Where Gods Fear To Tread

Session 4: Aftermath
Timeframe: Third month of Spring

Whisper stayed true to her word, inviting the party back into her sanctum to bequeath to them the fruits of their labor. Bestowing enchantments on Eligor’s weapons, a magical rod to Rael, a new mode of perception to Aurianya, and an expansion to Sitka’s bloodline, she displayed surprising generosity. She had no gift for Tanashe though, save for her personal blessing for his endeavors. She was perplexed by Veronica, stating that she had nothing that the Rogue would want. Veronica, astonishingly, agreed.

Whisper then suggested that she return the crew of the Astrid home, as walking around enemy territory with 17 noncombatants is generally regarded as a terrible idea. The group decided to keep two of the crew around for reasons, and send the others home. The crew was completely okay with this.

Taking along Nathaniel and a Tephran woman named Desta; Nathaniel for his knowledge of geography and engineering, Desta for her general know-how and technological knack. The rest of the crew returned to Tephra, with the promise that they’d inform the others of what had become of their expedition. Whisper also ordered Cocytus to go with the group, an order that Cocytus actually challenged, which Whisper did not take well. Cocytus proceeded to spend the rest of the trip sulking (an impressive feat without a face).

The trip lead them northwest, to a small village known as Zerkrata. Their first encounter was with a young shepherd who was kinda mouthy, but pointed them in the direction of the village proper, with directions to look for Thalla. Which was very easy, as Thalla found them quickly. A tall and stocky woman, she offered her home to our intrepid heroes, though she was quickly pulled away by news of two very important someones walking into the village early.

Those someones were Dulcinea and Isaiah, Inquisitors in the Imperial Intelligence Bureau, apparently a new branch of the Empire. And not a nice one, as Dulcinea’s address to Zerkrata made abundantly clear. Backhanded compliments, veiled threats, and roundabout demands were the good parts of her speech, and she made no mistake that anyone who interfered with her investigation (Inquisition, thank you) would be counted as an enemy.

As Dulcinea walked off with Thalla, Isaiah stayed behind, and ended up speaking with Rael, Sitka, and Aurianya, who informed him that yes, there was a gathering of ne’erdowells in the foothills of the mountain, who had robbed their poor merchant caravan blind, even stealing their cart. Isaiah jotted down their statement, thanking them, and informing them that Dulcinea would probably want to speak to them personally. Joy.

Eligor returned from an ill-fated attempt at stalking Dulcinea and Thalla (he considered the small village’s lack of alleys and dark corners a significant problem), the group moved on to Thalla’s house, for some well-deserved rest. At the house, they came up a teenage boy attempting to cast some manner of healing spell on a bird who definitely looked dead. He stopped upon noticing the approaching group, calling out to his father.

The father introduced himself as Klaus, and his son as Dimitri, telling the group that they were welcome to stay as long as they wished. Rael immediately busied himself looking for the study, and Eligor left to go search for Dulcinea and Thalla again. And find them he did, noting Dulcinea’s continuing threats towards Thalla, and Thalla’s seeming defeat in their discussion. He was about to make his way back when he noticed Dulcinea’s eyes directly upon him, and realized that he might be well-advised to postpone his return.

Which was just as well. Dulcinea and Thalla returned to the house, and Dulcinea seemed eager to have the chance to speak with such helpful travelers. She asked them to recant their stories precisely as they’d told Isaiah, watching with piercing eyes and probing questions as they spoke. A predatory air filled the room when they finished, and she declared that they were very helpful to her. With one final statement that, to the Empire, she was “Inquisitor, hunter, and executioner”, she took her leave. Klaus and Thalla immediately opened one of their NICE bottles of whisky.

But their troubles weren’t over. Eligor and Sitka, needing less sleep than most, took turns keeping watch over each other and their companions in the night. Unfortunately, during Eligor’s shift, something struck him, leaving him unconscious on the floor. When he awoke, Sitka was gone.

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Session 3: The Engine of Destruction
Second Month of Spring

The party was sent away from Whisper’s home with one of her Cold Riders, a Fae named Cocytus. He quickly proved his useful by summoning a small herd of Phantom Horses for the party to ride to their destination, something that Rael expressed an interest in recreating. When asked about how strangely quickly and easily they cast the spell, Cocytus simply responded “I am Magic.”

The rest of the trip proceeded similarly, with the party making small talk with Cocytus as best they could. Sitka also spoke with the engineer they brought from the Astrid’s crew, a young Tephran man named Tanashe Atka. Eligor spoke with Veronica, learning that the coin she carries is a memento of her mother, who is deceased. Aurianya attempted to use dead parents as common ground for a conversation, but Veronica wasn’t impressed.

Arriving at the edge of Whisper’s Void, Cocytus halted, stating that they were ordered to not enter it. The party briefly attempted to convince them otherwise, but Cocytus staunchly refused. Realizing that this was a sign that Whisper could not protect them further, the party sent Veronica and Eligor to scout ahead.

It wasn’t long before they found trouble. Checking each nearby cavern individually, the pair inadvertantly set off an Alarm spell, alerting the people within to their presence. Eligor sent Veronica back to warn the rest of the party while he ventured further into the cavern. It wasn’t long before a tall Bezerali woman walked out, carrying a deadly-looking axe on her back. She didn’t notice Eligor as she walked to the entrance of the cave, looking out and becoming distracted by Veronica as she led the party back to the cave.

Eligor took the chance to deliver a surprise attack, beginning a brief but brutal instance of combat between the party and the Bezerali guards. The woman’s companions soon joined the fray, a Priestess of Selth and an Axe Dancer who proved to be powerful foes. Fortunately, the brawl resulted in a resounding victory for our heroes, though they realized after that one of their assailants had been invisible, though they only noticed such as she was escaping.

What followed after was a brutal interrogation session whereupon the party questioned the captured Priest and Monk. The Monk, whose name was never revealed, proved unresponsive to their methods, choosing instead to impale himself on Rael’s blade. The party was somewhat perturbed by this turn of events, and decided to attempt somewhat less cruel methods on the Priest, who Rael identified as a follower of Selth, the Bezerali Goddess of Darkness, Necessary Evil, and Pragmatism. Rael had hoped to use their similar faiths as common ground, but then her companion killed himself, so that option was off the table.

During this, there was a powerful pulse of magic from beyond an Illusory barrier, prompting Aurianya, Rael, and Eligor to investigate beyond it. What they saw was an immense crystalline device levitating in the air, rotating at impossible speeds. The brief glimpse that Rael got through his magic sight revealed that it was channeling magic somewhere else, which he and Aurianya collaboratively deduced was divine magic of the Madness Domain, broken down into millions of shards of magic.

The thing had to be stopped, that much was certain. Sitka, though a variety of terrifying yet practical acts of mutilation, managed to convince the Priestess, whose name was Relyr, to explain its purpose. She informed them that it was a Broadcasting Engine, something that assisted another device known as a Divinity Engine. When prompted for further details, her zealotry overwhelmed her fear, and before she could attempt to kill them and herself, Eligor shoved his sword through her, ending her life.

Which left them with the monstrosity before them. Eligor, upon examining it, determined three options for shutting it down: do so mundanely like any other machine, use Dispel Magic to shut off its arcane workings, or simply beat it down until it couldn’t function. Using force would cause its magic to leak out and contaminate the mountain. Using Dispel Magic would create a magical feedback channel to whoever was dispelling it, causing negative side effects. Using mundane methods would require someone to get very, very close to it, possibly causing side effects based on exposure. Despite this, Veronica actually volunteered to undertake this, taking her life into her own hands as she scaled up the machine.

The process took nearly an hour to complete, and its effects on Veronica were subtle at first. Her hands began to tremble, and she looked shaky up on the machine, but her movements weren’t significantly impeded. Once she managed to halt the movements of the rotating arms though, she found that she’d have to actually enter the machine through various ports, and that was the start of real problems. While she was inside it, a brilliant flash of light went off from inside it, and she let out the first real scream of pain that they’d ever heard from her. Aurianya and Rael wanted to pull her out, but Tanashe disagreed, stating that if they had any respect for her as a warrior, they’d let her finish her fight. And finish it, she did. Though as she began to call out for very specific directions from Tanashe, they realized that the flash of light had blinded her, possibly permanently.

After another nerve-wracking set of athletics from Veronica, there was a shudder and a grinding noise from deep within the machine, and the light from the orb above it began to dim as the glass simply…faded away. Now released, the magic within made itself known as millions of miniscule pink whorls, spinning in midair as they floated down to the party. Veronica herself let out a cheer of success as she tipped backwards, falling off of the device before being caught by Aurianya. As the shards of Divine magic fell among the party, they realized that they had begun to destroy Bezerel’s greatest weapon.

And the Brilliant Empire wouldn’t take this quietly.

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Session 2: The Whispering Blizzard
Timeframe: Second month of Spring

In the aftermath of the Astrid Steele’s crash, the party found themselves and 17 crew members stranded in the heights of the Alor Mountain range. The group was shell-shocked and sorely ill-equipped for a night spent in subzero temperatures, Eligor managed to get his bearings quickly, directing the group to a nearby cavern where they could take shelter. Eligor and Sitka went to explore the hole in the mountain while Aurianya created a shelter and Rael directed the crew members.

While in the cavern, which Eligor thought to have been made by a tunneling Ice Worm, Eligor and Sitka heard a sound echo through the caverns and in their minds, speaking as though a chorus of icicle chimes and quiet gusts. When the pair couldn’t discern words from the sounds, the voice tried again, speaking in Common Bezerali this time, which they could respond to. The voice identified itself vaguely, speaking in the way of royalty as it questioned their presence. Eligor stayed quiet as Sitka spoke with delicacy, hoping to stop any conflict before it happened. Impressed by his decorum, the voice invited the two to enter her abode, implanting directions directly into their minds in a less-than-comfortable way.

While they were gone, Rael and Veronica saw something deeply distressing pass by the cliffside: the leg of a spider that was just unnecessarily large. Aurianya identified the creature as an Irlgaunt, a creature somewhere between a spider and a squid that normally inhabited mountainous or subterranean environments. Aurianya was all for hunting the creature, if only to know where it was, though Rael and Veronica were not in favor.

The pair returned quickly to the others, finding the shelter up and usable, if somewhat cramped. They decided to spend the night in the shelter before going out to find the Voice’s home, as the night would bring out the more deadly predators. After some quick discussion as to the watches and who would keep them (plus Rael maintaining his illusion to hide the shelter), Veronica and Rael ended up keeping a watchful eye over the night. The Irlgaunt did not show up again, though Aurianya had sent her Familiar out to scout for it. It didn’t find the Aberration, though it did chance upon a pair of Frost Drakes that chased it back to camp. Aurianya hurried to wake her companions so they could prepare, and they managed to set up a quick ambush while the Voidworm lured the Drakes close enough to strike.

One quick ambush later, the drakes lay dead on the ground. Aurianya and Rael harvested their bodies for alchemical ingredients while Eligor and Sitka harvested them for cooking ingredients before retiring again for the night.

The following morning, the group roused their crew to follow the path that most certainly did not exist the previous day. The path was easy to walk, though periodically the cliffs were populated by large, spindly creatures of ice with heads decorated by three-foot antlers. The figures, though well-armed and dangerous-looking, did nothing more than watch them, and would not respond to any attempts at communication.

The path culminated in a massive portal, with a door made from magical runes and white space. Sitka pressed his hand against, feeling for resistance, and was met by magical feedback that nearly turned his entire arm to ice. As Rael was pressing him to do it again (for Science, of course), another of the antlered figures walked out from the portal, stating that their arrival was expected, and they were welcome. The runes on the door spun, collapsed, and pulled to the sides as the door opened, allowing them into the massive hallway of ice within.

Built like a palace, the hallway stretched out before them. Lined with pillars and filled with dancing sprites of frost, it looked like the portrait of a Fairy tale. As the group reached the end of the hall, they learned that their first impressions were exactly correct. A mighty blizzard of frost and wind raged above a throne of crystalline ice, speaking with the voice of the woman from the cavern. She quickly coalesced into a form of a woman, albeit a seven-foot tall woman, garbed in a cloak of ice and light. It was notable that her dress glowed with the same light as her throne, the back of which was an eight-pointed star with the top-right point glowing a blue so light as to almost look white.

She spoke with them, exchanging stories and answering the questions they posed to her. Her name, or more accurately her Title, was Whispering Blizzard of Ages Past, and she both was the protector of the mountain, and the mountain itself. She also had a task for the group: to locate an object on her range that had created a void in her senses, and disable or destroy it. This object had been brought to her by Bezerali troops, and she guessed that it had something to do with the group’s mission, allowing their causes to intersect. She promised rewards for a successful job, as no true Fae likes to be in someone’s debt.

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Bonus Session 1: To Take a Mockingbird
Timeframe: ???

Established inside the borders of Bezerel, the group has managed to maintain a reliable safehouse within the walls of Calekith,a city named for the Bezerali God of beauty. Unfortunately, as is always true, things weren’t going to stay calm. Aurianya had vanished overnight, gone on another of her “errands” which always seemed to end with someone else at a loss. The difference this time is that her target, a one Highlord Tarquin, actually managed to catch her in the act.

The group received a message from him, stating that he had her in his ‘custody’, but would be willing to forgive and release her, should the group be willing to perform a service for him. Another noble lord, Roshone, had taken something that belonged to him, and he wanted it back. If the group returned his property, he would return theirs, so to speak.

And so, they reluctantly agreed to infiltrate Roshone’s estate and obtain…whatever it was. Though they were unaware of its nature, they were told it was kept in a large iron coffin. And through a series of guileful escapades involving Rael dressing as a hobo and dancing, the party managed to sufficiently distract the guards and get inside the manor with only four casualties (on Roshone’s side, that is.)

A quick trip to the basement later, they found the large coffin, with two people sitting on it. A tall and lithe woman and a hulking man, they introduced themselves as Andromeda and Vasher, and were wholly unconvinced by the group’s disguises. One brief skirmish later, Andromeda and Vasher found themselves outmatched by our intrepid heroes, and escaped to fight again another day.

While taking the coffin outside, Rael noticed the Highlord’s daughter, Rilla, standing atop a staircase landing and watching them. A powerful aura of Illusion magic surrounded her, though her appearance was true. She told Rael that they had best hurry, if they intended to outrun the watch, and then left. Thoroughly discomfited by her odd behavior, Rael hurried on ahead, pressing his companions onward.

They arrived back at their safehouse, and curiosity overwhelmed them. Veronica quickly disabled the traps on the surface of the coffin so that they could open it, wherein they found a young girl, her body patchworked with metal and clockwork. Powerful magical auras of Necromany and Healing surrounded her, keeping her alive, though for what purpose, none of them knew. Tarquin came soon after, though they attempted to keep their tampering of the coffin a secret, he quickly found out. He didn’t seem upset by it though, understanding the urges of curiosity, and told them that he did not hold it against them. Indeed, he said that he would keep them in mind for the future, if he needed further “errands” run.

Just minutes after Tarquin guaranteed Aurianya’s safe return, a crash was heard in the upstairs portion of the safehouse, as Aurianya herself barreled through the window, just having escaped Tarquin’s estate. Hilarity ensued, cut to black.

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Session 1: Departure
Timeframe: Second month of Spring

With the start of their journey imminent before them, the group was startlingly calm as they awoke. Aurianya was awoken by the sounds of an altercation caused by her adoptive sister Semiya, and brought her outside for a heartfelt talk. During this, Naberia confronted her brother Eligor about her worries regarding the journey, which Eligor calmly dissuaded. Rael found his daughter fighting in a nearby arena in an attempt to prove her strength and capabilities to her father, though he still refused to allow her to accompany them. Sitka and his instructor Leva took a walk out to the ocean, where Leva reassured herself that Sitka was ready for such a step.

The party then went to examine their ship, which they renamed Astrid Steele, after much discussion. The vessel itself seemed skyworthy, though there were some doubts about its ability to handle a fight. It was decided that no, it could not handle a fight. Fortunately, it was fast enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

After the impromptu inspection, Kendra invited the group to her manor, for a dinner and discussion in regards to the importance and finality of their mission. She was joined by an Elphatalian Councilor of Accomplishment, Novalum, and the pair described to the two in no uncertain terms that should this mission fail, both Tephra and Elphatal would surrender to Bezerel. Compounding that, the group was given a one-year time limit, at the end of which, the officials would consider their mission a failure.

With that dour end to their night, the group retired until the morning. The next day found them leaving at noon, with Naberia seeing them off at the hanger. The trip itself was mostly uneventful, though Rael questioned the mechanics on the IllusoPhysical engines, and Sitka took charge of the ship, working with Nathaniel (the ship’s primary navigator). A brief party meeting took place, where Sitka got everyone to go over their party roles, and they became a bit more familiar with each other. Beyond that, the journey was quiet.

Until the Leviathan appeared. Hidden behind an illusion of quiet, Rael and Veronica saw through the blank illusion and warned the rest of the party. Rael’s efforts broke through the illusion enough for the party to see it fully, and it didn’t take long before the Leviathan opened fire. Between massive summoned Demons and heavy Magicannon fire, the Astrid Steele was not long for this world. Thanks to Sitka and Aurianya’s quick thinking, all the crew save for the four mechanics and one unlucky crewman survived.

But survival would not be easy. Landing on the surface of the Alor mountain range, the party was approached by two intimidating figures. Selina Argos was easily recognized, though her even taller companion was inadvertently introduced as Tharja. Selina commended the party on their survival, and informed them that their mission was a failure, and if they wished to live, they would return home. Sitka just barely resisted the urge to attempt to murder Selina, but Eligor and Rael’s quiet insistence to the contrary quelled him. With Selina and Tharja gone, the party now has to contend with the sub-zero environment of the mountains, and get to Bezerel on foot.

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Let it be known!
An official decree to be taken notice of by any of the gods in the heavens.

I am not one much for words. In most cases I find myself keeping things simple and straightforward. I have never truly found need for poetry. I despise lofty claims or exclamations and would rather act upon my intentions and let others judge thereafter.
But this occasion is a special one. As I have come face to face with my enemy, I have felt the bloodlust, and been forced to quench it. My true nature would have had me rip out her throat, but I was made to allow the moment to pass, for the good of everyone.
BUT I AM NOT DONE WITH HER!! SHE WILL NOT ESCAPE MY WRATH!!
I hereby declare for all to know that Selina Argos shall die by my hand, by the fiery blood of my ancestors, and on the history of my clan do I swear it!! She shall be brought down from her mighty throne with swift and exacting punishment!! Light and ashes, I will destroy this woman, or let me never again taste the heat of battle on my tongue!! This I do swear.

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State of the World
Is this the right choice?

Kendra Schylo, Minister of the Independent Nation of Tephra
Year 174 B.K., Mid-Spring

Sometimes I wonder if this war can even be won. It’s been two decades since the Great Ban, and Bezerel shows no sign of relenting. I worry that our struggle here is fruitless, and will result in us being absorbed into that behemoth.

But I have to cast aside such worries. A meeting with the Council of Elphatal proved that they have similar worries, though I was impressed with their brave fronts. Some of them even have faith that their gods will find a way through the Ban, though I am much less sure. I wonder in a way if this isn’t their design; that it might be a message from WIldfire that we have lived for too long, and that something else must now follow. But how, then, could it not also be that damned empire’s time to fall?! No, I will not accept that.

I have established one final mission, state-sponsored, to look for the source of the Ban. Alma still refuses to leave the capitol, and I understand her reasons just as I’m infuriated by them. However, she recommend another, an arena fighter who she says could take her place. The Elphatalians also had several recommendations, so I’ll be using a few of them as well. Unfortunately, Elka’s new prototype isn’t done yet, so they’ll be going in one of our older model ships. Just as well I suppose, they’ll be less conspicuous that way.

If they don’t find anything, this will be the end of us. I would fight tooth and nail for my freedom, but I cannot risk endangering the lives of my people. We are proud, but not stupid. I will give the expedition until the end of summer, and then I will make my decision, whether to die with my pride, or to live with my shame.

Christian of the house Merocles, head of the Resurgent
Year 4682, in the Calendar of Their Noble Bodies
Mid-Spring

Time grows short, and I am glad. For it is now that these people, so long complacent in their own death, will rise up and throw off the shackles of their divine prison. For too long have we allowed the Gods to control our lives, and now that we are free of them, we bemoan our fate? We children of Oreas, the only true divinity, long for our captors to return so that we may gratefully take up the yoke of slavery? No! Never again will I allow my fellow citizens to fall under the oppression of the divine, whether those gods are Bezerelian or Elphatalian or of any nation!

My contacts in the Council tell me that another expedition to Bezerel is being planned, to find a way to break off the Ban. In truth, I both hope for their success and their failure; for their success would be a great blow to Bezerel, that damnable empire of arrogant fools, but it would bring back those “gods” who seek our dominion. But fortunately, I am not without options. If I can sway but a few of them to not abandon their cause, but rather adjust it, I can accomplish both goals at once.

But now night approaches, and I must retire. The expedition leaves soon, and I must be ready to act. Perhaps Sorralodine can be persuaded to my cause, assuming I can extricate her from her lab. I shall consider it come the morrow.

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