoulder. Maria used her arcana to scoop Tanith up to join us on the balcony, and I quietly vowed to Melisandre that we would finish our battle at another time.

“Prior to this meeting, Melisandre’s grudges were against my two lovers. Now she knows who I am as well, and has cause to hate me.

“Good. I prefer it that way. Anything that draws her ire away from those dearest to me can only be a good thing.

“Our enemies sent their servants after us, and more shades moved in to bar our escape, but these challenges failed to even slow our exit, let alone stop us. We fled into the upper reaches of the manse, then quickly hopped to the city’s outer wall and found the rope ladder just where Lucifer had promised it would be. And of course you and the other horses were waiting for us below, tireless as always and ready to see us swiftly away from our pursuers. I thank you once again for your aid, Salkhi… I know that I can always depend upon you.

“And now we ride for the border, and for Auchindoun… and of course, for Alexis, though it occurs to me now that I might need to put off the pleasure of that particular reunion for a time. My Sunflower is restless. She has suffered a number of significant shocks over the past few days. The reunion with her grandmother was… not pleasant. I am told that Melisandre’s disguise for the masquerade resembled the rotting face of Tanith’s mother, which can only have been deliberate.

“She is also angry with Darcy for keeping the Soul Gem. And to be fair, her argument has merit. We know that the Soul Gem will try to corrupt any person who holds it for an extended time, and that only a psychic shield is capable of guarding against this corruption. Darcy possesses no such shield, and for this reason, Tanith believes that she would be better suited to carry the vile thing. And I might agree with her… were we not also certain that Melisandre intended the Gem as a trap to tempt Tanith into darkness. Perhaps I will have a quiet word with Maria about taking over as custodian of the stone.

“And then there is the matter with Jana and Marcus. They ride together in the wagon a short distance behind us, closeted away from any who might overhear them. My Starlight has been reunited with one she cares for deeply; one for whose safety she has feared for many months. I cannot fault her for being a little blind to the rest of us at the moment, and I do not begrudge her the time she would spend with Marcus. But my Sunflower… I see something else in her eyes. It is not jealousy, or resentment, or even fear. She loves Jana dearly, and would not stand in the way of her happiness. But I think she is… lonely, perhaps? She will need my presence in the days to come… at least until her heart has made a space for Marcus in Jana’s life.

“Tanith needs me. Alexis will understand if I explain the situation to her. And if our theft of the Soul Gem signifies the end of the threat to Auchindoun, then the Rose Knights should send my Snowfall back to Aldis City soon, and we shall be able to make up for lost time.

“Still and all, Dear One… despite this wretched country, and the depredations of Melisandre, and the turmoil in my love’s heart… it is a fine night to run, is it not?”


Jana’s Journal

Escape from Kern


The wheels of the wagon clattered on the rough paving stones of the old Kernish road. The desperate group huddled in the wagon as they fled the mansion house behind them and the city of Marrowgarde. A young dark-skinned woman looked behind them to make sure that they were not being followed.

“There’s no one there yet Jana.” A careworn man said, his lined face smiling.

“I know, I just want to be prepared for when they follow. I’m expecting at least Irina to chase us. There were other Skull Knights at the party too. They might be ordered to follow us.” Jana replied.

“We might need to go off road soon, but we’ll travel on the road as long as we can.”

Jana nodded. “I’m just anxious. Things at the house went far easier than I thought they would. Granted I’m pretty sure that Melisandre was planning a trap for us, or at least Tanith, but I still expected it to be harder to get the gem and get out.”

“I have to agree with you on that. It was rather easy to just walk out of the house. You guys had a good plan, and some helpful allies. You’ll need to tell me about those allies sometime soon.”

“I’ll tell you once we’re safe. I don’t want to risk them finding out who helped us just in case we get caught.” Jana said.

“Fair enough.” Marcus smiled again and raised his right hand to trace it along Jana’s jawline. “You look different. I take it you had someone disguise you?”

“Yeah. Tanith used flesh shaping to disguise me and Maria since our faces might have been recognized. It feels wrong when I talk or touch my face. I’ll have to ask Tanith to change me back to normal as soon as we’re able.” Jana reached up and held Marcus’ hand against her face where he’d stopped. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too.” Marcus said quietly. “Ever since you got out I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to and if you were safe. I hoped that you had made it to Aldis and that you hadn’t gotten caught in the mountains. They never brought you back so I had hope. They will do horrible things to us if they catch us”

“I know.” Jana pulled Marcus’ hand to her lap and she held it tight. “Anyway, I found Maria in the mountains when I was running and together we made our way out. She knew the way. She’d been smuggling people out of Kern for a little while at least and knew a secret way out.” Jana nodded in Maria’s direction. The adept looked over when she saw Jana and Marcus watching and smiled. There were subtle signs of strain on her face like she wasn’t sure about the people she was looking at.

Marcus smiled back and then turned back to Jana. “It’s going to take a while for them to trust me, isn’t it?”

“Possibly. They know that you have been passing information to Trebizond and that it has been really helpful.”

“Who’s Trebizond?”

“He’s the man who’s been getting your intelligence reports. He’s a brilliant tactician and has been working against Kern for awhile now.” Jana replied.

“Okay, that’s good…as long as I wasn’t risking my life for nothing. Things started to get a little tense and I knew that I had to get out if I could.”

“So, how did you meet Lucifer?” Jana asked curiously.

“He just showed up one day when I was alone. I didn’t know if he was working with anyone else or not. I assumed that he was, because he seemed to know so much, but I never met anyone else. It was only ever Lucifer, which was fine. He delivered the package that you guys got.”

“Yeah, Ashlin spotted him.” Jana smiled. “But then he’s good at that.”

“You have an interesting group of friends.”

“Yeah, they have been good to me.” Jana leaned against Marcus’ shoulder and lowered her voice. “Some of them know about my past but not all of them do. I slipped up in front of Tanith and Jadzia one night. I admitted who I had guarded in the past. Maria, I confessed to before we made this trip. She deserved to know.”

“Why her?” Marcus asked with a furrowed brow.

“Do you remember that lab we found in the mountains?”

“Yeah.”

“That was hers.” Jana frowned at the memory.

“Oh, I see.” Marcus squeezed Jana’s hand. “So, what about the night person in your group? Is he okay?”

“Yeah, he’s okay. I was wary of him at first too, but he’s a good friend and a fierce fighter against the Shadow. He really doesn’t like vampires or the undead. He sees them as an affront to the gods.”

“Good thing he didn’t grow up in Kern.” Marcus smiled wryly.

“Yeah.”

“So, what about Tanith and Jadzia? I’ve noticed the three of you exchanging glances and subtle touches…” the older man asked with a smirk.

Jana blushed slightly. “They are lovers of mine.”

“I see. Does that mean you’ve moved on?” Marcus’ voice was suddenly tight.

“No, of course not. I can’t lose you, you know that. I wouldn’t be sane without you. I just don’t want to lose them either.”

Marcus’ smile returned. “Okay… I just wanted to make sure. I want you to be happy.”

“You’re here, that makes me happy. Now we just need to all get out of this place and I’ll be even happier.” Jana squeezed his hand again.

“Me too.” Marcus squeezed back. “To be honest I was hoping for a more subtle getaway, but I can’t fault your friends for what they did. Killing Torrance and sending him back to the cycle was a good thing. I wish I could have done something more.”

“You did something at the end when we were getting out that helped. I felt more confident in what we were doing, and that was all you.”

Marcus smiled. “It was the least I could do. Your group was getting me out of Kern, I figured any help I could lend would be good. That and I love you of course. I would do anything for you.”

“I love you too. I’m glad that we were able to get you this far at least. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I want you to be in it.”

Marcus placed a gentle kiss on Jana’s forehead. “Likewise.”

Jana leaned against Marcus’ shoulder and just held his hand. She was still scanning the skies for any pursuers but kept part of her attention on her lover. Marcus kicked over his helmet and squeezed Jana’s hand in return. He gently stroked her hair with his free hand and watched the skies with her, all too aware of the eyes watching him.


**** **** ****

Dear Mother,

Well things have definitely gotten interesting. I don’t have time to write this down, so I’ll send it to you as a prayer and hope that you get it. I know it’s been a few days since I’ve written, but we’ve been traveling. So, we spent the next day, after the one I mentioned before, laying low. I kept up the tinker act while Darcy was “fixing” the wagon. Tanith and Ashlin kept a lower profile than the day before, though Harkon did pick up Ash for a short while later in the evening. Isabel did not pick up Tanith again, and acted in a strangely cautious way. She was perfectly polite and nice to her, but it was more in a “don’t kill me” kind of way. Our guess is that Isabel figured out that Tanith is related to Melisandre. There is a family resemblance there, so I suppose it was only a matter of time. We were hoping to be able to leave soon and got our wish that night. Ashlin went to the barn to check and found that a package had been left and a raven was perched nearby. The bird flew off as soon as Ashlin entered the barn, but we believed that it had been the one to drop off the package. It had talon marks on the outside. So, Ashlin dropped the package off with Darcy and we all opened it later that evening when there was no one around to see us. In the package was a map, a letter and three masquerade costumes. The letter was from Marcus. It was even signed by him. In the letter he introduced himself and very concisely laid out what was going on. He also explained that he wanted to defect. It turned out that Melisandre forged a soul gem that can control vast numbers of undead and dark fiends no matter who summoned them. They would all be connected to a sort of hive mind where Melisandre, Tavia or Tanith could command them. Yes, Melisandre gave control over the gem to her granddaughter. This made us believe that this whole situation was a trap. The masquerade party, Melisandre just happening to bring the gem with her to the party, all of it. It was not a trap of Marcus’ doing, he just reported the situation to us. We decided to take the risk and go to Marrowgarde, where the party is being held. The Ducas family hosted the party. Marcus said he would be at the party as a guard for Melisandre. He also warned us that there would likely be undead guarding the house, and that they would probably not be mind-reading the guests due to the social position of many of them.

On the way to Marrowgarde Maria used earth and wood shaping to make a stone-lined box to put the soul gem in. Marcus had warned us that the gem would probably try to corrupt whoever held it and we wanted to try and make sure that we could protect the bearer as much as possible. Once in the town we stayed at the Angry Swine Inn. Jadzia and Darcy got into a bar fight after playing a ring toss game around a skull. They then bought drinks for the other combatants. Darcy even showed off enough to get the attention of Romaine Foxglove. I had heard of her as a daring rogue, but Ashlin it seemed to know her closer than I did. He had mentioned that it might be a good idea to get her aid in helping to rob the Ducas’ house. During this trip I mentioned to the others that I knew Marcus and said that he was a good man. I couldn’t say more and part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want them to doubt me when we were about to do something really dangerous in my native land against my old comrades and employers.

The next day Darcy found a piece of foxglove in his pocket with a note that just had a time and location. It was for that evening at the Tower of the Exarchs. So, he and Ashlin went to the tower to meet the elusive rogue. Ash crept up first and caught Romaine talking to a Rhy-Raven with one eye. The same raven that had dropped off the package at the barn. Ash introduced himself and thanked the raven for dropping off the package. They exchanged pleasantries and Ashlin found the that raven’s name is Lucifer. Darcy arrived a moment later and the four of them started talking. Ashlin explained what our plans were and asked if Romaine might like to help. Romaine said that she was going to go anyway so she agreed to give us a hand. She had been planning on going and retrieving a ring that the Ducas’ had that controlled the ghost of a young woman named Tatiana. Romaine then explained the best way to get in and out of the mansion and said she would even provide a rope ladder to help us get out after our mission was done. The last bit of advice that Lucifer and Romaine gave was that the butler was far more dangerous than he appeared. Ashlin then offered Lucifer a place with us if he wanted to retire from life in Kern. It is extremely dangerous for a Rhy animal to operate in the country. If he gets caught they would kill him, and he admitted that he is getting on in years. It seems that he found Romaine when she was a young child and helped raise her. I have not yet met the raven in question but I find myself hoping that he takes up Ashlin’s offer. After the planning was done Ash and Darcy returned and we exchanged news. Tanith also communicated with Trebizond to let him know what was going on so far and what we were planning to do and with whom.

I’ll skip ahead to the masquerade. In the end it was Tanith, Maria and myself that went to the masquerade. The dance was a mockery of anything that could be conceived of in Aldis. There were undead guarding doors that the hosts didn’t want visitors going into, and there were ghosts creating spectral light near the ceiling. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before while guarding Melisandre. Most of the guests wore masks of one of the exarchs though the hostesses did not. They wore little half masks. Harkon, Isabel and Lavinia were also there wearing animal masks. They did not do much, but we still avoided them just in case they recognized us in costume. Melisandre was wearing a strange mask. It was the distended visage of a vata woman. I did not know at first who it was supposed to be until Tanith started swearing in our minds that the mask was a mockery of her mother’s face. Melisandre was taunting her granddaughter with her own daughter-in-law’s face as a mask. Talk about sick. But then I knew she was capable of that.

Jadzia, Darcy and Ashlin snuck into the building with Romaine Foxglove to do what they had set out to do. I heard later that they encountered some resistance in getting the ring and the objects that we came for, but they managed to get them and get out without the main population of the dance even knowing what was going on. I also saw a couple of trophies that Jadzia and Ashlin had taken. A couple of nice-looking knives. Before they even started their plan Romaine gave all three of my friends a highly flammable oil for use in case of emergencies. I thought that was rather nice of Romaine. I’ll have to thank her sometime if I ever get to meet her. If they got caught and used the oil to burn themselves, or at least their heads, then the worst that could have been done to them was to have them raised as ghosts. That’s better than being raised as a shadow or some other undead thing. I think my friends were a little taken aback by Romaine’s gift, but they took it in the spirit that it was given. I’m glad that they didn’t have to use it on their way out. I would hate to lose a friend and not be able to go back for the body. But if we were fleeing and someone got caught or killed then there’d be little we’d have been able to do about it save pray that they were able to use the oil before it was too late. I don’t think precautions like this have ever crossed my friends’ minds. Well, save Maria. She knows what Melisandre and her type do to people.

As for those of us attending the dance in the open, we had some challenges of our own. I had forgotten Tagart was going to be there until he approached and asked me to dance. He has a fairly decent standing in society so it would seem strange for me to decline, so I had to dance with him. We did not talk much while we danced, which was just fine by me. The only thing I really wanted to do was to punch him in his smug face, but that would have drawn unwanted attention on me. While I danced with Tagart, Tanith approached Marcus and asked him to dance. She then asked me what I wanted her to tell him once she confirmed it was him. I asked that she tell him that I was there and that we were going to get him out. She did so. She also managed to block the influence from the helmet while she talked to him so nothing of their conversation could be picked up on. That was a very good idea, as it would have been very odd for Marcus to take off his helmet for any reason while on duty.

Then there was Irena walking through the dancing couples sniffing everyone. Well, almost everyone. She sniffed me and Tanith as well as several other guests but she did not sniff Tagart or Marcus. I’m assuming that she was getting the scents of anyone that she didn’t know for future reference. You know that could be problematic. She likely knows my scent since we worked together, so I thought it would be likely that Melisandre would know who was attending the dance. It was a trap anyway, so I figured that she knew we were probably coming. This just confirmed it. It was also confirmed when Tanith and I attempted to trade dance partners. Tagart, predictably did not want anything to do with his brother so he went back to the sidelines to watch. I then got to dance with Marcus. Tanith unfortunately got swooped up by Melisandre herself. Maria was doing her best to sow discord between the hosts and Melisandre, but it didn’t get the chance to work very well before things came to a head. We got a mental message to go upstairs, so Marcus, Maria and I started heading that way. The others then appeared on the upstairs railing and did their best to distract Melisandre and the others at the party by killing Torrance. Melisandre pulled a sword of light on Tanith and tried to hit her but Tanith blocked with her own sword. It was kind of scary how alike those two were in that moment. Then Maria used arcanum to lift Tanith up and over the railing so we could all get away. Jadzia let loose a parting arrow at Melisandre and it hit her in the shoulder. We then all ran, and I borrowed a knife from Ashlin in case I needed a weapon. The downside to being in the masquerade dress is that I couldn’t hide a sword in it. We encountered some resistance in the form of four shadows. They were no match for Darcy’s holy light or my friends’ weapons though. And now we’re running for our lives.

I know this trip can not have been very pleasant for my friends. Kern is not a nice place, and it’s hard to get across just how messed up it can be. I grew up here. This was normal for me until I escaped to Aldis. Being in Aldis and around its people showed me what society and life was supposed to be like. Not this mockery of society that I used to live in. I couldn’t fully explain the paranoia that people live with constantly. The fear of those with more power than themselves. The fear of the Seven and their servants. I know full well how much people fear the Skull Knights. We fostered that feeling wherever we went. We wanted people to fear us so they would be less likely to rise up against us. The past showed the Seven what can happen when the people get the chance to rebel and they’ve worked hard to keep that from happening again. I don’t want to be the cause of that fear anymore. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I like my new life in Aldis, as soft and ignorant as that can be. I don’t think I can ever change my view on life, but I can at least do right by the people instead of terrorizing them. And I want to help Marcus achieve that as well. He deserves a better life.

On the plus side to all of this I’m sure that my friends are not going to take their lives and their privileges for granted after this. I just pray that we all get out of here to be able to have thoughts like those.

Love

Jana


Tanith’s Diary

I am incredibly, balefully frustrated.

Our mission, short of getting out of Kern in one piece which is far from certain, is complete.

We got word we are looking for a gem forged from the soul of a Sorcerer Queen. It can be used to control masses of undead and try to bind Darkfiends, letting them work as a hive mind. But it can try to take over the user, and it even can infiltrate the thoughts of its possessor if they are without a shield. Darcy apparently was reminiscing about plowing the maid during that part. It turned out there was to be a costume party, and the mole, Jana’s lover Marcus Wynn, was helping us. We got three costumes and invitations, apparently tying us to some godsforsaken town on the margins. The locals of Lastlight were going, but we decided to avoid going with them. Isabel was suspicious. The trip, on the main road, was uneventful, save nerve wracking Wyverns flying overhead.

We infiltrated Marrowgarde, a terrible, downtrodden place overlooked by the huge castle mansion of the Ducases. In accordance with the plan, Jana, Maria and I entered via the front door, in costume, while Ash, Jadzia and Darcy entered via the roof, accompanied by local ne’er do well Romaine Foxglove, entered via the roof, while Romaine’s Rhy companion Lucifer brought the cart and horses around, presumably by talking to the horses though a Raven driving a cart is an amusing picture.

It was an interesting time. Enslaved Ghosts, Spectres, and Vampires were everywhere; I swear I saw a Lich tarrying by the cheese. The room was lit by ghost-flame, translucent musicians played translucent instruments, and the many Human and Vata guests comported themselves in a grim mockery of Aldean social life. Jana (whose Vata extraction was visible due to her horned half mask) immediately got whisked onto the floor by a Sorcerer. Maria danced with Camille, a potential agent, then spent the rest of the time devouring canapes, and keeping an eye on Irena, stalking through the crowd sniffing people. I approached the stately male Skull Knight, who was indeed Marcus Wynn, and took him across the floor, using Psychic Communication to be sure he knew who we were and that Jana had come for him. I may not like her being involved with a man, but I am not going to oppose this chance at happiness for her. To do so would not be love, it would be selfishness. I just hope there is room in her heart for Jadzia and I after he is rescued.

Jana and I attempted to change partners, but the Sorcerer stepped away, apparently having some dislike for Skull Knights and wanting to get away from him. Jana took Marcus, and I started to move from the floor until I was cornered by Melisandre, in a mask made to look like mother’s face all rotten. Despite having to stare down that monstrosity, we waltzed the score, red eyes glaring at amber. In our competitiveness, some other dancers had to pause to watch us. I am a damn good dancer, and it was all Melisandre could do to keep up.

She made it clear she knew who I was and asked me to become her apprentice effective immediately. She is a Healer herself, and promised techniques far beyond anything I could do. She whispered secrets of raising the dead, and taunted me we would never escape alive. I barely noted Jana, Marcus and Maria moving for the balcony, but I kept Melisandre’s attention completely on me.

Next thing I knew, my lover Jadzia had let ring an arrow into the poor Shade Torrance Staunton and ended his misery. Darcy also fired a holy bolt over the heads of the Kernish nobility, causing panic. Melisandre demanded I join her right then, and when I refused swung her crimson Psychic Sword at me, which I blocked with mine. Then I had the most disconcerting sensation as Maria pulled me up onto the balcony with the power of her will, a neat trick I am going to try to learn. A few Shadows got in our way, but we cut through them like the shadows they were. The butler I could hear complaining as he tried to come after us, but the chaos Darcy had begun meant he had to get through currents of panicking nobles.

Lucifer had helpfully left us a rope ladder, and we parted ways with Romaine, escaping down the wall (or walking calmly in Maria’s case) concealed behind the mansions high tower from the watchers on the wall.

So why am I peeved? Darcy, in his infinite wisdom, is carrying two sorcerous artifacts, one of which we were warned could easily influence anyone without Psychic Shield. Darcy, by his own admission, has no psychic shield, so he is allowing it to subtly alter his thinking and weaken his defenses while we have days of travel ahead through Kern. He refuses to give it to me, despite me being trained at the Academy for handling such artifacts. The witless fool thinks he knows best, and he is putting us all in grave danger with his arrogance. I am watching him, best I can, but it is difficult. I swear if Jarzon would take Night People he would be there. He is just like them.

And we don’t even know what this ruby skull does.

Now, I am one of the three that can actually make use of it (along with Melisandre and Tavia) but Darcy does not trust me. He feels that I, who has training in handling dangerous artifacts, a psychic shield, and the fortitude to almost never tire from magic is a far worse person to carry it than him, who has no training I know of, no magical mind shields, and has been worn out before by magic. The only thing that separates him from the Jarzoni is not letting him in their creepy cult, I swear.

So while we wait for that time bomb to go off, and I pass the time deflecting Melisandre’s taunts from my shield, I watch Jana and Marcus lean on each other, and Jadzia look ahead to returning to Auchindoun and to Alexis. I just huddle in my cloak. It does not matter. I do not need anyone. And as Darcy proves, the uneducated fools are almost as dangerous as the sorcerers.

End Session XXVIII

It was my intention to keep Lucifer in the shadows as a secretive helper, but Ashlin actually managed to get the drop on him. So Lucifer, and his connection to Romaine came out sooner then planned.

Isabel actually made a really good roll to recognize Tanith when she woke, realizing she was somehow related to Melisandre. Tanith has not been fleshcrafted, as she feared someone would just undo it and ruin her gender correction.

Irena is the Skull Knight Maria yanked from her wyvern in Dark Tides Rising. She fell over a thousand feet, but survived due to being a vampire even as her armor was crushed to the point of taking a long time to fully separate from her body. She really really really really really really really really really really really does not like Maria, and was searching for her at the party.

I think that covers everything. I do not have any more handout material, so short of answering questions and such I won’t be posting until two weeks from now. Comments and Questions of course welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#58
Theft successful, the Cat’s Cradle flee Kern, fortunately having help from inside sources. However, as they escape to Auchindoun, they discover a dark secret hidden in the Icebinders.

Session XXIX

Dark Tides Cresting Part III

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 10 Gravihain

I can do magic! As in, real, shaping of the elements magic! I mean, sound counts as an element, right? I didn’t really pay attention to the particulars in magic class. I didn’t really ever figure on being able to do magic myself. Brother Julia always told me about how laevval attract spirits, but the spirits always seemed like they were so… themselves. Like, integrally. I assumed I’d be, I dunno, antithetical to beings like that, since I’m never really anyone, not at a deep level. But then there was Aoibhell, and her talk about being ‘liminal’… I really need to talk to her.

Anyway, report and all that. For starters, we got out of Kern, not that it was as easy as that, of course. Lucifer got in touch with Darcy shortly after I wrote my last report, letting us know that Romaine had engineered a distraction for our pursuers, doing something to make them think we were laying low in Marrowgarde. That gave us time for Lucifer to rendezvous with us and lead us to a waystation where we could leave our cart and horses (not Jadzia’s Salki, of course, just our cart horses). Then, he led us into Belasco Swamp, which, while being no more pleasant than any swamp ever is combined with being in Kern which makes everything worse, had the benefit of dense tree coverings, so wyvern patrols couldn’t spot us from air. I managed to do a decent job at covering our tracks too, so even if they assumed we entered the swamp, they wouldn’t know where.

And that wasn’t the only thing the swamp had going for it. It also had sucking mud, narrow safe paths, and monsters a plenty. More essentially, for our purposes, it had a secret cave that led to an old Vata prison for extradimensional mercenary baddies. Those first three weren’t so bad – Lucifer was able to guide us through, and the monsters had nothing on my fellow Finest. I did manage to hurt one of the basilisk things, when I yelled out in surprise at its attack, and the yell turned into a dagger made of sound without me knowing I was doing it. That was exciting. I got a bit distracted after that, but when have they ever needed me to finish off a monster?

We did manage to harvest enough poison from the two basilisks we fought for about a dozen doses of poison. Not my preferred method of fighting, but you never know when something like that might come in handy. Thankfully, Tanith and Jana’s healing magic was able to make sure the creature’s poison didn’t hurt us, at least not over much.

We also fought a moving tree, which, let me tell you, was bizarre to fight. A tree shuffling around on what I suppose were its roots, whipping out with its incredibly flexible branches to grab people and pull them close towards a horrible gaping toothy max near its crown… well, it was odd. It did manage to grab a hold of Maria and Jadzia, but Darcy finished off the ice-rimed thing before it could get them anywhere near the whole maw bit.

Maria’s magic got a workout as well, not just for freezing tree monsters and basilisks. She also built us a raft, as in an actually structurally stable one, in about 8 minutes, and carried Salki across the lake with her magic. (She was also the one who harvested the poison from the one that jumped at us at the lake – she’d been trying to avoid being put on that duty before.)

Anyhow, the whole secret cave thing. Lucifer called it Dabi’s Pass, and asked us to keep it as secret as possible, for reasons that will become obvious. I’m telling you, because of course I am, and Tanith let Trebizond know about it on a Psychic communication line, but that’s all of who we’ll be telling, unless the others have a secret spymaster they are reporting to as well. It is, as I said, an old Vata construction – Old Vataszin script covered the walls, mostly about not letting “them” out. We had some inkling of the specialness of the place even before Darcy stepped close to the wall to let Maria read it, as it was far warmer inside the cave than out, which honestly was mostly noticeable because it was such an appreciated change. About the only thing that could make travelling through a swamp worse is travelling through one while it is lightly frosted.

Darcy had to move close because it was pitch black in there, so he sprouted his holy light. I had been playing around with my new sound powers, and after wearing myself out blowing trees up whenever anyone made a loud noises, I started seeing what I could poke at without getting too tired. One of those things was sort of damping down of the sound around me. I could probably make it louder too, but that wasn’t really something I wanted to experiment with as we snuck out of the country. Anyways, all that to say that I quieted our steps and voices while we were in there, as Lucifer didn’t want us alerting something that might be living in there.

Speaking of things living in there – if you can call it that – you may recall I mentioned something about warnings not to ‘let them out’ and perhaps you have been wondering about who they are. Perhaps not, I did mention something about extradimensional mercenary baddies earlier. They were them - the extradimensional mercenary baddies. Weird things, with far too many tentacles (don’t ask me how many is not too many, I don’t want to think about it), a plethora of teeth, and mandibles or claws a-plenty. There did appear to be two types (mandibles and claws respectively), all standing around in some kind of paralyzing prison thing.

Lucifer said (and Darcy, Jana, and Tanith backed him up) that they were watching us – they couldn’t move, but their eyes, or some kind of sense organ, followed us. That got me eager to leave, that and the pile of burnt corpses in front of the control panel that clearly indicated that the security measures were mostly up and running and needed nothing from us. Maria mentioned that there was supposed to be a shield up over the door, according to some of the inscriptions on the machinery, but we decided experimenting on the mysterious equipment that was the only thing keep the 10 monsters from deciding to rend and tear and bite was not the best plan.

On the other side was a shortish drop down (Maria did have to lower Salki again) and then a couple hours walk to Auchindoun. Lucifer was worried about being interrogated, but when I gave my personal guarantee that he would be safe, and that he would be allowed to leave at any time, he agreed to come in with us, and rest up. It was a long trip, and he is an old bird. The stay has been good for him – he’s made friends with Woolsey, the rhy-owl stationed there, got some good food in him, had a few diseases cured (he was very insistent that no one fix his missing eye, and has a healthy mistrust of Fleshshapers), and some Corruption cleansed, so he’s in a much better state. He’s agreed to stay for a day or two as well, to get his strength up.

Marcus has settled in nicely as well. He was asked to set his weapons aside, and not wear his Skull Knight armor, for obvious reasons, but he has been included in our discussions and treated well. He won’t be joining in the assault tomorrow, but that would be a lot to ask, for everyone involved, really. I might be keeping him company – toe to toe on pitched battle lines is not precisely my kind of arena. Trebizond is thinking on it though, deciding if there’s anyway I can do something with more effect that tossing a knife here and there, though sound knives might be more effective versus an armored foe. The others will be a mobile unit, shoring up weakness and coming in quickly for flanking manuevers, along with Alexis and Zacchaeus. They will be a terror for our enemies, I am certain.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered in Rezean in the stables of Auchindoun)

“Yes, I agree Dear One… it is good to be out of that pestilential country at long last. It is unfortunate that we must ride once more into that den of vipers upon the morrow… but this time we shall ride openly, to face the forces of darkness upon the field of battle. Yes, I thought that would please you after all of the skulking we have endured over the past few days.

“Yes, of course you were invaluable in our infiltration of Kern, Dear One. What is that? No, you were not a hindrance at any point… you must never think such a thing. Though circumstances occasionally demand that we part for a short time, I hope you know that I count every minute until our reunion in such situations. And the others know this as well… when the rhy-raven Lucifer first suggested to Darcy that we leave our steeds at a way station and take to the swamps, our friend told him in no uncertain terms that you are a valued member of our party and that I would not be parted from you.

“I understand, swift heart… the swamps of Belasco were unpleasant for us all, though of course none of us suffered so much as you. The soft ground, the sucking mud, the deep pits concealed by shimmering brackish pools… without a guide such as Lucifer we might have lost ourselves in the foul morass. And I am sorry that you were forced to endure that place, but the canopy did serve to hide us from any wyvern-mounted skull knights who might have pursued us.

“The basilisks and the tree-thing were not so difficult for us to overcome… our friends are well-accustomed to dealing with such threats. My Starlight and my Sunflower succumbed briefly to the effects of the basilisks’ poison, but they were easily able to overcome the venom with the aid of their healing arcana. And between Maria and me, we were even able to harvest that venom so that we might use it against future foes… in honorable combat, of course. The tree proved more of a challenge, and things might have gone poorly for me had my friends not been there to pull me from its wooden grasp… but no, upon reflection I am certain that I am more than a match for some uppity piece of topiary.

“I should mention that Jana’s lover Marcus was a great help during these combats. Not only is he a deft hand with that massive blade he carries across his back; his rallying cries are actually quite inspiring. He urged us into the thick of the fray with the practiced ease of a born commander, and our blades bit deep with his words to spur us on.

“Far more difficult to overcome was the terrain itself. When we reached a broad lake which we could not circumvent, we had to improvise. I suggested building a raft to ferry us across the lake, and Maria was happy to use her shaping arcana to accommodate the request… but even her magic could not make a boat sturdy enough to carry us all, including you Dear One. That is why you were forced to suffer the indignity of being carried across the lake by magic. I am sorry for that; I know that you were not comfortable with that mode of transportation, and I promise that we will try to avoid such necessities in the future.

“And then there was the cave. The final leg of Lucifer’s secret path, he urged us to reveal the details of what we would see to no one. We agreed, with the proviso that we tell only Trebizond, whom we all believed to be both trustworthy and wise. Lucifer agreed to this condition, thankfully, and led us into the dark tunnel.

“We discovered the reason for his caution in short order. With Darcy providing a soft holy glow, we could all see that the walls of the cave were covered in ancient runes. What is that? Oh, yes… there is no need for writing on the plains, so markings such as those must have been wholly unfamiliar to you. Well, runes are… a sort of way of making words permanent, so that those who come long after us can know our thoughts. I can read the script of Aldis, at least well enough for day-to-day use. Savar-mama believed it to be a useful skill, and taught me the basics when I was young.

“I could not read these runes, however, because they were different than those used in Aldis today. These runes were carved by the ancient Vatazin, and according to Maria they were mostly warnings not to disturb the creatures contained within the cave. We saw these creatures for ourselves a few minutes later. I am certain you remember them as well as I do… and I am just as certain that you do not wish to revisit the memory any more than is necessary. It was obvious that the warnings were not idle… the charred remains of a great many fools lay before the panel which my friends believe controlled the creatures’ prison.

“The exit from the cave was again difficult, and once again you were forced to submit to Maria’s arcana. I know that you could have made it down that slope had it been truly necessary, but it seemed foolish to risk a broken leg in service to nothing but our pride. You mean too much to me for that sort of spurious gamble.

“A few short hours across the difficult scree-covered slopes and we approached the imposing façade of Auchindoun once more. Alexis and Saoirse met us at the doors and welcomed us warmly. We gave our report to Trebizond, and my Sunflower used her arcana to communicate the truth of the Vatazin prison to him discreetly. He decided that, with the Kernish forces in disarray, now is the perfect time to strike. This would prove the security of the fortress and dissuade the Kernish from attacking for some time.

“We were granted leave to spend the afternoon and evening how we would. Trebizond told us that he would appreciate any assistance we could offer in the fight to come, but did not insist that we lend our aid. Of course, our involvement was a foregone conclusion; with the fight not yet done there was no way we could abandon Auchindoun in good conscience. The others agreed with me, of course… even Marcus would have joined us on the field of battle, but Trebizond forbade it. It would not be just to pit him against his former comrades, and force him to fight alongside Aldins and Jarzoni whose trust he has not yet earned. He accepted this ruling with good grace, and voluntarily surrendered his weapons into Trebizond’s keeping. They will be returned to him upon our departure.

“When we were given a moment of privacy, Alexis pulled me into a fierce embrace. Though she knew that I was more than capable of surviving whatever Kern had to offer, she was still relieved to see me safely back within the strong walls of the fortress. With regret, I explained the situation with Tanith, Jana, and Marcus to Alexis, and she immediately understood why I could not spend the evening with her. ‘Tanith needs you tonight,’ she whispered as she held me close. ‘I understand, and I don’t blame you.’ With the business at Auchindoun nearly completed, she assured me that it would not be long before the Rose Knights recalled her to Aldis City, and I promised to make the time up to her as soon as possible.

“She told me that she loved me, and I responded in kind. She understood the situation instantly, and displayed not an instant of jealousy. My Snowfall is a remarkable woman, and I am exceptionally fortunate to have earned her love.

“I had one other private conversation before we concluded our evening. I pulled Marcus aside and shared my feelings with him. I told him that my Starlight speaks very highly of him, and that I trust her judgment implicitly. I further complimented him on his actions in the Belasco swamps, and took his hand as a comrade. I then told him that if he should hurt my Starlight or betray her trust in any way, I would remove all of his bones and organs in alphabetical order… never mind, Dear One, it is another writing thing and not worth the time it would take to explain.

“Marcus has apparently seen such threats carried out in Kern. I was not expecting that, and it took me aback for a moment. But he went on to promise me that he had no intention of hurting his lover, and that he did not intend to interfere with the relationship she has forged with Tanith and myself. I am reassured, but will remain vigilant for now.

“Trebizond eventually decided to use our group as a sort of mobile support unit, flitting quickly across the battlefield, aiding our allies and hindering our enemies as our master strategist suggested. Due to the joint nature of the task force, Trebizond asked us to choose one Rose Knight and one Knight of Purity to join us in this endeavor. Of course, I had strong opinions as to which allies we should choose, and in the end the others agreed with my reasoning.

“Though both Alexis and Saoirse are capable and valiant warriors, my Snowfall is an expert in mounted combat… a skill which will likely prove invaluable in this sort of engagement. And since Alexis and Zacchaeus have fought side-by-side before – and because none of us like Amaiala very much – he seemed the obvious choice to represent our Jarzoni allies.

“With that decided, Tanith and I settled into our bunk for the evening. My Sunflower is not used to living in rough conditions, and was quite glad to return to a modicum of comfort. Though it was a little awkward – she is quite a bit taller than me – I held her to my chest and kissed the top of her head until she fell asleep. Though I am unaccustomed to the role of comforter, I find that I can rise to the occasion when needed. I… enjoyed being there for here when she was vulnerable. It is refreshing to be reminded that there are people in this world who value my soul more than my bow.

“Today we fight. And if all goes well, tomorrow we return to Aldis City… along with all three of the women I love.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Mother,

I’m so excited right now. We got Marcus out of Kern. We got ourselves out of Kern. Alive and intact! But I’m skipping ahead. Let me tell you how we did it. I think I left off while we were still fleeing the party. We took turns resting in the wagon. I managed to change my clothes while we were traveling so I didn’t have to keep wearing the masquerade dress. I also had Tanith undo the flesh shaping that she’d done on me. Maria did the same. While we were traveling Darcy and Ashlin were contacted by Lucifer. He said that Romaine had set up some misdirection in the town leading those in charge to think that we were planning on escaping through the town and out through the front gate. That would buy us a good bit of time as it turned out. He also mentioned a pass through the mountains that we could take to get out of Kern, but it would take us through Belasco swamp. When I was a Skull Knight we didn’t go in there. We couldn’t bring our wyverns since the trees are so close and the sucking mud makes it difficult to get through the swamp while wearing plate armor. None of us were wearing heavy armor, save Marcus, and Lucifer said that he had a solid path through the swamp that we could follow to get out. He later met up with us in person saying that he’d lead us through the swamp himself. I thought that was rather nice of him.

We could not take the horses, or at least most of the horses through the swamp, so we left them and the wagon at a waystation outside of the swamp. Jadzia had ridden Salkhi to Kern and we needed to get him out of the country with us. Leaving that horse was not an option. I can understand why Jadzia felt that way, it just made things a little more difficult for us on the way out. It all worked out in the end though. Anyway, so we packed up what gear we wanted to keep with us and left the rest with the wagon. Someone is going to come along that way and find a treasure trove of horses and some miscellaneous gear. All the better for them. We have no need of the stuff and someone else might make use of it. I did feel for the horses though. The common folks are generally not allowed to have them, so it is likely that the horses will end up being acquired by a lord or lady down the line, or they will be eaten for food. That much meat might be hard to turn down depending on how much food a family has stored for the winter. I didn’t tell Jadzia what the fate of her horse might have been if we had left him behind. I didn’t think that she’d want to know.

The swamp was as dangerous as I had been led to believe. We got attacked a few times by basilisks and one time by a tree monster. I had not come across one of those before so that was new. I have seen basilisks before though and remembered well that they can poison you if you’re not careful. During one fight I was not careful enough and got sprayed. So did Tanith. After the fight we healed each other and neutralized the poison. It’s times like this that make me glad that the only real arcanum that I’m able to use is healing. I’m sure that Tanith would have been able to heal herself, but this way she didn’t have to and I was able to do something for her. I know that she’s been feeling a little lonely with me spending so much time with Marcus. She understands though why I have been with Marcus since we left. I have not seen him in a long time and didn’t know until today if he was alive or dead. The letter told us that he was alive at the time it was written, but so much could have changed between that moment and when we arrived at the Masquerade ball. Oh, also during the fight with the first basilisk Ashlin discovered that he has power to shape sound. He got surprised by the monster advancing on us and called out. That call turned into an arcanum and it damaged the basilisk. After the fight was over Ash played around a little bit more with his newfound sound powers by blowing up small trees and stumps nearby.

The last basilisk that we ran into was a lake that was in between us and the cave that we needed to go through. Maria make a raft using wood shaping. I thought it came out rather well. Once she was done Darcy decided to check the lake and make sure that there were no hostile monsters under the water’s surface. Turns out that there was. The basilisk followed Darcy out of the water when he jumped to the shore and we all attacked it. It was dead in short order. Then we took the boat across the lake. We managed the boat while Maria used arcanum to float Salkhi across the lake to the other side. The horse seemed a bit skittish by the whole experience. Jadzia was visibly tense. But we got to the other side safely and made our way to the mouth of the cave. At that point Lucifer said that we could not tell anyone else about the existence of this cave. That it must remain secret. We agreed, asking if we could at least tell Trebizond. Lucifer said that we could tell the strategist but only if he promised to not share the information with anyone else. We agreed and Lucifer showed us why he wanted the cave kept secret.
Inside the cave we came across writing in Old Vatazin. I recognized the language but could not read it. Maria could. She said a lot of it said simply, “Do not let them out!” It was written several times. Then we found out what the writing was talking about. We came to a chamber in the cave and found a Vatazin machine console with charred corpses in front of it and several monsters sealed within some kind of crystal. The monsters were trapped in some sort of field that prevented them from moving, well… except for their eyes. They were watching us as we looked around the chamber. Tanith said that she recognized them from her research in the archives. She said that they were extradimensional creatures that did not serve the Exarchs, but were kind of mercenary. Within a fairly short period of time we all agreed to leave the chamber behind. The creature’s eyes were disconcerting plus the pile of charred bodies in front of the trapped control panel was disturbing. So, we touched nothing and left.

So, we made it to the other side of the cave and found ourselves on the other side of the Ice Binder mountains. We made our way down the slope, with a little more help for Salkhi from Maria, until we got to level ground. Then we made our way to Auchindoun. Lucifer only agreed to come with us if we promised his freedom and his safety while he was our guest. We easily gave him our word that no harm would come to him. When we finally made it to Auchindoun, I think Marcus was impressed. He had that look in his eyes that told me he was sizing up the situation and he wasn’t frowning. When we made it to Trebizond the other guards that were there took Marcus’ weapon and armor. I know that he was all too willing to give up the armor and helmet but seemed to hesitate for a split second before he gave up his sword. I can understand that. He was in a strange place with no way to defend himself. But he gave it up to be with me and the rest of us. Trebizond allowed Marcus to sit in on our planning session though, so that was hopeful. Trebizond told us that there was going to be a fight outside of Auchindoun soon and that he would need us to help where we could. We don’t have specific orders as of yet. He did however say that Marcus would not be allowed on the battlefield. He said that would be too much to ask of the other men. Marcus agreed readily enough. I was not happy with that but understood. The other soldiers might not be so willing to fight alongside someone that they saw walk in the front gates wearing Skull Knight armor.

Marcus did express an interest in being a part of the Rose Knights when he gets to Aldis city. No one said anything bad about that, so I’m assuming that my friends will support Marcus in his endeavors. I certainly hope that he is able to put his skills to good use, especially doing something other than protection or mercenary work. I wasn’t sure what Marcus would want to do with his life if he ever escaped. I was hoping that he could work with our group, but that may not happen. At least for a little while. He needs to prove to those in charge that he is trustworthy and maybe he’ll get into the Knights. I can’t really vouch for him because they will find out that I was a Skull Knight too and hid that fact from everyone. I’m still not keen on that little fact coming out. Maybe they’ll take my word for it without digging too far into my own past? It’s worth a shot I guess.

We then split up for the night. Tanith and Jadzia were going off together and Marcus and I were going together. I’m not sure where the others were staying. Before we got too far though Jadzia said that she wanted a private word with Marcus. He said sure and they went to another room for a few minutes. I’m not exactly sure of what was said but I can guess. I suspect that Jadzia was threatening Marcus with bodily injury if he does anything to hurt me now or in the future. It just seems like something that she would do. He came away from the talk with a slight wry smile on his face so I think my assumption was right. I love Jadzia, she can be so sweet. I wonder what she threatened him with?

And now it’s time for me to get some sleep. Marcus drifted off a little while ago secure in the knowledge that I was still awake. I think he’s a bit nervous sleeping in a new place. I was in the beginning too. I wanted him to be able to get some rest though. He’s had a rough few days. Probably a good bit longer than that considering how long this whole operation has been in the works. He’s finally somewhere that he can truly rest without fear of discovery. I’m so glad that we were able to get him out of Kern. I’ll have to see if Richter was the one that got him in contact with Trebizond’s people. If so I’ll need to thank Richter for all of his help. I probably should thank Trebizond too, for allowing Marcus to come here in the first place. I know Trebizond was getting information from Marcus for a while now, but I’m not sure how they got into contact. I can ask tomorrow. Now is a good time for sleep.

Love Always,

Jana


Dear Mother,

I know I said that I would talk to Trebizond today about how he got in contact with Marcus, and thank him for allowing him here, but I didn’t have the chance. Maybe before the battle? Right now we just met with Trebizond and Laodice to go over what we’re going to be doing in the upcoming fight. They want us to back up other units that may fall into trouble on the field. Shoring them up from the side, or attacking the enemy from an unexpected direction. We were allowed to take one Rose Knight and one Knight of Purity with us. We chose Alexis and Zacchaeus. They have experience fighting together and complement each other well with their skills. I know that Jadzia really wanted Alexis to come with us, if for no other reason than to be close to her new lover. I also know that Jadzia really couldn’t stand Amaiala and wouldn’t want her watching our back. She liked Zacchaeus a good bit better, plus the added bonus of him having fought with Alexis in the past kind of cinched it for her. The rest of us agreed with her reasoning and those are the two that we chose to go with us. I would still like it if Marcus was allowed to fight alongside me, but I know why they won’t let him and it makes sense.

We also talked with Lucifer for a bit. It seems that the people here have managed to heal several old injuries or diseases that he’d had for a while. He still refused to have them fix his eye, since that involves Shaping. Like I’ve mentioned before I can understand his fear of Shaping. It can be used to do bad things to people and my guess is that he’s seen it used to such an end. Trebizond and the others have offered Lucifer a place here if he wants it, but I’m pretty sure that he’s going to go back to Kern to be with Romaine. If I were her I’d want my oldest friend to take the opportunity and leave, but I can understand why he will likely go back too. He apparently helped raise Romaine since she was a young child. I would go back to Kern for a child too. I did go back to Kern for Marcus in the end. There was no question about that. I just didn’t plan on staying there with him. My whole goal was to get him out. Maybe Lucifer can convince Romaine to leave the country and do good elsewhere. Somewhere safer.

After we had that little reunion Ashlin decided to stay with Lucifer and Woosly the owl and play cards. The rest of us continued our talk about what our strengths and weaknesses are as a group and individually. People wanted to get a feel for how we would mesh with Alexis and Zacchaeus, and I think we’ll do fine. I know I’ve said this already, but I do wish that Marcus was allowed to go with us. I would like to be able to fight back to back with him again, but for the right cause this time. I know that we could be a force for good. On the plus side Marcus will be safe from the fighting, and I think Ashlin is actually going to be staying with him during the fight. Ash didn’t feel that he’d contribute much to the fight since we wouldn’t be using any of his clever tactics. I rather like his approach to things, but in a straight out fight he’s not as effective against armored opponents. And that’s fine. Everyone has their own niche and this isn’t his.

I’m going to see if I can find Trebizond and thank him for allowing Marcus to come here. I know he probably did it for the good intel, but it means a lot to me to have my lover safe and out of Kern.

Love Always,

Jana


Tanith’s Dairy

My mood has improved since my last Diary entry. I was perhaps overly harsh on Darcy, he handed over the soul gem to Maria soon after we got moving. It should have been me, but at least it was safe. Jadzia has been, to the eyes of most of the group, uncharacteristically gentle and loving with me. But not to me. I know her heart, and I love her more than words can say. But I am going to keep trying.

Lucifer caught up with us, communicating with Darcy and Ash while keeping connected to Romaine Foxglove in Marrowgarde. Romaine bought us time while they searched the city and waited to ambush us at the gate, and at Lucifer’s suggestion, we left the wagon and most of the horses and moved through the Belasco Marsh.

It was a perfectly horrid place. Lucifer focused on helping Jadzia get Salkhi through. We fought two enormous venomous lizards and what appeared to be a cannibalistic tree in the semi frozen marsh. It was disgusting, smelly, and unpleasant, but I don’t second guess the choice; it covered us from the Wyverns when they were deployed. Lucifer is clever.

Maria used her shaping abilities to warp wood and get us across the river in a boat she made in a matter of minutes, and levitating Salkhi. The cave, Dabi’s Path, was much more pleasant. Writing in Old Vatazin made it somewhat ominous, however, and as Darcy provided light for the humans he, Jana and I scanned ahead, while Ash quieted us.

Oh yes, Ash has discovered some sound manipulating abilities! It is very exciting. When all this is over I need to sit and talk with them about it.

So we eventually found the prison, and it was full of time-frozen monstrosities carved of pure horror. I had seen a few references to Thin Men or Soul Harvesters, but only as virtual myths of Sorcerer King excess. But almost a dozen of these bogymen were frozen to the walls with Vatazin technology. They still glared balefully at us. Maria pointed out there was supposed to be a shield preventing access to the chamber, but it was gone. The control panel defenses seemed active, and a pile of charred bone, mostly human, lay in front of it. At least that worked. Ash and Maria was eager for us to go, but not as eager as Darcy, Jana and me I bet. We got a very good look at them and met their eyes.

The remainder involved a short trip then climbing out of a well hidden cave in an alcove in the Aldis side of the Icebinders, with Maria helping Salkhi one more time before air walking down. Next thing we knew, we were back at Auchindoun, with Lucifer finally getting medical help. He threatened to attack me when I wanted to heal his lost eye.

Alexis, Laodice and Saoirse greeted us, and we settled in for the night. Jadzia, my wonderful flower of the plains, told Alexis I needed her, and wound up staying with me. She really has been so good to me, and I love her so much. We all talked including Jana’s fellow Marcus, before he and Jana retired for their long-delayed reunion. It is heartwarming to see my dear Jana so happy. I hope she started birth control.

Plans with Trebizond were interesting the next day. He wants us to be a special unit that moves in and assists any units in trouble as we crush the unsuspecting Kernish forces. We will be short Ashlin as they are not best suited to the battlefield. However, we got to choose a Knight of the Rose and a Knight of Purity alongside. Alexis seemed an easy sell for Rose Knight; we like Saoirse but we have fought by Alexis’s side before, and her mobility no doubt helps as she specializes in mounted fighting. We picked Zacchaeus for the Purity Knight, despite Darcy kind of wanting to use it to seduce Amaiala (which is fair, it also crossed my mind) but Alexis has fought alongside Zacchaeus before, and he seemed more tolerable than his counterpart. Marcus will not be joining us. He is not THAT trusted yet, which makes sense, but like Lucifer he is no prisoner.

So tomorrow is a big battle. As a diplomat I should not feel excited, but I am. Now to find my flower of the plains for the evening before battle.

End Session XXIX

Okay let’s see.

Maria used Move Object on Jadzia’s horse twice so we could get them out of the swamp and out of the mountains. Jadzia made her roll and guided them carefully in swamp so there was never any risk of the house getting stuck, thanks to Lucifer’s sharp eye.

Basilisks, Carnivorous Trees, Soul Harvesters and Thin Men all come from the Fantasy Age Bestiary. Green Ronin put up a guide to using monsters from it in Blue Rose on their blog; the third part is here and has links to the first two. They avoided an Afanc in the first session by taking a route away from the lake.

Ashlin triggered their Wild Talent they got end of last story for the first time.

I hope you enjoyed, should finish up next time. Comments and Questions welcome.
 

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#59
Trebizond gives the word. The Battle of Auchindoun begins.

I apologize for the state of the OP. I am doing everything in my power to fix it. Which seems to be not much. Suggestions welcome.

Session XXX

Dark Tides Cresting Part IV

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 11 Gravihain

Well, I can now add both gryphon and wooly mammoth to the list of things I’ve ridden. The Battle at Auchindoun was a long and hard one, but it has been won, and we are on our way home. With any luck, the ripples from this will keep Kern and its bullshit off our back for a bit. And by Kern, I of course mean Melisandre, but knowing her vindictiveness, this will likely just make it worse.

I spent most of the battle in the sky, using my new weird sound powers to help with communications. At one point though, the team acquired a pair of wooly mammoths, and needed another driver – Darcy named one Sergio and appointed himself lead mammoth wrangler, but Alejandro was all mine. Mammoths are… let’s say, effective combatants. Very… stompy. And the fact that they made the Kernish forces think we were allies until we attacked was icing on the cake.

The really exciting bit came when we were sent to help Amaiala. Irena was attacking her position, making a major push to take her out. We were well set up to deal with that – the two mammoths played nicely with the ogres, and the others dealt handily with the smaller ground troops. Maria summoned an air elemental, who had a wonderful playdate with Irena’s wyvern, as well as her spectre buddies. Between Maria’s magic and Darcy’s light, the spectres weren’t around long however.

Things were going great when Darcy jumped from the back of Sergio (the mammoth, remember) onto the wyvern with Irena. He managed to unbuckle her saddle – turns out air elementals are great at pushing people around, but not so much when they are strapped in. Now, Darcy paid for it – boy howdy did he pay for it – but said air elemental was able to carry him back to the mammoth before Irena finished him off.

That’s when things got exciting. Melisandre mind-controlled Darcy, ordering him to attack Jadzia. Jadzia tried to knock Irena out of her saddle, and when that failed, Maria yanked her off again. She landed heavily and laid into Tanith, Lady Talis controlling her from afar. Tavia and Melisandre fought over Darcy’s mind, but Melisandre kept control long enough for Darcy to chainwhip the hell out of Jadzia, and then turn towards Jana. He managed to fight his way free (I’m sure my desperate attempt to… slow him down slightly by hanging off his waist? Helped) though, at which point Melisandre turned her attention towards Jadzia. Thankfully, Maria finished Irena off before Jadzia could murder the rest of us, and Tanith (once I stabilized her a little) shooed her grandmother out of Jadzia’s head.

So, in the end, it all worked out, and we won, denying Melisandre yet another Skull Knight from her retinue. Those whose head she was in said she was more than a little unhappy with Talis for going after Tanith, so maybe there’ll be a little more unrest among the high and mighty of Kern. We can hope, right?

I’ll be home soon. Maybe I’ll even get warm again, at some point.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Nocturna Estate)

“No, Salkhi, I still do not wish to speak of that day. Stop pestering me! Did I not know well your provenance, I might name you a nag indeed!

“…I am sorry, Dear One. That was unworthy. You are not to blame for my foul temper, and I should not treat you so. I love you, Salkhi.

“…yes, I suppose you do deserve an explanation. But please take heed. It is not a pleasant reminiscence, and I do not wish to revisit it more than once.

“Yes, alright… the early skirmishes were magnificent in their own way. We breached their unnatural, unliving wall, we destroyed their siege engine, we defeated skull knights and ogres and mundane undead alike with few problems. Once we had made a breach for the armies of Aldis and Jarzon, we surged through the gap to see what we could do to further weaken Kern’s forces.

“Unfortunately our next encounter wrong-footed me. Though my friends assure me that the beasts the Kernish rode into battle were not shadow-spawn, I confess that I fail to see how that can be possible. Bloated to incredible size, covered with lank matted hair, with curved teeth that extended feet from their gaping maws and noses longer than my arm that waved about like the tentacles of some hideous sea creature… how could these abominations be natural? They could not be ridden in the manner of civilized mounts; the Kernish forces had instead built small huts on their backs.

“Their intentions were clear… they meant to drive the beasts toward the Aldin lines and trample as many of Auchindoun’s defenders as possible. We clearly could not allow that to happen, so we rode in to face these monstrosities in battle. It was quickly apparent that traditional tactics would be ineffective against the beasts, however… their leathery hide was too thick for our weapons, so we were forced to devise another approach.

“I supposed – correctly, as it turned out – that such beasts could not possibly possess the fighting spirit necessary to make them true war mounts. Unlike you, Dear One, they could be turned against their riders with the relatively simple application of guile and intimidation. While Darcy nimbly scaled the beasts’ hides, disposed of their riders, and bent them to his will, I – my strength bolstered by my Sunflower’s arcana – brandished Magmus’ club this way and that, driving the hideous creatures into a state of panic. How their mad little eyes rolled with terror! In short order most of the beasts had been routed, but two had fallen under our control. Though I was opposed to using such creatures at first… I must admit that they were useful when combatting ogres.

“We fought our way through several more skirmishes, but our final battle was the only one that truly mattered. We were called in to aid the Purity Knight Amaiala, whose forces were flagging. The reason became obvious upon our arrival: the vampiric skull knight Irena commanded the enemy from the back of her wyvern. My heart leaped when I saw her. Here was a chance to deal a true and telling blow against Melisandre by killing one of her most trusted lieutenants!

“I was a fool.

“The battle went well at first. The mammoth-beasts engaged the ogres on the field, and by and large kept them from harassing our own forces. Jana protected the casters while I fired arrows up at Irena herself. Darcy leaped from the back of the mammoth-beast he commanded and engaged Irena directly. Her counterattack was devastating… she struck him thrice almost faster than I could see, and it was obvious that they were telling blows. Maria’s summoned wind elemental removed him from the beast and saw him safely to the ground, where my Sunflower tended to his wounds. And then everything began to go wrong.

“He struck me, Salkhi. My dearest friend in all the world, the man who saved my life and pulled me from despair on the plains of Rezea, lashed out at me and drew my blood. I could not comprehend why he would do such a thing… but then I saw the look in his eyes, and knew that he was fighting against some external control with all of his might. I trusted that he would overcome this foul influence shortly, and turned my attention back to Irena.

“Darcy had unbuckled her saddle while he was on the wyvern’s back, and I thought that I might be able to unseat her with a powerful enough shot. Alas, I was not able to do so… but Maria once again proved her worth in battle by using arcana to pluck the foul creature out of the sky and hurl her to the ground.

“We all fell upon her, dealing as much damage as we could before she could react to her new circumstances. Unfortunately we were not fast enough to prevent her from completing one last act of spite. She struck Tanith, and my Sunflower gasped and fell to her knees. She was able to heal herself a moment later, and I breathed a sigh of relief when she stood once more. The others tell me that Irena was under the control of one of the Seven at the time; that she was loyal to Melisandre and would not have attempted to kill her Mistress’ granddaughter had she been in her right mind. At that moment I did not care.

“I regret that the blow that killed Irena did not come from my hand. My Snowfall rushed forward and plunged her lance into the vampire’s breast, but it was Maria who finished her for good. She sent a dagger of arcane ice plunging into Irena, and the abomination moved no more. And if only I could conclude my tale there, Dear One…

“A fog fell over me during Irena’s final moments, though I did not recognize it as such until later. At the time everything seemed perfectly natural. My Mistress’ granddaughter was near, and she was not to be harmed… but her friends were acting against my Mistress’ orders and had to be stopped by any means necessary. In particular, the large Night Person and the armored vata’sha traitor had become thorns in her sides, and it would please her if I could slay them.

“I lashed out at the Night Person, but he nimbly stepped aside from my blow. I turned my attention toward the vata’sha, and…

“Tanith’s hands gently caressed the sides of my head and I felt myself returning. As Tanith began warding the area against further psychic intrusions, I turned to Darcy in shame and begged for his forgiveness. He took my hand and asked for the same from me.

“My friends do not blame me for succumbing to Melisandre’s control, but my disgust at my own weakness knows no bounds. My shame cannot be measured with words. That vile sorceress was inside of my head, Salkhi, and she made me try to hurt my best friend. She nearly made me lash out at my Starlight, Dear One… my precious Jana. And if this hand had succeeded in doing her any harm it would no longer be attached to my arm.

“Melisandre must not be allowed to live, Salkhi. She made me hate my family, and she made me… she made me love her. Not as I love my Sunflower, or my Starlight, or my Snowfall, you understand… it was more like worship or adoration. For those scant seconds, she was the most important thing in the world to me, and nothing else seemed to matter very much. She is… too dangerous.

“I do not know what I should do about this. My first thought was that I must seek her out alone when I go to kill her, so that I cannot be turned against my allies by her sorcerous powers. But our battle has proven that without their aid, I am simply no match for her arcana. Perhaps there is some way that I could train my mind to resist her control? I do not know. And I have never been very good at studying in any case.

“My lovers have been most kind, though by and large they are consumed by their own thoughts and dramas. Marcus has moved into the Nocturna estate… into the room that was once Jana’s, in fact. She sometimes stays in that room with him, and on other occasions she sleeps in the master bedroom with the two of us… or with Tanith alone, as I have spent more time tarrying in my own guest chamber with Alexis of late. It is easier than arranging for privacy in her bunk at the Rose Knights’ barracks.

“They all know why I am… moody, and they accept my doldrums. They expect that I will ‘come back to myself’ any day now, that I will simply overcome this malaise and return to my previous state of being. How can I do that, Dear One? How can things ever go back to the way they were before? How can I ever be happy again when I know that Melisandre can make me betray everything my heart holds dearest with her merest whim?

“I think I shall wander down to the tavern tonight, Salkhi. I feel the need to get very drunk and break some things.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Mother,

Today we saw victory. Not without cost, but it was a victory nonetheless. We started off fighting a horse mounted Skull Knight, several skeletons and a wall made of skeletons. The wall had arms wielding swords and bows, which was surreal and dangerous. We made short work of the Knight and his entourage. The wall was a little harder, but Maria and her frost shaping, and Alexis and her lance finished it off quickly. The skeletons even had a shas crystal weapon that shoots fire, but we managed to get that stuck so they couldn’t use it. Maria had summoned an earth elemental and it used its own shaping to trap the weapon and its wielders in the mud. It also did a good bit of damage to the wall. The next fight was harder. We faced off against five wooly mammoths ridden by Night People, along with a couple of ogres and more Night People on the ground. The fight was rather hectic and hard, but we prevailed. Jadzia used her flaming club to good effect, scaring most of the mammoths away from the fight altogether. The other two were soon taken over by our people. Darcy in particular climbed one and gained control after killing its rider. I’m not sure who took over control of the second one. Hectic as the fight was I remember clearly hearing a roar from behind me and then the sudden weight of a lion using my back as a spring board to jump onto a mammoth’s head. That was Zacchaeus. He can shape shift and turned into a lion to fight the enemy. It was rather effective. It also worked to put fear in the hearts of the enemy. I mean, who wouldn’t be afraid of a large lion leaping right at you? The rest of that fight took a bit of time, but after we had scared off or appropriated the mammoths then things started going more easily in our favor.

We decided to keep the two mammoths and direct them into future fights. We came right up behind a squad of Kernish troops and they didn’t even realize that we were the enemy because we had the mammoths. They assumed that we were friendly troops. That misconception didn’t last long. This group was not very big and went down fairly quickly. The mammoths trampled their ballistae so they couldn’t be used and those of us on the ground fought off the men wielding ghouls on long sticks as well as a specter. We made short work of them.

Once that fight was done we were directed to help with Amaiala’s troops. They were being targeted by Irena in the air as well as a couple of ogres, two specters, and some Night People on the ground. That was the hardest fight of the day. There were other Skull Knights in the sky, but they were keeping the other Gryphons from aiding Amaiala. We rushed in and attacked the ogres and other troops. Maria summoned a wind elemental for this fight and had it direct its attacks at the two specters that were flying alongside Irena. Between the wind elemental, Darcy and Maria the specters fell pretty quickly. Meanwhile, Irena directed her wyvern to attack me and I was reminded just how dangerous those animals can be. It left me weak and poisoned. I’ve had my wyvern poison people in the past so I know what it does to people, but I’ve never been poisoned by one of them myself. It’s not an experience that I wish to repeat. Nor do I want any of my friends to ever go through that. Thankfully Tanith was nearby and saw me drop to one knee. She used her arcanum to cure the poison and I immediately felt much better. I gave her hand a squeeze and got back up.

After that people started to focus their attacks on Irena. Darcy even jumped from the back of the mammoth to Irena’s wyvern. His main objective it seemed was to unbuckle Irena from her saddle. It seems she learned from the last time we encountered her and strapped herself into her saddle this time. Darcy undid the straps but Irena got an attack or three in while he was sitting right behind her. She hit him hard and I saw blood fly. Thankfully the wind elemental that Maria had summoned was nearby and plucked him from the wyvern’s back before that bitch could kill my friend. Darcy was set down on the mammoth’s back and he continued the fight. I have to give him credit for continuing to control the animal into battle. Most people would have sought shelter from the fighting in order to receive healing or first aid. I don’t think Darcy would appreciate the comparison, but he reminded me of other Skull Knights that I served with. We were not encouraged to seek shelter if we were wounded but still capable of fighting. We were expected to continue to soldier on until we were physically not capable of fighting anymore. It wasn’t all that common that someone would be hurt so badly, but it did happen on occasion. Chasing down adepts could always be dangerous because you never knew what kind of arcanum they would throw at you. And as Maria has proven time and again she can be extremely dangerous. Even her ability to move objects came in handy in this fight. Since Darcy had unbuckled Irena she used her arcanum to pluck Irena out of her saddle once again and drop her to the ground. It was not nearly as far a fall as it was last time, but it still worked to dismount the Knight.

Irena was far from helpless on the ground though. She seemed to take a keen interest in Tanith and proceeded to attack her to the exclusion of all others. I learned later that she was being directed by Lady Talis herself. Irena worked for Melisandre, but in this case it seemed that Lady Talis decided to take matters into her own hands. I tried my best to defend my lover, but Irena is one of the leaders of the Skull Knights for a reason. She is a fearsome opponent and with just a couple of strong attacks she felled my Tanith. Jadzia, Amaiala and I were attacking Irena as hard and as quickly as we could. Irena wasn’t looking very good and seemed like she was going to withdraw from the fight, but we wouldn’t let her. Amaiala hit her hard and then Maria joined in and struck Irena with her frost powers, killing the Skull Knight. The wyvern flew off at that point, which was good. I wasn’t looking forward to fighting off the bitch’s mount. And now I can only hope that Maria hasn’t drawn too much attention to herself by killing one of the leading Skull Knights. Lady Talis will not be happy with her and might even know who to direct her ire at if she was watching through Irena’s eyes. I can only hope that she doesn’t know who to blame for Irena’s death.

Melisandre had joined in the fray as well, controlling my friends and making them attack each other. She made Darcy attack Jadzia, who was hurt pretty badly by the attack. Darcy managed to throw off the bitch’s control, but she just switched targets and controlled my Jadzia into attacking Darcy, and almost me. Well, she would have attacked me if Tanith hadn’t stopped her. While we were dealing with Irena, Ashlin stabilized Tanith, who woke up in time to help free my lover from Melisandre’s control. She then also cast a protective ward over the whole group of us to keep Melisandre from controlling anyone else. The bitch did not try again, that I know of, to control or hurt any of my friends. I was happy for that respite. I know that Jadzia was rather ill taken with the experience. I know the feeling of being controlled by another. There was one time I did not act fast enough against a group of adepts that were trying to flee. I hesitated and Lady Talis took control and made me slaughter them where they stood. I received a demerit in my file on that day because the Lady felt that she had to encourage me to do my job. I will tell you that after that day I was really careful on how long I hesitated to carry out Her orders, especially if I was wearing my helmet. If I had taken it off for some reason then I had time, but if I was still wearing it then I had to complete my duty in a timely fashion. She insisted. So, I know what it’s like to be controlled by someone else and to have to watch as your own body commits unspeakable sins. For her part Jadzia was lucky that she only attacked Darcy the once, and she missed on that occasion. When it came time for her to attack me, Tanith was already working her powers to keep Jadzia from attacking. I know that Jadzia feels bad for what she was forced to do, but at least she was not forced to watch her own hand kill Darcy or me. I fear that she doesn’t see it that way though. I know that she hates Melisandre for her actions and I don’t blame her. Melisandre is a monster who seeks only to corrupt her granddaughter and gain more power. She must be stopped. I know that Jadzia has likely already made a vow to this effect, but I will not allow Melisandre to hurt any more of my friends. They do not need to know what it feels like to be controlled by a monster into doing horrible things. They do not need to know what it feels like to kill an innocent and be a passenger in your own body for the act. I have never liked that woman, but today she really pissed me off.

I pray for the safety of my friends, and that I am writing these letters to someone who has already moved on in the cycle of rebirth. I miss you.

Love,

Jana


Dear Mother,

I have gotten word from our friends that Melisandre and Lady Talis have had a falling out since the last attack at Auchindoun. Lady Talis is angry that two of her Skull Knights have defected and one was killed under Melisandre’s gaze. I do not feel bad that Melisandre has lost the backing of one of the Seven due in part to my actions. I am uncertain what this information means for the future, but I know that Melisandre will be particularly unhappy with Marcus and myself for a while yet. I will have to warn him to stay vigilant against her potential attacks. I also found out that Richter knows Lucifer and is likely the one that put him in contact with Marcus in the first place. I will have to thank him for that.

On the subject of Marcus, Tanith has graciously offered to let Marcus stay at the Nocturna manor for now. He is staying in the room that I chose when I first moved in. Sometimes I stay with him and sometimes I stay with Tanith and Jadzia. I still notice that Tanith is somewhat formal with Marcus. She is not as comfortable with him as she’d like to think she is. I hope that she knows that Marcus will not come between her, Jadzia and me. I love them. Together they helped keep me sane and I can never repay them for that. But I also need Marcus. He knows the darkest sides of me and has accepted me for who and what I am. I need that too. I need him to love me as I am. I know that Tanith loves me and accepts me as far as she knows me, but she doesn’t know all of what I have done. I don’t want her to know all that I have done. I am being selfish in that regard. I don’t want either her or Jadzia to ever know what kind of monster they have let into their lives. I read that and want to erase it. It would be only fair for them to know what I’ve done. For them to know what kind of person I was in service to that bitch. I would be only fair, but then sometimes I remind myself that life isn’t fair and maybe I can keep my secret for a little while longer. I know that I’m being selfish, but right now I’m okay with that.

Love,

Jana


Tanith’s Diary

We have been successful in our push into Kern. The Kernish forces were unprepared for our sudden strike, as we were still being searched for inside the country.

We, with the aid of Zacchaeus the Silver Lion and my metamour Alexis Winter, pushed through a skeleton wall, stole Wooly Mammoths, ran over a ballista, and fought and killed Irena. That latter while we went to bail out Amaiala as Irena had swooped in to crush her forces. She was weakened from Wyvern Poison by the time we arrived, and for once seemed glad to see us. While we initially distracted Irena by Elementals summoned by Maria, that changed when Darcy rather heroically leapt from his Mammoth onto the Wyvern and managed to remove her restraints keeping her in her seat. He took a great deal of injury from her ferocious attacks, but escaped with the help of an Air Elemental.

That’s when things got difficult for me. For some reason Irena ignored more dangerous people on the field and went right for me. She lay a rapid series of sword strikes and while I healed myself I mostly remember blood and pain before I fell. I am lucky to be alive. Ashlin slipped across the field to give me medical attention while others drew Irena’s ire. Apparently Melisandre possessed Darcy, but by the time I was alert it was Jadzia who was possessed. I used my magic to free the mind of my Flower of the Plains, and threw up a Ward. By then, Irena and the Ogres had fallen, and we were overrunning the enemy.

Darcy, Jadzia and I were hurt pretty badly. I healed best I could. I think Maria got run over by a Mammoth at some point, which is really unfortunate if oddly ironic for a Frost Shaper. Maria also pushed herself past exhaustion with her arcana, and needed medical intervention when the Stamina Potion wore off.

At this point we are in Aldis City, and glad to be back. Darcy sadly was unable to bring his Mammoth (he named him Sergio) as it is rather warm here. Well, will be after Winter. I think Sergio is waiting at the base. I am giving Marcus board at Onyx while he decides what to do, and he is staying in Jana’s old room, sometimes with Jana. I would have done it anyway, but if I didn’t Father would kill me. Alexis has been made clear to be welcome as well, and has, uh, explored Jadzia’s old room with her. Our constellation has increased a bit, and that’s not a bad thing. I may even fancy a tumble with the pale girl at some point even if there is nothing more serious between us. I am working on dealing with Marcus in my life. It is, I admit, more difficult than I anticipated. I don’t know why I keep seeing him as a rival, but it is nothing the polite, soft spoken man has done himself.

Jadzia is moody. The mind control has taken a toll on her. I will help her as I can. Thankfully Jana and Alexis seem intent on showing her she is loved. Jana seems rather happy to have Marcus here. Alexis is getting used to being in a relationship with a woman, from what I have gleaned from chatting over tea.

It’s time to rest a bit, at least a month or two. I am sure the world won’t burn down without us for a while.

End Session XXX

Dark Tides Cresting Completed

So yeah, there were Wooly Mammoths. I could not find Elephants in the Blue Rose book nor the Fantasy Age Bestiary. I required two actions to get up, either a Strength (Jumping), (Climbing) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to get up. Jadzia for her part deciding terrifying them with her maul to be a better tactic to wearing them down. She was not wrong, they are walking piles of health.

So the plan was a fly by with Irena who would fight until the ground enemies were dead or her Wyvern took a certain amount of damage. She had over 120 health and 9 armor, so I figured it would be one of them. But the PCs were hell bent on not letting her escape, so she didn’t, thanks to some carefully used Arcana. Both Melisandre and Lady Talis both came in with possession, Melisandre on Darcy and Jadzia, and Lady Talis dominated Irena. She was tired of Melisandre’s fixation on Tanith and wanted to eliminate her. After all, their forces were losing as it was all a gambit for Melisandre to corrupt Tanith. Not that the double cross really meant much to the PCs as she brought Tanith to 0 health, which is a first for anyone so far (though Darcy almost was by her) Fortunately by focusing fire they brought her down. So good on them! Well done.

Okay, I think that is everything but if you have questions, comments (or feedback for fixing the first page) they are welcome.
 
Last edited:

Baroness Nerak

Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Validated User
#60
We are between sessions, but I have some handouts for you folks. The first part is the epilogue of Dark Tides Cresting. Then the handouts for Riders on the Storm. Note, most of that handout went out to everyone. Jadzia and Ashlin got a little extra content; those are marked with a (J) or (A). Enjoy

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Based on information out of Kern, Lady Talis and Melisandre's partnership seems to have ended after Melisandre had two Skull Knights defect and one die in her scheme to corrupt her granddaughter (Jana had nothing to do with Tanith, but Talis does not seem to see it that way). Irena had been corrupted and turned by Talis herself, and she intends personal revenge on Maria.

Nostalia had conflict with Melisandre, but they made up after guests declared that to have been the most exciting party in years. She is still sore about the skull. If she noticed Tatiana is gone she has not commented.

Romaine Foxglove has gone to ground.

The Soul Gem may have been affecting Darcy while he had it. It has the ability to affect anyone to some degree with no Psychic Shield and may have left a present or two in his brain.

The Ruby Skull has the ability to trap a soul in it of someone who dies (which precludes them becoming an undead other than skeleton or walking dead) and the holder can rummage through their memories, observing them or even stepping in and enjoying them from the perspective of the person. This is obviously a good way to get information. They can also act in the memory to change it, and the trapped soul loses the original memory in favor of the changed one, allowing them to drive a person mad. This is corrupting as hell to use, but no chance of controlling or influencing the person. Still, Tanith supports giving it to people to study or destroy in Aldis as it is horrid.

Auchindoun’s influence range increased after the battle almost to Lastlight, as Kern has lost control of a chunk of the Icebinders for now.

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Two Clans prone to clashing in Rezea are the Rihan and Winborn Clans. While outright war between the entire Clan has always been averted, limited conflicts from individual groups of Rihan and Winborn are not uncommon and this one, over rivalries between their warriors primarily but also witches, apparently stems from a long series of insults and other minor events that have piled up. It seems a good mission to get respect in Rezea and working to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

In Jadzia’s experience, these two are often rivals, and contained conflicts have happened. It is unlikely they will fully bury the hatchet, but it is always better to turn the conflicts to enemies of the Rezean people. There are enough of them. Fortunately, the Rihan and Winborn tend to unite against common foes. (J)

Each side has sent a diplomat to meet you, and a bodyguard, as you travel to the site. The bodyguards were chosen from outside the Clans to avoid bloodshed between the envoys.


Rihan is sending Jarim, a young warrior who is occasionally hotheaded but has also acquired some Winborn friends, so inclined to help. And her parents are known for their wisdom, so perhaps this is a test for her.

Ash has no special intelligence on Jarim. (A)

Jarim has met Jadzia, who found her a bit excessively proud and annoying to deal with. She always seems to need to be better at everything. Unfortunately, it seems to massively disappoint her with herself when she isn’t. (J)


Kallyain of Clan Ifalla is Jarim’s guard. You met her when she was guarding Laomediea Fireheart and her family. She is honorable and even tempered, a good foil to Jarim.

Kallyain’s reputation speaks for itself, and Ash has no reason to be concerned about her. (A)

Kallyain has been well, having had an assignment in Jarzon between this and that last job, monster hunting at the edge of the Shadow Barrens. (J)


Terra of Clan Winborn is a virtual princess. Beautiful and highly sought after, even fought over, she is known for being good hearted, but also very proud. Still she takes her responsibilities seriously and she may even someday lead Clan Winborn, so highly placed is she. Anything bad happening to her would be immensely bad for your reputation.

While Terra is not, precisely, a target that Ash would consider likely for an assassination attempt, she is high profile enough that they are likely on guard. Her death would have an effect on what passes for the political circles of Rezea and be a major embarrassment for the crown. That said, other than the Rihan she has no enemies Ash knows of. (A)

Jadzia has never directly interacted with Terra, but her limited experiences with her from the outside looking in is she is kind, helpful, and feels strangled by the entourage she is usually with. (J)


Protecting Terra is Shang of Clan Kamala. One of a pair of twins (the other being the apparently unstable Adept Lao) you have met a couple times in Aldis City, she is building her reputation as a warrior, and was apparently handpicked by Terra over more experienced bodyguards because she “has a good heart and needs to prove herself” which is perhaps not the best way to pick a bodyguard.

While not necessarily alarming, Shang’s whereabouts after the battle with Kern until she appeared here cannot be accounted for. Not normally a thing, but with someone like Terra involved, a check was done and seems to have disappeared a bit. (A)

Jadzia knows Shang is doing good work, though, and has been traveling, even being somewhat involved in military movements connected to the Battle of Auchindoun. This will be the first time Jadzia has really heard from her for a few months as she has been off the grid for a while. (J)

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Next week we begin Riders on the Storm.

Also, a second game, Blue Rose: Big Damn Heroes has begun. I hope to have a thread for that in the soon. The tone is quite different but it is a good game.

In the meantime, see you next week. Comments and Questions welcome.
 
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