After regrouping in Flint, the loose ends of the party’s spying efforts at Mutravir were wrapped up. Delft was brought up to speed on their findings (though not informed of the finding of the Humble Hook), Linia volunteered to join their next efforts, and Constable Von Gearkinson was taken in for psychiatric evaluation. It was determined that this ‘Oscar’ personality was indeed a result of a sudden onset of multiple personality disorder, likely caused by a combination of work-related stresses and the psychic strain inherent in sharing headspace with Xambria Meredith for months on end. All divination and Risur-loyalty tests confirmed that Hugo was not carrying any foreign entities, and while surly, his ‘other side’ was not an enemy. He still bore watching, though.
After hearing out the particulars of the Grand Design and the other details garnered from the Convocation, Delft reported that unfortunately, the RHC had not been contacted by any of the turncoats. The ship carrying Amielle Latimer, Reed Macbannin, Bruce McDruid, and the unknown godhand had either gone into hiding, or had been captured by the Ob after Talon Silverhawk’s connection with Bruce was severed. Moving forward, Delft suggested that the party continue their successful campaign of recruiting former Ob members (which had already netted them such stars as Nathan Jierre, Kaja Stewart, Alexander Grappa (RIP), and Tinker Oddcog). The party, he thought, should go to Elfaivar and search for Kasvarina Varal, supposedly one of the Ob’s founding members who had lost her memory. Even if she couldn’t remember the conspiracy’s secrets, she had some important connection to the colossus Borne, and recruiting her before the Ob found her would surely deal their plans a major blow.
One last announcement was to be made before their departure to Sawyer, in the Risuri colony of Kellandia: the constables were all getting fired. They were free to keep their equipment (minus their ship), plus a final stipend of eighty thousand gold, but following that, the government could no longer afford to keep their gear up to date. From here on out, they would be independent investigators. True, they would have to give up some of their badge-granted authority and diplomatic immunities, but they would also be free to seize enemy funds and resources for their own use without fear of it being labeled as corruption. They could also act more fully in their own discretion without fear of causing an international incident, though Delft promised that both he and the King would have their back if they ever needed it, and they’d be more than happy to continue having enchanters on standby for the buying and selling of magic items.
Upon arriving in Sawyer, the party made their way to the docks. Delft had arranged for them to meet up with two captains: Glidewell, of the RNS Alesia, and Wheatley, of the RNS Chell. Both were veterans of the last Yerasol War, and long-separated friends of Talon. Glidewell turned out to be a woman of few words, but Wheatley and Silverhawk got along as if the years had never passed, reminiscing about close calls and favors owed. Wheatley referred to Talon as “Doge” at one point, and Talon reminded the wiry man that he’d saved his life after one of his infamous blunders. This seemed to provide the necessary encouragement for him to go on an otherwise insane voyage up one of the larger Elfaivaran rivers in search of the colossus, who’d made landfall just a week or so prior.
The threats of the untamed jungle were no match for two ships with trained riflemen and five Risuri knights. It wasn’t hard to follow Borne’s trail, as he left a swath of flattened jungle more than fifty feet wide, not to mention deep footprints that snapped huge fallen trees in half. Eventually, they reached a ruined dock lined with massive crumbling statues of eladrin warriors, which gave way to a ruined city some seventy square miles in size. Initial investigations concluded that there was some magical barrier in effect which was both keeping out the natural creep of the jungle vegetation (thus preserving the state of what had to be Malice-era ruins for the last five centuries) and blocking out extraplanar disturbances, particularly creatures. Linia found herself unable to enter the city at all, and Borne’s footprints could be found circling the border of the area, likely unable to step into the city despite numerous attempts. Templeton made a note of this—it might be handy to replicate, if possible.
Among a few buildings of note were an ancient temple to Srasama, filled with Clergy graffiti, and discarded weapons of their faithful. There was also a pit shaped like an inverse ziggurat, lined with faded writing, and superimposed with illusory script that appeared when touched. Kida ve Alema took interest in the inscriptions, reading what she could and taking notes—they referred to the Seedist god Ingatan, whom holds power over fire and knowledge, and was often depicted as a malicious trickster in folklore.
But most interesting by far was a squat, single-room temple whose carvings and symbology were all purposefully chiseled away and rendered blank, while its only entrance was sealed with a great slab of stone. Qiyet muscled away the blockade (after Hugo’s attempt with his bracers of mental might failed utterly), revealing little inside but a great brass urn raised on a stone plinth.
Talon stood nearby while Qiyet and Templeton entered, and Hugo sat on the ground nursing his strained arms. The urn appeared to be filled with blood, but little else was there to learn from or loot, so they turned to leave. Appearing between them and the exit was a robed figure—and though they didn’t see it at first, her face and hands were made of curious jointed metal, though she was unlike any earthly construct the ex-constables had ever seen. In her hand, she held a stone that glowed with brilliant blue light like a fallen star.
“Will you stand against Chaos, no matter its shape?” the woman asked, in an old dialect of Elvish. With Kida still doing translation work, only Templeton understood her, so he answered that he and his companions were standing against forces that sought to change the very fabric of reality. The asker seemed interested at his answer, circled him, and then challenged him: “Then arm yourself and prove it.” The stone in her hand flashed, and became a gleaming blue katana.
Templeton met her blade for blade at first, but asked her if it would be dishonorable for him to use his firearm in this duel. She answered, “I know not what sort of weapon that is, but if it be a weapon and not a spell, you may use it.” She seemed surprised by the blast of pellets that followed, but she adjusted her stance accordingly, and Templeton found himself landing surprisingly few hits in the battle that followed.
Every few seconds, her glowing weapon changed into a new form: from standard fare like a longsword and a greataxe to more exotic fare, including a bola, a spiked gauntlet, and a whip. Though formed of light, each blow cut or smashed as sure as steel, and she drew the gunsmith’s blood again and again while he hastened to keep his shotgun loaded. Qiyet shouted words of encouragement and advice, but it seemed Templeton was outmatched. He was stubborn as a dozen mules, though, and growled that he would not let himself give up, finding new reserves of strength even after being brought within a blow or two of death on several occasions.
“Enough,” the woman said, holding up a hand. “What you lack in strength, you more than make up for in endurance and tenacity; no challenger has fought through all seventeen favored weapons of mine without yielding.” She stepped forward, and her strange armament became a stone once more. “This… is yours. Use it well.”
The stone was a magic item known to history as the Arsenal of Dhebisu, a fallen star which had been used by an ancient eladrin heroine to slay a rhakshasa. The construct warrior-woman identified herself as an inevitable (specifically, a kolyarut), a servant of Order in much the same way that Linia and angels like her were servants of Good. She explained that she had been ordered to guard this place against those who would worship the fallen god, the traitor of the eladrin pantheon who had fallen from divinity and become the monster mentioned in myth.
After leaving the guardian to her task, the party (minus Kida) pressed on toward the inland edge of the city, finding a cluster of people gathered around what was once an entrance arch through a ruined wall. Eschewing caution, Talon approached and called out a greeting. “Hey guys!”
The group froze, a pair of watchers atop the nearby towers looking down in shock. Someone shouted, “RHC!” and everyone went for their weapons.
It turned out the group was a team of Ob scientists and researchers examining the strange border around the abandoned city. Their efforts for the moment were focused on disarming a trap on the archway itself which would summon a guardian. Snipers took potshots at the approaching party, while the head mage put up a wall of fire to deter their progress, and to coax them into going around, rather than directly through the archway. Talon went straight in anyway, teleporting through the flames.
“You fool, you’ve killed us all!” He shouted, seconds before a mighty lion guardian appeared. The beast was bigger than a horse, and it was joined by 9 spare heads which floated freely of its body and set upon Ob and ex-constables alike. Following a minor glitch of priorities, the two groups agreed to set aside their current quarrel and fight the thing together, though in the end only a few Ob flunkies survived anyway. The two tieflings in particular seemed adamant on fighting the party, citing an allegiance to their sovereign and the late Lya Jierre.
The battle was costly. Area attacks seemed to have little effect on groups of heads, and each snarling face seemed to have some new power: laser breath, poisonous fangs, healing tongues, and more. Talon was brought low by a deadly petrification gaze, though his prudent selection of gear allowed him to delay the effect long enough to get in a few more good strikes. Kida joined the battle, and Linia swooped by, destroying heads one by one with her mighty hammer. Qiyet was in her prime as well, splitting heads with one strike almost as often as the angel. In the end they left the lion’s body headless and blind, and whittled down its vitality while surviving the waves of flame it put out. Kida’s chief contribution to the battle was seeking out and destroying a Danoran artillery piece which had begun shelling the entrance arch regularly mid-battle, running up a sheer cliff to do so and taking out the two unprepared gunners with ease.
But before they could even get their breath (and with poor Talon still a solid statue), a planar rift opened on the archway, and out stepped Asrabey Varal, Vekeshi dreadnought and would-be assassin of Ethelyn Lesterman more than a year ago, the first deadly foe that Team 1 had ever faced, and likely a better swordsman than anyone in Lanjyr even today. He was not pleased to see Qiyet in particular, who had killed him in that conflict on Axis Island, necessitating his revival with the powers of the Unseen Court.
He clearly wanted the heroes to leave, but they urged him to see reason. They wanted to speak to Kasvarina, to use her as a resource to strike back against the shady organization that Asrabey had gone to great lengths to rescue her from. Asrabey reminded them that he was not their ally, and their problems were none of his concern.
“Oh I thought you would care about preventing the destruction of the entire Dreaming, we’ll just be on our way then,” said Templeton.
Asrabey called out for them to wait. He was incredulous, but demanded that the gunsmith explain himself. They told him of the Obscurati’s plan to change the very nature of reality, and that it would likely sever the world’s ties to the Bleak Gate and the Dreaming in the process. Only with Kasvarina’s help could they hope to learn enough secrets to shut the conspiracy down for good. The dreadnought admitted with great hesitance that he was powerless to do the same; he could not even leave this hidden enclave with his wife, at the order of their host. When Kida pulled rank as a powerful member of the Vekeshi, he finally relented, and granted them entrance to the true city, hidden between this world and the Dreaming: Sentosa.