War of the Burning Sky

SessionXXXII

27 Springtide 459

Arlyn’s breath hung heavy in the frosty air. His eyes crawled across the edge of the ridge just ahead, watching for tell-tale depressions in the snow and ice. Much of the road had been relatively safe, allowing them to push the horses beyond the point where they should have collapsed. Joshua was tending to the animals even now, focusing the magics of some sort of strange religious icon to wash away their fatigue and restore their strength. Arlyn snorted; he could certainly have used a little of that.

At least his teeth weren’t chattering. Charmalina, who insisted on following him around on the treacherous ice, shivered against the cold. The lowlands had made them soft. Winters in Gate Pass had always been at least as cool, and the footing not much better. He’d grown up climbing the passes to either side of town with his father, yet he too was growing weary of the windswept rocks and ice. The sun was getting low in the west, and the final outpost along the Alydi Gap should be just ahead. He knew that Joshua hoped to find signs of Ragesian treachery, but he himself was warming to the idea of a cozy hearth and a hot meal.

Charm’s foot slipped, and she grabbed a hold of him to keep from sliding to the ground. Arlyn sighed. He loved his sister, but sometimes wondered how different life would be if he’d managed to leave her at home. Who knew? Maybe Gate Pass would be that much safer…

At Duke Gallo’s behest, Commander Hertiage and the heroes ride north into the Alydi Gap, making haste from one outpost to the next and conducting quick interrogations of the sentries. It isn’t until the northernmost outpost that they discover any sign of Ragesian activity, which promptly materializes as an ambush on the slope leading up to the watchtower. Wyvernriders drop fire bombs from the sky, whilst archers from atop the tower pepper the heroes upon approach. Enemy soldiers attack the party from the rocks to either side of the path as Jasmine, Basil and Elessar spur their horses forward, quickly covering the ground to the tower. Arlyn, meanwhile, takes to the sky under the influence of Joshua’s magic and sidles up the side of the tower to return fire upon their perched assailants. Derek wisks balls of fire into the air to discourage the wyverns as Joshua, sighing heavily at his limited mobility, settles into his saddle and pushes onward.

The battle moves into the tower soon enough, and is a bloody one. More than one hero find themselves at death’s door amidst the conflict, pending the timely arrival of the party cleric. As Jasmine and Arlyn face soldiers on the tower stairs and Derek blinks through the walls in search of the lurking inquisitor, Basil, Charm and Elessar trade blows with a skilled cluster of ground troops. Elessar suffers one axe stroke that almost certainly spells his doom, but some enigmatic force keeps him from dying and he is soon returned to the fight.

With their opponents finally vanquished, and yet another bear-skull mask added to Jasmine’s collection, the heroes search the tower. Amongst the inquisitor’s belongings is a set of orders outlining the Ragesian general’s instructions, which clearly preclude any sort of cooperation with King Steppengard. The orders allude to a larger conspiracy surrounding the Dasseni court, and the army’s intentions to march on Dassen as soon as some sort of “madness” has run its course.

The heroes elect to retreat to the next outpost to the south before settling in for the night, preparing to ride the next morning for Gallo’s Fend with all possible speed.

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Session XXXI

21 Springtide 459

Joshua settled heavily onto the bench, feeling it bend beneath his weight. His right knee screamed in protest. Joshua almost welcomed the pain, using it to help combat the numbness which had otherwise consumed him since the escape from Steppengard Castle. His eyes flickered Elessar’s direction. The inquisitor may have crippled him, but something far deeper had infected the paladin. Joshua had heard the details, recounted by Jasmine in hushed tones as they huddled against the cold, but Elessar had yet to open up about it. Joshua longed to help his friend bear the load of his guilt and confusion, but he had yet to regain the measure of inner peace that would allow him to properly minister to anyone.

His gaze slid past the paladin to the next table, taking in his unusual new companions. They seemed young, an irony he didn’t fail to appreciate given his own youth. They were, more accurately, unseasoned, if not untested. Where his own compatriots seemed grim and tired, lost in their own thoughts, the Stormblades lounged about with ease and some degree of comfort, enjoying their newfound adventure.

Except, perhaps, for Samis, who kept staring at him when he thought he wouldn’t notice. And scowling, just a little bit. His eyes were eerily similar to his sisters, despite the diversity of their parentage. It set him on edge and filled him with regret. Laurabec had deserved better than being battered to death by Ragesian treachery. Yet another death to lay at Leska’s feet.

The Crown and Hart was a pleasantly provincial hostelry, its common room filled to bursting with jovial soldiers and local woodsman seeking refuge from the unnatural winter. Duke Gallo’s men had come upon them some leagues to the south, and offered an armed escort to Gallo’s Fend. Their commander, a spirited dwarven soldier named Hertiage, had listened with rapt attention as the duke’s proxy had recounted their daring escape from the king’s dungeon. He’d been quick to render aid, offering the protection of he and his men as they worked their northward. He insisted on stopping at every village along the way, however, instructing the elders to send their able soldiers north and prepare their militias. Whether the mountain passes opened up and allowed the Ragesians through, or King Steppengard mustered an army and marched northward, war had finally come to Dassen.

Joshua sighed. The life of a champion was never an easy one.

At Gallo’s Fend, the heroes are taken directly to the duke, who even now prepares to receive the armies of the king rumored to be gathering in Bresk. He is quick to impress upon the party his devotion to keeping the Ragesians at bay, but fears the consequence of being caught between two forces when the snows melt in the Alydi Gap. If he could prove the Ragesians duplicity, demonstrate that their peaceful negotiations with the king are a front for some sort of planned treachery, then he could at least elicit the aid of his nearest neighbors, Lady Timor in the east and Lord Dashgoban to the west. To this end, he asks the heroes to accept a special mission to ride swiftly northward into the gap to see if all is well.

The heroes rest a single night, then reprovision and prepare to ride north.

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Session XXX

18 Springtide 459

“Samis, over here!”

Samis’s eyes were watering, making it difficult to see. He focused on Dani’s voice as she repeated her summons. He knew what he would find, had seen the giant eagle who was his sister’s closest friend and companion alight on the rocks outside to deposit his burden, then return to the skies. The storm was over, and yet the peace that always reigned within his heart was nowhere to be found.

At least she wasn’t alone. Gilli, whom he loved deeply, knelt beside her on the floor. His face was tear-stained and ashen. Samis knew without having to ask that the tears were more for him than his knightly sibling. He fell to his knees at Laurabec’s side, his heart breaking. All his devotion to the tenets of the Aqualine Cross, and his power to heal was well and truly spent. He needn’t even glance at Dani to know that her own meager skills had been similarly taxed whilst they dealt with the casualties from the recent hurricane.

Laurabec’s eyes flickered open. Her body was broken, by wind-blown debris and by an impossible fall, and yet still she clung to life. A pained smile spread across her features as she took him in. She may have failed to inherit her mother’s elven grace, but at that moment Samis felt as if he’d never seen anything more beautiful. She struggled for a moment to whisper his name, and he bent low to hear her speak.

“Follow the Stormborn,” she said, her words growing stronger even as she seemed to wilt beneath their weight. Samis frowned. The Thaeosian from the north? She must be delirious… Laurabec sensed his hesitation. Her gaze grew piercing, hawk-like… a look he knew well. “It is my command, little brother… like it or not, your destinies are entwined.”

The room was silent as she awaited his answer. He felt Gilli’s and Dani’s eyes on him, and others who lingered nearby. He held his breath, vanquishing any urge he might possess to quarrel with his sister whilst she lay upon her death bed. Gilli reached over, laid his narrow hand upon his own. Samis gave him a long and level look, and saw nothing but love and trust in his eyes. The young cleric exhaled, and then nodded. Laurabec seemed, for a moment, to breathe more easily.

“Good…” she said, her voice once again growing weak. “It is he who has ended this Ragesian treachery, this magical hurricane that would otherwise have destroyed us all. I have seen it.”

And with that, Laurabec Adelsburg died, a peaceful expression upon her face that Samis wished with all his might could be reflected in his own aching breast.

Jasmine, Derek and Elessar are rendered unconscious and carried to Steppengard Castle, where they are thrown into the dungeon. Linael encounters Basil and Arlyn in a nearby alley and helps them sneak into the castle. Charm, meanwhile, finds herself lost in the quiet streets of Bresk, trying to avoid the patrols that are spiderwebbing through the city. She eludes the guards, but soon finds herself face-to-face with one of their airborne bloodhounds, a wayward hieracospinx that’s crawled into a city well. A brief but bloody battle ensues, but the halfling manages to ground and dispatch the creature without raising an alarm. Her feat wasn’t unwitnessed, however, as a small group clustered on the far side of the street shows their approval and invites her aid in their mission to escape the city. Lacking any clearer sense of purpose, she readily agrees and accompanies them to the northern gate, which is remarkably unguarded.

Charmalina’s new friends are hardly uninvolved in her party’s interests, however. The strange quartet includes a quiet swordsman named Raines, a naive young priestess called Dani, a gruff ranger who answers to the name of Orr, and Reid, a good-natured bard, all newly arrived from Seaquen on a search for the man who inspired them to reach beyond their humble beginnings: Joshua Stormborn. Their leader, Samis, is already in the castle, he and his lover Gilli having posed as guards to make it possible to reach the dungeon. The other “Stormblades” are tasked with securing horses and provisions and meeting them outside the walls of the city, once they’ve freed Joshua and his companions.

Which they do. Jasmine and Elessar have been awake long enough for the paladin to experience the rough side of her tongue whilst he struggles with a new-found emptiness brought on by his recent failure to save the inn and those who must have perished in flame. Samis and Gilli find Joshua in a separate chamber, where he has been tortured and crippled by the Ragesian ambassador’s inquisitor, whilst Arlyn and Basil spring the others from their cells, including Duke Gallo’s imprisoned proxy, a man named Jinis, who proclaims his master’s innocence and encourages the heroes to flee northward to Gallo’s Fend and add their strength to that of the duke.

The heroes take a few moments to deal with the guards languishing in the dungeon, and then make their escape through a hidden tunnel that functions as the dungeon’s latrine, meeting up with rest of the Stormblades in an old guard tower near the river.

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Session XXIX

17 Springtide 459

... All too easy…

The door was trapped. Some sort of alarm trinket. Pixis had been in the game far too long to fall prey to such an obvious trick. They always trapped the door. Only amateurs assumed that the ability to pick a lock was sufficient to achieve a silent entry.

Besides which, her employer had been clear about the group’s arcane reputation. They were envoys from the Lyceum. Magical defenses seemed a safe bet. Dangling from the edge of the roof outside by a narrow, well-secured cord, Pixis carefully extracted a tiny bottle containing a small green insect. She smiled, a rare curling of the lip than only happened when she was alone in the dark. This particular bug was a guild secret. Once agitated, it would react to the immediate presence of magical auras, its abdomen glowing. She shook it gently and ran the vial near the edges of the window.

Hmm… not a flicker.

Pixis traded the bug for the tools she needed to breach the window. It didn’t take long. She was quick to slip inside, setting one foot carefully on the floor as she scanned the chamber with her magically-enhanced vision. The suite had four adjacent chambers, plus a water closet. She possessed a thorough description of the diplomat, a giant of a man with a sword to match. Her ears twitched, alert for any sound as she quietly extracted a set of lockpicks and crept toward the nearest door.

Which is when she noticed that her mark was much nearer than she’d expected. The silver-tongued clergyman had apparently decided to leave the beds to his countrymen. He was sprawled on a sofa in the center of the room, his blade near at hand. It was his feet that drew her attention. They dangled off the edge, nearly touching the floor. Pixis studied him for a moment. He was a fair if stern-looking man, his brow furrowed as if troubled by his dreams. She blinked. There was something almost familiar about him…

Shaking it off, the diminutive assassin plucked another vial from her vest. She’d paid dearly for this, but the compensation was more than adequate. The flask of dreams contained a magical gas that would put even an elf into a coma. She held her breath as she removed the stopper, then set the flask on the floor, withdrawing to the window. It only took a moment to do its work. She rather hoped the man’s dreams weren’t so terrible, since he was going to be there for a while.

The city outside was unusually quiet, sleeping beneath yet another fresh layer of snow, but Pixis couldn’t shake the idea that something momentous lay just on the horizon. Bresk had become a dangerous place to live. Nina Glibglammer had made it clear, however, that she expected her to remain near at hand, in case they had further need of her services. Given that the king’s displeasure could easily cost her her head, she hadn’t hesitated in the least. The gnome certainly set her on edge, but she spoke for the king and acted as the captain of his secret police force.

Pixis was no fool. Her half-elven heritage had provided the opportunity for a fairly long life. She intended to live it.

It was time. She took a few minutes to relieve her victim of his armament and any magical trinkets, then dispelled the alarm and opened the door. Two pairs of eyes stared back at her from the darkness, patiently awaiting her signal. Pixis sighed, then opened the door wide to let them in. They were large men, sent by Nina to help her extract the priest. Even so, she could tell that they struggled beneath his bulk. She stopped them at the door, smiling to herself as she stripped the man of his cloak.

At least she’d get a little something extra out of the deal.

Hrumbrand, a half-crazed minstrel whom the heroes recognize from an interrogation at court, approaches the party and warns them that an arrest warrant has been issued, urging them to be quit of the city before the Talon is dispatched to bring them in. The charge, apparently, is treason. The man’s behavior is suspect, however, and Arlyn is able to follow him back to the castle after he delivers the message, where he turns himself over to the guards. Joshua determines that they will not be harried from the city before the end of the three day period granted by King Steppengard.

When they retire, however, Joshua is abducted. Linael returns during the early morning hours to find him gone, and rouses the party, just in time to deal with the approach of Talon agents intending to arrest them. Basil and Arlyn slip out the window as Elessar, Derek and Jasmine emerge to face their accusers. The arrest goes awry, however, when they insist upon relieving the heroes of their weapons, unwilling to accept Elessar’s oath that his weapon will remain sheathed. The paladin refuses to be parted with Anyariel, and a fight ensues when the guards threaten to burn the inn should they resist. Only Charmalina escapes the guards, as she tarries in their chambers and deals quietly with the guard who attempts to oust her.

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Session XXVIII

12 Springtide 459

‘Twas the second week of Springtide ‘fore I became directly involved in these events. The New Years’ assault on my home city occurred whilst I was away, on assignment in distant Ostalin in the company of the young Khagan. ‘Twas with a heavy heart that I did adhere to my duties until such time as I could make the return journey, yet there was war throughout the land and even the seas had become a dangerous place to linger.

My eye turned to Seaquen as word of a magical hurricane spread from port to port. It had reportedly arisen with a ferocity fit to wipe the city from the map, and dissipated ‘fore it could actually do so. ‘Twas no surpise to me then that the storm was itself the handiwork of Ragesian agents, agents who had been thwarted by mine own stalwart countrymen. I made all haste to the city and its academy of wizards, that I might find myself in august company. I was not disappointed.

The envoys from Gate Pass were led by a giant of a man, a silver-tongued priest devoted to the battle-god Thaeos, whose worship is somewhat stunted outside of the mountain fastness from whence we hail, and included none other than my own dear niece, who had taken it upon herself to join the Resistance and venture forth upon the wings of their perilous, if frequently misbegotten, agenda. I would that I had predicted such boldness ‘fore the war began, as I would have stolen her skills to aid in my own dire goals, but I had misjudged how quickly she had grown. ‘Tshould be no great shock that she is as willful as her parents were, but I would see her spared their ugly fate. Nevertheless, here she was, and our purposes were now aligned.

Disguising myself, ironically, as an Ostaliner spy, I joined the Lyceum’s newly appointed questors as they were sent north into Dassen. I admit, I had my doubts… that is, until I witnessed the cleric’s performance before the tragic shell of a king who might have been their best chance to avoid a Ragesian seige upon Seaquen herself. Alas, Steppengard’s will was subverted by a wicked Ragesian lapdog. He would not hear them.

Fortunately, ‘twas not the king’s ears alone who heard our plea that day, and ‘twas not the king alone who made laws in this once-fractured domain.

~ Linael Canton – Re: his role in events surrounding the eventual conclusion of the War of the Burning Sky

At Steppengard Castle in the walled city of Bresk, Linael looks on as Joshua outlines the requests presented by the Lyceum to the king and his court, in hopes that Steppengard would forbid the Ragesians free passage through his kingdom. An enemy ambassador, and his pet inquisitor, also look on, obviously having already presented their case to the king. Steppengard is heartsick, however, over the loss of his wife and many children in a recent poisoning, and refuses to pay heed to their needs, identifying Seaquen as a lawless serpent’s nest which has unjustly roused the ire of their powerful northern neighbors. His gnomish advisor, the enigmatic sorceress Nina Glibglammer, seems duplicitous in his judgment.

The proxies of other nobles at the court, however, are far less unsympathetic. All but Dassen’s northernmost lord, Duke Michael Gallo, are represented at court, and Gallo’s nearest neighbors are openly supportive of the heroes. Gallo himself is suspected of attempting to assassinate his liege and causing the death of Steppengard’s family, though many of the other lords of Dassen consider it unlikely. The king seems convinced, and Gallo’s proxy languishes in the royal dungeon.

Rebuffed, but determined to see it through, Joshua elects to remain in the city for the three days alotted by the king in hopes of meeting personally with proxies from each of the other seven nobles, then plans to ride north to meet with the duke. King Steppengard clearly hovers on the brink of madness, but the laws of the land provide that a quorum amongst the lords and ladies of the land might override their monarch’s decision and bring the Ragesian army to a halt.

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Session XXVII

8 Springtide 459

A steady breeze swept through the room, the tinge of salt and tar summoning visions of the harbor, where shipwrights busily plied their trade in the wake of the hurricane’s fury. Crystin had already come to love this city, bursting to the gills with refugees from every corner of the world. From powerful magi and beautiful aristocrats to skulking thieves and wild gypsies, from the grand spires of the Lyceum to mystical theater-ship of the Wayfarer’s Guild, every part of this place drove memories of a childhood buried in endless ash ever further into the past. A future of unbridled possibilities seemed to loom on the horizon, beckoning with an open hand and the promise of a life completely her own.

There was but one simple complication.

Seated quietly in a student salon at the Lyceum, Crystin made numerous attempts to put her thoughts into words. The letters on the page had begun to swim before her eyes. She’d been up the whole of the night, unable to sleep for the quiver in her gut. Joshua intended to leave in just a few hours, leading his company of would-be war heroes to yet another uncertain challenge in a distant place, and Elessar would be with him.

Crystin rolled her eyes, unable to fathom how she had become so enamored of the man. He had come to occupy her thoughts time and again over the past few weeks. It had begun as a simple matter of guilt, remorse over his ill treatment at the hands of her father. But she had come to realize that the guilt was long absent from her heart, that the specter of her wicked sire had lost much of its grasp since coming to this place. And yet, she had no real experience with genuine emotion, and she knew it. This uncertainty, the manner in which her innards seemed to knot when he was near, it could easily be misplaced gratitude for his grace and heroism. And charm. And noble character. And fair countenance.

And well-turned calves.

Crystin nearly sobbed with frustration. If she was going to be so very absorbed in a man who may not even hold her in any higher regard than the average peasant girl lining the city streets, she’d best clear her head. Joshua would be rising soon with the dawn, and he needed to know that she would be remaining in Seaquen. She had much to learn about her strange magical heritage, and that knowledge could only be found here at the Lyceum. He would accept that, even if it was only a portion of the truth.

Crystin sighed, selected a clean sheet of vellum, and scribed a single line. The letter would soon find its way into Elessar’s pack, to be discovered well into his journey if at all possible. She couldn’t say everything that was in her heart, for she no longer trusted it…

“Elessar, Upon thy return, I must speak with thee regarding a very serious matter. – Crystin”

Crystin nodded. It would have to do.

Once through the mire separating the port city and the refugee camps from the rest of the world, the terrain turns at once to snow and ice, the claws of an unnaturally long winter well in evidence. The journey to Bresk would be accomplished largely on the surface of the frozen river, which should prove much faster than any overland route. It’s nearly noon before the heroes encounter any other travelers, though they turn out to be fleeing from a terrifying worm-like monster at the time. The remorhaz quickly turns its attention on the party, who eventually manage to wear it down enough to strike a killing blow. They take the time to visit with the surviving refugees, healing their injuries and directing them toward the relatively safety of Seaquen.

The following day brings the party into direct conflict with members of the king’s private police force, the Talon. The men are harrassing a group of halfling merchants who smuggled a fugitive woman from the capital. When Elessar confronts them, the guard captain dispatches the woman directly and orders his men to kill them. The ensuing combat does not go well for the Talon.

Cautious of the reception which might await them, despite Simeon’s assurances that diplomatic accomodations have been established, the heroes arrive in the city of Bresk late the following afternoon.

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Session XXVI

7 Springtide 459

On the fifth floor of the Chancellor’s Tower, the imposing western spire of the Lyceum, the office of the headmaster offered an expansive view of Seaquen’s North Harbor. Distant storm clouds lingered to the west, a chilling reminder of the recent hurricane activity inflicted upon the city by their Ragesian foes. Joshua Stormborn spared hardly a glance for this dramtic omen as he strode into the chamber, however, his companions close upon his heels.

Simeon Gohanach managed to look moderately at ease seated on one of his decorative couches, despite the literal fate of the world settling firmly on his shoulders. Joshua suppressed his urge to rail at the old man for leaving him languishing in Seaquen for more than a week since they’d saved the city. His dreams were haunted by images of Coaltongue’s magical torch, and he itched to be away, but he had agreed to follow the Lyceum’s lead in this matter, hoping that his cooperation may serve to bring much-needed aid to Gate Pass all the sooner. Besides, there were other heroes already pursuing the emperor’s lost artifact. He was here now to discuss their next mission.

Simeon wasn’t alone. Kiernan Stekart, the academy’s appointed warmaster and head of security, stood behind the headmaster, his stoney expression belying any forced levity that might otherwise have existed in the room prior to the party’s arrival. Katrina was also present, as ever seemed to be the case, as was a middle-aged Ostaliner introduced as Balan Bastom. Despite his restlessness, the priest’s diplomatic training allowed him to express a demeanor of patience and ease as Simeon invited the heroes to sit and poured them wine. His companions hesitated, an echo of his own reticence, with the exception of Basil, who wasted no time adopting a glass of wine and sinking into one of the couches with his feet on the headmaster’s antique table. The swordsman’s impertinence as he closed his eyes in a posture of unapologetic relaxation was enough to unwind Joshua’s own sense of humor, and he found the knots in his shoulders already starting to loosen of their own accord.

Only Jasmine remained significantly ill at ease, her eyes never straying from the mysterious Ostaliner as she gravitated toward a stiff-backed chair. Joshua sighed. Some things never changed.

Simeon informs the party that, since the hurricane has failed to remove Seaquen from the map, the Ragesians are preparing to march upon them from the north. The entire nation of Dassen lies between them, however, and word has reached the Lyceum that enemy envoys have already reached Bresk in an attempt to convince King Steppengard to allow their army passage to the south, claiming that they harbor no ill will toward the rest of the nation, only the serpent’s nest of magi at their southern penninsula. A nest that pays Steppengard neither fealty nor taxes of any sort.

Simeon fears that the king will be swayed, particularly in the wake of a recent assassination attempt that managed to kill his entire family, leaving him potentially quite vulnerable. After Joshua’s impressive accomplishments in Seaquen, bringing together the various religious sects amidst the refugees to build a common place of worship, Simeon considers him the most capable diplomat available and perhaps the only person capable of getting through to King Steppengard or his advisors. Otherwise, once the passes north of Dassen begin to thaw, the Ragesians will ride unchecked across the kingdom and finally do what their hurricane failed to accomplish.

The Ostaliner, actually Jasmine’s uncle Linael Canton from Gate Pass, possesses a working knowledge of the inner workings of King Steppengard’s court and has volunteered his aid to Seaquen’s envoy. Jasmine is quick to share this detail with Joshua, but no one else. Linael helps the party procure supplies for the journey, including dogsleds to aid in crossing the snowy terrain, and the party prepares to depart the next morning.

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Session XXV

30 Secondmoon 459

Derek McDraken stood upon a narrow stone bridge overlooking a flow of molten rock. It had an almost hypnotic quality, punctuated by a constant growl as it struggled along the bed of the ravine. The whole of the cave was bathed in a ruddy glow, and sweat beaded on the surface of his skin. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. At least their clothes were dry.

The heat felt good. Good in a way that he knew wasn’t natural. It bothered him a little at times, but he’d known since learning his very first cantrip that his life would lead him to unusual places and strange new experiences. The fire forest had changed him, had swallowed him whole and spat him back out again. He should have died there. He remembered the flaming ghoul as it tore into his flesh, remembered its acrid scent, like sulfur mixed with rotting vegetation. He’d felt himself ripped asunder and known that his trials were at an end.

But the fires of Innenotdar had rekindled him somehow. He imagined that he could still feel it, emanating from within. He could see the flames at the edges of his vision, even moreso when he closed his eyes. He was warm within his skin. He sometimes felt as if the fire would spring from him with the slightest touch, reaching out to set the world ablaze. At times, he almost wished it would… just to be quit of it. His dreams were dreams of living flame. He’d learned to weather them, but not to love them.

Despite how much he’d come to love the fire.

In the steamy tunnels beneath the sunken ruins, the heroes free the couple of hostages the Ragesians were holding and locate an unusual device capable of redirecting teleportation magics. They find the magical orb responsible for causing the hurricane amongst the inquisitor’s possessions, but not the wand which would allow them to control it. That, they soon learn, remains in the hands of Lee Sidoneth, the traitor.

Whom they promptly encounter upon emerging from the dungeon.

Determined to waylay the heroes, the potent hydromancer and his squid familiar ambush the party on the beach outside the prison. Much of the group is knee-deep in the waves, fighting the oncoming tide, as the magician’s beast snatches them off of their feet and drags them out to sea. Arlyn and Jasmine, meanwhile, climb to the prison’s roof where Lee Sidoneth is perched and engage the wizard in bloody combat.

When Sidoneth falls, his familiar flees, and the party is finally able to dispel the hurricane. Seaquen is damaged, many of her ships destroyed and her people driven to ground, but will recover.

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Session XXIV

30 Secondmoon 459

Torrent had always found comfort in the sea. Since leaving Sindaire with her parents aboard ship those many years ago, to finding a home with her father’s childhood friend in the southern port of Seaquen, it had become a constant companion in her life. And now the dreams… an old man, crowned in shells and coral, standing astride a great serpent in the midst of a powerful storm. He, too, was of the sea, and had visited Himself upon her night after night for several weeks. At times, he was but a glimpse, riding the crest of her other dreams like a silent observer; at other times, he was both a gentle master and a fierce warrior, and she saw herself in shimmering armor like that of the mythic isle folk.

Torrent frowned. According to Lee Sidoneth, it was a true dream. A visitation from a mysterious deity from beneath the waves, though he could not give it a name. Torrent had come to agree with her mentor. Whenever she stood within His presence within the sanctuary of her mind, she felt whole. Unbroken. Rare had such comforts been since her parents’ sudden departure.

She drew from around her neck the pendant given her by her mother, not a week before she’d left, never to return. She knew in her heart that she would soon be following them northward into the mountains, further from the sea. But she had agreed to remain in Seaquen for the time being, to receive the education she could only get at the Lyceum. And to find her true path, that presented to her by the mysterious sea lord who haunted her dreams.

Little did she know that it would be many years before she would finally see the walls of Gate Pass… and that she would never again see her parents alive.

Torrent shook the memory from her mind, reprimanding herself for the distraction. Learning of her mentor’s betrayal had left her questioning many of the decisions she had made in her life, but left her faith curiously unshaken. The aging hydromancer had, for whatever reason, elected to aid the Ragesians in their bid for the city’s destruction. Whatever cause he may be serving, there was no justification for such rampant disregard for the lives of the sailors, traders, magi and refugees who made their home on the penninsula. She was angered by the betrayal, but moreso simply exhausted by the recent excitement. Their near-demise aboard the Wayfarers’ theater ship, the hike through the hurricane… finding the sunken prison and its undead guardians was simply…

Torrent sighed. It was like adding insult to injury, that’s what it was. She fervently hoped that her aquatic master had no future plans for the man who had practically raised her since she was eleven years old. It took but a glance at Joshua’s face to see that Lee Sidoneth was destined to die this day.

In the lower halls of the prison’s interior, dozens of feet beneath the ocean’s frigid surface, the heroes find a mysterious well dug further into the earth, its sides impossibly smooth, with a rope and pulley system established at the top. At the bottom of the well, the water hangs magically suspended over a glowing cavern illuminated by a flow of molten lava at the bottom of a rocky chasm. Ragesian soldiers, tipped off by some sort of alarm, are already ranged across the far side of the gorge, crossbows at the ready. As the heroes drop one by one into the cavern below, deadly bolts rain amongst them from across the room.

As they gain the floor, the tide of battle turns. The Ragesians are whittled down to only a few survivors, who are relieved of their armament and bound securely. An ancient tomb of some sort lies beyond the lava flow, and the party quickly discovers that the enemy has been using it as a base for some time. A portion of the structure has been refitted as a biomancy laboratory, and another segment converted into living quarters. The Ragesians’ master also lurks within, isolated in a makeshift torture chamber where he is in the midst of some sort of sport involving an elven female.

Seconds pass, and yet another inquisitor donates his mask to Jasmine’s growing collection.

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Session XXIII

30 Secondmoon 459

“Yasmin… get thee from there, child!”

Elspeth was whispering fiercely in an attempt to get her attention. Jasmine studiously ignored her. Whatever lesson or chore the woman had planned wasn’t possibly as fascinating as what she had unearthed here, in her uncle’s study. She had recently developed a rabid curiosity over a spatial dysfunction between this room and the one beside it, neither of which she was supposed to be visiting without her uncle’s permission. So naturally, she had taken pains to ensure that he wasn’t in the room when she came to visit.

Her uncle’s head of household, however, appeared to possess some sort of mystical means of locating her. Particularly when she was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be.

A bookcase on the west wall slid aside to reveal a small niche built into the woodwork. There were a number of curiosities harbored within, but the whole of her young imagination had been captured by the lady who gazed down upon her from a shelf situated in the precise center of the back wall. She was, perhaps, twenty inches high and comprised of a translucent stone or foggy glass. A knowing smile played around the edges of her mouth, as if she were sharing with her a vibrant secret. The eight-year-old Jasmine was enchanted, unable to tear her eyes away.

“Yasmin!” Elspeth insisted, steeling herself to walk into the study to fetch her back manually. A gentle touch upon her shoulder drew the woman’s attention away, however, and the blood drained from her face as she turned to see her master standing solemnly behind her. He shook his head gently, urging her away from the door, and moved past her into the room.

Linael approached his niece with a heavy heart, saddened by the news he brought. Jasmine looked up, a question in her eyes. “Who is she?” she asked, obviously unconcerned about her disobedience. Linael found himself smiling, despite the tears that gathered in his eyes, and crouched down besider her.

“That,” he explained, motioning up at the diminutive statue, “is Sarinine. She’s the goddess of visions and dreams.”

Jasmine’s brow furrowed. “Then why is she in a closet?” she asked. All of the deities she had previously encountered were prominently displayed in churches and cathedrals or lurking above doorways along the street.

Linael loved the way her eight-year-old mind worked. He had always known that his sister’s daughter would grow up to be a remarkable woman, and he knew now that he had much to teach her err that day arrived. With what he had learned today, he realized, that day would be now be coming much sooner than he had anticipated. Linael decided then and there that he would make this girl’s education one of his chief concerns from this day forth, that he would instruct her thoroughly in the arts of covertcy, would teach her how to see the world around her in minute detail and absorb every tiny piece of information as if it were a personal treasure. She was obviously well on her way.

Jasmine raised a narrow eyebrow, her mixed elven heritage adding volumes to such a seemingly insignificant shift in expression. “Because,” he explained, gesturing toward the icon, “Sarinine is a secret goddess. She values her privacy. As do I,” he added, turning her to face him. The girl finally had the good grace to blush at her transgression, but Linael wasn’t fooled. There was no remorse in her reaction whatsoever. He had hidden this tiny shrine from her, and she had become determined to find it.

Perhaps, Linael considered, Sarinine was already speaking to this one…

Jasmine remembered well the mix of emotions that had played across her uncle’s features that day, the day he had brought her news of her parents’ demise. The goddess had indeed been speaking to her then, had begun speaking to her during the Festival of Dreams that very year, now more than sixteen winters past. And still she did, at least in her dreams, though her wisdom had become less clear of late, as events had driven her so far from home. She could use a little of that wisdom now, she thought, peering into the darkness of the sunken prison…

At the eye of the hurricane which has swallowed Seaquen, the heroes find an old prison nearly claimed by the sea but otherwise unaffected by the storm. Strange monsters lurk just beneath the surface of the icy water, which crawls nearly to heroes’ waists, and considerably higher for the halflings. Once they reach the interior, undead sentries emerge from the open cells to attack the party, forcing them into a pitched battle in their midst. It becomes increasingly obvious, once the skeletons are dealt with, that they are unwelcome in this place.

At the rear of the main prison, they find a door…

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