The animals in the area, were previously calm, but are now agitated at the sudden change in the crowds’ collective emotions. After support from some of the Arboreum’s shamans, the animals return to their previous calm demeanour. Kaleem’s staff works to calm the crowd, and show that this greyborn is known in the Arboreum, and is no threat. It takes some time, but a reluctant acceptance befalls the gathered guests.
Kaleem introduces this greyborn to the party as Axpal. An Autarch of his people highly ranked as having defended the homeland during the invasion, rather than attack the rest of the world. On announcement of his name, Brant is able to offer some insight that he has read of Axpal’s clan being perceived worldwide as the least evil. 428 still finds this uncomfortable, so asks Axpal questions to check his allegiance. He asks about two other Autarchs –Stahl and Khynass- Axpal’s connection to them and his allegiance to the Emperor. Axpal informs the party that the Emperor can bring people back from death and Stahl is now someone else. This reminds the party of The Seer’s ability to bring Amelie back to life in exchange for Anton’s own.
Axpal asks about where Prodomicus is currently, he is linked to a different clan of dragon descendants, more aligned to the Anduwin. His clan apparently took a very little role in the war. He asks those of the group that are left to leave. The greyborn warns of imminent danger, and that he has come to Kaleem and to find Prodomicus and warn them of this coming danger. Rhogar resists having just won a prize at the raffle, but Axpal provides the bugbear some coin which is enough to encourage him to start to move. Axpal then instructs Kaleem to call forth the Raj, as the Imperious security seems to have disappeared shortly after the Imperious leaders did.
Magnus and his familiar, Sisero, carry out the wizard’s plan. The wizard magiks the chuff to be invisible and to try to get a look at the ledgers behind the desk of the Clergyman hotel – hoping to learn which room Regelle Coote is staying in. This first stage of the plan goes fairly well, but then Magnus feels that he needs to make a commotion at the hotel, as a distraction, allowing him to sneak up the four flights of stairs to Coote’s chamber door. Searching the fourth floor the door with Coote’s room number appears oddly plain. However, knowing his father-in-law, Magnus wastes no time and looks through his arcane eye to detect any magical defences on the door. He feels protective enchantments and begins working to dispel them. The act of dispelling causing him to lose focus on his arcane sense and so when he is satisfied with his work, he commands his chuff to attempt to open the door. As it lands on the handle, the bird is vanished into none existence until Magnus can resummons it. Magnus surmises that the protective spell over the door is more complex than he initially thought, and so starts to use passwords that Coote may use, such as Magnus’ wife’s name. Or his children. No luck. The dwarf is defeated by this door and so makes to leave the hotel, without his chuff. From an alleyway, his keen eye spots an open window on the fourth floor, and so the dwarf rummages through his spell pouch, drawing out short length of leather. He coils it and knots it into a loop shape before enchanting his own body with the ability to levitate directly up or down. He reaches the window, and sees that this is the outside window to Coote’s room. Worrying about other magical defences, and unable to sense them without stopping his levitation, the dwarf eventually lowers himself, and choses to return to the Ram to await the group’s return.
Brant goes first, suggesting that the party follows Axpal’s advice to leave the Arboreum, heading to the Ram hotel. Orryon and 428 remain with Axpal, as the giantkin does not want to let the greyborn out of his sight. Orryon is concerned that the giantkin will attack Axpal if left unsupervised. The trio make arrangements to meet the rest of the party in an alleyway which Orryon tells he will mark out. They party company as Brant leads the rest of the group down an alley and shares his worries that because of the party’s action in Majorai and the burning of the Macedonia hotel, the greyborn are likely coming here looking for the culprits. The group moves quickly, and reach the Ram much quicker than it took to get to the Arboreum. Brant begins to organise people. He gathers up those party members who did not attend the Arboreum whilst Rhogar steals some towels, thinking these may be useful is the group ends up in the desert again. Brant’s contact has disappeared but Magnus manages to steal his papers and journals.
A chilly mist descends upon over Al’Zieharia. Rare for this climate and particularly for this time of year. The mist grows into a dense fog cloud blanketing the city and making it nearly impossible to see further than twenty or so feet ahead. The street lanterns remain hung, and remain lit, but their light has a sense of no longer being warm, and of being unable to pierce the gloom. Brant struggles to see, but continues to lead Granuaile, Karmel, Rhogar, Amelie and Magnus through the streets towards where Orryon had arranged to meet them. They travel to an alley and approach a red door, baring a freshly scorched burn. The pyrography depicts a single feathered wing crossed by a large axe. Brant opens the red door hoping that the wing and axe surely refer to Orryon and 428 respectively. As the crimson door swings open, it reveals a tiny room, with Orryon and 428 sheltered within, alongside an equally cramps Prodomicus and Axpal. Due to the size of the chamber, the giantkin and elf exit, as the others surely wouldn’t fit inside as well. In the alley Axpal tells the party to leave the city quickly, as the fog increases. Changing from chilly to freezing. The air, thick with tiny frozen icy shards, makes the party’s passage slow and difficult as though the cold icy air is laced with treacle. The icy begins to cover not just the air, but the ground, and what little of the building walls too.
Frozen icy sand shifts under giant clawed foot. A twelve foot tall greyborn silhouette begins to be visible through the haze. Its horns extending straight denoting male, and adding an additional two feet to its height. Further horns, spines and spikes appear to be growing grotesquely from other places on his body, much the same as 428, but on a significantly larger scale. The huge greyborn steps forward on more crunching ice, into the range of the party’s vision. The ice around the area appears to be emanating from this greyborn. Even Axpal stands chilled. Instinctively he goes to bow, but stops himself, betraying that this massive dragonoid is in fact the Emperor of Máurdórne. Axpal addresses the Emperor as Nethalian before the Autarch commands the party to get out of the city once more, and, though it is unspoken, he commands them to save Amelie, as he stays behind, squaring up to the Emperor. As the eight begin to run, they hear Axpal tell Nethalian that “While the Sultan lives, you are not worthy of this land…”
The party flee, as the two powerful greyborn begin to clash in the fog filled distance. The ice makes it hard for even echoes of sound to reach the party to identify who is winning the titanic duel.
They move south from the Arboreum past the markets and start to follow 428 and Granuaile, leading the group into the Ferfellers and the Yielding Grounds, hoping to reach the river at the city’s edge, by unconventional and unmapped routes. The fog is thinner in the Ferfellers, but as the party’s pace slows through fatigue, it starts to thicken, and ice once again begins to coat the sandy ground. Emperor Nethalian it seems is in pursuit. Noticing this, the giantkin chooses to stand his ground. 428 has a score to settle with the Emperor. Brant tries to persuade the giantkin to move, but in that moment, the ice reaches both Brant and 428. Frost creeps its way up both of them. Chilled. Terrified. Prodomicus calls out to the Emperor, repeating Axpal’s words, that the Sultan rules here, and so there is no place for the Emperor. Nethalian lets out a deafening roar of pain, and in that, a shadowy wave of magik expands, before the wave crashes down against all of the party members and Prodomicus. The magik is a dark psychic attack that triggers the party’s worst and most painful memories. A perverted reflection of the positive memories brought about by the Seer.
Rhogar shakes himself free of his memories and transforms his arm. He fires. The weapon’s loud bang rouses some other party members from their personal nightmares. Magnus doesn’t have time to reach his component pouch, and so casts a spell from memory using his own incantation. His voice takes form. Small ethereal waves of his own moving from his throat to the eyes of The Emperor, and once there the waves continuously crash, obscuring his vision, and effectively blinding Nethalian.
428 struggles to fight off the nightmare psychic attack, but eventually is able to, and seeing his allies striking the Emperor, he is under the impression that the party has decided to stand and fight. He rushes past the wizard and brings his axe up, drawing it through the icy wall around the Emperor, before it carves upwards and then downwards through the greyborn’s scales. The Emperor retaliates by thrusting a spear into the giantkin. The spear tip ignites into a larva hot poker in an instant, before the Emperor twists his wrist and snaps the weapon off, leaving the larva tip within 428. The pain burns through him, and although his is able to resist harsh winters owing to his giant heritage, he cannot resist fire in quite the same way. 428 drops to his knees, and loses consciousness. The sight of the Emperor trigger’s Orryon’s wings once more, and so the elf flies up, and whispers his magik onto the giantkin who recovers from the elf’s healing magik. Magnus and Granuaile are not sure the party will be able to survive this battle, so ready themselves to defend Amelie to the last breath.
Lightning forks the sky, catching the frozen water in the air. The electricity travels down easily, and begins to burn Nethalian. In the sky above, the source of the lightning is seen. An ancient bronze scaled dragon. Its wing span massive and the lightning being spewed forth from its open and angry looking maw. Its whole body covered in reflective bronze scales, but the slightest hint of green just visible on the tips of its wings. Three large horns had grown out of each of the creature’s cheeks, pointing back towards the tail, with each horn being connected by scaled flukes. Its neck has its own adornments, of a large frill of bronze web-like scales, shimmering a in the same slight green as the wing tips. The sight of this dragon is terrifying, as not a single dragon has been seen for centuries, and it is unclear if it will fight alongside, or against the Emperor. As luck would have it, the party does not need to wait long to find out, as it dives down. No longer breathing its lightning towards the Emperor, but this time it sinks claws into the fourteen foot greyborn, and beats its wings, lifting its quarry higher. When out of range, the party begin to run once more. The fog, ice and mist begin to clear from the ground, as the Emperor is in the air battling against this new draconic foe of his. Each being of titanic strength is thrown by the other into buildings, or struck with slashing of claws or weapons. Lightning is seen flashing across the sky at times, until a massive green explosion takes place. Light fills the sky. It’s sound overwhelming the ears of any who heard it. The party keeps running not looking back, still unsure who, if anyone had survived, and if they are friend or foe.
Not too long passes before they bump into more greyborn. Several units of soldiers, wielding swords, or firearms. Primarily naked, relying on their natural scale thickness as armour. Some wearing bandoliers or other similar leather straps, or adorned with tattoos. There is outright fighting in the streets between these greyborn units and the Raj. The eight of the party and Prodomicus weave in shadow as best they are able heading towards the docks. One smaller group of Maurdórnie soldiers spies them, and the party is forced to fight their way through a warehouse district. Rhogar pulls a sewn patch from his green coat, and as he does his furred hand flicks the patch causing it to transform into a ladder, which he uses to climb down from the higher level the party is at, as a means to get lower and closer to the docks. The halfling tumbles around buildings, avoiding enemies and sticking to the shadows. Magnus dips his hand into his spell pouch and when he draws it out, it is coated in a thick molasses. He raises his hand with three treacle covered fingers extended before swiftly bring them down to point at three greyborn preparing to open fire on the party. One manages to fire his weapon as expected, but the other two appear to have been effected by the dwarf’s spell, becoming slower as though pushing their whole bodies through invisible treacle. With the foe slowed, Granuaile and 428 are able to quickly dispatch them, but the solider moving at normal speed continues shooting. He targets the closest member of the party, the bugbear. His show goes low and does not hit the scientist, but Rhogar’s bag starts to smoke, having been hit by the blast instead. The fight goes one, and Brant engages in some dramatic acrobatics to avoid being hit. He cartwheels over a warehouse rooftop. Some residual mist from the Emperor’s earlier appearance remains here and the bard slips, breaking his hand, falling from the roof, and unable to move out of harm’s way, until the giantkin and half-orc barrel through the warehouse literally. Breaking wood, and each knocking down an invader, allowing the halfling to stand and escape with the rest of the group.
With the immediate enemy dispatched, the group arrive at the docks of the Ferfellers, and begin to repair two boats, due to the sheer number of travellers. The party separates slightly into the twin vessels before both boats cast off down the river, all present taking a short breath of respite from the evening’s strange turn of events. In that calm at the centre of the emotional storm, Orryon gives a letter to Prodomicus. His letter that he should have given to Anton before the form Protectorate lay down his life so that Amelie could live. The bronze scaled draconic man opens the envelope with a magical hand wave. As he does a tiny ethereal grey dragon flutters from the wax seal and disappears. Prodomicus reads this, and holds a solemn face, telling Orryon to hold on to it, and to present it to his master, The Sultan, due to the important information it contains.
The boats continue their short voyage in relative silence, and eventually make it across the river to a shanty town on the other bank where sludge is being pumped into the river from the Imperious facility. A thirty foot wall rises blocking the path ahead. Brant manages to scramble up it, showing tremendous dexterity even with his broken hand, however, this is short lived as he falls through the weak roof onto hard ground. Breath knocked from him from the fall. He recovers himself, and re-joins the rest of the party on the shoreline, helping to tether the boats to the bank, and pointing out a cave entrance that may be used as shelter.
After trying to assess their surroundings, the group eventually decide to go into the cave, which turns out to be a tunnel. This should serve as a shelter for the night, and allow the party time to regroup and come to terms with what happened earlier this evening. The familiar adventuring routine grows out of the silence with a small fire started, and watches selected whilst Granuaile prepares some food with support of Orryon and Amelie. Bedrolls are unfurled and the site is set for rest. Adrenaline pumps in steadily smaller doses as time ticks by. Rhogar inspects his magikal bag, and confirms that the contents of it, his automaton servant have been damaged badly in the fight. He sets about trying to repair the surviving pieces as best as he is able to, before bedding down.
At roughly the same time, Magnus speaks to 428 about his now apparent unbridled hatred for greyborn in general. 428 is reluctant to share his story but eventually tells the dwarf that he cannot remember much of his past. He shares that he used to be a slave and had to fight for greyborn entertainment. He survived by winning, and because he won and proved his strength, he was modified by greyborn experiments. He reveals to the dwarf that he does not believe in the Anduwin, even if there is evidence of their existence. He wants to bring down the faith, commenting that how could they possibly be benevolent gods if they allowed him to be tortured and mutilated. 428 says he used to believe and would pray, in the early days. He would pray every day to them each in turn, begging them to save him from his ongoing torment. And every night, there was no answer. He tells Magnus that over time, he prayed less often, until he stopped completely, and then his mind broke slightly further, and he started to actively hate and loath the Anduwin.
Brant paces the very edge of the firelight, as near to the tunnel mouth as he dare, his eyes darting to the sky too often. On the fiftieth or may be ninetieth pass, his boot brushes a stone smoother than the rest here. A small glass orb. Clear in colour, unlike the dark glass orbs he has seen recently. This one though does have four smaller swirls of colour within – blue, brown, red and white. Seeing Magnus busy talking to 428, the bard instead approaches the bugbear, who confirms that the orb is indeed magikal, and appears to be linked to elemental magik, with the colours symbolising water, earth, fire and air respectively, the bugbear continues to examine the orb but Brant is distracted slightly from the bugbear’s explanation when his halfling ears pick up the sounds of Al’Zieharia being bombed. He returns to the cave mouth to watch, feeling smaller than usual and powerless to help the innocents within the city. The sounds that echo inside the tunnel of the explosions, gunfire and burning, with faint distant screams sear themselves into everyone’s memories, and will likely bring about nightmares for years to come. The sound is one thing, but the sight seen by Brant is on a completely different level of horrific
Granuaile orders the party to move the camp further into the tunnel, away from the mouth, and the risk of being found. Most begin to pack up and move, but Brant stays at the mouth, saying that if he cannot help them, he should at least have to watch the destruction and death brought to this city, and have to face the memory of his own inaction.
Amelie, Karmel, Magnus, Orryon, Prodomicus, 428 and Granuaile move deeper into the tunnel around a corner in the natural stone to shelter them further from passing glances into the cave.
Rhogar attempts to get Brant to move away from the cave mouth and is not sure the halfling will listen to him. He thinks that his magikal bag, though damaged slightly, is able to contain a great amount of volume of items or weight, and so the bugbear thinks he can pull the magikal satchel over the bard, trapping him inside long enough to move him, but not so long as to suffocate him. Rhogar sneaks forward, and rushes his satchel up, open and over Brant’s head, bringing it down in a single smooth motion. This motion is all it takes. All it takes for Rhogar and Brant’s fates to be changed. There is a reason it seems that Brant was able to warn Rhogar about the use of this kind of bag, and advise the bugbear use caution. It seems that Brant also owns a bag of this kind. It is said in times of crisis and peril a person’s life may flash before them. This is not always the case, but for Rhogar, certain parts of memory flared up. The bags work by shifting items out of this reality, and to another place. By placing one shifting bag inside another, both bags try to shift the other to another place, another plane. Reality tears open in the cave mouth. An oval of energy rips and pulls a portal into existence. The edges of the portal already being pushed against by the worlds own magik, trying to close the rift. Brant and Rhogar are instantly pulled through the portal and begin to drift in an airless vacuum further and further away from the oval opening leading to their home plane. In the airless space, Brant holds his breath to survive, both keeping him alive, but trapping him unable to use his vocal magiks to save himself. Rhogar too is unable to breathe or use any of his spells. The bugbear uses the only think in his possession at the time the rift opened – the colourful elemental glass orb in his metallic arm. He focuses on the power of air. He is infused with the ability to manipulate air, and finds he is surrounded by wind, and air conjured into existence. He can breathe. The wind it seems is at his command, and he uses it to fly deeper into the vacuum, to rescue Brant. He grabs the bard and spins mid-air, to throw Brant back towards the portal opening which is growing smaller with each passing second. Rhogar flies behind Brant, blasting the bard with gusts of wind to steer him whilst the bugbear flies to safety. Hope is in sight for them both. The portal shrinks, and Rhogar knows what he needs to do. He surges forward, and physically smacks Brant beyond the portal entrance with his metallic arm. The oval bites down, closing Rhogar away, sealing him in an airless vacuum.
Brant tumbles back into the cave followed by the clanking of a metallic arm and a ceramic rolling sound. The arm and orb made it through the portal where the bugbear did not. A spectral owl appears at the sight of the portal but Brant is too stunned by the series of rapid perilous events to pay much heed. Granuaile comes from around the tunnel corner to repeat her instruction to Brant and Rhogar to move deeper into the cave. She sees Brant, and an orb or glass, as well as Rhogar’s arm. The half-orc collects the items and escorts Brant to the group not questioning Rhogar’s disappearance just yet.
Many of the party are already asleep when Granuaile returns with Brant. Save for Magnus who waited for his old friend. Brant tells Magnus and Granuaile he knew of the Andromeda as a second greyborn dreadnaught, but had hoped it would never be operational again. Brant and Magnus argue, with the dwarf furious about Rhogar’s disappearance and how the halfling came to be in possession of his arm. Brant remains quiet and stunned by his memory of what has just transpired, but Magnus is insistent and starts to accuse Brant of deliberately murdering Rhogar for some unknown reason. Tensions sit high in the tunnel as an uneasy rest takes hold. The explosions still sounding from the surface further distance, but most assuredly still present.
I don’t have much time. I’ll be brief:
- Quintin Moray is here; he reversed ageing of an old man.
- The greyborn came. One claimed to be the Emperor.
- We fought our way to shelter, but I’m exhausted. The Orion is back?
- Rhogar died
- The sky rocked and there was an Actual Dragon!
- I need rest.
Oh, and I handed over that letter to the right person. Their master wants to speak with me. This may not be over yet.
– Orryon Ma’talli