Zeitgeist

The Lost Arc

A sliver of Reida fell from the heavens long ago.

Asrabey was quick to suggest the death of the Ob researchers, but was eventually talked down to taking them as captives. Templeton pointed out that the secret society had a proven ability to re-recruit their fallen members as ghosts, thereby losing none of the intel they may have gleaned before their deaths. As free agents, the ex-constables also took a moment to liberate the researchers of their supplies, which included a generous crate of residuum and a Wayfarer’s Lantern, which Talon knew how to craft fuel for, thanks to his time spent joined to the mind of Bruce McDruid. Leaving Linia with the captives, they entered the hidden eladrin enclave of Sentosa.

The settlement was nothing short of idyllic, filled with art and architecture Kida had only ever seen in ruins or old drawings. Sliding doors, curved tile roofs, and colorful clothes accompanied the four-thousand or so eladrin, including a surprising population of eladrin women (a mere 60/40 split from what the heroes could guess). Though of the elderly population, there were almost no women at all. The people seemed gladdened to see the party, given their reputation with the Unseen Court, and merchants that they passed by offered them steep discounts on their wares.

Eventually they were guided to a three-bedroom home, outfitted with silks and fine furniture, and guarded by at least twenty eladrin samurai bearing short swords, mithral breastplates, and shortbows. Inside was the raven-haired Kasvarina Varal, tapping a mithral dagger into the table while reading an account of a failed revolt against the dragon tyrants of Ber from four centuries ago. At her side was Asrabey, along with a aged half-elf the party would come to learn was named Kieran Sentacore—a historian abducted from the Danoran colony of Rationalis and pressed into becoming Kasvarina’s tutor.

The former Ob founder spoke with the party at length. She claimed to have lost much of her memory, though she retained all knowledge of the first 200-or-so years of her life, right up until the early days of Elfaivar’s march toward the second Holy War (just before Year 1, AOV). She remembered nothing of the fighting itself, nor the horrors of the Great Malice which ended the war and wounded Lanjyr itself. To her, she was marching with her fellow soldiers one day, then woke up in a strange underground facility the next morning… she couldn’t have known at the time that over five hundred years had passed!

Since being rescued by Asrabey, Kasvarina had spent her time in Sentosa learning as much as she could of world history, but very little seemed to spark her memory. International news about a secret conspiracy calling itself the ‘Obscurati’ painted a loathsome picture for her… the colossus they created had called her “mother” while she was escaping the Bleak Gate facility, so there was no way she could deny to herself that she had been deeply, deeply involved in their plans.

Humbly, she asked the party for their help. She wanted to undo as much of her old self’s machinations as possible, but to do that, she would have to learn what exactly she had been doing the last five centuries. To the north, she claimed, there lay an eladrin artifact, a crown called the Arc of Reida. It had the power to recreate the past, if its wearer revisted the areas of important events from their lives. Of course, leaving the enclave would be dangerous; she would be hunted by both the Obscurati and the wayward colossus. She would need bodyguards.

In discussing the threat of the metal titan, Kida mentioned its name: Bourne. Suddenly the amnesiac looked up and smiled, then seemed to fall in upon herself, shivering and cowering. She claimed to remember a tiny moment in time: seeing Bourne when he first woke, and feeling pride at her part in the accomplishment.

“There was more to it than that, in your eyes,” Qiyet insisted. “There was cruelty.”

“… Yes,” Kasvarina admitted. This brought her to her second point. On top of the risk of being hunted, there was also a grim chance that in viewing her own memories, she would slowly revert to the cold, calculating personality that had willingly, eagerly helped the Obscurati for so long. This was why she needed the Risuri knights in specific: only by traveling with the Obscurati’s greatest foes could she hope to retain her current viewpoints. Each memory she would regain, they would witness as well, and they would hopefully be able to color her perceptions and keep her mindful of the greater good, rather than cling to whatever tragedy had turned her to such dark scheming. She and Qiyet agreed to a pact with that in mind: if she judged that the eladrin was drifting back to her old ways and was beyond redemption, she would end Kasvarina’s life.

But before any of that could happen, they would need to convince Sentosa’s ruler, Matriarch Athrylla Valanar, to allow Kasvarina to leave. At the moment, she was a permanent “honored guest” among her fellow eladrin; much like her tutor Kieran, she was as good as a prisoner, here. As a former matriarch and member of the Triad of Endurance (three matriarchs that had ruled since the malice and did not age) Kasvarina suspected that she represented a threat to Athrylla’s power, or else her history with the Obscurati made her too risky to release.

Being held in such high regard among the fey, it was simple for the party to secure an audience with the matriarch, though she stated flat-out upon the broaching of the subject that she had no intention of allowing Kasvarina to leave, nor did she feel she needed to justify such an action to outsiders. She did not send the party away however, and they ended up making a strong case for Athrylla to reconsider her decision, basing their argument primarily on the fact that Kasvarina regretted her part in the global conspiracy to the point where she was willing to sacrifice herself to make amends, were she allowed to join the party and seek out the secrets of her past.

GM’s Note: Adding in a circumstantial modifier of +15 from these two strong points, the party managed a Diplomacy result of 44.

Unfortunately, even this moving speech failed to budge the stoic Athrylla, and after a brief audience to confer with her advisors, she upheld her original decision. Kasvarina (summoned during the proceedings to confirm her convictions) commended her benefactors on their attempt, for it was far better than she and Asrabey had ever managed on their own. She could sense that they were close to swaying her, however, so she suggested they set out to find the Arc without her, and return with it as proof of their capability and determination. Retrieving a long-lost artifact, she knew, would not be without trial, but she wished them luck as she plotted their destination on a map: an old temple known as Ingatan’s Refuge, dedicated to the mischievous eladrin god of knowledge.

The journey through the eladrin jungle was more annoying than trying. Having bested Drakran winter and malice beasts, there was little in the way of predatory or environmental dangers now that could truly threaten the heroes. But late one night just before reaching the temple, things began to get more eventful.

During second watch, Qiyet insisted on staying up to watch over the camp, even though Hugo had already volunteered for the duty. The young technologist knew that she still harbored a deep distrust of him and his other half, and he took this moment alone with her to attempt to allay her fears, but the martial scientist would have no part of it.

“I don’t enjoy losing control of myself,” he insisted.

Qiyet dismissed him. “That doesn’t seem like the case. You change back and forth; and I’m not even sure there is an Oscar. I don’t know what you are anymore… but I care about the people who are on this team.”

Hugo was crestfallen to have so extensively lost the trust of someone he considered a friend (Especially, someone who fought by his side since the beginning of his R.H.C. adventures.) , but he said nothing more of it. He resolved to learn better control of his darker side.

On toward morning, while Kida was dismantling a set of tripwires she’d set during the night, she heard an unfamilar voice. A woman, calling to her softly through the trees, speaking words she hadn’t heard since her childhood: “I have bled in the forest, hidden and quiet.” A poem, which slowly came back to her as she stood in silence.

“I have bled in the forest, hidden and quiet,” the voice repeated.

“I have bled in the sea, strong and fierce,” replied Kida.

The voice continued. “I have bled in dark places that are full of mysteries—”

“—enriched with forces that are beyond even our combined understanding,” Kida finished.

Then they spoke as one, “I do not fear you.” The speaker then stepped out from her hiding place and identified herself as Talios Valanar (a distant descendant of Athrylla). She came bearing tidings from Kida’s sister, Lymae, who was now acting raja of an independant tribe of eladrin who had made Ingatan’s refuge their home in the eladrin wilderness. As her sister’s right hand, Talios had taken it upon herself to intercept the party before they could reach the tribe’s village, in order to deliver a message of caution. Lymae was overjoyed when she had learned the local fey were abuzz with gossip of the arrival of “Burning-Eye Kida,” and Talios feared the woman’s hero-worship of her sister would cause her to lose face among her people, particularly since she hadn’t been leading them for all too long. Their previous raja, along with many of their warriors, had been cut down by an outpost of Clergy soldiers in the area. Talios advised the group to remove this threat in order for the mostly-human party to earn the tribe’s tentative respect. Otherwise, whatever boon they sought from Lymae would surely be granted to them, but at great cost to Lymae herself, and the act would only cause further turmoil among the already stressed and harried people.

Templeton balked at the notion that their group was mostly human, since only Hugo truly fit that description (and even he was starting to slip from that description, the more machinery he incorporated into his body). But Talios explained that where Templeton saw one human, the eladrins would see three. One full human, two half-humans, and a human descended from lycanthropes. Qiyet smiled, realizing that for once, she’d be visiting a culture that didn’t despise her orcish half.

This was not to last, however, as the party turned due west and found Vigil Longis right where Talios told them it would be. A rough looking set of structures surrounded by wooden palisades, it was hardly a bastion of the Clergy’s might, though enough defenders had survived the jungle skirmishes with the eladrin that even powerful Risuri knights would have trouble in a stand-up combat.

Qiyet and Templeton took to the fore of the negotiations early on, with Qiyet putting the defenders on off-balance by claiming their party was dispatched from Crisillyir, following up on a report of false followers of the church. With Linia at their side, casting her companions in the glow of her lightning halo, it was not so easy to dismiss her claim! Arguments escalated, racial slurs were hurled, and Templeton found his hand shaking, drawing closer to his handcanon to remedy the insult.

Before things could get out of hand, the outpost’s leader finally arrived, a man in golden armor by the name of Aulus Atticus. Rightly skeptical of such a diverse group of individuals appearing without notice, he didn’t buy into their claims, and (at Qiyet’s skillful pressing) defended his continued genocide of the eladrin people, despite the good and just nature of the god he claimed to follow. In the eyes of the Clergy, the ‘knife-eared savages’ were no better than the Demonocracy that Triegenes himself destroyed: they were monsters, inherently evil, and their numbers needed to be erased from Lanjyr.

The party countered, thrusting forth Linia as the living embodiment of his religion’s fall from logic and good will. He didn’t believe that she was truly an angel, nor that she had herself fought at Triegenes’ side a millennium ago, but he agreed to meet with a representative of the party as a show of good will. The party chose Linia, though she had little confidence of changing the zealot’s mind.

None heard the conversation that followed, both speakers now in range of the other side’s weapons and so held in a tense stalemate. Aulus seemed to rebuke Linia’s frankly unbelievable words, and in an attempt to discredit her holy appearance in the eyes of his followers, he summoned an angel of his own. Linia balked, not thinking mortals capable of such magic, but after momentary interaction it became clear that this winged being was simply a temporary creation of holy magic—a mere summoning spell. Though cognizant of its surroundings, it could not speak, and would only follow the orders of its creator.

When the conversation was over, Aulus was in awe of the angel, of the stories she told and the things she knew about Triegenes that no one could remember now, not even the hierarchs. Linia bargained that she would teach he and his men all she knew, but only if they journeyed with her out of the area and did not return. It was not what she had come to Elfaivar to do, but now that the chance was in front of her, she felt it must be seized.

Fond farewells were exchanged, and Linia was gifted one of the golden feathers from Gale’s messenger wind so they could keep in touch. Especially heartfelt among the goodbyes was Qiyet’s, for she took the immortal aside and revealed the artifact that had been in her keeping since her departure from Mutravir. Qiyet expressed uncertainty about why the Hook had chosen her, but Linia was secure in the relic’s wisdom.

“Qiyet, what is it that you want in this world, more than anything else?” she asked the ranger.

“To better myself, and to protect those around me,” she replied.

“Then there is no better person to wear that pendant. Remember that even Triegenes himself was only a fisherman, but a fisherman with the heart of a hero. It sees that same greatness in you.”

While Linia gave her farewells to the others, Templeton took a moment to bequeath the Arsenal of Dhebisu to Qiyet, as he realize that since it could not take the form of a firearm, it was nigh-useless for his own modern-military fighting style. “Outrunner, I know better than to ask you to swear some formal oath,” he admitted, “but you’re still true to your promises. Just, use this to fight chaos, okay? You’d be far more effective with it than me.” He pointed out that the half-orc was already proficient in all types of killing tools, so she was the perfect choice to wield it.

Their objective accomplished, the party turned around and soon arrived at Ingatan’s refuge, where they were dramatically greeted by Lymae Ve Alema jumping off a ledge and welcoming them to Bramblehome, a series of buildings incorporated into giant thorned vines growing up around a cliff face and flanked by waterfalls. Above the village, nestled into the rock itself, was a giant statue of Ingatan, with the single-story temple spread out before him. Though wary, no eladrin raised objections when the party voiced their aim of entering the temple and retrieving the Arc.

Lymae warned them, however: the artifact was sealed behind a set of trials, scenes from the past and future of those who sought the Arc, usually twisted to provide even greater danger. Once, these were a means of introspection and meditation for Ingatan’s worshipers, but now they were a fatal series of obstacles left to protect the artifact itself. Many warriors had been slain by these trials over the years that Lymae had lived among the tribe, but her most important advice was for the group to promise each other that they would continue their adventures together—if they held to their word, then the temple could not scatter them when they faced trials set in their future.

“Since joining the RHC, your lives have become paramount to my concerns,” Talon said, “and I will see this through to the end, not just to protect Risur, but the world.” The group echoed his bold sentiment, and Kida stated that she would need someone like Talon to help restore balance between Risur and the fey when all this was over.

Hugo took a moment to remember why he had joined the constabulary too: to be a hero.
“Despite my inner darkness, that desire is still with me. And I can’t do it without Team 1,” said the young technologist.

Pledged to their cause and to each other, the companions entered Ingatan’s temple.

Comments

I have written in my notes a quote from Kida: “We are still a team, even if we’re not Team 1.” Anyone remember where that goes?

The Lost Arc
pyrojester

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