What Luck Betide Us

Session 6

Nutsday, Quintember 5, 358 EK

Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya forage and prepare to camp for several days. The rest of the day passes uneventfully, and the group settles down to sleep. Desire takes first watch, ranging around the camp and running with Timber and the local wolf population.

It is late when Desire notes the other wolves have scattered and Timber is emitting a low growl. Her elven ears pick up the sound of distant footfalls through the brush — a large complement of humanoids, by the sound of things. As she listens, they approach closely enough to spot her movements through the trees. She runs, taking them on a merry chase through the woods by an exceedingly circuitous route before returning to camp. She shouts at the others to awaken them, and informs them of the situation. After a bit of discussion, they decide to stay at camp and make a stand. Bosabrieln takes cover between two trees, Desire climbs a tree to stay as a lookout, and Dareisyn slips into the shadows behind a tree. Timber stands next to Syn’s position.

The humanoids — a troop of ten orcs, as they become visible in the moonlight — approach, but halt, talking amongst themselves in Giant. Bosabrieln addresses them in Giant, and they seem to determine that he’s the “godling” they seek. The leader orders them to attack.

Their priest — a male orc with a spear, a fur cloak dyed blood red, and a ragged bandage over his right eye — steps into the clearing and prays, summoning a blast of force that hammers onto Bosabrieln’s position. He manages to sidestep the worst of it as Desire wings the priest in the head with a rock from her sling.

As this occurs, Syn steps out of the shadows to engage the leader. The leader’s second and six soldiers all rush to engage him, and he informs them that this is a mistake as he proceeds to knock out the six soldiers with a flurry of quick blows and grievously injure the second-in-command. The last soldier, having moved to engage Bosabrieln, is quickly slain by the bard’s magic. Bosabrieln and Desire make short work of the priest while Syn defeats the second-in-command. Faced with the combined onslaught of Bosabrieln, Desire, Syn, and Timber, the orcish warboss is quickly defeated.

Having left most of the orcs alive for questioning, they bind the warboss, second-in-command, and priest. Syn kills the orc soldiers.

The three plan their interrogation. Bosabrieln asks for Desire to retrieve wild grapes so that he may do something for dramatic effect. When she returns and learns that he plans on using one as an eyeball, she notes that they’ll know the difference. Syn extracts an eye from one of the dead orcs before awakening the other three.

Bosabrieln indicates that he has taken an eye in emulation of Corellon’s mutilation of Gruumsh. When the second refuses to answer, Syn slits her throat. Bosabrieln quickly revives her, wanting her to remain for interrogation. He continues with his questioning, learning that the orcs were apparently lead here by their priest’s visions. They have come to perform a holy crusade against Bosabrieln, whom they call “godling” and “the bastard get of Corellon.” Bosabrieln only starts speaking in them in Common when they talk of coming from their camp to the north — the camp of Uzgash, Butcher of Deepwood.

When the trio is content they have learned all they can from the orcs, Desire kills the warboss and second-in-command by draining them dry. As a token of respect, she kills the priest by slitting his throat, and then she buries him.

In the aftermath of the fight, the group drinks a bit of wine before returning to bed. Desire and Syn wander away from camp for a moment to discuss this development. They determine that they are still not certain Bosabrieln is a god, and they certainly don’t think they need to worship him, but he has apparently convinced somebody of the concept. They evidently need to be prepared for Bosabrieln to inadvertently summon godly threats.

The group returns to sleep and taking watches. The next day, Quintember 6, is relatively uneventful. Around dark, Roc returns. A strip of fabric is tied around his leg; it appears to be a note from Godfrey, reading, “Passed Roc on the way. Contingent of soldiers and healers en route to Clegate. Will return with soldiers from Bahyrst.”

The next day is similarly uneventful until night, when the group hears a commotion in the distance. Syn goes to meet it, and quickly determines it to be Godfrey with four soldiers, a cart, and a team of horses. They give greeting, and return to camp. Syn explains a little about the run-in with orcs, and Godfrey explains that they will all be brought to the capital city of Leonewald to determine whether they are to be rewarded or punished. The soldiers and travelers all help excavate the buried gold, and then Desire makes certain the soldiers are all fed.

Bosabrieln, through his music, kindles their other desires, as well.

The next morning, Quintember 8, the group prepares to depart. They arrive in that evening. Dareisyn encounters the two thugs he paid and pays them the additional money he promised them. He also deals with the Ermalfeld Mercenary Company to collect bounties on the eighteen orc ears he culled — 36gp at two gold pieces per ear. They stay the night at the local inn, and the following morning, they depart for Leonewald.

They arrive at the gates of the grand city in the late morning of Quintember 10. The soldiers are forced to navigate several of Leonewald’s guards, describing their business, before finally gaining access to the palace. A messenger leads Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey to an antechamber where an official will take their statement. In a few moments, a priest arrives. The group describes what transpired upon reaching Clegate, and the priest seems satisfied. Syn further describes Desire’s visions, although the priest seems flustered and it is only after he leaves that Desire and Godfrey note Syn’s description was somewhat confrontational.

After a few moments, a messenger returns, informing them that they have been invited to a feast with Queen Ylva Wanderheart to thank them for their service to the kingdom. The feast will be tomorrow evening; the messenger will show them to their rooms, and then they may investigate the grounds or the city if they wish.

After settling in their rooms, the group goes into the city to purchase appropriate dinnerwear for the following day, as well as look around and shop for any other items of interest.

The following day, Rasday, Quintember 11, the group spends much of the day preparing for the night’s feast. Desire assists with hair and makeup. As evening approaches, a messenger summons them to the feasthall.

Various nobles sit at a long table. Queen Wanderheart — dressed in a velvet dress while still bearing woad paint upon her face — and her ministers sit at the far end. The messenger announces them, and they are seated. Dinner consists of several courses and casual conversation — largely the nobles asking about the adventurers’ travels. As dinner approaches its end, the Queen announces that for their services to the Kingdom of Hörundsflúr, she will induct them into the Order of the Python. She calls Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey forward, and presents them with medals marking their membership in the order. She tells them she would like to speak with them later, when time permits.

Festivities continue, and the revelers eventually move from the dinner table, allowing everyone to mill about and talk more freely. Eventually, Queen Wanderheart approaches Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey. She inquires somewhat about their journey, and they exchange pleasantries. Bosabrieln, Syn, and Desire all flirt with the Queen somewhat demurely, and she warms to them quickly. Desire mentions the prospect of joining the Queen in the gardens later; she says she would like that.

The party continues, but when the travelers see the Queen excuse herself, one-by-one they make their way to the courtyard. Meeting with the Queen, they talk further of matters regarding their travels and the kingdom, exchanging pleasantries. Bosabrieln tells her that she reminds him of She of the Dying Light, a warrior-chieftain he met in another land. She reveals herself to be a warrior and a traveler herself, and they find commonality in such matters. They discuss the prospect of sparring on the morrow.

The Queen also notes, with some humor, that by description, they must be the same travelers who caused the trouble in Duchy Bassano a few weeks ago. She notes that they do not seem like the type to cause nearly as much trouble as described; they explain a little regarding the misunderstanding with Duchess Bassanelli, and more importantly, the secret Zarus cult adopted by the town’s rulers.

Dareisyn, then, sees fit to mention their quest, gathering the cards of the deck of many things. Queen Wanderheart says she knows the deck, but knows nothing of the cards; Desire can tell she is hiding something. The Queen also seems to note that Desire recognized her deception. Once Syn is finished, Desire asks if she may speak to the Queen alone. She explains their holy mission, and the visions that guided her here. She says that they have no desire to take the Queen’s card, but when the task is complete, they may wish to see it. As a gesture of good faith, she gives the Queen the Euryale card, saying that she may keep it if she wishes, although Desire suspects she will return it to them.

They also discuss the prospect of meeting later. The Queen says she would like that; she will send a messenger to fetch them.

The Queen takes her leave, and Bosabrieln, Syn, Desire, and Godfrey return to their suite of rooms. Congregating in one room, they discuss this turn of events, as well as the possibility that Queen Wanderheart might send someone to assassinate them — which admittedly seems unlikely — or that all is well. When Bosie, Syn, and Desire prepare to change to meet the Queen, Godfrey, somewhat shaken by the prospect that they may have to defend themselves, says he will return to his room. Desire kisses him good night, to his surprise, and he bids everyone farewell. As he opens the door, the Queen’s messenger appears. He declines to join the others; the remaining trio asks the messenger to wait briefly so that they may change clothes, and then they follow.

They arrive in the Queen’s bedchambers, and have a lovely evening.

The following morning, Quintember 12, they are served breakfast before being asked to return to their rooms. The messenger indicates Godfrey has left to wander around Leonewald, but will return to spar.

In the afternoon, they spar with the Queen, with nobles in attendance. Bosabrieln abstains, instead deigning to speak with the nobles.

The rest of the week goes well. They enjoy the sights of Leonewald, and speak with the Queen as time permits. Over the week, they forge a fledgling friendship with the Queen. They decide to leave on the morning of Quintember 18.

The evening of Quintember 17, Queen Ylva Wanderheart again calls Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya to her chambers for an evening’s private revel. As the evening wears onward, they are asked to leave so that the Queen may sleep; the trio returns to their rooms to do likewise.

There is an early morning knock at Syn and Desire’s door; a messenger, looking for Desire’lya. She is told that the Queen wishes to speak with her; despite her state of undress, she is told to come as she is.

Returning to the Queen’s bedchamber, Ylva explains to Desire that she truly wanted to thank her and her companions, and wish them a fond farewell. She hopes they will return. Also notably, she returns the Euryale card to Desire, and wishes her well in her quest.

As day breaks — Rasday, Quintember 18 — Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey prepare to leave Ylva’s palace and Leonewald. Once they are certain all their preparations are complete, they leave the city and take to the road.

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Session 5

Anhursday, Quadrember 30, 358 EK

Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya call over a charming Vistani lass by the name of Katya and begin to join in the revelry while Godfrey keeps light watch in case the Voivode tries anything suspicious.

The night continues without incident.

The next morning, Quadrember 31, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey say their good-byes to Drishti and Juvela before the Vistani depart. They then head east.

Traveling the roads without incident, apart from a persistent drizzle, the quartet arrives in the town of Bahyrst on the morning of Isetsday, Quintember 2. They decide to resupply and rest the evening at the local inn, looking to see if there is any work to be had. They hear tale the Ermafeld Mercenary Company is offering 5 gp for any gnoll pelts and 2 gp for any orc ears retrieved on the roads or in the woods, with the warning that the orc tribes are far more organized to the northeast, all gathered under the banner of Uzgash, the Butcher of Deepwood. They decide to keep a look out as they head into the woods.

The next morning, the group enters the common room to find Niserie Woodvine awaiting them. She explains that she has spoken with Nona, whose own auguries confirm Desire’s claim that something strange is afoot in Khemenelda. It does not currently appear to affect the Wandering Styck, but as all things are connected, it will no doubt be their issue eventually. Given these events, the Styck has agreed to postpone their judgment on Dareisyn and Desire’lya so that they may set right that which is wrong.

However, Niserie continues, when Desire’s quest is complete, they will revisit this issue, and fully expect for Syn and Desire to return to the Styck. Desire asks if Niserie or any others of the Styck wish to quest with them; she declines, but indicates that they will be keeping watch on the pair to monitor their progress.

Before she leaves, Niserie delivers one last message from Nona — that she hopes she was wrong about Dareisyn and Desire’lya. With that, Niserie departs.

Somewhat relieved at the good news, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey prepare to disembark, heading to the east in the hopes of encountering this mysterious minotaur hermit, Noostoron.

The group travels along a dirt path through the drizzle, headed east. They encounter a settlement in the late morning of Rasday, Quintember 4. The settlement is surrounded by thick walls, at least twelve feet high. The gates are open with no guards on duty; sighting though the open gates, the settlement largely appears to be wooden longhouses and mud huts. A few people are milling about, some repeating menial tasks, and all appear to be in a daze. Desire sends Roc to survey the area from above, and Timber to sniff around. The group also investigates around the walls of the settlement, searching for any clues; Desire notes that the settlement has two gates, one facing the path to the west, headed back to Bahyrst, and the other facing the forest to the east. The eastern gate bears tracks, leading deeper into the woods; these tracks appear to be heavily laden, as if carrying heavy loads, and reveal nearly twenty people. Based on the wear, these tracks were probably made in the last week.

Desire explains this fact to the rest of the group, and they decide to investigate the town. Bosabrieln enters first, keeping in sight of the gate. The smell hits him first, a smell of rotting food and human waste. He greets one of the villagers, but the man appears to not recall his name or what precisely he is doing; his eyes are glazed, and his pupils dilated. Since Bosabrieln returns, seemingly unharmed, the rest of the group deigns to enter. Desire’lya quickly recognizes the symptoms of Mindfire, a degenerative illness which causes fever and brain swelling, followed by stupor. It does not cause death on its own, but the infected may very well die if they foolishly do something dangerous, or are unable to care for themselves. Inhalation is thought to be the primary vector.

After taking additional precautions, the group investigates the town. Most everyone appears to still be alive, although there was apparently an explosion at the local healer’s shop. Based on the markings, she was evidently a worshiper of the minor goddess Gouginm; her mangled corpse and mess suggest she was mixing a potion and something went awry. Desire concludes that she was likely afflicted and accidentally mixed the incorrect potions, but Godfrey indicates that residue in her vials suggest they were mislabeled. Perhaps the sabotage was from an outside source.

The group proceeds to visit a local stream to get clean water for the townsfolk, and Desire prepares to go through her ritual cleansing to revive the herbalist and priestess. However, Godfrey wants to investigate the town further first. The group agrees, and splits to investigate. The most notable fact is to the north of the town, in the largest building. It is stone, and heavily fortified; investigation suggests it was some manner of vault or mint. It appears that the invaders, whomever they were, cleaned out the entire village’s treasury — which appears as though it might be a major treasury for the Kingdom of Hörundsflúr.

The group returns to the healer’s shop, and Desire begins her ritual. While she performs that, Bosabrieln uses his Fastidiousness ritual to make certain all four of them are clean in the hopes of preventing infection by Mindfire.

Desire finishes her ritual preparations in the evening, and with everyone’s help, the healer is restored to life. She introduces herself as Edeweil, and thanks the travelers for their assistance. According to her account, she died before the outbreak began. She confirms that the residue in the bottles does not match what was supposed to be in the bottles, and idly wonders if it was the travelers who came through a couple of days ago. She explains that she can heal these people, although it will take time; after some discussion, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey agree to hunt down the possible bandits while she starts tending the villagers. Since they have had good relations with the townsfolk in this region, Desire’lya attaches a note to Roc, sending him away to retrieve official assistance to aid in healing the villagers.

Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey then trek into the woods, with Desire and her wolf Timber leading them along the bandits’ tracks. As it is quite dark by the time they disembark, they camp for the night. The next day, they continue to follow the tracks, approaching a camp sometime in the mid-afternoon. Fifteen humans keep watch, armed with short swords and wearing hide armor. The sixteenth, apparently the leader, is a pale-skinned woman in plate mail, carrying a massive axe and a spiked shield. The bandits do not notice the approach of the quartet.

After observing the proceedings, the group develops a plan. Desire’lya retreats into the woods to establish contact with the local wolf population. Dareisyn goes hunting for a ditch or cliff nearby. Bosabrieln and Godfrey assist with the latter activity.

With Timber’s assistance, Desire’lya finds a wolf pack and convinces them to assist her — if they can harry and distract the bandits when the time comes, she’ll tend their injured and let them eat the dead. Meanwhile, Dareisyn finds a notable enough cliff and performs a ritual to conjure a shadowy bridge over it, hoping to lure the bandits onto it in time for it to collapse. Once everyone has reconvened near the campsite, the wolves move into position, and Bosabrieln casts an illusion over the group that makes them appear as gnolls.

At the signal, the wolves begin their attack. The bandits refuse to leave the campsite, however, apparently guarding a large cache of bulging sacks. As they won’t move, Dareisyn signals the charge; Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey creep out of the woods. About half of the bandits continue to ward against the wolves, while the other half rushes forward to engage the “gnolls.” A bloody battle ensues; Godfrey is quickly surrounded and knocked unconscious. As Desire’lya attempts to reach him, bandits manage to converge on her position and also grievously wound her. Bosabrieln revives both of them, but the bandits are quick to antagonize the avenger and the druid. However, Dareisyn gives them no respite, keeping them engaged while moving to Desire’lya to revive her with a goodberry. As the bandits’ captain determines that the wolves are just a distraction and drives them away, the remaining bandits join the battle. Bosabrieln keeps them at bay with his spells while Dareisyn keeps them engaged with sword and spell, ensuring that Desire’lya and Godfrey have time to recover. With the aid of Dareisyn’s summoned shadows, the group manages to slay most of the bandits despite the bandit captain’s fearsome axe and apparently magical prowess. Dareisyn leaves three of them alive but unconscious, including the bandit captain.

The wolves feed on the fallen. Desire’lya is intensely shaken by her brush with death, and becomes exceedingly agitated. Godfrey offers to go hunting with her while Bosabrieln and Dareisyn interrogate the bandits; she accepts, and they walk into the woods. Bosabrieln and Dareisyn awaken and interrogate one of the bandits. They learn the man’s name to be Martin, and he explains that they engineered the “accidental” death of the healer in Clegate. They also infected the town with Mindfire, returning after several days to raid the treasury. They have changed campsites every day, while four scouts have been monitoring the road, waiting for a cart to pass they can hijack. Dareisyn offers him the opportunity to work for him instead — tell the scouts they’re out of work, assist him in cleaning this mess, and he’ll put in a good word to the local authorities and see about trying to get him an honest job. Given the circumstances, Martin agrees, although he recommends they execute Bartreda, the leader, as she’ll never let it go.

They awaken the other bandit, Bartholomew, and largely determine the same information and make him the same offer. He accepts. Dareisyn offers them 400 gp apiece — 200 gp up front, and 200 gp upon their return. They accept, take their gold, and head off ostensibly to inform the others. Bosabrieln and Syn then wait for Desire and Godfrey to return so that they may interrogate Bartreda. When she starts to rouse, Syn knocks her out again.

Meanwhile, Desire and Godfrey are hunting. In the midst of Desire draining a deer, Godfrey gets her attention, asking if she is all right. He notes that she has “been having quite a week,” although Desire mishears the statement, thinking that he called her weak. She returns to hunting, contemplating her weakness in the face of peril, and the steps she can take to correct the error.

Desire and Godfrey return after about an hour, loaded with plenty of game. Despite having thoroughly searched the bandits, the group resolves to make certain she does not have a card from the Deck of Many Things, given that they firmly expect that to be the case. Dareisyn awakens Bartreda. She curses the group, and offers no information. Bosabrieln asks if she has a card; she seems puzzled, and since she has no further information, they allow Desire to indulge her rage by draining Bartreda dry.

The group then moves the sacks throughout the surrounding woods, burying them or otherwise hiding them as best they can. After some discussion, they decide to send a messenger to a nearby settlement to inform them the gold has been recovered. As Godfrey is intensely swift, they dispatch him as messenger. The group gives him the remaining goodberries, and Desire gives him her seed of healing. They wish him a safe journey, and he walks into the woods.

Bosabrieln, Desire, and Syn settle down to camp and wait.

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Session 4

Anapasday, Quadrember 13, 358 EK

Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela join Ondulf and Lorelinda Cooper, as well as the rest of their family, for dinner. The farmers seem interested in tales of their adventures, and the lot of them take the opportunity to tell them — all while surreptitiously watching Ondulf’s reaction.

After dinner, the travelers are given two guest rooms. Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya take one, while Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela take the other. They decide to take watches in case anything strange is happens — although Bosie, Syn, and Desire tend to get to bed late anyway — but their nights are uneventful.

Syn awakens Bosie and Desire, and they ready themselves to find Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela already having breakfasted. Once the trio has eaten, the group prepares to investigate Ondulf’s machine.

Travel southwest through the dense woods takes most of the day. Finally, Ondulf leads them to a small cavern in a hillside. Lighting torches, the group marches into the cave.

After the tunnel winds down into the hillside several feet, the cave opens into a larger chamber. Dominating the center of the chamber is a massive horseshoe-shaped console covered in levers, dials, and switches. In the middle of this horseshoe configuration is a cube made of glass or crystal.

The group cannot really make heads nor tails of the strange device; they only note that several of the levers and dials are corroded or broken. Interrogating Ondulf reveals that any given lever, dial, or switch can activate some mechanism within the machine, so the group wisely decides to not touch it. Additionally, some uses affect the surrounding region, while other uses only affect the inside of the crystal cube.

Perhaps most notably, Desire quickly discerns that Ondulf seems nervous — dry-mouthed, jittery, sweating. However, this seems less like fear or anxiety and more like withdrawal from drug addiction; he clearly wants to use the machine again. She quietly lets Syn know about this development and starts keeping a closer eye on Ondulf during their investigation of the machine. She then openly suggests to Syn that they destroy the machine; as she suspected, Ondulf protests, claiming that there is a still a lot they could learn about it if they experiment. After discussion, the group merely decides to collapse the cave mouth, leaving the device intact; the assembled party manages to convince a reluctant Ondulf that this is the best course of action, and the best possible way to keep his family safe.

Syn collapses the cave entrance with his magics, and the group starts the long trek back to civilization. As night falls and they approach the farm, Syn and Desire ask Ondulf about his Sun card from the Deck of Many Things and convince him of the tragedy they have seen it cause other card holders. They offer to pay him for it, and when he refuses to part with it, Syn threatens him into relinquishing the card.

When they return to the farm, Lorelinda offers to let the group stay another night, but Desire says they need to continue on their journey. The travelers thank the Coopers for their hospitality, and leave. Once they have left the farm, Syn gives Desire the Sun card, which she puts with the o—thers, and she indicates she did not want Ondulf to have the chance to retrieve his card or do anything untoward to them. They make camp in the woods a few miles from the farm, and sleep in watches for the evening.

It takes roughly three days to make the return trek to Elham, arriving on the evening of Quadrember 17. After finding rooms at the Maiden’s Needle, they decide to look for work the next day in the hopes of replenishing their dwindling funds. Desire manages to find work as an advertiser and model for one of the tailors in town; Syn finds the town to have need of a sage with his knowledge of magic; Bosabrieln provides entertainment in the Maiden’s Needle, acting as a minstrel; and Drishti finds work telling fortunes.

The week passes pleasantly, and many of the residents of Elham come to recognize the strange travelers that have appeared in their midst. Only Bosabrieln and Drishti work on Rasday, Quadrember 21, with most businesses being closed in town.

It is near the end of the day on Tefnutsday, Quadrember 25, that Desire notices other out-of-towners — elves dressed in the garb and armor of Syn and Desire’s homeland. They are merely quietly observing. Desire sends her hawk to alert Syn and the others. Roc the hawk makes its way to where Syn is working, and when he hears of the hawk trying to enter the building, he excuses himself and goes to greet it. He knows to follow Roc where it leads, and so follows it to the Maiden’s Needle to retrieve the others; Syn finds Bosabrieln and Godfrey, and they follow it back to where Desire is working. She excuses herself and explains that she saw elves from the Wandering Styck. She knows no further details, but they were definitely watching her. Godfrey, having noticed Syn and Desire’s watchers, takes Bosabrieln to follow them and see if he can determine anything regarding their plans.

After the pair leaves, an armored female elf approaches Syn and Desire, saying she is from the Styck. She explains that she and her band have been requested to retrieve Dareisyn and Desire’lya and return them to the Styck. Desire explains that she has a job and has given her word to complete it, but this is the final day of her obligation, so she can meet and discuss such matters this evening. They are staying at the Maiden’s Needle and should all return around dinnertime. The messenger accepts and agrees to these terms, and so takes her leave.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln and Godfrey wander through the town, but lose sight of any foreign elves. They eventually return to Syn and Desire, who explain what has transpired and that the elf emissary will meet them this evening. Syn and Bosabrieln return to work, pondering what they will do when evening comes, while Godfrey finds Juvela at the inn and updates her on the situation.

As evening approaches, Syn and Desire return to the inn. When Drishti arrives, they quickly update her on what has happened during the day. Desire indicates that this business only regards she and Syn, and that the others are under no obligation to assist them, but everyone insists on helping. Godfrey takes a position at a far table to observe the proceedings, while Bosabrieln, Syn, Desire, Drishti, and Juvela await the elves.

They do not wait long. Shortly, the same female elf who previously contacted Syn and Desire approaches and joins them. She explains that the elders of the Styck require them back for judgment; Elendar in particular has apparently been seeking Desire’lya’s return. Desire wishes to explain what transpired and what caused them to flee the Wandering Styck; although the elf messenger says she has no authority to pass judgment, she will listen and offer this testamony. Desire explains they were attacked by a myriapoda, a humanoid centipede beast. When it bit Dareisyn, his blood sprayed and she accidentally tasted of it, reawakening the ancient hútayár curse of their bloodline. Although the myriapoda was slain, the hunger overwhelmed her and she drained the wounded Dareisyn, killing him. A devil appeared, offering a way to bring him back, and she accepted.

The messenger is surprised, as apparently those of the Styck did not know infernalism was involved. As the messenger reiterates that Dareisyn and Desire’lya must return to the Styck, Desire explains that she has been granted a vision by the gods, a vision of fire and horror that is to be brought to this realm lest she and her companions stop it by gathering a scattered Deck of Many Things. She shows the messenger the Euryale, Fool, and Sun cards they have already gathered. The elf indicates this is a notable development, and says she will discuss it with her fellows, and they will send a messenger to learn what Nona has to say on these matters, and whether they will be allowed to go on their way, or whether they will be returned to the Styck.

Before she leaves, Desire asks the messenger’s name; she introduces herself as Niserie Woodvine. Niserie asks where they will be headed next, and Syn indicates they will be traveling north to Wadbradworth, and then east. Longer-term, they will likely be headed to the City of Ten Thousand Pleasures. Niserie indicates she will likely have a response within the next few days, and takes her leave.

Desire is deeply shaken by the experience, but Bosabrieln goes and speaks with her. Godfrey talks to Syn about these developments while Bosie and Desire are elsewhere. Drishti and Juvela take their leave. Once Bosabrieln, Syn, Desire, and Godfrey reconvene, they decide they’ve had quiet enough of the day and retire to bed, to set out for Wasbradworth in the morning.

The next morning, as the group wanders down to breakfast, they are pleasantly surprised to see Zealot Shadowhate in the tavern. Desire is so overwhelmed that she bounds over and hugs him, tackling him out of his chair and to the ground. He greets the group, and before he can fully explain what he is doing in Elham, he and Desire start flirting and decide to retire to their room. Syn and Bosabrieln insist on following, and watch as Desire fellates Zealot; in the meantime, Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela eat breakfast, leaving the others to their own devices.

Once finished, Bosie, Syn, Desire, and Zealot return downstairs. Zealot explains that he has not yet learned any additional information regarding his lost friend, but he has some people assisting him at the moment, and will hopefully have more information within then next couple of weeks. He then asks what the group has been doing since he left; they explain about the unfortunate events in Duchy Bassano, and encountering the strange machine in a cave. Zealot recognizes the machine as the Machine of Lum the Mad; thought lost from Oerth centuries ago, the Machine was found by the Oeridian warlord and artificer Lum the Mad. He learned how to operate the machine and used its power in many successful military campaigns. One of his commanders, a man by the name of Leuk-O, discovered a suit of armor, possibly made by the same people who made the Machine. Leuk-O then rebelled against Lum the Mad, and the two eventually fought. During the battle, a mysterious mist arose and swallowed Lum, Leuk-O, and their fantastic devices.

The Machine of Lum the Mad has many wondrous functions, but most of them are unknown and poorly understood. It is also known to cause madness in users, and can cause the cranium to expand.

Desire also shows Zealot the Deck of Many Things cards they have thus far retrieved, and tell him as much as they know about the soothsayer who has been giving them to people. He does not think this is related to his quest, although he indicates he will let them know if he finds any relevant information.

Bosabrieln, Syn, and Desire then persuade him to join them upstairs. Desire similarly persuades Drishti to join them. They lose the rest of the day to their sexual revelry, deciding to instead depart the following morning; Godfrey and Juvela leave them to it, and stroll around Elham instead.

The next morning, Quadrember 27, everyone eventually makes their way downstairs to breakfast at the Maiden’s Needle. They say their good-byes to Zealot — despite her protests, the group convinces Desire not to stay another day — and set out on the road to Wadbradworth.

They arrive in Wadbradworth in the late morning of Anhursday, Quadrember 30. Outside the city walls, they note the presence of many colorful vardos and carts, suggesting a Vistani caravan. Drishti and Juvela reveal they have been discussing the matter, and Drishti planned on parting company whenever she next encountered a Vistani caravan. Juvela was considering joining her; she further wonders if Bosabrieln would be willing to perform her blooding ritual, and he agrees.

Bosabrieln, Drishti, and Juvela introduces themselves to the Vistani, led by Voivode Ziemowit Corvara of the Boem clan. Drishti asks for permission to join them, explaining that her own caravan was decimated by monsters; he agrees. The group enters Wadbradworth proper, getting a room at the inn and preparing for the blooding ceremony later that evening. Everyone expresses their sadness to see Juvela go after traveling together for over a month and a half, but she says she will definitely see them all again.

As evening approaches, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela make their way to the Vistani camp. Bosabrieln, Drishti, and Juvela briefly confer with Voivode Ziemowit, and the Vistani of the camp all bear witness. Bosabrieln performs the ritual, cutting Juvela’s left palm and mingling their blood. The scar turns purple, her irises turn black, and Voivode Ziemowit pronounces her Juvela Bassanelli Zivkovic. Dareisyn, always properly paranoid, examines the ritual for any infernal influence, but is satisfied to find none.

After her pronouncement, there is much merriment, although Syn, Desire, and Godfrey largely abstain. Bosabrieln goes to speak with Voivode Ziemowit, asking him if he knows anything about the Deck of Many Things cards they have been finding. He says he does not, although Bosabrieln senses some hesitation; pressing further, Ziemowit shows Bosabrieln his Fates card. He explains that a soothsayer named Serlei Yaltark — describing her as a young, pale, ginger-haired woman with a headdress of jawbones and peacock feathers, much the way Ondulf Cooper described his soothsayer visitation from five years ago — visited him thirty years ago, telling his fortune and gifting him with this card. It has brought him good luck ever since. He then waves away Bosabrieln’s questions, putting away the card and telling Bosabrieln to drink with him. After sharing a drink, Bosabrieln excuses himself and tells Syn, Desire, and Godfrey of what he has learned — particularly given that this supposedly-human soothsayer isn’t aging — also warning them that he consumed the man’s liquor, so if Ziemowit poisoned him, just to be aware of it. The four decide there is nothing they can do to retrieve the card at the moment, but at least they know it is in his possession, so they can always track him down later and retrieve it if necessary.

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Session 3

Isetsday, Triember 28, 358 EK

With the evening otherwise uneventful, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, Duchess Juvela, and Godfrey awaken the next morning prepared to wait for three days. However, Bosabrieln, who took the last watch, informs the others that he received a Sending message just before the others awoke. Drishti Naiat has been arrested, likely as a trap to bring the group back to Duchy Bassano, and is to be executed in three days’ time.

The group discusses the available options and decide to send a Sending message to Duke Bassanelli to inquire about his breaking of the deal. He only responds in a confused manner, wishing the “demon” hounding him away.

The group does not know what this means, but Dareisyn suspects the old man might be drugged, no doubt kept that way by his cultist masters. If that is the case, he wants Bosabrieln to attempt a Sending again around noon — either the old man will be lucid enough to eat lunch, or he will still be drugged. Either result is likely to yield notable information.

After some discussion, the group decides to infiltrate the town in disguise to see what information they can gather. They hope to rendezvous by noon so as to send the noontime Sending message to the Duke. They decide to enter in a staggered fashion, in small groups — Dareisyn and Desire’lya in one group, Bosabrieln and Duchess Juvela in another group, and Godfrey by himself, staggered in roughly ten-to-fifteen minute intervals. Bosabrieln disguises everyone as travelers and Dareisyn and Godfrey swap their equipment around before Godfrey quickly buries his remaining equipment. Desire’lya sends the wolf to keep watch over the campsite and surrounding environs, and she sends her hawk to keep watch over Godfrey. Dareisyn gives Godfrey his fan with the instructions to drop it if he finds any trouble, and to say whatever he thinks is important at that time; the hawk can retrieve the fan and Dareisyn can perform a ritual to hear whatever Godfrey said at that time. Fairly prepared, the group prepares to go.

Syn and Desire travel first. Stating their business and traveling through the gates, they arrive in Duchy Bassano. Syn, posing as someone whom Drishti owes money, asks around and learns that she is incarcerated for treasonous acts, apparently having aided and abetted some criminals who passed through. There’s not a lot of information available on the matter, but it is known that she is to be hanged in three days’ time, and that she is currently being held in the dungeons beneath the central guard citadel. After finding their information from the local beerhouses and gambling dens, they wander over to the guard post. Desire finds a rat skulking about, and speaks to it, asking what it knows of the dungeon. She manages to work out a couple of things regarding the dungeon from the rat, and then offers to feed it if it will accompany her for a couple of days. The rat agrees, but indicates it needs to do something first. It returns within a few minutes. As time draws nigh, Syn and Desire then leave the town and return to the rendezvous spot.

Bosabrieln and Juvela travel next. When they gain access to the town, Bosabrieln decides to investigate the dungeon beneath the guard citadel. As he and Juvela are dressed as women, they pass themselves off as ditzy travelers, inquiring with a guard about the freakish Gypsy in the dungeons and implying that they may grant him sexual favors in return. He goes inside to ask his superior officer, and to the surprise of everyone, he receives permission to bring them inside. When they wander down to the dungeon level, they are roughly and thoroughly searched — although this does not reveal Bosabrieln and Juvela’s disguises — and led to Drishti’s cell. She wears a filthy prisoner’s robe amid the dank environs, but otherwise looks well and unmolested. While Bosabrieln presses against the bars and pretends to gawk, he winks at her and reveals his purple Vistani blooding ritual scar on his hand, leaving her rather confused. Bosabrieln and Juvela are then led back to the street. They bid the flustered guard farewell and then leave the town, returning to the rendezvous spot.

Godfrey travels last. Disguised as a wandering mercenary, he enters the town inquiring about work and street-level dealings. He learns that Drishti is being held in the dungeons within the central guard citadel, apparently on charges of treason, and that there are no outstanding warrants or bounties for anyone related to her crimes. Which, by the way, are not being publicized — the whole thing is being kept very quiet by local administration. When he has learned as much as he is able, he leaves the town and returns to the rendezvous spot.

The five arrive back at camp at roughly the same time, and proceed to share information. Everyone is impressed with Bosabrieln and Juvela’s infiltration, although Godfrey notes that the guards likely allowed the pair to enter and leave. Once everyone searches the nearby area and is certain they were not followed, they proceed with their plans. After plotting with the group, Bosabrieln sends a Sending to Duke Bassanelli, indicating that this message is not to be ignored, and does his interference with Drishti require the group’s further intervention? The Duke responds that no intervention is necessary; he will handle it.

Deciding that they will send another message around dinner time, the group decides to wait. They chat, during which time Godfrey notes that he invoked a hunting prayer on the Duke so that he can always know how far away he is. Discussing further, the group decides they wish to have eyes on the Duke’s business while he is trying to set everything right; Godfrey agrees to do it, and rushes off into the underbrush.

While he is gone, the group has lunch and talks further. Bosabrieln takes Juvela aside and indicates his desire to do right by the child, should she be pregnant, noting that his own upbringing was hellacious and he wants to ensure his child does not have the same difficulty. She appreciates his concern, but his concerns are not hers; her home is tearing itself apart, and that is the most pressing thing on her mind at the moment. After their conversation, Syn takes Bosabrieln aside and talks to him about his responsbility and his past, while Desire takes Juvela aside and speaks to her further about Bosabrieln. She repeats what she told Bosabrieln, indicating that his concerns are not her concerns so long as her home collapses. Desire indicates that they will help her in any way they can, with both the possible baby and the situation in Duchy Bassano, and she thanks her. Desire notes that if Juvela wishes to do something about Bassano soon, she will have to make the decision soon, but Juvela notes that she can always return in the future.

After a few hours, Godfrey silently returns to camp, revealing that the Duke is predominantly in his own palace, summoning town officials to make things happen. Godfrey apparently camped out on the roof, and although he could not spy directly on the interior room wherein the Duke and his advisors met, he managed to get enough of the gist of the conversation to know the Duke likely did not order her arrest. Further, the town is alarmed because they do not know if the travelers are alone — some suspect the elf nations to the northeast sent them as spies or the forward force for an invasion.

As evening approaches, the group discusses the message to the Duke and then Bosabrieln sends another Sending, this time asking if the Duke has come to an agreement with his people. He responds, saying that he has; Drishti will be released at dawn the following morning, at the south gate.

Pondering this development, the group decides to go to bed early and awaken early the next morning so as to be ready when Drishti is released. Similarly, this will allow them to see any preparations being taken by the guards in case it is a trap.

Awakening in the dark of the next morning, the group moves through the woods within sight of the gate. Satisfied that no duplicity is taking place, they disguise themselves to look like Vistani and wait.

As the sun rises, the gates open and a small contingent of guards emerges, surrounding Drishti. They look incredibly nervous. Bosabrieln, from his place in the woods, strums a quick tune on his instrument, making the guards jump. They shout, addressing the woods with the fact that they are releasing Drishti. The group sends Godfrey out, and doing his best Vistani impression, he walks down the path and greets the guards and Drishti, walking with her south along the path. Bosabrieln strikes his lute again, causing the guards to make their way back through the south gate as swiftly as possible. The group then follows Godfrey and Drishti.

Once they are out of sight of the south gate, they come out of the woods and reveal themselves as Bosabrieln, Desire, Godfrey, Juvela, and Syn. As they return to camp, they tell Drishti how they managed to secure her release.

The group then settles into camp, as they will remain there for two more days as they wait to return the Duke’s missing testicle. Once the second day passes, Syn places the testicle in a small pouch and gives it to Desire’s hawk, who flies off. The hawk returns within the hour, and the group rests for the night before traveling again the next day.

It takes another week on the road before the group reaches another settlement, the city of Wadbradworth, on Rasday, Quadrember 7. The travelers decide to resupply here and stay the night in one the local inns, the Dusty Rose. Desire goes shopping for prenatal herbs for Juvela, purchasing a six month’s supply. While she’s gone, Syn asks the tavernkeeper if he knows of any strange events happening in the woods; he says he is aware of two things that might interest the traveler. He says that a druid by the name of Noostoron — a minotaur, according to the stories — lairs in the woods to the east, roughly just around the Hörundsflúr border. He would likely know more about any strange events.

The barkeeper knows about a specific event from about five years ago. There is a farm to the south, a major supplier to the Hörundsflúr region, and for a period of a couple of weeks, it intermittently suffered strange phenomena — rains of fish, miraculous healings, that sort of thing. The events stopped and have never recurred.

When Desire returns, he tells her of this news, along with the rest of the travelers. They decide to head south to investigate the farm. Desire then takes the opportunity to speak to Bosabrieln privately about the growing, vague animosity between them. Despite this, they seem to come to an understanding.

That evening, the travelers go outside to look at the full moon. Desire manages to grab Juvela and give her the box of maternity herbs; Juvela is incredibly thankful.

The next morning, the group heads south on the road. They pass through the town of Elham during the afternoon of Quadrember 10, but they continue onward, reaching the farm on the afternoon of Anapasday, Quadrember 13. Encountering some workers on the farm, the group asks if they may speak to whomever is in charge. One goes and fetches an older gentleman who introduces himself as Ondulf Cooper. After introductions are made, the group inquires about the eldritch events at the farm several years ago. Ondulf explains that he was not present as he was away on business at the time, although his understanding is that several bizarre events occurred — trees and crops coming alive and turning to snakes, rains of frogs, and other unexplained events. A couple of the workers spontaneously sickened and died just as his son, sick with the croup, spontaneously recovered.

Desire notes that he is hiding something, and when the group asks if he can get someone who was around at the time, she alerts the rest of the party. He returns with his wife, Lorelinda Cooper, who corroborates a lot of the facts of his story, although Desire notes by her body language that she is being totally truthful. After hearing a couple of tales, Syn asks if it would be possible for them to go around and see some of the sites where strange events occurred. Ondulf and Lorelinda agree, and Ondulf accompanies the group with five workers. Once they have less of an audience, Syn and Desire take Ondulf aside while Bosabrieln, Drishti, Godfrey, and Juvela continue to talk to the workers. Syn and Desire confront Ondulf with their assertion that he is hiding something, and note that they are certain his wife would be very interested to know what it is that he has kept secret all this time. Under this pressure, he reveals that he met a soothsayer in the market on one of his business trips. She told his fortune; when Desire asks if he received a card, he notes that he did, and reveals the Sun card of the Deck of Many Things. He says she told him there was a cave about ten miles to the southwest, and when he went there, he found a strange machine. This large machine forms a horseshoe shape and is covered in buttons, dials, levers, and switches. On the pretense of a business trip, he took a week or two to start messing with the device, but found on his return that it only produced the random effects noted by those on the farm. Unable to make sense of it or produce predictable effects, he stopped tinkering with it.

Given the circumstances, Syn and Desire express an interest in seeing this machine; as evening approaches, they agree to take Lorelinda’s earlier hospitality and stay the night so that they can investigate it first thing in the morning.

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Session 2

Tefnutsday, Triember 13, 358 EK

After resting, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, the Duchess, Godfrey, and Zealot all decide the best course of action is likely to torch the place. Dareisyn asks if Zealot can get their captive back home, and he says that he can. They exit the factory and set about setting it ablaze. Once it catches, they retreat to the edge of the forest to camp for the night. Zealot notes that the other factory he encountered in Toril was built around his friend’s hut — which also contains an active gate to Sigil. He suspects that is not coincidental. Dareisyn, meanwhile, asks the Duchess more about her husband’s card from the Deck of Many Things.

The trek back to the Emperor’s Gate Inn is relatively uneventful. Weather is fair, and the only notable event is that Desire’lya catches a wild chicken and prepares a sumptuous feast from it.

Returning to the inn on Rasday, Triember 16, the party finds it largely abandoned, as most of the visitors from the previous week have left. The group chats in the common room for a while before the light starts dying — taking the opportunity to get a hand-drawn map from Vicben, as well as a warning about the necromancer in the City of the Dead on the Emperor’s Road — and then they start retiring to bed, as they each have various things to do in the morning. Zealot and his associate need to return to Sigil — although Zealot and the group agree to reestablish contact in one month, three months at the most, to see what they have learned in the interim — while Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey need to return the Duchess to Duchy Bassano. Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya return to their shared room to discuss the events of the past few days, chatting about the significance of the deep chaos cult and the Fool card. They wonder how these things might connect, and whether they will meet similar cultists on their quest. They also wonder, knowing that Duke Bassanelli holds another card, if the Duke will be a member of some such cult or otherwise be networked with the cultists at the factory. They continue discussions late into the night before retiring.

Zealot and his new companion are already gone when they disembark in the morning. The others arrange themselves and prepare for their week-long journey south. The calm weather does not hold out for their journey, as it starts raining off and on throughout the journey. About three days into the journey, they come across a merchant caravan, also heading south. Traveling with the merchant caravan is Drishti Naiat, the Vistani girl Bosabrieln met on his first night at the Emperor’s Gate Inn. Dareisyn talks a little business with the head caravan merchant while Bosabrieln catches up with Drishti, learning that she is traveling in the first place because her family was wiped out by unknown beasts in the night. She hopes to find a new Vistani caravan to join. While they wait, Drishti agrees to tell Bosabrieln’s fortune. With her tarokka deck, she chooses The Hero for Bosabrieln, and then draws the nine of glyphs, the three of stars, The Horseman, and The Raven. Her analysis is that some traitor has influenced Bosabrieln’s past, but whatever the influence of this traitor, his determination and will has overcome the trail. The future suggests calamity, but The Raven suggests that it will end will with the aid of allies and benevolent forces.

Intrigued, Dareisyn also accepts a reading. Drishti chooses the ten of swords for him, and then draws the six of swords, the five of swords, the eight of glyphs, and the eight of swords. She interprets this reading as a past shaped by brutality and war with his present situation being the product of happenstance — perhaps the spirits? The future suggests an encounter with a possible controlling influence — possibly as friend or foe — and the outcome seems to suggest domination or terror. Perhaps this controlling figure turns into a tyrant?

Godfrey deigns not to engage in a reading, while Desire’lya actively avoids the prospect.

For mutual support, the group decides to join with the caravan; the head merchant agrees to pay them for guard duty. It takes an additional eight days to reach Duchy Bassano, although with the additional pay, the group hardly minds.

The group and merchant caravan arrive at the Duchy Bassano gates on Tefnutsday, Triember 27. Before parting company, Bosabrieln is certain to purchase a copy of the Sending ritual along with 50 gold pieces worth of alchemical reagents so that Drishti can reach him if she needs anything. The travelers decide to take care of their business immediately, and so head towards the palace. The guards immediately recognize the Duchess and take her aside to make certain all is well. Hailing the travelers as her rescuers, the guards indicate the Duke will wish speak with them.

Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey follow the guards into the palace. The guards lead them to a sitting room for some refreshment while the Duke prepares himself to receive them, and then they are lead to a central receiving chamber. Duke Calogero Bassanelli sits in a chair on the far side of the room.

The Duke welcomes his visitors and thanks them for their assistance in returning his wife. He then asks where they found her, and Bosabrieln and Dareisyn begin to explain that she encountered some trouble on the road while traveling to receive some manner of fertility treatments. However, the Duke is bewildered by this news, muttering something about her being kidnapped. He then takes his leave to sort out these matters, and has guards escort the travelers to their guest rooms on the palace grounds. They are to return for dinner that evening.

Once they are settled — and have all noted that something is amiss regarding the information they were given and have now repeated to the Duke — they decide to travel around the town to see the sights. While they spend their time in public squares and shops, Desire takes the opportunity to visit some of the gardens — and to send her hawk to watch the town. She also attempts to garner information from a local cat she encounters, but with limited communication, she is not able to glean very much from the feline.

The party returns as evening approaches, and the guards lead them to the Duke’s receiving chamber. Several guards mill about, and as the party approaches, the Duke explains that the travelers’ story and his wife’s story do not agree. As such, he orders the travelers arrested. Dareisyn asks him to reconsider, but as he draws his sword and the guards brandish their polearms, battle is joined. A strange, shimmering, green, ghostly figure of a medusa appears around the Duke. However, before anyone can move too freely, the travelers manage to knock the Duke unconscious. Godfrey then holds him with a sword at his throat, and Desire orders her wolf to hold him in its jaws. Using this as leverage, Dareisyn demands that they be unmolested. He asks for the ranking guard in the room, and when he reveals himself, Syn indicates that he wishes for no additional guards to enter the room. He requests that the Duchess be brought to the room. The guard agrees to these terms and leaves.

A tense wait follows, giving Desire an opportunity to rifle through the Duke’s pockets and procure a second card from the Deck of Many Things. She slips it in a pouch before fully examining it, hoping to get an opportunity to do so later. After several long moments of waiting, there is a knock at the door. One of the guards opens it to reveal the guard who left with a second guard and the Duchess in prisoner’s robes. The guard leads her inside the room and the doors are closed as he enters. Syn asks if she is all right, and as they begin negotiating for release, the doors burst open and a woman bearing a holy symbol and clad in vestments enters, demanding to know what is happening. As she begins decrying the demihuman scum in the room, they recognize her symbols as a devotee of Zarus, the deity of humanity and human supremacy. She orders the guards to seize the demihumans, prompting the travelers to prepare for battle. Although the guards are well-trained and outnumber them at least two-to-one, the travelers are better skilled. The cleric of Zarus is significantly tougher than the guards, but still falls before the combined might of the party. Weaponless, the Duchess even joins the fray, rendering aid wherever she can. When the dust settles, the room is littered with twelve unconscious guards, an unconscious cleric, and the unconscious Duke. Discussing matters quickly, Dareisyn cuts his hand and makes an improvised magic circle in the corner while Bosabrieln conjures and illusion that makes the party appear as guardsmen. When they are ready, they burst open the doors, making a grand show of brandishing Desire’s animals — with both hawk and wolf playing dead — and carrying the body of an injured comrade — the unconscious Duke in disguise. Moving quickly, they leave the palace and slip into the municipal sewers, apparently part of an archaic aqueduct system still used in town. They navigate the ancient corridors until they find an exit — a drainage pipe leading outside of town. From there, they duck into the woods and put some distance between themselves and Duchy Bassano.

When they are in a good resting spot, they rest briefly before awakening the Duke. Upon questioning him, they learn that he has no awareness of the chaos cultists or the factory — instead, he received his card from a wandering soothsayer. He indicates that nothing has gone right for him since receiving the card, as illness and the lack of an heir have plagued his efforts since then. However, it does allow him the strange ability to sometimes turn his foes to stone. He is also pressed to reveal details about the Zarus faith in town — it is a secret society, unknown to most of the townsfolk, and passed down to him by his parents. Several of the important people in town are part of the cult to Zarus, and they are dedicated to ridding the town of demihuman filth, which neatly explains why the travelers saw only humans in town and received so many strange and probing questions — demihumans are apparently subtly unwelcomed, and the townsfolk are not exposed to many outsiders of other races. The cult’s auguries have seen that the traveling demihumans did something strange to his wife, and so they should be eradicated for their eldritch crimes.

Satisfied, they knock him back out and begin contemplating their next move. The Duchess is distraught as they discuss plans, and finally Syn hits upon something he thinks might work. As the Duke is obsessed with his legacy, and fearful of demihumans, they must convince him to fear their influence. As such, he decides the best course of action is to harvest one of the Duke’s testicles, make it clear to him that they can take the other, and return him to the Duchy. For extra flair, they will return the amputated member in three days’ time, to indicate that they always have access to him.

No one is particularly happy with this plan, but all agree that it sounds effective. Bosabrieln stays with the Duchess to keep her out of sight while Desire and Godfrey hold the Duke still. Syn will speak the speech and do the deed. While preparing, Desire goes off to gather hallucinogenic mushrooms for effect.

Once all preparations are set, Desire feeds him some mushrooms and induces swallowing. Then, Syn awakens him with a knife by removing one of his testes. He explains that they now hold power over him, and if he attempts to interfere with them in any way, they will come for the other one. They will deliver his missing testicle in three days’ time, as proof that they can make good on their claims. Desire heals the Duke, and they stand him up and send him on his way.

The group decides to camp out in the forest for the next three days so that they can disguise themselves, go to the road, and get news of events in Bassano. That night, the group talks around camp, as Bosabrieln is distraught at the mess he has made of things. He seems to worry that he has become his own philandering father, back in his home realm, who sired him and then left, abandoning his own childer to fate.

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Session 1

Nutsday, Triember 10, 358 EK

Following portents, Dareisyn and Desire’lya are walking southeast along a paved road. As it begins to get dark, the light drizzle turns into a late season snowstorm. Just as they are prepared to make camp for the night and sleep amidst the slushy, icy mess, they see the lights of a habitation in the distance.

As they approach the steading, a swinging sign out front reads, “The Emperor’s Gate Inn.” As the pair — along with Desire’s wolf and hawk — passes through the gate, they note a stable is attached to the property, containing a couple of horses. An overhang shields a medium-sized wagon, possibly a merchant’s wagon. Music emanates from the inn proper, and they make their way inside.

A burly, bearded man sits by the entrance; across from him is a young woman, both of whom are wearing aprons and appear to be managing the place. In the middle of the room, a young minstrel plays a raucous tune on the lute as a young red-haired woman in colorful skirts dances. Across from them is a man with the accoutrements of an adventurer. In one corner of the room is a rough-and-tumble sort clad in traveling clothes. A young lady clad in a cloak sits at a nearby table. Near her is a middle aged couple dressed in fine clothing. In the far corner of the room is a man in dark, severe clothing, with a greatsword next to him.

The burly, bearded man welcomes them and bids them to sit. He asks if he can get them anything; they reply that they have no money but merely wish to get out of the weather. He tells them to take a seat anywhere they’d like.

They listen to the young minstrel play a song before the pair decides to sidle up to him. Introductions are made, and they learn that he is a bard named Bosabrieln Zivkovic, a self-described man of great purpose. Pleasantries are exchanged, and the assembled gathering finds that they have a mutual love of the many pleasures the world has to offer. They explain that they are travelers, drawn to this region by Desire’lya’s visions of some grand catastrophe to come — fire, corruption, and change visit the forests and the cities of men, spurred by some horrific Tarot reading. Bosabrieln, meanwhile, indicates that he is a planar traveler, unaware of the present date or even his current location, as he is originally from the distant world of Khaldun. He is an incarnated deity, sent here by himself to evangelize and hopefully gain a foothold in this world.

The nearby man wearing the garb of a traveler — a grim-faced man with shoulder-length black hair — interjects, informing Bosabrieln that it the current year is 358 EK. Dareisyn asks him about his business, as the three earlier noticed that the traveler does not appear to recognize the same songs the other bar patrons do, and he explains that he is also a planar traveler. He is a planewalker by the name of Zealot Shadowhate, originally from the world of Rockulon Prime. Introductions are exchanged, and as they explain their business, he explains his own — he is looking for a friend. A friend of his, a fellow planewalker hailing from Toril, the so-called Forgotten Realms, went missing a few months ago. Although they had not spoken in some time, they stay in fairly regular contact and so his absence was eventually noted. He lived in the Hordelands — steppe, grassland, full of nomadic peoples — in a small shack with a portal to Sigil. When Zealot returned to his friend’s shack to find him, there was a large factory, still under construction. With no further leads and not enough manpower to investigate the facility, he left that place, searching for information elsewhere.

Much to his surprise, he learned that there is a similar factory in this region, and he hoped to gather some adventurers to investigate. He cannot pay, but as he only wants the information, adventurers can keep whatever they find in the factory.

Dareisyn and Desire’lya agree that this sounds like something that may potentially concern them, and may even relate to the grim visions Desire has been having. Bosabrieln agrees to come along. Dareisyn says he will help out, and stands upon a table, calling the tavern to attention. He explains the situation to the patrons, and asks if any wish to accompany them on the morrow. He singles out a man at a nearby table, as he has been eyeing Desire’lya for much of the evening, and asks if he will accompany. He agrees, introducing himself as Frudak Chandler, but seems as if something is making him hesitate. The man in the far corner — grim, scruffy, road-worn, clad from head to toe in black with cloak, falling band, and capotain hat — stands and says this sounds like something that interests him, and he will accompany. He introduces himself as Godfrey Aelfwig.

Zealot and the assembled party — Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, Frudak, and Godfrey — discuss events and decide to disembark the next day. As they are talking, the front door swings open, and a group of men enter. The leader appears to be a human in black leather armor wielding a battle axe; his followers are all wearing traveling garb, wielding clubs. Dareisyn looks at Frudak, given that he is dressed similarly, asking if they are friends of his. He shrugs noncommitally.

The man indicates that he is the Black Scourge of the Gate, and as he scans the crowd, he says he is looking for the “Duchess.” Dareisyn quickly scans the crowd, and notes that the young lady in the cloak is scanning for the exits while everyone else is looking around, trying to determine the identity of the Duchess. The Black Scourge of the Gate further indicates that all those present can begin emptying their pouches and coin purses as well. Dareisyn reacts, blocking the invaders’ path and indicating that he will give of his money so long as the invaders leave. Zealot and Bosabrieln immediately, and loudly, object before Dareisyn and Desire’lya note that it is a ploy, and draw weapons. Dareisyn and Desire’lya attack with blade, staff, and magic as Bosabrieln launches into a battle song and begins slinging spells of his own. A couple of thugs drop quickly, and the Black Scourge of the Gate is wounded in the frenzy. Godfrey joins the fray long enough to address the Black Scourge of the Gate, saying, “You’re not the Black Scourge of the Gate; I killed him,” before striking a mortal blow to the man. One of the thugs flees, and Frudak slips out a back door. As the situation calms, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey check on the Duchess to make certain she is well. Dareisyn and Godfrey then begin dragging the bodies outside to bury them. Godfrey is surprised to learn that Dareisyn and Desire’lya just met Bosabrieln, as he feels they seemed to fight as a unit. While Godfrey and Syn speak briefly, Bosabrieln and Desire continue to speak in the inn, as she produces fudge from her pack and shares. She also talks a little of her and Syn’s history, revealing that she is a vampire.

When Godfrey and Syn return, they join the conversation and Syn reveals that he is a devil bound to mortal form. Finally, attention turns to the Duchess, who introduces herself as Duchess Juvela Bassanelli; Dareisyn asks what those men wanted, and she explains that they were acting as her escorts when negotiations went poorly. She is from a town to the south called Duchy Bassano, and her husband the Duke wishes for an heir. His last two wives have been unable to produce and heir, and were executed for it. She has had no particular luck, either, and upon consulting with a midwife learned that the fault likely (and unsurprisingly) lies with the aged Duke himself. Fearing for her life, the Duchess left to seek what she euphemistically calls “fertility treatments,” although these “treatments” are heavily implied to be a fertile, healthy man. The group agrees to help, with Bosabrieln agreeing to take over her “treatments,” and she says she knows her way around a shortbow, so she is willing to accompany them to the factory and aid however she can. Everyone retires to bed, although Syn and Desire retire to Bosabrieln’s room for a while before Bosabrieln slips away to join the Duchess for a time.

Late the next morning, the snow has melted enough to allow travel to resume normally. The assembled party — Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, the Duchess, Godfrey, and Zealot — breakfast and disembark for the strange factory. The journey takes roughly three days as the group treks through dense forests, and is uneventful.

The group emerges from forests into miles of stumps and felled trees before coming to the factory proper. They approach, knock, and attempt to gain entry, but the man who answers the door does not allow them access. They decide to retreat to the forested region, wait until nightfall, and try again. Zealot requests that they keep whomever appears to be in charge alive, as well as one or two of the underlings.

Determining that the factory workers are unlikely to allow them entry, they force their way through the front doors. The factory floor is a nonsensical tangle of conveyor belts, with various workers attending the apparatus. An ogre with a whip stands near the front, overseeing operations — strangely, a secondary draconic head appears to have been grafted onto its shoulder. Towards the rear of the factory, a savage troll appears to have been implanted with various metallic implements. As the group enters the factory, battle is joined as the forces turn to engage them.

Several workers rush as the adventurers as they enter, and are swiftly felled. Bosabrieln, the Duchess, and Zealot stay near the entrance to provide support as Desire, Godfrey, and Syn wade into melee. As the ogre rushes to meet the challengers in melee, he is quickly overcome. Syn summons four shadows to harry the workers before rushing to meet the rampaging troll in combat — despite the thing’s fearsome combat prowess and regenerative capabilities, it is quickly slain. The remaining workers are also defeated by the adventurers, giving them a moment to recover before investigating the lower levels. A cursory search of the upper levels reveals several hundred gold pieces and a sapphire.

Heading down below reveals a similarly haphazard tangle of conveyor belts. A spiral of them at the far end of the room leads to an old cistern, apparently being a structure around which the factory was built. Several workers attend to the structures; there is also a bald, robed human wielding a staff and bearing a strange harness with several metallic eyestalks arranged around him. As the group approaches, he releases a metallic sphere that bristles with blades. Additionally, there is a small, dark humanoid with wild, white hair who carries a whip and an orb. As he approaches, a green ghostly image of a capering man wearing the skull of a donkey appears near him. Again, battle is swift and fierce — quickly, the sphere is destroyed and many of the workers fall in combat. The small, dark humanoid manages to activate some manner of psychic scourging while inside the green ghostly image, but is knocked unconscious soon thereafter. Despite the robed figure’s prowess as a magic-user, he, too, is quickly knocked unconscious, as are three of the workers.

Taking a moment to rest, the group binds the five unconscious captives. Zealot explains that some of the equipment in the factory appear to be forms of chaositech — arcane devices used by those who serve “deep chaos.” Once everyone is rested, the group decides to awaken the captives. Zealot then starts interrogating them — when two of the workers don’t know anything he kills them as an example to the rest. He then moves on to the wizard. He reveals himself as Larteh Kagh, from Oerth. He explains that he was a chaos cultist before being contacted by one of his higher-ups to man this factory and keep the derro — the small, dark humanoid — under control. His orders are simply to watch over the site and manufacture what limited chaositech can be manufactured. He explains that the gate connects to Sigil. However, he has largely been kept in the dark — he is unaware of how to open the gate, and his contact has not revealed his true identity.

Despite the limited information, Zealot seems satisfied. Syn takes the opportunity to kill the wizard, which annoys Desire as she hoped to interrogate him more about her visions. Given that the derro seems unlikely to talk, Syn kills him; the last worker, a man named Graven Milner who knows nothing of note but still attempts to tell the party all he knows, is left alive.

A cursory search of the surrounding environs yields a hefty cache of gold along with a bastard sword bearing jagged teeth which rotate about the blade; the wizard’s staff, topped with an adamantine claw; and a card carried by the derro. The card depicts a young man wearing the skull of an ass, and is labeled “Fool.” Syn and Zealot instantly recognize one of the cards of the Deck of Many Things. The Duchess notes that she has seen her husband with a similar card in his possession.

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