The Summer Heroes

Session 23
In which the hunt for the staff continues

Aggreing that the best thing they can do now is to continue searching for the pieces of the staff before Winifred or Glaysa get their hands on them, the Summer Heroes decide to follow the easterly direction that the Ring of the Rotunda is pointing them towards. They also try and direct the Ring to find “The Rod of the Future” as Erlindar calls it, only to have the Ring point momentarily straight into the air.

Moving onward, they are able to narrow the location of the next piece to the Aljudha Desert. They try and avoid sightings of Toma the Sandlord and his minions, but are followed by some Rocs and Sand Worms. Traveling through the Great Desert via the winds courtesy of Pirro, the enchantment is ended suddenly and violently in a very familiar feeling. The Summer Heroes manage to avoid falling to their deaths while dealing with some suddenly aggressive Rocs. They arrive at a Pyramid hidden by invisibility and illusion, and manage to gain entrance, cognizant of the likelihood that Winifred will be arriving shortly.

They make their way through the pyramid, encountering some resistance and evidence of numerous resting places for Toma the Sandlord. They hear signs of others in the building and race towards the center, descending into the depths of the pyramid at the ring’s direction. Erlindar is able to use his amulet to take control of an undead clipping of the Tree of Life, to some discomfort of his friends. The Tree tells them of Marakesh, the Guardian of this Temple and the path they must travel to reach him. They continue further, overcoming a legion of undead and prepare to descend into the room that provides the entrance to Marakesh’s throne room.

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Session 22.5
In which much research is completed

After securing the Earth Temple in Skroz, enabling Sanaar to sustain his renewed form, and unlocking the secrets of Mina’s Dragon Watch Sword, the Summer Heroes undertake a number of tasks.

Securing Skroz

They first return to Winifred’s headquarters and find it in complete disarray. Any structure maintaining the allegiance from her supporters has collapsed as the now leaderless minions settle old scores, consolidate power, and make off with whatever isn’t nailed down and bound with arcane magic. Balin’s contact, Tryna, helps them get to the cells containing Sahra, who is in decidedly bad shape after being tortured by some of those who fought Mina and Venju during their escape. The Summer Heroes smuggle her out, having to fight more than once along the way, and get her to Balin.

After recovering, Sahra vows to retake her organization and take vengeance on Winifred. She has a very difficult time believing this isn’t some ploy and that Mina and Winifred are two different people, but eventually accepts it at face value. The warm relationship and trust that she had with Mina are broken. She seems more interested in complaining about the ugly mirror Winifred added to her chambers than in repairing things. She allows the Heroes to sell theirr goods in the city, and pays them an appropriate reward for their services. Then she demands they leave Skroz immediately, establishing a protocol for communications to determine when, or if, they can return.

Balin promises the Summer Heroes, and Mina in particular, that he will look after Sahra, and works out a plan to put Sahra back as the mouthpiece of Uncle, and will be one of the very, very few who know she and Uncle are the same.

Family Reunion

Banished from Skroz (for the time being), the Summer Heroes use Sanaar’s temple to travel to the one in Brightwater and meet with Iro. With him are Talerion, Estrildis, their parents Rowena and Severn, and their new son Caelin.

Talerion relates his side of The Curator Coup.

Rowena shares two documents of note: the Act of Primacy, which rewrites the laws concerning the Curators, and a writ condemning Talerion, seizing the lands of House Albion, and abolishing the Summer Heroes.

Iro, Darion, and Pirro sit down to talk Curator business for a very long time. At its conclusion, neither Pirro nor Darion are happy, but they are resolute and accepting of their new objectives. Pirro is to stay with the Summer Heroes and focus on the larger threats like Mellitus and Glaysa while Darion takes up residency as the Oracle in Tintern. Latent residual magic there will hide and protect him, and the pieces of the Staff. No one would dare violate the sanctity of Tintern, so he will be safe from Xiri and Mellitus. The magic there will also focus his visions, so he can determine future steps to take and pitfalls to avoid.

Iro stresses the importance of gathering the pieces of the Staff, preventing Mellitus from finding them, and focusing on the strategic picture and the coming war.

Return To Brightwater

Iro and Estrildis both strongly recommend that the Summer Heroes venture into Brightwater and see Lenore. Venju’s affiliation with the group is still unknown at this point, and combined with extensive uses of invisibility and illusions, they are able to make it to see The Mother of Brightwater. Estrildis advised against using teleportation within or near the city. While Brightwater has not been experiencing some of the same troubles with magic writ large (especially healing) the rest of Penwith has, it is not the same with magic enabling traveling, which she describes as “wonky.”

Lenore welcomes them with open arms, much more calm and collected than last they saw her. Radiating a significant presence, she says she has been remiss in extending adequate appreciation for saving her. She places a hand on the shoulder of each of the Summer Heroes, sending soothing energy into them. She has learned a lot about the relationship between pain and protection, destruction and healing, and death and life from her centuries of torture, and that a portion of this knowledge is her gift to them. Should they wish to receive more aid, or even become one of her disciples (this she says with a sly smile and laughter in her eye), they should bring to her the sword from the statue upon which she spent so many years.

She offers to assist them with getting to Tintern, and sets them up with a familiar face: Juru. Before they depart the temple to be smuggled aboard Juru’s Other Lantern, Lenore bids them well on their mission. She reminds the Summer Heroes that she and they are all in this together, and each must play their role. Whether it has yet to be determined, nodding to Thalion and Venju, or already decided, acknowledging the rest.

News From The Outside World

Juru is overjoyed to see her old friends, alive and in one piece, especially Darion. She relates to them her many exciting adventures smuggling things into and out of Brightwater. There is still an active, albeit small, resistance within the city. After the writ about them was published, there was an explosion of sun and summer imagery around the city, in its art, music, and stories. The people despise Xiri, and will be ready to accept them as the city’s saviors, when the time comes.

Traveling out of Brightwater is relatively easy, as most of the navy is attempting to blockade Starrl. According to rumor, one of the Irian Sisters appeared in the middle of Brightwater with an army of skeletal warriors, killed and kidnapped a group of Regulators, and vanished after burning down half of the city. This is all fanciful nonsense, of course, as half of the city was not burnt, and the parts that are were leftovers from the riots. Clearly the rumors are just an excuse for Xiri strike back at the significant threat Starrl poses to Brightwater’s trade. That the majority of the Brightwater Diaspora ended up there is pure gravy. Though there are almost no Regulators left in the city, and more than a few have been sighted on ships near Starrl.

During the voyage, Mina informs them of another sending from her sister. Apparently Winifred used the book given to them by Ayreon to unlock her prophetic visions. In fact, she’s claiming to be the most powerful seer on the planet, and would rule the Curators herself if it weren’t so boring. She’s found a new calling, and has joined forces with Mellitus and some unspecified others to amplify her potential some more. Apparently Mellitus figured out how to use the ring he got from Talerion’s severed hand, and she’s off to acquaint herself with the divine.

Next Steps

Arriving off the coast of Tintern, Darion bids a tearful goodbye to his companions and friends. He will be safe here, and will keep safe the one piece of the Staff they have collected so far.

After ensuring Darion arrives safely at the Oracle to reverent murmurings of those present, Juru turns to the Summer Heroes.

“So what next?”

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Session 22
In which Mina finds (almost) all of the traps

After catching up with the Sphinxes and making some trades, Mina receives a sending from her sister. Winifred taunts her, thanking Mina for letting her get access to just about everything she needed, showing the box of sand and a book. She also gives special thanks to Erlindar. The Summer Heroes quickly realize that Winifred stole the book entrusted to them by Aryeon, which lets the reader gain complete mastery of any subject she wishes.

The group quickly departs to Skroz via the Water Temple, bypassing the Guardian with little difficulty. They emerge beneath the All Hall and are faced with an illusion of Winifred, who taunts them again before some traps go off, blocking the entrance to the Temple. The group avoids anyone else through clever use of magic and make their way across town to Uncle’s headquarters.

Mina manages to disarm every trap they encounter, and after a few battles with Winifred’s men, and an encounter with a goblin wizard doing research on an unknown subject, they make their way to the Earth Temple. Upon entering, Winifred uses the Sands of Creation to bring a simulacrum of Sanaar to her side. Together with the Guardian, an enormous Umbral Dragon, they fight the Summer Heroes.

After convincing Sanaar to join their cause, they defeat Winifred, only to realize she is herself a fake brought about using a fake of the artifact. She reveals she’s been elsewhere, reading the book, and vows to destroy them. Mina slays the Umbral Dragon, taking some of its shadowy essence into her Dragon Watch Sword. Sanaar manages to absorb the rest of the Guardian’s essence, sustaining himself and making him the new Guardian of the temple.

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Session 21.5
In which Kurt provides a fanfic

Mina was throwing pebbles at the wall like she did every night. She would throw it up, nice and easy, and then try to time a trick with lights that she can do so that the pebble seemed to make sparks when it hit the wall. She had become very good at this. I was leaning back against her cell door—like I did every night—watching the sparks light up the madman snoring in the cell across the corridor.

We had not talked for many minutes. After so many weeks, even I had run out of stories to tell. So I asked her to tell me the story about the chimera again.

“I told that one an hour ago,” she said. “You make me tell it every night, you know that? I’m sick of the chimera story.”

“But it is a good story,” I said.

“Yeah, well, it’s also a once-per-night story. You tell one this time. You keep hinting at something about a giant squid.”

I laughed. “Yes, that is a good one, but it is too long for tonight.”

“Oh, come on. The guy’s only come by two or three times. We have plenty of time. Stop making excuses, Venju, and tell me about the squid already.”

We were counting the patrols that Winifred’s men made past Mina’s cell. That was the only way to mark the hours down in the cells. We needed two more to pass before we could begin, and two patrols is not enough time for the story of the squid.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Mina said after a while. “Maybe I’ll just stay down here after all. I’m only just starting to get the hang of this pebble thing, and the straw isn’t so bad to sleep on once you get used to it. I think I could really make a home down here.”

One patrol went past, then a long silence, and then the second patrol and it was time.
The door of Mina’s cell was made of thick, black iron with rust like dead barnacles clinging to the top. The lock was a solid block nearly the size of my hand that could not be picked because it did not have a keyhole; it only opened if you held a heavy black stone up against it, and I did not have the stone.

So instead I grabbed two bars and began to pull. The door held firm, but then slowly the iron began to sing a deep, soft groan like a whale that echoed down the corridor. The sound made me smile and I pulled harder and suddenly with a crash like lightning striking the mast of your ship the door burst open, stone crumbling to the floor from the hole left by the lock.

Now we moved fast. I went to the madman’s cell, just across from Mina’s, and reached through the bars as far as I could, straining until I could grab his shirt and pull him toward me, lift him to his feet, and then drop him into a heap against the door. His snoring never changed.

Footsteps were pounding down the stairs now. Mina pulled a few shards of stone and iron from the broken lock before pulling the door closed again. The wall around the lock was a ruin but when I sat back down, my shoulders covered most of the hole. We had to hope that in the corridor’s dimly flickering light the men would not be able to see the cracks shooting through the stone behind me.

Two of Winifred’s men, one tall with a face like a talon and the other short with saggy cheeks and eyes that glared even when he was happy, burst through the door at the end of the corridor.

“That one, the saggy one, he’s actually very funny. He was there when I worked for Uncle, too—been with her forever. He’s a real bastard to the other side, but around us he just did all these funny voices. And he was decent to me while they kept me prisoner, which is more than I can say for the other one.”

The Summer Heroes were sitting at a round table on the beach. The trolls of Zacthar’Zaqara had wasted no time: while the elders were still finalizing their alliance with the sphinxes, dozens of sailors were already setting up tables around a makeshift tavern counter on the beach. That was months ago. Many of the trolls still slept on Zacthar—Hathar trolls tended to avoid sleeping on solid ground whenever they could—but they spent their evenings on the beach.

And many of them were now surrounding the Heroes’ table, listening to Venju’s story. The crowd of trolls smelled very strongly of the sea, and nothing else. It could have been much worse, Darion thought.

“Did they see the cracks?” Erlindar asked.

“No, they forgot to even bring a torch,” Venju replied. “I told them the madman ran into his bars again. He did that sometimes, to get away from the monsters, he said. They believed me, of course. Then they told me to finish telling my stories fast if I wanted any dinner before they ran out of stew.”

“And then they just left?”

“As I said, they believed me. I worked with them for many months, so there was a trust. Once they left, we had to get upstairs—”

“But not before the big softie just had to give me a hug,” Mina said. “Lifted me right off the floor.”

Venju laughed and wrapped an arm around her that made her almost disappear. “It was a good moment! It is good to celebrate such moments,” he said. She curled her face into an exaggerated grimace and jabbed him in the ribs until he let go.

“So then how’d you get out of the building?” Erlindar asked.

“The catacombs,” Mina said. “Balin—

“No, no, we’ll get to that. We cannot rush the story, Mina,” Venju said.

She rolled her eyes and drank her beer.

We waited for the guards’ footsteps to fade away before following them upstairs to find Winifred’s office. Mina hoped that she would find her dragon sword there. It was a small hope—I told her that Winifred probably had the sword with her, that she kept it nearby all the time—but Mina refused to leave without looking for it. She had become more and more restless as the day of the escape approached, and now as she walked out of her cell a wildness came into her eyes like a predator set free.

We only had to go up two levels to get to the surface, where we came out into a huge warehouse full of dyed wool hanging from the ceiling in strands like tattered sails. We crept along the wall to a staircase that led up to the second floor, where Winifred’s office looked out over the rest of the warehouse. Mina pulled out the pieces of rock and iron from her broken door and began to pick the lock; I put my hand on my sword and prepared to stand watch while she worked, but the lock clicked open right away.

Mina turned to look at me and smiled. “What, you thought you were the only one who can open a door?”

Inside it was very dark. Half of the far wall was a large, open window that looked down on the warehouse. It was after midnight but there were still men patrolling below, so we could not light a lamp. We had to be careful. Mina was desperate to find the sword and did not want me in the way, so I leaned against the door and tried to listen for movement outside.
The search took much longer than the lock. The room was large and full of heavy, expensive furniture rotten with secret compartments. Mina found and emptied them all, along with at least three or four large chests hidden beneath stacks of cloth, but she found nothing but coins and paper inside. The sword was not there.

I had stopped paying attention to the sounds in the hallway until a key scraped into the lock from the other side. It clicked open and then the door jerked forward against my back.

“Is…is someone in there?” a voice—the captain—asked. Mina and I looked at each other.

“Just me, ma’am,” I said.

“Venju? What are you doing in there? Let me in.” Mina ducked behind a mannequin covered with Winifred’s clothes.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, stepping away from the door.

The captain was tall and thin, with small eyes and a chin that just barely stuck out from her neck. She was usually a little jittery; some of the men said that she had been using greysalt for years, but I do not know. Even if she did, she was still a good captain.

“What in the hells are you doing in here, Venju?” She had a lamp and she began walking quickly around the room with it, stopping in front of the mannequin and shining the light into the thick shadows behind it.

“I am helping Mina escape,” I said.

She spun to look at me and Mina sprung onto her back, one arm across her neck and the other covering her mouth. The captain dropped the lamp, its oil splashed fire across the rug, and then the room swelled with orange light that made Mina’s eyes blaze like coals.
The captain flailed her arms trying to reach Mina, her face an ugly purple. She tried to stagger away from the flames but tripped and fell to her knees, eyes wide with pain. The fire was small but hot and it splashed me in fear, but the Mother was with me and I stepped into the heat to pull them out. The captain had fainted and Mina dropped from her back.

“She’ll only be out for a few seconds, so tie her up right away,” she said, pulling her sword from the scabbard and tossing it near the door. Then she started emptying chests full of coins onto the fire.

We did not have any rope, of course, but the floor was covered in rugs and only one was burnt, so I laid the captain down and rolled her up in one and then wedged the bundle between the desk and the wall. I took a handkerchief from the desk and waited for her eyes to flutter open before stuffing it into her mouth.

“I am sorry, captain,” I said. She groaned.

We could hear someone running from the far end of the warehouse below, shouting something we could not make out. We were out of time. Now we had to make it back to the tunnels and then to the docks, where a ship was waiting for us. I touched my sword and smiled; the docks would be swarming with Winifred’s guards, it would be almost impossible get past them without battle. After months without blood I longed for a good contest, and I could feel the joy of death stretch itself awake inside me.

“Well,” Mina said, “I guess we owe you a ‘thank you,’ Captain.” I turned and saw her looking at the wall above the office door, where three stones were hanging on plaques like trophies. “I never would have seen them without your lamp. Though I do wish my sword was up there, too.”

“They’re just rocks, Mina,” I said. “Come, it is time to leave.”

“Those rocks are the keys to Temples, Venju. One of them is probably for the watery one Winifred showed you.”

“But she said she did not have that key.”

“That Temple will take us right back to your people on the island, you don’t think she might have lied about it? It doesn’t matter, just grab them and we’ll sort it out in the tunnels.”
The man in the warehouse sounded like he was almost right below us, so I pulled the stones off the wall, Mina grabbed the captain’s sword, and together we ran. We reached the bottom of the first staircase at the same time as the shouting man. He was very young, barely past boyhood.

“Did you put out the fire?” he asked, frantic.

I did not know what to say, so I shrugged. I am no good at the sneaking and lying parts, unfortunately.

He waved his hand angrily and tried to push past me up the stairs, and that is when he finally saw Mina. He froze. This was a bad idea, but you must remember that he was very young. I shoved him against the wall, covered his mouth with my hand, and lifted him under my arm. Mina squeezed past me and I followed her down the second staircase, back to the prison cells.

Mina burst through the door at the bottom of the stairs and took off down the main corridor. The walls were smooth, carved long ago by nobody-knows-what, and the floor sloped unevenly down, deeper into the island. Empty cells of all sizes and narrow hallways lined the way, some leading up and some steeply down. Everything was stone and iron and very dry, but the air felt like thick summer fog.

I could not keep up with the boy under my arm and Mina was pulling farther and farther ahead, so I chose an open cell and dropped him to the floor inside. He tried to stumble away, but he was slow and my arms are long. I grabbed his leg with one hand and brought the other down, fast, on his shin. There was a snap like rope breaking, and then he screamed.

“I am sorry,” I said, “but do not worry. It is a clean break, it will heal well.” I pulled a bottle of rum from my bag and pressed it into his hand, then I ran after Mina.

After a moment I saw her standing at one of the branching hallways, listening. When I came to her side, I heard a voice echoing up from below, too faint to tell what it was saying—or if it was saying any words at all.

“I didn’t know there were other prisoners down here,” Mina said.

“Just one, I think. A woman. I do not know her name, I never saw her. Come, we must keep moving.”

Mina hesitated for a moment, lost in thought, before following me toward the exit.
The corridor curved to the right and then I could see a door up ahead, heavy and banded with iron. I lowered my shoulder and did not slow down—there was no time to be quiet now. The door splintered around me and I almost fell down the stairs behind it as a loud grinding erupted from the ceiling. There was a wave of heat and then Mina crashed into my legs and I fell back, cracking my head on the steps. She was shouting as we slid down the stairs all tangled together and when I looked up I saw blazing hot metal raining from the ceiling outside the door and pouring down the stairs after us.

We scrambled like crabs down the stairs, hitting the floor and stumbling away just before the metal reached the bottom. It did not spread far across the floor before it became solid again, a frozen waterfall emptying into a small pond of dimly glowing bronze.

“Two doors to one,” I smiled to Mina. “You must keep up!”

Venju stretched and said something in the trolls’ gently tumbling language. The message rippled back through the crowd and a moment later large mugs of beer were being passed overhead through the crowd to replace the empty ones on the Heroes’ table.

“Were either of you hurt?” Pirro asked.

“My arm got burned, but not too bad,” Mina said, rolling up her sleeve to reveal several long, bright pink scars. “It hurt like something else, though. The big softie didn’t even get singed, of course.”

Venju laughed and slid a new mug to each of the Heroes, then raised his and shouted, “To Mina!”

“O’mbi Maztamba!” the trolls rumbled in response.

“May we all have friends who will take the burns that we cannot, and may those friends never regret that they know us!”

After everyone drank, Erlindar said, “You made me a little nervous with that leg-breaking bit.”

“Yes, it was not a nice thing. Next time I will have rope. But the rum that I gave him would cost a full month of his salary. So I think that he felt better after drinking it.”

“Yes, I imagine that would do the trick,” Darion said. “So where were you at this point?”

“It was hard to see anything at first because there were no torches in the room and the glowing bronze was very dim. Then Mina made her false lights and the walls came into view…”

The room was round and not very large, with only the one door and a ceiling like an upside-down bowl. The walls were full of small, deep nooks all full of jumbled piles of bones, each with a skull in front, the eyes dark and huge. I drew my sword and knocked the handle against the floor three times, and then we had to wait. We could not leave the room on our own, and if Winifred’s men came down before help arrived, there was nothing we could do.

Soon there was a scraping in the ceiling above, and then a stone near the middle disappeared into gloom. Balin’s face appeared in the hole that it left.

“Need a lift?” he asked, smiling.

At least one of Winifred’s men was secretly working for Balin, and as soon as he heard of Mina’s captivity he contacted me and offered to get her off the island. He risked many things helping us; if Winifred learns of what he has done, Balin will be hunted down and killed. We owe him a very great debt.

A very thick rope dropped down through the hole and we climbed up into another tunnel, this one wide and clean and almost perfectly square. Balin and six others were holding the rope.

“This thing weighs a fucking ton,” Balin said, dropping the rope. “Next time I’m just leaving you two down there.”

“Don’t listen to him,” one of the others said as they pulled the rope up and put the stones back into the ceiling. “He made us carry it the whole way.”

We laughed and began to walk down the tunnel when Mina told us to stop.

“Balin, can you take us to the All Hall instead of the docks?”

“Sure, you can get anywhere from these tunnels. But there’s no time for that, we need to get you to the ship.”

“I don’t think we’ll need the ship,” she said, turning to me. “We’ll use the Temple instead.”
“But we do not know that one of these stones opens the Temple we need,” I said. “And what happens if they are the wrong stones after all? The All Hall is far away, by then Winifred’s men will all over the docks. We would never make it to the ship.”

“Then we’ll hide out for a few days and try again, like we planned. Making it to the ship tonight was always going to be a long shot, at least this way we might be able to just skip the whole ordeal. And it’ll be safer for Balin’s connections since they won’t have to risk smuggling us out of Winifred’s reach.”

“I admit that trying the Temple does sound less risky for me and my guys,” Balin said. “But we’ll get you where you need to go either way.”

“Come on, Venju. What’s the worst that could happen—a fight?” She smiled, her eyes glinting like sparks on stone. “That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?”

No, I thought, that would not be so bad at all. So I nodded and Balin turned to guide us back down the tunnel in the opposite direction.

This tunnel looked very different from the prison, larger and much more even. They tell me that the Skrozi built their city on the rockiest part of a very rocky island, and they had to quarry for stone beneath the city itself to make their buildings. Then when they ran out of space in the buildings above the ground, they just moved into the tunnels that the miners left behind. Shops, taverns, warehouses, whorehouses—people of all sorts moved down there. The upper levels became just another neighborhood, very nice places to live and work, but the lower levels…the lower levels are a different sort of place.

We came to the first turn in the tunnel, and up ahead we could see a bustle of activity.

“I need to leave you here,” Balin said, motioning to one of the others to come forward. “Too many people would recognize me down here, and all of them would sell that knowledge to Winifred in a heartbeat. Tryna will guide you the rest of the way instead, and if the Temple is closed she’ll bring you somewhere safe.”

The woman who appeared at his side was very tall and her skin was very dark. Beneath her short braids her face was grim, though her eyes were large and kind.

“Tryna was born down here in the tunnels, she knows them better than anyone. You’ll be in good hands.”

“Thank you, Balin, for everything,” Mina said. “I’ll put in a good word with Abajeet for you about this.”

Balin laughed. “I’m not sure how much good that’ll do me, she’s always hated me. Where is the little bugger, anyway?”

“Oh…she’s around. You know.”

“Well, give her my best, I guess. And take care of yourself.”

Tryna told us to stay close by her side and we followed her out into a tunnel as wide the city’s main street, lined with vendors and swarming with activity. It seemed like nobody had anything legal for sale. Some vendors had stolen goods and these stalls were nice to look at, full of silks and gold and beautiful art. Others sold more gruesome things and these we hurried past. Some even sold people, elves and humans and gnomes. These usually had a single slave chained to the stall, to show the quality, but the rest were always locked away in a distant chamber.

Some of the chambers that opened off the main street had doors but many were left open or were only curtained off. From one we heard a groaning chant and when we passed we saw that it was full of bodies, naked and twirling faster than you could see. In another, a man and a woman faced each other in the middle of a small crowd. They were seated cross-legged on the air, floating and bleeding from their ears. Then the man cried out and fell to the floor and did not move again, and the small crowd cheered.

Everywhere we were jostled by little carts pushed by hunched-over old men and women selling salted fish and pickled meats covered in bright, hot spices. We saw a gnome leading a very small elephant through the crowd and a phoenix, filthy and beaten, chained inside an apothecary’s shop. A pile of black sludge moved slowly down a narrow alley, dissolving everything around it but the stone, and packs of mangy goblin dogs skulked through the emptier tunnels gnawing at whatever they found. There was even a troll, neither Hathar nor feral, whose eyes were wild as he fought a man in a makeshift arena. The man had a torch but the troll did not seem to notice the burns that covered his arms. He crushed the man’s head in his hands.

Almost every time we entered a new tunnel, Tryna stopped and spoke to someone at the entrance. Many she shook hands with, to others she gave gold, and to some she gave something that was not gold, though I could not see what it was. After almost an hour, maybe more, we finally arrived at a door that looked much newer than anything around it.

“This is it, folks,” Tryna said. “These stairs open up right in the All Hall, down in the crypt level. I’ll stay around here for twenty minutes and keep an eye on this door. You can’t get into the Temple, just come back down and we’ll find somewhere safe for you to hide.” We thanked her and then she was gone, swallowed up by the crowd.

The All Hall is the main temple on Skroz, dedicated to all of the gods. The top floor is for the Seven and the bottom floor is for everyone else—and I mean everyone else. The top floor is just one great chamber with seven sides but the bottom is like a circular maze, with many narrow hallways filled with shrines all wrapped around a central chapel. The stairs let us out into one of the narrow hallways between two statues covered in dried flowers, one of a crocodile with a thousand hands and another of a crab-centaur with turquoise eyes.
The door to the Temple was in a hallway on the other side of the central chamber. The upper hall would be empty at this time of night but the lower hall is always full of people, and when we came to the end of the hallway we saw two- or three-dozen worshippers circling the chapel, pausing here or there to offer their brief prayers. A small, silent crowd milled about in the center of the room.

I am ashamed that I did not notice who the men in this crowd were until the air rang with the sound of twenty swords drawn from leather scabbards. At least half of Winifred’s guards were there and I counted at least four archers with arrows already knocked. The murmured prayers around us fell away into silence and captain stepped out from the crowd.

“You really are too soft, Venju,” she said. “Big and strong, but soft. You should not have let me see you take those stones. If you’d just let me die, you both might have made it out.”

“Ah,” I said, “but maybe we have already made it out and you just do not realize it yet.”

The captain smiled. “And you’re a cocky bastard, I’ll give you that. Now why don’t you step away from the prisoner so we don’t have to kill you both? Who knows, do it quick enough and I might let you get some dinner when we get back.”

At this, I confess that I laughed. The longing for battle that stirred within me in Winifred’s office had been scratching and pawing at my insides for more than an hour. In my time on Skroz there had been a little brawl here or there, perhaps, but very few people stood up to Winifred’s men. Those days were like a shallow pool at low tide, warm and calm for children to play in, but now a storm was breaking and waves were towering up to crash around me. So I laughed and I looked to Mina and saw that she was smiling, and together we drew our swords and charged into the storm.

The archers fired together. Two missed but two hit their marks in my shoulder and thigh, good, clean lines of pain shining from the wounds. The archers were fast and they fired again but their aim was even poorer, their best shots only grazing us. Then we were in their midst and they could not fire again.

Mina was a blur around me. She had no armor, just the baggy canvas of a prisoner, and since she could not avoid the blades entirely she spun and twirled between them, turning deadly blows into slices across her arm, her leg, her face. She had the captain’s sword but it was large and ungainly, a weapon for a showman, not a warrior. I lost her among the waves and when resurfaced the sword was gone, replaced by two long daggers taken from one of the men.

While Mina swirled, I stood still in the center of the crowd and let the tide break upon me, hoping to take the blows that Mina could not. One blade bit into the plates of my armor and the poor man could not pull it out, and then my forearm crunched his elbow into a new angle. Another guard thought me distracted and wound back to take a mighty blow, at my neck perhaps, or my head, but I was faster and I cut her long and shallow across her chest so there would not be much blood but a great deal of pain.

We had agreed from the beginning to kill as few of the guards as possible, if we could help it. Mina knew many of them from her earlier life, and I had been with them for many months. Most were not evil, though some were cruel and ugly of heart. They did not deserve to die. So instead we broke their noses so they could not breathe, we broke their hands so they could not hold their blades, and we sliced at their legs so they could not stand. At each new cut across my body I laughed and felt stronger, but these were mere humans and they did not grow strong with pain.

The captain had two lieutenants, a brother and a sister, cruel sorcerers of elemental magic from the Great Rainforest. They were the exceptions to our mercy. While bodies crumpled around us, these two threw lightning and ice that bit at my skin and made me strong. But then when all the others had crawled away on trails of blood, these two threw fire that nearly blinded me with agony. They showered me with unclean torment and I bellowed with fury but could not move.

And Mina was gone. I looked for her desperately through the curtain of flame but she was nowhere. Darkness blurred everything around me and I called to the Mother, asked her for the strength to cast of the pain. Then in a flash Mina was at the brother’s side, her blade slicing across his neck. In the same motion Mina fell, tumbled to the side, and sprang up behind the sister, thrusting her blade up to the hilt through the sorceress’s forearm and twisting it behind her back. The sister howled in shock and then Mina’s other blade appeared at her throat, still coated in the brother’s blood.

That left only the captain. My skin was blistered and charred but I could feel the Mother’s healing begin and it calmed the pain to a dull smolder. Mina was bleeding from many shallow cuts, but she looked steadily at the captain without fear or fury.

“Let us go now and there will still be time to heal your men,” she said.

The captain paused for only a moment before dropping her sword.

“Which hallway is it, Venju?” Mina asked.

I thought back to what Winifred had told me about the Temple. I wanted to drift away into the Mother’s peace flowing like cool water in my veins but I could not afford to, not yet, so I closed my eyes and focused on the pain glowing beneath my skin until it filled my mind like boiling water. My memory blazed like coals amid the pain and I remembered where the Temple was hidden.

I walked across the chamber and Mina followed me down the hallway, pushing the sorceress in front of her. Malice radiated from the sister like waves of heat but she did not make a sound from the pain.

Eventually we came to the shrine we were looking for: a shallow alcove in the wall containing a mermaid large as life, sculpted from what looked like solid bone. The alcove was framed by a thick ring of wood with every kind of hideous beast carved into it. Near the top I saw a sort of toad covered in long hair, its toothless mouth open and screaming. I pressed my hand against it and the ring began to turn like a wheel around the alcove. Then the entire shrine, alcove and ring and all, swung out from the wall like a door to reveal an ancient staircase leading down into darkness.

Mina pulled the blade out of the lieutenant’s arm and pushed her hard against the other wall, and together we began to back down the stairs.

“We have your girlfriend, you know,” the sorceress snarled, stepping toward us. “Uncle’s mouthpiece? You remember her. She’s been rotting away nicely in our deepest cell. So I hope you enjoyed this,” she said, raising her ruined arm, “because I’m taking it out on her.” Then she slammed the door closed.

The trolls had become raucous during the tale of the battle, murmuring in excited horror when the flames covered Venju and exploding in cheers like a rockslide when Mina thrust her dagger through the sorceress’s arm. Now they were silent, their eyes turned respectfully away from the dark cloud swirling around Mina.

“I threw the daggers at the door so hard I think I saw sparks,” she said in a low voice. “I should have just killed her when I had the chance.”

“Killed who, Uncle?” Thalion said, confused. “I thought you two were friends.”

Mina smiled slightly. “No, the sorceress. Uncle and I were friends. Still are, I hope. After all this, though, after what my sister’s done to her—all these things only happened because of me. I hope we’re still friends.”

Another long silence passed before Venju spoke. “We could not help her then, she was too far away. We had to keep going. At the bottom of the stairs there was a very small room with a well full to the brim with water. We climbed in.”

We came out on a tiny island of white sand surrounded by an endless sea, like a pile of salt on a dull steel plate. Mina sat down heavily on the lip of the well while I drew my sword and dipped my foot in the water. I had heard evil tales about the creature that guarded this place, and I hoped that I had the strength left to face it.

After only a moment there was a brief ripple and then an enormous head rose gracefully from the water on a massive, oily neck. The head was the size of a small boat, thick and shaped like a rounded spade. There were no eyes that I could see but the mouth was huge, a gash filled with hideous teeth that wrapped almost entirely around the head.

I focused on the pain throbbing like a drum in my head until I felt the wave of one last battle swell within me.

“Is that really necessary?” the serpent asked, its voice a deep, hissless rasp. It sounded tired, somehow, or bored.

“We need to get to the other island,” I answered, tightening my grip on my sword. “Now.”

“Yes, I should say that you do. But if you insist on resuming this tiresome fighting business, I am afraid that our arrangement will come to a very abrupt end.”

“Our arrangement—”

“No, no, that is enough from you. Call off your man, Winifred, or I will be forced to rebuke him in the strongest possible terms.”

Mina lifted her head and glared at the serpent.

“Oh, put it away, Venju,” she sighed. “Now, will you please just take us to the other side already?”

“As you wish,” the serpent answered. He coiled his body against the sand and we climbed onto his back, then he began to slither over the surface of the water. I did not trust him but I could not resist the Mother’s healing light any longer, so I closed my eyes and let the pain drift away into the sea. I soon lost myself in Her embrace, feeling each wound close at Her touch. I do not know how long we stayed like that, but eventually I felt Mina shake me awake and saw the other island, another tiny pile of salt on the horizon.

“Thank you for your help,” Mina said as we climbed awkwardly onto the shore.

“It was, as always, a pleasure, madam.” The head was drawn back beneath the water without making a ripple.

And that was it. We had made it.

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Session 21
In Which Mina Has An Identity Crisis

Sanaar finishes his explanations and speaks individually to each of the Summer Heroes. They then leave the Temple, only to be confronted by a very large troll and…Mina?

The newly arrived Mina claims that she was abducted by her twin sister Winifred, who has been masquerading as her since they left Ystria for Sweetwater. The two Minas argue over the Dragon Watch Sword, until Thalion holds on to it while they settle the matter.

Finally, Winifred drops her act, revealing that the newly arrived Mina was correct. She then promptly tries to assassinate Darion, only for Pirro to foil her plan by leaping in front of the arrow. A short race to the Temples ensues, with Pirro arriving too late to prevent Winifred from killing Sanaar. She takes the box containing the impure Sands of Creation and recreates Anaxathraxis and his mate to slow the Summer Heroes (and Venjo the Troll) down. The dragons are defeated without too much trouble, with Winifred forced to escape without Mina’s Dragon Watch Sword.

A large crowd arrives on the scene, with several agitators blaming the Summer Heroes for Sanaar’s death. Darion diffuses the situation with ease, though several of the crowd depart together, still blaming Mina and the rest. Thich and Pirro go to clean and prepare Sanaar’s body for a funeral the next day, while the rest of the Summer Heroes gather to hear Mina’s tale.

Mina explains how she was ambushed by her sister, sent to Skroz, and held captive for the last two and a half months. Her sister has taken over Uncle’s organization in Skroz, and was behind the aborted assassination attempt in Brightwater. Venjo, a (now former) member of Winifred’s organization, broke Mina out, and they escaped through a Temple in Winifred’s compound. Taking a few runestones she possessed, they made their way to the Rotunda, and Lennith and Jahannam. The Sphinxes explained many details to her, now confident the Summer Heroes were not aligned with Glaysa.

Mina also discovered that the trolls of Zacthar’Zaqara have relocated to the enchanted island where the Rotunda resides. Shaktilar, the Troll Storm Mage lost with Juru’s Other Lantern, survived and managed to get to the Rotunda. He reached an agreement with Lennith and Jahannam, received the third known magical ring attuned to the Temples, and brought the troll elders to the island. They negotiated an alliance with the Sphinxes to work against Glaysa.

The trolls sent their greatest champions out into the world to known Temple locations, and to seek the rest. Venjo was sent to Skroz and infiltrated Winifred’s organization to get close to the two Temples there. When he found Mina, he knew she was part of the Summer Heroes and helped her escape.

The funeral happens the next day, with the disgruntled monks absent. Thich publicly reconfirms the order’s commitment to Sanaar’s cause, and they will come to the Summer Heroes’ aid when they need them.

The Summer Heroes depart through the Water Temple and return to the Rotunda. They learn some of what has occurred in Brightwater from Lennith, who has been able to get some information from the Guardian of the Earth Temple in Brightwater. That Temple is run by the leaders of the Curators, of which only Iro remains. Other curators and dissidents who survived subsequent purges by Oswiu, Mellitus, the Corrupted, and the Regulators are spread throughout Penwith, the largest contingent residing in Starll.

The Summer Heroes discuss their next moves…

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Session 20
In which the main plot is finally revealed

The Summer Heroes arrive in Auxerre and negotiate passage with a caravan to Soren. Their trip is largely uneventful, as the Summer Heroes (in disguise as the Winter Champions) are more than a match for any bandits or hungry wildlife. After several weeks, they arrive at Tholceus, the entry point to Soren from the east. Wishing to avoid spending as much time as possible in one place, they quickly convince a river boat captain to take them north. They eventually arrive at Sweetwater, the small town by the eponymous lake and at the foot of the mountain on which the monastery resides.

Pirro ascends the steps carved into the mountain side, meeting Abbot Thich at the summit. The Summer Heroes follow shortly after with magical means. All are welcomed and given lodgings and promise of sanctuary while Pirro trains. The monk learns about the new order and its relationship with the wind and water.

Thalion finally has time to teach Mina the finer points of wielding a Dragon Watch Sword, especially how to control it. Their training is only briefly interrupted by a young elf, a member of the Dragon Watch himself. After an awkward interaction, he departs the Monastery. Meanwhile, Darion and Erlindar spend countless hours in the very expansive library, searching for answers, while Sanaar (bard, historian, and expert on The God Who Knew Too Much) avoids contributing to any meaningful discussions.

When Pirro is ready for his final test, the Heroes are surprised to find they have been at the Monastery for a year. Pirro must choose to focus on one of the two disciplines, which will affect his test. The test will take place in one of the temples the Summer Heroes have come to know so well. The Monastery has access to two temples, through wells of water and fog. Pirro chooses wind as his discipline, and Abbot Thich offers the Summer Heroes the opportunity to go with Pirro on his test, if they complete a task of their own: a pesky cloud dragon who has been causing problems for the Monastery. They accept, borrow some of the Monastery’s griffons, and attempt to convince the dragon to leave the Monastery alone. He refuses and proceeds to try and eat them, but is slain. They loot the dragon’s hoard, take home some gruesome trophies, and return to the Monastery.

After resting (and confirming that only a month has passed in the outside world), they venture through the fog and into the temple. Each is faced with memories from their past.

  • Pirro denies Yeronia the aid she seeks and tells her goodbye. She fades away.
  • Thalion is confronted by Sueldor, Alissarienne, and Broderick—all members of the Dragon Watch the Summer Heroes have faced. Thalion acquiesces to Broderick’s request for the return of his Dragon Watch Sword, then watches the Gnome fade away with the blade. The remaining two taunt him and blame him for their current situation, vowing to bring him back to face justice for his crimes, then vanish.
  • Mina is confronted by her mother, who says she never wanted her and purposefully abandoned her. She denounces her daughter’s alliance with Darion and the Curators and asks when she is going to stop lying to everyone, then vanishes. Mina’s scrying later indicates that her mother has reached Varcrist.
  • Darion is confronted by a headless, armored spirit. It reveals itself to be Elegabalor and taunts Darion about the current state of his brother. The spirit then attacks but is defeated by the combined might of the Summer Heroes. It then vanishes.
  • Erlindar is confronted by his father, who taunts him about his mother. After trading insults with a few other members of the Summer Heroes, he vanishes.

Physically drained from their encounters, they exit out of the swirling mists into a chamber containing Sanaar. He explains that he is the Guardian of these two temples, and that Thich’s order share pieces of his power and become Guardians themselves. He then takes out a box containing impure grains of sands of creation and uses it to explain a great deal more about the facts behind The God Who Knew Too Much and their quest.

The story of The God Who Knew Too Much is that other evil gods grew jealous of his domain over the knowledge of the past, present, and future. They attacked him, died in the process, and all domains (save the future) were rearranged and claimed by the remaining gods. The myth is true, to a point.

The God of Knowledge was but one of many gods attacked. Extremely powerful mortals challenged the gods, and the ensuing conflict devastated the world. This Godswar resulted in the remaining mortals (and a few gods who had switched sides) ascending to immortality and becoming deities. They claimed the domains they wished, but no one claimed (or possibly was able to claim) the domain of the future. This domain would eventually give oracles like the Curators their access to divine magic without having to pray to any specific god.

However, the old God of Knowledge knew of this scheme and planned a contingency: the Staff of Prophecy. Once assembled, it would allow those who wielded it access to the remnants of the old gods’ power. Its exact ability and purpose is not entirely clear, but it is suspected that it could be used to bring back the old gods, or challenge the new gods, or even lay waste to the world. It also is rumored to be able to access the Great Library of All, which still exists, somewhere.

The Guardians, immortal servants loyal to the old gods, waited out the Godswar in their temples, some of which contained portions of the old gods’ power. After it was over, they were scattered across the world, separated from each other and bound to their locations. Some of the Guardians have turned against their old masters; some have desired to wipe out all life except those worshippers of the old gods, who could then bring them back; and some have sought a peace between the old and new gods and a sharing of power.

One Guardian in particular, Glaysa, plans to unleash a host of demons trapped at the world’s core. The Summer Heroes recognize these nameless abominations as the same type of creature they accidentally released onto the world. They had unintentionally almost been released thousands of years ago by the Dwarves of Varcrist while under siege. Seeking to prevent a global holocaust, Sanaar enabled them to detonate Varcrist, killing the city and its human invaders. To ensure the secret of how they could be released would stay dead, Sanaar engineered the mass suicide of the Dwarven race.

The second Godswar was avoided for only so long. It is coming far earlier than planned, as a Guardian has for some reason launched an initial strike. Mahra, goddess of insanity and ruler of the Mindscape, has been slain and overthrown. While a relatively minor god, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the new gods realize what is going on. Abajeet’s last wish will have drastic unintended consequences.

To complicate matters, divine healing magic has been failing, largely due to a mortal somehow gaining access to the powers of the old god of healing. This competition within that domain will not go unnoticed for long, if it, or its source, hasn’t already been discovered. The Summer Heroes realize that Lenore’s centuries of impalement upon the statue that healed her wounds is the likely source of this incident.

Sanaar believes the old and new gods can find peace. Pirro agrees with this approach and becomes a member of the Order of Sweetwater, focusing on the wind discipline. The rest of the Summer Heroes are all asked to consider what side, if any, they would back in the coming conflict, as all will have a role to play. There is some discussion, with Darion declaring that he would back the side of the mortals. Sanaar takes this to mean that the oracle agrees with him, but that may not be the case. The Summer Heroes have lots of questions.

Sanaar also notes that Mina wields one of the Swords of Kalora. Surprised that there is more than one, they find out that Kalora split her soul at her death, embodying it in the two blades she wielded. They were separated, and destined to return in the next godswar, either to oppose or compliment each other. Kalora and her descendents were always strong supporters of the new gods, and viewed the Curators as tools of the old gods. Suspicious of their motives and believing them to be too likely to bring the world to destruction, her descendents have vowed to oppose the Curators at every turn, and destroy them utterly. Sanaar does not seem concerned about Mina’s presence throughout his story, despite her family’s opposition to his masters.

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Session 19
In which the Summer Heroes get Erlindared

The Summer Heroes dash to the Summer’s Fortune, but are attacked by the Regulators, separated and damaged by magic. Mina gives them time to breathe by drawing her Dragon Watch Sword and shrouding the area in impenetrable darkness. Once they are mostly recovered and able to fight, she dispels the darkness.

Vicious combat ensues as the crew races to get the ship ready to sail. Erlindar almost dies, and in a desperate move, teleports to Ystria, seemingly abandoning his friends.

Without the aid of Erlindar’s magic, the Summer Heroes are slowly losing ground. Darion races from stern to bow, keeping his comrades from falling. Pirro taps heroic reserves he didn’t know he possessed to resist magic that urges him to kill his companions. Several of the Regulators fall, but reinforcements arrive. House Xiri guards shower the ship with crossbow bolts while another Regulator duels Mina.

The ship suddenly vanishes, appearing at the docks of Ystria. Erlindar collapses from exhaustion at the efforts of the spell, a gift from Corinthia. Two Regulators come with the ship, one of whom is quickly dispatched. Seeing Erlindar, the last Regulator leaves his duel with Mina, accepting a vicious strike from behind. Leaping to the docks he impales the renegade wizard. Instead of dying, Erlindar is infused with power and lashes out with necromancy, knocking out his attacker.

Expressing concern, Darion tries to tend to his friend, only to be harmed by merely touching him. Erlindar reveals his father’s amulet has fused with him, embedding itself in his chest. The Summer Heroes are wary about this new development, given the uncanny similarity to Erlindar’s appearance in troubling visions of the (not so?) distant future.

The Regulator is detained, questioned, and handed over to Ystrian authorities as proof of Xiri’s plotting with foreign powers to engineer a coup within the Curators. Darion changes the ownership of the Summer’s Fortune to Carmen. Along with a new name and repainting, the crew should be able to avoid any reprisals or (hopefully) detection from Brightwater.

Mina decides she needs a break from her family, and drops her father off at the home of a family friend who promises to get him to Skroz. Godric and Althea have numerous contacts there, and he will go to recover and wait for her, and Mina, there.

Erlindar talks with Corinthia, finally, and discusses their engagement. The Irian Sister inadvertently reveals knowledge of the temples the Summer Heroes have been seeking, and that their home contains one. The time discrepancies experienced there make a great deal more sense, with this information. Promising to deliver to Erlindar the head Regulator in charge of hunting him (as a wedding present), Corinthia departs happily, promising to fill him in on more information once they have an opportunity to discuss in a more secure (and intimate?) location.

Agreeing to the need to depart Penwith as soon as possible, the Summer Heroes board a merchant barge to Auxerre. River monsters and bandits pose little problem to the accomplished heroes, but their sights are focused forward on joining a merchant caravan. Their ultimate destination is Sweet Water Monastery, hoping to get answers, sanctuary, and training from Abbot Thich and his husband Sanaar, bard and scholar of The God Who Knew Too Much.

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Session 18
In Which Many Announcements Are Made

The Summer Heroes decide to return to Brightwater with Godrick via Stonewall. Jojen and the rest of the freed prisoners will depart through Abajeet’s jungle North of Ystria. Upon reaching Stonewall, they are greeted enthusiastically, with the booming town happy to see that bothy they and Aryeon are alive. None are more happy to see them than Feregar, though he is frustrated to have missed out on so many obviously amazing stories. After spending the day reuniting and restocking supplies, they learned the following of events in Penwith:

  • Starrl is developing a significant merchant fleet consisting of former pirates and partial undead crew. While disturbing, it cuts the cost of shipping tremendously.
  • The Republic of the North is rapidly increasing its navy and arming its soldiers. This has greatly increased trade from Saltstone via Starrl, bypassing most of Brightwater (except Stonewall).
  • Brightwater is less than pleased by the above developments, and is denouncing all involved.
  • Ystria is urging caution and cooperation, but has expressed displeasure of Brightwater’s actions to the Silver Palace.
  • Most Dragon Watch members have been recalled.
  • Some Dragon Watch members are about, but always in groups of two to five.
  • The Regulators have been more visible in Brightwater.
  • The Head of the Curators has died, and a convocation is called for in Brightwater in a short time.
  • Rumors exist that the expeditions to recover the Silver Crown, long thought destroyed, have been successful
  • Numerous Curators who have been missing and thought dead have returned

There were numerous messages for the Summer Heroes at the Guild of Sending, including:

  • Corinthia and Dahlia inquire about Erlindar’s health, the latter much less politely, and more repeatedly, than the former.
  • Estrildis has intelligence for Mina about the spy ring she infiltrated
  • Thalion is summoned to return to Darrova to the Dragon Watch to answer for the charges against him
  • Darion is summoned to return for the Conclave of Curators
  • Estrildis demands Talerion and Darion return for the birth of their brother
  • Pirro is warned by Iro that the Conclave might not be safe

Deciding to return to Brightwater via the Northern route, the Summer Heroes arrive safely, avoiding any chance of interaction with Starrl or the Irian Sisters. The dockworkers warmly greet the Summer Heroes as they head directly for Estrildis’ home. Taking refuge there, they catch up on Brightwater politics, learning, among other things, that the organization Mina infiltrated was responsible for the assassination of the Head Curator. After freshening up, they meet Rowena and Severn for brunch, but Darion warns them about his vision of an attack at this location. They depart safely, though Mina and Thalion do track the would-be-assassin around the corner, where the figures magically escapes.

Mina checks her father into the Temple, though they do not seem to be able to do much for him. It is unclear if it is due to the loss of the eyes, the manner in which they were lost, or something else. She also checks in with Lenore, who is doing very, very well. The rest of the Summer Heroes meet with Iro and prepare for the conclave.

Darion and Pirro are the only ones who can attend the Conclave, which is full of intrigue and political maneuverings. Iro, Darion, and Mellitus quickly emerge as the leading candidates. Iro unveils Darion’s discovery of Varcrist on the second day, with Mellitus countering the third day with the discovery of the Silver Crown. Iro denounces it as a fake, but some are swayed thanks to a hundred-year-old prophecy that might tie Mellitus and Prince Oswiu to the recovery of the crown.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Summer Heroes (save Talerion, who is plotting with Estrildis) remain outside the Scriptorium, expecting trouble thanks to Iro’s warnings. They also exchange sending spells with Althea, who is eventually persuaded to return to Brightwater. Unfortunately, she seems intent on ending the Curator threat once and for all, seeing as how they are all conveniently in one place. Alarmed, they try and dissuade her, as well as get an urgent message to Darion and Pirro.

Through Darion and Pirro’s efforts, they are able to push the results of the election in Iro’s favor (using blackmail, in some cases). Mellitus walks out in protest, and the city celebrates the announcement of the results, with a heavy security attachment there to ensure order. Extracting themselves to meet with their fellow adventurers, they exchange information. Darion, Pirro, and Erlindar agree to get to the docks to try and stop Althea’s arrival, which is expected imminently. Thalion and Mina will get her father from the Temple and meet them at the docks.

The first group teleports out of the square, and realizes that House Xiri soldiers are cordoning off the square surrounding the Scriptorium, along with some Regulators. They notice Darion, draw their weapons, and charge. Erlindar teleports them away again, getting past the soldiers, and they race to the docks.

Mina and Thalion enter the square and realize that the Dragon Watch members present are conferring with the Regulators, City Guard, and House Xiri soldiers. They climb the walls and dash across the rooftops to escape the pending trap, hearing the announcement from the Silver Palace denouncing Iro’s power grab from the rightful head of the Curators. Stealing two horses, they get to the temple, remove Godric, and gallop to the docks.

Darion and Erlindar manage multiple incoming messages, resulting in Erlindar’s agreement to marry Corinthia, getting the Hassunai resistance involved in thwarting the coup, and updating a worried Estrildis on their status. She insists that now is an opportunity for them to launch their plans and they have a chance if Darion stays, but he is torn between options and doesn’t know what to do. She promises to try her best to extract Iro, but if her other moves don’t end well, she may have to denounce and disavow Darion and the Summer Heroes. She wishes him good luck, regardless of the path he takes.

Mina, Thalion, and Godric rejoin the group and report their findings. As they dash to the Summer’s Fortune to get it ready for sail and argue about their next move, some Regulators arrive…

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Session 17
In Which There Are Many Happy Reunions

After a quick reunion between Erlindar (whose real name is apparently Veserik) and his Uncle Jojen, the freed prisoners and the Summer Heroes flee the scene. As soon as they get around the corner, Glaysa, her enormous Hell Hound, some orcs, some golems, and Krina teleport in.

Glaysa amplifies her voice and gives the Summer Heroes a chance to bargain with her, as they have something she wants. After they make noise trying to flee, Mina causes a distraction which leads their pursuers unsure of which direction to go. THey decide to divide and chase down both groups.

After narrowly escaping back toward the tunnel that leads to the Garden of Light, they watch in horror as Glaysa shapeshifts into a dwarf and activates one of Varcrist’s most powerful defenses. One of the giant, stone pillars, modeled after a statue of a dwarf, animates and begins chasing them. They flee to the Garden of Light as a temporary refuge, and then try and sneak back to the Temple they used to enter Varcrist.

At one point, Darion lags behind to listen in on a conversation Glaysa is having with an unseen speaker, though there is a giant disembodied eyeball floating next to her. She says that she won’t let them get away with the sword, that she knows they came in one of two ways, that the statues are still a priority, and they are still moving. Relieved by the indication that perhaps she is unaware of their possession of the Rod of the Past, the first piece of the Staff of Prophecy, Darion rejoins the group.

They fight one of the disembodied eyeballs guarding the exit to the Temple, narrowly surviving. The Summer Heroes flee into the Temple and rejoin Abajeet. Mina realizes that one of the prisoners, who is missing both of his eyes, is her father. They have a surprised and tearful reunion, and go off to talk. Erlindar also discusses some issues with his Uncle, wanting to hear news about his family and other matters.

Pirro is able to trick his way past the dragon guarding Ayreon’s temple, and finds the collector’s home destroyed. He encounters the sole survivor among the desolation, a numb and defeated Jeanette. Pirro takes her back to Abajeet’s, with the guardian seemingly afraid of the Majordoma.

After learning of Ayreon’s death at the hands of the stone demon, Darion believes he may be able to raise him from the dead. Jeanette leads them back to his home and where she buried him, also revealing that she gave up her status as one of the Unburnt (and the near-divinity that comes with it) to be with Ayreon. They are successful in bringing him back with the Rod of the Past. He thanks them, indicates he is aware of their recent success, and rejoins them at Abajeet’s temple. Jeanette is shocked to find out that the Staff of Prophecy is real, and Ayreon gives some cryptic comments about how she has already chosen her side and it’s too late to turn back.

Learning that Feregar and their crew are safe at Stonewall, the Summer Heroes begin to discuss their next moves and what to do about Mina’s father, Uncle Jojen, and the rest of the freed prisoners. Ayreon feels young again, vows to go off adventuring with Jeanette, and intends to stop in and see Iro in Brightwater as his first order of business.

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Session 16
In which history is uncovered

The Summer Heroes considered the best way to use their three wishes, and settled on wishing for the following:

  • knowledge of how to defeat the demon gargoyle (answer: using artifacts of great power while it is not in its protected state)
  • knowledge of how to get to the Temple in Varcrist (answer: through the remaining portal in an adjacent chamber)
  • that Mirth’s soul be immediately transported to the Mindscape

Mirth granted the first two wishes, invoked the favor that the Summer Heroes owed, nominated Abajeet as the replacement Guardian, and disappeared, leaving the gnomish skin to collapse to the ground, empty.

While Mina and Abajeet had a tearful goodbye, the rest of the Summer Heroes tried to notify Aryeon of the latest developments. They narrowly avoided being eaten by the Primal magma Dragon—the Guardian of Aryeon’s Temple—and returned.

Exploring Abajeet’s new domain revealed only one other active portal and 1,000 Sorian soldiers—the legendary Vanished Legion. Leaving Abajeet to explain their situation, they collected the items on Mirth’s body and left for Varcrist.

Varcrist’s Temple was empty (as best they could tell) but still functioning. Exploring Varcrist revealed signs of orcish occupation, as well as an opportunity to spy on Glaysa communicating with Mellitus. They learned that she is the source of the plague statues, and that she has more coming.

Following the direction of the rings from Elegabalor’s horde, they found themselves in the Garden of Light. The rings pointed to one of the pieces of art, which contained the first piece of the Staff of Prophecy. Erlindar attempted to find a way to the rest of Varcrist by exiting through the damaged skylights, but the mountainside would be too treacherous and lengthy of a journey, though the scenario was beautiful. Digging out a collapsed tunnel, they moved onward into Varcrist.

After marveling at the sight of the lost city, they spied Krina and a group of orcs and golems leading some chained prisoners, Erlindar’s Uncle Jojen among them. Glaysa and her two Hell Hounds teleported in, handed Krina three of the statues, and dismissed Krina’s (apparently repeated) concerns about how much trouble the Summer Heroes could cause if not dealt with. Leaving one of her Hell Hounds behind to watch over the prisoners, Glaysa and the other left.

The Summer Heroes launched an ambush, dispatching all of their foes except Krina. Four prisoners died, and several of the Summer Heroes almost did as well. Cursing their interference, but expressing glee that killing the Hell Hound would bring Glaysa down on them, she teleported away.

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