Campaign of the Month: November 2007

Bodhisattva Complex

Update Journal #2 - Faerun is Flavor Country

Indeed it’s been some time since my first update. I blame this on two things – my getting a new job that is both physically demanding and a time drain, and more importantly finally being able to play Mother 3 IN ENGLISH. I went through it in Japanese when it first came out, but let me say…battles are so much easier when you have more to go on than little item icons and an understanding of hiragana that is rudimentary at best. Nonetheless, the translation was well worth the two-year wait. SUCH a good game.

Anyway, on to the meat of the entry. It’s no real secret that I’m not a fan of the Forgotten Realms setting. At all. In fact, I openly revile it. But, thanks to Wizards’ inexplicable need to get material to us the players really really fast, I can thank the FR Player’s Guide for providing me a very workable new class for Malcolm in the Swordmage. “But Josh,” you say, “Malcolm uses guns! That won’t work with the Swordmage’s powers!” Ah, but it will if I change the restrictions of all those powers from melee weapon to ranged. Simple as that I have a Gunmage without having to worry about Iron Kingdoms being updated to 4e. Which, sadly, might not ever happen. Best campaign world EVAR.

This still leaves the problem of Milo and Charlotte, though. Fortunately I hear that the Martial Power book will have a ranger variant who uses an animal companion. This…really solves the Milo problem since I wanted that for him in the first place. So, with a few dips into Cleric he’s practically building himself at this point.

Which still leaves the glaring problem of Charlotte, or more specifically the Bard class. I know that Player’s Handbook II is scheduled for a January release, and really that isn’t too far off, but I’m really impatient about getting Complex up and running again, so I might not be able to wait that long. I have been working on my own custom Bard which I’ve been told is very good, but in order to avoid the whole “Charlotte is broken” situation again it’ll require significant playtesting to work. Playtesting I might not even be done with before PHBII is out. So at this point who knows what will happen.

Last item on the agenda in this update is the concept of Fortune Points, or FP. I came up with the idea when mulling over the posibility of my custom Bard having a pool of “luck points,” kind of like Luck feats or the 3.5 Bard spell, Improvise. Our playgroup is much more story-oriented than anything, so sometimes we get away with murder at the table. Dice fudging happens a lot more often than it should, and lately I’ve felt that Complex has suffered for this (it could also have to do with me being a relatively green DM who doesn’t like seeing people do badly). So I decided to come up with a simple way to let people “fudge” every once in a while without letting it get out of hand. That way is FP.

Every character starts play with 2 FP and gains an additional one per tier advancement, obviously capping at 4. A player can spend one FP per enconter to re-roll an attack or damage roll or skill check. I omitted saves in this because I figured it would make a Leader’s save-granting abilities much less potent in the long run. FP is restored only after an extended rest or when gaining a level mid-session that would bump up your tier. If any character gains access to a class feature that allows them to use action points to re-roll attack or damage rolls, et cetera, that class feature instead grants the character an additional FP.

Pretty simple, I think. It allows the player to tempt fate a little without it getting out of hand. I think it goes a long way in making Complex feel more like the games that inspired it.

Next update I’ll hopeully have some sample 4e soulmelds to show off!

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Update Journal #1 - It's About Time

My last update was three months ago? Wow, time certainly flies. In any event, this is the first of what I hope will be many (but not too many) entries documenting Bodhisattva Complex’s transition from 3.5e to 4e mechanics.

So far I’ve gotten some major work done on Incarnum, which pleases me because I thought it’d be a stubborn beast and refuse to work with me. I found that 4e’s role system worked very much in my favor for this, allowing me to categorize each soulmeld by role rather than class. In the end, Incarnum will be different from its original identity in two major ways: no longer dependent on class and no longer hampered by alignment. I always thought that was 3.5 Incarnum’s biggest drawback, anyway; the Incarnate could have been such an amazing class if it weren’t held back by the older editions’ antiquated and mechanically overindulgent concept of alignment.

As I said, I spent a few days pouring over the soulmeld list and dividing them all into defender, leader, striker, and controller categories. It was actually pretty hard for controller soulmelds to stack up in comparison to the other three, but it worked out in the end. Some soulmelds obviously overlapped, which is fine, and some of them had uses that were very relevant in 3.5 but seem either redundant or not worth the effort to use them in 4e, so those had to go too. I tried to avoid scrapping too many soulmelds, keeping player choice as my largest concern there. Anyway, my next task in that department is to turn each soulmeld into a 4e-styled power. I’ll get to that shortly, mostly because there are some more pressing matters at hand. The most pressing is the Asura system, since it’s the cornerstone of Complex’s custom mechanics and the avenue for Incarnum anyway.

As of right now, this is how the Asura system will work. During character creation a player chooses an Asura and builds it to his tastes by choosing a role, an aspect, and a gift. Roles are self-explanatory, but are the backbone of an Asura’s build. I’ll use Hyuga as an example here for clarity’s sake.

Hyuga’s role is defender, since his defining characteristic is protecting people. With that in mind I would choose an aspect (a passive ability such as dark vision or increased land speed) and a gift (a simulated power like a counterattack or a once-per-encounter guaranteed critical hit) from the list of aspects and gifts with the “defender” keyword.

Hyuga is, of course, my avenue into Incarnum use, so he grants me soulmelds on certain levels. Altogether a character gets one at-will soulmeld, two encounters, one utility, and one daily from their Asura. A player prepares soulmelds every time he takes an extended rest with the ability to use any soulmeld from their role’s list. Of course I’m making some custom feats that allow a character to substitute some of their class powers with soulmelds in case they want to be more of a full-time animist. Not to mention there will be some paragon paths specifically made for a player who really wants to dive into Incarnum.

The aspects and gifts are mostly done, since I made them for 3.5 and they almost all translate directly into 4e without any power creep or mechanical incompatibility. So Incarnum is about halfway done, thankfully. I thought it’d take me forever, but somebody upstairs knows it’s my favorite supplement and has made it easier for me =)

In the next entry I’ll discuss Fortune points, a.k.a causing 3.5 elitists to scream “YOU WANT EVERYONE TO BE A STAR PACT WARLOCK?” Also, Bard and Shaman; integral to Complex, but should I make my own or wait until January?

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A Brief Intermission (A note from the DM)

So, fans of Complex have no doubt noticed that updates to this wiki and log have been few and far between. This is not without explanation, although I’m not sure everyone will enjoy where it’s going.

Recently Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition was released, and we were among the first to pick it up and give it a try. I found two things upon playing my first ever session of 4e. First…I love it. Second, and more relevant to this update, 4th edition rules and flavor fit into the concept of Bodhisattva Complex so damn well that I found myself updating the campaign in my own mind without even having considered doing it for real.

That said, this campaign is on hiatus until I’m finished updating it to 4th edition rules. This will of couse include a lot of custom material to accomidate Incarnum, but custom material is a lot of fun for me so I’m looking forward to tackling that beast.

Keep your eyes peeled, those of you who watch Complex. And thanks for enjoying it so far =)

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Chapter Seven - From the Shadows to the Horizon

Eight days have passed since the putting down of the thief Nameless. Ravi and his team have had ample time to rest and recuperate from yet another harrowing experience and Gandharva is feeling peaceful again. Preparations have been made for the retrieval of the Shirley from the roiling waters of the sea surrounding the continent, and it is on this day that the event is scheduled to take place.

Padme enters the library at Aeon Home and finds Tien and Rosalind thumbing through some large tomes and taking notes. Charlotte enters as well, taking some time for herself before the events of the day are to unfold. Asking his acquaintances where he might find Ravi or Jacques, Padme is directed to the residents’ quarters on the east side of the Home. As satisfied as can be expected, the automa makes his way east while the others are left in the quietude of the library.

Padme finds Jacques in the residential area, engaging in a most unusual practice. After hearing some angry and desperate shouting coming from the young woman’s room, the automa kicks in the door to rescue her and finds her situated in front of her mirror, dressed in an unusual manner and shouting “I hate you!” at her own reflection. No explanation is offered – Jacques simply shoos Padme out the door and emerges moments later in her normal attire. The duo head for the beach to the southeast of the city gates to meet with Malcolm and the others for the exercise.

The team gathers at the beach, admiring the glittering waters of the ocean reflecting the afternoon sunlight, but they aren’t all assembled. Ravi, Honoria and Charlotte are all missing in action. Just as the team heads off for the city again to find them, Tien sends a telepathic message to Jacques asking her and the others to return to Aeon Home. Apparently monsters have suddenly overrun the city and the guard has their hands full as it is. Malcolm and Padme decide to stay behind in case anything develops with the sea creature while Milo and Jacques head back.

In Aeon Home’s adjoining square, Milo and Jacques find innumerable vampire bats clogging the very air of the city. They sense the fighters’ presence and turn to attack, but Honoria appears out of nowhere and cuts one in two, joining the fight with Ravi by her side. Together the party take care of the bats with minor injuries; Ravi discerns that the creatures are being summoned at a rapid pace by gelatinous oozes hiding with the aid of invisibility magic. Purging their arcane energies long enough to bring them into the light, Ravi and the others lay waste to the oozes and head into the academy to check in with Tien.

Inside the academy, Tien greets the party with some news on the nature of the attack. It seems the oozes were dropped into the city by a third party intent on causing a ruckus somehow. The oozes fabricate smaller creatures at an alarming rate, causing intelligence to believe there were more lurking in the city than was the case. Oozes were set about strategically in the most populated areas of Gandharva to distract the city guard and put them in a panic with the necessity of protecting civilians. Ravi asks after the individual who summoned the creatures, but Tien has nothing to offer him yet. He says only that some oozes remain in the merchants’ quarter of the city and the guard is too busy to take care of them. The praetor sends the group off with a teleportation art and wishes them good luck.

In a nauseating flash of light the group appears in the shadowy merchants’ quarter. All the lamps have been snuffed out by someone and the air is heavy and oppressive. Without warning, oozes hiding in the darkness spout out a large number of spirit creatures and let loose with terrifying roars. Milo is the first to act, wading into the melee and using his shamanic abilities to chastise and injure the spirit creatures. With the aid of augment crystals dropped in the previous conflict, Jacques’ arcane energies take on the glow of fire and cut a terrible path through the oozes, leaving them bubbling and melting in their demise.

A frustrated voice cuts through the shadow, sarcastically commending the party for their hard work in unraveling his spells. He speaks with the mannerisms of a rakshasa and spews threats at the party. Jacques and Honoria send insults his way, calling him out for his cowardice in remaining hidden behind the veil of night, but the rakshasa is unfazed. He warns them that the next day, the sea creature they have hunted after will surface and when it does Gandharva will be ruined- such is the price paid by those who desecrate Rakshasa holy land.

The group returns to Tien and is joined by Charlotte, Padme and Malcolm. After much deliberation they decide to meet the raksasha arcanist face to face and kill two birds with one stone, squelching the arrogant cat and defeating the sea creature that holds the Shirley captive at the same time. The rest of the night passes uneventfully with Padme tinkering at something while everyone else is asleep.

The next day the group meets on the beach and awaits the arrival of the ferocious creature and the sorcerer who will summon it. Just as the sun begins to touch against the horizon, the rakshasa makes his appearance standing perfectly still on the water. Tall and regal, he has blue black fur and brilliant ice blue eyes that sparkle with malevolence. He identifies himself as Kumarra, prince and scion of the rakshasa, and says that he has declared Gandharva marked for destruction due to the humans’ disrespect of the holy land Forgotten. Ravi argues that prophecy is only so reliable and that perhaps the prince is misguided in his zeal, but Kumarra is not moved. “Our fate is supreme so long as we tug on the reins of the Behemoth,” he replies with a hiss and raises a strangely-formed circlet into the air. As the sunlight catches the item and reflects off of it in and back into the roiling waters, a great earthquake rocks the area and the seas part to reveal a gigantic crustacean that crashes onto the shore with an incredible noise. The Shirley, fully intact as though Avae’s cannons had never broken it in half, sits on top of the creature’s back, diamond-hard chitin formed around her hull.

Obviously the fight will have to be taken in two phases, so the party decide to split up. Charlotte, Padme, Malcolm, and Ravi pursue Kumarra into the city to confront and punish him while Honoria, Milo, Jacques and Rosalind take care of the sea monster.

Inside Gandharva, Charlotte’s party corners Kumarra and the battle begins. The rakshasa is adept at summoning, calling pisaca and redcaps to his aid while he snipes at the group from the shadows. The summoned beasts fall easily, but Kumarra himself is sly and hard to track. He throws everything from arcane shadows to animated objects at the party, but nothing seems to stick. Just when it seems this war of attrition is going to continue forever, Purusha surfaces and whispers clandestinely in Ravi’s ear. While Padme and Charlotte chase the rakshasa all over the square and wound him with their weapons and abilities, Ravi sees a name in an ancient tongue slowly begin to reveal itself to him. When the name is complete Ravi feels Purusha’s essence stronger than ever and he speaks a name. “Narasihma!” Kumarra falls to his knees, shocked, as countless bolts of silken cloth emerge from the very earth itself and entangle him in their grip. Before his truename sealing is finished, the rakshasa bitterly retrieves the circlet from his sack and smashes it on the ground. “Now that creature’s last remaining thread of sanity has been severed. Your friends are doomed!”

Meanwhile, Honoria’s group prepares to take down the sea monster with a concerted effort. With some careful study of the creature, Rosalind has a breakthrough and assists the group by enchanting Honoria and Milo’s weapons so that they’re as hard as adamant. The creature has a nigh-impenetrable barrier around it that can only be broken through with the strongest of attacks. Honoria and Jacques concentrate on dealing as much damage to the creature as possible while Milo distracts it, drawing its attacks toward him and keeping his and everyone else’s health up to the best of his ability. The creature crashes down on the party numerous times, its enormous claws rending the sand apart in great rifts and its super-heated breath catching Milo and Honoria off-guard. The battle is hard-fought – the creature has an amazing amount of stamina and strength to throw around. Seeing an opening, Honoria rushes forth and plunges her sword into the crustacean’s underbelly, splitting the water apart and great waves. She brings her fist into the air, literally lifting the creature up with the force of her attack and splitting it in twain. The monster explodes in a hail of crystals all over the beach, its anima freed from its body to drift along the ocean waves.

The two groups reconvene on the beach, taking some time to discuss things and relax a bit, knowing that they have achieved their goal. Malcolm is overjoyed to see that the Shirley is safe; Rosalind assures him that his late wife was some kind of genius, setting up an intricate series of arcane marks inside the ship’s guts to ensure that if she were ever destroyed she would literally regenerate herself completely within days. Ravi makes the decision to accompany the party once he learns that they’re headed for Oh-Kenga. Priorities have changed, though, and no one will be hiding out anymore. The group resolves now to beseech the Oh-Kenga royal family for military aid in Moregnon’s efforts to fight back the Olmennan advances. Since Moregnon has now officially declared war on Olmenna, other nations are sure to follow their example. Padme asks if he can come along as well, since his search for Nandi has no starting point and he’s come to rely on the presence of his new friends for comfort in a world he’s altogether not a part of. Agreements reached, everyone returns to Tien for a full report after scooping up every last crystal left behind by the sea monster.

Tien is overjoyed to see that everyone is alright and commends each person for their seemingly endless assistance over the months. He rewards everyone with a respectable sum of money and a few magical items that they might find useful in their travels. He also gives Malcolm a letter of introduction for the Oh-Kenga emperor to further grease the wheels in their negotiations, once the time comes. The group rests for the night, safe in their beds for once.

In the morning, Barbara is standing at the docks with the Shirley, waiting for everyone to arrive. After some comical exchanges and a silent farewell from Ravi, the group board the Shirley and embark for Oh-Kenga. Hopefully this voyage will be much smoother than those previous.

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Honoria’s Diary

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Chapter Six - Orphans

“What the HELL are you doing here?!”

Two voices ring out in unison over the buzz of activity in the Aeon Home hospital. Charlotte and Jacques dodn’t seem happy to see each other.

After some banter and more than a little confusion on the part of everyone, the situation cools down a little and Milo is finally able to explain his and Charlott’e sundue intrusion. It seems that the Shirley is mostly intact at the floor of the ocean and is currently in the clutches of a rather formidable sea monster. Malcolm, being more attached to his ship than he’d like to admit, demanded that they find someone to help him recover it. ravi’s talents with subjugating creatures of ill repute came into conversation after Malcolm had spoken at length about knowing the professor’s father, and an idea was born.

Still reeling from the encounter with Nandi, Ravi is a little hesitant to help strangers at this point. Not only that but Tien reveals his true reason for stopping by. The city of Gandharva needs Ravi’s help yet again and he’s honorbound to agree. It seems that the conflict in Forgotten loosed something sinister on the streets of the city. A thief from the past who goes by the title of Nameless has been spotted skulking in the shadows near the wall between the rich quarter and the slums. Mysterious murders have been occuring all over those sectors and the rich victims have been robbed of their possessions as well as their lives. Reticent as always, the Gandharva city guard has ordered that Ravi and his team investigate the matter and do something about it because he is supposedly responsible for it all. More than a little steamed, Ravi agrees on the condition that he be left to his own devices once the case is closed. Enlisting Jacques and Padme to help him, the professor storms out of the hospital in an attempt to see this nonsense over with as soon as possible.

Milo, Charlotte and Malcolm agree to help ravi gather information while he and his team hit the streets for some information gathering. The rich quarter is the first destination, since the most recent murder-robbery took place there. Few have much of interest to say, although a foreign visitor to the city says that Nameless is apparently capable of travelling in an unorthodox and undetectable way. Jacques takes an interest in a young boy sitting near his home and discovers that the place is the site of the most recent crime. The boy is under suspicion by the police force of Gandharva and will be taken in soon for the murder of his family, but he couldn’t have done it. With the child’s permission, Jacques slips onto the grounds and has a look around. She finds something unusual along the walls of the outside garden and the main hall inside the house; scorch marks along the ground that seem to duck under structures. The marks lead to the upstairs where the boy says his parents’ room is.

In the library Ravi finds his new companions looking over every text they can find. Milo shares a little information with the group, stating that the thief Nameless lived in the slums for most of his life and had only one friend to speak of – a girl named Evelyn. Apparently this woman still lives, but doesn’t have much time left. Ravi decides to head into the slums and have a talk with Evelyn.

When the party arrive in the poor quarter, Padme is noticeably shocked at the state the place is in. With some explanation from his human companions on the necessary evils civilization must deal with, the automa begrudgingly agrees to help Jacques question the locals.

The group is interrupted in their endeavors by a woman running through the slums screaming at the top of her lungs. She falls face-down in the dirt and is slowly eaten away by some creature that has latched onto her. The other people of the slums simply look away and retreat into their clapboard houses, intent on pretending they saw nothing. Ravi is incensed and attempts to help the woman, but he’s too late; she is consumed by a cesspit ooze and disappears into the earth. More oozes drop down from the roofs and awnings of houses and block the group’s passage.

The battle is dramatic but the party is well aware of the lack of danger. Padme demonstrates his skill with an Ohm and his psionic abilities for the first time, trapping an ooze in a quintessance and dropping it into a nearby bonfire and displacing another in time while he helps the others deal with their own targets. Jacques’ magical energies cause a strange reaction in some of the oozes, causing them to split in half. Ravi speaks the words of the soul and banishes his own aggressors into nothingness.

When the oozes are dispatched the people of the slums emerge from hiding and go about their business again. Padme asks them why they did and said nothing and some of them simply shrug the question away and continue whatever they were doing. Depressed, the automa asks how to get to the center of the slums and makes his way through without waiting for Ravi or Jacques.

Inside the slums lies the old sector, where the original poor quarter of Gandharva stood. Over the years the area has been built around itsel in a circular pattern like the layers of an onion or the rings in a tree. Inside the slums is an area of such unimagineable squalor that not even her own residents can stand to stay there for long. It is here that Evelyn is said to reside – the only person with the knowledge of Nameless required to find him and put him down.

Ravi finds a shanty with bright silken curtains blowing in the westerly breeze and, seeing inside the glassless window, spots an elderly woman on her sickbed. Knowing it to be Evelyn, the professor knocks on her door and is let inside while Padme and Jacques occupy themselves just outside. Evelyn is kind and personable, even for someone of her age and in her condition, and she speaks openly to Ravi on the subject of Nameless.

“Nearly a hundred years ago a child was born in the streets of the slums, the product of a prostitute and her work. The birth was a hard one and the mother didn’t survive. These are the slums, of course, and people never help each other. They just stand by and watch while other suffer and take comfort that it isn’t their own suffering they see. The baby was born and the mother had died, the pain too much for her to bear.

“A band of rather notorious thieves found the baby and took him in, caring for him in as small a way as they possibly could and rearing him to be another of their fold. When the child was eleven he asked them if any of them were his family and was met with ridicule. They weren’t the children of whores, after all. They were respectable thieves. Rejected, the boy left the band and decided to fend for himself. He learned shortly thereafter about his mother. We met then, he and I. He talked to me and nobody else. He told me everything.

“He used his skills as a thief to get us food and information, which we would sell for more food. One day the sun was shining particularly brightly. I remember because it got in my eyes so much. He came home one day with the most angry expression on his face and wouldn’t speak for hours. When he finally did, he told me that he had learned the identity of his father. I was shocked, but I wanted to know more. His father was a noble from over the wall, of some repute being a statesman or something. He had regularly spent the night with the boy’s mother and one day…she found out she was pregnant. The nobleman brought her a contract the next day. He told her that it was a promise in writing that she would care for the child and he would pay her a stipend every week to support them both. Of course…she couldn’t read, being from around here. The contract really said that the child wasn’t his, in no uncertain terms. She signed it so eagerly with such a smile on her face, and she never knew what it said.

“So the nobleman was allowed to avoid responsibility for what he’d done and the boy’s mother died in the streets because of her ignorance and open-heartedness. All too familiar a story around here. This caused such anger in the boy as I had never seen. ‘She never even got to name me’, he would say.

“One day he disappeared. For quite a few years, actually. And then, as though it were perfectly normal, he returned. He was calling himself Nameless now, saying that he had to be called something. He told me he’d spent some time with the rakshasa and had learned some of their secrets. He also told me…that he would be killing his father that night and taking everything he owned.

“Sure enough, the papers said it the next morning. A reputable nobleman was killed in his bed with no visible markings. His wife and infant son were killed as well. No known survivors in his family line. We all knew how much of a lie it was. I kmew in my heart that he’d done it, but he wasn’t around anymore. Every once in a while I would think that I’d seen him skulking in the shadows or something, just out the corner of my eye, but before I could turn around he would be gone.

“The murders continued. Either people of noble birth with some dirty secret that came out in the wash the next morning or people living in the slums who knew Nameless when he was a child. It was predictable and I knew better than to doubt it was him, but I was just a poor girl. I couldn’t go to the police or anything. Part of me sympathised with him, anyway. Some small, shameless part of my soul was elated that he’d found a way to climb the wall and force those people into the same fear we feel every day.

“He was caught eventually. In a lair of sorts he’d built in the old service routes through the sewer pipes. It was a foolish mistake he’d made and he was shot in the back for it. But now…well, it’s obvious he’s come back. There’s still something he wants. Something he feels is owed him. Who knows what it is…”

With those words, Evelyn falls silent. Ravi leaves the house and joins his companions again, only to be met with an incredibly uneasy feeling. Jacques notices someone in the shadows near Evelyn’s house, watching them intently. When she approaches the person they melt away into the shade and the person standing next to them tumbles to the ground, dead.

Establishing mental communication with Charlotte, Padme warns her of the impending danger they could all be facing. It is now apparent that Nameless can travel through shadow like the rakshasa, so the automa requests that the others stay out of shadow if at all possible. The group decides to hit the sewer tunnels and see if they can cut Nameless off in his own lair.

At the entrance of the sewers, Ravi and Jacque get into a very obnoxious argument over whether their course of action was correct. Padme displays something resembling human feeling by becoming annoyed with the two of them and going on ahead…but he spots someone standing in the shadow of the sewer access tunnel watching them just like before. The person identifies himself as Nameless, asking if they group is planning on following and confronting him or simply standing around bickering all day. With that the party is enveloped in an impenetrable darkness that lasts a few long moments. When it subsides, Nameless is gone. Padme storms angrily into the tunnel and demands for Ravi and Jacques to follow, stating his disappointment at their insistence on arguing with each other when their goal is quite clearly at hand.

The tunnels stretch out for a while, giving way to a large platform accomidating mutliple warehouses. Only one stands firm among all the others that have fallen in on themselves – the goal is clear.

Inside the warehouse, the group is shocked to see that almost every inch of wall and ceiling is covored in pecious jewelry, antique currency, and numerous artifacts of repute. a small dias stands at the warehouse’s far end, decorated only with two lit candles that cast long shadows across the room.

The shadows birth four identical Namelesses, each intent on destroying the party. They are delat with in short oder, forcing the real Nameless out of the shadows to attack. He is a fierce adversary, utilizing arcane might and forbidden knowledge to draw out the battle to great lengths. When he feels he is cornered, Nameless summons two gruesome creatures he calls Sorrow and Loss to his side. Jacques’ eldritch blasts prove effective against everything thrown her way, while Ravi utilizes his truename magic to turn his simple quarterstaff into a monstrous weapon. Padme keeps the party healthy and provides support with his other talents, fortifying Jacques’ armor and pumping up Ravi’s quarterstaff to fearsome proportions.

Eventually Nameless is struck down. With his final breaths he reveals his true reasons for returning from the grave. He found a grand and valuable treasure on the night he died – something he thought never existed. In the rich quarter’s legal library was a small book hidden behind a stack of boxes in the store room. It was written by his father the nobleman, and held page after page of proof of Nemeless’ lineage. He could have simultaneously taken down his father’s family and given himself the future he needed, with just one handful of pages. The police force caught up with Nameless, though, and riddled him with arrows and bolts. His rakshasa magic couldn’t save him; he died in a pool of his own tainted blood.

And again he dies, turned to dust and blowing away with the breeze. Ravi is without words, but Jacques voices her disgust at villains who make her feel for them before she kills them. The group returns to the library, picking up Malcolm and his companions before heading for Aeon Home for a debriefing.

Tien and Rosalind are amazed, both that the case was solved so quickly and that there are things in this world that can cling so strongly to life. The police force sends over a number of magical items found in Nameless’ lair without any tie to a family or individual. Ravi, Jacques, and Padme each take a few of these items as a sort of payment for their efforts with Tien’s permission.

His job done, Ravi insists that he be left alone for a while after this case. Tien agrees, feeling that the professor has earned more than enough rest with all he’s done over the last few months. The group disperses, each to his or her own devices, until such time as they can figure out what to do. That is, they disperse after Honoria busts in and causes a ruckus with little to no concern for what’s really going on around her…as usual.

Charlotte and Jacques have a conversation about the latter’s absence, reconnecting after such a long time of not being around each other. Charlotte expresses concern for her little sister, who is more than willing to brush it off as her sibling being a misguided busybody.

Malcolm and Milo have an encounter on the bridge overlooking Aeon Home, where Milo expresses his lack of direction and a feeling that there’s no point in his having left the Guran settlement to look for River.

The sun sets on Gandharva for another day, this time peacefully…

Extras

Honoria’s Diary

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Chapter Five - Another Razor's Edge

It has been almost two months since Malcolm and his charges found their way to the continent-city of Gandharva. Despite the climate of war and pursuit that has followed them like a cloud on the horizon, they have found time to collect themselves and enjoy life for what little comfort it allows.

The scene shifts to the academy at Aeon Home, a college reserved for only the most passionate students of history and science. Located in the very center of Gandharva, the Aeon Home and its academy are considered the heart and soul of the city.

High Praetor Tien calls a handsome bespectacled man into his office for a talk. This man is professor Ravi Wachter, foremost authority on most things within the academy and somewhat a close friend of the old man. After some pleasant conversation Tien gets to business, asking for Ravi’s assistance in matters recently brought up within Gandharva. It seems that a tunnel has opened in the city’s waterways that leads to the ruins of a great city. The local authorities have asked for the expertise of one such as Ravi in this matter, being that he would know what to do with long-forgotten ruins better than anyone.

Ravi agrees to the job with some cajoling and is introduced to his companions for the excursion. Two friends from his school days, a Marcus warrior named Hearth and a bubbly girl named Altamira, step forward to greet their acquaintance. A third person, shrouded in shadow, comes forth as well. Ravi sees a smallish woman with short blonde hair wearing the clothing of a typical Moregnon rogue and carrying various weapons on her person. She introduces herself as Jacques in a voice obviously made to sound deeper than it should. Jacques is the toolbox of the group, hired to take care of traps and other variables that could arise during Ravi’s investigation.

After an awkward encounter with Tien’s daughter and another of Ravi’s friends, a beautiful girl by the name of Rosalind, the group decides to meet at the fountain outside the academy when they’re finished preparing. It doesn’t take Ravi long to get his things together and soon the party is on their way to the site of the tunnel’s emergence.

It seems that someone wants to discourage investigation, however, as traps are set along the tunnel opening. Jacques makes short work of the trip-wires lining the opening, triggering a stored spell to plunge the air further in. Adeptly – not to mention mysteriously – the young woman absorbs the magical energy for herself.

Inside the tunnel, the ancient city spreads forth for miles in what appears to be a man-made tunnel that stretches nigh-infinitely in all directions. Damages seem minimal here with only a few toppled pillars and broken down walls marking the passage of time in the unnamed location. Ravi finds a sign hastily stuck in the ground just outside the gates of the abandoned settlement. The words seem to be familiar, but as the professor stares at them they transform into something altogether disturbing- a language he thought only he knew. The sign reads:

Speak not for it listens. Walk not here for it sees. Tell not your secrets for they are as knives. Give not the Behemoth its bread, Its sustenance. For it is ruin

Visibly shaken, Ravi makes a mental note of the sign’s words and rejoins his companions in deciding where to go next. Hearth and Altamira were sent along to take care of a Rakshasa infestation suspected to be growing in the area, so they head off toward a residential area of the forgotten city where the creatures would likely squat. Jacques has an altercation with one such rakshasa who is easily intimidated into running off, but not before mumbling something about the Behemoth and how his people revere her. Meanwhile Altamira uses Ravi’s fear of pushy women to get him to stop talking down to her so much. After diffusing more traps laid in their wake, Jacques and Ravi head off in the opposite direction of their allies, toward a large plaza teeming with debris.

Inside the plaza, Ravi sees what he thinks is a church some ways in the distance displaying religious iconography from the First Age. Intrigued, he continues searching. The explorers hear insidious laughter dotting the landscape as they search, and after Jacques disarms a few more traps more rakshasa appear. Two grunts are accompanied by a leader of some sort with brilliant green-black fur and bearing a star-shaped mark over one eye. He demands that Ravi and Jacques leave the rakshasa’s “sacred space,” but they both disagree and a fight ensues with the creatures as aggressors.

During the skirmish Jacques displays a talent with para-magic, a form of arcane talent that is both rare and misunderstood. While not marveling at his companion’s talents Ravi makes use of his own special ability as a truename scholar to send the rakshasa packing. They put up a good fight, but the grunts are easily dispatched. Each falls into a fiery pit in the center of the plaza as he is thrown down by a powerful attack, causing the alien-looking drum in the center of the area to turn faster and faster with time.

The rakshasa leader manages to pierce the defenses Ravi holds on his mind and extract a dangerous piece of information. Just as Jacques wounds the creature’s right arm severely and blood begins to cake his arm and hand, Ravi sees him change suddenly into a familiar form. It is that of Corin, a very important person to Ravi. The professor is shaken and confused and the rakshasa uses this opportunity to make an escape while Jacques tends to Ravi’s wounds and her own.

When everything has calmed down, Jacques hears a strange noise coming from inside the old church at the corner of the plaza. They both approach and enter the building and see a strange sight. Numerous books are floating in place within the church’s assembly hall, turning in lazy circles with their pages flipping madly back and forth.

The church itself holds unusual imagery, even in Ravi’s experience. At the far end of the assembly hall sit three large statues carved in excruciating detail. Two warrior-angels flank a female angel holding tight to a large silver spear. She has raven black hair and ice blue eyes that stare down in quiet judgment. Under her shadow sits a small throne made of bronze and copper.

Turning his attention again to the books, Ravi grabs each in turn and reads them. He finds pictures and words he isn’t familiar with, but is nonetheless intrigued by. The female angel depicted in the iconic statue is known as Evidia the All-Father – Evidia being the name of the very world on which Ravi is standing. Another book holds a vague picture of six shadowy human forms standing in a pattern on a giant stone tablet, the caption reading “VISHNU.” The third book holds an image of Evidia slain on a giant lance much like the one the statue holds, the caption reading “Longinus, Corrruption.” Finally, the forth book shows a picture of a hulking form bathed in darkness, holding the still-shining Longinus lance. The caption reads “Behemoth.”

As soon as Ravi has garnered all the information he can from the books, they seem to die off and fall loudly to the floor. As they do, Ravi and Jacques hear a gentle voice in their head that beckons “speak my name, pilgrim.” Ravi unconsciously mumbles the word “Evidia.”

Suddenly, the statue at the back of the hall drops the silver lance she was carrying. As she does, the throne before her sinks into the floor to reveal a stairway descending into darkness. Jaqcues investigates but finds no traps attached. She does see a handsome, dark-haired man with a bleeding arm sauntering down the hall below, however. When she shares this information with Ravi he becomes suddenly eager to advance, heading down the stairs without delay.

Downstairs lies a shadowy hallway, narrow and ensconced in moss. Jacques’ intuition tells her to stay put and investigate the area before moving another step. Sure enough, the entire hallway is lined with more than adozen trip-wires, some of them coated in fresh blood. With a quick display of para-magic, the young rogue trips the trap and sends each wire taut enough to snap. Suddenly the entire hall’s floor becomes a bed of spears that shoot instantly to the ceiling and stick there for a long time before falling back down. Ravi marvels at his companion’s abilities before remembering the vision of Corin and going on ahead.

At the end of the hall lies a small foyer room with a stairway leading further down. Hearth mysteriously stands guard before the staircase, looking relieved at Ravi and Jacques’ appearance. Apparently the two warriors had a fairly hard time in their area of the city and Altamira was spooked by something pretty bad. Hearth explains that they found a large meeting hall in fairly good condition and decided to stop there for a rest, but ended up finding a passage to the church and its own hidden path themselves. He further explains that there’s something very curious down the stairs that he thinks Ravi should see.

Downstairs, Altamira is huddled in a corner with a sad look about her. She appears to be nursing a wound on her torso, but there is no blood. She shoots a look in Ravi’s direction but avoids eye contact altogether. Ravi pays it no mind and investigates the room in which he finds himself.

Two huge ivy-laden posts sit in the center of the room with what appears to be a man shackled to them by his wrists. Upon approaching, Ravi and the others notice that the person is indeed not human but an automa – a very old model, apparently. The automa awakens and greets his visitors, stating that his name is Padme and he believes himself to be nearly seventeen thousand years old. Despite the apparent audacity of the statement Ravi is unfazed.

Hearth calls the professor’s attention to a plaque sitting on the far wall. As Ravi stares into the worn metal he again sees the words writhe and contort to form their own special language – the one he thought only he would know. The plaque says:

Let not the Behemoth see your heart. Let not your universe be slain. Longinus is key to eternity. Longinus is key to pain.

Confused and frustrated with the various crypticisms of the forgotten city, Ravi turns his attention to Padme who has now been set free by Jacques. The automa is very polite and tries his best to help the others understand what’s happened here, but his memory is impartial and all he can recall is his own name. Padme asks for someone to help him open his chest-plate so that he can repair some of his more derelict functions, and Jacques agrees, pushing a small button on the automa’s side to pop open his chest cavity.

Suddenly the air becomes thicker somehow. No one sees or feels anything different other than that. Hearth conjectures that it could be the waterways pushing moisture into the city’s confines, but Ravi still has an uneasy feeling. The party decide to quit their work for now and take Padme to the academy to be studied and repaired further.

As they breach the hidden stairway and gather in the church’s assembly hall, the party is confronted with a most unusual sight. A small girl with dark hair and bright eyes, dressed like any other girl of the sort, stands in the church’s front doors wearing a wide smile. She asks after the party and what they were doing underground, to which Ravi replies with questions of his own. Namely what such a small girl is doing alone in a government-protected area.

“I live here, silly,” the girl replies, all the while smiling.

“That’s preposterous,” Ravi says. “How could someone live down here, especially you?”

The girl takes a step forward, speaking to Ravi but eyeing Altamira for some reason. “I’ve lived here forever…my name is Nandi. Do you want to play?”

Despite the party’s protestations the young girl wants to play. Out of the blue she summons preta to her side, but they appear to be no normal preta. They are “high preta,” a form of atma saturated human that has evolved unnaturally due to continued exposure to the material and become as powerful as a gaki. The girl also summons two caryatid pillars to her side, each sporting a mass of writhing, silently screaming faces that gnash and butt at each other and the air around them. Whether they want to or not, the party is forced to fight this creature they now know to be inhuman.

Nandi is extremely tough and resilient, displaying a tenacity and constitution that no person could ever have. Each time she’s hit her body suffers for a moment but immediately knits back together, recovering from even the most grievous of injuries.

The high preta take to the party, clawing and biting at them furiously. Hearth contributes to the fight with his swordsmanship, but Altamira is too frightened. Her eyes constantly locked with Nandi’s, the woman retreats to a corner of the assembly hall and watches with a hint of madness.

Nandi uses her pillars as weapons, it seems, bringing them to bear on people to crush or impale them. Unceremoniously, Altamira is killed by a sudden blow from the ghostly weapons and slumps to the floor, lifeless. Ravi notices that Nandi seems to be siphoning Altamira’s atma when the poor girl falls dead. Something clicks inside the professor’s head and he knows what she is. Speaking his own true name, Ravi disappears in a flash and observes the girl-creature for an opening.

Over time Altamira’s body fades away, her very soul being eaten at by the sadistic girl Nandi. Jacques manages to pierce the creature’s defenses and steal a few arcane arts from under her, sending them flying right back at the little one and injuring her greatly. The preta fall one by one, but not before merging with each other into gestalt preta, dangerous amalgam creatures with a lust for violence. His own mind working in unison with the professor’s, Hearth chases down the preta and destroys their bodies as soon as they fall dead, preventing Nandi from draining their essence as well.

Soon it’s just Nandi and the party, facing off among the crumbling church’s plastered walls. Ravi is highly incensed by the death of his friend, striking at the girl-creature again and again with the help of his atma-infused abilities and truename arts. Jacques blasts away with her para-magic and Padme does what he can to contribute. Nandi is soon reduced to a pitiful heap, one arm and leg blown off and an eye socket left empty from the force of Ravi’s harming words. The girl screams, a shrill and disturbing sound that pierces the souls of the party. Millions of ghostly faces appear in the church’s ceiling and transform into a hail of spectral swords that rain down without mercy. Everything goes white…

Ravi awakens in an infirmary inside the academy with Tien and Rosalind at his side. The rest of the party, Altamira a sad exception, have been seen to medically as well. Without words, Ravi is livid and bitter at his experience, but Padme’s kind words make up for the rough holes left in everyone’s hearts.

Tien informs the party that the creature they fought against is known as the Behemoth. Naught else is known about her, but she is a devastating destructive force who uses the power of atma to sicken and consume other living things. Apparently Padme was the medium used to seal Nandi away, but he was enchanted by her with a spell that would compel him to release her when the forgotten city was again discovered. It appears that Padme is correct in his assumption that he is seventeen thousand years old, which only raises further questions.

Without hesitation, Padme rises from his seat and declares that he will hunt down Nandi and subjugate her again as penance for his crime. If anyone wishes to join him, he continues, he would welcome the company.

Suddenly, two people rush into the hospital room unannounced. One is a tall, dark-haired young man with an innocent face who wears the clothes of a Guran. The other is a blonde woman carrying a parasol and a satchel full of books. Milo and Charlotte, of course.

“Excuse me,” Milo says sheepishly. “Sorry to interrupt, but we heard that we could find a professor Ravi Wachter here?”

As Charlotte’s eyes scan the room, they come violently to rest on Jacques, sitting up in her hospital bed. The young rogue’s brow furrows and her lips purse, and both women’s hands come up to point virulently at each other.

“YOU!”

Extras

Honoria’s Diary

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Chapter Four - The Chopping Block

On the Shirley, the party has another delightful dinner whipped up by Barbara and shares a lively conversation on the nature of atma and its role in the human body. Charlotte shares her theories on how atma saturation could possibly be “cured” while the rest listen on intently. Milo and Malcolm share some of their insights as well, which leads Malcolm to discuss the cause of his wife’s death. She had succumbed to atma saturation and, upon transforming into a preta, had attempted to kill Malcolm’s infant daughter. Malcolm was forced to kill his wife to save his child’s life.

Arriving at the Bolmorey bluffs, the Shirley docks and the party takes to land once more. The bluffs lie on the very edge of the Morose continent, a place older than time and steeped in fearful mystery. Cordoned off from the meat of Morose, the bluffs remain unaffected by the scourge that razed Morose to nothing during the First Age.

The bluffs give way to a vast expanse of verdant green fields rife with wildlife. These are the Geryon Hills, named for the city they used to border during the First Age. Milo marvels at the foliage while Honoria fights off the advances of a fawn, all the while hiking forth toward an old house on the highest hill.

Inside the house, Malcolm explains, lives an old friend. Sure enough, a wild-looking old man approaches and his expression softens when he sees Malcolm. After some confusing banter, the old man introduces himself as the arcanist Kierney, a transplant from Gandharva who has been living the life of a hermit and a free agent for some time now.

Malcolm shows Kierney the orb they were conscripted to bring him, and the arcanist gives it a good going over. With the help of Charlotte’s insight Kierney determines that the orb must be well prepared before any intensive study is to take place. He requests that the travelers take the orb to a secret location in the forests near Geryon Hill and find an altar there. According to Kierney, they will know what to do when they see the place. Honoria almost throws a fit, suggesting that she’s being used and that her obvious talents are being overlooked. Malcolm calms the lady with a few kind words and requests that they all do this favor for him as well as Kierney. Unfazed by the swordswoman’s display, Milo and Charlotte leave and take Honoria with them while Malcolm and Barbara stay behind with Kierney, catching up with each other for the time being.

Geryon’s environs are easy enough to navigate and the party finds the path into the forests with little difficulty. Initially the path is blocked by a large, clumsy-looking creature that Milo identifies as a grass hippo. With a pert smack to the rear, the shaman boy sends the creature reeling further into the forest with a dissatisfied grunt after running headlong into a large tree. Fruit falls from the tree, catching Milo and Charlotte’s attention. Before they can test it for toxicity, however, Honoria’s already downed one piece. Luckily Milo detects no poisons and scoops up as much of the fruit as he can carry.

Further down the path the party finds the grass hippo blocking their progress again. This time it is accompanied by small rodent-like creatures identified as nalak mice. With a combination of the succulent fruit they’d gathered and the ravenous appetites of the nalak mice, the party manages to scare off the grass hippo once more and make their way further into the dense forest.

They encounter the hippo once more upon reaching what appears to be a dead end in the forest. The hippo grazes obliviously on some bright red grass…while standing on top of a trapdoor the party obviously needs to gain access to. Milo attempts to reason with the creature but is turned aside and rammed by the hippo, who seems more than ready for a fight by this point. The party raise their weapons, but one swift spell from Chalotte renders the creature unable to fight, leaving the trapdoor within reach. Hastily the travelers make their way into the tunnel and, with some of Honoria’s swordplay, they find the ladder leading back into the forest.

Soon the party is greeted by a majestic sight; a lone temple sitting in the middle of the forest, bathed in ochre sunlight and kept in seemingly perfect condition despite its obvious age. Finding that this must be the place they were meant to reach, the three of them travel inside and are immediately immersed in blue light. Inside the temple, though smaller in stature than the one found in Moregnon, sits a well filled with atma.

Charlotte deduces that they must have been sent there to immerse the orb in the well’s atma and steps forth to do so. Before she can carry through, haggard voices ring through the air of the temple. Three hideous women materialize before the travelers. Calling themselves Luna, Selene, and Celeste, they say that they own this temple and the land it sits on and that Kierney is a fool for thinking otherwise. Honoria attempts to argue with the creatures but they are uninterested, instead attacking the animists and attempting to wrest the orb from their possession.

The battle is hard-fought. Selene is clumsy and just about kills herself for the party while Celeste and Luna’s sisterly bickering leaves plenty of opportunities to strike. When Luna is the only one remaining she immerses herself in the well’s atma in a last-ditch effort and begins to manipulate the dead bodies of her sisters in a display of necromantic prowess. Charlotte summons a denizen of the lower planes to fight alongside her and her companions and, with a lucky strike, the creature gives Luna a fatal wound. She fades away with a gentle breeze, leaving the temple in silence once more.

Finally able to carry out their business, the party sets their sights on the well again. Charlotte drops the orb gently into the swirling blue waters and immediately a blinding blue light manifests all through Geryon and its environs. The orb appears to absorb all the atma in the well, reducing it to a gaseous state and drawing it in like a magnet draws in metal particles. When the atma is spent, the orb falls silent and grows dim.

Kierney chimes in with a mind-touched communication, letting the travelers know that they’ve done an excellent job and that his theories can now be discussed in earnest. He leaves them a way to travel back to his old house, causing Honoria to bristle at the possibility that their trek through the forest could have been avoided.

Back at the house, Kierney confirms what he had already suspected. The orb is not a shard of crystallized atma – at least not in the strictest sense. It is in fact a spirit matrix, a tool used during the First Age to hold nigh infinite amounts of atma. The matrix is capable of holding the atma from the wells, which leads to the possibility that it could be used to neuter Olmenna’s attempts to control those pools of soul energy. Charlotte is more than intrigued by the possibilities this single artifact holds, but there’s no time to celebrate their discovery. Barbara informs them that a powerful and notorious Olmennan battleship known as the Gorgon has been circling the bluffs for hours, watching the Shirley intently. The ship is captained by none other than Avae. Moregnon has finally declared war on Olmenna, so there’s no need for the would-be empire to hold back in their aggression any longer. Malcolm decides it’s time to go, bidding Kierney good luck before bolting out the door and shouting for the party to follow.

Boarding the Shirley once more, the party is caught in a taut battle between ships. The Gorgon has less power than the Shirley but is much more swift and agile. Charlotte and Milo contribute their magical powers to the battle, summoning monsters and forces of nature to hold the Gorgon back while the Shirley positions herself for Honoria to fire the cannons. The battle is long and tough, but eventually the Gorgon pulls out their trump card; a disintegrater cannon. It blows an enormous hole right through the Shirley’s lower hull, causing the vessel to sink rapidly.

The crew board lifeboats while Malcolm gathers up every bit of valuable treasure he can salvage. The party board as well, watching the Shirley take on water with incredible speed. Luckily the Gorgon is tangled up in seaweed and monstrous tentacles or else the crew and the animists would be dead.

Malcolm instructs the lifeboats toward the near shore of the Shura continent, home of the vast city Gandharva. Since Gandharva is a neutral territory with no political ties, they will be safe from Avae’s pursuit there for the time being. Tired and soaked, stressed to the bone, the team make their way down Shura’s expansive highways until the sprawling continent-city of Gandharva comes up to greet them. The guards at the gate raise their weapons instinctively, but lower them again when Milo and Charlotte produce their diplomatic passports from Jeanne. Malcolm inquires after one Ravi Wachter, a professor at the academy at Aeon Home, and a sentry informs the pirate that Ravi is indeed in the city. Heading for an inn known as the Soma Drop, the party hang their heads, feeling the sting of defeat at Avae’s hands yet again.

Extras:

Honoria’s Diary

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Chapter Three - Far Shores

Avae storms into the court of Olmenna’s child-emperor, Pilate XII, to report her failure in Le Moregn and the apparent choice saint queen Jeanne has made in matters of war. After much derision and a more than sufficient show of immaturity, Pilate demands better from Avae than what he’s seen so far, stating that during his father’s day she was a feared and respected general. He appoints a shadowy individual named Jamal to accompany the general in her future travels, stating matter-of-factly that not only will Jamal aid in arresting the animists, but he is to kill Avae if she fails once more. Visibly shaken and livid at the offense she has endured, Avae simply bows and leaves as noisily as she had come.

As the morning mists part on the harbor of Le Moregn, the party is met with a handsome, dark-haired man in the dress of a rogue. His deep brown eyes sparkle with intelligence and the weapons strapped all about his body tell silent tales of grueling battle. The man introduces himself as Malcolm Yeats, captain of the vessel named Shirley on which they all stand. After introductions and some grand-standing on Honoria’s part, the ship reveals her true form to the party, dropping two steam-powered engines into the water and taking off with a deafening hum. Charlotte and Milo are entranced by this exotic method of travel, while Honoria simply attempts to keep her footing.

A few hours later the party has gotten used to their surroundings and settled into their opulent cabins. Charlotte takes to the modest but well-stocked library in the Shirley’s lower quarters, accompanied by Honoria. Milo visits the ladies, speaking almost to himself on the nature of their captain and what could befall the group in the future. Honiria finds a book detailing the etymology of nobility the world over, but although the book is current she finds her name nowhere within its pages. Charlotte finds a book written on the concept of “worldbending,” but it is written in a very archaic Dharmic dialect she can’t make out.

At the dinner table, the party gets to know captain Malcolm and his assistant Barbara a little better. Malcolm explains that he will take the party to Oh-Kenga, but not before taking care of a previous responsibility.

During the night, Charlotte and Honoria have a simultaneous dream. They relive the last moments of Six Realms’ time in the world, before the ambush at the hands of preta savages. Upon waking it is early morning; the sun is cresting the calm waves in the distance. Honoria is somehow offended at the dream’s contents, while Charlotte muses the possibility that their spirit guides could be influencing them in stronger ways than originally intended.

The Shirley docks in Silvalant’s capital city, Jonestown, where Malcolm is to meet with one of the pirate DeSilva’s subordinates about the afformentioned business. After some light shopping and Honoria’s now-customary haranguing of the locals, the party is introduced to Marquisse, DeSilva’s right-hand man. Marquisse hands a special package to Malcolm for safe delivery elsewhere. It is a piece of pure crystallized atma, found in the depths of the oceans by naga friendly to the people of Silvalant. Charlotte is immediately intrigued by the artifact, and Malcolm promises to let her study it to her heart’s content so long as she shares her knowledge with the pirate.

A knock on the door brings in a badly wounded pirate who informs the party that mermaids are assaulting and killing citizens. Marquisse informs them that this has happened very frequently since Jonestown was unknowingly built over a mermaid reef. Despite Honoria’s complaints that the mermaids must be the victims in all this, Malcolm agrees to dispose of them once and for all with the party’s help. Marquisse gives everyone a small azure-colored seed that will allow them to breathe underwater and infiltrate the mermaids’ lair.

Without hesitation they dive into the water and descend into a yet unexplored layer of the sea known as the second ocean. Inside the second ocean the water is thin as air, allowing for unhindered use of motor skills.

The mermaids’ lair is found within a delapidated shrine that sank into the ocean ages ago. Brilliant blue coral frames every broken corridor and shattered stone seems to keep close to the walls from which it fell despite its freedom. The place is rife with magic and the party can feel it.

Upon entering, they are greeted by the salacious advances of a mermaid, and she looks disturbingly inaccurate compared to all the stories. Her face is beautiful but her body is a mockery of life, a distended stomach punctuated by a jutting ribcage and broken, useless arms. She mocks the party and disappears, leaving them alone to explore.

On their way the group encounters many more mermaids and dispatches them in good time. Malcolm is a help to the group, utilizing his skills with the bow and pistol to confuse and injure their foes. Eventually they come to a vast chamber from which they can hear uproarious laughter. They enter silently and witness a small congress of mermaids surrounding another, hugely corpulent mermaid with piggish features. She calls herself Mama Fisher and seems to be the leader of the murderous crew.

Making himself known, Malcolm challenges Mama to a fight to determine their right to stay in these waters. Mama accepts, siccing her subordinates on the party and wading into the fight herself. The mermaids are frail and fall easily to Honoria’s swordplay and Charlotte’s talent with atma shaping. Milo finds himself surrounded more than once, but bashes his way through with his trusty hammer. Charlotte succeeds in charming one mermaid to their side, commanding her to destroy her fellows while Malcolm takes potshots at the others, binding their legs and fins so that they cannot move.

Eventually Mama knows she is doomed. She lifts a sparkling aquamarine to the air and attempts to summon a being she refers to as Yucomb. Her dying breath sees her disintegrate and float away as grains of silent sand, leaving the gemstone sitting in her throne. Honoria picks up the gem to inspect it, but is interrupted by a great rumbling. The shrine ceiling begins to break apart, making way for a huge living mass of the blue coral they saw everywhere before. It identifies itself as Yucomb and demands the party’s lives in exchange for the lives of its children.

With some effort, the party manages to surpress Yucomb and beat it into submission. It too disappears into the voiceless sea, vowing revenge before breaking into a million pieces. Their job done, the party makes haste to return to the surface. Honoria pockets the aquamarine as she leaves.

Marquisse is full of praise and gratitude for the party and promises them that Silvalant will repay their debt someday, somehow. Honoria, keen on meeting the elusive DeSilva, is disappointed to find out that the man of legend was in Jonestown briefly during their watery excursion, but had left once more. Marquisse assures her that should they travel the seas they will inevitably meet with DeSilva, and he will know them by name.

The group returns to the ship and has another impressive dinner ready for them thanks to Barbara. Before departing for his room, Malcolm tells the three travellers that they will be making one more stop on the way to Oh-Kenga to deliver the atma shard, but it will be brief. They will be going to the Bolmorey bluffs on the edge of the Morose continent, one of the few places where life is still supported in such a dead land. After that it’s smooth sailing.

Party level: 5 Karma: Charlotte 6, Honoria 10, Milo 4

Extras:

Honoria’s Diary

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Chapter Two - Aria of Blood and Thunder

Arriving in Le Moregn, the party is taken aback by the unmistakeable beauty of the Moregnon capital. Before they can recover from their swoon, they are addressed by a woman named Genviéve who directs them to the most important and enjoyable places in all the city. the young woman gives Charlotte her card before disappearing into the enormous crowd of people.

Charlotte notices a piece of parchment pinned to a nearby pillar that says the queen is looking for information on the movements of the Olmennan army and will pay handsomely for it. Honoria naturally believes this to be the best course of action and Milo is mutable on the subject, so they decide to see the queen before getting anything else done.

Inside the palace, the party is escorted to the queen’s chamber at the top floor to speak with her. Jeanne Valence is an unorthodox queen, but a righteous ruler and a good person. She rewards the party with money and lodgings, telling them that any food or drink they enjoy while in the capital is to be put on the palace’s expenditure bill. Jeanne also offers the party asylum from Olmenna, should they have need of it. While the queen and her chancellors confer, the party is allowed to wander the streets of Le Moregn and do some shopping or sight-seeing. They gladly agree.

Out in the town, everything is bustling. Charlotte finds some delectable sweets to savor while Honoria makes her way into the local jewelers and meets a man named Torneco who owns the business. After some scuffling and miscommunication, Honoria learns that her jewels will not sell for the price she had hoped. Torneco apologizes for wasting the lady’s time by offering her a beautiful artifact that will make her experiences in combat much easier. Milo and Charlotte each buy themselves a trinket as well. After a satisfying meal at the local restaurant, the group is ushered back to the palace by one of Jeanne’s attendants.

Jeanne suggests a plan of action to gain information from Olmenna. It seems Avae visits the capital often under the pretense of a goodwill embassador and pesters Jeanne to no end, often asking to see an opera while she is in town. This night is one such visit, and Jeanne asks the party to attend with her. They are all skeptical, having felt the sting of Avae’s blade before, but agree after some prodding from the queen.

At the opera house the party meet Parker, local impressario and a valued friend of the queen. The opera begins, recounting the tale of a world-ending crisis and heroes who fought against it, and the party is enjoying themselves despite Avae’s appearance. Suddenly, Parker comes in with terrible news. Sirens have infiltrated the opera’s cast and are planning on feasting on entranced men and women after the show is over. The party volunteers to do away with the sirens, even though it will alert Avae to their presence.

While Milo and Honoria climb across the opera house’s rafters to meet the Sirens on stage, Charlotte stays in the balcony and plays her flute to distract some of them from the pursuit. The gambit works and a couple of Sirens are ensnared in Charlotte’s song. Honoria is first to reach the stage, then Milo, and the battle begins with Charlotte picking enemies off from the bakcony with her etherlight bow.

The sirens are dealt with successfully, but as the party decides to return to their seats they’re ambushed by Avae. With no choice but to fight, the party courageously attacks her while Jeanne and Parker attempt to keep the audience placated by stating that it’s all part of the show.

Avae is defeated only to reveal that she was never really there; the party struck down one of her angelic minions instead. It retaliates by ripping off the head of one of its allies, showering the party with scalding light that nearly kills them all. The angel escapes with a cackled warning about Avae’s wrath while Jeanne and Parker frantically get the party into a carriage and off to the infirmary.

A week later, the travellers awaken in a sunlit room in the hospital. Jeanne greets them, haggard from sitting by their bedsides the whole time. She apologizes and informs the party that she has arranged for a ship to be given them the moment they wish to leave. They decide to seek refuge in an old Six Realms base in Oh-Kenga, despite the journey there being long and arduous.

Jeanne says a tearful goodbye on the docks, seeing the party onto their new ship named “The Shirley.” She hands them passports that identify them as diplomats and goodwill officers of Moregnon, for their safety. As the morning sun burns away the fog, they see a figure approach…

Party level: 5 Karma: Charlotte 6, Honoria 10, Milo 4

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Chapter One - Blue Horizon

Midnight in the quaint village of Cheudre, near the center of the kingdom of Moregnon. Lately the village has been inhabited by a large number of Olmennan soldiers, seemingly there to poke around the old ruins in the forest east of the town. Political tensions are high, and even the people of a small settlement like this can feel that something bad is going to happen soon.

Three travellers make their way to the tavern in Cheudre, each passing through Moregnon for their own reasons. As the fires cook a suckling pig on a spit and the regulars chatter away, a storyteller in the corner holds a small audience rapt with his retelling of the myth of Hepatica, le soldat bleu. The story attracts the attention of a rather proper-looking woman named Charlotte, one of the three out-of-place travellers. She listens intently, taking notes in a small pad as she nods thoughtfully at the old storyteller’s words.

Outside, two village men banter angrily about developments in Hepatica’s ruins outside town. It seems a large Olmennan force has made their way into the ruins and is searching frantically for something. The soldiers have killed a few Cheudre residents in their zeal, causing the local militia to respond in anger. Further bloodshed is inevitable.

Another of the three travellers, a dark-haired young man named Milo, approaches and asks around about the Olmennan forces. It seems he’s looking for his brother River, who is rumored to have joined the Olmennan army after leaving their settlement in the frozen reaches a few years ago. Milo must bring news to his brother and hopefully persuade him to return.

The last of these travellers is a strikingly beautiful woman of extreme features who calls herself Honoria de Danan Cesaria au Blanchard. After attempting to pay for her room at the inn with dazzling gemstones instead of gold, Honoria is turned away and forced to find another way to pay.

Milo makes the decision to go to Hepatica’s ruins and see if he can find a trace of his brother. Charlotte speaks up and joins him, curious to see these ancient structures with her own eyes. Reluctant but pushy, Honoria joins as well in hopes that she may convince an Olmennan official to aid her with her financial concerns.

The party leaves Cheudre and plunges into the deep forests outside the town’s borders, careful to step lightly and quietly should any preta lurk about. Sure enough, one such monster ambushes the party but they escape with their lives. Charlotte and Milo muse for a moment on the nature of preta while Honoria becomes increasingly fed up with their surroundings.

Soon enough, the travellers find a clearing in the woods where the land itself glows a brilliant blue. Atma is present here. It is the ruins of Hepatica, a monument built in his honor during the First Age of Man and left unspoiled ever since. Olmennan soldiers crawl the walkways and broken corridors carefully, on the lookout for suspicious presences.

The party’s attention is drawn to a woman speaking vehemently with an arcanist near the ruins’ entrance. Her odious presence is unmistakeable; she is general Avae, the white knight of Olmenna and paladin of the pearl dragon. she murders the man with whom she spoke without provocation, sending a chill down the travellers’ spines. Honoria decides to stick with the other two since, as she puts it, “some soldiers obviously can’t be reasoned with.”

Avae leaves and allows the party passage into the ruins. They plumb the depths of the monument, illuminated by the solid blue glow of atma all around them. After some close calls with preta and a few puzzling environmental hazards, the party is cornered by Avae and sent flying through the floor by a powerful sword technique. Before they can gain their bearings, the travellers are immersed in a pool of brilliant blue liquid. They have found – and been submerged in – a well of atma.

Crawling out of their predicament, each traveller laments the possibility of becoming preta from atma saturation, but before they can panic they are met with a gentle, deep voice. Before the three appear images of two men and a woman, dressed in the clothing of different countries from the First Age. The one who spoke introduces himself as Hyuga Manekata, a former member of the legendary military group Six Realms. The others are his companions, the bard Bedlam and the arcanist Cecilia DuBourge.

They explain that they are spirits – as far as they can tell, that is – and are inexorably tied to the well in which they were found. Hyuga says that he and his companions need to escape so that they can figure out what has happened to them over the years, but to do that they need human hosts. Honoria asks fervently about atma saturation and what would happen if they took beings of pure atma into themselves, and Cecilia explains that since she, Hyuga, and Bedlam were wild cards in life, their essences could protect the humans from saturation.

Time becomes a factor when Avae finds a way down to the room containing the well and begins breaking down the walls to gain access. Bedlam draws the humans close and uses some of his power to transport them outside instantly, avoiding a confrontation with Avae. After the travellers agree to become hosts for the spirits, they make their way toward the capital of Le Moregn without hesitation to seek safety.

In the Cheudre forest, Avae catches up to the travellers and forces them into a battle with her subordinates, arcanists who can summon preta. The fight is an easy one, and Avae is forced to summon her “pet,” a large insectoid named Kalivos. Unsure of their capabilities against such a beast, the party flees through the forest.

Kalivos gives chase but is eventually tripped up by a huge colony of gnomes who beat on it incessantly and knock it unconscious. The party is safe to make camp and head for Le Moregon in the morning.

Party Level: 4 Karma: Charlotte 5, Honoria 9, Milo 3

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