Scattered Jewels of Southsea

Session 13: Sunrise
Wherein Mateus has a job to do, an exarch gives a personality test, a portal is traversed, another portal is traversed, an old friend returns, a ritual is performed, and an invasion is thwarted.

Mateus was outside, sitting on a tombstone and watching the door expectantly. One of his men had seen them enter, and had even seen one wander out and back in a few times, but by the time Mateus had arrived no one was inside; just those infernal doors. It was a nice enough night, but the situation made the wait miserable; there was little that could be going on inside the tomb that he would weigh as more important than his task at hand. He looked up at the tiny sliver of a moon hanging in the southern sky, starkly white against the purple of the nebula there.

A figure emerged from the tomb and Mateus sprang to his feet. He was three strides closer before he realized it was that Amatharn woman. Behind her the shadow of the tomb door ejected the others. “Anton is under attack,” he said as he drew closer. There was no use beating about the bush. “The Exarch is ready to send some help, and has requested you.” Mateus detected how weary they were, saw a hard days’ travel and work on their faces. But they would have to do; he knew that his group was not up for the rumours he had heard, and this group, as much as he disliked them, were the best hope his hometown had.

“Mateus!” Finneus said, offering a handshake. “The exarch, you say? He a friend of yours?”

Mateus was not quite sure how to respond to Finneus: he was a likable fellow who seemed to be on your side, no matter which side you were on. “‘Friend’ would be too great an honor for me. But there is no time for arguing over definitions; an army of warforged is upon Anton.”

Gwen’s eyes narrowed. The dwarf was a menace, and she knew he had to be dealt with, but now he was hitting her adopted home. She grabbed Mateus and spun him around, then began forward at a brisk pace. “The exarch is at the Cathedral, yes?”

“Y- yes,” Mateus stuttered. He had expected the mercenaries to ask for something.

Demasthenes stood in the great hall of the catedral, the moonlight filtering through the stained glass and rippling bits of color across his huge form. He smiled when the party entered, and it was as if the sun was there in the room. He gestured to the bench closest to him, “Please, I wish to know that you are the right people to send.” Everyone sat. No one said anything for a moment.

“Right people?” Finneus asked. “You sent poor little Mateus here out to a cemetery in the middle of the night on the hopes we might be the right people, and now we’re interviewing for the position?”

Demasthenes waited patiently, then turned his sunlight-bright smile to Mateus. “Mateus is a good man who did as he was bid. He speaks highly of your… abilities.”

Gwen did not catch the distinction being made. She was fuming that this being wasn’t letting her get to the task at hand. “What exactly do you want us to prove here before we can go help the people who need helping?”

Demasthenes bent down to look at her closer. “Gwen, correct? I understand your frustrations. But it takes a lot of power to transport people across the world. I must know that you are the right ones to send. Tell me of yourself.”

Gwen eyed him. “I have served militaries and I have served communities. I help those in need.”

“A good start,” Demasthenes grinned, illuminating the room. They told him of their adventures in Anton and the wider world beyond, of their quest to stop the Mist and their experience with Derick and his warforged army. After a few minutes Demasthenes turned, grabbed onto the air, and tore a hole in the world. Light spilled everywhere, and the shadow of the exarch motioned them inside. “You are the right ones. Go.”

They shielded their eyes and stumbled forward, and as each passed into the portal they felt the solid ground beneath them disappear, and then they clambered forward for a moment before finding cobblestones again. They stood in a square in the Elf Quarter, a tall temple to one side. And then the portal behind them closed, and they stood in the dark, nearly blinded by the contrast.

Slowly the street lights became clear, as did a number of small fires in the city beyond. But then a new darkness appeared; a square of pitch black not fifty feet away rolled open, and a chill wind blew out of it. Then a human form tumbled out, tucked into a roll, planted itself on the ground and pivoted back toward the dark portal. Four tall rods were strapped to his back and he looked to have been beaten to within an inch of his life, but Bluce stood ready, and when the two pale-skinned Shadar-kai lept out of the darkness Bluce twirled and kicked one to the ground, then leapt over him and away from the other.

“Bluce!” Finneus called, “Y’re a rare one indeed to have leapt into the Shadowfell and come back out again; you must tell us the story once we’ve dispatched your friends, here.” Bluce almost managed not to smile, but seeing his old friends gave him strength.

The portal cracked and howled, and then a Shadar-kai witch ran out, the darkness and cold following in her wake like a cowl. “Thief!” she called, claw-length fingernails gripping the air in Bluce’s direction. “You’ll not be taking my things and getting away with it!” Withervine stepped forward and threw a sack of seeds at her. Darkness and cold and witch all came to a sudden stop.

Amatharn was racing toward Bluce, who was still looking spent. She drew forth her sword and sliced through a few of them. Gwen stood nearby channeling the forces of the world into every blow. For his part, Bluce ran past Finneus and planted one of the rods into the ground, then turned to give one to the bard, “All four must be up. Make a square.”

The battle raged on with the rods going up one at a time. The witch was struck down after the third went up, and the last of the Shadar-kai broke and ran soon after. As soon as they passed through, the dark portal cracked and dissolved. All eyes turned to Bluce. He was not used to doing the talking, but knew that he had little time and much to say. “The ghost of my master Shihan led me to Relic. Relic had these rods, and Shihan said we must channel our energy into a jewel while between the rods. But I have no jewel, and Relic and I were separated when the Shadar-kai attacked. We need the jewel; Shihan said that this will save Anton.”

Amatharn dug into a pocket as she stepped forward. “Sehanine has obviously led us together. I believe this will do.” She produced the Jewel that they had taken from Yoren,

Gwen reached atop the nearest rod and tapped the glass sphere set there. The bubbly green liquid inside sloshed about. “These are the same design as the ones Surina left in Jil’s Crater.” Bluce merely shrugged; he didn’t know who Surina was or which crater was being spoken of.

A small raven spiraled down, transforming into Withervine at the last moment. “Channel power quickly; a battalion of warforged will be here any minute.” And just as the words escaped his lips the first of them turned the corner, saw them, and charged.

Amatharn sang a battle hymn at the jewel, then ran to meet the assault. Behind her came a pair of cyclones whirling power from the jewel. Gwen followed after, the two women keeping the onslaught at bay while Withervine moved to protect their flank. Bluce made sure the rods were positioned and then began a flank of his own while Finneus stood in the center of the ritual square, speaking softly to the jewel of creation songs and Jil and knights errant. The jewel flashed and shields appeared around the rods, then lighting lashed out at the warforged. When Bluce found himself surrounded Finneus passed the jewel to Withervine, who rubbed some rare earths from his pockets onto the facets, which conjured forth a tremor that knocked half the opposing forces to the ground.

But when Gwen fell back and splashed a tincture on the jewel all hell broke loose. Light poured out of the little gem and a wind knocked everyone back. Dust and cloud issued forth, and then a huge figure rose, his face impossible to see through all the wind. He lifted a blade above his head, gave a command in some long-forgotten tongue, and out of the jewel ran thousands of spirits, running in every direction and carrying or destroying the warforged as they passed. The dust and wind swirled everywhere, and then just as suddenly swirled back into the jewel, the light swallowing into itself and collapsing to a pinprick, and the jewel clattered quitely as it hit the cobblestones.

Far above, Derick’s airship turned, opened her throttles, and flew away.

New Questions

  • Where did Relic go when he got split up from Bluce?
  • Why did the Shader-kai have the rods? What were they going to use them for?
  • Did Surina have a jewel when she tried to summon in Jil’s Crater? If so, where did it go?
  • What was that ghost army?

Answered Questions

  • Where did Bluce go when he fell in the Bell Tower? 3
    • Answer: He went to the Shadowfell, or some portion of it, and met Shihan and Relic
Jil and Dominic, Part I
Jil's life before the caravan

Bluebooks: As Jil | As Finneus

Jil poured the tea gingerly into the two tiny cups she had laid out. “I’m not sure I understand, Dominic. The client’s brother is dead, right?”

Dominic shifted uneasily in his chair. He had no trouble with this sort of thing, but usually a lot of the instruction was implied. “The brother is dead, but Arlo is not the client.”

Jil pushed one of the cups across the little table. It made a pleasant rumble as it echoed in the hollow under the wood. “I have only been in your services a few years, but I was under the impression that you generally wanted to be paid for your troubles.” She lifted the second cup to her lips and inhaled the fragrance.

“Yes, but payment comes in forms other than cash sometimes.” He wrapped a large hand around the cup and lifted it to his lips. He didn’t like tea but knew when to be polite. Asking people what he was asking was one such time.

“And so Arlo is providing payment in some other way, or is someone else?” Jil was fairly certain she knew exactly which angle was being played, but enjoyed knowing as much as possible about the situation she would be stepping into. She had met Arlo once before, and his brother only in passing. That was not a lot to go on.

“Fate.” Dominic said, setting down an empty cup. “Fate will be paying for this job.” He stood up, the long dagger on his belt glinting in the firelight with the motion. Jil attempted not to look annoyed at his brusqueness. It was not the first time he would be sending her into a dangerous situation that could have been safer if his lips were looser, and it would probably not be the last. He pointed to her, and then a pile of clothes he had left by the door. “The docks at sunset, Jil. And try to hide the bloodstains on that coat.”

She would, of course, do as she was told. That was the life of a slave

Session 12: Eye on the Sunset
Wherein a drunk fights valiantly, a tomb is defiled, a great many doors are walked through, a rope bends reality, the same drunk is sent home alone, a bridge is constructed, a hedge helps and harms our efforts, and Yoren loses a hand.

“You were not invited!”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. But Collar-clad Amatharn had heard enough divine voices in her last few days to know that this was not one: this was mere trickery and magic. She took another step forward, put one hand on the tomb’s door, and pulled it open.

A burst of flame leapt from the ground behind them. Gwen spun and saw the skeleton stand, still burning from the magic that raised him. Another staggered upright next to him, and two more behind her. This cult that Viola had told them about might not have the power of the Gods behind them, but they evidently had some power. When the skeletons lurched forward and their intentions became clear, Amatharn spun on her heel and intercepted the flaming one, her sword cracking a few ribs in the process. Withervine gestured the other direction and another of the skeletons froze in place, then shattered into tiny bone shards on the ground. It looked like it would be a quick encounter until an amorphous shadow spun out of the half-open door, planting itself in the middle of the melee and slurping everything around into it. Gwen and Finneus stumbled forward and then away, but soon the multitude of skeletons were surrounding them. Gwen took a hit and evaporated into a cloud of ash, reappearing a short distance away. Finneus struck a loud note and made the world shake with the reverb, and when the echo stopped he was on the other side of the field. Amatharn cracked the flaming skeleton again and he split in twain, and then she attached herself to the vortex and sliced it until it stopped spinning. “Dead for real, now,” Withervine said as he kicked at a pile of bones that had been driving at him a moment before.

They crept into the tomb. A stairway led down a dozen feet and to a long hallway, which ended in a conical room. On the far wall were six doors, split into two groups of three by a large carving of the sun. Amatharn stepped forward and traced the lines of the carving with a long delicate finger. She shook her head. “This is no sun; this is an eye. Vecna’s servants have stolen this place.”

Gwen was laying on the ground inspecting the crevice between one of the doors and the floor. “At least they haven’t installed any traps,” Gwen said. She stood and pulled a lever; the door slid open. “Let us see where this takes us.” She crossed the stoop gingerly, and when nothing happened she took a few more steps down the hall. When the door slammed shut behind her everyone ran forward, but then spun around as they heard footfalls coming into the tomb. Weapons slid from sheaths just before Gwen re-entered the room through the entrance tunnel. It was a loop. Gwen shook her head, “Vecna.”

Amatharn walked to each door in turn, looking for inscriptions or other clues. “Six isn’t important to Vecna,” she muttered to herself. “But there must be a pattern.” Withervine was walking down each corridor, and each time he was reappearing through the entrance tunnel. Finneus pulled a rope from his bag and gave one end to Gwen, who walked down a tunnel as Finneus stood in the doorway to keep it open. When Gwen reappeared in the entrance behind Finneus the rope was taut, and each could pull the rope and the other could feel it. The dropped it and wound it back up. Withervine was trying combinations, now: five senses, two eyes, one missing. Four seasons. One, one, one.

“When were ya supposed to be at this soiree tonight, Viola?” Finneus asked.

The bloodball player turned sharply. The battle had woken her somewhat, but she was still feeling the wrong side of tipsy. “Sundown.”

“That’s hours past,” Withervine said, walking through the room and into another door. He reappeared in the entrance, and as he walked to another door said, “If we have to be here at sundown…” the door shut behind him, and once again he came in through the entrance and walked toward yet another door. “…we have a while to wait.” He disappeared as the door shut.

“When’s sundown?” Finneus asked.

Withervine walked back in and stopped in the center of the room, “Seven. Only six doors.” He hooked a thumb behind him, “But this corridor faces due west, so the sunset light would stream right in here.”

“The dying light.” Finneus said. Withervine smiled. “So if you go through that one,” Finneus pointed at one end, “which we shall assume is door six, while I go through this one,” and he pointed at the opposite end, “which we will assume is door one…”

Withervine was already pulling the lever. They walked in together.

Gwen and Amatharn and Viola stood there, but a moment later it was evident that no one was coming down the entrance corridor. Gwen tilted her head, “But there are three of us, so we can’t all continue.”

Viola was sitting against one wall, pale-faced and unsettled. “I think we all know that I’m drunk. You should continue on without me.” She waved a hand in a wide arc at the doors, and Gwen and Amatharn went through one each. Finneus and Withervine stood waiting under a lampost. It cast a puddle of light in a vast and dark cavern whose ground was a patchwork of deep crevices crossed by tendrils of rock. Its twin was a dozen feet further into the cavern, and another identical lantern a dozen feet more. Someone was already in here, and they hadn’t expected the need to cover their tracks.

They crept forward. Finneus took point, keeping his eyes and ears ready for the eventual meeting with whomever had preceded them. After ten minutes of walking they began to hear voices arguing. A gruff voice sounded annoyed, “They know it’s in Ceris; they will be here soon.”

“No one will find it here,” a higher voice responded. “It is safe.” They crept forward; the voices were coming from atop a small hill with a pathway spiraling up its far side.

“They know more than you think,” the gruff voice replied. It sounded familiar. Gwen sized up the hill and smiled. She drew a few blocks out of a pocket in her coat and arranged them on her outstretched palm, and as she did a faint shadow of stairs snaked up the hillside.

“We will keep it until The Lord needs it.” the higher voice assured. One by one they moved onto the stairs, climbing gingerly and making every effort to keep quiet.

The gruff voice was full of urgency. “They will be here shortly!” Amatharn looked at her comrades and smiled on them the way she knew that Sehanine was smiling on her.

“It is safe here,” The higher voice said. Finneus’ eyes flashed with Jil’s anger as the owners of the voices came into view. The gruff one sounded familiar because Yoren‘s voice was etched into their memories. He had screwed them when last they met, and not one of them was happy about it. Jil drew Finneus’ fingers across the lute strings and Yoren ran to find the sound, only to find himself trapped behind Amatharn as she raced out and slashed at one of the guards. Withervine lobbed seeds across the hill, and the ten-foot hedge that sprouted where they landed split the field in two, with Yoren nearly alone on this side of it. Soon Yoren was fighting through it to escape while the other guards were fighting through it trying to stop these new intruders. Once everyone had struggled through it Withervine shrugged and his creation evaporated into the ether, its job complete.

Gwen slid past the guards and found herself on the front lines. Finneus cheered her on, and she managed to land a blow on Yoren before the dwarf reached onto a large marble table and thrust his hands into a ball of light that resided there. Lightning coursed over him and out his other hand, and nearby the air tore and a tiny portal no larger than a first appeared. Amatharn slashed at the guards again and again, dancing between them with a martial tempo and divine providence. Withervine kept two more at bay, his beastly paws clawing at them and keeping them close. Finneus stood behind Gwen and warned her of incoming attacks, told her of defensive gaps, and called out timing in beat with his song.

One of Gwen’s blows caught Yoren off guard, and when he stumbled back from the ball of light he held in his hand a shining jewel. It crackled with energy as it was torn of its housing, and the two guards closest to Yoren were caught in the blast. Then everything sealed up into the crystal for a moment before exploding again, and as the force expanded Yoren’s flesh was torn from his fingers. Yet through all that he managed to hold onto it. But Finneus’ next chord caused him to blunder, and when Gwen’s blade caught his elbow it separated from his arm and hung there in the air, the bones still clinging to the red gem. He staggered back, clutching the stump that a moment ago had been his arm, and fell through the widening portal. The higher-voiced man lobbed a bomb at Gwen, and when its force toppled her to the ground he slipped through the portal as well. As the doorway irised closed Withervine’s claws tore the final guard down.

The gem fell to the ground with a clatter, but it did not break. Gwen scooped it up; she couldn’t let a piece of arcana this clever roll away, no matter how dangerous it might be. When she inspected her fingers and saw no ill effects from the thing, she examined it closer. It was an exquisite little jewel but lacked a setting. She bit her lip a little, deciding if she should say the words out loud, and then did so. “It seems… relieved? Can a jewel be relieved?”

“If it’s the right kind of Jewel it can,” Finneus said, stretching out a palm. Gwen handed it over, hoping and then glad that Finneus’ arm stayed put. Next he passed it to Amatharn, and when she suffered no ill effects she quietly slipped it into her bag with the summoning book. Finneus didn’t notice; he was too busy looking at the marble table and the orb of light thereon. He reached in and withdrew a small earring, holding it close to his eye to inspect it. “Tiny inscriptions here, and the style looks familiar. Positive adjectives.” He turned it over in his hand, spun open the clasp, and put it on. He blacked out.

New Questions

  • Why did they invite Viola to the ritual? 10
  • Were there actual Vecna cultists, or was that Yoren’s party? 10
  • Who is The Lord that Yoren spoke of? 10
  • Where did Yoren’s portal lead? Who were the figures on the other side? 10
  • What is the story behind this jewel? Where did it come from? Who put it here? Did it make that portal? How did Yoren know its whereabouts? How did Sunder? 10
The Mists of Tierm: Part III

Bluebooks: As Jil | As Finneus

In shadow sunk you would have thunk
We’d all have met our end.
But we contrived and oh! we lied
Warforged ears we’d bend.

So to the sky on ship did fly
The heroes bright and fair.
The captain there above the air
23’s punderer.

Their ruse was run and when ’twas done
The Remnant shouldered blame
Upheaval was upon us ’cause
Their plans were all its aim.

Sunder stayed in fray and played
While others did escape
They landed in the Blackheart and
Fought out still all in shape

A caravan upon they ran
To Ceris it was bound
As as t’were they, guards ’gain they play
And trouble ’gain they found.

Some bandits dark to make their mark
Had planned our friends to kill
But driven back their lines did crack
And ’stead their tale did spill.

Shadowfell tribe uproot and bribe
Seeking the heroes four
But truth did tell and knowledge fell
On Remnant vengeance swore.

In Amber-town woes were washed down
And old friends met again,
A tower green had now been seen
In city center plain.

But more severe the spree of fear
And murders spreading wide
So to a midnight cult-ury
Our heroes did abide

With drunken friend down road they wend
Past cemetery dark
A story to procure, for sure
But hopefully mystery mark!

Jil muses on her ever-shifting relationship with the truth.

Bluebooks: As Jil | As Finneus

Stories are made up of Truths, which are far more important than the truth. A Truth is the atom of existence; it is the thing upon which all others are built, the foundational element of the universe that allows us to make sense of the world. The truth is merely a boring recitation of what has occurred, with no necessary connection to its impetus or import. Truths are freighted with meaning, but the truth is unencumbered by such valuable weight.

I live, by necessity (and, if I am Truthful, by predilection) somewhere between the two. We all must deal with the truth of this world, the brokenness of things-as-we-find-them and the sorry state of so much. But we must always aspire to the higher Truths that we know in our hearts to be our callings, our aims, and our raw material. For no one of import can make the world better simply by dealing with it as it is found; one must aspire for it to be greater, even as our definitions of “greater” differ with everyone else around us.

“Bards are tellers of Truth,” Jil said.

And, quite often, our definitions of Truth differ as well. Many times a day I hold conversations with people who have no idea of the Truth of my identity. And when I tell them the truths of the day they leave happy to be informed. When I venture into the Truth of the world is when things become dicey, when people get upset and when the real power of words and Truth impact worlds and truths. I can pull a Truth out of the air and knock you over with it if you’re not expecting it. I have become a connoisseur of Truths, picking the finest crop and stowing them away to be used when needed, paired exquisitely with the banal facts they encompass and redefine.

So I know that the truth of the matter is that slavery is a real and dangerous cancer on the world, that the fragile economies of these city-states I call home are strained to the breaking point, and that events are moving far faster than anyone can control. But I also know the Truth: this world is continually reinventing itself, and every reinvention is spurred forth by the actions of a few who saw further, guessed better, and acted brashly in their pursuit of a greater world.

Ultimately, the power here lies in the Truth being self-reinforcing; what the community knows becomes what is, and defines what can be aspired to tomorrow. Because the Truth is always changing, leaping higher and higher as the mountain of truths beneath it grows.

Session 11: Caravan Guards Once Again
Wherein a forest is crossed, a caravan is met, an ambush is foiled, an enemy is turned into an ally, an ally is turned into an enemy, a tavern is returned to, an old acquaintance is found (drunk), a mystery is found, and a graveyard soiree is scheduled.

The trees of Blackheart have a habit of moving about when you aren’t looking, and of creaking ominously during the night. The many layers of canopy make the light diffuse when it penetrates at all, with the result that it is very difficult to find your bearings in the semi-darkness. But after only a few days of trudging Withervine managed to guide them out onto the remnants of the Tigris Road, which here seemed to be much as it was before the Upheaval, unlike what they found at The T.

Next they set out west toward Ceris, making good time now that they were finally on a real road. Toward sunset they came across a camped caravan heading their way, and heard tales of bandits ahead, and were easily talked into another stint as guards. At daybreak the lot of them broke camp and began the final stretch into town.

It was not hard to see the attack coming: the road narrowed as it went into a small gulch, and the positions on either side moved out of beat with the wind. So when the screaming began and the orcs ran toward them, the battle was met with ready resistance. Their number was such that it as impossible to stop a few getting away with a crate or two, but Amatharn, [[Collar]-clad and wielding a sword, held the main contingent in place between a pair of wagons as Finneus‘s songs and Gwen’s contraptions pelted them into submission. Withervine focused on the few orcs still skittering away with stolen goods, and before long the lot of them were standing around a bound Ogrillon. “Masurga” she finally answered after Finneus asked her name a third time.

“And what are you doin’ in these parts, stealing things that aren’t yours?”

“I couldn’t care less about the goods; my tribe was torn from the Shadowfell and needs to assert itself in this new land. we were hired to come and kill you.”

“Kill us? By whom?”

“A Warforged approached my tribe. He came unarmed and we listened. He told of a dragonborn and three others who we should seek out and kill, then receive a reward.”

Jil gave Finneus’ winning smile, “I’ve got some unfortunate news for you, lass. The Warforged and his master are the ones you should be targeting: those lot are th’ones what pulled you into this world.” Jil knew from Masurga’s look that she believed this. Now to use this new ally to best effect. “Where are you meeting them to claim your reward?”

Masurga balked. She was a protector of her tribe, and giving away their whereabouts was not something she would do lightly. “I would rather not tell you.”

Finneus nodded, “I understand, but you might want to bring a few more of your friends along to the meeting, and tell the Remnant how much you appreciate their ruining your livelihood.”

A broken smile crept along Masurga’s face. “That is a good idea. I will do that, if you let me go.”

Finneus looked at his comrades. Once again they had to make a decision and no one was qualified to speak on their behalf. So Jil made the call and agreed. Amatharn undid the ropes and Masurga’s backed into the brush. “if you need to contact us, we will keep a lookout in the field passed the cematery, south of town.” Then she disappeared.

The goliath lumbered forth a few moments later, a large gash on his arm. “What have you done?”

“We let her go.” Finneus said matter-of-factly.

“She was a criminal! The Erathis Justice shall hear of this!” he stormed off. Jil had a moment of doubt; had they just traded one ally for another? It was too late to care now.

They reached Ceris just as the sunlight began to slant into their eyes uncomfortably. The caravan broke immediately, each wagon heading toward whatever destination it needed. The Goliath eyed them cruelly and went to find a Justice. Jil pointed Finneus’ hand at a tavern just inside the city gate, “Withervine, this is where we first met. Fancy a drink?” and in they strode.

It took about ten seconds before Finneus was buying a drink for Viola, of the Cerisian Gears. “Finneus!” she called, obviously well past tipsy. “you’ve returned! And with friends!”

Each was introduced in turn. “Finneus, last I saw you you sang that song about a match and how much I sucked.”

Finneus nodded, “Aye, but before the match I sang your praises, and them you went out and sucked. Bards are tellers of Truth, Viola, and I cannot violate that.” She shrugged, and Finneus and his comrades tried to keep from laughing.

Soon the matter of the Upheaval was brought up. “Everything’s changed, I hear, but not in Ceris. Still the same four quarters, still the Erathis Justice trying to run everything. Still the beer!” she took a swig.

“So nothing’s changed?” Amatharn asked.

“Well, there is a bloody Jade tower in the middle of town. Guy inside wants to be left alone, though. Librarian, I hear.” No one was sure if that jumble was supposed to make more sense or not. They all looked at each other, and just as Withervine was about to ask a question Viola sat bolt upright. “And we have a new Exarch in town! In the Pelor camp. Haven’t seen him myself, though.”

“So nothing’s changed,” Finneus said, “except that there’s a mysterious tower and Pelor’s right hand is here. Small things.”

“Yep!” She said, tilting her mug at the changeling and sloshing some ale on his shoes. She brought it then to her lips, stopped, and then took it down. “And the murders in the Cathedral Quarter, I suppose.” She drank again, nervously.

“Murders?” Amatharn’s brow arched.

Viola looked sick. She might have just drunk too much, but Amatharn recognized someone failing to hide something. She shot a glance at Finneus, and he pressed the matter subtlety. “Have you been wandering about the Cathedral District killin’ people again?”

Viola laughed, “Not this time!” Then she suddenly stopped, looked around, and leaned in. But she got cold feet and stopped herself again, and took a drink to stiffen her resolve.

Finneus let her think she had played it off. “Any idea who is?”

She again looked around and leaned in. "Cultists is the rumor. I was-” she looked around once more, “invited to a… gathering… tonight.”

Finneus gave her a look of amazement. “Then what are we sittings around here for? That’s a story waiting to happen! Viola, where is this gathering? I shall accompany you!”

Viola smiled. Going alone would have been gauche. Arriving with an entourage was more her style. “In the graveyard south of town. Will you really come?”

“Of course!” Finneus bellowed. He took her hand and she sprang to her feet, then just as quickly fell into a heap on the floor. Gwen stepped forward and brought her to, then they went out the door. Withervine transformed himself into an elephant and they all climbed aboard. They would arrive in style.

New Questions

Answered Questions

  • Can Ceris send more supplies to Anton? 6
    • Answer: sure seems so.
Jil ponders the nature of her revelation

Bluebooks: As Jil | As Finneus

It had to come out sooner or later, and I’m glad that it came out when the necessities of the situation limited the number of questions. That the situation was so dire also made it a hard role to play, not having any prior contact with Surina beyond her protestations at our intrusion. But Dragonborn– especially the accomplished ones– are usually brusque and superior, so guessing that she fit that mold was a safe bet, and crafting the lie to enhance that mood and tone made it believable even if it was a step out of her normal persona.

And I must say it was one of my better lies. If it had lasted just a little longer I do think I could have convinced Derick that he should begin to fear the mechanical army he’s assembled. But it was not to be; he was smart enough to ask for specifics and we were hurried enough that I had none to offer. And so we resorted to the violence that caged animals are wont to resort to, and we made a mad dash off of the first functioning airship I’ve been on since the incident at the Grand Ball at Turinae. It was no mean feat to commandeer a skiff and land it amidst heavy fire, but my comrades and I have skills aplenty and are getting quite good at managing these kind of difficult situations.

But now we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, with a nominal quest from Sunder to find a “jewel” in Ceris, and we’re just about to begin the sitting-around-a-campfire thing that accompanies such a night. How many questions will Withervine and Amatharn ask? How many more does Gwen still have, even after knowing me all this time? It will be an interesting night. But my comrades and I are getting quite good at managing these kind of difficult situations.

Session 10: Revelation
In which a player's secret is revealed, a con is run, a variety of disguises are put on and shed, a stray comment takes credit, an old friend reappears, and a daring escape is made from the sky.

“You all are bound to find this out eventually,” Finneus said as he took off his coat. He flipped it, and the inside became the outside, and suddenly Finneus had a sable black coat on. “And you might as well find out when it could save all of our skin.” The sound of people running down the stairs echoed through the tower; Derick‘s men were getting closer. Finneus reached up and rubbed at his eyes, and suddenly his face distorted and elongated and grew, his beard disappeared as scales sprouted all over him. What had a moment before been Finneus was now the spitting image of Surina. “The name is Jil,” the now-dragonborn said in her now-dragonborn voice, deep and raspy. “I regret not being able to tell you sooner that I’ve been a Changeling this entire time, but it’s an occupational hazard I must live with. It is very important that you follow my lead on this; we need to make Derick doubt his own senses and sensibilities.” She looked down at her disguise. It was not perfect, but it would have to do. Withervine decided to get in on the act and made himself resemble one of the half-dragon abominations. The footfalls were coming down the stairs, now.

When the turned the corner, the two warforged had their swords drawn and shields at the ready. “Surina” stepped forward, a scowl on her face, “Where is Derick? I must speak to him.” The warforged stopped in their tracks, profound confusion registering on their metal faces. They had, after all, just come from finding the body of this dragonborn two flights above.

“What– who– what happened here?” one of them managed.

Dragonborn faces make for good scowls, and Surina’s provided one, “The warforged that you provided turned on me. They’ve done incalculable harm to my tower and ruined my experiments. Thankfully I was able to mobilize my reserves from the town in time.” She gestured to the others behind her.

The two warforged looked at the assembled group. This was above their pay grade, “You should talk to Derick.”

Surina’s head nodded, her eyes narrowed to convey her disgust, “That’s why I asked for him.” She swept past the warforged and began climbing the stairs, then the ladder, and then she strode across to the airship moored on the tower’s edge. It had a long, thick body that sacrificed speed for an ability to transport a small army. Two huge envelopes of Gods-know-what kept it in the air. The gangplank was guarded by yet another warforged, who looked just as confused as the others had been. The same story was delivered, and soon they were boarding the ship. Jil glanced back at Gwen with Surina’s eyes; the genasi would know the most about this ship, but Surina couldn’t give away an unfamiliarity, here. So Jil bought time by examining the ship with feigned disapproval as they slowly moved aft to the larger quarters, where two guards stood sentry. Again the confusion, again the story, and into the quarters they went.

Derick stood at a table port-side, the body of the real Surina laid atop it. Two warforged were standing near it; they had evidently just brought it in. Three elves were starboard, working on various consoles doing gods-know-what. “Wouldn’t you rather talk to the real thing?” Jil asked in Surina’s voice. Derick spun on his heel, and his mechanical eye darted about in an attempt to catalog the scene.

“Explain yourself,” he said warily.

Surina’s face was not scowling, now; Jil knew how to adapt to the hierarchy. But she could still drop as much blame elsewhere as she could; ideally, Derick would come to mistrust his own bevy of warforged. “The Mist was coming along perfectly, but then the warforged you provided decided to take it upon themselves to change their working arrangements. They rose up and destroyed my experiments. Thankfully my reserves–” she gestured behind her– “were able to make it from the city in time.”

“Your reserves?” Derick asked. “You’ve not spoken of this before.”

“I do not pretend to know all of your plans or backups–”

Derick cut her off a bit too quickly, “You have no need to!” There was obviously history there.

Surina’s face attempted innocence, but Jil could only do so much with these raw materials. “I do not mean to imply that I do, but I would expect you to have them, just as I expect you to assume I do, as well.”

“Who are they, then?” Derick asked, stepping forward to let his mechanical eye inspect them closer.

Withervine claimed “Grell” as his name. Amatharn used her real name. And Gwen used hers, but Derick’s ears perked up at the sound of it. “And where are you from, Gwen?”

Gwen knew immediately that she had said too much; Derick had likely been back to Experimental Forge 23 and found himself locked out, and her name was on the lock. But for now she had to answer a question. “Anton, originally. But my parents moved when I was quite young, following a bird that is important to my people.”

Derick scowled. He was certain of something but couldn’t prove it, so didn’t want to act on it. He turned his rage to Surina. “What of the mist?”

“The mechanism is quite destroyed, I’m afraid. So you’d best work quickly if you still wish to take advantage of it.”

“I told you I needed a month!”

“And I told you I needed some competent minions.”

Derick set his jaw. This was not the news he wanted to hear. But it was better than the situation he had been in when Surina was laying dead on a table.

“Your tower is not safe anymore, and your experiments here are ruined. You are coming with me.” He motioned to one of the elves starboard and a moment later the ship shuddered as it left the tower moorings.

“Who,” Derick asked, turning half-way around and pointing to the body behind him, “Is this, then?”

“A Changeling, one would suppose.” Surina said. Always wrap the lie around the truth. “Everyone in the tower knew you were coming, and so they brought this person in to lure you in.”

“And you said that the warforged had no contact with the outside world, as we agreed?”

“They talked with your men when you visited. Only.”

A thought occurred to Derick. “You didn’t experiment on them, did you? You assured me that you wouldn’t.”

Jil did her best indignant face, but Dragonborn tend to be indignant by nature and it didn’t register as well as it could have. “I did not; I had enough projects to keep me quite busy.”

Derick nodded. He needed more information. He pointed at the large Abomination that was Withervine. “Make yourself useful and go find the Doctor.” Withervine shuffled outside.

“It is best to give them more specific instructions,” Jil-as-Surina said, “as they are not always the brightest.”

Withervine found a young airshipman and said “Doctor?” while flexing for her, but she just ignored him and wandered off. He went below decks and found the bloody doorknob of the Doctor’s quarters. Inside a wiry man had his arms elbow-deep in a warforged. “Derick needs you.” Withervine said. The Doctor looked annoyed at being interrupted, but knew that this was not a request he could ignore, so he cleaned off his arms and folowed the thing upstairs.

Gwen was pointing at a rounded scar on the back of the real Surina’s leg. “This is a mark often found in the tribes of the southeast, near the Bogs of Ko. Perhaps someone there dislikes your plans.”

Derick was looking intently at the scar and not noticing it disappearing from the leg of the Surina that stood behind him. “There is nothing there anymore but a big void and some of the Astral Sea; they have no reason to wish us ill.”

Jil couldn’t resist. “It has been my experience that when you replace someone’s homeland with a big void and some of the Astral Sea, they tend not to like you very much.”

Derick smirked, “Yes, but they have no reason to suspect us.” Jil had to work to avoid grinning at a ploy that worked so well; Derick had just taken responsibility for the Upheaval.

The door opened and the Doctor entered, the large scaly Withervine lumbering after. Derick gestured to the body on the table as the Doctor looked back and forth between the two Surinas in the room. “We suspect this thing to be a Changeling,” he said, moving the dead Surina’s large snout back and forth. “Use whatever means are necessary–talk to her if you have to–but we need to know.” The Doctor agreed and walked out, the two warforged lifting the body and carring it out after him.

When the door had shut Derick took a step toward a large padded bench in the corner. “Tell me,” he said, “of your other projects, Surina.”

Jil knew that this was the point when things would fall apart. On thr bright side, two of the guards had just left. “Which project would you like to hear about?” She asked, stalling for time and shooting a look to Gwen.

“I don’t keep track of these details, just-” Derick turned around to scold his underling just as Gwen was charging him. He dodged under her first blow, but the followup sliced into his arm, and then Gwen was across the room hitting the elves working the controls. He reached for his belt and grabbed a small tube, and when he squeezed it its form opened and slid apart, and suddenly he had his warhammer with him. “To arms!” he yelled, voice echoing through the cabin.

Withervine flung some brambles across the room at the elves while Amatharn tackled Derick directly. Then one of the elves shimmered, falling into a shadow that did not exist a moment ago, and in that place stood Sunder. She slid over to Derick and drew her sword across his unprotected back. She shot a look at Gwen, the only one she recognized, and shouted “You fools! You must run!”

“Traitor!” Derick said to her, but his focus was on Surina. Was this a treachery from the Dragonborn or of another sort? In any case this person before him was a threat, and he swung his hammer at her. It missed, but her dodge put her on the ground in any case.

The doors burst open and two warforged entered. But being unsure of which combatants were enemies, they jostled around toward Sunder and failed to block the way out.

Withervine was out the door first, after throwing ice onto Derick and rooting him in place. Amatharn was next, and then Surina’s dragonborn gait took Jil into the open air. Sunder stepped between Derick and Gwen just long enough for Gwen to find her way outside, and soon she was jimmying a lock on a skiff attached to the ship’s port side. Amatharn and Withervine slid into the door, scaring off a few deckhands that were attempting to hold the little ship. Sunder emerged from the cabin and ran over to Gwen. “You must find the Jewel!” she said. “It is hidden in a city nearby!” Then she turned to block a blow from a chasing Warforged.

“Are you comin’, Sunder?” came Finneus’ voice as Surina climbed aboard the skiff. Sunder looked around, then tossed a shadowy object to Surina’s claws and turned to face the attackers once more.

Gwen pulled the lever and the skiff dropped a dozen feet before catching the ether and beginning forward on its own power. The larger ship had no chance of giving chase, but its port guns rung out, and the engine of the smaller vessel began to spew out black smoke. Gwen wrestled the controls as Amatharn and Withervine flung magicks across the rapidly increasing void. They shot- and moreover fell- through the clouds and down into the mists that still covered the ground below.

Surina’s claws slashed at the raven-black feather that bound Sunder’s bundle, and it unfurled into a parchment. “Ceris” it said. Jil pondered asking Gwen to steer northwest, but figured the speed and the terrible rattling would make it impossible in any case. So Surina pulled a lute from Finneus’ bag and began to sing in his voice at the engine, the arcane words funneling their power into the failing mechanism. Gwen managed to dodge trees and hills as they sped by the tiny forward-facing window, and eventually she smashed the little ship into a wide field, leaving a sizable gash in the landscape.

They picked themselves up and staggered out of the wreckage. They were alive. But no one was safe.

The Mists of Tierm, Part II

Now we emerge to the dull dirge
Of a contraption dark
Four pillars stand in order planned
Holding within their mark.

A large black sphere holds back the fear
Great danger lies within
But very near the engineer
Makes the vile bubble thin.

She runs away, we make her stay
She runs away again
We pull her back, we make her tack,
But she we can’t restrain.

Then standing there in that cruel lair
A dragon litch, destroyed
Torn limb from limb she’s taken him
Apart and he’s annoyed.

Though sapped for long by this great wrong
His energy remains
There’s still a fight in that cold wight
Defeat is paid with pains.

Then her we track upstairs, attack
Her minions abound
But through it all we make them fall
More than a few are drowned.

And as she dies our small group tries
To learn her reasoning
Invasion soon now opportune
A group her praises sing.

But coming quick through foul mist thick
A vile airship looms
We egress to find the map that’s signed
But it Yoren comsumes.

In tower trapped, our escaped capped
Surrounded on all sides
With no way out I’ve come to doubt
That we’ll save all our hides.

Session 9: The Mistsource
In which a motivation is uncovered, a dragon is unleased, a blight is made right, a yellow wall is surpassed, a ladder is climbed, and a great many people are thrown off a tower.

The climbed the stairs slowly, trying to be quiet. But the clanking and thrumming echoing down the staircase made it fairly certain that no one up there would hear them coming. When Withervine— always fastest and usually first— poked his head above the bannister, he saw the source of the noise: four large pillars stood in the middle if the room, thigh-thick cables running out of them and into a large blue-black bubble of swirling arcane energy between them all, perhaps twenty feet across. A shadowy figure was writhing inside, and though it was impossible to see it clearly it was obvious that it was huge.

Withervine cranes his neck and saw motion directly behind the bannister. A female dragonborn was tending a large hip-high panel of levers and dials; she hadn’t noticed the elf or his comrades. Withervine guessed that this was Surina, and nodded behind him at the others with a smile.

Amatharn burst around the corner and ran at her. The dragonborn’s eyes widened, but she managed to desert her post, running by one of the pillars as she did so to flip a large switch mounted on its side. “You must not stop me! My work must be completed so that I can impress them!” The massive bubble warped, twisted, and spurts of mist seeped out of minuscule holes all over it. Surina ran onward, toward a glowing yellow wall on the north side of the room. Gwen followed after her, stopping at the column to slide the switch back up to its former position, but the switch hung limply and would not catch back to the top.

Amatharn ran by, reaching out with the mantle of darkness that surrounded her at all times and grabbing Surina, pulling her back toward a large gap where something had broken through the wall. As the dragonborn was drawn backward Amatharn spun about, and put the full force of her power into a slam that sent Surina through the gap. She hung there in the salty air for a split second, Amatharn giving her a satisfied smile, and then there was a loud pop and the dragonborn was back in the room, running again toward the yellow wall.

Finneus twirled his lute into position and hit a cord that reverberated in the room with a mighty clash. Surina stumbled back, assaulted by echoes from every side, and suddenly she was back next to the vampire she had just escaped from.

But then the bubble twisted again, and huge claws raked through the thin surface, And the entire edifice broke into tatters and fell to the ground. There in the middle of the room stood what was left of an ancient dragon. It was obviously not a normal dragon, for large portions of it seemed to transition sporadically from scaly hide to ephemeral mist and back again. Its eyes glowed with the kind of violence borne of large, free-sky loving creatures being trapped in tiny arcane bubbles by malicious madwomen.

Surina took the opportunity to wink out of existence and appear again on the opposite side of the yellow wall. She hit another lever and the wall shone, the light solidifying her escape. She smiled, then turned and began climbing the ladder up to to the top of the tower.

The room was too busy attempting to dodge a rampaging dragon to do anything about Surina. It clawed its way around the room, flame and mist and chaos in its wake. Finneus sang about the beast’s imminent demise, and every blow he narrated gave the group more energy. Gwen narrowed her attention to the dragon, and every time it ran from her she instantly found her way to its side, punishing its lack of focus with the intensity of her own. Amatharn clawed and tore at the great beast, but found herself under its claws once too many times, and after the fifth tear across her frame she fell and could not get herself back up again. Finneus tossed a healing potion from his bag to Withervine, who shuffled his quick shuffle and administered it to their fallen comrade; she came to just in time to roll out from under the dragon as Gwen felled it with a final blow.

They took a moment to breathe. They could hear shuffling upstairs; there were obviously more than a few people up there, Surina among them and having all the answers. The dragon seemed to be dissipating before their eyes, bits and pieces turning to mist and evaporating. Finneus sat and tuned his lute, then sang a while to make sure everyone was ready.

The yellow wall was solid, now, and the lever was on the other side. Finneus dug into his bag and withdrew a bronze fist, then a tiny wire figure that he bent into position and stood on the ground. He tapped the former onto the head of the latter and it sparked, burned, an disappeared. A shadow appeared on the opposite side of the wall, reached up and pulled the lever, and then stepped back into the shadows. “Thank ye kindly, spirit.” Finneus said, stowing the little fist back where he found it. They began the climb up.

They emerged into The Mist, still cloying but without the weight of woe that had marked it before. Two huge braziers burned brightly here, their glow reflected in the heavy air and lending an orange hue to everything. Surina stood on a slightly raised platform on the far end of the tower top, two warforged flanking her and doing their best to look intimidating. Another trio of warforged stood in the middle distance, with three more half-human/half-dragon abominations next to them.

The battle centered around the tiny hole through which the ladder emerged. As each person ascended they were beset by Surina’s henchmen, and as each scuffle ended another one of the mooks found himself flying off the edge of the tower into the water below. Finneus played a note that tricked Surina into charging into the fray herself, and Amatharn attached herself to the dragonborn and tore through her. Gwen drew the others’ rage and guided them close enough to the edge that Withervine could shove them off.

When the last of her protectors fell, the party gathered around the broken Dragonborn. “Why’ve you been such a naughty little lass, then?” Finneus asked.

“I had to impress them.” she coughed, the act of talking a great effort. “I did great things. It will all still work out. They are coming.”

“Who’s coming?” Amatharn asked.

“A great force.” Surina said, “And I have prepared their way.”

Derick, or some other force?" Finneus said.

Surina just smiled. Finneus kicked her in the snout. But she continued, “You are too late.”

“What did you want with the Crater? Were you trying to harness it or provoke it?”

This was a rich vein of discussion; she could not help but brag about her accomplishments. “It takes a great amount of power to cover a continent in mist.”

“Oh, indeed,” Finneus said. “But why would you do such a thing?”

“To gain entrance.” She coughed, “And I shall.”

“How do you know?” Finneus cocked a brow, “Do these people talk to you?”

“Are you looking to join up?” Gwen asked. Finneus only smiled.

But then they became aware of a low buzzing noise, and Withervine pointed skyward. “Something is coming. Something big.” Amatharn lost no time, and bit deeply into the dying Dragonborn’s neck, the last bit of life transferring itself to the vampire in the process. And then they all ran for the ladder.

“We must find those documents.” Finneus said when they were all down safely. They all began to search, each becoming aware that before ascending would have been a better opportunity than now. When Withervine found a large map rolled up near a desk he called Gwen over, and she immediately began making a rubbing of it.

Something bumped the tower, and a moment later they heard footfalls on the roof. “They’ve killed her!” a voice called, “Fan out! Search the premises!”

“We should have thrown her into a brazier.” Finneus muttered under his breath. They all began racing downstairs.

Amatharn found the small stone Yoren had given her, and when she squeezed it his head appeared ephemerally above her fist. “You survived!” the disembodied head said, his lips not quite in sync with his voice. “Do you have them?” Finneus nodded to Gwen, who unfurled the map and held it up. Yoren’s smile held malice a moment before his voice said “thank you” and the map faded away. Then the head disappeared. They were alone and cut off. Their only chance was to swim for it.

They reached the window they had entered through. There, in the knee-deep water covering the building next door, were dozens of warforged, eyes aglow. There would be no swimming tonight.

Answered Questions


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