Firestorm

Game Ten:
Victory in Flames

Leaving the buried Fort Overlook under the protection of a captain of The Ruby Knights (though they know not why The Hand of the Viceroy sent him), the Defenders of Pacht think up plans for dealing with their enemy-of-the-moment, The Water Cult. With only days before the Summer Solstice and a score to settle, they choose to serve their dish of revenge as hot as humanly possible.

Buying up barrels and barrels of lamp oil (not to mention all the Greek Fire and Smoke Powder they can find) the party sets about constructing a surprise for the evil priestesses and their leader, The Daughter. Gathered together with their remaining undefiled altars in The Old Waterworks in the Canal District, the cultists suspect nothing when the charmed worshipper, Boc, obeys Haldis’s magically-enhanced suggestions and delivers barrels to the various supply rooms inside the tall structure. Once their mole is clear of the building, the real fun begins…

Hasnim, using a fire-arrow made by men who failed to kill him only days before, ignites the first barrel, which explodes so violently that the ancient ruin that is The Old Waterworks teeters on the point of collapse. When the second and third barrels blow, the citizens of Pacht experience pandemonium. Fire and blood. Explosion after explosion until the towering skeleton of dead industry starts to fall.

Acting quickly to remedy a situation beyond what was planned for, the party abandon their hiding places in the nearby warehouse and set themselves around the conflagration. Samael and Haldis the Sage take down a cracked pillar to direct the inevitable fall of The Waterworks. Miched tries his best to save the innocents in harm’s way. And Hasnim keeps the Cultist priests busy with arrows.

Soon enough, the building falls. Flame and dust and screams of final agony fill the air. Out of the rubble come only the strongest — elite bodyguards, now terribly injured, and The Daughter, high priestess of Essasae! The battle is on!

Summoning rats, storms, and turning the ground to mud beneath her foes, the witch proves formidable. But not immortal. Steel and spell sap the last of her unholy strength, and with her death, so too dies Essasae’s goal to resurrect the Gargantuan Graygle.

…………

Now, the Canal District smolders, the fires causing more chaos than death, though some visiting foreign ships are damaged badly at the nearby docks. Many have died, but far less than might have if the Titan had been brought back to life on The Solstice. The Water Cult is effectively no more. Riots force The City Watch to close the bridges to the poorest and most desperate part of Pacht, but The Summer Festival is at hand, and the celebration must go on.

For much more than the outcome of peasant races and knightly tournaments is about to be decided in The Free-City. History is in motion, and time is not on the side of Good.

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Game Nine:
The Second Seal

Bound and trapped beneath an upturned, sinking boat-hull, Samael Thrushton III, Haldis the Sage, and Hasnim ebn Alzi ebn Is’a of the Fallen Moon Tribe face a breathless death. The troupe manages to free themselves from both rope and spell, but the dangers of drowning and powerful priestesses above them remain. Boldly, they break through the shoddy, wooden tomb, flooding their last, airy refuge with cold canal water. As they swim desperately for the surface, the three men prepare for a fight they cannot possibly win.

Breaking the waters and at their most vulnerable, they find… nothing! No guards or waiting clerics. Only the sound of battle nearby.

Outside the Hat-in-Hand Boatwrights, an elite squad of powerful adventurers, hurriedly hired by Vadran, priest of Fyros, dispatches the unruly mob, sinking magical blades into the wicked cult witches while spells of mastery silence their dark prayers forever. These saviors came at a high price in gold, but take victory with ease. They lead the bewildered three back to The Adventurers’ Guild, where a smiling Vadran patiently waits.

Reunited, save for Miched Sanel Dufraine, the party turn their attentions to Overlook Hill, where that wayward companion has been sequestered for far longer than is necessary, merely if he were scouting for trouble. They go there, calling on Her Ladyship Marsa Crimwall at Proudfire Manor, who informs the companions that Miched and two servants, Devon Miller and Peele, have, only moments before, gone across the avenue to Gildengate mansion in an attempt to rescue the elderly Margravene imprisoned therein.

Rushing to help, they barely arrive in time to save Miched and his hapless warband from being overwhelmed by the trained killers inside the house. Striking on two fronts, the heroes confound the enemy despite their numerical advantage, sending them scurrying from the top floors into the dug-out basement, where an excavation marks what surely must be more of Gray Lord Ravenix’s foul work.

The fight is a bloody one, and few remain unscathed. But Margravene Tessy Hallowday flees to safety while the adventurers press on and down. Beneath Gildengate lies a massive, buried complex that once was Fort Overlook — a grand, five-walled fortress with outbuildings and stone keep, now caved-in and crumbling. The last of the kidnappers takes flight to the innermost chamber and are coaxed out without much effort, having seen too many of their peers slain beforehand.

Within that chamber, another Seal of Surzil is discovered… this one far more complex and certainly more powerful than the one in The Canal District. But a strangeness prevents Haldis from learning more. An ice-like formation of magical crystal shields this second seal from tampering, and the group deduces rightly that the Gray Lord might be learning from his earlier mistakes.

But more is gleaned from Fort Overlook, for like the houses built above it, it was not the first thing mankind put upon the earth, here. Below Overlook Hill sit eight ages of history, each one boasting a structure of some kind built above the abandoned remains of its predecessor. From Mausoleums to Labyrinths to things beyond ancient reckoning, there must be many secrets hidden below. Was one of these what Gray Lord Ravenix sought when he dug up this place? Or was he interested only in The Seal, itself?

Only time will tell…

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Game Eight:
Walking Into Danger

With Sister Beatrine of the Church of Saerin rescued, the companions return to The Free-City of Pacht and its preparations for The Midsummer Festival. On their way, Hasnim faces off against a rabid boar, urging his companions that the fight must be his alone. They ride on, leaving their friend and his mysterious sword to their work.

Back in the city, the Sisters of Saerin greet the men as heroes and offer them healing and praise. While they were fighting orcs at Lake Katrax, Colonel Odolphus Griest of the Royal Haelmgood Army arrived and took temporary command of the Embassy, recently recovered by Lt. Samael Thrushton III, who earned a promotion from Second Lieutenant to First. Griest has news, both of Captain Abenforth’s “transfer” to a job more suitable for a man of his lack of talent and of those who may visit during the festival week — a prince and princess, no less, among others. Rumors of trouble in the homeland disturb the Lieutenant, and he sets to work readying the armory and the dozen green soldiers at his command.

Letters arrive, offering Miched Sanel Dufraine (under the pen-name Lynon Duvall) a regular column in The New Pacht Inquirer, one of the “weeklies” distributed in town by the printing houses. Haldis the Sage is asked if an Associate Professorship at the Cinquerre College of Magic would be to his liking, but a secretive test of wit still lies ahead before he can join the ranks of that esteemed academy. Brother Vadran gets word from his fellow priests at the First Church of Fyros, warning him of the estimated strength of The Water Cult. Father-General Kruth, high priest of that fortress-like chapel, writes of secretive fanatics and gathering points in abandoned buildings guarded by hundreds of loyal worshipers. His predictions of what might be are dire indeed.

The next day, Miched finds Master Durvis Adrad at Klein’s Clocks, and the Chronomancer informs him that he has names of three manor houses on Overlook Hill — one of which must be the origin point of the last great spell that caused the Time Shift. Miched takes heart when one of the mansions belongs to a family that owes him a favor, and he sets out to call on them… alone.

Hasnim returns from his night in the wild with a new-found understanding of The Crying Gods Smile. He, Vadran, Haldis, and Samael act on the priest’s information, moving into the guarded Canal District to see what can be seen.

Her Ladyship Marsa Crimwall and her young son Billem greet Miched at Proudfire Manor in the walled-off section of the richest part of Pacht. After some talk, the gentleman adventurer realizes that one of the three houses of which he was warned seems to be the epicenter of some odd occurrences of late. He decides to pay a visit, his noblelady friend and her son in tow. What they find is Gildengate, a mansion butlered by a ruffian and the Margravene Tessy Hallowday who has been frightened into obedience by unknown forces. They are obliged to leave, and Miched sends a note for help to his friends. But they have troubles of their own.

The four companions find the first Cult stronghold, an old rope-making factory, and barge inside. Catching the slovenly wretches that dwell there off-guard, they find an altar to Agraghal, the Demigod of Water. But Vadran spots a real problem — symbols on the unholy stone and inflections in the prayers of the cultists lead him to believe the fools aren’t worshiping The Placid One at all, but Graygle, the titan destroyer of legend created by the Demon Queen of Lies, Essasae!

The heroes leap into action, fending off the poorly-trained cultists with sword and spell while Vadran pushes through a magical barrier and desecrates the offending altar. But they miss their brief chance to escape and in minutes, they are surrounded by a hundred hateful zealots and a dozen lesser priestesses. The magic of Graygle and Essessae proves too powerful. Samael, Haldis, and Hasnim are captured and hauled bodily away. Vadran pulls off a spell of sanctuary at the last moment, allowing him to vanish into the mob.

Time is growing short for the Defenders of Pacht. Can they escape? Or, have they walked into the heart of an evil that will destroy them, just as it intends to destroy their city?

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Game Seven:
A Quest Gone Awry

It is the final week of Sixmonth, and the Free-City of Pacht prepares itself for the Midsummer Festival to come: eight days filled with tournaments, races, parties, and prayers. But five citizens are not so joyous, knowing full well that The Water Cult threatens their city, though they know not how. Vadran’s holy communion with the spirit of the Dragon God reveals grave danger from this mysterious group and an astrological date — the night of the summer solstice. He and Haldis the Sage feel that the stars will be right on that fated evening for powerful magics to appear. They have the when. Now, they must discover the how.

Hasnim ebn Alzi asks a favor of his fellow adventurers who agree to help him on his quest. The Church of Saerin, Queen of Peace, has tried and failed to negotiate the release of one of their sisters from The Rust Heap Orcs, a tribe of merciless raiders and scoundrels. If Hasnim can rescue her, the priestesses will reward him by enchanting his ebonwood bow. But there is a catch. All who set forth on the quest must make an oath that they will not slay any living thing until the deed is done. The five adventurers agree, though concernedly, and prepare as best they can for the dangers ahead.

With new horses beneath them, they ride out along the northwest road, leaving Pacht for a time and hoping that when they return — if they return — new inspirations or opportunities will arise to aid them in the fight against Gray Lord Ravenix and those who would dare meddle with history.

A full day’s riding leads them to the western edge of the city-state’s territory at a village called Borderaux and Lake Katrax. Night falls, and they learn of a small island in the lake and the awful trouble the greenskins there have caused. Raids, kidnappings, and murders by these bestial people have forced the Pacht army, as well as their Atarach and Umbrook neighbors, to surround the lake with military detachments. The party wonders if these men might aid them in what they must do.

By morning, Hasnim has bought the services of some of the soldiers of the Free-City who crave the thrill of battle (and the jingle of coin). After having sat on their hands while The Rust Heap Orcs kidnap and kill, forty brave men sneak away from their posts in the hopes that mercenary work will bring them more glory than soldiering.

Meanwhile, Samael Thrushton III takes the ferry across Bridger’s River into Atarach territory, where he finds a small but well-run fort of disciplined troops. The winged crests and armor of that country, as well as the noble bearing of the men, speak to his soldier’s pride. He parlays with Captain Awan who is frustrated by the binding nature of the orders he must follow — to patrol and defend but not to attack. Samael contrives a workaround, having dealt with the pitfalls of bureaucracy before, and before long he is in temporary command of an “escort” squad of eight heavy footmen and a well-armed scout bearing a deadly arquebus.

On the other side of the lake, Miched Sanel Dufraine is not so liked by the gods, for he discovers that the halflings of Umbrook are far more interested in smoking their pipes at leisure than they are at striking at the orcs. Though their hearts are good, they have a cowardly streak, and he can only gain the help of Lurdle, their commander, if he brings back a large enough force of warriors to bolster confidence in the little men.

The next morning, he does. The five Questors cross the River Katrax with twenty-nine men and add fifty halflings to their number. Using the hidden tunnels that The Rust Heap orcs dug to break the blockade on the lake, the small army presses into the murky underground, picking off scouts as they come to them. After a tense hour of exploration, they reach the subterranean levels below the great fortress that gives the orc tribe their name, for it is made of gathered debris found floating downriver. The many floors of this castle of junk are all connected by a single shaft and a great elevating platform operated by a huge winch at the top. Miched climbs the massive chain, sneaking carefully past many of the greenskin guards. But his luck runs out at the last, and he is knocked unconscious by the winch operator before he can gain control of the device. The horns of warning are sounded.

Down below, a sure-footed halfling is sent up the shaft. He finds a bell-pull on the platform and rings it, once to raise and twice to lower. Aware of their oaths, Hasnim, Samael, Haldis, and Vadran must rely on the volunteer troops to take the brunt of the assault. On the elevating platform, they send up a platoon of soldiers who do well at first, but who eventually fall once the bulk of the orcish horde retaliate. Rust Heap troops come down to them, but are too few. The mainlanders retake the platform and, with their leaders among them, ascend to counterattack.

Miched awakens in the company of a woman, as he often does. Unfortunately, this one is Sister Beatrine of the Church of Saerin. She heals him while the orc chief and shaman are distracted by the ongoing battle and he severs her bonds while his enemies shout orders down the central shaft. As smoke and noise pour up from the fighting, he sneaks into the chief’s treasure chamber and shamelessly loots it, contemplating how and when to act.

Before long, The Rust Heap is burning, thanks to Hasnim and acres of dried-out driftwood. As the elevator rises, the orcs fall at the hands of an ever-dwindling force of civilized soldiers. Samael is compelled to take the place of a fallen trooper in the line of battle, breaking the oath of peace when he must kill or be killed. But there are friends in danger, and this is what must be done. They press on and up, pushing back the grunts and the elite shock troops with force, flame, and magical sleep. Once they face the shaman and the chieftan, a close-quarters battle turns chaotic. The heroes stun the chief while the Atarach soldiers finish off the sub-priest of Krex, but not before a stray ball of unholy flame ignites a poorly-thrown cask of oil.

Finally taking control of the winch at the top of the fortress, the survivors and their rescued hostage make the dangerous trip back down through the inferno, to the escape tunnels as The Rust Heap collapses in fire above them.

Those who still live part company in haste, but in friendship, too. Brave souls lost, but a quest completed. And though Hasnim will not gain the reward he sought, he may find in future that camaraderie proves far more useful.

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Game Five:
The Interlopers

Vadran, priest of Fyros, calls upon his church to deal with Eerdred’s buried tower and they agree to ward and wall it up. With the Seal of Surzil thus well protected, the group dwell on other matters. Hasnim, for one, thinks on clues given him by a Legend Lore spell cast upon The Crying Gods Smile. The strange history revealed by this divining points at danger. Does the last survivor of The Fallen Moon Tribe dare follow the riddled rituals revealed by magic? And what, exactly, might he unlock with these keys of knowledge?

Meanwhile, Miched Sanel Dufraine casts his nets throughout the city in search of answers — who were the diplomats from the northern kingdoms, now imprisoned as spies in Half Moon Keep, and what was changed by the Time Shift? A few well-placed coins in barmens’ hands and crafty phrases in Thieves’ Cant lead him up Castle Hill to a balcony near the great fortress itself. As though he was expected, an alarm is raised. A call to arms! An escape!

Word spreads swiftly and gates are shut, one by one. Miched manages to slip back to The Sleeping Tabby, where he finds a troupe of shackled men huddled in the shadows of the stable yard. The fugitive spies! But what’s more, a cadre of the gentleman sky-pirate’s old friends — Bixle the Branded and four others — who Dufraine once helped escape back when all were slaves in Naddium, many years ago. As he hides them from patrolling guards, they tell their stories.

Count Agarande, royal ambassador of Kinscold, was on a peaceful mission to Pacht a week before with a small group of nobles and aides. Just as they rode into the city-state’s territory, they were halted by a wayward peasant girl with a plea for assistance. Upstanding men that they were, they could not help but be led to a barn, where the girl vanished and a trap was sprung. Bixle and his crew, too, had been tricked. Hired by a mysterious Dark Elven woman to “acquire” a shipment of spices, they found themselves in a barn full of incriminating evidence and confused noblemen just as the Ruby Knights raided the shoddy structure and took them all prisoner.

Led back to Half Moon Keep in disgrace, they were questioned by no less than Virgis Avraille, The Hand of the Viceroy, who, after magical scrutiny, seemed to believe some of their odd tale. Facing the hangman’s noose, which would likely provoke a war, they could do nothing but wait. But then, a black-masked man appeared and whisked them out of the dungeons with far too little effort. He led them to The Tabby and disappeared without a whisper.

Roused by an early-morning message from “The Ambassador,” the group is asked to escort the accused men to Brandlebarge Ferry. They split into small teams, and Samael Thrushton III talks his way out of the one tight spot in which they find themselves. The men from the north escape, escorted by Miched’s old friends. War is averted… for now.

Hours later, Master Klein’s town hall contacts come through again. Gray Lord Ravenix’s name appeared on a record of purchase in the city register a month prior. The property? The Old Haelmgood Embassy, of course. Incensed, Lt. Thrushton leads the group to the great house and barges in. Finding nothing on the ground floor save for empty rooms that have not been well-tended, they move upward, weapons ready. In a shuttered office, they find a lone desk and scraps of paper inked by the Gray Lord’s hand. Haldis the Sage pieces together these castoffs to reveal the contents of a letter to an unknown Master who may be one of “The Dire Kings.” Ravenix wants help with “The Interlopers,” and asks for the services of “The Five Infernals” to speed their destruction. He also hints that three more Time Shifts are being prepared.

Hasnim senses a trap and leaps into the hall just as a magical hand of force slams shut the doors to the office. Hidden in an adjacent room, the one-armed Dark Elf releases a dozen poisonous snakes upon the group who finds the windows have been bricked up. She escapes from a window before the tribesman can get to her, but the danger is quickly managed. A hidden puzzle-box reveals money, poison, antidotes, and the Embassy Deed. Was this clumsy assassination attempt simply a bungled job? Or, do Ravenix and his Lady have another motive?

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Game Four:
The Seal of Surzil

With the aid of one of Master Kulver Klein’s many contacts, the Watchmakers’ Guild is able to provide Haldis, Hasnim, Miched, Samael, and Vadran a series of maps showing the various subterranean ways below the Canal District. Overlaying the sketchy papers and ruling out what they can, the group deduces another route to the excavation site besides the dangerous, collapsed path they took before. Setting out with suitable kit and torchbearers, they make their way through an old passage at the bottom of Burbur’s Cannery, a seedy place which was used for one of Lieutenant Stene Drummond’s pit fights the night before.

Passing through forgotten tunnels and beneath ancient iron portcullises, they find their way back to the abandoned chamber where hired thugs had been digging up long lost secrets. There, they investigate the Seal of Surzil, a magical formula left by a wizard centuries dead. Atop the buried tower it sits, marking the place where the hero Surzil and his band of Gravekeepers entombed forever the creatures made by Eerdred, a dark legend of the necromantic past. But a close inspection by Haldis the Sage reveals that some other agent has been here recently, sapping magical power from the Seal to perhaps fuel his own advanced spells. Is this the place where someone reached through time to change history?

The Defenders of Pacht seek help from the Guild Chronomancers, but are interrupted by a swarm of deadly Fyreflies. These burning denizens of the deep threaten to immolate all that they touch, but wise manipulation of the tunnel portcullises and a jury-rigged bomb help even the odds. The flies are fast, but steel more swift, and the dozen bugs are swatted from the air with few hurts received, save for poor Phillipe the torchbearer. Vadran sets him right with healing magic, and the party returns to The Sleeping Tabby to puzzle out the workings of the Seal.

Inscribed below a near-empty crystal sphere in the center of Surzil’s magic circle is a rhyme in many languages warning that over time, the power of the ward would fade and potentially release whatever remained below on the city. But the clever sorcerer left the formula for how to replenish the magic… all that is needed is the stone heart of a red sea urchin. Seeking knowledge from their alchemist neighbor, the troupe learns how best to hunt these canal-dwelling bottom-feeders. With brains, traps, and some very long poles, they easily fish up the prized heart, not to mention some valuable spines and a dinner of smoked urchin.

Returning to the dig site the following evening, two strangers are discovered standing atop the Seal and readying themselves to sap the last of its power. Gray Lord Ravenix, a feather-cloaked Elven mage and his mysterious and seductive (though one-armed) Dark Elf compatriot are caught off-guard. They flee in apparent terror when the party strikes from ambush, quaffing potions that turn them to mist. But not before they drop clues in the form of a ring and in the fact that they seem to have met at least some of the Defenders before… perhaps in another time.

With the Seal of Surzil made safe, our heroes are left to wonder — what is Ravenix up to? And when will he strike next?

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Game Three:
Little Lost Children

The Watchmakers’ Guild completes their magical timepieces, the Chronomantic Anchors, thanks to the help of the group and some distilled Obliviax moss. They are activated just in time to see the effects of a Time-Shift. An unknown agent at some point in the past changes something and a happy parade of honored diplomats from foreign lands suddenly distorts itself into a death-march. Cheers turn to shouts of anger while the northern ambassadors metamorph into shackled prisoners. Accused of spying, these miserable souls are carted off to be hung from the castle walls.

Only those who were wearing the Anchors retain their memories of what was before the Shift. Amidst the maddened crowds’ chaos, a small riot begins, and an overeager child wanders into the way of a massive horse-cart. Acting instantly, Samael Thrushton III hurtles himself into the fray to snatch the toddler out of the deadly path. One life saved, but many others extinguished — for some are trampled and beaten to death as the mob exhausts its patriotic rage.

With the city on the brink, talk turns to why this was done, and how. Miched Sanel Dufraine hits upon the idea that the magic might be traceable, and works with Master Klein and his Chronometric Anchor to triangulate the point of origin — somewhere beneath the Canal District.

Scouting for an entrance to whatever lies below, the group stumbles upon a frantic mother searching for thirteen-year-old Marabel, a girl who wandered off the night before and never returned. They explore the slip-shod buildings above the canals and find an opening into a netherworld of ancient houses from an antiquated past, half-buried in the rubble of Pacht’s history. Intermingled in this tangle of passages are the old sewers and evidence of the young girl’s movement through them.

A steep slope and falling water intimidates Haldis the Sage and Vadran, priest of Fyros, to the point that they stay back. Forging into the darkness, Miched and Samael press on. By the time they reach flickering lights, their swords are bare, ready to act. And act they must, for within a huge vault of untold age, the half-buried top of a tower is being excavated by a score of strongmen. These brutes have captured the wayward Marabel and left her, bound and unconscious to die while they toil. Miched steals through the shadows and hauls the girl away from danger while the brave Lieutenant from Haelmgood holds the line.

While his comrade rescues the lost child, Samael fends off blow after blow with razored steel, dicing a third of the villains into little more than meat. They fall back in terror, seeking a way to end the bladesman’s victory. They try to explode him with a rolling barrel full of blasting powder, but the soldier is too quick and all they manage to do is entomb themselves.

On the surface, Miched reunites the girl and her mother, and the City Watch is called to gather up the imprisoned survivors below. But what were they digging up, and who is powerful enough to have changed time itself in the first place?

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Game Two:
Memories

Time’s strange shifting and the monstrous attacks in the night have drawn the attention of the City Watch and their magical colleagues from Tower Hill. Master Kulver Klein, owner of Klein’s Clocks, is marked as a suspicious character, but avoids arrest due to lack of evidence. Other mysterious figures come calling on the merchant, leading Miched Dufraine to suspect trouble. He confronts the quartet and draws them into The Sleeping Tabby, where a kind of truce is negotiated.

Masters Kulver Klein, Finniad of Quyrric, Durvis Adrad, and Deferendus Durbleman are the senior-most members of the Watchmakers’ Guild, and have sworn to root out the cause of the arcane, chronomantic disturbances that have been plaguing Pacht for near-on a decade. They claim to know the forbidden arts of Chronomancy, and have developed a magical device that will let any who wear it retain their memories after time has been altered, as the guild believes it has been on many occasions. Samael finds their tale too unbelievable, and with reason, as the four admit they were exiled from the Cinquerre College of Magic for the practice of this dangerous power. A choice must be made.

The five consent to help the Watchmakers, if only to learn more about what they saw when Time was broken, and they agree to help Klein and his peers complete their magical devices. But in order to do so, a rare moss from the Obliviax plant must be obtained. Called Memory Moss, the group discovers that colonies of the stuff can steal memories (and spells) from any nearby. They locate the spores in the wooded ruins of an amphitheater north of the city, and deal both with the Obliviax and the Thorny Dogs that guard it with great aplomb.

While Vadran continues to heal small hurts at The Tabby (thus drawing in much-needed business), he also manages to cut a deal with the neighboring alchemist — leftover memory moss in exchange for bank notes and gemstones.

Including the kobold Fahage, Hasnim adds to his circle of beastly friends two small shoots from the Thornies, hoping to grow and raise them as useful pets. His letter of introduction to Professor Safal, an elf of some skill in the mystical arts, begets more questions than it answers, for Safal is nearly killed by his attempt to probe the nature of The Crying God’s Smile.

Also at the college, Miched digs deeper into the library stacks to find the old spelling of the Dufrayn surname and the truth of the eight families that share pieces of his own heraldic crest: Some eight-hundred years in the past, they were all of one lineage. His own line was all but wiped clean from history by assassins and traitors, or so it would seem, and those that survived split eight-fold. But why? No tome in that great place of learning holds the answer.

Lieutenant Thrushton meets Captain Adal Abenforth and First Lieutenant Stene Drummond at what passes for the Embassy, finding the former great of girth and light of wit. The latter is a greasy schemer who may have had something to do with the recent loss of the deed to the first and true Royal Embassy of Haelmgood — a shameful stain on the very honor of The Crown itself, and an act that must be set to rights.

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Book One, Chapter One, Game One
A Pacht with the Past

The early morning light reveals an airship descending through the quiet fog. The Jubilant comes to rest in the glassy protection of an Aerodome at the center of the Free-City of Pacht. But only moments after signing their names to the city register, a cloaked figure dressed all in black steals the log and flees. Pursuit reveals only the charred remains of the book itself, and a glimpse of the masked thief on the rooftops.

Lieutenant Samael Thrushton III finds his new post — a Royal Embassy of Haelmgood — in an abysmal state of lax. Honorable to a fault, he grants them a single day to remedy the affront. Instead of the bunk afforded by his commission, he opts to stay at The Sleeping Tabby Inn and Tavern in the district of Hillbottom, as do his former cabin-mates. Under the care of the Undbutter family they find a cozy, albeit empty, home-away-from-home.

Meanwhile, Vadran, priest of Fyros, seeks out the temple of that potent god in the seedy Canal District. There, he declares his intention to build a new church of his own, and is granted grudging consent. But an air of hostility seems about, as the servants of the God of Rage despise competition.

Miched Dufraine talks and buys his way into the largest library in The West with the hope of finding proof of his own lineage, long ago broken by enslavement in the Empire of Naddium. What he finds is an enigma — eight families instead of one, each bearing a part of his own crest.

Haldis the Sage discovers that not all books of value lie on library shelves. Exploring the city, he meets a dealer in rare tomes and a lady alchemist, both with wares that may one day prove beneficial to his career… if he lives long enough to use them.

And Hasnim of the Fallen Moon Tribe, too, finds helpful friends in the Elven Quarter. A bow of ebon-wood may become a weapon feared by many foes, but the real treasure is a letter of introduction to one Professor Safal of the Cinquerre College of Magic. This slip of paper might prove to be the first step in a journey of discovery about a mysterious blade and redemption in The East.

Night falls. Sleep is broken by noises in the streets. Holes in Time appear, opening shaky paths to a war long over and the sacking of a very different Pacht. Implings and an Orkish taskmaster slip through one of these gaps to raze whatever they can, but swift blades and quick action stamp out the flames. None seem to know what to make of the strange occurrence… but one old man in a clock shop seems more than what he pretends.

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Character Creation and Prelude Game
Storms on the Horizon

Prelude:

Aboard The Jubilant, an Airship destined for the city of Pacht, the calm of pleasant travel is broken. A large band of skypirates posing as legitimate passengers ambush Jubilant’s crew and seize control, trapping officers and able airmen at dagger-point. But all is not lost.

The keen eyes and roguish instincts of Miched Sanel Dufraine, who has some small experience in the buccaneer’s trade, catch a glimpse of the mercenaries at work. He quietly gathers to him men at arms to free crewmen trapped in the dark recesses of the cargo hold below. Lieutenant Samael Thrushton III bravely confronts an armed troupe twice his number while his cabin-mate Hasnim ebn Alzi ebn I’sa brandishes swirling blades with such ferocity that most of the thieves choose surrender over a quick death.

The greater part of the foe wait above, beating officers and airmen in an attempt to root out knowledge of their true prize, a mysterious figure known as “The Ambassador.” To face them, Miched and his friends call upon Haldis the Sage and Vadran, priest of Fyros. This last brazenly steps into the Captain’s Galley past drawn crossbows to match wills with the wizard Zepold Krieng. A fight at two fronts ensues, but Dole deVessenti and his skypirates are thrown down.

Yet the question remains… who is “The Ambassador” and why were these marauders paid in new coins from the North?

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