For Glory, For Empire

Session 23, 5/22/2017
When Rebecca Comes Back as a Baby Eater

The session rejoins our intrepid adventures as Arturian’s musket misfires, with Ts’ao Hai and Kalum ducking out of the way. The close-by, yellow pillar of corundum in the strange arrangement lights up strongly at the the explosion, with the orange pillar and green pillar resounding less strongly.

The others stand beside the deceased form of Rebecca. Rebecca’s body starts to float upward. Alarmed by these events, Moccan climbs on top of the body and holds her down. As they watch, an ethereal form begins being pulled out of the body, the spitting image of Rebecca. It reminds Arturian of certain sacred Bea’txo rituals involving soul transfers. Art manages to figure out that the well is attempting to draw in Rebecca’s soul.

Arturian and Ts’ao Hai begin to examine the pillars and find that the yellow pillar has become cracked. While the two Bea’txo are performing their analysis, the party attempts to devise a plan to keep the soul and body united long enough for Moccan to complete his reincarnation ritual.

Moccan mounts Mia the pegasus and hangs on to the body as it floats towards the rocky overhang where the fight started, as the rest of the party prepares weapons in case of trouble. Once above the overhang, the body goes over the overhang and begins traveling horizontally. Moccan now travels through the dark, following the body as it changes orientation, now descending vertically. Moccan clings to the body as he desperately tries to complete his ritual. Finally, the last sacred syllable is spoken and the body begins to transform. Because of the pitch black lighting conditions, Moccan can’t tell what or where Rebecca is now.

Rebecca awakens only to be promptly dropped by Moccan into a pit of ink black liquid, which is now spreading out responsive tendrils to clutch at the horse. Moccan brings forth light, and realizes his profound error. Thanks to some quick reaction, Moccan manages to haul Rebecca’s new form out of the liquid. It is six and a half feet tall, bristling with muscles, bony ridges, and clearly built for war. Moccan and Mia see doom in the eyes of this being, though they can recognize it as Rebecca.

Moccan suddenly realize that his hands, covered in the strange liquid, desire to be placed back into the pool. Moccan tries to wipe his hands off and finds the material to be rather clingy. Having found no solution to this problem, Moccan tries to follow Mia, with Rebecca-thing following him.

Meanwhile, Art decides to try an explosion in the shallow pit between the pillars. After his improvised explosive goes off, all the pillars light up, which are spotted by Moccan as he stumbles through the dark. Rebecca-thing decides to try and call for Mia, successfully retrieving her horse, although Mia refuses to get too close to Rebecca’s new body. Rebecca then follows Moccan towards the pillars of radiance.

Back at the pillars, the group examines them following the explosion, finding that the other pillars are now cracked and the yellow pillar is undamaged. All the pillars vibrate, and after a little while the cracks repair of their volition and the vibration stops. Up above, Rebecca and Moccan arrive at the edge of the overhang and manage their way down. Talis examines the goop and determines that it is very, very evil.

Kalum starts hosing the horse and the druid down, while Art uses a levitate potion to float up and meet the “new Rebecca.” Art is quite taken aback, and manages to prevent himself from fleeing as he draws a crossbow and prepares to end the threat; Rebecca now looks more like the creature that slew her than her former form.

Rebecca somewhat manages to convince Art that she is herself and not a monster come to destroy them all. Having been reassured that this is Rebecca and not a fanged imposter, Art manages to figure out a way of getting Rebecca down from the cliff. Ts’ao Hai gets one look at “new Rebecca” and runs off, a primordial instinct telling him to run from this creature, and warn all of his loved ones. Ts’ao Hai sprints up a ramp, through several traps, and ends up in a winding tunnel leading to a flat ledge high up the cavern before he decides he is safe. Ts’ao Hai resolves to return to the settlement to warn Yu-Chen and everyone else about the fearsome baby eater as soon as possible.

Everyone fails to identify what Rebecca actually is now. Talis casts Detect Evil and finds out that Rebecca does register as Evil, but it might just be the strange black goo still covering her. In the meantime, the party spots the light from Ts’ao Hai’s ioun torch. Mia goes to Ts’ao Hai to transport him back to the others, but Mia refuses to land and Ts’ao Hai gets a mid-air healing shower courtesy of Kalum.

The party decides to return to the ledge leading to the black pool, via Mia relay and levitation potions. Arturian spots the spirit of a ratfolk as he is pulled down onto the ledge, heading in the direction where Moccan thinks the well is. The party arrives at the lip of the well, wherein the goop on Rebecca reaches out towards the pool. The pool reaches out for her, and Talis raises her nimbus, which blasts away the dark substance.

The party begins the ritual, with Ts’ao Hai and Rebecca standing an uneasy watch in Talis’s nimbus. Moccan, Arturian, Talis, and Kalum begin to set up the ritual. While they do so, they notice that Moccan is slipping closer and closer to the well. Talis helps Moccan snap out of it, but then Arturian succumbs to the well’s influence as initiative is rolled.

Arturian almost lunges into the well, but Ts’ao Hai grabs him and helps him shake it off. Rebecca suddenly tries to shove the two into the well. Talis repositions them and scolds the naughty hell beast that is now Rebecca. Arturian realizes that the weird pillar structure they found earlier is the most valuable thing in the universe, but maintains control of himself.

The party gets back to work, but now Talis falls victim to the well’s influence. Perceiving it as a giant leathery winged monster, Talis attempts to smite the well by diving into it. Ts’ao Hai dives in again for the save and fails miserably this time. The other party members fail to stop Talis, except for Kalum, who blasts her back 15 feet from the well. Eventually the group manages to shake Talis out of her vision.

After another hour of ritual, Moccan succumbs to the well’s influence and tries to dive in. Tabitha gets a chunk of Moccan while trying to stop him, and Ts’ao Hai dives onto the druid and puts him into a full Nelson, breaking the curse. Yet another hour of ritual work commences, and this time no one falls under its sway.

Suddenly, the party comes under assault from more strange horrors, the same sort as the original attacker. The party take them down, but not before one throws a pot into the well, which causes the black tendrils to rise up and snatch at them. Another nimbus blast destroys the tentacles, and the work continues.

Finally, preparations are complete, and Arturian begins to enact the ritual. Tendrils suddenly reach out and grab at the party, interrupting the execution of the ritual. Tabitha manages to drag Moccan back from the edge, but Ts’ao Hai fails to assist Talis in the same fashion. Talis activates her nimbus, allowing the party to complete the ritual, creating a silver aura across the top of the well. Shortly after, negative energy drives the party away from the well, but the party rests well next to the cliff, knowing they have completed their task.

The party uses a spell from the Druid to soften the walls of the pillar chamber, allowing them to collect some precious stones. 121 stones are collected by the party, to be divided later.

The party takes one of the elevators in the pillar room up as far as it will go, arriving in a cavernous room held up by metal support beams. The party decides to take the southmost tunnel, following mine cart tracks, hoping to arrive in the Lotus room that they used originally used to descend.

The party comes to a place where the tunnel intersects another hallway perpendicularly, with the tracks they are following rising above another tunnel going east to west below them. The party passes over this tunnel across the tracks, arriving in a round central room with many passages. In the middle of the room are four constructed carts, surrounding a lidded pit. The party paused to debate their next course of action, deciding to go up a narrow southwest passage that gently slopes upward. They run headlong into another wall across the passage with a Grugan adventurer frozen into it. Arturian determines that this is likely the remnant of a trap, and figures out that the rock is not very thick. Talis and Rebecca set to work trying to break down the wall, managing to pry it at the seam where it joins the wall. An avalanche of coins pours out, bludgeoning the party with a tide of wealth on one of the most painful windfalls of their career.

The party decides to spend an hour collecting the most valuable coins up to as much as they can carry without overburdening themselves. Trying to crawl past the stone wall, the party turns into the trap that created the trapped Grugan. Talis falls into the spray, becoming encased in stone. The party hurries to break Talis free, managing to do so before she suffocates.

Art jams the trigger plate into position, and the party can finally crawl past the trap and into a new six sided chamber marked by several troughs in the floor. Following a gentle inclination up, the party comes to an intersection in the troughs, and decides to continue heading up. Art notices something odd about the wall that the trough originates from. After examining the spooky relief there, Art figures out that it is a trap and warns the party. Mia unfortunately triggers the trap, which sends a stone hurtling down the trough, knocking Moccan prone and sending Tabitha sliding back down the shaft. Tabitha manages to overcome over the boulder before it turned fatal, and Mia evades the worst of it.

Reaching the top of the shaft, the party discovers a wide chamber and a light. Ts’ao Hai is deployed as an aerial scout, finding Mirari, one of the Azkaderra, placing a wall of force over a set of ornate doors. She quickly explains that the rest of the Azkaderra have been possessed by “a fragment of the builder" and are behind the door she is holding the door shut. After Mirari talks to Mia and tells her the plan, the pegasus returns to to the party and collects Arturian and the climbing kit. Using the pitons and some flasks of Alchemist’s Fire, Arturian jams the door and pours fire into the cracks of the door. Mirari then tosses Ts’ao Hai off the pegasus and hijacks Mia, flying off as the session ends.

Session 22, 5/07/2017
Don't stand up when you don't have to

The group was back in Westgate from the temple, following their close call with statuary. They restocked on alchemical supplies, healing potions, and bandoliers.

Also, it was decided that a separate group would go to the upcoming Gathering, traveling with Mirror the Pymlion oracle. Xaxe, Shopik, Zim, Friday, Davaros, Carbatkin, and one of his guards, so that the council can stay and guide the colony, while the adventurers can continue their forays into the temple.

Upon returning to the temple, the group discovered subtle differences in the doors at the main entrance. Upon opening those doors, they were set upon by many tentacles, far too large for any common creature of the sea.

The groping appendages grabbed most of the party and tried to drag them within, but the group fought back, trying to wriggle free, and severing the tentacles, which were emerging from a portal to some place beyond this reality. It is rumored that Adapa traveled there seeking enlightenment, but returned only with madness. The group decided to put off that trip until later.

The group found more passages, some with the concave grooves like they had seen elsewhere, as if made for transporting small, rounded boulders, or some sort of liquid. The group decided to follow a non-grooved passage, leading to a room with three doors. The doorways were labeled “peace,” “wrath,” and “negotiation.”

They went through the “peace” door, finding a long hallway with cushioned floors and soft filament-covered walls. The hall turned gently, but increasingly, to the left, and declined even more gently. At the end of the hall, more than a quarter of a mile long, was a soft slide/climb down into a round room with a pedestal in the middle, holding only a seat cushion. It turned out to be magical, and would restrain anyone sitting upon it.

The cushion was taken by Moccan for further research, and upon picking it up, those in the room felt it moving upward with the walls and roof squeezing inward, and the angle of the hallway changed accordingly. Then Arturian searched the room, especially the pedestal, finding a mechanism allowing movement of the room. Adding weight to the pedestal caused the room to sink, with the roof lifting away and the walls tilting out.

The room seemed to come to an almost stop, then continued much further downward, eventually coming to a rest on a mine floor. There were many small, milky corundum crystals still in the earth and stone floor. There was no visible ceiling or walls from this point.

Rebecca headed west, eventually finding a mined wall full of larger and purer stones. Traveling around the wall, the crystal quality declined elsewhere in the massive cavern, and several grooved passages leading upward were found. at the base of these grooved passages were many broken pieces of crystal.

In the rough middle of the massive cavern was found seven rainbow-colored translucent pillars made of the same corundum found in the walls, set into a circle, and tilted slightly outward as they rise up out of sight above. Each pillar has grooves facing its neighboring pillar, and one facing outward. After much searching, several devices made of corundum were found in, or near, several of the grooves.

After some research, the devices were manipulated to travel within a groove up the pillar it is on, and out of sight and reach. So, Rebecca flew upward for more exploration, finding a crystal latticework connecting the pillars roughly 25 feet up, repeated every 30 feet. At 80 feet are flying buttress-like structures made of lattice. The pillars angled back toward each other above the buttresses. And at roughly 150 feet up, just shy of where the pillars came back together, a jutting shelf of cave approaches the pillars.

Upon the shelf was a frightening, red-skinned humanoid creature with far too many knife-like teeth whose macabre smile preceded an aerial combat, With Rebecca getting range support from the ground by the others. Then there was much falling.

On the ground, the creature did not fair well, and was ready to be finished off by Rebecca. Then she made the unfortunate choice to stand before striking, taking a fatal blow from the creature in response. The rest of the group were not able to respond in the few seconds that followed before the catfolk’s dying words.

Session 21, 4/30/2017

Having withdrawn from the room of exploding and burning gasses, the group collects themselves too long in the large chamber of slime and treasure. Swarms of spiders coalesced repeatedly all over the group, until it was discovered that the vermin were being called forth magically, distracting and poisoning Rebecca, mostly. The fell creature doing the calling was finally discovered lurking the the shadows that comprised its body and tormented the group until dispatched by the Light.

Next, past one confluence of small shafts, and on to a second, where a creature of air ambushed the group, and almost absconded with Talis up a nearly vertical chimney.

Next, a third confluence of tunnels where a noisy mechanism was triggered that shut off the passage in front of them for a time, before resetting itself. The path forward from there followed a distinct and wrought concave groove in the floor, roughly 4 feet wide, like a shallow canal for guiding of something.

Lastly, that passage passed through a gallery of statues, and a door leading off the grooved path. The door turned out to be false, but revealed a medusa on display behind a secret door on the opposite side of the chamber. Moccan, Arturian, and Rebecca fell victim to the ingenious trap, and were turned to stone. The rest decided to retreat out of the temple, and had to manhandle the statues back out of the place. Attempting to call the couatl guardian failed initially, but after waiting until morning, it could be called again.

The group, and the loot, was transported back to Westgate, where Zim insisted on payment for a special balm that he was able to concoct on the spot. After vigorous application, the three statue-adventurers were returned to flesh.

Session 20, 4/09/2017
The "Being John Malkovich" Edition

The session opens with the Pymlion oracle Mirror granting his wisdom and insight to Kalum, Rebecca, and Ts’ao Hai, granting them the Truth Seeker, Explorer, and Unforgotten Story Feats respectively. Talis speaks to some of the wagon party, introducing them to Westgate and assuring them that they are welcome in the settlement. Certain members of the party noticed that the wagon goers seem to be under some sort of glamour, and that there might be certain ominous significance to the presence of a maiden and crone in the company of an oracle.

The party prepares to ritually purify themselves before venturing to the Temple. The group has learned that they will need the spoor of a “thunder lizard” in order to abjure the well. The party is not certain if this means the spoor of a shocker lizard, or the spoor of a extremely large theropod. The posse heads out on a shocker lizard hunt, hoping that small electric lizard will suffice in place of giant short sword-toothed dinosaur. A shocker lizard is spotted, and Ts’ao Hai and others rashly give chase, thinking they need to kill the animal for their purposes. Moccan chases after and tries to get them to stop attacking, as Kalum sends blasts of water into the undergrowth twice, killing a lizard. An angry hissing rises out of the jungle as multiple shocker lizards congregate. Taking Moccan’s advice, Kalum and Ts’ao Hai fall back as the shocker lizards advance. The group eventually retreats and collects the spoor without any murder, and only getting slightly electrocuted. The group returns to town afterwards, proceeding with the ritual preparations.

The ritual preparations begin. The group is cleansed, tattooed, dyed, and purified. The party divvies up potions to prepare for the coming trial, alongside other useful items. Before the party leaves, Talis asks the Lantern (through Mengzhi) what to expect inside the Temple, and the artifact answers, “Power, beyond control.” The ominous note does little to calm the party’s nerves.

Finally, the group attempts to summon the first Couatl, to ask it to take them to the temple and resume its original duties. The first Couatl does not answer; when summoned, the Second Couatl answers that the first has been killed in its duties. The second Couatl then transports them through several Realms that includes getting familiar with a Realm of Water, Stars, and Madness. The group is deposited right in front of the main entrance to the temple on top of a pile of bodies, from many species all across the Areiystis. The pile is on top of a narrow bridge that crosses a moat-like canal surrounding the temple.

At the main door to the temple, the party discovers many sets of bloody footprints leading inside. There are 7 different sets of tracks, including one set that looks like someone walked in one of the earlier tracks in order to conceal their presence. Rebecca flies around the main temple structure, examining the many different entrances to try and divine the best way to approach this challenge. The party decides that the main door presents the best opportunity to enter.

Talis bravely marches in, and triggers a swinging blade trap that barely misses her. With some expert work from Arturian, the trap is disabled. The prints lead on past the trap, and then suddenly stop as the material of the floor changes. Ts’ao Hai steps forward after Arturian checks for traps and finds an odd bottle. When he picks it up to examine it, he discovers that there is something in the bottle looking back at him. He tries to drop the bottle and step back, but finds the bottle returning to his hand. As he stands in bewilderment, a weird huge dark ooze coalesces and tries to engulf him. Ts’ao Hai narrowly avoids being grabbed and ripostes, which causes the creature to split. Arturian adds in a musket shot, which causes the creature to split again. During the fight, Mia charges forward and gets entangled in the slime. After many splits due to all the piercing and slashing, the ooze things are dealt with and the party regroups.

After a quick scan, Art decides that the weapons and armor left over from the ooze creatures is worth around 5,000 gp, plus many coins and gems, including some broken, cut gemstones. The party organizes the loot and then looks at the passage to the left, where there are signs of traversing on the walls, seeming to indicate that the floor is dangerous.

The party decides to take another path forward, squeezing into a narrow crevasse where they encounter some kind of illusion magic, and the smell of sulfur. The party accidentally strikes a spark and ignites the gas, scorching the party. To add insult to injury, the path turns out to be a dead end and spiders beginning to swarm from holes and crevasses deeper in the room. The session ends as the party beats a hasty retreat.

Session 19, 4/02/2017
'Round and 'round we go

There was much afoot in New Salam when we gathered again. One woman drowned trying to walk to the temple on the first night, and three walked away early on the third morning following disturbing dreams. Much rope, so entangled by Moccan got the three under control, and Talis and Arturian came along to help bring them all back to Westgate.

Several things were discovered about the mental influence. The control cannot cross between realms and dimensions; getting the victim into an extra-dimensional space breaks the effect. Second, those affected tend to be those under stress or duress. Third, once effected, and broken, they seem immune, but this needs to be tested further.

Through all of this, it was also learned that there are issues within the camp: crimes unreported, conflict bubbling up, and the influence of Peleki spreading.

Between all of this, Talis received her commissioned armor from Stokil, full plate made from mithral, with minute holes carved and angled so that when light passes through, it depicts the dawn, dusk, creation, and servants of light.

Day four saw some material teleportation shenanigans by Zim, including the procurement of another couatl stone, and some necessary rare items for the ritual at the well. This couatl was summoned, questions were asked, and plans were layed.

In the pre-dawn of the fifth morning, the wagon with the albino Pymlion chained to the roof is seen approaching camp. There was more questioning, and a bestowing of prophetic power. Easy peasy.

Session 18, 3/12/2017

The party approaches the mysterious Journal in the hut of Mengzhi. The Journal’s emergence was accompanied by a blinding light. Outside, Arturian has just visited with Zim and Galen when the light bleeds forth from the hut of the Scholar. Inside, Ts’ao Hai and Rebecca are temporarily blinded and dazzled by the intense and sudden radiance.

Physically, the Journal looks like a winding scroll inside of a cubic, etched metal frame. The Journal identifies each member of the party, as well as the eavesdropping Artie, and invites him inside, where he is given a hug by his surprised cousin Ts’ao Hai. The Journal is questioned on various personal details, and is also asked about the stele. The Journal provides much information, telling them that the stele must be replaced as long as the Well is a threat, but it requires some quite exotic ingredients, including a rare basalt called “heart of the earth,” filings of precious metals, dust of the hardest elements, and blood of the most powerful extent race.

Turning to the party’s guiding Light, the Journal tells Talis that she is a Coronus of the Legion of Light, much to her surprise and confusion. It is explained that the Legion of Light is a minor cult in our day but seems widespread in the time the Journal comes from. The Journal invokes the name of Adapa and Ts’ao Hai has a little freakout. After some more questions, the Journal begins prophesying about troubles to come, including slavers arriving at the colony within two years. In addition, the party learns the Staakos will return soon, reforming on this Realm at the temple.

The Lantern informs the party that two of the outer stele are no longer functional. Seeking to question the Lantern about the Guardian of the Temple, Talis produces the summoning stone and is forced out of the hut by a sudden feeling of weakness. The Lantern informs the posse that Talis has found one of the markers, which summon the guardians. The new information is that there are 5 markers that can be reached within this realm, but they are all quite distant from the colony. During the conversation, Moccan allows the book to attempt to absorb the group’s knowledge, dropping Rebecca and Artie into unconsciousness for the next 6 hours. Mengzhi is tasked with getting certain information out of the book as everyone breaks for the day, troubled by these revelations.

The next day, the party begins to arrange for the transference of metal across the river. Once all the metal is delivered, Ts’ao Hai gets his new mithral chain shirt. After this is accomplished, another meeting of the colony is called to determine the colony’s attitude. The vote is decided in the favor of the good of the people, and only a modicum of restrictions. As the meeting breaks up, Arturian becomes familiar with the colony leaders and planners, while Talis orders the process of officially breaking the Steadfast up for parts. Also discussed is the eventual establishment of the ioun stone mine, and the exploration necessary to achieve its establishment. It is decided that Shopik and Xaxe will take masons to explore the quarry to the south. At the end of the discussion, the colony management is finalized for the month.

After the meeting breaks up, the watch horn sounds. The old monk, Tubayek, has returned to the settlement. As the party approaches him, Art notices that Tubayek looks worn and wearied from his travels. Tubayek holds up a book, says, “I think they are all dead,” and collapses on the shore. While Talis tends to the monk, experts in the Bea’txo language examine the text, which is written in a coded form of that tongue. They read the testament with growing alarm as it details the likely end of the Tumkayal Azkaderra on their journey to examine all the stele and approach the temple. The last entry details them entering the temple, expecting to never emerge again.

The party debates what to do with this information, and decides that it is well past time to talk to the Guardian with the Marker. The party asks the Lantern for various bits of information beforehand, including the fact that the Kambral we spoke to are coming to bring genocide to the Kambral near our colony. The Lantern now speaks like a particularly unpleasant longshoreman that Artie once had dealings with as a consequence of absorbing his memories.

The party crosses the river and speaks with the Kambral, warning them about the danger. They convince the Kambral that they can conceal their presence from their enemies, and begin planning a deception to protect them from their own kind.

The party approaches the stele, and talk with Selwinnian and Battuti from the Constant, now stewards left behind by the Tumkayal expedition. They discuss the journal and then explain that they are going to attempt to summon the guardian. The guardian turns out to be a Couatl, and asks what the party wants of him. The party fumbles through speaking with it, but eventually ask the Couatl to slow the Calling until they summon it for transport to the temple. The session ends with the Couatl departing, and the party uncertain of the future.

Session 17, 3/5/2017

The session opens with Ts’ao Hai lounging on the Chun Ye while everyone else is working; Liu Fan comes to deliver the deck of cards that were used to divine one of the pirate’s fortunes last night, as well as news of one of the crew, Tovena Ravoush, going missing: a gambler who was present at the card game last night. Ts’ao Hai begins to search for the crew member, eventually reaching Li and learning that someone was seen swimming from the ship to the far shore.

With the help of Rebecca, the river is crossed; with the help of Hirase, the trail is found. Rebecca doubles back to inform and recover Talis, while Bon takes over watching the still unconscious poisoner suspect Fu. The party decides to follow the trail up river, doing so for several hours with no end in sight. As dusk falls, the party debates traveling further or setting up camp. They follow the trail further, and eventually decide to set up camp.

On the second watch, Ts’ao Hai hears noises in the bush and tries to quietly wake Talis. Failing to do so, he wakes her more deliberately and creatures come charging at them. Taken by surprise, the party receives a severe walloping from the feathered assault. Rebecca strikes a mighty blow, skewering one of the attacking beasts, while Talis dispatches another with flair. The last one is dragged down over several rounds of combat. The carcasses are stripped, and the journey continues the next day. The party sets a hard pace to try and make up ground while Rebecca briefly returns to the colony to relay news of their progress to Viceroy Duellos. When Rebecca returns to the party, she notices the Harrow deck that Ts’ao Hai has recently acquired and asks him about it. Ts’ao Hai is rather clueless about the matter.

The party gets close to the Tengu village, and decides to visit the bird-people for possible news and safety for the night. As the party approaches, they suddenly hear noises around them. Unsettled by the recent ambush, the party prepares to receive an attack, and a small figure emerges from the brush and takes a swing at Mia, Rebecca’s winged mount. Ts’ao Hai pivots to catch the creature on his rapier, which unfortunately turns out to be a tengu adolescent. Kalum intervenes to save the child from the worst of the blade, successfully preventing the strike from killing him.

Ts’ao Hai, horrified at his mistake, loses control of his gullet while Tails and Kalum move to comfort and treat the tengu adolescent. After a few minutes, many Tengu, led by Greensheen come and collect the wounded, explaining that the stick he was holding is a part of a rite of manhood, and that the whole incident was a misunderstanding.

Having explained the “attack,” the Tengu inform them that they did see the missing crew member passing by, headed along the river. The Tengu explain that they have seen many heading from all directions towards the Confluence recently, including some of their own. The party debate this news and decide that they are not sufficiently equipped to pursue Tovena into the influence of the Temple, and begin to head back to New Salam. Talis catches Greensheen and asks if the Tengu would be interested in a trade deal: services of Tengu scouts and training in field craft in exchange for whatever the Tengu might desire.

The party returns to Westgate after two days of travel. Talis assembles the council in order to hear the report. After some debate, the council seems to agree to the Tengu proposal. The party reports that as they returned home, they saw a stela in the river. The stela appeared to be broken, which might explain the increase in strange Temple-related behavior. The party begins to debate what we are going to do about this situation, and decide to speak to the remaining members of the Azkaderra party and with Scholar Mengzhi in order to determine what to do next.

Warden Bon reports that Fu has managed to kill himself during transport back to the jail cell under the town hall, after stealing Li’s dagger and stabbing Shopik during his escape attempt. The party has thus lost any potential intelligence the poisoner had.

The council determines that the metal from the last supply ship needs to be properly allocated, and that the colony needs access to a forge. The party determines that they need to discuss an agreement with the Kambral for use of their forge. The council decides to focus on building a Garbage Pit next, to establish basic sanitation infrastructure.

The party visits Mengzhi and informs him about the recent events. He examines the petroglyph and discovers some writing on the back in Bea’txo, visible through the Read Magic spell. Mengzhi also takes a look at Ts’ao Hai and notes that his magical aura has shifted and that the Harrow deck is related to the change. After examining the deck, the Scholar determines that one of the card is missing: “the Void.” Ts’ao Hai reclaims the potentially cursed deck as Talis asks to see one of the ratfolk brains. After the examination, the brain is fed to the Grondoks, along with Mengzhi’s favorite specimen bowl.

The next morning, the party crosses the river and goes to meet the remaining members of the Azkaderra party. After apologizing for waking them up at an ungodly hour in the morning, the party informs them that a damaged stela has been discovered. They react quite severely and with considerable distress. The party learns that the two left with the tent are not going to be capable of being helpful in repairing the stela, and bid them adieu.

The party heads to Anjis to talk business. They arrange for the colony’s smiths to share the forge space with the Kambral in exchange for their labor and some non-metal goods from the colony. The party agrees and heads back over to the colony to make the proper arrangements. After these are made, the party goes over to Zim and Galen’s hut to see about getting the items from Staakos repaired and researched. Afterwards, the party meets with the colony smiths and seals the deal for them to use space at the Kambral forge. Ts’ao Hai and Duellos put their heads together and come up with a plan for moving all the smithing materials across the river utilizing the ships that they have.

The party returns to Mengzhi and asks him about the message that Commander Duellos received from the Azkaderra. After he explains the likely providence of the mentioned ritual, Ts’ao Hai manages to ask him about the journal that Hirase and Bon brought back from the shrine. Mengzhi is somewhat reticent to talk about the journal, which he refers to as an entity made out of knowledge. The session ends as the party prepares to meet with the mysterious “journal.”

Session 16, 2/27/2017
Dr. Moccan to the Poison Ward, please. Dr...

The session starts with the party entering Westgate and into a scene of commotion, with the ship Chun Ye joined by many fishing boats in the river. No sign of the smaller Liu Zhi and the Zhu Di. The colonists appear to be shouting at one another, with some sort of argument underway.

Hirase greets the group and explains that there was a disagreement amongst the colony as to the likely providence of the Great Expedition, with not all certain that the party would turn alive. General Lucat is also present at the center of the commotion, and has ahold of a stranger dressed entirely in black. The General welcomes Talis back with unaffected warmth and is surprised to see the group’s newly acquired livestock, and is flabbergasted to hear that there were other traders from Delim at the Gathering.

The stranger is accused of poisoning a member of the colony, as well as being suspected of other crimes. A lot has happened in the month that the Grand Expedition has been gone: Marcus has been murdered, Gael has been poisoned, and there has been an attack of ratfolk on the colony. Springing into action, Moccan performs a ritual and manages to help stabilize Gael, helping the scribe survive the night. The party learns more of the events that have unfolded since their departure from the colony, such as the hatching of the new grondoki and the subsequent terror caused by the “problem child” of the clutch.

The party decides to split up; Talis and Ts’ao Hai will go to see the prisoner and see what he has to say in his defense, while Moccan and Rebecca visit the Kambral across the river with the mithral and steel ingots. Tails and Ts’ao Hai arrive just in time to prevent the prisoner from escaping the not so secure custody of Li. The prisoner, Fu, is despondent and bitter about his treatment and professes a desire to leave the colony. He can’t provide a solid alibi for either Gael’s poisoning or the murder of Marcus, and is rather hostile to the colony and in particular to the General. He claims that Lucat is unfair and is running a military dictatorship. He also states that Marcus died in the battle, which it turns out contradicts accounts of the battle gathered afterward by the party. The party decides that there is a need to reinforce the jail with additional guards and reinforced security in the form of Shopik and Xaxe.

Across the river, Rebecca and Moccan present the metal ingots to Anjis. She is pleased with the mithral and has some interesting reactions to the steel that the group presents. When told about the Gathering, she claims that there should not be other Kambral on the continent, and blanches when the names of the “fake” Kambral are recited. Anjis argues that these Kambral must be shapeshifters or monsters of some kind, not what they seem. Rebecca is shown the stela, and its purposes are explained to her.

Talis and Ts’ao Hai go to investigate the scene of the crime upstairs in the town hall. They discover that the ink Gael was writing with seems to have been tampered with. Ts’ao Hai guards the door while Talis fetches Galen Brewerhorn to examine the evidence. After the poison is examined, a vial of tainted ink is recovered and the scene is decontaminated. Ts’ao Hai and Talis put their heads together and realize that there are plenty of motives someone could have for harming Gael: the matter of the Zalimiri Succession, personal rivalries, rivalries within the colony, and his role as an official in the colony. The party meets back up and swaps tales of woe and warning, and convenes to decide what to do. It is decided that further investigation is necessary.

The party interviews Brewerhorn about the Battle of Last Ueno, and learns that Marcus was found dead after the main clash with two clean incisions in his kidneys, having been sighted alive and well shortly before hand. The party learns that the ink vial contains the unknown poison in Gael’s body; the source of the scorpion poison is unknown. The party decides to interview General Lucat about his account of what happened at the Battle of Last Ueno. The party does not learn much of interest from the General, but do find out that Fu appears to have been checking the colony out and had been asking questions about Carmen Duellos and Gael. A few more facts are established: no one knows where Fu lives or sleeps, and Fu came in on the Fatima’s Mercy.

The party thank the General for his time, and then goes to interview the High Priest Bon. Bon doesn’t have anything to add to the story of the Battle of Last Ueno, but does receive a private lecture in the importance of hygiene. The party goes to interrogate Zim about Fu’s behavior on the boat; it turns out that Fu was skulking about the boat as well, asking many questions while being cagey about his own history.

The party goes to the prison to interrogate the prisoner once more, and discover that Fu is comatose in his cell, paralyzed. The group determines that he is likely poisoned. Ts’ao Hai, under the supervision of Friday, begins to search Fu, and discovers that there are numerous poisons on his person, as well as all sorts of concealed assassination equipment and clever devices. Unfortunately, some of the delicate containers are damaged in the search, and Fu begins to convulse from the leaked substances. Ts’ao Hai sacrifices his magic white pearl to delay the poison and allow Galen Brewerhorn to arrive and attempt to save Fu’s life.

In the medical ward, Gael is purged of poison and after some drama Fu is saved from the worst of the poison and left to rest uncomfortably. Carbatkin comes into the medical ward and inquires about Gael under insincere pretenses, and the party asks him about Fu and his interactions with Carbatkin and his underlings. They part after much sneering and exchanging of veiled threats.

The party moves to the beach to have a conversation while Moccan stands watches over Fu. During the conversation, Commander Duellos comes up to talk with the party about current events and the meeting of the Colony council. Various matters are discussed, including Bon, the investigation, the functioning of the colony in the absence of the expedition, and the jealousy of the smiths.

The Chun Ye is given permission to search the seas for… interesting things to find, whose providence will not be closely questioned. It is decided that Bon shall now be the Warden, and Moccan will become the colony’s High Priest. Late in the day, the Palah’s Respite arrives with new colonists and new supplies. The session ends with the conclusion of the meeting, a tallying of the new arrivals, and much talk of crafting.

Session 15, 2/19/2017
A Night Hunter at the Roxbury

The session kicks off with our heroes suddenly beset by Sta’akos, the fearsome Night Hunter of legend. Janco the master smith of the Kambral hurled himself at the fiend, causing the blackguard to send deadly beams though the crowd at the Grugan fight, in turn prompting our heroes to face the Night Hunter in battle. Sta’akos is on the opposite side of the field from our heroes standing with his two strange servants. Sta’akos generates a great flaming sword and seems to wait for something while his ape beasts descend upon the Kambral. Talis takes out her starbow, launching a mighty arrow that strikes true upon the terror. Sta’akos turns and uses telekinetic force to drag Talis closer, while the rest of the party rushes to close the distance, Ts’ao Hai leading the way. The crowd erupts into robbery and murder as the whole scene becomes mad melee, with several opportunists taking advantage of the disarray.

As Ts’ao Hai gets close, two Vishkanya take offense at his interference and surround him. He teaches one a lesson in keeping its tongue in its mouth, before turning to face the other. The Grugan fight sees an ankheg burst out of the ground to attack the chief of the Grugan to the south, damaging his armor with acid. Rebecca charges towards the melee, and one of the ape beasts creates a cloud of flying metal, preventing the Cavalier’s lance from striking true. Ts’ao Hai continues to duel the Vishkanya as one of the ape beasts comes to his fight, dumping hot coals all over him. Moccan casts Entangling Roots, catching one of the ape beasts in the winding vines. Unfortunately, several Pymlion rush forward and try to eat the pegasus Mia, much to the displeasure of the winged horse and her rider. Chaos continues in the crowd, featuring a backhand from the giant and a panicked dog bite on a Pymlion. Darkness engulfs the area as Sta’akos lives up to his name as the Night Hunter, generating a sphere of deeper darkness. Rebecca spurs her mount and takes to the skies, trying to get out of the difficult situation of being surrounded by tiny anthrophages.

Ts’ao Hai continues his duel with the strange metal ape beast, having dispatched the Vishkanya with some assistance from Moccan and Tabitha, who pile on to his wing of the fight. The Pymlion, frustrated by the horse’s escape, tear apart a dog. Some of them also dare to strike the mighty Sta’akos. The fight between the Grugan continues without much progress while all this is going on. Sta’akos generates another beam and scythes down more Pymlion. Talis drops the starbow and draws her greatsword as she closes in to the main fight, seeking out the Night Hunter.

Ts’ao Hai dispatches the fiery ape beast with a flourish, but his rapier is damaged in the deed. Wounded and bereft of a working weapon, the pirate edges around the main fight, wary of plunging in due to his weakened state. Sta’akos gives fearful orders, sparking a chain of memory in Ts’ao Hai that leaves him further shaken and doubting on the edge of the melee. The various battles around the Sta’akos fight continue and resolve, the crowd going thinner due to casualties and flight. Talis plunges into the darkness and strikes down Sta’akos with a single great blow, the clothes of the Night Hunter dropping to the ground as the sword he wielded flamed out. Suddenly, the pot of metal filings in the hands of the metal ape beast sends its payload flying in all directions, gravely wounding much of the party, along with other surrounding combatants. The giant then clobbers the metal beast, bending one of its horns.

Kalum tends to Moccan, who was nearly slain by the metal shards. Talis strikes the final blow against the metal ape beast, creating another little maelstrom of metal that slays Janco, the Kambral that started the fight. More injuries occur as the various proxy fights continue around them; the chieftain of the North wins in the center, as the tengu shivs the bookie that holds Ts’ao Hai’s winnings. The assistant smith slays the last Pymlion with a mighty blow, and Talis moves to heal the wounded on the field, saving some of the Grugan lieutenants from expiring.

Ts’ao Hai finds some rough stones among the Vishkanyas’ possessions, as Talis attempts to recover her starbow from the Grugan Chieftain of the South. They decide to go to The Oracle to decide what penalty the party should pay for violating the boundaries of the field of honor in their haste to engage Sta’akos. Meanwhile, Ts’ao Hai asks Moccan to examine the gear of the fallen Night Hunter. All of it is magical, but Moccan can’t determine anything useful about the boots, the cloak, and the hilt. He does identify the pantherskin armor as being an “Armor of the Shadow Lord,” an evil intelligent item. The hilt also detects as evil. The armor and the cloak are both broken from the fight and the explosion.

The party attempts to negotiate with the Grugan chief, hoping to resolve the issue of the starbow’s return without resorting to the Oracle. First the party offers the dinosaur hides, which isn’t enough. Then they add the masterwork longspear that Talis wields to the pile, which is still not enough due to the influence of the Grugan bride. Apparently, the Grugan wants Talis to join the tribe as payment for the return of the bow, or perhaps even to have Westgate confederated with the Grugan tribe. Talis is very confused, and attempts to figure out how to respond, but is relieved of the burden due to not being the “chief” of the village, and thus not having the rank to authorize such a course of action. Eventually the party adds some of their potions (barkskin, cure light wounds) and the deal is finally sealed. In the morning, Ts’ao Hai’s weapon is repaired due to the magical prowess of Moccan, much to the relief of the pirate.

The party begins making arrangements to transmit their goods back to the colony. The party also seeks out the Azkaderra who sold the goods in order to identify some of the items taken from the Night Hunter. The boots of Sta’akos are Tremor-sense Boots, while the cloak of Sta’akos is a Cloak of Fiery Vanishing. The party goes in search of someone who can guide them back to the village without braving T-Rex Cliff. They are eventually successful, and settle in to wait for the gem-cutters to finish their work. Ts’ao Hai has some weird feelings of being watched during this time, but chalks it up to being out of rice wine. While the party waits, Moccan plays around with the fabric of the planes yet again, winning three berries the color of arterial blood. Ts’ao Hai foolishly tries one, finding they taste of blood. The berries don’t seem poisonous, much to the displeasure of Moccan.

Eventually, the party sets out for the old homestead. First heading east down a long gentle slope, then turning north toward a previously unknown tributary of Hiquts Rill. After traveling for several days following the river, the party comes to realize they are approaching the Temple from the south. The rainy season begins, clouds bursting overhead in torrents of rain, thinning out the provisions to be gained from foraging and slowing the trip back home. The party decides to double back and follow a trail to get away from the Confluence and head toward New Salam, slowly traveling past the nymph’s glen towards home. The party returns to Westgate safely after two weeks of travel, if a little wet and low on provisions, but with two donkeys, two aurochs, and plenty of smelted metal.

Session 14, 2/12/2017
The Gathering Part II: Electric Boogaloo

The adventure renews as the party faces the wonders and delights of the Gathering, a festival of indigenous cultures and art mashed together with outbursts of wholesome, old-fashioned violence. Moccan returns from his vision quest and rejoins the group; the group has him examine the objects acquired from the Pymlion. Moccan determines that the winged serpent stone is magical, and has communication magic imbued into it. Its full purpose will be revealed later.

Dusk settles over the Gathering; both violence and commerce are now fair game. A conflict is brought before the Oracle between some Ratfolk and a Strix at the painted wagon. Rebecca sets about looking for some weaponsmiths, noticing the Kambral and the Grugan as possible options.

While she looks, the albino Pymlion Oracle on the wagon’s roof seems to decide in favor of the Ratfolk and the Strix is tossed into the pit of boars guarded by Jaguarfolk. The Strix makes good its escape with some swift gliding and flees the scene to the amusement of most.

Moccan, meanwhile, looks for other Tigerfolk Dunyabetia and is disappointed in his search. He also keeps an eye out for insider market information, noting that the weapons and armor are the best selling items, although the metal armor on offer is not too popular. The giant also receives numerous visitors, interested in his working with wood.

Among the other merchants is an Azkaderra who seems to be selling scrolls that aren’t getting much attention from the assembled natives. This Azkaderra seems to be of a different ethnicity than those the party met on the ship. After a short conversation, the party barter out a trade to try to identify the rings and the carving in their possession. The carving is a powerful magic item that can summon help from one of the seven “Sentinels” to keep the temple from unleashing “evil and death.” The shrine rings also hold potent magic, with the blue ring protecting against cold, the green against acid and poison, the red against fire, the yellow against lightning, and the purple against sonic attacks.

The party divvies up the rings among themselves, now appreciating their value. The Azkaderra learns of the new colony and asks about the two brothers who lived in the dugout. The party explains that they haven’t been seen and ask about their whereabouts. The Azkaderra merchant can offer no insights, but agrees to visit the colony. The party offers more items for identification: the sash that Ts’ao Hai has as a gift from the Azkaderra is a Fruitful Sash, and the small box he has is a Noble’s Vigilant Pillbox. Both items are wonderfully suited to the pirate’s life and his ostentatious taste in fashion. The last wand from the shrine is a Wand of Remove Sickness with 31 charges. The 7 scrolls in the satchel from the shrine are parchments of Invisibility, Scorching Ray, Ray of Enfeeblement, Detect Magic, Open/Close, Lesser Restoration, and Plane Shift. Talis’s bow is also identified as a Starbow. When the party shows the magical stones collected from the chasm, the Azkaderra identifies them as iounite stones. The Azkaderra points the party to the Vishkanya gem cutters for assistance with the gems.

The party then goes to parlay with the Kambral, wherein Rebecca insults the work of their assistant Janco. The Kambral negotiator, Ruan, states that they can barter weapons/armor, raw ingots, favors, and useful items. The Kambral are interested in establishing a supply line to the colony for metal ingots, but want the party to kill Staakos the Night Hunter as payment, a being which they call “blackness personified” that can kill with blasts controlled by his mind.

The description given of this being is quite fearsome; he is 7 and a half feet tall, wearing animal-folk skins. There are many rumors about this being, including that he is not from the continent, and is a “kutsa.” He is rumored to come from the Confluence of the Great Rivers, from the Well there, but other rumors claim that he does not come from the Confluence at all, and in fact avoids the area. He travels alone most often, but sometimes is accompanied by great beasts.

The party talk about their colony, mentioning the Kambral that have settled there. These Kambral are quite interested when they hear about the other Kambral at our village. Their reaction to the names of the Westgate Kambral contain quite a bit of greed, which Ts’ao Hai notices. They promise to come two Gatherings from now, to travel with the Westgate delegation to the colony proper. The Kambral are not eager to discuss their settlement, but do give away that they live in mountains to the south. The party gets a list from the Kambral of the materials they have available. Hot bartering action ensues between Kambral and Westgaters. The party turns to the iounite stones as their chief trade good. The party has in their possession the following raw stones: a dusty rose, pale ruby, pink and green, scarlet and blue, dark green, mulberry, onyx, silver, and a gold. The Kambral merchant, Ruan, directs us to Jiao the Vishkanya to get them properly appraised.

The party majority heads over to the Vishkanya while Rebecca heads over to the giant to place an order for javelins and lances. They settle on a deal and Rebecca pays up front, which results in a horrific death for a goat. Back at the Vishkanya stall, we present the stones to the Snakefolk. The valuation of the stones is as follows: the onyx is worth 6,000 and will make one healthier, while the silver is dependent on the cut but is probably worth 1,600 and makes one better at maneuvers in combat. The gold has to do with language and is worth 1,000, the dusty rose is worth 2,000 and makes one harder to be hit. The pale ruby is worth 1,600 and makes one harder to be found, with the pink and green being worth 3,000 and makes one more likable. The scarlet and blue is worth 3,000, making one smarter, the dark green is worth 2,000 (but quite a bit more worked, up to 4x) and keeps one safe from poisons. Finally, the mulberry is worth 4,000 and it makes it easier to talk to people.

The party agrees to trade the silver and the pale ruby to Jiao in exchange for having the others cut, and the jade in our possession also being improved. What follows is the result of Jiao’s work: the finished gold ioun stone grants the wearer a language. The dusty rose ioun stone is a +1 insight bonus on AC. The onyx ioun stone gives a +2 stackable enhancement bonus to CON. The pink and green ioun stone gives a +2 enhancement bonus on CHA. The scarlet and blue gives a +2 enhancement bonus to INT. The dark green ioun stone gives Detect Poison within 5 ft. The mulberry ioun stone gives a +5 competence bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy. The party trades the mulberry to the Kambral for a steel and a mithral ingot.

Ts’ao Hai goes drinking and finds out that the Staakos is a name that ends parties real fast. Staakos is thought legendary by some, but others claim to have seen him at gatherings slaying people. Talis hears the legend of the Night Hunters, servants of the darkness in the temple, of whom the current title holder is our familiar friend Staakos. While Ts’ao Hai is out schmoozing and Talis is playing chaperon, Moccan buys a pair of mules for the colony.

Afterward, the party kicks back and watches all the skirmishes that break out, blood and coin flowing in equal measure. Meanwhile, Rebecca seeks out fellow cartographers and is disappointed on this night, finding no knights of the compass and sextant present.

The next day, Moccan practices his new art and shifts into the nature realm, seeing that the plateau is occupied by several animals in the parallel plane. Before he can shift back, the animals flee and the water begins to broil. Moccan hides in the brush and watches. A great long neck erupts from the lake, a giant aquatic dinosaur taking an antelope. When he returns, he is surrounded by nagaji, who admire his feat and tells him that he has entered the “World of Nature and Beasts.” They invite him to come swimming in the holy lake with them and want him to meet their shaman. Ts’ao Hai puts on a juggling act while Moccan is messing around with the fabric of the planes.

The party completes the trade with Ruan, the Kambral merchant, acquiring two ingots to deliver to the Kambral back at the colony. The party again promises to meet the Kambral two gatherings from now, explaining how to find Westgate. As dusk settles, the Grugan gather for their conflict. Ts’ao Hai wagers 20 gold on the north group as the two companies square off. The fight begins with a flurry of arrows and the striking of spears! The south holds the advantage as the two chiefs square off in the center. As the fight intensifies, it is suddenly interrupted by an attack on the crowd far to the south. Blood flows and limbs fly as one name fills the air: Staakos! The night hunts!


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