The Summer Heroes

Session 15
In which much is revealed

Sueldor and Alissarienne, two members of the Dragon Watch present for the battle immediately demanded both Broderick’s and Mina’s swords. Conflict almost ensued, and they swore to return for the swords, in force, and would take Thalion into custody for violating his oaths.
After talking with Carmen and her father, and informing them about the orcs and the armies and the navies, the North swore that it would be ready for when the orcs came.

They also learned about the rise of the independent nation of Starrl, and how they were now suppressing piracy and allowing direct trade between Saltstone and the North without having to go through Brightwater. This was good for everybody involved, except for Brightwater, which was naturally not pleased.

Departing for Aryeon’s, they arrived at Stonewall without too much trouble, actually passing one of Saltstone’s merchant vessels on the way there. Arriving at Aryeon’s revealed his home was still standing, Althea had left, and the woman with the hellhounds was still gone. And no sign of any demon statues.

After an unsatisfying meal, Aryeon led the Summer heroes (except Feregar) to one of his vaults, deep beneath his home. So far beneath that it got very hot and led to caverns with magma lakes. Traveling through a well of pure elemental fire, they found themselves in a temple similar to but smaller than the Rotunda. Inside it was a Primal Magma Dragon, which declined Aryeon’s apparent offer of food.

Now that they were all in an area protected against scrying, Aryeon explained a number of things, including about the Staff of Prophecy and the myth of the God Who Knew Too Much. Or rather, he mentioned them, and then Darion explained it all. Then Aryeon said it was actually really real, and almost no one knew about it, including the Gods. He sought the staff to prevent it from being in the wrong hands, which include, most notably, the woman with the hellhounds, whose name is Glaysa. It was in three pieces, scattered around the world, and the first piece is believed to be in Varcrist, the lost city of the Dwarves.

Darion revealed that he had a prophecy about the Staff of Prophecy and the fall of Brightwater. In it, he and his allies unsuccessfully defended Brightwater against a huge army of monsters (including hobgoblins and orcs); then the vision repeated, only Darion bore the Staff of Prophecy and they successfully defended Brightwater.

Aryeon also revealed the nature of the temple they were in. The God Who Knew Too Much had scattered them throughout the world, each defended by a Guardian, an eternal creature that would protect its secrets for all of time. He also speculated that the temples had something to do with the Great Library of All, or might allow access to it. There are four main temples, and a number of smaller temples connected to each one. They can use the wells of the primal element to travel between the smaller temples and the larger temples. He demonstrated this within the current temple, transporting to a small room similar to Elegabalor’s treasure room.

Realizing that this new room was locked by the rune which they had just recovered, the Summer heroes decided to go through them and see what they could find. They did so, exiting through a long tunnel, which led them to a large jungle. A female gnome ran into them, panicking. She then tried to kill Abajeet, who realized the gnome was Mirth, an annoying, comical, and vicious murderer she encountered in Brightwater.

Mirth agreed to let them pass if they took three tests, and grant them a wish for every test they passed, and owe him/her a favor for every test they failed. They reluctantly concluded they would get nowhere on their own, as the Jungle was – literally – endless.

The first test required chasing Mirth and his/her T-Rex down, using their own dinosaurs as mounts. This was, eventually, successful, resulting in one wish.

The second test required the Summer Heroes deducing which of their number were possessed. They correctly determined it was Erlindar, but neglected to realize that Mirth was cheating, and that Thalion was also possessed. So a partial success, resulting in a second wish, and one owed favor.

The third test required everyone switching bodies and having to slay two fire giants. This caused some confusion, but was ultimately successful, resulting in a third wish.

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Session 14
In which a Summer Hero dies

Having successfully defeated the members of the Republic of the North’s Secret Police, recovered Broderick’s Dragon Watch sword, and executed Broderick, the Summer Heroes discovered that more orcs had been spying on them, and at least one had fled. A quick interrogation of their captive from the Secret Police yielded some details about the Arbiter’s organization. A lengthy discussion ensued about how best to handle the prisoner. With the danger of the orc getting away to warn others growing with each passing second, the invisible pixie still out there, and no adequate means to secure him or guarantee he wouldn’t betray them, they decided to execute him.

The Summer Heroes proceeded to both track the fleeing orc and use their map made from a dead orc’s liver, which would lead to some buried treasure. They arrive at an archeological excavation site, overseen by a mixture of orcs, hobgoblins, and giants, all of whom were franticly trying to bury both the site and bodies of their own dead and Northern soldiers. Taking advantage of their arguing over treasure, Abajeet sneaks in and steals a rune, shaped similarly to the one they found on Elegabalor, and which unlocked one of the chambers in the Rotunda.

Setting an ambush, they then attacked the humanoids. Numerous spells were exchanged on both sides as the Summer Heroes tried to contain the threat from fleeing without having any of their own number be isolated. During the battle, Mina killed an enemy possessed by an evil spirit, which allowed her to learn about the woman with the hellhounds and her involvement, the large armies and navies being built by the orcs and hobgoblins, and that Mina’s using her Dragon Watch sword was more important than recovering the rune.

At the very end of the conflict, one final fireball caught many of the Summer Heroes together, slaying Darion. Everyone hurriedly tried to revive him with the precious Breath of Life scroll, but no one was able to decipher its contents. With only a second to spare, Feregar at last was able to manage its use, wrenching Darion’s spirit back from the hell to which it was condemned.

The Summer Heroes buried the rest of the bodies, gathered what supplies they could, found the location of the two ships that had brought each group to Penwith, and put them to the torch. Unfortunately, some of the accompanying smaller ship[s were missing, leading them to conclude that at least some of their enemies had gotten away successfully. Indeed, not all of the foes were accounted for during the battle.

After stopping by the refuge camp to notify the authorities of the immediate danger passing, and to be on the lookout for orcish or hobgoblin warships, the Heroes returned to the capitol to report their findings. They sought and gained an audience with the President and Carmen, but were forced to deal with the presence of the small council, including the Arbiter and his assistant, Krina, the orc disguised by illusion. They were cagey in their responses, unwilling to share much in front of a known enemy whose presence was suddenly much more dangerous. Erlindar eventually settled the matter by attempting, and failing, to dispel Krina’s magical disguise. Before too much action could be taken, Carmen stepped in and dispelled the illusion herself, revealing the orc in their midst.

Krina immediately took the Arbiter as a hostage and summoned two hydras. Conflict ensued, numerous people almost died, and Krina swore revenge, then left via magical gateway. Things were slightly awkward with the Arbiter, who claimed he had no knowledge of events, and everyone believed him. Everyone that wasn’t in the Summer Heroes, anyway.

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Session 13

Coming soon!

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Session 12.5
In which Jason produces a most excellent accounting of off screen events

The guest rooms of the Margravine’s sprawling residence in Ystria were rambling and well-appointed, but the weak light of the autumn sun was blocked by the heavy drapes that Mina and Abajeet had drawn over the watery glass of their room’s windows. A sharp rap on the door pierced their respective slumbers and Mina shot a bleary glance across the room, met with an equally bleary look from Abajeet.

A second rap at the door, just as sharp and insistent as the first. Mina swung her feet off the bed and staggered across the room. She pulled the heavy wooden door open and light from the garishly painted hallway spilled in.

“Good morning!” said Darion, brightly. Mina scowled and grumbled a bit to express her displeasure.

“Breakfast has been prepared for you and is waiting in the sitting room across the hall,” he continued, ignoring her obvious unhappiness with being roused after such a long night of partying.

The human rogue unsuccessfully attempted to stifle a yawn, costly (and excellent) liquor still on her breath. “Breakfast? Need more sleep. Come back at lunch.”
Darion put his arm out and gently pressed on the door as she began to close it. “It is lunchtime,” he said, “but I thought you and Abajeet might be more amenable to breakfast, so I had them prepare that for you instead. Our meeting at the Palace is this afternoon; I must insist you join us.”

Mina appeared torn between suggesting a bodily storage facility for the Curator’s meeting at the Palace and acquiescing in the face of both the time of day and Darion’s small, unexpected kindness. (She did, after all, prefer breakfast.) “Alright, alright,” she conceded. She turned to face back into the room, where a fluttering of wings and soft snoring indicated Abajeet’s resumed disposition. She wandered over to the alchemist’s bed to rouse the latter, while Darion stood in the doorway, waiting.

*

The sitting room near the suite of guest rooms was generally overtaken by a mass of pink and purple pillows—the term sitting room having been taken very literally by the Margravine, in this instance—though when guests took meals in it a circle was cleared away in the center of the room and replaced with a proper table and chairs. The rest of the Summer Heroes were already seated—Talerion masticating loudly—when Darion swept in the room, Mina and Abajeet in tow. He ushered the two to their seats and then took his own.

Mina eyed a dark green liquid concoction in a slender crystal glass before her on the table. “I was promised breakfast,” she said, clearly displeased. Abajeet nodded in vexed agreement.

“It is being sent over from the kitchen right now,” Darion said. “This is… well, I don’t remember what they call it, exactly. I believe the term is a ‘hangover cure’.”
Abajeet brightened, but Mina eyed Darion with skepticism. “A ‘hangover cure’? Why don’t they have these in Brightwater? And why didn’t we get these yesterday, or the day before?”

Darion shrugged. “There’s a considerable amount of partying in the city; I’m surprised there isn’t a remedy available more widely. Apparently it’s a concoction from within the Magravine’s own House.” He paused, then continued. “I’m told it’s best to swallow it in one gulp, and that the hangover disappears within a minute or so.”

Abajeet and Mina gave each other significant glances, then picked up the glasses, tinked them together, and downed the drinks. Shortly after setting the glasses back on the table, they both grimaced in pain. “Aww, whaaaatttttt… is…. Arrrrrghhhhh,” Abajeet said. She twisted her face in pain and shot Darion what was ostensibly a dirty look while her head pounded exquisitely.

“I’m told there is some initial discomfort while the elixir does its work,” Darion said drily, “which appears to be the primary impediment to widespread production and sale…”

Mina’s eyes shut in a perpetual wince of pain and she balled her fists up. “I swear to the gods, Darion,” she said, “I am going to punch you in—” she stopped, as the pain abruptly vanished and left her feeling renewed and clear-headed. She looked over at Abajeet, whose expression changed, too, after a few more seconds. Servants put plates of artfully arranged food in front of them, quietly whisking away the empty glasses and fading then from the room.

Bemused looks from the other members of the company indicated that at least some of them had undergone the same treatment. “Our meeting with Their Majesties is at four bells today,” the oracle began. “It is currently noon, which gives us four hours. It will take us about half an hour to cross the city to get to the Palace, and we have been instructed to arrive an hour and a half early to allow time for protocol instruction and additional transit within the Palace complex.

“This leaves two hours for personal preparation. I have selected and laid out clothes for you all in the Green Room, across the hall, and—”

“Why aren’t you eating?” Mina asked, in between bites of an unfamiliar but nevertheless delicious Ystrian dish, gesturing at the lack of food in front of the Curator.

Darion’s eyes flicked down to the empty space before him and then back up, to Mina. “Today’s meeting is with very important people,” he said, “and I would much prefer not to get sick all over the king and queen of Ystria.”
Abajeet raised a curious eyebrow at the half-elf, wondering if this was an actual admission of weakness. Who was this, and what had he done with Darion? “Besides,” he continued, “one does not keep a silver tongue by tarnishing it with vomit.” Oh, there he was.

“As I was saying, outfits have been selected for all of you and are laid out in the Green Room. The Margravine is very kindly lending us some of her stylists to assist in our preparation.” At this information, most of the table lobbed skeptical glances at Darion, though Mina and Erlindar seemed comfortable with the notion.

“There are also matters of protocol to consider,” he explained, his continuance effectively bowling over the possibility of objection, “which I will briefly outline. We will be given instruction in the Palace itself; anything I say that is contrary to instructions we are given there should be disregarded, of course.

“You are not to speak unless spoken to. You are not to show your back to Their Majesties. You are not permitted to bring weapons into the Palace.”

Thalion raised his voice to object, but Darion forestalled him with a look. “The Margravine’s attendants will look after our equipment here. Members of the Dragon Watch are permitted to bring their sword inside the Palace, but a court wizard will place an enchantment upon it to prevent you from drawing the sword on the Palace grounds.”

The Curator’s tone took on a hard, steely edge that brooked no disagreement—a tone he used very rarely, though Erlindar, at least, could recall a handful of occasions, “I will speak for us. If you are directly asked a question, please defer it to me, if possible. Do not dissemble; King Dandolo is notorious for his dislike of people who obfuscate the truth, and of idle flatterers. The King and Queen are to be referred to as ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Serene Majesty’.

“However else things may go elsewhere, this is my arena and you all are out of your depth here. If I ask you to do something, you will do it. You will not disagree with me, or speak out of turn.” Talerion gritted his teeth, but said nothing, a clear indication he and his younger brother had already fought this verbal battle, and that he had lost. Darion’s expression softened a little. “At the very least, we are being given an opportunity to go into the Lido Palace, which ought to be very interesting. And, if I’m the only one doing the talking, I won’t be able to shift the blame onto anyone else if it goes poorly…”

*

“Is all of this really necessary?” Talerion asked, while an outrageously made-up stylist from the House of Gaga applied delicate tracery in paint to various areas of his face. “We’re from Brightwater,” he grumbled.

Darion rolled his eyes. “Yes, we are, which is why our appearances are so much more muted than they’d be otherwise. It would be a great social scandal if an Ystrian noble were to dress like this, but allowances are made for nobles from other cities. Certain compromises are necessary, however, and these small details are the largest indicators of one’s social rank and status, which is why we are so grateful to the Margravine for her assistance in this manner,” he said, inclining his head to the stylist in acknowledgment.

“This all just seems vain to me,” Talerion mumbled in reply, gesturing down at his outfit. Forbidden from wearing a suit of armor into the Palace, Darion had instead chosen for him an ensemble that included a deep-v neckline and other features that accentuated Talerion’s build. The stylist tensed up a little at the insult, but continued anyway.

“All people are vain,” Darion replied, voice tinged with annoyance. “The fashions of Brightwater are just as costly as the ones here, which you would know if you spent any time in the city, but are deliberately reflective of the cultural atmosphere whence they come. Jewelry is heavily emphasized in our city because of the silver mines; the silk markets here lend themselves to fashion expressed through fabric. And,” he added, “you are the eldest, unmarried son of a House of Major Nobility in Brightwater. Some expression of your…” he looked vaguely uncomfortable saying this to his older brother, “…virility… is expected.”

Erlindar, having quietly stationed himself in the doorway to listen in on the conversation, snorted with laughter. Cover blown, he walked in. Talerion glowered at the elf wizard, “Last time I checked, you were unmarried too,” he said. Erlindar’s visage darkened briefly at the allusion to his erstwhile marriage proposal from the lunatic Corinthia of House Irian.

Darion strode over to the wizard and gave him a once-over. “Did you… did you let your stylist assist with this?” he asked, the skepticism in his voice plain. Erlindar frowned down at his friend, “What? No, she… she was getting… hands-y.”

“What—hands-y? Erlindar, they’re supposed to help with your outfit, that is what they do,” came the exasperated reply. Darion circled around behind Erlindar and brusquely pulled at some fabric; the wizard’s robe pulled in at various spots, and soon he no longer seemed quite as lost in the garment.

“I was going to do that,” Erlindar muttered, in a tone absent of real conviction. Darion circled back around and pulled out a golden, seven-pointed sun that he pinned to the other’s chest; he raised his eyebrows in bemused disagreement with the protestation.

“What is that?” Talerion asked, from across the room.

“I had a goldsmith make our Partnership’s symbol,” Darion replied.

“I thought we were going to have tabards,” Talerion said, a note of indignation in his voice.

“Tabards?” Darion asked, feigning surprise and innocence. “What, and cover up your stunning physique with a bunch of bulky fabric? What a crime that would be for the fair citizens of Ystria, to deny them such a sight!” He placed a hand to his forehead in mock illness and took a seat nearby. “Oh, woe betide any who would suffer such an injustice!”

“I’m—I’m gonna go… check on Thalion,” Erlindar said quietly and slipped out of the room as the brothers once again clashed over a minor issue that was obviously serving as a stand-in for broader disagreements about their group’s leadership dynamics.

*

The Summer Heroes arrived at the eastern gate of the Lido Palace, an elaborate structure flanked by guardhouses; the decorative iron portcullis was down, but pedestrian traffic continued in the smaller doors to its right and left. Behind the gate itself was a large bridge that spanned the water between the island containing the gate and the palace complex.

Darion took stock of the group: The weather was mercifully pleasant, and the group’s respective outfits had survived the relatively short transit from the wealthy island quadrant of the city to the palace, near the old city center. Each of them bore the newly-crafted golden pins that signified their affiliation with the Summer Heroes, save Pirro, whose monastic training eschewed such decoration; instead, a white swatch of fabric wrapped itself around his left bicep, seven-pointed sun stitched at the fore.

The group had attracted a little attention on the way over, but for the most part they made little impression on the cityscape, which was a large mish-mash of buildings sporting a variety of color, sculptures, towers, and glass. It was, in its way, a stark juxtaposition to the decorative uniformity Queen Auria had imposed on Brightwater, but the anarchic competition of beauty across the city was lovely in its own—sometimes garish—way.

Darion eyed the Heroes with satisfaction; they seemed to be striking the right balance between “fashionable” and “powerful”, and all of them had cleaned up fairly well. Mina’s transformation had been the most significant—the subdued blacks and browns of her armor were gone, replaced by a sleeveless, figure-hugging silk gown, in dusky green hues. Her hair had been swept up and back, pleated into a circular braid and held in place by several hummingbird-shaped pins.

After they had begun their walk to the Palace, Abajeet had drily remarked on Mina’s appearance and noted that Darion was no longer the prettiest member of the Heroes, a comment Darion felt had earned an unkind amount of laughter.

Some dust, acquired in the venture over from the noble quarter, clung to Pirro’s shoulder; Darion gently brushed it away, noting with silent concern the monk’s flinty, emotionless gaze. In a swift, fluid motion, Pirro shifted into a defensive stance and deftly stepped around and in front of the oracle. Darion looked momentarily puzzled, before turning and peering out from behind the human’s much larger build.

“Oh, that will be Alejandro, the Margravine’s primary attendant,” Darion said, brightly, indicating the figure hurrying towards them. Pirro relaxed a little, though he still remained tense and vigilant.

“Is he… glistening?” Mina asked, warily. “He looks as though someone has oiled up his chest.” Darion peered out from behind Pirro again. “I… think so?” he replied. “I think that’s a Margravine-thing, though, not an Ystria-thing.”

“It was very thoughtful of the Margravine to send him prepped and ready for you,” Talerion quipped.

Darion shot a withering glance at his brother. “Don’t be vulgar, Tal,” he replied. “Vulgar isn’t the same thing as funny.”

*

“You’re late,” Alejandro said when he arrived. Darion’s face crinkled into a mixture of annoyance and disagreement, which the Margravine’s attendant clearly noticed. “Not late,” he said, “not really. The Palace has moved your engagement forward, and so you are late for the new time.”

He hurried them along and bustled them through the outer ring of security while he explained, “There was a cancellation, which moved the timetable forward. The Duke of Zara Isle apparently had a very good night, which has resulted in a very bad morning, and—well, anyway, when a Royal engagement gets moved forward, you are expected to accommodate it.”

Erlindar protested at the obvious injustice, “How were we supposed to have known this?”
Alejandro shook his head. “You weren’t, really. You aren’t expected to show up at the new time; if you show up on time when an engagement has been moved forward, it’s understood you aren’t important enough to have anywhere to be. If you show up too late, it’s taken to mean either that you have deliberately disrespected Their Majesties or you’re not important enough to be informed of schedule alterations.”

“So when in the Fourteen Hells are we supposed to get there?” Thalion blurted out.

“I suggest fifteen minutes after the new time,” Alejandro offered.

He escorted them through a dizzying array of hallways and passages, over bridges and through grand foyers; it was easy to see why one could get lost in the Palace, and clear that it lacked the pre-planned construction of the Silver Palace, and was instead more of an accretion of buildings and rooms over time. Their revised timetable left little time to gawk, however, until their arrival in the Room of Protocol.

The Protocol Room was a wonder in itself, despite being largely devoid of the heavy decoration that characterized most of the other chambers of the Palace. There were no golden vines tracing the ceiling here, nor stylized frescoes from Ystrian history, nor cavorting nymphs and dryads. Instead, the floor was a simple, bare flagstone, the walls of a similar color, though a different cut. Delicately carved chairs and benches were scattered around the room in clusters, grouped around tables with cut flowers and adorned with a variety of plush pillows and cushions.

The real spectacle of the Room was in the enormous hourglasses that lined the walls, however. A third of the way down the chamber, on either side, were tall, delicate hourglass-shaped pillars. Sand poured down and collected at the bottom; after sixty seconds of sand had gathered, the bottom of the glass went transparent and the sand collapsed downward, instantly re-appearing at the top of the pillar and repeating the process.

Two-thirds down the chamber was the second pair of hourglasses—similar in form to the first, but filled with onyx and white marble spheres instead of sand. Each time the first pair of columns emptied and re-started, a marble would drop from the top of the pillar to the bottom. When sixty had been accumulated, they would be recycled in the same manner.

In the two far corners of the room stood the final set of hourglass-pillars, though this contained only twelve stones, and these larger and in various colors, in glittering octagonal cuts. Above the elaborate double-doors on the far side of the room was an enormous wooden carving of the sun and moon and stars, on which was overlaid the date: 7 Arah Anu. For all the magic in the room, this, at least, appeared to be entirely non-magical.

Erlindar marveled at the precision and synchronicity of the room’s setup. “It would be so useful to have miniature versions of these for experiments,” he said, muttering almost to himself. “This must be fantastically expensive to maintain, though…”

Alejandro pushed them along through the chamber towards the far end and the elaborate wooden pedestal that stood ten feet before the doorway. A beautiful humanoid stood at the pedestal, draped in an exquisite pink dress, with feathers and ribbons woven into her scarlet hair. The white horns that curled gracefully up from her head were scarcely visible, though they did not seem to be hidden.

“Alejandro!” she said, with a bubbly ebullience. “And these must be the Summer Heroes! I’m ever so pleased to meet you.” She scratched a quick note on the parchment in front of her before laying her quill down, and her enthusiasm seemed sincere. “I do love meeting to new people, but in this case we must hurry, because Their Majesties have elected to take their afternoon refreshment early.”

“What, in the Receiving Hall?” Alejandro asked, puzzled.

The Mistress of the Royal Schedule tittered with laughter. “Oh, Alejandro, you are so silly. Of course not! That would be ridiculous. They are in the Yellow Room. And so is your audience!” she said, turning back to the Summer Heroes. “Come now, we must hurry. This is such a privilege!” She leaned in closer to the group. “You all must be very important,” she whispered, with a congenially conspiratorial tone. “Hardly anyone ever gets to go to the Yellow Room.”

She waved for them to follow, and Alejandro stayed put. “Good luck!” he said. The satyr Scheduler clopped forward, leading the Summer Heroes down a side hallway they had not noticed before. Darion turned and waved a silent ‘thank you’ to the Margravine’s attendant as they hurried away.

The satyr—Likenga, as she cheerfully informed the group while they walked—had lived in Ystria her entire life and seemed to have been hired by the Palace owing to her apparently unceasingly happy nature, obsessive attention to the detail of protocol, and (it seemed to some of the group, at least) her ability to tell said entire life story in the span of a few minutes.

“We’re here!” she said abruptly, as they reached the end of a long hallway, painted with scenes from the sun god Tohilai’s life. Two guards shimmered into view at her announcement, apparently dispelling invisibility spells that had been cloaking them before.

“Vezen will meet you in the antechamber!” she exclaimed, brightly, before turning and whisking herself away. “It was very nice to meet you all!” she said, her words echoing as she clip-clopped away from the group. The guards opened a set of doors that had been artfully inset into the walls, and the Summer Heroes stepped through.

*

Vezen—a human this time, with dusky skin and eyes the color of amber—had a disposition that was brusque and authoritarian where Likenga’s was infectiously charming. His protocol briefing was crisp, concise, and effective (and plainly one he’d given many times before). Before long, he ushered the group into the room beyond the antechamber.
The Yellow Room was a light and airy construction of glass and arches, with a far wall composed seemingly entirely of glass with doors that opened out into the elaborately sculpted Gardens of Desire. The term “Yellow Room” seemed a misnomer, though, as the walls were painted gold, and gold leaf seemed to caress the arms and legs of every piece of furniture in the room, while the cushions, curtains, and other decorative appointments were of a similar golden hue.

The overall effect was simultaneously stunning but muted (and so seemed almost out of place with the rest of the Palace) and was enough to give even Darion a bit of pause when the group entered. Their attention was swiftly redirected to Their Most Serene Majesties: Dandolo XXIV, King of Ystria, Friend of the Centaur, and Protector of Pleasure; and his wife, Bakwa of House Eraclea, Queen-Consort of Ystria.

Dandolo was handsome and well-possessed of a regal bearing, but he was eclipsed by Bakwa, despite his fine garments and glittering military accoutrements. The Queen-Consort was arrayed in a simple gown of a deep, burnt orange, overlaid with layers of delicate, sheer Ystrian lace. Dozens of pearls were wrapped around her neck and looped down over the front of chest, while she sported earrings that lined her ears with the same. The contrast between the pearls and the deep ebony of her skin was stark, and her black hair was looped and braided up into a cone, interspersed with here and there with pearls and tiny, glittering orange gems.

After the customary protocols and introductions had been made, Vezen disappeared quietly from the room, while unseen guards shut the doors to the Yellow Room after him. Erlindar made a mental note as he scanned the chamber, looking for subtle distortions that might give away guards under guises of invisibility; he counted at least five, but was certain there were many more.

Their Majesties greeted the Summer Heroes with a diplomatic warmth tempered by diplomatic reserve that was clearly the product of years of similar engagements, though Pirro sensed a slight edge of keenness or curiosity that he suspected was not usually present in these sorts of tête-à-têtes.

The Summer Heroes were seated at the far end of a rectangular table, across from Their Majesties, and plates of small, artfully arranged foods were placed here and there in no discernible pattern (except, perhaps, to Likenga, who might’ve gone on at length about it, had she been present and asked…). The others picked politely at cucumber sandwiches and similar fare, though Darion was perched on his seat, hands clasped in his lap and posture as straight as an arrow, patiently waiting for Dandolo or Bakwa to speak to them.

Eventually, the King and Queen finished their conversation, and Bakwa cast her gaze down towards the Curator. “Thank you for accommodating the alteration to Our schedule,” she said, politely, a comment that invited reply and lifted the ban of silence imposed on the guests thereby.

“We are all pleased to be given this audience with Your Majesties,” Darion replied in a smooth tone, “and are grateful to have the opportunity, regardless of location.”

Dandolo took a pull of scarlet wine from a goblet—an airy confection of gold and glass—while he assessed the group at the end of the table. After he set it back on the table, he spoke, “We are told you all are responsible for averting the Margravine’s death, and perhaps for ending the plague that is affecting Our river. Ystria owes you a debt, if this is true.”

“Your Majesty is well-informed,” Darion replied, simply.

The barest of smiles tugged at Dandolo’s mouth, though it was barely visible to the group because of the distance between them. The king seemed to re-assess Darion in light of his reply. “Deftly answered,” Bakwa conceded. The royal couples’ eyes both sparkled with intelligence, but Bakwa’s bright green eyes seemed more piercing and direct, while the watery blue of Dandolo’s seemed more to conceal and cloud.

His Serene Majesty slouched back into his chair, adopting a more relaxed position. “We hear your group slew the infamous ‘pirate king’ and his lieutenant.” It was a statement, not a question; Darion waited for Dandolo to continue, “Did he mark you when he took you?” Dandolo looked pointedly at the Curator. “We expect the ribbon-lattices on your arms aren’t there without reason; they went out of fashion six winters ago,” he said, clearly referencing the decorations Darion was employing to hide the rune Elegabalor had carved into his wrist.

“May We see it?” Dandolo asked. “Remove the ribbons, please.”

Darions hands continued to rest in his lap. “Your Majesty, I shudder to think what a breach in etiquette it would be for me to undress in Your presence.”

Dandolo smiled with an expression that plainly said, ‘Nice try.’ “We are sure We can dispense such rules, if it pleases Us to do so.”

The Curator’s hands remained firmly in his lap, and the gazes of his compatriots remained just as firmly fixed on him. Abajeet held a tiny sandwich in front of her mouth, clearly distracted by the exchange.

“Your Majesty, though I am not of Your fair city, I cannot think of any part of the Ampiolegge that would compel one of Your subjects to remove clothing before you,” Darion replied. Bakwa’s eyebrows shot up in bemused approval. “And,” Darion continued, “I am sure that Your Majesty is aware that, even if such a provision did exist, I am subject to the Crown of Brightwater, but not to the Lido Palace…”

Bakwa laughed. “Oh, We like this one.” She turned to Dandolo. “See? The Margravine never sends Us anyone boring.”

“The Flagellant—what was his name? Stephen, or Stephanus, or something—he was boring.”

“Oh, Flagellants are never boring,” she shot back. “And anyway, he was right, wasn’t he?”

Dandolo shrugged. “Mostly right, but we haven’t seen the eagle again yet.” He turned his attention back to the Summer Heroes. “Why are you here?” he asked, bluntly. “Our advisors could not agree on an answer. A plurality of them thought you were coming to ask for a reward for undoing the plague, but We disagree.”

“I have… a cautionary tale for you,” Darion said, picking his words, as if through a patch of briars.

“From your sister, the Lady-in-Waiting Estrildis?” Dandolo asked. “Or is this a message from the Silver Palace, by way of the Lord Commodore Merrick?” The king let a little amusement show through his countenance to remove the sting his remark might’ve otherwise had. “Or are you an envoy from the Curators, come to prophesy for Us?”

“My message is my own,” Darion replied. “I am not here on behalf of a House, my own or otherwise, and any prophecies are similarly mine, and do not come from Tintern.”

“Are you the only one here with a message?” Bakwa interjected, motioning at the rest of the Summer Heroes seated at the table. “Is this not their message, too? Or are you not here as a Summer Hero, either?”

“All of them know some of the message,” Darion responded, “and some of them know all of the message.”

Abajeet leaned towards Mina and whispered, “Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?” Mina gave a small shake of her head in response.

“I am concerned about Brightwater’s future,” the oracle said, “and our cities are too closely linked for either to survive without the other.” Dandolo and Bakwa were more serious, their expressions impassive. The king made a small motion with his hand, as if to say, ‘Go on’.

“I have seen evidence firsthand that there are forces at work attempting to undermine Brightwater from within, to divide and distract it,” the Curator continued. “Divided kingdoms can fall to outside invaders—just as Liria did, of old, and Brightwater will need a strong leader and a unified kingdom to weather the storm I have seen on the horizon.

“There were forces fomenting war in the North, and in the south there are pirates flying flags from Brightwater, Saltstone, and Ystria to force conflict between the cities.”

“Our cities have withstood many storms, together and apart,” Dandolo replied, “Why should this be different? You have evidence to present to Us?”

“None safe to bring here, but—”

“Though we have long been friends and allies, Brightwater’s internal politics are not Ystria’s business,” Bakwa interrupted, looking pointedly at Talerion. “Our concern is for the safety and peace of Our city and Our people. Prince Oswiu has been nothing but a friend to Ystria since his accession.”

“I still have no idea what’s going on,” Mina whispered to Abajeet, who responded by popping another tiny sandwich into her mouth.

“There was an orc,” Erlindar blurted out, “An orc in the North. At the Presidential Palace. Under a disguise. Heavy magic…” his words stumbled a little when he noticed he’d attracted the intense and unflinching gazes of Their Majesties.

“Is this true?” Dandolo asked Darion. The Curator nodded affirmatively and Dandolo and Bakwa exchanged a brief, significant glance.

*

The rest of the audience passed without incident, and the conversation was quickly—albeit politely—steered away from politics for the few minutes remaining before Their Majesties had to depart for another engagement. The Summer Heroes were bustled out of the Yellow Room amid pleasantries and well-wishes, and met—and escorted—by a still-talkative Likenga, who spirited them back to the Room of Protocol.

Dandolo and Bakwa kept a quiet counsel with each other as they watched the Summer Heroes depart. “He has promise,” Dandolo said.

“The younger Albion?”

“No,” Dandolo replied, shaking his head. “Perhaps, yes, as an oracle. He is said to be very skilled. I meant the elder brother.”

“They all have promise,” Bakwa countered. “We know what the older brother wants. The Curator may not share his ambitions.”

“By all reports, he is, at least, sincere.”

“Yes. But too much sincerity can be as dangerous as too little.”

View
Session 12
In which the Summer Heroes forget about their resources

-There was some wrap-up in Brightwater, wherein the mood of (most of)
the city was still fairly good, as the death of the so-called pirate
king offered both a relief to the citizens and an excuse to party to
distraction from the city’s recent woes. Darion also presented Abajeet
and Thalion with some swanky new stuff as “thanks for directly
intervening in situations that would otherwise have resulted in my
death” gifts.

-The group was introduced to a distant cousin of Talerion’s, who will
now be accompanying the Summer Heroes. He is apparently a bard of some
sort or other and I believe his name was Feregar. His name was settled
on after some small discussion, wherein Jason was a huge dick about
naming conventions and linguistic families, partially because he is
That Guy, but also because he likes giving Matt a hard time because it
is funny.

-Feregar is, mechanically speaking, Zach’s “cohort” (see the
Leadership feat for more information). A cohort is an NPC who tags
along with a PC (or, alternately, is left behind by the PC – to do
something like manage a castle or a business, or whatever). A cohort
can never have a level of more than X-2, where X = the PC’s level. In
a gameplay sense, this means that the cohort will still be useful in a
fight, but will not be functioning at 100% (v a PC). Zach has noted
that Feregar will be serving in a buff-ish capacity.

-The Summer Heroes set out from the glittering (on the surface – BUT
CORRUPTION LIES BENEATH THIS FAIR EXTERIOR, dun dun dunnnnnn) capital
of Brightwater across the Channel to the more-colorful-but-less-shiny
city of Ystria. Ystria, of course, is widely known as a city of
extravagance, sensual delights, and powerful merchant families (in
more vulgar parlance, it is called the city of “fun, fashion, and
fucking”). It is the home of the inimitable Margravine, the popular
and delightful (albeit unconventional) musician of whom Abajeet and
Mina are huge fangirls, and who is also notable for having been
accidentally diseased by the Summer Heroes and then cured by the same.

-The SH set out for Ystria because of reports of a plague in the city,
which they quickly speculated was related to the plague-related
activity that has been triggered, at various points, by the statues
which Pirro originally brought to the group’s attention. When in
Ystria, the SH learned that there was not a plague in the city per se,
but that corruption and death had infected the Nicephori River, which
was sickening and killing the fish. Heavy reliance by Ystria on
fishing and imports of foodstuffs from Brightwater is such that the
corruption killing the fish, combined with a slow-down in mercantile
traffic from BW (cf the recent restrictions on trade by the Silver
Palace, &c), resulted in a situation that, though not a famine, was
nevertheless problematic.

-The SH dispatched their ship back to BW with instructions to purchase
grain and return to Ystria, with strict instructions for the crew NOT
to engage in any profiteering.

-Additionally, the SH, upon taking residence at an inn for the night,
ran into Balin. Balin is a scion of House Ferrex, the noble House that
held the Crown in BW before the current occupants of House Xiri. Balin
was Talerion’s totes-best-friends-forever, and the two of them left BW
for Skroz some years ago, for a variety of reasons which Talerion can
discuss if he wishes. Talerion has not seen Balin lately, as they had
a falling out when Talerion reformed his life, but Balin did not.
Balin had not met Thalion or Pirro before (and it has been like ten
years since he and Darion saw each other, I think?), but Mina and
Abajeet are familiar with him – though familiarity has, in this case,
bred contempt.

-Balin very kindly introduced us to his adventuring company, inquired
if the SH were in the city to get “the bounty” for ending the plague
that a Curator had placed, and told a number of ribald stories about
his and Talerion’s time in Skroz. The SH had not heard there was a
bounty on the plague, and certainly had not heard it was being offered
by a Curator; further inquiry into the matter revealed that no one
knew precisely which Curator was offering said bounty, and Darion
pointedly asked Balin’s group why they were willing to chase down
something on the promise of cash from an unknown person (a
satisfactory answer to this question was unavailable at the time).

-The next day, our intrepid heroes headed north, up the Nicephori
River, having secured the services of a river barge. By this point,
the SH had come to the conclusion that the corruption was being caused
by the statue that Pirro had previously buried after it killed off his
expedition, and were doing their best to disguise the fact that they
knew where they were going. (Totes McAwkwardsauce, amirite?!)

-As the group ventured north up the River, the intensity of the
corruption increased. There was a brief sighting of a centaur (NB: the
Maimon Centaurs, longtime allies of the Ystrians, live in the large
forest to the north and northwest of Ystria), as well as a brief
conversation, though the centaur was cagey and not overly forthcoming
with information. He also indicated that they were headed away from
the corruption, &c &c, ominous foreshadowing.

-Eventually, the river barge was tossed about a bit by what came to be
understood as a Dire Crocodile. Several of the SH were tossed
overboard, in what can best be described as “oh shit a huge dire
crocodile is attacking us apparently and we totes mcgotes weren’t
expecting it and also failed our reflex throws”. The ensuing combat
was problematic, in that Thalion spent a regrettable amount of time in
said croc’s jaws, much to the chagrin of Abajeet, who was
simultaneously desirous of both throwing bombs into the croc and of
diving into its open mouth and destroying it, uh, from within.

-The SH prevailed and soon discovered that the croc was rotting from
the inside out, which was totes gross and whatever, and also the river
barge people were super freaked out and were eventually convinced not
to turn this car around right now. The corruption was getting super
terrible, so the SH were all like “oh gosh, maybe we should go see if
there is a source of it nearby since it is getting worse”, which was a
flimsy cover for “yeah we know where it is”, but flimsy is better than
nothing, so there you go.

-After Darion explictly asked the river barge people to wait where
they were – much to the DM’s obvious consternation and desire to punish
the group for not asking (if they hadn’t asked, but we did, see, so
there) – the SH set out into the forest. It was totes gross and stuff,
and then we got attacked by some shubbery.

-Soon thereafter, some members of the group realized the SH were being
followed. Ermehgerd, it was Balin and Co., LLC. They were all like “oh
hey you saw us, yeah we’re just following along b/c you guys seem like
you’ve got it going on” and we were like “ummm why didn’t you guys
help us when we got attacked by the zombie croc or these shubberies”
and they were like “yeah you guys are pretty lethal and did not need
our help with those bushes for serious” and we were like “yeah and
don’t you forget it when your sudden but inevitable betrayal happens”.

-Dread grew among the party members as the corruption in the forest
got worse and some PCs meta-realized that oh jeez we’re going to have
to fight Pirro’s old group, aren’t we?, and isn’t that going to be
kind of emotionally traumatizing for Pirro?

-Anyway, so eventually we made our way to the clearing where Pirro
buried the statue and also his friends. Yeronia, the beautiful and
gifted Curator with whom Pirro was “just friends” was there, and she
was all like, “oh hey Pirro why’d you bury me I’m not the biggest fan
of being buried alive” and he was like “first, why are your eyes all
green and glow-y and also yeah you were totes dead when I buried you”
and she was like “nuh-uh” and he was like “not but seriously you
were”.

-After this emotional rollercoaster, Yeronia rolled for initiative and
activated her secret zombies. A bunch of shambling dudes appeared and
were all like yaarrrgggghhhh (but in a zombie voice not a pirate
voice), and lo!, some of Balin’s group had had their minds overthrown
and were actually evil. There were some nets that trapped Mina and
Erlindar (convenient plot devices for explaining the non-action of
non-present players), and also Darion, which in retrospect probably
actually saved his hide, since the hulking barbarian undead bro went
after Thalion instead. So, you know, there’s that. Oh also Balin and
his only non-evil-friend got caught too.

Combat ensued. Talerion very cleverly had his buff machine – excuse
me, his cohort, Feregar, who has hopes and dreams of his own, and is a
fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional character – cast silence on him
and then rushed at the wizard who was like RAWRSPELLS. The rest of the
group was engaged elsewhere
Thalion doing his thing what with the
arrows and swords, Pirro hitting things with his magical fists, Darion
tottering about praying, since apparently that helps somehow, and
Abajeet flitting around overhead, dropping literal bombs on people- a
spectacle that never fails to be simultaneously both helpful and
hilarious.

-There was a bunch more combat I guess, and eventually the group got
into a rather nasty and awkward position where Thalion and Abajeet
were very near death but Darion could not heal them because of his
brother’s brilliant silence aura, but I’ll go ahead and note
(SPOILERS) that no one died.

-Well, no one died that hadn’t already died, at least. With only
Yeronia left standing, Talerion launched into a brutal attack that
reduced her to, like, -50 HP or something ridiculous, much to Pirro’s
utter and abject horror, because holy shit you guys that was his
friend and maybe we could have saved her duh?

-Regrettably, Yeronia was beyond saving, and the players in charge of
the SH forgot about the resurrection scroll they had, and woooooops,
sorry Peter, looks like Pirro’s in for a rough time.

-Talerion proceeded to be a huge, huge dickmobile about the whole
situation, an attitude which was simultaneously surprising (seriously,
Tal, aren’t we supposed to be friends?) and tremendously alientating
for some members of the party, because the whole bit really wasn’t
that funny. Thalion also bumbled into some social awkwardness, but
that was forgivable because his charisma is like 7 or something.

-After putting the ill-fated statue-hunting group to rest (vis-a-vis a
flaming pyre [side note: is there any other kind of pyre?]) and
destroying the statue, some things were explained to Balin and Co.,
LLC, with as little divulged as possible, and an especial emphasis on
“you guys might not want to talk about it because this looks PRETTY
BAD for you all what with the whole getting your minds dominated and
whatnot”. Balin and Co., LLC also revealed (well, the ones who’d
turned) that they’d met with a Curator named Noah, who was the one
who’d offered the reward and also to “bless” them. Awwwwwkwarrrrrd.

-Darion and Pirro suddenly recalled that Noah the Curator was actually
supposed to be Noah the Dead Curator, and Pirro also remembered that
he met Noah the Apparently Dead Curator at a party in BW recently – a
fact which seemed insignificant at the time, because he didn’t LOOK
dead, but was apparently significant now.

-At some point during this session Abajeet revealed that she had
recently fought a t-rex and that there was a gnome serial killer on
the loose in BW.

-The group sailed back on down to Ystria, where they decided to let
Balin and Co., LLC take credit for stopping the plague (let’s sort of
use them as bait to draw out Noah, maybe?) if they wanted.

-Then they met with the Margravine, who was all like oh hey guys
whaaaaatsssssupppppp, and Darion was like hey, so… how are things?
Are they good? Anyway so we have this new piece that Corinthia
wrote… do you want it? And she was like boy howdy do I! And then
Darion was like hey so I have some suggestions for your upcoming
album – how about you do some songs about the Fall of Liria? (It’s a
#dark #emo album.) And also, can you get us some face-time with the
king and queen o’ the city? And she was like sure, let me pull out my
handy cell phone – excuse me, sending stone, and text – excuse me,
message – Her Majesty.

-Also, the SH got a message from the guild o’ message senders that
they had a message. So, they went and got that message, and the
President in the North was like hey guys can you come back up here – PS
not really asking, you’re contractually obligated as Summer Heroes -
because there are some issues, by which I mean lots of people are
getting slaughtered.

-And so, to bring this excessively long SR to a close, when last we
left our intrepid heroes, they were hanging out, partying with the
Margravine whilst waiting for their upcoming appointment with the
rulers of Ystria. The intention, of course, is to set off immediately
from the city as soon as their meeting is over, and head north, to
Find Out What Are the Haps and also hopefully To Find Out That the
Haps Are Not Inadvertantly Their Fault Again.

fin

View
Session 11
In which Darion explains the importance of sharing

On the return trip to Brightwater, Darion wakens with startling prophetic visions. He shares these to the group, as well as earlier visions, and there is much discussion.

Once in Brightwater, the Summer Heroes are greeted with much enthusiasm, the remaining pirates that helped sail them here are turned over by Darion to be hanged, and they are told about an alarming number of elemental attacks recently. They discover the truth of this when they are attacked by Brightstone Elementals in the middle of the streets, with Abajeet barely escaping death.

They travel to the house of Estrildis, who is overjoyed to see her brothers return. There is much discussion about politics and the nature of Darion’s disappearance. Estrildis reluctantly reveals that Darion is having an affair with Merrick of House Xiri, much to the amusement of all of the Summer Heroes. Except for Darion, who is deeply embarrassed. They also hear rumors about a plague in Ystria and some unspecified trouble in the Republic of the North. After getting assurances from iro that he will warn Ayreon and Carmen of Darion’s visions, they decide to repair the Summer’s Fortune, travel to Ystria to investigate if the plague has anything to do with the statue that caused Yeronia’s death, and then head to either the North or Ayreon. Travel to Sweetwater Monastery is also discussed as a possibility for the future.

Oswiu announces a feast in honor of Darion’s safe return and Elegabalor’s death, much to his chagrin. This sets of spontaneous street celebrations, leading to several weeks of merriment. Everyone has a series of delightful adventures and encounters, and finally they are ready to embark on the next journey. To Ystria!

View
Session 10
Lieutenant Dan Arrives, Dies
Summary

Our Heroes further question the sphinxes, but their inquiries are interrupted by the arrival of Elegabalor’s lieutenant and his horde of zombie pirates. The lieutenant being quickly dispatched with, our Heroes take the opportunity to relieve the island of its treasure, and learn a thing or two about soul swords to boot.

Details

We find our Heroes speaking with the sphinxes Lennith and Jahannam. Abajeet trades several jokes for information from Lennith, who is delighted with her gnomish humor. The sphinxes divulge many valuable pieces of information:

  • There are seven spots where magic stones could go in the library, but nobody has put a gem here in “quite some time” before Elegabalor – at least a thousand years.
  • The sphinxes had a bargain with the Pirate King: in exchange for books, pieces of information, artifacts, etc., they were willing to not interfere with Elegabalor’s activities and eat anyone who tried to get through without answering a riddle. They are willing to maintain a similar bargain with the Heroes.
  • Elegabalor had an obsession with a certain Curator, but was trying to wipe out all the Curators. He was working with “some other people” to achieve this, but chafed at their direction (the sphinxes don’t know who his partners were). The poisoned statues were part of this plan.
  • The sphinxes don’t know what the rotunda/pocket plane is for, saying “That knowledge does not exist; that knowledge has been lost. It has been…erased.” They were asked to guard the rotunda a long time ago by the people who created it, but they don’t remember who those people were.
  • The large statue contains a little bit of each kind of magic. Lennith says it is meant to hold an object in its grasp “when it’s needed.” Erlindar is convinced that object is the Staff of Prophecy.

Jahannam is greatly distressed by the news of the gargoyle demon’s escape – he says the demon is a great evil that came seeking the power in the rotunda, and the sphinxes trapped it “at considerable cost.” Lennith cryptically adds that “now it knows you’re here and knows, to a certain extent, what is and is not here.”

Mina raises the possibility of lending the group’s spare Dragon Watch sword to Jahannam for research. Thalion vehemently objects, but the sphinxes won’t take it anyway – Lennith doesn’t want anything to do with a “soul sword.” The group begins to ask questions regarding soul swords, making Thalion very uncomfortable. The ranger reluctantly divulges that all Dragon Watch swords were forged in the Soulforge, a magical forge in Varcrist that bound the souls of living beings to indestructible magic items. Each Dragon Watch member’s sword has been passed down through generations and bound to its wielder through a ritual.

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a gong, indicating that someone has passed through the magical water separating the rotunda from the world above. The Heroes prepare for a fight, but the intruder is the tongueless half-elf from the Poisoned Fortune – she’s come to alert the group to the battle raging on the surface between Juru’s crew and Elegabalor’s lieutenant. The Heroes immediately collect Spotty McSpotterson from the cave above the rotunda and board their rowboat.

The Heroes ready themselves for battle while en route to the tall ships. Erlindar casts an Invisibility Sphere on the group, granting them the element of surprise. Darion admonishes the Heroes to take Elegabalor’s lieutenant alive.

The fighting is fiercest on the Summer’s Fortune, which has been rammed by the lieutenant’s carrack. The Heroes board the lieutenant’s ship amidships in order to sneak up behind the pirates. Juru’s crew are locked in combat with pirates, as well as zombies controlled by a necromancer.

Mina and Thalion rain arrows on the necromancer while Erlindar casts fireballs on the pirates and zombies. Darion tries to cast repentence spells on Elegabalor’s lieutenant, but the pirate’s heart is too black for oracular magic to penetrate; he flees to the Summer’s Fortune. Abajeet flies after him, dropping alchemical bombs – some of which do damage, some of which make frogs. With one final volley, she accidentally incinerates the lieutenant.

The remaining pirates are demoralized by the literal explosion of their leader, and Juru’s crew rallies. Erlindar persuades two of the pirates to surrender, but the Heroes decide the necromancer is too dangerous to take alive after he tries to cast Feeble Mind on Abajeet. Mina flies into a rage, slashing at the necromancer with her twin shorts words. Thalion is mauled by a zombie, but brushes it off – “Merely a flesh wound,” he snarls – and goes on to deal a death blow to the necromancer. The rest of the pirates promptly surrender, ending the battle.

As soon as the pirate threat is neutralized, Abajeet flies to Juru’s Other Lantern to search for Juru. Darion sets about healing the survivors while Mina negotiates with the remaining pirates, who agree to crew the Summer’s Fortune. Erlindar searches the necromancer’s body and finds the magic homing ring, a dagger, a wand, a cloak, mortician’s tools, a necromantic spellbook, and a set of keys.

On searching the lieutenant’s ship, Thalion finds another life preservation chest. Inside the Heroes find Juru, whose left arm has been cut off. Darion heals her as best he can, and the resilient little gnome is up and giving orders in no time. Juru’s Other Lantern has sunk in flames, but Juru intends to buy a new ship in Brightwater with her share of Elegabalor’s hoard. In the necromancer’s cabin the group finds a work on alchemy by Tamvir Irian, as well as a letter of marque from Prince Oswiu of Brightwater authorizing the pirate carrack to prey on ships from Saltstone.

While Juru supervises repairs to the Summer’s Fortune the Heroes and the half-elf head back to the island to collect Elegabalor’s hoard. They stuff everything except the large statue, the naked statue, and the poisoned statues in their Bag of Holding. On closer inspection of the poisoned statues, Pirro notes that they appear to be likenesses of Iro and Tygon. Thalion destroys them with his Dragon Watch sword.

Since the ship repairs will take a while, Erlindar helps Mina use the pool at the foot of the large statue to scry on Althea. The Heroes crowd around the pool to watch. They see Althea in the Scriptorium in Brightwater talking to Mellitus. She appears to be reporting on the political situation in the Northern Republic. Mellitus orders her to kill Carmen, but Althea refuses. Mellitus states that every time Althea refuses an order, it will be that much longer before she can see “him” again. Althea seems upset by this. Mellitus tells Althea to find out who is masquerading as his uncle. Before the scene ends, Mellitus says, “I will probably have some statues for you to deliver. Hopefully they’ll be arriving soon.”

The Heroes communicate with the half-elf through a series of written messages. She says her name is Priya, she’s from Darrova, and she’s a bard. Prince Oswiu had her kidnapped and cut out her tongue when she refused to stop performing a song critical of his regime. She would like to continue on to Brightwater with the Heroes.

The Heroes have one last conversation with the sphinxes, hoping to glean more information about the Soul Forge. Jahannam relates that the soul swords were all created by the same smith, long before the Dragon Watch came into being, and that each sword confers a special power on its wielder. Mina relates her vision from the attack at the inn in Jund, when she saw Althea dispel all magic in the vicinity merely by drawing her Dragon Watch sword. Jahannam muses that this is a very advanced power that would probably only be available to a descendent of the original wielder. Priya becomes excited at this, scribbling a note summarizing the folk tale of Kalora and the Thousand Golems, wherein Kalora destroys one thousand magical constructs simply by drawing her sword. Could Althea be carrying the Sword of Kalora?

Mina insists that Thalion let her attempt to draw the spare Dragon Watch sword. Thalion refuses at first, but yields to a group vote in favor of letting Mina try, although he and Darion are strongly against it. The Heroes repair to the rotunda to see what happens. They see Mina reach for the hilt, and then the room goes black.

A few seconds later light returns, and they Heroes see a shaken Mina holding the sheathed sword. She reports that she was able to draw it, but that it has “a mind of its own,” appearing to be very powerful and almost sentient. She got the sense that it has a sister sword that it is both attracted to and repelled by. She feels very bonded to the sword and tries to persuade the group to let her keep it. Darion and Thalion are suspicious of Mina’s sudden affection for a sword that she tried to trade to the sphinxes just a few hours ago, and insist that Thalion keep it. Darion is especially concerned when Mina refers to the sword as her “destiny.” Mina gloomily agrees to the group’s decision.

The Heroes collect their Bag of Holding, bid farewell to the sphinxes, and row back to the Summer’s Fortune. Juru has finished the repairs, and the group sets sail for Brightwater.

View
Session 9 - Narrative
Visions

Mina sipped delicately from her tankard. She preferred wine, brandy, or even cider to the dark local beer, but she had to keep up appearances; the most important person in town couldn’t be seen drinking anything else in the inn’s public room. And anyway she had better things to think about than sour beer.

She stared thoughtfully into green eyes. It was uncanny, like looking through a mirror. Mina’s sister grinned back at her – her own crooked smile in reverse. They had spent the past two hours catching up on forty years of history, from the day Mina’s parents left her on the doorstep of a farmhouse to this fateful afternoon. Of course, they hadn’t left her twin there on the doorstep. They had taken her sister adventuring with them, teaching her to read and write and make a fire without tinder and slay terrifying monsters. How had they decided which of their children to keep? Maybe Mina would ask some day, when she and her sister were closer. When she was more used to the idea of having a sibling. When she had forgiven Darion for knowing about her twin and not telling her.

“Well,” said the twin, swilling the last of her beer. Mina raised her eyes from the sheathed Dragon Watch sword on the table – she hadn’t noticed getting caught up in the arcane symbols tooled into the scabbard, but it happened often enough when she was thinking. “It’s been great meeting you, it really has. I’m sorry to have to do this, but–” she stood abruptly – “Mom told me to kill you. So.”

The twin unsheathed a dagger from her belt. Someone screamed.

Time slowed down; Mina watched the twin lunge across the table in slow motion. She felt detached, as if she were viewing a play. Through the haze she noticed a glowing purple mark on her sister’s left forearm. That’s not her arm, Mina thought, confused. That’s my arm.

The vision wavered, then crumbled. Reality came rushing in.

The rotunda was pitch black save for the glowing purple mark in front of her face – Mina vaguely remembered the lights going out when Abajeet unsealed the last door. She cast Dancing Lights toward the high ceiling and took stock of the Summer Heroes.

Pirro and Erlindar were shaking their heads, bewildered but lucid. Thalion and Talerion looked strained and faraway, as if they were struggling to swim through deep water. Darion and Abajeet were clearly in the thick of visions, eyes glazed and muscles tensed. Darion muttered something – a spell?

Thalion’s head snapped toward the oracle. He turned slowly to face the half-elf, whose full attention was on Erlindar. The wizard’s eyes moved frantically, but he seemed rooted in place.

Thalion advanced slowly on Darion, drawing his enormous Dragon Watch sword. Pirro, always alert to his ward’s safety, leapt toward the ranger. He managed to wrest away the blade just as Thalion came back to reality.

Mina ran toward Abajeet, trying to think of a way to bring her friend out of the trance. The gnome snarled at her, unsheathing her mutated feline claws. Mina dropped to the floor, turning her sprint into a slide tackle. Talerion shuddered and was himself again just in time to catch Abajeet, who fell yowling into his arms. A shadow passed over Darion’s face, and suddenly Erlindar could move again.

Abajeet twisted free of Talerion’s grip, intent on savaging Mina. The group was able to stop the fierce little gnome only by piling on top of her. After several seconds of furious squirming, Abajeet lay still.

The Heroes looked at each other. A muffled squeak came from the bottom of the pile. “Excuse me, everyone,” the gnome wheezed, “but I can’t breathe.”

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Session 9
Elegabalor's Island
Summary

Our Heroes travel to a magic island in an attempt to recover the late Elegabalor’s treasure hoard. The group is now possessed of a ship and a tongueless captive, both courtesy of the Pirate King. Almost everyone is cursed with a necromantic mark. After much unnecessary labor, some seriously freaky visions, and (in)delicate negotiations with two sphinxes, the group accesses the hoard.

Details

The Summer Heroes regroup over Elegabalor’s corpse. Abajeet takes the pirate king’s head as evidence of her monstrosity his death. A search of the body reveals a fist-sized clear stone that Erlindar identifies as intensely magical. The arm Talerion hacked off earlier has a large gold ring on one finger. The group also takes a cloak from the corpse.

The Heroes notice that Darion has a glowing purple mark carved into his left forearm; it is clearly necromantic. Those with nautical backgrounds recognize it as the mark used by Elegabalor to identify his crew.

The Irian sisters arrive – a result of their earlier magical communications with Erlindar. Corinthia approaches the group as Dahlia talks to the surviving pirate captains. Corinthia indicates that the sisters consider themselves the rulers of Starll now that Elegabalor is dead. She sexily offers Erlindar the position of her official consort; everyone is uncomfortable. Talerion successfully petitions the sisters for ownership of Elegabalor’s ship, the Poisoned Fortune, which the Heroes promptly re-christen the Summer’s Fortune.

Juru tells the group that she knows where Elegabalor’s treasure hoard lies and offers to take them there for a share of the spoils. Talerion negotiates a 50%-50% split for Juru and the Heroes. Juru says Elegabalor’s golden ring will lead the way to a magical island east of Penwith that cannot be found without it (she herself accidentally came across the island when her ship was blown off course by a storm, but was unable to access the hoard due to the island being “crazy magically enchanted”).

With the groundwork for their next adventure laid, the Heroes check out their new ship. Talerion, as the most experienced sailor in the group and the one who negotiated for the ship in the first place, declares himself captain. Mina sweeps the ship for traps and declares it safe, although she does find several hidden smuggling compartments. Juru shifts some of her supplies and crew from Juru’s Other Lantern to the Summer’s Fortune, and the Heroes set sail on their latest quest.

Darion, exhausted from his captivity and the subsequent battle, curls up in Elegabalor’s bed for an extended slumber. Across the room, the rest of the group examines a large chest Mina found in a particularly well hidden compartment in the captain’s cabin. Erlindar determines that the chest will magically sustain the life of anyone inside indefinitely. Mina picks the locks and opens the chest. Inside is a filthy, haggard female half-elf curled up in the fetal position. She is very scared. The group helps her out of the chest, but she is clearly in no state for conversation. She bears the same glowing mark as Darion. The group gives her food and a private cabin guarded by one of Juru’s crewmen.

The rest of the day is a montage of the Heroes settling into the ship (except Darion, who is still sleeping). Talerion claims the captain’s cabin and swaggers around giving orders to the crew. Abajeet sets up her alchemical supplies in the crow’s nest, partly for privacy and partly to avoid blowing up anything important. She also takes on the role of ship’s cook, which works out about as well as most of her alchemical experiments. Erlindar does more research on the magic items taken from Elegabalor’s body. Mina, Thalion, and Pirro do whatever a rogue, a ranger, and a monk would do on a boat.

The next morning the Heroes convene for a group meeting in the captain’s Talerion’s cabin, rousing Darion from a deep sleep so he can participate. Erlindar shares the results of his earlier research: the cloak recovered from Elegabalor’s body is a Cloak of the Manta Ray, and the clear stone has powers of abjuration.

Thalion reveals that he woke up with a glowing purple mark on his left forearm; Talerion says he has the mark as well. The two are feeling tired.

Darion shares the details of his captivity and torture at Elegabalor’s hands. A name he mentions – Jahannam – rings a bell for Talerion, who somehow knows that Elegabalor was in long-distance magical communication with a philosopher named Jahannam. Darion says the glowing purple marks are slowly killing them, and that when they’re dead their souls will be forced to serve Elegabalor in the hell plane. The group needs to find and destroy the knife that made the marks.

The group grills Darion about why he snuck out of Estrildis’ house in the middle of the night. Darion says he was going to meet a representative of House Xiri to discuss the potential fallout from Mellitus’ return. There is much grumbling.

After the meeting is adjourned, the group checks on the half-elf from the chest. She’s in bad physical condition; she appears to have been in the chest for several months, which held off the curse, but now it’s hitting her hard. Darion tries to heal her to no effect. In the course of his ministrations he realizes she doesn’t have a tongue, which explains her reticence.

The next day Mina wakes up with the glowing mark; the marks on those who had it yesterday are more pronounced. Juru says the group is getting close to the island. Talerion puts on Elegabalor’s ring, and instantly feels like it’s guiding him toward something. He says we will arrive at the island the next day. Erlindar further scrutinizes the clear stone, and reports that it is tens of thousands of years old – it must have belonged to the First People. The wizard says the stone is meant to be placed in a certain spot, which it will then protect. Darion enters into a trance, seeking more information on the crystal. He is unable to discern anything, indicating that knowledge of such an item has been either lost or erased.

The Heroes reach the island in the late afternoon. Juru instructs them to drop anchor at a rocky outcropping. The Heroes board two rowboats, leaving Juru and her crew to protect the ships.

The Heroes enter a vast cavern, the enormity of which belies the small size of the island – clearly there is magic at work. The Heroes beach their rowboats on a rocky shore well within the interior of the cavern. About 100 yards from the shore is a well 20 feet in diameter with a stone lip. It is filled with very clear water, but the bottom can’t be seen. Darion casts Light on a pebble and throws it into the water. There is no splash and no ripples appear. The rock descends until it’s out of view.

The Heroes search the rest of the cavern, but there’s nothing of interest except the well. Pirro, who is immune to poisons, drinks some of the water. He reports that it’s fresh water, but sweet like wine. He attempts to breathe under the water in case it’s an illusion. It’s not, and he looks silly, but somebody had to try it.

After some strategizing, the group sends Thalion into the well with an Air Bubble, a light, and a rope around his waist. After a few minutes the rope jerks, but Pirro and Talerion hold it firm and haul Thalion back up. The ranger reports that about 20 feet down there’s a pocket of air that he began to fall through before the rope caught him. The group then sends Abajeet, who can fly. She reports that Thalion’s “air pocket” is actually a large circular room, about 400 feet across, with seven doors and one glowing wall; the floor is about 50 feet below the magic water. The group ties several ropes together, secures one end to a large rock, and descends into the rotunda.

Erlindar identifies the glowing wall as a Prismatic Wall and says that the group will have to negate the seven colors of magic that guard it before they can pass through. The seven doors do not appear to be magical or booby trapped. The group opens the first door to the right of the Prismatic Wall by pressing a button.

The door slides open to reveal a staircase leading down about ten feet. The room is 40 feet wide and 100 feet deep. Faces are carved into the walls – Darion thinks the carvings look Dwarven, although it’s hard to tell because the dwarves have been extinct for so long. A 10’x10’ square in the center of the floor looks different from the rest.

Pirro sprints across the room toward the staircase on the far side, avoiding the square in the center. As he passes the square, it begins to rise – a flagstone golem! Water gushes out of the carved stone faces. Mina, Thalion, and Talerion attack the golem, but their blows cause no discernible damage. The golem hits Mina hard and stuns Thalion. Talerion finally lands a vicious blow on the creature at the same moment Pirro reaches the far staircase. The monk flings opens a door to reveal an empty room and yells for the group to take refuge inside. Erlindar finds wading through the rising water hilariously difficult, but Abajeet drags him to the staircase. As the group darts into the next room the golem descends back into the floor and the water begins to recede.

The next room is about the same size as the first room. At the far end is some kind of altar. Fearing more traps embedded in the floor, the group sends Abajeet flying to the altar. She reports that it supports a large hourglass filled with green sand, which she carries back to the group with difficulty. However, the sand becomes increasingly pale, so the Heroes decide to take it back to the altar and leave it as it was.

The Heroes reach the rotunda again without difficulty. They surmise that the other six doors will conceal hourglasses as well, and decide to try upending each hourglass in turn. In a room with a glowing orange barrier the group realizes that Talerion is immune to the magic traps because he’s wearing Elegabalor’s ring. Music from the room containing the __ hourglass deals psychic damage to Mina and Abajeet, while the room with the red hourglass (which is unsalvagably broken) also contains the specter of Elegabalor – Erlindar blows it up, but not before it laughs gleefully in a manner that does not bode well for the party. Abajeet turns the __ and __ hourglasses without incident by flying through their chambers.

The last room should contain the __ hourglass. Abajeet opens the door, releasing a gargoyle into the rotunda. Each of the Heroes is plunged into a vision of a future in which he or she is in peril. Pirro, Mina, and Erlindar snap out of it first; they see Thalion and Talerion seemingly fighting their visions, while Abajeet and Darion are wholly engrossed in theirs. Thalion lunges at Darion, but Pirro disarms the ranger before he does any harm. Mina approaches Abajeet in an attempt to help her friend, but Abajeet tries to maul her before coming out of the trance.

Shaken but still functional, the group turns the final hourglass and Talerion walks through the Prismatic Wall. He takes no damage from the remaining red magic in the wall – evidently anyone wearing the ring is able to walk through the wall unscathed. Everyone feels sheepish for not realizing this earlier.

Talerion finds a library occupied by two sphinxes – a gynosphinx named Lennith and an androsphinx named Jahannam. Elegabalor’s treasure hoard is located in one of many rooms branching off from the library, which appears to be a kind of magical self-storage facility. Lennith attempts to make Talerion answer a riddle before passing through, but the fighter intimidates her into letting the group through, riddle or no.

While passing through the library, Darion recognizes Elegabalor’s cursed dagger in a case on the wall and trades Jahannam a prophecy for it. The group destroys the dagger with Thalion’s Dragon Watch sword. Everyone’s mark immediately appears a little dimmer, but will apparently take a while to fully heal.

The group uses the Abjuration stone they recovered from Elegabalor’s corpse to open the door to the hoard. They survey a marvelous array of gold, jewels, magic items, and bizarre artworks – including an obscene painting of Elegabalor ruling over the world, a nude marble statue of Matilda of House Xiri, a frieze Darion is pretty sure is Dwarven, and a gilded saddle (with matching riding crop).

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Session 8 - Narrative 2
En Route to Starll

Mina sighed. That little shit, she thought. She glared at the darkening horizon and brooded. She preferred to hang her head while brooding, but watching the ship’s roiling wake made her feel sick. She liked the prow better, but that was Talerion’s haunt. As his altercation with Pirro this afternoon had demonstrated, the half-elf was in no mood for company. Mina couldn’t blame him. As an only child, she couldn’t know what it was like to have a sibling abducted, but she was sure it wasn’t pleasant. So she stuck to the aft deck.

Abajeet shifted uncomfortably at her side. After six years of friendship AJ could tell when Mina didn’t want to talk. Which was usually fine with the gnome, who didn’t understand the human need for constant communication in the first place – “chatter,” she called it. Brooding was different, though. AJ didn’t like it when Mina brooded.

Mina sighed again. She was worried about Darion, and annoyed with herself for being worried. This whole stupid situation wouldn’t be happening if that arrogant prick hadn’t stolen out of Estrildis’ house in the middle of the night without telling anyone. “Family business,” indeed. If Darion needed stealth, Mina could have helped him. She kept a trunkful of disguises in the group’s Bag of Holding™. Better yet, she could have run the healer’s mystery errand for him; sneaking into places she shouldn’t be and not getting caught were specialties of hers. Best of all, if Darion had told the rest of the Heroes where he was going, they could have strategized. Well, the others could have strategized. Mina had no head for strategery. But Erlindar was smart and learned, he would have come up with a good plan. Or Pirro. The monk hadn’t been with them long, but he was proving useful in tactical situations. It was Pirro who had insisted Mina not sneak out in defiance of curfew herself.

The irony of this was not lost on the thief.

Poor Pirro. Talerion was right about one thing: Pirro should have been with Darion that night. He was Darion’s bodyguard, sworn to the Curators to protect this particular Curator. Pirro was supposed to be Darion’s shadow, and Darion knew it. So why would the normally (annoyingly) rational Curator intentionally elude his companions to do who-knew-what down at the docks? Or rather, to try to do who-knew-what; Estrildis said Darion hadn’t even made it to the meeting. Amateur.

Mina understood family drama; she had been through some pretty substantial family drama herself lately. (She rubbed absently at a weal on her left forearm that hadn’t quite healed from the night attack in Jund – or whatever you call a dream where get stabbed while fighting off a gang of assassins and wake up drenched in your own blood). But this was different. Darion had endangered the entire group by getting himself kidnapped by pirates. They were almost certainly going to have to fight him out of wherever they found him, and Mina wasn’t keen to risk her life for someone else’s mysterious family business. That wasn’t what she and AJ had signed up for when they agreed to work for the Curators. This was just a job, after all; the smugglers liked the Summer Heroes better than they’d liked many of their previous coworkers, but if massive explanations weren’t forthcoming, the pair might have to have a talk with Iro when they got back to Brightwater.

The rasp of stone on steel drifted up from the main deck. Thalion must be brooding, too – the ranger whetted his ponderous Dragon Watch sword with particular vigor when he was brooding. The evening meal was going to be a merry affair, indeed.

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