Three for the Twelve

Busy During the Down Time
Why are vacations so tiring?

Meta
This post is broken into separate pieces, each focused on one character. Everything I put here is public within the team – you all know all this, based on conversations, being around the compound, reading the news, and so on. Respond through the comments to your character’s storyline, how you play a part in the storyline of another, or however you’d like to add something. If this gets too confusing – if there are too many comments – I’ll start another post. Let me know if this format works for you.


Flet was ordered to see a Jorasco healer for an exam, based on the information in the report from the team, and the report from the Lyrandar boat crew. The team’s report played down his coughing fits and seeming sickness, but when investigated a bit it was decided to interview the skiff captain, who provided a more detailed account of what happened. Almost a week went by before the exam was ordered, and Tarleton arranged for Flet to see Thurber, a halfling who’s discretion regarding Flet’s race had been counted on in the past. The exam is tomorrow, and Tarleton has made it very clear that the changeling must go – this after his having missed previous appointment for what the dwarf thought were shabby excuses. The normally stoic supervisor has become mildly irritated with Flet, and wants to be able to close the book on this issue, get a clean bill of health, and put his team back on the active list. The appointment – which will include an extensive physical and possibly arcane examination – is mid-morning, tomorrow.

Fenn has been training, and spending some time – uncharacteristically – within his own House’s sector of the compound. Tharashk members are a mixed lot when it comes to socializing with those of the other houses: some are gregarious and popular; others stick to their own kind and avoid those of the older, more dogmatic houses. Fenn has learned that his great uncle on his mother’s side has taken ill, and may not live. It’s a long way back to the Shadow Marches, but family is extremely important.

Arko!, being a hero and all, has been busy practicing his skills with sword and spell, and regaling others of his exploits in and around the Mournland. Library scholars, despite his haughty tone, have taken an interest in him and have sat for a few informal interviews, seeking to gain knowledge about the shattered land that was Cyre. Even though Arko! is happy to give them his time, he has found himself tiring a bit of their questions about his team mate, Flet, and his part in their work within the Mists.

Mishka, realizing his foolish mistake in trusting Roath in public, has been faced with the knowledge that, likely, most everyone knows what happened, and yet no one will talk of it. The tension in a room increases when he enters, as others see him without looking, and judge without speaking a word. Everybody does it, but doing it discretely is the only way to get away with it. He realizes that what might have worked in a mixed, detached unit on a distant front during the war clearly is not acceptable in ‘polite’ society. And yet he sees her once or twice each day around the large compound…and she always seems to wink, or smile in his direction. Maybe she’s trapped, too…

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Life's Not Fair
Different people; different rules

Dw

Lady Victoria traced circles on the surface of the table, listening as her superior spoke, but not fully paying attention.

“It is only – only – because of your status as a marked heir and the influence of your parents and your record of service to the House that this will be excused. But this is the last time, Roath. You cannot play with this sort of fire, nor bring dishonor to our House or your family by engaging in such dalliances. It ends here, now.” Aremell d’Deneith stood back, giving her time to consider his words before he continued.

“Forget about the dishonor, the lifetime of whispers and the shame. What about the months you’d be off the rosters? Think of the money the House, and your family, would lose! And what about the recovery time? And, dare I even mention it, what if the child lived, and what if it ever…” he began to sputter.

“Aremell, I’m sorry,” she interrupted. “You know I’m always careful, and you know I’d never do anything to bring any of that dishonor to our House, my family, me, your dog…” The older man tensed and frowned deeper at that comment.

“I know we only marry and make kids in the House. I know that. So long as I don’t break those rules, what’s wrong with a little fun now and again? I mean, isn’t that a form of diplomacy?” she said with a smile and slight chuckle. “Don’t tell me that, when you were a young man, you didn’t look over the fence sometimes – I’ve seen the portrait from your Marking. I think you were probably quite popular with the ladies uncle…am I right?”

“Quite popular” replied the other, deadpan. “Now what am I to tell the leadership? What message of contrition shall I deliver from you this last time?”

She shifted in her seat, her composure changing from indifferent to more serious. “He’s nothing to me, and I will not put you in a position to ever have to talk to me about any situation like this again. You’re right: I was stupid and cavalier about the whole thing…” she looked him directly in the eye, “…I will not repeat the same mistakes again.”

“Then it’s done – for good this time. We can concentrate on the business of our business, and ensuring that our family’s success is mirrored in our own,” Aremell stated as he moved toward the door.

“Absolutely, uncle. One last thing: do you know anything about Arko! d’Deneith, other than his extensive exploits in the war? He’s legal, isn’t he? And we wouldn’t have to throw any mistakes off lightning rail bridges like those Orien savages do…”

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Gone Somewhere in Time
I don't think we're getting that city back

Taer Sadaen disappeared, seemingly for another 62 years. Where it would appear again, and how it would interact with the world at that point, no one could tell. What was clear was that the great city – the great seige – would remain a mystery. House Lyrandar scholars may have been interested in the planar and arcane implications of the event, but the accountants and house leaders only cared that the experimental airship had been destroyed and, better yet, its remains were really unavailable.

A night of sleep on the lake and a few hours exploring the shoreline uncovered the fate of the first rescue team: apparently killed by Valenar raiders, who then burned their boat and hid it out of view of the lake.

Flet’s coughing fits – and the disturbing produce of those fits, seemingly Dead Gray Mist – ended as soon as the skiff left the wall of Mist behind and headed northeast, back to the port near Gatherhold. The Lyrandar enclave there held a feast and put up the team for the night, appreciative of the help. Agents of the Twelve arranged for lightning rail tickets back to Korth, which provided for a mid-morning departure the next day. All in all, it was a few days of strange, tense, experiences, leaving no one worse for the wear.

Back at the Twelve’s massive compound in Korth, Mishak finally turned up, chastened and apologetic for his absence, and formally warned by Tarleton that such behavior in the future would result in his being sent back to his House with a formal letter of reprimand. It was only after the lobbying by a representative of House Orien that Mishka was allowed to stay – a cousin of Mishka who believed in his potential, if not is judgment. Stern warnings to stay away from the Deneith woman for good this time – “I can’t protect you from yourself, cousin.” Deneith members all knew, and would not speak of it. Those of the blood of Orien all knew, as well, and shared the disgust of the other house. No one would speak of it; and everyone knew.

Over a period of a week- consider it accumulated off-time earned by the team – Tarleton inquired into Flet’s health on several occasions, and mentioned that Jorasco healers would like to see him, sooner rather than later. The dwarf, understanding but not mentioning the sensitive nature of medical exams for Flet, suggested that he could arrange for him to see a particular healer, in a few days’ time…but that orders, after a point, had to be followed.

Arko!, very much interested in just how romantically inclined the new Deneith girl was toward him, spent time in his House’s quarter, training more than often in the common yard, seeing his cousins and brothers, and, of course, being seen. More like being looked at and admired. She’d come around eventually…literally and figuratively. They always do.

Finn spent a few days drunk, then some time a little hungover, then more drunk, then training drunk, then secretly doing the weekly crossword puzzle in the Korreanberg Chronicle – they’d piled up over the last few missions, and his mild OCD tendencies in this area compelled him to sink time into solving them…finding the answers, that is…Hosue Tharashk finds things…so it’s okay that he likes word puzzles…it’s okay. And still better to do it behind closed doors, or off in the park, alone, where it’s quiet.


Meta
I’ll add another post in a day or two that will lead toward the game next week. I’d like to get in the habit of two posts from me per week: one to wrap up and lead out of the last session; the other to lead toward the next. And like we’d talked, add to the story, on both ends, as you see fit.

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In the Age of Monsters
Old hatred dies hard

-8852 YK, southeast of modern-day Lake Crye

No one there could have counted the troops, so many flooded the fields around Taer Sadaen. The hobgoblins and their lesser cousins had breached the outer walls of the city, and achieved the hastily-constructed redoubts in the meadows. They streamed, by the thousand, through the smashed walls, seeking their final victory at the fall of the city proper – seemingly only a wall away.

The Valaes Tairn inside the city had taken up every inch of wall in preparation for the final assault – women, children, the aged and infirm were all there. The home army had been destroyed to the last warrior by the Dhakaani hordes. Certainly it was to the last, as no Valaes warrior would allow himself to be captured, or would rain dishonor on his ancestors by running. This would be their last stand against the lesser races that, somehow, had bested them in this great battle.

If only the warbands had been alerted sooner; if only their ever-roaming brothers knew of their plight…maybe they would join the battle, for the sake of the fight, and for the honor of the ancestors.

As the Dhakaani horde prepared for the final, massive assault on the inner walls, the elves steeled themselves against the inevitable, and each vowed to exact a high price from the invaders – the destruction of their city and the slaughter of the people would not come easily to the savages. The Great Horn of Dhakaan was sounded; their warlord held aloft the iron rod that was the symbol of his power…all eyes, elvish and goblinoid, were on him. Then a ripple of motion began on the western flank of the wall, and swiftly spread across the ramparts, with a thunderous roar following just behind. A single, massive elven voice – one from the thousands – called out in thanks to the ancestors as, on the crest of the hills to the south of the ruined outer walls, a cloud of dust, born of the hooves of a thousand horse, came into sight.

Their prayers were answered. The battle was joined. Al’Valeraen, leader of the Wanderers, had arrived, and Dhakaan would quake in his shadow.

11640437094

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A Watcher

Date: 8 Olarune 998 YK

Valenar elf


Al’Thaeleas gazed down at the city and thought about how tragic it was that so many would choose the imprisonment of walls over freedom of the steppe. ‘Fools…cowards’ he thought as he shook the images of citydwellers – those with no horses of their own! – from his mind’s eye. He had more important things to think about than the halfling quasi-city of Gatherhold, home to so many of the tiny nomads who had given up their wandering ways for the supposed comfort of beds and the profit from trading with those wretched half-breed Lyrandars.

‘Stupid assholes’ he smirked as he turn his horse to the south. He had news to deliver back to his clan: there would be no additional rescue party for his people to slaughter today, only the work of reaching the downed airship itself…then things would get interesting, and he and his clan would reclaim the honor stolen from them.

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Ambushed at the Orien Station
Die, Meatbags!

As the city reshaped itself around them, seemingly reacting to a wave that moved from west to east, the team held on to whatever they could grab on the station platform. The warehouse, where the ‘forged had been hiding, moved away and to the northwest of them, finally settling about 1/4 mile away, instead of the original 100 yards. Several buildings blocked a direct view of the warehouse’s new location, and only a corner of its roof could be seen through the new cityscape. The entire, massive movement lasted only a few minutes, and ended as suddenly as it began, with streets stitching themselves together, matching up with new buildings and bricks and blocks, leaving a newly scattered version of Metrol, yet strangely intact.

As they struggled to regain their bearings, the team saw a lone figure appear from a now nearby palace and trot toward them – a fighting man with sword and shield, and once close enough, what seemed to be a dragonmark creeping out of his gorget, on the right side of his neck.

“What are you doing on my family’s property?” he asked as he teleported up on to the platform, his mark glowing briefly with arcane power, evidence of its authenticity. Mishka d’Orien had made his entrance, and after a few minutes of discussion, an agreement was reached between the operatives of the The Twelve and this lone house member, the last of a doomed expedition mounted by House Orien.

No sooner had pleasantries been concluded than sounds around them were heard, and the ’forged, en masse, made their attack: a warforged charger, rare, brutish, and powerful, galloped toward them from across the yard; arrows flew at them from at least two directions; and clearly it was time to find a more defensible position.

Although it seemed to make sense at the time, Finn’s idea of finding shelter inside the station turned sour quickly, as the four realized that they would be trapped in the upstairs control room, with no way out, and facing an unknown number of warforged. Ever intrepid, and never one to sit back and mope over a failure, the barbarian hatched yet another plan: he would leap down the stairs and attack all enemies he could find, clearing the way back to the original path taken into the station earlier in the day. Lacking any other sparks of creativity, and with the always-critical ascent of Arko!, Finn proceeded to, very loudly, smash down the stairwell, into the administrative offices below, and out into the passenger waiting room, where the ’forged were waiting.

Spears, arrows, clubs and fists flew; spells were cast and much House Orien property was destroyed in the ensuing melee. The warforged struck many blows, and cost the team dearly in wounds & magic, but in the end the teamwork, tenacity, and fighting prowess of the house members prevailed.

Lingering in Metrol, however, was no longer an option, what with expended arcane energies and wounds sustained. The team worked through the altered cityscape, finding a path back to the Eastern Metrol Plateau, and made quickly for the Mist. They didn’t pass more than a few hundred yards onto the drab dust before realizing that they were being pursued by a sizable number of ‘forged, some of whom were moving quickly enough to threaten envelopment from the sides. The Mist would be their only way out, and as arrows began falling around them, the four tied themselves together and ran headlong into the wall of gray, following the same lightning rail line they’d used to get into the Mournland earlier that day.

Through the Mist, to the bridge and rowboat they made their way, and eventually broke into the clear air on the eastern side of the Cyre River, where they crushed the messenger stone and called for the Lyrandar skiff to extract them – it’d only been the daylight hours, but it seemed like more time had passed. The extraction took place the next morning, without a hitch, although on the way back to Karrlakton they discovered that their one day on the Mournland actually took three days of outside time.

During debrief and rest, their new companion’s background and character were investigated by the Twelve, and considering the nature of his meeting with the agents, he was reassigned from regular house duties to detached work with the Twelve, rounding out the team of three.


Meanwhile, in the Mournland…

“Let them go. We have done what is required,” flatly stated the ‘forged sergeant as he planted his longspear in the drab powdery dirt. The fleshbags had just disappeared into the Mist. It didn’t matter. The goal was same: find them, harry them, kill them, chase them out of the Kingdom, leave a statement for those who might come later.

“Post the reminders on those trees” he continued, motioning toward two large, alabaster hulks of trees, the last two before the Mist began.

Twenty minutes later the platoon of ’forged was marching westward, leaving behind them the Mist and trees that were now the final resting places for two mutilated bodies – eyes torn out, tongues removed, and all metal armor stripped away, revealing on the corpses multiple battle wounds and the remains of Orien dragonmarks…


Metagame
You all progressed to 5th level, and have an additional amount of GP to spend based on the difference between 5th and 4th level starting funds, equal to 4500GP. Please email me with the items you’d like to buy so I can okay them. Low-level magic items are available, especially in and around the compound in Korth, but not everything is on the shelf.

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Central Metrol
Through the Mist and into the Mournland

The Lyrandar crew was nervous, yet still professional in their duties. Nothing, however, could mask the eagerness with which they awaited the departure of the three travelers into the Mist.

Once away in the rowboat the three carefully made their way toward the western shore, unsure of exactly how far into the Mist they would have to go before finding it. The Mist itself was damp, cool, and played tricks with sights and sounds – obscuring vision beyond a few feet, and swallowing nearby voices as if they were heard from afar. The Mist ended about a foot above the water, and water drained from wet hands as if forced from the skin by contact with the Mist.

After some time – difficult to tell just how long – they reached land and found that they’d been traveling northwest, instead of directly west. Seeing the value of being able to find their boat again, the three walked south along the pebbled shoreline until they reached the ruined footings of the lightning rail bridge, where they left the boat, tied themselves to each other with a length of silk rope, and began their walk westward, along the abandoned line of conductor stones.

Walking through the Mist was worse than sailing through it, and after another vague stretch of time the three stepped out, and into the Mournland proper. Before them should have been a miles-deep expanse of parks, rolling fields, and other lush nature preserves, long ago set aside for public use by the Cyran government. Instead, they saw an expanse of drab gray-green powder, punctuated regularly by alabaster-white husks of old trees, now leafless and dead. The footings of buildings were found here and there, but otherwise the Eastern Cyre Plateau was empty of life or most evidence of it.

Most evidence – which included neither the trees or the scouting party of warforged that shadowing the three for about 1/2 mile before being spotted, and deciding to attack. 4 warforged warriors, some with patchwork repairs, and two small scouts, armed with bows, attacked the party in a reasonably well-coordinated ambush. Underestimating the three travelers, however, they were quickly dispatched, while only causing moderate harm. Footprints suggested that they had come from the southwest.

Fast-forward to the edges of Metrol itself, across a dry arroyo from the stark plateau: the city was a shattered mess, with huge palaces partially toppled, city blocks twisted at angles from where they once stood, and the lightning rail line taking a different route through the city, cutting directly through many buildings on the way to the station. The city appeared to have been cut into pieces, partially rearranged, then repeatedly stomped on by titans at random, leaving some structures in ruins, while others were pristine.

Although traversing the ruins took some concentrated effort in places – scurrying over piles of rubble, avoiding unstable overhangs from half-destroyed buildings and the like – the team made steady progress through Metrol, following the altered course of the lightning rail. Bodies were seen now and again, frozen in time at the moment of their death, the moment Crye died. Eventually the great central station was in sight, beyond yet one more heap of debris – this is where voices were heard.

“I told you it was worth it! C’mon! Wasn’t I right? (munch, crunch, chew)…”would it take so much to admit it?," said that ghast as it and its two ghoul companions tore into the 4 years-dead flesh of an emissary of Thrane.

Since undead are just all wrong – unright? – the team quickly engaged, then dispatched the unholy creatures, with only minor injury – Finn having been bitten, but not seriously.

Then onto the mapping of the Orien station, in the wrong neighborhood and turned from its original facing. The station itself was largely intact, albeit with much debris spread around its outside, and the bodies of would-be passengers and House members & employees strewn about, as well. Conductor stones, uprooted from the ground, levitated around the building at odd angles, seemingly trapped in a moment, unmoving.

Unmoving, but not entirely benign, as the team discovered as they passed through the stones and received an electric shock.

The interior of the station appeared much as the outside: in disarray, but largely intact. The central control room was easily found and penetrated, and the logbook recovered, along with many hundreds of gold pieces and letters of credit, found on the many bodies of travelers whose journeys were cut short 4 years before.

The Orien yard, beyond the station and to the southwest, consisted of a warehouse, switching yard and maintenance facilities for the rail cars. As the team stood on the deck of the station and surveyed the rest of the compound, they talked of searching for lost cargo, forgotten parcels, and other things of potential value. The discussion – which Arko! was working to shut down with his commanding presence and razor-sharp reasoning – was interrupted by sounds…scraping…creaking…rumbling & tearing…from all sides. Within seconds the sources of the growing din were clear: the streets, buildings, and part of the yard itself…structures to the immediate south and west…were warping, twisting, and in some cases lifting up as is either pushed from below or peeled upward by some massive, unseen hand. The land and structures to the south and west, within seconds looked like corners of a great tablecloth, being peeled upward more or less in unison…and within seconds the entire station began to shift, turning counter clockwise as if on a great vertical axis.

Although almost dumbstruck by the bizarre event unfolding before them, the team noticed more movement to the west: a party of warforged, scrambling to hold on to parts of the warehouse, some lucky, some not. The 10 or more ’forged appeared to have been hiding in the warehouse when it began to move, and were now struggling to find places where they would not be entirely at the mercy of the moving buildings and streets. One ’forged, wedged between a retaining wall and a cargo crane, looked straight at the team, and fired a single shot with a hand crossbow.

Throughout the great shifts in the cityscape, alongside the scraping and rumbling, could be heard a deep moaning, emanating from around and within the city and the nearby buildings, slowly growing in volume as more shifts took place.

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Mission Planning: Into the Mournland
Check your packing list!

Objective: Complete survey operations of vital House Orien facilities and holdings in central Metrol; recover Orien logbook from control station.

Operational Plan: Penetrate the Mournland near the abandoned Chorus Shallows bridge across the Cyre River, the former lightning rail connection between Cyre and the Talenta Plains. Journey overland to Metrol, some 5 miles to the west, and survey house holdings and facilities in the city center, per a set of requirements provided by Orien. Access the central control room of the station; recover the logbook; egress the city and Mournland along the same land route, crossing the Cyre River, and contacting Lyrandar team for extraction via skiff.

Mission-Essential Equipment

  • 3 5-dose jugs of goodberry wine
  • 1 spy glass
  • Arranged 2-way passage on Lyrandar river skiff
  • 1 sending stone – for extraction contact

Please add additional equipment and ideas to this post as comments.

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Toasty Tumbler
With crispy gnomes inside!

The tumbler’s lid opened with a pulse of arcane pseudo-motion, releasing smoke & soon after flame…a living flame, as it would turn out. The crew & passengers had been savaged by a living flaming sphere, mistakenly released within the vehicle while it traveled, underground, out of the Mournland. All but the Zil pilot were dead, and the team faced an unexpected attack in the shadows of the Dead Gray Mist.

After taking some damage, the team was able to destroy the living spell, and then attended to the gnome’s burns. The Zil pilot, Aleksandr Burhan, thankful for his rescue, regaled the operatives with a tale of exploration and mishap in the Mournland, of another team of hired guns who, after collecting a selection of artifacts and samples, were apparently set upon by a group of warforged. The ambush led to the deaths of half of that team, and necessitated a hasty retreat out of the city center of Metrol. It was during the subterranean journey out that the living spell was somehow released. Only the pilot’s dragonshard-embedded belt, storing protection spells, enabled his survival.

The team parted with the gnome, and waited for the Lyrandar skiff, which arrived the next day. Carried back to Korth, they reported to Tarleton d’Kundarak, and went a step further, requesting permission and support for a mission into Metrol to complete the part of the other team’s mission, still unfinished.

The answer? You’re nuts, and it’s a good plan. Permission granted.

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Outside the Dead Grey Mist
A Courier Job Near the Mournland

Tarleton d’Kundarak, the team’s case manager for the Twelve, assigned a seemingly simple job: rendezvous with another group (of outside contractors, apparently) just outside the Mournland and retrieve from them a ‘package’ – likely a map or scroll case or two, and possibly another medium-sized box of artifacts – that they would have brought out of the former Cyran capitol of Metrol.

The team was to move by lightning rail from Korth through Karrnath, and southerly toward the Talenta Plains’ capitol of Gatherhold. Along the way the train would make a brief maintenance stop near the abandoned line that used to lead to Metrol, and the team would make a stealthy exit into the night. Within a few days, after overland travel to the west and toward the wall of mist, the team would await their meeting with the contractors. After the exchange, they would signal, via arcane stone, a Lyrandar elemental skiff, and be brought north on the Cyre River, back to Karrnath.

All went as planned, and smoothly, until the team was met by a small band of gnolls and their hyena pets while waiting outside the mists. The would-be raiders were, however, no match for Arko! and his followers (ie: Flet & Fin). Although it was Fenn, in the fine tradition of his uncouth and impulsive ancestors, who attacked and momentarily over-awed the gnolls, Arko! is certain that his hyena-electrification trick is what saved the day.

A day after the brief melee, the team watched as the soil between them and the river distorted, domed, and parted as a large rough stone sphere rose from the earth – over 20 feet in diameter, at least – and came to rest about 50 yards in front of them.

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