Upstarts in Felac'Delb

Session 11
Choosing Carefully

Rough Draft:

Alphonse:
-on desk, invitation to barthanas’ feast and to viserigon’s feast, alphonse says “heh”
-goes to dinner with mentor, they talk about the runes, alphonse hears who may need them, mentor disapproves of alphonse’s self-serving behavior. goes on a rant about how “back in his day” kalashek were great because they saw the big picture and always worked for the nation. knowledge drop about archon yukanis. mentor says that he unofficially supports barthanas because he wants to go back to the old ways
-alphonse mulls everything over and decides to hit up his old friend bartholomew anderstein and conjures up a plan to get him and the diviners in his pocket so he can has mega-theiving and be at the head of an awesome network.
-goes to anderstein’s, which is hidden in the back of a fish guttery, runs into diana, who he gives the cold shoulder to. anderstein shows some of his illusion powers, which alphonse tops by orders of magnitude. alphonse makes the pitch to him, and he dances around to see what alphonse’s angles are, trust in alph and the potential of the deal makes him jump on it. he agrees to put some of his men on screwing viserigon’s operations (mutual enemy, since he’s equally tricksy). handshake between master&apprentice

AOI:
-looking for soverign’s palace, ironbeard asks a few people, finds a dwarven guardsman (dimitri stonelaw), and he gives him the location, but says its gonna be a hell of a wait. ironbeard puts on the charm and gets stonelaw to give him priority in exchange for a drink and for some reminiscing at the silver hearth
-they go to the silver hearth later that night, ollin talks politics with letheirax, and ironbeard talks to stonelaw about much the same. they come away with general outlines of barthanas and viserigon’s plans
*barthanas wants to restore glory to the kalashek by waging war against the combine and taking lands from them
*viserigon wants to keep the combine at bay with a spy war, while strengthening the economy of the kalashek
letheirax gives ollin a priority meeting with viserigon for the next day (after the one with barthanas)
-they has accomodations, then next morning, they find Stonelaw, who uses his authority to bring them into the palace, then to barthanas’ office
-inside he has r&t, his wife, and some other dude, tail end of some explanation as they walk in. introductions via stonelaw, ironbeard says they’re from the ER, and that they’ll willing to trade good quality iron for recognition. barthanas tentatively bites, and pitches them his plan, including the role of the Unholy Fvavalk Kingdom. arcturus perks up. barthanas’ wife drops the adultery bomb on viserigon
-AOI thank him and leave, arcturus goes to send a message to the salchorix in Bastion telling them about barthanas’ plans for the orcs. ollin saw that t was following him, so he tails her. ironbeard heads to a common area, where he sees r snacking on some caramel candy.
-after A writes his letter, t speaks up and starts pestering him about what the letter was for, tries to get him to enter the warrior’s tournament as an archer for barth. ollin watches their argument, they both decide that its going nowhere so they mutually back off. as t is leaving, O says that he might be willing to fight for barthanas, but they need to talk it over at the silver hearth. she accepts.

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Session 10
A Whole Different Game

Arcturus, Ollin, and Ironbeard:
-With their mission from Archon Yukanis and with Alphonse and Termina Vzorcaya having left for the Kalashek lands, they plan their route to Eklesa from Bastion. They plan to go over land through The Combine, The Pimen, and then up the Blas river to Eklesa.
-Acrturus puts them on hilltop for safer traveling (good view and a nice path), they see a combine patrol, who also sees them, they ride over. Ironbeard tries to tell them that they’re just traders coming from The Free Cities of Jara. The patrol leader doesn’t buy the story, and goes to look through the wagon. Ollin was inside, but he gets out of sight quickly. They’re satisfied by the wagon’s contents, and head off. Not knowing that there’s any elves around, they speak in elven and spill the beans about going to the jeran/combine border.
-Ollin pops out and tries to buy off three of the guys (having concluded that this is no ordinary patrol and that everyone but the leader is a mercenary), saying that they need protection, lead guy shoots it down, but says that they can meet up with another patrol on their present course. They stop going on their present course, to avoid said patrol.
-They cross through the Combine lands and the Pimen lands and part of the riverlands in the Kalashek, going slowly through swamp.
-Some dudes on horseback ride toward them on the path through the swamp, Arcturus sees an orc and fires an arrow, which hits. they’re pretty chill about it, but it turns out there’s others with him (two humans). Ironbeard smoothes things over with an introduction, they all look at each other weirdly when they hear Arcturus’ name. They introduce themselves, orc is Lagto Gjinchar Takosh (Arcturus knows that Lagto is an old orc title, not used anymore), the other two are Archenar Hayvon and Galvan Sirrusa.
-They share the road, but the second night Archenar asks Arcturus about his mother. Arcturus is very taken aback. Arcturus deflects question kindly, and Archenar says that if he doesn’t want to talk about it now, there’ll be plenty of time on the road.

Alphonse and Pjotlmann:
-Heinrich Pjotlmann stages an awesome landing in Eltonshold in his Pjotlkraft. He disembarks and goes through a crowd of fans, two sages are at the end, and they try to courteously state their awe, but Pjotlmann lashes out at them. They don’t let him mouth off to them in front of their people, and call him out on abandoning his wife. Pjotlmann storms off.
-Pjotlmann attends conferences by the local craftsmen and promotes barthanas love
-As Alphonse, Termina, and the Kalashek ambassador from Bastion sees the pjotlkraft land from afar. Alphonse has a solid friend in Pjotlmann and recognizes his kraft, so he stops in the city to find Pjotlmann. Alphonse finds him in a conference, but doesn’t care about the crafts show, so interrupts and patronizes the craftsmen and talks old friend with Pjotl. The host awkwardly calls the conference for the day, and Alphonse and Pjotlmann go to a bar to hang out. Alphonse tells Pjotlmann about the runes and how he wants to make them “actionable items”. They leave the next day for Eklesa in the Pjotlkraft.
-Upon their arrival, they go their separate ways. Pjotlmann goes home to see wife, they trade insults. There’s a note on his desk from William Barthanas, telling him to see him when he arrives.
-Pjotlmann goes to Barthanas’ apartment in the soverign’s palace, reports on the Pjotlkraft tour. Barthanas responds curtly, then barthanas says that now they’re officially in the “do things in my name” phase of the election, so Pjotlmann needs to get cracking and look for problem solvers for the Barthanas camp. Pjotlmann mentions Alphonse, and Barthanas says that he’s already working to develop him as an asset…
-Alphonse goes back to his college to see if he can get a feel for how he might best use his runes (for bargaining). One of the first people he sees is Herald Grayson, his mentor and friend. They have some small talk, and make dinner plans. Grayson says that he’d like to keep chatting, but someone is waiting to see Alphonse in his room/office.
-Inside, a big man sits in his chair and says that he’s here on behalf of the Kalashek people to debrief Alphonse on “The Upstarts Situation” (full details on Yukanis, his allies and such). Alphonse tries to negotiate, but the big man pulls out a dagger. From behind the door a woman appears and tells the big man to put his stupid dagger away. They begin negotiating. The final agreement is that in exchange for Alphonse’s information, they promise to make his brother’s time representing the riverlands easier by giving him better access to stuff to combat flooding.

Arcturus, Ollin, and Ironbeard:
-Arcturus can’t take the mystery anymore, so he asks Archenar what the story with his mother is. The hightlights:
*Arcturus’ mother was the sister of the man who was clan chief to the Aurorans, she was captured when she was pregnant, hence Arcturus being born into slavery
*The reason that Archenar and some other Aurorans are with Orcs is because they have been religiously united by a man named Osnithett, and plan to reform Orc society via war
*They too are going to Eklesa to meet with William Barthanas, who plans to support them in their effort.
*He tells Arcturus that since he is of clan Aurora, he too is called to glory, but Arcturus refuses.
-They get to the city, Orc dude goes to the wall and has hostile greeting, explains he’s on business to see Barthanas, but no has believes him. Ironbeard steps up and convinces the guard to let them in, under the guise of traders (which is not totally false).
-Just inside the city, they see a crowd gathering around two men with swords drawn. The two trade a few insults, then get to fighting. The bigger guy is beaten, and then a woman comes up behind the winner with a crossbow at his head. They all break off. An elf (with glowing white eyes) goes up to the former winner and reassures him that Barthanas’ dogs bark worse than they bite. He snaps his head to Ironbeard’s wagon and introduces himself to them. He is Letheirax. He then asks them why they are in Eklesa, ollin deflects the question after pushing, and Letheirax politely invites Ollin to meet him at the silver hearth to talk philosophy and politics.

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Session 9
The Showdown

-Alphonse tells Termina that they have to go to the palace because something is wrong, he’s a little freaked.
-Back at the palace, The Director shows up sword drawn and asks what the hell happened. Ollin, Arcturus, and Ironbeard explain the attack by the Combine infiltrators, and she gets pissed and says extreme measures need to be taken to get shit straight.
-Alphonse and Termina show up, and Alphonse says that they need to meet as a group because Archon Yukanis just contacted him (mentally). They go to Ethricil’s room, and Alphonse pulls out a white orb from one of Ethricil’s bags, and they gather around it. It glows purple and appears to crack open, and then they all get contacted by the Archon. He can tell that there’s a fifth person there, and he asks who it is, Alphonse explains and vouches for her. Termina says “nations are born in chaos”, and he digs it so he carries on. He explains that he’s been “looking in” on Ethricil every once in a while, and that he made Ethricil surrender to the Combine infiltrators so that the five of them can use him as a spying tool and stop the infiltrators.
-The Archon hacks Ethricil’s mind again, and they all see through his eyes. He’s in a house, and he can hear the Combine infiltrators talking about leaving through the docks. With their answer, they leave.
-The director intercepts them outside, and says that she needs them to follow her. She walks them down some hallways, and starts explaining that Bastion is named such, because when the Orcs ruled the world, it was the center of the slave trade. It was also the center of the world, and wanting to hold the center, they gathered a hundred wizards, who focused vast quantities of magical energy beneath the keep that could be called upon to create a barrier that would prevent anything from entering or leaving the city. It was never used however, since the city fell from betrayal, and not an all-out assault. She opened a secret passage and led them down, and they entered a stone chamber that had a strange ambient hum.
-She doesn’t know how to activate it though, so Alphonse and Ironbeard figure it out and activate it. Alphonse says that he’s gonna stay there because it needs someone to maintain it while it’s “running”. They all say cool and head out for the docks.
-Termina goes to take a shortcut to the docks, but on her way down, encounters the Kalashek ambassador, her guard, and an inconspicuous human man. The guard is startled and draws his sword, Termina says something to piss him off, then he slips about having a mage with them who would tear her apart. The third human, having had his cover blown, drops the illusion, and shows that he’s Alphonse. He explains that he saw the runes that the Archon promised him while they were in Ethricil’s room, so he grabbed them and is now taking his leave. He tells Termina that she should come with, and after some thinking, she agrees.
-The other three have left the palace and now face the switchback down to the docks. They look over the edge, and spot who they suspect to be the infiltrators. Ollin steps back a few paces, then makes a running leap off the cliff (about 200 feet down to the docks). HIs rune allows him to fall slower than freefalling, so he sticks the landing without issue. Arcturus pulls out a rope, and starts climbing down the cliff. Ironbeard turns the soles of his shoes into metal and makes strips of the rock face metal as well, and uses his magnetism magic to walk down.
-The group of infiltrators is boarding a small ship, and Ollin decides to stall them while the others arrive. He sneaks up and, in the weirdest voice possible, warns the infiltrators that if they leave the harbor, they will be plagued by zombie-ghosts for forever. All of them give him a wtf look for a few seconds, then they recognize him and draw weapons.
-By now the other two are within striking distance, so they join in. Ollin goes straight for Ethricil, who’s been tied up, and cuts his bonds and pushes him into the water. The dragon that got smuggled in flies down and attacks Ethricil, nearly killing him. Ironbeard tries to buy the wizard off mid-fight, but she dicks around and keeps him talking while the others fight. Termina sees the whole thing going down, and was compelled by her drunken vigilante alter-ego to join the fight. She sprints over, and does her thing.
-Ironbeard breaks their will to fight when he uses magnetism to catapult the wizard into the water, and she asks if his offer to join them is still good. Cosuv grabs the dagger out of one of the elves’ hands and says “this isn’t over”, then cuts his throat. Everyone is shocked for the moment, then a gray spirit-looking thing rises from his body and flies away toward Lorath. The two elves surrender, and the wizard calls off the dragon.
-Termina books it back to Alphonse, who has a ship ready, and they leave for the Kalashek capital, Iklesa.
-Ethricil recovers for a day, but the negotiations are resolved. The Pimen, Jaran, and Orc ambassadors agreed to some amount of trade with the Ekwan Republic.
-Everyone is confused as to why Termina and Alphonse left, but they assume they went to the Kalashek lands. Archon Yukanis contacts the three of them once the negotiations are over, and informs them that they’ll get to see Termina and Alphonse again, since there’s a rather large problem in the Kalashek lands that needs resolving, and if representatives of the Ekwan republic were there to facilitate it, the Kalashek would be in their debt…

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Session 8
Traitors Everywhere

Termina’s Shindig:
-While guarding the wall, she receives a note from theGreenfeet Clan’s leader, Yaga-Shura. He asks her to come to their barracks, and she suspects a trap, but goes anyways.
-She is let in by human GFC dude, who she tries to talk to, but he ignores her and walks her to Yaga-Shura. The orc tries to outline a detail without revealing too much details (because he’s in front of many of his men), but gets frustrated and tells everyone to leave.
-He says that Termina is growing too powerful for the city of Bastion (he makes a comparison of her growing from the young jaguar into the great jaguar, which is said to terrorize the Yara-Mal Mountains), and that she must leave. Yaga-Shura can help her do this, by offering her a way out and a substantial “gift” for her service to the city. The way out is that they have captured someone who was involved in the attack, namely her personal enemy, Nyktu (a goblin who scapegoated her and caused her to leave the GFC). For a while, the GFC was following a trail of crumbs that lead to some people who smuggled a dragon into Bastion, and now to Nyktu. If Termina deals with the smugglers, she can have Nyktu and interrogate him herself, but must make a public example of him, and she will get a reward. Termina accepts.
-Yaga-Shura calls back in the dudes, and calls to Grobak, who tosses her a suit of leather armor studded with sharp bone fragments. Grobak says he’s going with her to deal with the smugglers, and Termina annoys him a little more.
-They get to the cliffs and start climbing down. They find their target location (a cave in the side of the cliffs), and they enter. There’s nobody home, but there’s a passage further into the cliffside, so they walk through. Eventually they see torchlight and hear voices, so Termina tells Grobak to lie in waiting while she goes to deal with the people. They turn out to be two elves, who claim to know nothing, but Termina bullies them and they lead her out of the passage.
-Before they’re out, they run into an elf woman in wizard robes, who tries to talk Termina into walking away. It goes badly, and she starts flinging fire around. Termina tackles her and she gives up (because they would both be on fire). Termina tries to get her to tell her why she has a dragon, but she says it’s the director’s birthday and confuses Termina. They climb up a ladder and go up through the basement of a store into the streets (leaving Grobak in the cave). While they’re walking, the elf teleports around and escapes.
-Having disrupted the smugglers, Termina goes back to the GFC barracks and reports to Yaga-Shura. He is pleased, and they bring in Nyktu. Yaga-Shura asks her to make sure to leave a blood stain on the floor, because it gives the meeting room character. She accepts, and cuts of Nyktu’s ear and stakes it to Yaga-Shura’s table. He breaks easily, and tells her he did it for the money, and that he told the Combine agents (there are five: one dwarf and four elves) everything he knew about the city’s secret passages, and helped them place the gas bomb inside. That’s all Termina needed to know, so she drags Nyktu outside, through the markets, and out to the cliffs, where she throws his body into the sea. A dragon swoops down and takes a bite out of it.
-She goes back to Yaga-Shura, who is pleased, and gives her the rest of the award, and tells her to (essentially) have a good life. Termina remembers Ollin’s offer to travel with them, and she heads off to find them.

A Trail of Breadcrumbs:
-The quartet head off to the headquarters of The Shield Bearers to follow up on the information that Alphonse got from Mirus. The headquarters was busy, but the group got a meeting with The Shield Bearer’s commander, Polvor Ironblood.
-Arcturus accused him outright of having an impostor in his ranks, which he didn’t like. Ironbeard name-dropped himself again, and built up a rapport with Ironblood, then asked him if they could try something that would root help to root out any fakers. He accepted.
-Ironblood assembled his men, and addressed them on the attack on their city. The quartet set about watching everyone in the room to see who was most uncomfortable. After some searching, they found one of the dwarves was trying to keep an eye on all of them at the same time, so they figured that that’s their man. Alphonse walked up to him, and distracted him by asking him if they had met before. He was super confused, but eventually said that Alphonse seemed familiar, and they went outside.
-The other three started to follow, and the dwarf drew some kind of knuckle dusters and whacked Alphonse in the back of the head and made a run for it. He was damn fast, and had an alarmingly un-dwarven aptitude for acrobatics. Ollin could keep pace with him, and recognized the weapons that he was using as the signature of a group called the Obisidian Hearts, the dwarven-only counterpart to the people that had recruited Ollin into The Combine. After more chasing, he finally escaped, but not before Ironbeard managed to alter a jar of sand into a perfect portrait of their dwarf’s face.
-They went back to the Shield Bearers, and informed the commander of the traitor. He was ashamed for his group, but took the sand drawing for reproduction on wanted posters. The quartet left for the Director’s Palace.

Home Base:
-Termina had gone to see her superiors, and they reacted in an appropriate manner, resulting in her leaving The Sisters. She met up with the quartet, and asked to hang around with them some more, and told them that she had to leave the city rather soon.
-The five of them went to the palace (Termina had been disguised with Alphonse’s glamour magic), and they filled in the director on the extent of the Combine’s involvement in the attack. She was disturbed and frustrated with the fact that nearly all of her guard groups had failed her in some way. No more mistakes would be tolerated, so the director and the quintet worked on a place to continue the meeting that would be more secure. They came up with taking a ship into the sea and holding the meeting there. They were dismissed.
-Outside, Ethricil was waiting for them. He explained that the situation had developed in the palace, and that though they tried to keep knowledge of the Combine’s involvement in the attack to a minimum, the others had heard enough to be scared into thinking that continuing these trade talks would result in further Combine retaliation, which none of them really wanted. The Kalashek, Polaris, and Jaran representatives were going to back out.
-Ollin, Ironbeard, and Arcturus stayed in the palace that night to be Ethricil’s watchdogs. Alpohnse and Termina had gone out to a bar to forget about life. In the middle of the night, Ethricil got up, and took Ollin and Arcturus with him to go to a secret meeting with the representatives who weren’t backing out. They creeped through the hallway and got to a room with one entrance, where the other reps were waiting. He told Ollin and Arcturus to stay outside and keep watch (the other reps’ bodyguards were inside the room). After a few minutes, Ollin heard something moving around, so he went to look. He turned a corner to see five people (four elves and a dwarf, the same dwarf they had chased earlier). They stared in surprise at each other for a second before springing into action.
-The O.H. dwarf attempted a flying kick at Ollin, but he evaded it. One of the elves started using fire magic, and lit up the hallway with some summoned fire elementals. It was a slugfest, then the other bodyguards came out to join the fray. Ironbeard’s dad senses told him something was wrong, so he got up and ran to the source of the loud noise. One of the elves fell, then something alarming happened. Ethricil came out of the room and yelled for them to stop, and that he surrendered to the Combine. He walked slowly and calmly to them, and Ollin realized he’d seen this demeanor before, in someone Archon Yukanis had mind-controlled. Ethricil got to the combine agents, and they quickly grabbed him and secured him. They walked out the front door.
-While enjoying a beer, Alphonse and Termina got to talking about the Kalashek. Alphonse told her about how everyone was given their place in society, and that there was always a sense of direction and purpose in one’s life (the standard BS). Termina had told him about being kicked out of Bastion and how she was kinda adrift, so Alphonse made a joke about running off together to the Kalashek. Soon after, he felt something strike into his mind. It was so forceful, that he dropped his mug. A voice spoke into his mind: “A plan has been set in motion. Go meet with your friends, for you will be needed.” It was the voice of Archon Yukanis.

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Session 7
This City Just got a lot more Interesting

The Marketplace:
-Termina advised everyone to go back to their business, and told Ollin that killing guards, even Greenfeet, wasn’t cool, so they needed to get out of sight. She lead them to the Gray Gavel.
-While they waited, Ironbeard showed off his trade agreement with Mr. Deepsilver, which he explained had been the reason for the guards showing up and harassing him. They enjoyed some drinks and got comfortable at the bar, but in a half an hour, a silent sister came in and told Termina and the quartet to go to the director’s palace immediately.

Back at the Director’s palace:
-The Director sat in her office with Cassandra, the leader of the silent sisters when they five of them walked in. Neither of them looked particularly happy. The director called out Termina and Ollin for being involved in the death of two guards, and told them that there would be hell to pay. Ironbeard chimed in and said that the guards tried to extort him after completing a legitimate business deal, but the director was unsatisfied. Ollin apologized deeply, and the director told him that he wasn’t going to prison, but that he was under house arrest (in the palace) for the protection of his people’s diplomat. As for Termina, she said that incidents between the guards were not to be tolerated, and that if it happens one more time, there would be hell to pay. They were dismissed.
-Ethricil was outside, and he was worried, but glad that nothing really terrible happened. He told them that the other diplomats were expected to arrive tomorrow, and that Cassandra would be in charge of security in the palace for the meeting, so they would get assignments from her when the time came. He advised them to hang around the palace in the meantime so they could stay out of trouble.
-Everyone wandered around the palace, taking in the unexpected elegance of Occupation era architecture. While roaming, the director found Arcturus, and gave him a bow of hers. She wasn’t an archer, but a director happens upon all sorts of well-crafted things, which are too many to all be used. She made a comment about how Arcturus’ rugged handsomeness gave him away as the ranger type, and that a real man needed a real weapon, so yeah… The rest of the day passed without event.
-The next day before noon, the other diplomats arrived, and they were introduced to Ethricil. Soon after, Cassandra gathered up all of her guards, the quintet, and the bodyguards from the diplomats. Ollin, a few silent sisters, and all of the bodyguards were to be in the meeting room. Arcturus, [:alphonse | Alphonse]], and some silent sisters were to man the walls. Ironbeard and the rest of the silent sisters were to patrol the hallways.
-In an hour, the meeting was underway. Ollin got the privilege of hearing the statements delivered by all of the negotiators, and in the meantime he took a good look at everyone in the room looking for threats. The people looked okay, but there was a section of the roof that didn’t look quite right…
-Out on the wall, Arcturus and Alphonse were being vigilant. There was a tall mansion almost right across from Arcturus, and he noticed that the curtains in front of the large top-story window opened, and he could see a large rectangular object and a short man in the room. The man disappeared behind the object, then bolted away a few seconds later. This was suspicious, so Arcturus asked one of the guards who’s mansion it was, and she informed him it was Lady Tavion, an old woman who owned several olive orchards outside of the city.
-Back inside, Ollin tried to discreetly warn Ethricil of the oddity he noticed, but others quickly noticed it as well. They stopped and stared.
-Outside, the window of the mansion blew out, and a cannon ball came flying towards the palace. Alphonse tried to deflect it away, but was unable to alter it’s path enough to make it miss entirely. Instead…
-Inside, the side wall of the meeting room blew open, and Ollin was knocked off of his feet. A second or two later, he heard the sound of cracking wood, and then a large thud. Once the dust had cleared enough in the room, he could see a metal sphere about two feet in diameter sitting directly below the weird spot in the ceiling, which had given out from the explosion. Gas started leaking out of it. Ollin and everyone who was conscious and aware tried to pull people out. When Ollin got his first person out, the orc representative’s bodyguard stopped him from going back in, since the gas was highly toxic. They did their best to seal the door for the moment to prevent the gas from spreading. Ironbeard and some of the interior guards showed up and got up to speed. On Ironbeard’s orders, they unsealed the door, and he used weather magic to pick up the wind outside and draw the gas out through the gaping hole in the wall. The kalashek representative had managed to keep some of the others alive by using a warding amulet she had to keep the gas at bay.
-They tended to the wounded and re-secured the perimeter.

Running around:
-Outside, Arcturus looked around to see if he could get any more details on what was going on near the mansion, and Alphonse used divination magic to observe the same area. Alphonse detected a few people running and informed Arcturus, who used creature magic to call to a seagull and have it follow the people. Then they, along with three silent sisters from who were on the wall, ran down to Lady Tavion’s place to investigate.
-They found a lot of dead bodies, many killed by lacerations, and some killed by blunt force. One servant was still alive, but was in too much shock to answer questions. One of the silent sisters found Lady Tavion bleeding out, with a bruise on the side of her head. Arcturus whipped out the healing potions that the quartet had acquired from Ikta, and administered them. She opened her eyes, and answered all of their questions to the best of her ability. She heard a scream, turned to see a dwarf strike her, then heard something about the docks before passing out. Arcturus mentioned the top story and the cannon, and she said she hadn’t been in there in a long time, but that it was used for storing her art collection. They went to investigate, and found shards of wood and metal. Alphonse put the pieces together in his head and could tell that it was a makeshift single-use cannon that was a poor copy of the Kalashek design. Arcturus and Alphonse left to go check out the docks.
-When they arrived, Arcturus asked the nearest Silent Sister he saw about shady people at the docks. She responded sarcastically, and said that the real lowlifes don’t talk to guards, so he had to mingle to find what he was looking for.
-Instead, Arcturus used creatures magic again to call ship cats to him to ask them to search their ships for anyone who was trying to get out of the city. While he was waiting for them, some thugs walked by talking about this guy called Mirus, and how he was a crazy SOB. Arcturus thought this sounded like the right guy, so he zoned in his hearing and picked up on the rest of their conversation. Apparently Mirus had been involved with getting some Combine agents into The Free Cities a while back, which really got Arcturus’ attention. He filled Alphonse in, and the master illusionist did his thing.
-Alphonse bumped into the two thugs, who quickly grabbed him and asked him what the hurry was. He informed them that he needed to see his friend Mirus and that if they helped, he would pay them. He showed them a bag with a non-trivial amount of gold coins as incentive. They told him to follow. Arcturus maintained a discrete distance from them as he followed. After a few minutes of walking, they arrived at The Lush Lobster, which was a warehouse that had been converted into a bar. An obnoxiously loud man was at the bar proper with a whore on one arm and a bottle in the other, talking to some fellow scumbags. The thugs passed Alphonse off to Mirus.
-Conjuring up a supremely ridiculous bag of treasure, Alphonse set out to bribe Mirus to tell him who he had done the brawl job for. Mirus tried to make Alphonse sweat, but the mage had none of it. He made it out like he was on Mirus’ side, and that they would both benefit from this deal if he played nice. Mirus gave in, and said that the job was pitched to him by a dwarf claiming to be from the Shield Bearers, who wanted him to make a distraction while they moved a large package (which wasn’t originally mentioned to Mirus, but he saw it while the distraction was going on). Alphonse thanked him and left, leaving the incredible bag of fake treasure in Mirus’ hands.
-Arcturus’ cats didn’t have any news for him, so he and Alphonse left to go find Ollin and Ironbeard and have a chat with the Shield Bearers.

The Aftermath:
-After the wounded were tended to and things had settled down, Ollin went over to the gas bomb to have a look at it. He could tell it was of Combine make by personal experience, and he shared this information with the director. She was alarmed (of the Combine involvement and of Ollin’s knowledge), but he managed to reassure her that he was an enemy of the Combine through and through, and completely trustworthy. She told him that if the Combine was here, then he was the man to lead the investigation to root them out. She lifted the arrest on him, and told him good luck.
-Outside, Ironbeard and Ollin ran into Alphonse and Arcturus, and they caught each other up on the details, then headed over to the Shield Bearer turf.

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Session 6
Welcome to Bastion, Gentlemen

After the Duel:
-The quartet leaves Stony Hills and returns to the village Drotna, where Arcturus presents Gonthu’s head to the mayor. He is impressed and thankful, so he writes up a letter to The Archon which states his support for the republic and his gratitude for dealing with the orcs.
-Ironbeard goes to a local artifact peddler, and trades Gonthu’s shield for an enchanted longsword
-The quartet heads off to the old city to tell Saren that their mission is complete, and Irith Hardhammer tags along as the formal representative from Drotna to deliver the mayor’s letter

In the Old City:
-Arcturus once again presents Gonthu’s head, which pleases Saren. Saren welcomes him into the Blood Eagles as an official member. Irith Hardhammer presents the letter from the mayor to Saren, who accepts it on Archon Yukanis’ behalf.
-Saren tells them that the Archon has been busy in the Channel doing gods know what, but he left instructions for the quartet: take an official Ekwan Republic negotiator to Bastion to attend a trade summit involving The Free Cities of Jara, The Kalashek, and several of The Hirogen Clans. Saren tells them that while they’re gone, he’ll be showing the newbies the ropes. Before they leave, Saren tells Arcturus that in case they need backup, one of the Blood Eagles lives in Bastion, but he hasn’t heard from him in a long while.
-As they walk out of the chamber, they run into a group of three elves: one a fighter, one a scoundrel, and one a wizard (by the look of them, and also presumably the newbie group). Alphonse and the wizard eye each other and put on their special wizardly airs of mystery. The scoundrel looks at Ironbeard and greets him warmly, since he recalls him and his business from when he was in Lorath. The fighter locks eyes with Ollin, and they exchange a tense greeting. Everyone looks at Ollin, and he says he’ll explain later.
-They meet up with the negotiator outside, Ethricil Iladar, who says he’s ready to go whenever they are.

On A Boat (to Bastion):
-Ollin tries to not explain how he knew the elven fighter, but Ironbeard breaks through his defenses, and he spills the beans: he used to work as an assassin for The Combine, and had since their founding. He told them how he grew up in a bad part of town, and was in a gang, but joined with the combine when they started. After one too many questionable missions, Ollin wanted out, but was not allowed, so he “jumped ship” and ended up on the Intrepid, which is where they all met.
-Ironbeard spoke up first, and said that redemption and change is what this whole thing is about, and having someone who wants this personally is a great asset. Arcturus agreed and effectively said “we still cool”. Alphonse gave a nod that said “cool story, bro”, since he didn’t really know what to say, nor did he feel that that was a game-changer with regards to their mission.
-After all that, they changed the subject to what they knew about Bastion. Ollin knew the most off the top of his head, since he had been there before on a mission for the Combine. (Information drop can be accessed on The Free Cities of Jara page)

Arrival:
-Boat docks in harbor, a Silent Sisters escorts them up the switchback to the part above sea level where people live.
-Another sister approaches, and tells the other one to leave, since their guests deserve a more honorable escort than “dock scum”. She introduces herself as Loretta. A few moments later they are surrounded by two dozen silent sisters, who turn on them. The sisters lay on the pressure, and they decide that they can’t win, but can survive if they run. Ironbeard and Alphonse work together to make a big flash (which could be seen from the two hundred feet below), and follow Ollin’s lead to the director’s palace.
-On her way out from the merchant’s quarter, Termina Vzorcaya sees the mass of silent sisters stumbling around in disorientation, and goes over to them. Loretta tells her that they’re on business, and that their quarry has escaped. All of the sisters had their weapons drawn, and Termina felt that was a little much for apprehending the five people she saw running away. She slapped the sword out of Loretta’s hand and chucked it over the cliff. Termina left and said “if you really need your sword to apprehend them, then go get it”.
-The quartet plus Ethricil arrive at the palace and see more silent sisters, who are not hostile to them. They are lead inside and exchange greetings with the director, Samantha Desharik. Arcturus mentions that they were attacked by the silent sisters, and the director flips a shit, grabs one of the nearby silent sisters (since they are the guard group that is in charge of the palace), and asks her violently what she knows. After a good wall-slamming, the guard says that Loretta had a Combine bounty notice at the barracks, and she persuaded some other sisters into helping her for a cut of the bounty. The director was displeased, but keeps up the formalities and shows them their accomodations. They settle in.

Out on the Town:
-The negotiator stays in the palace to get some rest. The quartet splits, with Ironbeard heading to the markets, and the other three heading out for a bar.
-The “bar group” finds a good place called the gray gavel, and they head inside for a drink. Alphonse takes up his usual spot in the corner and makes it as smokey as possible. Soon after, Termina shows up and approaches the group since she recognized them. They get to talking, she tells them what she does, and they tell her what they do.
-Arcturus mentions to Ollin that they need to find the Blood Eagle who lives around here, just in case. Ollin remembers that the Combine told him to stay away from the southern end of the common quarter because of him. They want a better location, so they talk to the gnome bartender, and he gives them better direction to “Sal the hermit”. They head off, and Termina tags along since she’s drunk and wants to go fix the world. She keeps takes her mug with her just in case something happens.
-The three humans and Ollin head out to the common quarter. They get pretty deep with no problem, so Termina figures they’re okay and tosses her mug, which crashes into something and makes a loud noise. A Blue Suns guard appears quickly and asks what’s wrong. They say nothing’s going on, but he doesn’t buy it. Termina says some bullshit about cleaning up the city and the guard gives up, but says if there’s any problems, the Blue Suns are never far away.
-They get to the house that the bartender mentioned, so Arcturus knocks. A wave of unnatural and brutal cold hits them, but they persist. The door opens, but there’s another behind it with an viewing slot, and a pair of pale blue eyes looks out at them. Acrturus discreetly mentions that he’s a Blood Eagle, and the inner door opens (after much unlocking). Only Arcturus is allowed inside.
-Arcturus takes a look around and sees a nearly derelict house, with a trapdoor in the back. The person who opened the door is standing in front of him, with ragged, but once fancy clothes and a sword. They start talking. Arcturus mentions Saren and the whole Ekwan Republic, and asks if Sal (who corrects it to Salchorix) can help. Salchorix tells Arcturus that he was once a Feynriel, one of the great knights of the Combine, and that he was exiled and joined the Blood Eagles forty years ago. He would help, but not in some petty street fight. He would be there for a precision strike, nothing less. Arcturus accepted the terms, then left.
-While Arcturus was talking with Salchorix, Ollin talked with Termina about what their mission was, and how someone like Termina would be a great asset to their cause. She was intrigued, so she went to go talk with her superiors back at the barracks. She found Loricanthe, and filled her in on the offer. Loricanthe like Termina, and told her that her skills were useful in Bastion, but that she needed to do what she wanted. In the mean time, Cassandra wanted her to impress the newcomers from Ekwa, so go stir up some trouble. Termina remembered that they were headed off to the markets, where her foes, the Greenfeet Clan, patrolled.

The Best at What They Do:
-While all of that had been going on, Ironbeard asked around to figure out who was the most influential businessperson in Ekwa. He found a fellow dwarf named Aeral Deepsilver, was the man. He went to the man’s place of business with an offer from the Ironbeard Trading Company.
-He told him that there was a town named Drotna in Ekwa which produced large amounts of iron ore, and that he could connect Mr. Deepsilver with them and thus to a cheap supply of good iron. The pitch was so well-delivered that Deepsilver didn’t even bother haggling or pretending he was uninterested, but asked if he could be guaranteed that it was good metal. Ironbeard pulled out the sword he had traded Gonthu’s shield for, and Deepsilver was impressed. He knew that Ekwa was always in need of good timber, so he offered that up. They drew up an agreement, and toasted to success. Ironbeard left a very happy dwarf.
-Ironbeard stepped outside, and was confronted by two human Greenfeet Clan guards. They asked him what he was doing in the establishment of such a reputable businessman, so Ironbeard brandished the agreement he had just stamped with his seal. One grabbed it and read over it, but handed it back a moment after (probably because he couldn’t read dwarven). They said that such a rich man shouldn’t be walking around unprotected, fortunately, that’s what the greenfeet were for. One held out a hand for Ironbeard’s money.
-At this time, Arcturus, Ollin, and Alphonse showed up. They stared down the guards, but they didn’t afraid of anything. Termina showed up as well, and immediately layed into the guards with insults and trolling. While she was doing this, a big orc came up behind her and said, “I see they’ve demoted you to the welcoming committee, Termina”. It wasGrobak, her old boss. Things got tense, and it was clear that a fight was about to start. Ollin did some preemptive self-defense, and cut the throats of the two guards that had been harassing them with a well-practiced Combine knife kata. Alphonse conjured up some illusory thugs, Ironbeard turned a barrel of apples into golden apples, and Arcturus spread them around so all the people in the marketplace could see. Termina threw/rolled a barrel into the other Greenfeet that had arrived, and took some down. The rest attacked her, but her thorn tattoos rose up and spiked them, taking them down too. Two men dead, and the others in pain on the floor, and Grobak was done (and humiliated). He left, telling them that they’d just made a serious mistake.

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Session 5
Duel to the Death!

The quartet had successfully taken Duras captive, and they set their plan in motion. Ollin suggested that they move their hostage to the mines so that he would be in a safe and defensible position if the Orcs tried to get him back. While they walked over, Duras spoke up in Dwarven. He told them that though he was able to escape from the strange prison ironbeard had encased him in, he was more interested in talking. He had gathered that they were using him to get his brother Gonthu to show his face, and he knew it would work. However, Gonthu’s reputation for leaving no survivors in his battles spoke the truth about his combat abilities. Orc traditions would call for Gonthu to hold duel to undo the insult of having his brother taken by “lessers”, and whomever entered this duel would be as good as dead. Duras said that he could help them win this duel, so long as they could reach an understanding about what happens afterwards. The quartet agreed to listen. Duras said that if Gonthu was killed in a duel it would be very easy for him to assume control of his brother’s hold. If he died in some other manner, then the opportunity to swoop in and take power would be some other less intelligent orc, and that would likely be bad for the Combine. Ollin stepped in and told him that this land now belonged to the Ekwan Republic. Duras responded that he didn’t care who he was dealing with, so long as he could get his brother’s land. Arcturus was surprised that he would turn on his brother like this, suggesting that he was trying to lure them into a suicide mission. Duras said that as a follower of Dumat, he believed that you shouldn’t be stopped by things like family ties to get what you want. Ironbeard spoke up and asked him why all of the sudden he cared about the people on the border when just a few hours ago he was preparing to rob a town. Duras said that he was willing to make a concession to get what he wanted, and if that meant that he would have to attack his fellow orcs to gain glory for himself, then so be it. If family ties don’t matter, then neither do racial ties. He was clearly a slime-ball, but his offer was good. In order to counteract the slime-ball factor, Ironbeard and Alphonse came up with the idea to bind Duras magically to his word that he would not attack the people on the border. He tried to twist their words with regards to what they were agreeing to, but it was too obvious, so they stated the terms even clearer. Their ritual worked, and Duras was mentally unable to resist the force of the pact they had created. He was bound.
Duras told them that the way that they could win the duel was to poison Gonthu. There was an alchemist named Ikta who was staying at Gonthu’s keep as a guest, and given sufficient payment, he would be able to concoct something that would be perfect for the duel. The ideal poison would be something that quickly sapped one’s strength, so that in the duel, the blows would appear to be landing heavier on Gonthu. It would be a simple enough matter to have something so toxic that he would die inside of a minute, but that would obviously indicate poison, which would ruin the whole setup. It felt wrong, but then again, so did being around Duras.
In two days, an orc was let into the town under guard, and he approached the quartet and told them that they had offended the Lord Gonthu the Stone Tiger, Lord of the Stony Hills, and their presence was demanded at his keep for a fight to the death. Failing this, he would come in force to lay waste to their hiding place and the town. They agreed to follow him, and set off.
The question of who would actually fight in the duel came up, and Ollin and Arcturus stepped up. A second or so of consideration showed that Arcturus, the former slave, and newly anointed Blood Eagle, should be the one to fight the border lord in a duel to the death. After a day and a half of walking through the Ekwan countryside, the arrived at Gonthu’s keep. The gate guards let them in when they saw Duras in chains (which Alphonse had created with illusion magic to make it very clear that he was their prisoner) walking with them. They were lead to the main chamber, and since Arcturus was the one who would be doing the duel, he decided to make a grand entrance. He epically pushed open the double doors to the keep, and everyone turned their attention to him. The orc in the big chair remained seated, and addressed them: “I am Gonthu, Lord of the Stony Hills, I demand that you release my brother, and that this injustice be righted with blood.” Arcturus agreed to a fight to the death, and they began to negotiate the terms of the fight. There was to be no casting of magic, there were no restrictions on weapons or armor, each side would name a second in case of the could not participate in the fight (Arcturus chose Ollin, and Gonthu chose Ludan), and the fight was to take place in the morning of the next day. Duras was released, and they left the room.
Duras had pointed out where the alchemist could be found within Gonthu’s compound as they entered, so now that the official business was over, they went to go do their… unofficial business. The quartet entered one of the side buildings and went to the room at the end of the first hall (of course the shady poisoner lives at the end of the hallway), and knocked on the door. A goblin answered the door, and Arcturus and Ironbeard told him they were interested in acquiring some potions and perhaps a poison. He let them in. He asked if they really wanted the potions or if they were just here for the poison. After a moment they admitted they only wanted poison, and prepared to tell Ikta exactly what they needed, and that they needed it tomorrow. Ikta was a businessman, but he knew that doing business with the wrong people could be worse than being poisoned, so he asked who they were. Ironbeard name-dropped himself, and Ikta knew that his customers were legitimate, if not on the wrong side of the border. After a moment of consideration, he knew which recipe to use, but said that it would take quite a bit of work to get it done and usable. Ironbeard took out a pouch of gems and silver coins and handed it to Ikta, saying: I offer you this, and my skills as an alchemist if it will help to get the poison done more quickly. He accepted both, and they got down to working. Ironbeard planned to use some extra alchemy magic to make the poison taste like the finest liquor in the land, but the end product was something that tasted alcoholic and slightly foul. Fortunately, so did most Orcish drinks, so it would be passable as not poisonous.
It was nearing nightfall, so the trio of Alphonse, Arcturus, and Ollin went to find some accomodations, namely a tent. While they were in Gonthu’s court, Alphonse had noticed that one of the orcs there was a wizard, so in their downtime, he used divination to cast out his magical senses to see what this wizard was up to. Right away he could tell that the wizard was focusing what Alphonse recognized as blood magic into an object of some kind. The logical inference was that this object was a weapon, and Gonthu would be bringing magic into their fight without having to cast a spell. Ollin and Alphonse considered a late night excursion to take out this wizard and stop his enchantment, but they decided that they were on thin enough ice as it was, and a dead wizard would only raise more suspicion and possibly derail their plan to take out Gonthu. Ironbeard had just come back from helping Ikta, and they shared the news with him. He decided they should do some enchanting of their own, so he worked up the spellpower to enchant Arcturus’ armor with life energy to counteract the blood magic in Gonthu’s weapon. There was nothing else to do, so they tried to get some sleep.
They rose early, and headed off to check on Ikta’s work. He had finished, but, as a businessman, he knew that selling poison to the wrong people could be just as bad as being poisoned yourself, unless you made a lot of money doing it. When they went to take the vial from him he asked them what it was for. Before anybody could think of a good answer, Alphonse spoke up and said “it’s for a practical joke”. For some reason, Ikta thought this was hilarious, and handed it to him while laughing hysterically, then bid them good day. The scheme to deliver the poison to Gonthu was now in action. Arcturus walked up to the first slave he found, a human woman, and asked her if she would like to be free today. It got her attention, so he elaborated that she was going to be replaced with an exact look-alike, she just needed to not be anywhere else, and anywhere else might as well be the republic’s side of the border, where she would be free. He assured her that he’d freed numerous slaves, so he knew that this could work. She was confused by the whole “replaced” thing, but had enough lady-balls to drop everything she was carrying and start running for the border. Meanwhile, Alphonse disguised himself as her using illusion magic, and set off to insert him/herself into Gonthu’s party as the wine-carrier. Arcturus, Ollin, and Ironbeard walked to the place where the duel was to be held, and saw Gonthu’s party there. Arcturus stepped into the fighting area, and they exchanged a round of insults. Gonthu called for wine, and they saw Alpohnse disguised as the slave woman hand him a drink. He brought the cup to his face, and stopped for a second. The heart of everyone in the quartet skipped a beat. Gonthu offered a toast: “To your death!” (as he looked at Arcturus), and downed the contents of the goblet.
The fight began. Arcturus used the mace that he had taken from Duras as well as his old sword to get some dual-wielding action going on. Gonthu used a fine orcish battleaxe and a shield. After a few blows were exchanged, Arcturus could tell that the poison had started to take effect. Gonthu was slowing down, but even this was enough to hurt Arcturus. They continued on for a few more exchanges, both of them starting to falter. The sideline crowds had been cheering their respective champions on, and Ollin knew that it helped Gonthu to hear his people cheering for him. Feeling mischievous, Ollin decided to instigate a fight between Gonthu’s cronies. He slyly drew his dagger and delivered a few well-placed jabs and slashes, somehow avoiding notice. Several of the orcs turned to Ludan, who Ollin had intended to implicate, and started yelling at him. Ludan was having none of it, so he grabbed one of the orcs and threw him. The side-brawl was begun. Ironbeard took advantage of the distraction to start helping Arcturus. Pulling a combo maneuver out of the ass-kicking book, Ironbeard used his alchemy magic to change the grass and dirt underneath Gonthu into a puddle of oil, then used lightning magic to cause sparks to fly from Gonthu’s armor and ignite the oil. While he was confused and on fire, Arcturus zoned in and delivered a textbook decapitation with his sword. Everyone stopped. Gonthu had been defeated. Duras stepped out of the crowd, and walked to his brother’s body, and removed a ring. He then claimed lordship of the Stony Hills, and the orcs in the crowd responded “Hail to Duras, lord of the Stony Hills”. Duras turned to Arcturus, and took his mace back. Arcturus, Ironbeard, and Ollin started walking away, back towards the Ekwan Republic. Alphonse detached himself from the crowd, maintaining the illusion of the slave woman walking with the group while he turned around and headed towards the other three. Arcturus picked up Gonthu’s head; a fitting trophy to bring to Saren.

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Session 4
Pick your battles carefully

The quartet left the Channel’s central chamber with their minds reeling. Arcturus, Alphonse, and Ironbeard all headed out to the city to find a tavern, while Ollin went out into the city to try to acquire a bow. To each his own. Ollin asked around and found the right guy, and he had the coin to make the purchase he wanted. Meanwhile, the other three had found a tavern called The Three Rings (a dwarven establishment), and set out to “clear” their heads. Alphonse took a seat in the corner and began smoking his pipe, adding extra illusory smoke to create an even greater aura of mystery. Arcturus and Ironbeard took seats at the bar and got down to drinking. The bartender asked them why they looked so disturbed and distant, and Arcturus told him the alarming truth. The bartender stopped believing him at “we fell unconscious in a cave”, but nevertheless let him finish. Once they were done he tried to get them interested in other forms of relaxation, namely some of the prostitutes who were hanging out in the bar looking for customers. Neither Arcturus nor Ironbeard were inclined, and they turned down the offer swiftly and returned to drinking themselves into oblivion. Ollin came in and sat down with the two at the bar, and ordered some elven sherry. Hoping for the best, the bartender asked Ollin what his story was, and Ollin told him he was with Archon Yukanis. With a businessman, a government man, and an apparent nutcase, the bartender leaped to the conclusion that something bad was going to happen to him. He claimed firmly that he ran a clean establishment and then went into the kitchen defensively. The three shrugged, and continued drinking.
They were late to rise the next morning (they had made it back to the Archon’s palace somehow). They went into the dining hall, where Saren bid them good morning. They all gave an “hmm” (except for Alphonse, who was as clearheaded as ever), in response for their hangovers put a damper on their ability to show courtesy. Saren was unfazed, and told them that he had work for them to do. They people of the city had seen the action of the new Ekwan Republic in the re-opening of the channel and the effort towards building a new system of governance centered around the will of the majority. The city people were in support of the Archon, though the people in the countryside of Ekwa, a large portion of the future citizens of the Republic, had not. Saren wanted the quartet so serve as a sybmol of the Republic’s strength and willingness to reward the skilled without discrimination, so they were to travel to the border and gain the support of the country people. He suggested dealing with the Orcish Border Lords, which was something The Combine had never effectively done.
After making the mission pitch to them, he pulled Arcturus to the side. Saren told him that though Arcturus had taken his oath of allegiance, he needed to Blood Eagle in action as well as in belief. This would be accomplished by slaying an orc in defense of the innocent, and bring back its head as a trophy. Arcturus accepted. They returned to the group, and Saren told them it would be a good idea to talk with the Ishane, since he knew the problems of his territory better than anyone. They did so, and discovered that a number of villages on the Orc-Combine border on Ekwa was having a problem with a Border Lord named Gonthu. Gonthu and his thugs were collecting and taking tribute from the villages at times, and putting a stop to the attacks would be a huge deal to the country people. They understood and headed out with Ironbeard’s cart.
It took a few days travel, but they eventually came to the town called Drotna, which was situated near a series of hills rich in iron. Not half a mile to the east was Drotna mine. They came to the gate and had to explain their case to the guard who allowed them in. They proceeded to the mayor’s house, presented the Archon’s signet ring, then asked him about the town’s problems with Lord Gonthu. Seeing the ring and hearing that the quartet was interested in Lord Gonthu, the mayor went into maximum helpfulness mode and told them the story. Lord Gonthu was a well-feared Border Lord, who has never been seen by any Combine citizen since whenever he goes into battle, there are never any survivors. More commonly, his brother Duras and several cronies make rounds through a series of border towns collecting tribute and on occasion taking slaves (which made Arcturus tense up). The mayor added that Duras hadn’t been to Drotna for some time, and he was due. The quartet thanked him and left.
The group planned their ambush. On Ironbeard’s suggestion, they aimed to capture Duras and use him as a bargaining chip to get Gonthu’s attention and force a confrontation with him. It was midday and they were hungry, so they went into the tavern and ordered a roast pig, which came garnished with various mushrooms (classic Dwarven cuisine). A few hours later they got into position for their attack, with Ollin atop a house, Alphonse hiding in the alleys between houses, Ironbeard inside a room in the local inn, and Arcturus up on top of the mayor’s house. At sundown, they saw torches coming towards the outer gate from the south: it was time.
A group of orcs, goblins, and an ogre were at the gate momentarily, and they bribed the gate guard to let them in. Duras came into view, dressed nicely and escorted by ten minions and his sidekick ogre, Ludan. Duras called out “Ryol” loudly to the empty streets. After a moment, a bookish and nervous dwarf came out of a house, and walked up to the group of orcs. Duras clapped him on the shoulder and brought him under his arm and they walked. Duras asked if their deal was still good, and the dwarf mumbled an affirmative. Duras asked him “then where is the young fellow?” Ryol left Duras’ side and entered a house. There was yelling, then Ryol came running out with another dwarf fast on his heels with a mace in hand. Seeing the band of orcs he stopped and tried to run, but the orc cronies caught him and gave him a few good knocks to keep him from struggling. Duras took a pack from his belt and threw it to Ryol. He then walked over to the captive dwarf and told him “congratulations, you’ll now be serving me for the rest of your life”. They started walking away with the dwarf in tow, then Duras stopped and turned to his cronies and said, “on second thought, kill him”. Ryol was displeased and tried to address Duras. One of the orcs drew his blade and was about to cut the captive dwarf’s neck, but Arcturus let an arrow fly and struck the orc.
The ambush was sprung, and several fell to arrows and magic. Alphonse used the power of his rune to create phantasmal soldiers to attack the raiders. Duras responded by summoning a group of Dretches from the Abyss, and Ludan moved to attack Alphonse’s phantoms. Ollin and Arcturus continued firing arrows and taking out goblins and orcs. Ludan marched over to the mayor’s house and took a big swing at the wall, trying to cave it out under Arcturus. Meanwhile, Ironbeard used the power of his rune to take advantage of the magnetic property of Duras’ chainmail shirt and pull him across the town and into the room in the inn. The orcs tried to get to Ollin on the rooftop, but they were not as athletic as Ollin, and tried to make a jump they weren’t capable of, causing one to fall to his death. The dretches tried in vain to climb up the mayor’s house, while Ludan kept smacking it. Ironbeard was locked in melee with Duras, and used to power of his rune to alchemically change the metal of Duras’ chainmail into marble, which trapped him in his own clothes. Alphonse and Ollin mopped up the orcs and goblins, and Ludan hit the mayor’s house hard enough to compromise its integrity, which sent it toppling over. Arcturus managed to leap off of it before he would have fallen. Meanwhile the dretches had flocked to their master and were fighting ironbeard with their claws while trying to assist Duras in breaking free of his stone prison. Ollin, Alphonse, and Arcturus abandoned Ludan to help Ironbeard out with Duras. They quickly dispatched the dretches, and had Duras alone. He called out that he would surrender, and they accepted. Duras looked to Ludan outside and told him that they must pick their battles carefully, like their wine. The curious phrase got everyone’s attention, and by the unspoken exchange that followed it, they guessed it was a code for some plan of theirs.

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Session 3
You Will Submit to My Test

The group stood in the channel, facing down the mysterious keeper. The Archon spoke up first, inquiring what Hilal was and by how she could help to “ensure the proper use of the channel”. Hilal explained she was a Felac’Dora whose body and soul had been recalled to this plane once the the gods saw how the channel was used as “a child bumbles around with laboratory devices” in The Uprising against The Orcs eighty years ago. Hilal was one of the builders of the channel, so her intimate knowledge of its capabilities and correct use were unquestionable. The archon made some sort of attempt to invade her mind to determine the truth, but he was noticeably rebuffed. The keeper said to the four cohorts (Alphonse Hayek, Arcturus Thrayne, Ironbeard, and Ollin Gualimozin) that if they wished to use her property (the runes), they would have to pass her test. The Archon made a feeble “or what?” jab, and she pulled the bag of runes from his grasp, despite his attempts to magically deflect her. They seemed to have little choice, though everyone was certain in their abilities, so the test proceeded upon consent.
The four lost consciousness, and woke suddenly in a large amphitheater. They stood at the bottom, and in front of them was a desk of stone with a large bone chair behind it. The room was mainly stone, with bone decorations and red curtains that hung from the ceiling. Out of nowhere, a crowd appeared to occupy the seating. They gibbered and squawked, and Alphonse and Ironbeard were quick to recognize them as imps. Just as they turned to face the mass of tiny devils, a thundering voice addressed them from behind. A devil that would dwarf even the tallest of orcs sat menacingly in the bone chair and declared that he would administer their judgement. He told the four to give him their names, and they did so. The judge/devil was displeased with Ollin’s quiet voice, and demanded that he restate, this time with more conviction.
The devil looked over them and called Ironbeard forward. The devil proceeded to accuse him of being a bad father, a completely unexcusable crime. Leaving a dead wife and a lonely daughter for the excitement of travel was selfish and cruel. Ironbeard said that without his business, then his family would be not only suffering from the loss of Ironbeard’s wife, but also in poverty. A burst of flame appeared next to the devil, and from it emerged Ironbeard’s daughter, who joined in the accusations. It was too much, and Ironbeard was overwhelmed and left to ponder his “misdeeds”.
Next up was Ollin, who the devil declared a heartless murderer. Ollin stated that he knew what he had been, and that he was making amends, and felt guilty. The devil agreed, and proceeded without mercy. The first “witness” that was called to the stand was the first man Ollin had ever killed: a baker from his home slum in Nith. Ollin had killed him to be accepted into a gang in his early days, and here was to taunt him. Ollin fought (verbally) valiantly, and caused the man to get so flustered that he disappeared in a gout of flame. Another witness, Ollin’s first contact in The Combine, appeared to join the accusations. The elf called him a traitor to the core, and Ollin would not back down. He continued to argue with them, taking to heart how much of his past he had screwed up. He decided to end the conversation with a shred of dignity, and let the devil move on the next offender.
Arcturus was called, and accused of being selfish and hypocritical in his worship of Lamder. The devil summoned one of the girls that was a slave with him under Zonam Damshred, and they accused him of being selfish when he had the choice. He gave examples of the times he’s gone out of his way to help other slaves escape, and the devil countered with accusing him of betraying his god. It hit Arcturus hard, who thought about it, agreed, and tore off his Lamderi neckalce and shoved it in his pocket. The rest of the conversation was a struggle to maintain dignity.
Alphonse, was last, and he gave the devil what he had coming. Though the devil had gone three for three so far, he had taken a bit of heat himself. Alphonse gave the devil his own special blend of silver-tongued bullshit and the devil had a hard time taking it. By now, Alphonse had determined that the people being “summoned” were illusory and under the devil’s control. When the devil summoned his mother, Alphonse played a little, then unmade the illusion with his own magic, all the while deflecting attacks on the quality of his character with skill. The devil got so flustered that he declared the trial over, and that worthiness would be decided through other means.
The courtroom faded out, and they found themselves in a burned forest with a village nearby. This was certainly an illusion, but the source was unknown. They could see armed devils and imps moving about the burned/burning down village, and they moved on them. Once they were within range, they sprung. Ollin and Ironbeard dealt with some of the devils while Arcturus and Alphonse engaged the imps. Alphonse took a blow to the head, but kept going. Meanwhile, the imps were going down like flies, and the judge devil had appeared on scene wielding a blade made of fire. The rest of the infernal minions gathered on him and they engaged the nearest target: Ollin.
Almost immediately a dragon flew overhead and set the melee area ablaze. The Devil took the opportunity to swing at Ollin, and dealt him a terrible blade and burn wound. Upon seeing the dragon, Arcturus called upon his bit of magic and communicated with the beast. It was intrigued and left the fight to investigate Arcturus. Ollin was nearly down, but Ironbeard called upon his training in healing magic to deal with the worst of Ollin’s injuries. By now only the judge and the dragon remained, and Alphonse moved in to assist with the judge. With a well-placed blast of telekinetic force, he knocked the fire blade from the big devil’s hand, which Ollin snatched out of the air to deliver a perfect killing blow. The illusion shattered and all four of them awoke on tables of stone in the central room in the channel. They had survived.
Hilal stood over them, and told them they had proven their mettle, and they had been rewarded. Each one of the four had glowing patterns tattooed into their chests, the permanent after-effect of rune implantation. They smiled, and the archon explained what he had seen. According to him, they consented to the trial and all lost consciousness. Hilal took them into the central channel chamber (transporting them by moving the earth underneath them) and waited for a minute or so for no apparent reason. Afterwards she took out four runes and performed some kind of activation ritual on the channel. When it was complete, the runes were placed on their chests, and great waves of magic flowed into them, which seemed to disolve them into each man. The whole thing took five minutes tops. The four told a very different story. The archon was confused and impressed. He also told them that he had more business to take care of with Hilal, and that in the mean time they would take orders from General Saren. And also, congratulations.

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Session 2
This is why you have underlings

The Intrepid was only a few days from its new destination of The Old City on Ekwa. Archon Yukanis had seen Alphonse Hayek and Ironbeard using magic the day before, so he called them into the captain’s office to get further information about what kind of magic they knew. Ironbeard answered the question straight up, but Alphonse was still trying to keep the wool over the Archon’s eyes, so he tried to downplay his talent. The Archon saw right through it, and Alphonse knew that lying again would likely get him into more trouble, so he revealed his specialization in glamour magic. The Archon thanked them, and told them he specialized in “the magic of the mind”, a sugar coated way of saying that he practices domination magic. Over the next few days, the Archon had outlined how he plans to make this new nation work. He will become the provisional Archon of Ekwa while the people create a fair system of rule. Ekwa will survive by trading their great mineral wealth with The Free Cities of Jara, and by using the channel to their collective advantage. Exactly how that would work, he would not say directly.
By the time they had arrived at Ekwa, the Archon had changed into his formal attire, since he intended to stay at the visiting palace within the city. He gave Ollin a ring of his and told him to come to the palace in a few hours and to present the ring to the guards so that they would know who had sent them (them being Alphonse, Ironbeard, Ollin, and Arcturus). He also reminded them that they were going to be in a place of government, and as his collective right hand, they needed to be properly dressed.
Ironbeard smartly headed over to the merchant’s square looking for a tailor and some sharp clothes. Before they could get away from the docks, a human child approached Arcturus, giving an impressively articulate appeal for charity, while his friends tried to pick the pockets of the other three. Ollin noticed them, and gave the others a hand signal letting them know something was wrong. Alphonse illusioned the coin pouch that one of the children was taking into a bag of snakes, which caused him to recoil. Ollin fluidly detached the child’s hand from his coins, and Ironbeard simply turned around. All of them fled, and one ran right into a frightening and muscular human in plain clothes. The man picked the child up off the ground and stared him in the eyes, reminding him that his mother would disapprove. The child wet himself and the man let him go. The man inroduced himself to the group as Saren, the general-to-be for the Archon’s non-existent army. The group introduced themselves to him, though Saren cared little for Ollin (just another elf to him). He said he’d see them in the palace, though they’d better get better clothes first.
Ironbeard continued the march to the merchant’s square. Once he found the right man, he tried to impress him with some of his flashy divination magic. Unfortunately the fates did not speak to Ironbeard, so he was unable to provide the tailor with useful knowledge of the future. He did, however, provide him with coin and jewels (taken from The Death Knell) in exchange for the clothes they were looking for.
They entered the palace an hour after noon, and eventually came before the Archon in his sitting room. He was pleased to see them, and told them that he had a task for them. They were to track down Ishane Reyati Sular, and get his opinion on the separation of Ekwa from The Combine. Ollin said, “We shall do what must be done”, so they walked out.
Finding the Ishane was relatively easy, since a guard inside told them that he would be arriving shortly at the front entrance. They staked him out, and when he showed up, he seemed very frustrated and nervous. As he walked by, they sprung into action, and began assaulting him with queries for a moment of his time. He eventually yielded, and directed them to his office. Ironbeard didn’t waste any time, and asked the Ishane straight up what his opinion on secession was. Though they weren’t asking him to declare his opinion publicly, it was still a treasonous question. He threatened to arrest them for such questions, but Arcturus cut through the crap by appealing to the Ishane’s sense of justice. He provided little resistance after that, and he told them that as former sheriff, he knew the people of Ekwa well, and that they would welcome a change, but it needs to show results fast.
The five of them walked to the Archon’s sitting room, and he was pleased by their success (and took note of their rather direct approach to the whole thing). The Ishane respectfully informed the Archon that if he wants this new regime to be welcomed, he needs to be able to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk. After this, Archon Yukanis told them that there was yet another task to complete. Saren entered the room (in chainmail and fine clothes), and Yukanis introduced him to the Ishane. The next task they were to complete was to take the outpost at the channel. The Archon dismissed them, and the Ishane left for his office, leaving Saren and the four to discuss taking the channel outpost.
Saren jumped right to the “lets just kill everyone” approach, since he had special maps that showed a secret entrance into the outpost. This would allow them to bypass the walls and engage the soldiers from within and by surprise. Ironbeard suggested that they simply try to take the channel itself, since it would be able to amplify his or Alphonse’s magical abilities and force the soldiers to retreat (hopefully). The only problem was that the entrance to the channel had been sealed, and they were not confident that they could break the stone seals before being noticed and overwhelmed. They opted instead to try diplomacy, so they left soon after with the Ishane.
When they arrived at the front gates, The Garrison at the Channel recognized the Ishane and let him and his five guests in without question. He asked for their captain, and he entered her office to discuss opening the channel. The other five watied outside. Alphonse, Arcturus, and Saren stuck out like sore thumbs. The soldiers on duty stared, but they were only approached by the Lieutenant of the outpost, a dwarf. He introduced himself with the Combine salute, and Saren introduced himself as a general, to which the dwarf laughed. things got more awkward, and Ironbeard stepped in to calm the lieutenant down by offering him to have a drink. It was sufficient distraction, and a minute later, the captain bursts out of her office, fuming. The Ishane came out soon after and she spilled the beans as to why he was here. Every soldier on duty was listening, and that put the four, Saren, and the Ishane in a bad place. The four and the Ishane were trying to talk the captain down, but to no avail. It finally came to threats, and she said she would command her soldiers to open fire, but the Ishane deflected. Finally, Alphonse mustered all the bullshitting, parlor tricking, silver-tongued magic he had to scare everyone into thinking they were five seconds from meeting their makers. The captain tried to stare him down, but was overwhelmed, and conceded.
The captain, Saren, the Ishane, and the four went back to the Archon’s palace so that they could hammer out the details of opening the channel. During the the lull, Arcturus and Saren started talking. They both saw that the other was a former slave, and they shared stories. Saren was a Blood Eagle, and they were no longer the savage murderers they were made out to be. Saren told Arcturus that he saw in him a good man, and that he would be pleased to induct him into the Blood Eagles. Arcturus accepted the invitation.
The captain, the Ishane, and the Archon had settled on making a securely locked entrance to the channel after breaking down the stone seals.
The next day, The Archon took the four to the Channel, and they passed through the new entrance into the ancient building. It was eerily quiet, until they heard the sound of rocks moving about. They were confronted with a horde of animated rocks, earth elementals, which surrounded them. Before they went into fight mode, the elementals parted, and a thin four-armed figure made its way between them. The rocks returned to their inanimate state, and the figure spoke to them. “I am Hilal, the Keeper, and if you seek to use the channel, then I seek to help you to understand it.”

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