Exalted: Ghost of a Chance

Ghost of a Chance, Part 8
Why can't we be friends?

Shade returned to Typhon’s villa and had a conversation with the nemissary in which he was told to look out for an odd-looking stranger who would ask him for a favor and told that the nemissary wished to train him to defend himself from this stranger. Whispers returned soon after and the pair began looking over the documents she had requested from the Guild archive regarding her target in the upstairs library.

Stalwart Second had been spending the morning exploring the grounds when a very frightened servant pulled him aside and asked him for help searching for a fellow servant that had gone missing. The servant had apparently been fired and skipped town the night before the party had arrived, but his friend didn’t believe that story. Second examined the man’s former sleeping quarters and inquired at Typhon’s office if anyone there had seen the man or had an idea where he might have gone.

Gaias, returning from purchasing several small things, began practicing using the daiklave they had picked up while escaping from Karuth Vlan. Typhon returned home and called Gaias into his office where he revealed that the earthly remains of the Abyssal Bones of the Ashen Phoenix had come into his possession. Typhon was unaware that Phoenix was Gaias’ brother, but knew that Gaias had been trying to see the Abyssal was properly buried. Typhon gave the remains to Gaias in exchange for his word that Gaias would not do harm to Typhon, Typhon’s employees or his guests. Gaias hid the remains and left the villa to get drunk and pick a fight.

That evening, everyone but Gaias gathered together for a dinner in the smaller dining room. Rami began a discussion about their proposed journey to Thorns which devolved into a shouting match and nothing much was resolved. It was made apparent that Second did not trust Typhon at all and that Whispers did not much like Second, either. The dinner guests left, discovering Gaias had been leaning against the wall outside though it wasn’t known that he’d been listening in on the conversation. Typhon discussed with Whispers the deal he’d made with Gaias and led her up to the library where she and Shade continued to study into the night.

Gaias pulled Second aside and told him about recovering his brother’s bones and the deal he’d made and asked for advice. Second was unconvinced that the bones belonged to Gaias’ brother and the pair resolved to ask Willow her opinion in the morning. Second asked his permission to speak with Typhon on the matter which Gaias gave. Second and Typhon then had a terse conversation in his office in which Second gave Typhon an ultimatum: release Gaias from the deal they’d made earlier and allow him to keep the bones or Second would never consider trusting the deathknight at all. Typhon agreed to discuss the matter with Gaias in the morning after Willow had had a chance to look at the bones.

Unable to sleep, Second left to follow up on his earlier investigations. At the docks, he found a man who said he’d seen the missing servant. The man said the servant had seemed to be waiting for someone and had appeared very frightened. Second was able to acquire the satchel he’d dropped when he ran away in a fright. Inside were hastily packed clothes, documents written in a strange cypher and a large amount of gaudy looking jewelry. He returned to the villa to ask Rami for advice on the contents of the satchel.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 7
Rest for the weary

The party journeyed through the night, neither stopping to rest nor eat and arrived in the early morning at the ferry to cross the Gray River. Before arriving, they stashed their Artifacts in the carriage to avoid suspicion. Typhon paid their passage after convincing the ferry owner that the nemissary was part of his retinue and would bring no harm or ill luck. Rami spent the ferry ride with his head hanging over the side, a decidedly sickly shade of green. Willow offered friendly advice, having nothing pharmaceutical to calm his stomach. Rami asked her if she were capable of summoning a spirit if she knew it’s name, to which she replied that she could but would rather wait until they had managed to get free of Typhon’s hospitality. Typhon singled Gaias out for a private conversation and asked him how he had managed to kill the Abyssal called Phoenix, why Gaias had chosen to transport his body through the Underworld and what the final fate of the corpse had been. Gaias responded with half-truths and careful facts, concealing that the Phoenix was his brother but admitting that they’d fought before and that the first battle had been when Gaias exalted. Unsatisfied, but further informed, Typhon left the matter alone.

When they arrived in Marita shortly before sunset, Typhon led them all to his villa and welcomed them to treat it as their own home. The cold, haunting place seemed to rejuvenate him but was generally considered by all to be rather creepy. The chamberlain of the house was introduced, several servants were assigned to assist Ominous Whispers and to show everyone to their rooms and tend their needs. The servants were all pale, quiet, and kept their faces blank and pleasant, but Stalwart Second noted they seemed to fear Typhon. Typhon excused himself, saying he had to attend to business.

Everyone carefully selected their rooms, which were all similarly appointed. Willow, moved by his weakened state, kissed Rami soundly in the hallway. Speechless at first, he promised he would rest and needed no further special attention. Willow tended to Second, who spent the rest of the night entertaining the servant who had come to keep him company with wondrous stories. The servant brought in others and food and drink and it became a small party before long. Willow excused herself to take a very long, very hot bath. Gaias, contemplating his actions and his future alone in his room, was approached by Rami who looked rather weak. Rami confessed to a problem and, asking Gaias for his discretion and help resolving that problem, the pair left the villa without a guide or escort. After a few hours in town, they returned. Willow tended to Gaias’ remaining wounds and retired to her own room for rest and relaxation with Mai. Willow went to check on her patients later in the evening and found the party being broken up by the chamberlain and Gaias still awake in his room, brooding. She left him with an offer of a friendly ear and kind counsel should he want it and went back to sleep.

Whispers and Shade, accompanied by a few of Typhon’s servants, left the villa at dusk for the local Guild office to check in and receive their alotted pay. The servants remained outside while the two introduced themselves to the local chief officer. Whispers checked to see if there were any open contracts she might fulfill while in Marita and accepted a job to negotiate with a Councillor who was pushing to end his country’s contract with the Guild. Whispers requested records of the Guild’s past dealings with this country be sent to the villa for further perusal the next day. Back at the villa, they discussed the job and waited for Typhon’s return. Late that night, they spoke with him and he agreed that there would be no problem with them performing work for the Guild while staying at the villa so long as they kept their “business” to themselves.

After breakfast the next day, the group split up to run their separate errands. Whispers asked the servants where the nemissary was keeping itself and asked it several probing questions, as well as promising to answer any questions it had for her. Rami spent a few hours hussling the general populace in the market to pay back the money Gaias had leant him and split off to do his own shopping. Gaias purchased some armor and a weapon while Second spent his money on treats and supplies for his horse, Azagael. Willow visited the local banking office, replenished her medical supplies, incense and other amenities and went clothes shopping where she ran into Whispers. Whispers had purchased a chain mail shirt and was seeking courtly clothing for her trip to Thorns in shades of black, purple and silver. She requested they be delivered later that evening thinking that Typhon might take notice of them. Willow also purchased a weapon for Mai and a replacement for her waterproof trunk. Shade spent the entire morning researching in the Guild office library, reading what records were available on Thorns and on Typhon. Not much information was to be had on Thorns under the rule of the Mask of Winters, however he was able to obtain a catalogue of Typhon’s official and suspected holdings and local business investments. He returned to the villa where he was to meet with Whispers, only to find her still out shopping.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 6
Willow knew everything

The intrepid band delved into the Labyrinth, clambering through caves and generally doing things that made Azagael uncomfortable. Typhon led the group and, acting on a personal request from from Ominous Whispers, elected to travel along the ledge of a ravine rather than along its floor in order to avoid the strange building in which sound did not carry. In order to reach their only known exit from the Labyrinth, they needed to cross the ravine. They reached a place at which they might descend into the ravine and climb up the other side, but found the path too steep for the horse to descend on its own. The party decided to remain in one group for safety’s sake and search for another way across. After continuing for several minutes by the light of several caste marks, they left the ravine edge and entered another series of caves which eventually opened out into a large grotto.

The walls and floor of the grotto were slick with moisture, the air was thick and mildewy and carried strange echoes. At the edge of their light, they could see a large tree. From its many branches hung a multitude of bodies in varying states of decay gently rocking in a ill wind. The party split into groups to search for exits to the grotto while Willow investigated the hanging bodies. None of the rest of the party were particularly interested in approaching the tree or its payload. When asked, Typhon said that places or things that have seen much death and suffering have been known to “fall” into the Labyrinth. Shade speculated that much in the way of riches and priceless history could be found within the maze. Absorbed in their investigations, none noticed the approach of one who had followed them: a nephwrack.

The nephwrack screamed a shrill summons and awakened a slew of hungry ghosts from within the hanging bodies, commanding them to kill the party. Willow recognized instantly what the creature was and shouted a brief description to her comrades with the instruction to kill it first. When attacked by Ominous Whispers and Typhon, it summoned a darkness to hamper them. Mai was caught in the darkness with them, but she and Typhon successfully found their way out while Whispers used it to her best advantage to attack from hiding. While the rest of the party attacked the hungry ghosts, Gaias spent the last of his reserves to kill the nephwrack. As it fell, the nephwrack shattered and melted into a disgusting black ichor which coated its entire panoply and the darkness it had cast dispersed. Gaias retrieved its ritual blade and still-sheathed slashing sword, though he did not claim its soulsteel articulated plate armor. It was several moments before anyone noticed they had more company.

In the shadow of the entrance to the grotto stood a tall figure dressed in charcoal gray robes and hakama with a dull, red trim. Its face was entirely obscured by an intricately carved silver mask with ten twisted, bony horns and small eyeslits through which shone a ghastly green light. For all its imposing presence, the nemissary (for so Willow had identified it) had said nothing and gave no clue to how long it had been standing there. Willow began to ask it questions in the Old Realm tongue, with the group receiving occasional translations. When asked if it was following them, it responded in a voice that echoed its interrogator’s own, “Yes.” Asked if it cared to join the party, it replied, “I already have.” With further sparse replies, it indicated it could lead them out of the Labyrinth, though the party disagreed on their final destination. Settling for the middle ground, they asked that it lead them across the ravine. After a short walk through a tight passage that could barely accomodate the much-suffering horse and a further trek along the opposite side of the ravine, Typhon recognized their turning off point and took the lead once more.

Climbing through the Labyrinth’s caves once more, they made it to a small chamber with a stone archway in one side. Typhon begged their forgiveness for what they were about to see and led them through the arch. The room on the other side was covered in blood, gore, flesh and bone. Up the stairs into the hut above (precious few stopping to wipe their feet), they emerged out into the breaking dawn in Creation. Most breathed a collective sigh of relief save for Typhon, Blood Moon and the nemissary (who said nothing). Noting his discomfort, Willow expressed sympathy for Typhon who appeared genuinely touched. The peace did not last long, for the weaver Shanti stood before them in the wreckage and detritus of her mulberry garden and harrangued the deathknight for leading “that monster” to her garden. As he apologized profusely and swore to make reparations, the rest of the group surmised that the nephwrack they encountered in the Labyrinth must have followed behind Whispers, Shade and Typhon to make sure they did not come back from the trap near Karuth Vlan and caused this damage. After Whispers gratefully retrieved her ghost-seeing blindfold from the somewhat mollified weaver, the party found themselves fortunate enough to have the use of Typhon’s carriage and discussed where they would go with it. Recognizing the need to resupply and having the offer of Typhon’s villa to stay at, the group rode north towards Marita. Along the way, Rami’s discomfort and the nemisarry’s admission revealed that the two had fought each other in the Underworld. Rami had thought the nemissary to be dead, since he did not know it had the ability to move quickly from one corpse to another. Whispers and Typhon also listened at length to Willow’s rendition of the events at Three Oaks beginning with the incident at the floating bridge where she met Gaias and Howls Justice in the guise of Halvor, leaving out a few choice bits of information.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 5
They reach their limit

The escapees made it up into the hills south of Karuth Vlan and hid in a cave near the entrance to the Labyrinth Whispers, Shade and Typhon had come through a few hours before. Typhon informed them that they had perhaps a few hours to rest and heal, but then they must be on the move before soldiers from the city find them. The group talked about how they all got there, and Typhon revealed that he believed the other group had been caught in a trap intended for him alone. It was discussed that multiple capture teams were likely roaming the area and that Rami encountered one while Gaias, Second, Willow and Mai had encountered another. They guessed that the patrols did not know exactly where Typhon was supposed to exit the Labyrinth.

When it was revealed that Typhon worked for the Mask of Winters out of Thorns (and was quite cheerful and enthusiastic in his work), Gaias lost his temper and the two had a confrontation. Gaias had to be restrained after almost killing the other man (and almost being killed himself) and it was about an hour before he finally calmed down. Second spoke with Gaias about their plans going forward alone in the cave as the rest of the party had moved to a second cave to be safer (from the patrols and from Gaias both). Willow and Typhon spoke in private while she was expending the last of her essence to heal him and Rami of their wounds. Typhon indicated that he would like to know more of what went on in Three Oaks and would accept the information as a form of repayment for a debt he considered Willow owed him. He also extended to her a personal invitation from the Mask of Winters to visit him in his citadel in Thorns and an offer to escort her there in safety which she accepted.

Typhon tried to make peace with Gaias while he still rested in the other cave but to no avail. Gaias told him that his grudge was against the Mask of Winters and it was personal, after which Typhon extended another invitation to Gaias from the Mask to visit him in Thorns addressing Gaias by his full name (which he had not been given). Second questioned him as to why he was sent to deliver the invitation and what it meant. Typhon told him that he had received the order a few days prior and that he was tasked with delivering it should the opportunity arise. Gaias declined the invitation after Typhon refused to guarantee his safety.

The group reassembled in the second cave to discuss plans going forward. It was noted that neither Second’s horse, Azagael, nor Howls Justice had met up with the group yet and Second remained steadfast that he would not leave without them. Typhon argued that Justice might be dead, alive and captured, or have abandoned the group entirely and that in none of these scenarios would it be prudent to wait around for him in the Underworld. He also argued against returning to Karuth Vlan to try and cross into Creation there and offered his services as a guide through the Labyrinth to a shadowland a few hours away in the home of the weaver Shanti. There, he insisted, they could take more time to discuss their options. The longer they waited, the less likely it would be that they could find their way out of the Labyrinth again. After venturing out to seek and find Azagael, Second agreed to come along through the Labyrinth with the rest of the group.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 4
A Capture and an Escape

The navigator, Toffa, left the group to find another way across the ravine since the pillar/bridge had collapsed. Typhon stayed with Shade and the two conversed to pass the time. Whispers, left with Shade’s barghest familiar on the other side of the ravine, carefully explored the ledge she found herself on in case she should be forced to fight while the ghost dog looked on hungrily. Toffa found a second way across and led Whispers down a rough, steep path into the ravine with Typhon and Shade repeating their journey on the other side. The two groups met at the bottom and proceeded forward.

Soon they encountered a strange house carved from the black stone of the ravine itself. Its huge structure was crumbled and badly damaged from the falling chunks of the bridge and Toffa warned them that as soon as they crossed the threshold there would be no sound. The group was unable to hear anything at all while in the house but they managed to pick their way through it. As they exited the back of the house, Toffa spotted a small group camped further down the ravine. Toffa remained with Whispers while Shade, his dog and Typhon approached and engaged the group. The ghosts they encountered were hell divers intent on plumbing the depths of the Labyrinth for treasures and secrets. They attacked Shade and Typhon, but were summarily defeated and dispersed. The group traveled along the floor of the ravine until they found another way up, guessing that it was likely a safer route than the ledges above. Toffa led them up through a complex cave system and eventually towards the open sky. They emerged in craggy hills, a land feature which Typhon was not expecting to see near the coastal city of Thorns. He rounded on Toffa for getting them lost and, through his harrangue, was able to find out that the guide deliberately mislead them. In a rage, Typhon attacked the guide for his treachery though Ominous Whispers struck the blow that killed him.

Due to some excellent pathfinding, the group journeying to Karuth Vlan made great time. The first night after the swamp crossing, Rami approached Willow to make an apology for knocking her out, tying her up and gagging her that was not well made or received. Justice also talked with Second about what would be done when the corpse of Gaias’ brother rose up. Second persuaded him to let Gaias handle it. During a cycle of scouting ahead, Howls Justice failed to report back at the appointed time. Gaias ordered the party to reduce their speed and continue on for another hour in case Justice returned. While traveling, the group encountered the tracks of a single large animal they identified as a yeddim. While unusual that a yeddim should travel alone, they found no other traces and continued on. After an hour had passed, Rami volunteered to go searching for Justice. When he also did not return, Gaias ordered a halt and the group made camp for the evening.

As Willow and Mai settled in to prepare dinner, the others spotted a blur in the distance that coalesced into a yeddim as it came towards them. When the yeddim neared, Willow realized the creature was a construct. She and Mai ran from the campsite when it fired a weapon that paralyzed Gaias and Second and disgorged numerous war ghosts. Gaias and Second broke free of the paralyzing effect and managed to cripple the yeddim-construct, but the Abyssal construct operator entered the fray. Gaias and the Abyssal battled and, though Gaias killed his opponent, the remaining war ghosts incapacitated him and Second and retrieved Willow, Mai. The ghosts piled their captives into their own cart or made them walk in front of it while they pushed it as they were unable to catch and harness Second’s horse, Azagael.

From a promontory in the hills, Typhon and Shade watched the strange procession and relayed the information to Whispers. Typhon was also able to identify a fortified city in the distance as Karuth Vlan, a city allied with an enemy of his liege. He surmised that one or more of the people in the train were Exalts due to the Artifact weaponry seen in the cart and planned with Whispers and Shade on a method to free them from the city that night. After a rendevous with a woman he knew from inside the city – one who owed him a large favor – the group obtained a jailor’s key and snuck into the city that night. Gaias, Second, Willow and Mai were taken to a cluster of holding cells where they were stripped down to their underclothes and separated into different cells. Rami, who had also been captured, called out to them and Second bargained with the guards to bring the very injured Rami into his cell in exchange for his good behavior. Rami was chained to the bars of the cell and, after a brief scuffle with a guard who had insulted him, Gaias was also chained. As dark fell, the guards changed shift. Shortly thereafter, Shade and Typhon (who had secreted Whispers away in an unused room) came in, dispatched the guards and freed the group. They retrieved their clothing from a storage locker nearby and dressed themselves while Typhon, Shade and Second went searching for the rest of their gear after stashing Rami in the room with Ominous Whispers. Gaias stayed behind with Willow and Mai.

The three men eventually found a room further into the city complex where their more valuable equipment had been taken to be sorted and catalogued. Though there were guards on the door, the scribes and other staff had left for the evening. Several of the group’s artifacts were retrieved (as well as some that did not belong to them) and Typhon stuffed a rucksack full of goods from the room as well. They returned for the rest of the party and Typhon instructed them on the exit route and a rendevous point should they be split up. Typhon left the jailor’s key in the spot his contact had agreed upon as promised and Whispers promptly picked it up to return to him later so his promise could be fulfilled if not exactly to the letter of the intent. The group managed to escape the city with no interference at all and made for the hills at best possible speed.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 3
A Time of Many Crossings

This update consists of a summary of the action from many sessions since I was too lazy to keep notes from individual sessions and, let’s face it, we didn’t get a lot done. Partly if not mostly my fault, but oh well. Without durther afo…

Gaias, Second, Willow, Mai, Rami and Justice made camp further inland from the swamp after the battle. Second informed the others that he’d secured passage for all of them across the swamp in the morning. Some time during the conversation, Willow woke up and attempted to entice them all into another bout of revelry. This ended with Willow once again put to sleep (and bound and gagged at the others’ request) by Rami. The next morning saw more of the same, but despite the distractions the cart and horse were loaded onto Calla’s boat and the party set off across the swamp.

While crossing, the group and the boat were attacked several times by voracious hungry ghosts. While the ghosts did manage to damage the barrels that were keeping the boat afloat under its heavy weight, some quick thinking on Mai’s part saved the day. Using Willow’s waterproofed trunk as a replacement barrel, they were soon underway again. Shortly before making landfall, Willow’s sensual mood faded and Mai untied her and helped her clean up her appearance. After debarking, Calla dragged her boat further downstream and headed off to make camp away from shore in preparation for returning the next day. The party assembled themselves and headed westward following Calla’s directions toward Karuth Vlan.

Meanwhile, Shade received notice from a Guild contact that his mission parameters would be best satisfied if he kept close to Ominous Whispers. It was known that Fractured Sapphire was last seen in the area and that he might attempt to make contact with Whispers. To that end, Shade followed after Whispers and Typhon who had journey for a day and a half to the south and west. All three arrived at a small thatched hut set into a hillside that was the abode of one Weaver Shanti. Typhon negotiated with the weaver to allow them to use a door in her cellar that led to a shadowland and the Labyrinth beyond. Whispers also intrigued the weaver as she had been using one of the Artifacts Shanti had made, the ghost-seeing blindfold. Recognizing it, she and Shanti discussed modifying it to better suit Whispers’ needs. Agreeing to her terms, Whispers left her blindfold (and only method of sight) with the weaver promising to return for it soon. Whispers, Shade, Typhon and the ghost guide Toffa ventured into a room like a slaughterhouse under the weaver’s hut. Through a stone doorway leading into the hillside was the Labyrinth.

The four (plus Shade’s barghest) clambered down through several caves with Whispers relying heavily on her traveling companions to assist her. Eventually, they came to a ravine which Toffa informed them lay directly across their path. The party searched along it seeking a way across. Eventually they found what appeared to be a bridge. The structure was a hollow pillar approximately 5 yards across. Its material was unknown and it was intricately carved with numerous glyphs and pictograms. Above the column was a long line of blue pyreflame along the ceiling of the cave that provided enough light to see by. The walking surface of the column had many large holes in it and Typhon, expressing his concern that it might not hold their weight, asked Shade if he would attempt the crossing alone first. In doing so, Shade tripped some sort of trap. Part of the ceiling collapsed onto the bridge and Shade. Typhon and Toffa were able to pull him free and get him across to the other side of the ravine… but they unfortunately left Whispers and Shade’s familiar behind.

To be continued…

Ghost of a Chance, Part 2
Onward and outward

While the bulk of the group were distracted, Stalwart Second and Howls Justice explored the immediate area, determining that a large, festering swamp was located in the same place as the river in the world they had left behind. With the swamp to the west of them extending north and south for many days journey and the town they had just left to the east, the two pondered which direction to head. Neither of them were familiar with the immediate area, and so Second returned to the town to seek the location of the nearest shadowland. In the Lonely Song Tea House, he met a strange ghostly scholar who told him of the kingdom of Karuth Vlan. He said that a mad king ruled it with an iron fist, but that it was the nearest shadowland that he knew. In order to cross the swamp, which he must do to seek Karuth Vlan, the scholar told him of a merchant who owned a boat that might be willing to sell it. Thanking him, Second left the tea house.

Second next encountered Butcher, a somewhat more friendly ghost in a long, low house and his companion, Calla. Second offered a magnificent story in exchange for him, his friends and cargo to be ferried across the swamp on Calla’s boat. Calla agreed that they would all set out at first light for it was too dangerous to cross the swamp after dark and night was fast approaching. Meanwhile, back in the clearing, young Senmai had collapsed from exhausted revelry. After more than six hours of intense and somewhat intoxicated relaxation, Rami brought the festivities to a close by making Willow pass out. They wrapped Willow and Mai in their clothing and lay them in the cart. Howls Justice returned and gave Gaias his daiklave back, requesting he dress himself. The Underworld sun set and a score of hungry ghosts attacked the men from the west. During the fight, they were forced to cripple the horse attached to the cart or risk its panicked flight when it was attacked by the blood-hungry phantoms. After slaying the ghosts, Gaias put the horse out of its misery and the three men moved the cart away from its corpse.

Ominous Whispers was summoned to a private conference by a messenger. The nobleman she had written the missive to regarding the events in Kalia and Three Oaks held a short conference with her and Typhon saying that the Elder of Kalia had committed suicide and that, in lieu of the governer that Sumar had already chosen and sent, the Wyld Hunt had established a condition of martial law. The nobleman made it clear that none of the external interference, be it by the Guild, the city-state of Thorns, or the Wyld Hunt was at all appreciated. He suggested they both get their affairs in order and vacate the city with all possible haste.

Returning to the house in the foreign quarter where she was staying, Whispers and Typhon discussed leaving High Keep at first light. Whispers requested that Typhon swear an oath for her safety to be witnessed by the Unconquered Sun. Typhon requested time to inform his Leige of the arrangement before swearing the oath. He then left, and his exit was witnessed by Shade who had been sent to investigate Fractured Sapphire’s dissappearance and the status of Ominous Whispers’ mission. Shade made contact with Whispers’ maid as she delivered a letter to the Guild to the official post. Shade and Whispers discussed their missions briefly and agreed to meet again before dawn to discuss their plans. Shade then left the house to request further instructions on his mission.

Ghost of a Chance, Part 1
Well, we should have seen this coming

The party stepped through the small shadowland and into the Underworld to see a place not entirely unfamiliar. They stood in the Council Hall, but without its marble columns supporting a slate roof and the rows upon rows of stone benches. The roof here was thatched, the tall, narrow windows had been boarded up and the floor was littered with sleeping mats and low cots. On each lay someone sick and dying and among them walked people wearing strange, bird-like masks. The dais where the Council of Five sat in high-backed chairs was curtained off with stained white silk. Willow informed the group that these people were in fact ghosts suffering from the Great Contagion and the masks were designed to stave off infection. None seemed to acknowledge the presence of the newcomers until Willow and Content Not Found: 47844 approached the curtained dais. One of the masked tenders told them it was off limits because the plague mad were kept there, restrained for their own good.

While the group discussed their surroundings, the tall stone doors swung shut and a large object was wheeled in front of it. The ghosts around them rose to their feet and started screaming for help and mercy. Footsteps on the thatched roof and the panic in the room led Willow to guess that the building was about to be set on fire. That soon proved true and the party endeavored to escape from the death trap. Stalwart Second ordered Gaias and Content Not Found: 47821 to break open one of the windows after the door proved too sturdy, and he and Content Not Found: 47844 confronted three hungry ghosts that had broken free of their bonds in the uproar. Breaking through the window, Gaias and Content Not Found: 47821 assaulted the soldiers outside and removed a heavily laden cart from in front of the door. The trapped ghosts poured out of the window and door, trampling each other in their haste. Boosting Content Not Found: 47844 to the roof to deal with the soldiers there, Second gathered everyone together and led the party in a dash for the safety of the woods, they having only suffered a few minor burns.

Willow observed that the town appeared much different, less like the Three Oaks they had just left and exhibiting architecture more common to the Shogunate era. Second explained to the group that it would be wise to keep their power in check as they would be unable to regain their metaphysical strength until the party left the Underworld, although he and Willow disagreed on the proper explanation as to why that was. Willow, much … frustrated, determined that attempts to determine their next destination or a heading out of the Underworld would have to wait until she relaxed thoroughly and recruited Content Not Found: 47847, Gaias and Content Not Found: 47821 for the effort. Second and Content Not Found: 47844 abstained and left the immediate area.

Border War (part the seventeenth)
In which they run

Fractured Sapphire left Three Oaks through the western forests and crossed the river to the Sumarian side around dawn. He stopped to dry out and hid himself when he saw that long sections of floating raft were leaving the port of Kalia. As they floated down river, teams of men were lashing them together to form a bridge. Fracture approached the riverbank as the team from one section landed to anchor it and offered to help fix the raft. Intending to damage the raft, Fracture insisted that its structure was critically weak. A silent Dragon Blooded man stepped in to intercede and evicted Fracture from the proceedings. Fracture headed away into the woods and crossed the river again and headed to Three Oaks to warn the others that the Sumar army were on the move again. He watched as they began to cross under the watchful eye of 4 Dragon Blooded officers, all well armed and armored.

As he had journeyed to Kalia that night, Willow stayed up to study the tome she had bargained away from the Content Not Found: 47851. It’s tattered pages held strange mysteries and inspired odd, waking dreams. While Willow read, Gaias slept, Content Not Found: 47839 kept vigil, and Content Not Found: 48646 slipped away, the last day of Calibration ended. Dawn brought with it a new face in Stalwart Second who rode up the abandoned streets of Three Oaks singing a jaunty tune. Second went to the inn seeking a stable for his horse and met Content Not Found: 47839 on the way out from returning the possessions he had “liberated” the night prior. Content Not Found: 47839 and he conversed, exchanging information. Getting along well, the pair resolved to find ale and vittles while Second settle his horse. They returned to the tea house where they met up with Content Not Found: 47821.

Second asked if they had seen a man matching Gaias’ description or a man with dark skin and white birthmarks named Content Not Found: 47844. While neither had heard of the second man, Gaias wandered downstairs into the tea room to find himself much asked for. Though he did not recognize the second description, Gaias returned to his room on a hunch. Aesis, the large, black mastiff with white spots, slept on the floor and studiously did not respond when Gaias called for him by the name of Content Not Found: 47844. Impatient, Second called up the stairwell for Content Not Found: 47844 and said he had news of a comrade and property to return. Huffing, the dog got up and left the room and transformed into a tall, dark-skinned man on the way down the stairs. The incredulous Gaias followed behind shouting, What are you?

The shouting drew out Willow and Content Not Found: 47847 from their rooms to see the two new faces of Second and Content Not Found: 47844. Content Not Found: 47844 who, until that moment, had been masquerading as Gaias’ pet dog took conference with Second and learned of his comrade’s death in the far north. Second lead him to the stable at the inn so he could return Content Not Found: 47844’s property while the rest of the curious party followed behind. After the exchange, Content Not Found: 47844 informed Second that the Wyld Hunt would be coming soon if they were not already present and the best solution for all involved would be to leave town immediately. Willow, Content Not Found: 47821, Second and Content Not Found: 47844 set about preparing to leave while Gaias went to prepare his brother’s body for burial.

Fracture returned at about midday to inform the party that the Sumar army, along with at least 4 Dragon Blooded warriors, was on the move and would likely arrive in minutes. Content Not Found: 47839, who intended to kill the Huntsmen, insisted he would stay and fight. The rest hatched a plot to escape through the dwindling shadowland in front of the Council Hall and try to either find a way to leave it or a fortified position by nightfall. All felt sure that the Dragon Blooded host would not follow the “demons” into “hell”, holy mission or no. Fracture offered up a distraction by lighting up his anima banner and fleeing across the battlefield through the enemy lines. He continued west from there towards High Keep to meet with Ominous Whispers and aid her in her mission there. Content Not Found: 47839 stationed himself in an ambush position but feared himself unable to overcome the enemy alone and escaped.

In High Keep, Whispers and her retinue were escorted to the Merchant’s Quarter and housed comfortably. They were told that the House of Lords would be anxious to see her and hear her story, but hours went by with no news from anyone. After the dinner hour, when dark had fallen, a visitor did arrive and announced himself as Content Not Found: 47843. Knowing Typhon by reputation as a member of the Confederation of Rivers and ambassador of Thorns, Whispers and he had a spirited exchange in which she found out that both she and he were being kept away from the true political action, that Content Not Found: 47843 was in High Keep to further his Liege’s aims in Kalia and Three Oaks, and that Content Not Found: 47843 was aware there were Abyssal operatives working in that area. For her part, Whispers revealed to Content Not Found: 47843 that she herself was an exalt and that she had no intention to interrupt his plans so long as the economy in that area continued running smoothly. After Content Not Found: 47843 left, Whispers penned a missive to the Lord of the cities neighboring Kalia pleading for intercession on her behalf so that she might be seen by him or by the House of Lords. Later the next day, an impatient Content Not Found: 47843 returned and conveyed his master’s invitation to Thorns.

Border War (part the sixteenth)
In which there is pain and gain

Fractured Sapphire, a man of the Guild, had received a missive from his superior, Ominous Whispers. The pair had never met, but Whispers was quite explicit that the details of her current mission merited the talents of a diplomat with his “special” skills. Eager to discover what the fuss was all about, Fracture set out for Three Oaks to meet up with Whispers and arrived, several days later, only a few hours after she had gone to Sumar’s capital to bargain for the removal of Kalia’s warmongering Elder. She left midday on the final day of Calibration blissfully unaware of the uproar caused by the Abyssal. Fracture’s arrival was coincidentally timed; he was able to observe Willow, Rami (with the Abyssal in tow) and Gaias leave the tea house for the woods to the west of town. Following behind he was both unnoticed and unaware that he himself was being followed by Kageto and Wraith (in the guise of a snake).

Willow had Rami lay the Abyssal out at the base of the great tree and called down the tree god to complete their deal. Ever petulant, the tree god asked her to come back later so that the god might devote some time and attention to properly interrogating the Abyssal. Refusing, Willow instead brought the Abyssal to consciousness and insisted on the god fulfilling her part of the bargain immediately. Wood-skinned and leaf-faced servants of the tree appeared to show Willow to a door that opened in the trunk of the great tree. Further servants restrained the Abyssal and began to slowly torture him as the tree god asked him questions. None of those watching stepped in to help the Abyssal and the curious tree god became somewhat overzealous in her attentions. The tree’s servants lifted his body up and sealed him to the trunk of the tree, unbreathing, unmoving, dead to all the world.

Meanwhile, inside the tree itself, great wonders were revealed to Willow. After stepping through the crevice in the trunk, Willow found herself on a platform carved from the living wood of the tree. Around the inside and hollowed out of the core of the tree were massive bookcases filled with book after book. All were different and many of the wood-skinned servants clambered up and down spiral staircases, rearranging and tending to the books. One of them approached Willow with two books in hand. The first was an ancient-looking tome printed on fine but aging linen and bound between burnished copper plates. It was an achingly thin book and the cover was etched with erratic calligraphy from many different hands in many different languages. All seemed to have a common thread: they spoke of an evil witch, a cold and heartless woman that had to be put down for the safety of all mankind. The second book was newer, thicker, printed on extraordinarily fine sheets of wood rather than pressed paper and bound in living leather. Across the cover was a delicate filigree in ever shifting patterns that reminded Willow of the masterwork architectural features of the school she used to attend.

Willow was presented with a choice: she may only read one book. The rest were forbidden for her; she could not even touch them. Further, she would only be allowed to leave this place with the book if she swore never to speak of what she discovered within it to anyone. Willow agreed with one exception: that she would be allowed to speak of it to a child of her flesh. The tree agreed to this exception and Willow chose the copper-bound tome, turned and exitted the massive library in the tree.

While she was inside the great tree, Fracture had approached the group and asked if any of them knew where he might find Ominous Whispers. She had mentioned that there were other powerful players in the area and those gathered here seemed to fit that description. After being told that her last known whereabouts were the tea house that morning, Fracture inspected the body of the Abyssal sealed to the tree and left at top speed, leaping through the treetops. Willow emerged, carrying her book and it was decided by all to return to the tea house as well. Kageto and Wraith, never having made their presence known, remained at the tree. Transforming back to her human form, Wraith expressed her dismay that no one stopped the torture of the Abyssal (now known to be called The Traveller) and wondered aloud if Kageto had been aware that he would be treated like that. Kageto swore he knew nothing about it and the two resolved to leave the area.

Fracture arrived at the tea house and questioned those within about the goings on in the past few days. He received wildly exaggerated tales about battles happening in front of the Council Hall and left to investigate as the rest of the party arrived. Fracture determined that there had been perhaps one injured person at the Council Hall, decided that the “portal to hell” he had been warned about was nothing more than an odd spot in the dirt a few yards across, and intuited that his best course of action would be to seek his superior to the west in Sumar.


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