Zeitgeist

Chapter 4 Epilogue
Delft outlines the next steps.

Winter 22

Having returned to Flint and delivered their findings to Delft, the Chief Inspector groaned in frustration, mulling over their options. Hearing that Lya Jierre was a high-ranking member of the Obscurati wasn’t exactly beyond anyone’s expectations, but it wasn’t easy to hear. From this point on, efforts directed at dismantling the secret society would have to be carefully planned so as not to start a Fifth Yerasol War.

Delft’s first idea was to bring King Aodhan on board, and expand the circle of Risuri officials who knew about the Obscurati so as to compile more resources to fight back. The constables were understandably concerned, and eventually it was decided that Kida would go to Slate and spy on the king (as well as the Principal Minister, Harkover Lee. But after tailing him, searching through his jewelry for Ob-coded rings, and examining the logs of individuals entering Torfield Palace over the last several weeks, both of them seemed clean, and they were brought on board to form what is now known as the Anti-Ob Task Force.

With that, Delft dismissed them, warning them that the next likely place the Ob would act would be during the Risur-Danor peace talks scheduled for early spring. “Until then,” he said, “train hard, get stronger, think of new ways to better yourselves. We’ll need all the strength that we can muster against these bastards…”

View
Terminus East
The constables spy on those waiting for Luc.

You awaken on the shores of Vendricce with the taste of brine in your mouths. Talon is the first to rise, owing to the telltale buzzing of a Sending ritual in his skull.

Delft’s voice starts to speak in fragmented sentences in the warden’s mind. Tried to contact you twice now. Divinations say this is your second time all dying. Make up your minds! Give status. Two more Sendings possible.

After some deliberation, Talon thanked the Chief inspector for caring so much, and gave their whereabouts and status. Delft responded, encouraging them to observe and act in their best judgment, and that their most important objective at this point was to return home alive.

As the constables settled into their hiding place, they watched the railyard. There was a smaller, more private depot apart from the main platform, with a small corral in which was parked a single carriage, marked with the Avery Coast logo. One man stood guard, clad in heavy armor, bearing a shield, and covered in a dark green cloak that was pinned in place with a golden book-shaped brooch.

In the distance could be heard the hiss and rumble of the train as it came to a stop at the main platform. The guard stirred at the noise, and knocked on the door of the depot. Another guard, similarly armed, emerged with a prisoner in tow, an average-looking man bound in ropes. The guards nodded at each other casually, while the man struggled, seeming equal parts confused and alarmed.

The next few actions happened in quick succession: the bound man tried to bolt, but the first guard holds caught him by the shoulder and forced him to his knees. The second guard pulled something sharp from his cloak, and judging by the way he held it steady after stabbing it into the man’s neck, it must have been an injection needle. The prisoner thrashed and cried out, then slumped and went still.

After a few minutes, he calmly rose to his feet, rolling his shoulders and taking a few deep breaths as the guards hastily removed his bonds, mumbling apologies.

My thanks, he intoned quietly, looking up to watch the train slowly rumble towards him. He checked his watch; it was six-thirty exactly as the train pulled up.

The depot door opened again. A haughty-looking tiefling woman walked out, her dull orange eyes reflecting a little of the dying evening light. Even from this distance, Qiyet could tell this is none other than Danor’s Minister of Outsiders, and her former classmate, Lya Jierre. She wore an expensive-looking dress fit for a very fancy party, but there was still a sword slung at her hip. She nodded at the previously-bound man and waited calmly for the train’s steam engine to quiet down.

[What follows is a script, handed out to players during the session]

Narrate: Lya faces the train and calls out.

Lya: Luc? Are you coming?

Narrate: Luc and Bree step off the train, the scientist carrying what looks like a lantern covered in a dark sheet.

Luc: H-hello, sister. Hope I d-didn’t keep everyone waiting…

Narrate: Lya steps forward and gives him a boisterous hug.

Lya: Not at all! We heard you had trouble on your trip, but I’m glad you’re alright… I see Ottavia didn’t make it. She’s not answering Sendings, either.

Bree: We lost a few other hired hands too. More money for me, right?

Man: We’ll see to it you’re well compensated for the job. For security reasons, though, I’ll have to ask that you collect it at our destination.

Luc: Is… this everyone? I assumed a larger group would be present.

Narrate: Lya looks at the nameless man uncertainly.

Lya: Er…

Man: Heh. It’s fine. Luc, it’s a pleasure to meet the one making our progress here possible. You can call me Nicodemus.

Narrate: The man puts forth a hand, and Luc shakes it, looking as if he’s just committed a ghastly error in protocol.

Nic: Speaking of which, Lya, did you bring them?

Narrate: Lya nods, fishing around inside of a small wristlet purse until she retrieves a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches.

Lya: I’m beginning to see just why everyone calls you that.

Nic: It’s an old nickname, and an older habit. [shake box, retrieve fake cigarette, strike a match] As for the welcome committee: light the lantern with this, Luc.

Narrate: Nic gestures at Lya, who retrieves a vial of dark liquid with small motes of light floating within. Witchoil. Luc takes it and pours it into the lantern that he uncovers: an eight-faceted and fragile-looking piece of arcanotech. A blue flame glows from within the contraption’s glass, and the surrounding fifty feet of reality starts to peel away. Another train depot is revealed in the space of the first, but this one is gloriously illuminated by candles and chandeliers visible from the windows. Oddly, the scenery outside the building seems more deeply dark than before. Six people emerge from the new depot, giving greetings to the newcomers. Two more guards, plus four unarmed individuals: two men and two identical women, all humans.

Lya: Welcome into the fold, brother. This is Dustin Huff, an astronomer from Danor; Lester Guillory, an engineer from Risur; and Emily and Anna Davis, liasons for the Crisillyiri government. Tier Four members—just like you’ll be, once we make a ring for you—and from more than just Danor’s borders.

Luc: N-nice to meet you all…

Bree: [curiously] So, what’s this invention of his got to do with this cloak-and-dagger business of yours?

Lya: We’re changing the world, Miss Kaldeckis. We believe that when scaled up and installed in clock towers, lighthouses, and Drakran defense turrets, it will have a much greater effect on the surrounding lands and populace.

Luc: So it’s to be used as a w-weapon…? I’m not sure I’m c-comfortable with that…

Lya: Not a weapon, Luc, but an agent of change. [sighs] I too was skeptical with the Obscurati’s aims at first, but after talking with Nicodemus, I can see this group has a real chance to make the world a better place. After all, how could the greatest minds of the last few generations be wrong?

Nic: That’s more than enough explanation for mixed company, Lya. Brianne—if I may call you that—being a Tier Five member, I’m afraid you’re only allowed access to so much information at once.

Narrate: Lya nods her head apologetically. Bree shrugs it off.

Bree: Hey, whatever. Long as you keep paying me, I’m willing to work my way up.

Nic: Now then, Luc. Thank you again for coming under less than ideal conditions; you’re as brave as you are gifted. Would that we could just teleport everyone here and be done with it, but that would get both expensive and suspicious. Now, allow me to take care of a few logistical issues before we resume with the pleasantries.

Narrate: The two newest guards produce a handful of rusted iron amulets, which are passed out to Bree, Luc, Lya, Nic, and the first two guards.

Nic: Put those on. When the lantern light goes out, the amulet will draw you from your current half-shifted state fully into the Bleak Gate. Normally this process is much less portable, and involves several more steps, but the Wayfarer’s Lantern will make this so much more efficient.

Narrate: Luc heads into the building and mingles with his sister and the other guests for a while, and Nic stands out on the platform to finish his cigarette.

[end script]

Eventually, the lantern light started to fade, along with everyone else. Nic took one last inhale until his cigarette was nothing more than a stub, then flicked it away. With that, all that was left behind was the smell of the burning leaves of Nicodemus.

View
The Truth of the Malice
Ashima tells a tale that shatters Kida's beliefs.

From room 5, the group sought out Belcamp’s legion in room 7. Challenged by two guards and ordered to lay down their arms before seeking an audience with the bearded devil, Talon sought to bluff them into thinking he was disarming himself… but the sentries saw through his attempt and met his charge with their swords. The group pushed past them and the ensuing fray was brief, far easier than expected, particularly with the help of the priest-skeletons. Belcamp himself talked a good game, but fell to a pair of crushing axe-blows from Qiyet and a paltry magic missile from Hugo. He wore a simple gold chain around his shoulders which was easily fashioned into a handful of gold rings.

Kida became momentarily side-tracked when attempting to flank their foe, encountering the lamia lyrist Somnia upon a torture rack incorporating an enormous mithral sword… which turned out to be one of the six blades of Srasama herself!

Somnia thanked the party for freeing her, and offered an additional boon over what Giovanni had promised: she would use a Song of Sloth to lull the beasts in Room 8 to sleep, so that they wouldn’t need to be slain in a long, dragged-out fight. The disguised constables agreed, and received the final blessing in addition to snagging an enchanted tea kettle.

Giovanni kept to his word, awarding a painting to the group and thanking them for their efforts, though he still didn’t believe that making it to the final room would get them any closer to escaping the Vault. Kida and Templeton briefly considered sharing the gold rings with some of his followers, just to irk the Clergy, but eventually decided that unleashing a centuries-old sorcerer with an axe to grind against any and all Clericists, right in the middle of Crisillyir… might be bad for their need to stay beneath notice.

The hall to Room 9 was deathly quiet, and emblazoned on the stone entrance door were two handprints. The right-hand print glowed with blue light and was inscribed with the text “I am worthy, but I accept that I will be excommunicated from my faith in order to speak with the prisoner herein.” The left-hand print glowed red, and shone with the words, “I reject the will of the Clergy, and offer up a part of my soul to obtain the Secret.” Having secured the blessings, the constables wisely chose to lay their hands on the right-hand side, and entered.

Inside was the mad godhand Gene Javerto, who had been mentioned by some of the other prisoners; he’d arrived long ago and broke through many of the Clergy’s original defenses in order to speak with Ashima, and now he awaited her pleasure here, in the company of eight golden mirrors.

Cautiously, the five constables edged around him at the far reaches of the room, only for Kida’s image to be caught in one of these mirrors, spawning a golden clone of evil intent. Gene rose, complaining about an incessant hunger for souls, and the battle was joined!

While fragile, the doppelgangers proved almost entirely impervious to the attacks of the one they reflected, mimicking their combat style perfectly. Hugo hit upon the idea of simply knocking each mirror to the floor to make it impossible to cast new images through them, and the ever-replenishing flow of new mirror-constables was stemmed somewhat quickly.

Meanwhile, Talon found himself unexpectedly alone with Gene, having to fend off the hard-hitting godhand without backup, due to an invisible stalker making its presence known right in the middle of their formation during the fight. Likely it had been following them this entire time, which explained some of the odd whispers Templeton had heard early on.

Eventually, Gene was defeated, and Talon claimed his gloves as reward. Passing through one last archway into the keystone chamber, they saw an ominous being awaiting them. Talon nodded in greeting, asking, “Hey, how’s it going?”

She was a demoness covered in scales, her joints and fingers lined with horns and claws, bleeding slowly from several hooks dug into her flesh, which held her suspended over a well of holy water. “Ashima has been expecting these travelers,” she whispered.

Many questions were asked by the constables, and Ashima-Shimtu had many answers: some direct, others cryptic, and a few she honestly did not know.

Hugo: “If I continue to alter myself with machinery, do I risk losing my humanity?”

Ashima: “Human, dwarf, elf, metal-man… what does it matter? Only one’s heart matters, and Ashima sees the heart of a child in this one. A child who does not know the sins of his father.”

“What? What’s my father up to?”

“Ashima only knows that he himself does not know.”

The demoness’ voice was slow and pensive, and she rarely called anyone by name, or even as “you.” She spoke as if narrating her surroundings, and held a keen insight as to the inner workings of those before her. In her words, she could ‘see the hearts of others.’

Qiyet: “How did you end up here?”

Ashima: “Ashima was beginning to think these five didn’t care. Long ago, when Trigenes founded the Clergy, he fought against the Demonocracy and destroyed the high fiends that led it. But their essences were not free to return to the abyssal planes of their birth, and so they suffused into this world, poisoning it. Ashima was caught and nearly killed, but she bargained for her life: Keep her as prisoner, she said, and she promised to give them a way to find and trap these evil essences. Ashima kept her word, and now is kept in the hope that someday she will share her Secret… but she will never tell. Only once has she told, and never again. It is too dangerous for the world.”

Kida: “How did you know we were coming?”

Ashima: “Ashima can feel all those who tread on or under Odiem. Now, Vekeshi who abandoned her sister, step forward.”

Kida stepped forward. “What the hell do you want!?”

“Now, Ashima has much to tell this one. But first, she must tell Ashima what she knows of the Great Malice. Humor Ashima.”

“Well… the order teaches us that she joined the battle against the Clergy, but… she fell.”

“That is the what. Ashima wonders if this Vekeshi knows the why. Why did the eladrin goddess appear? The Clergy and Elfaivar clashed before. Why show herself in this second war?”

“…”

“She was called here. For Ashima’s Secret is a ritual that can give physical form to a belief. And what is a god but the embodiment of belief?”

“You’re lying.”

“Ashima tells only the truth. Long ago, Ashima gave her ritual to a pair: man and woman, they were, human and eladrin. The man was a thinker who desired great change, and the woman was a mother who desired great justice. Both hated the Clergy with a passion that Ashima has seen rarely, even in this forsaken place. She believed that they would use it to undo the Clergy’s hold over this world forever, but instead it was used to destroy the faith’s greatest enemies.”

Templeton: “Isn’t it possible they simply failed in their attempt?”

“No, Gunman who will slay many Shadows. The goddess should have been powerful, too powerful for even the greatest warriors of the Clergy to oppose, and the gods of Crisillyir were not present that day, not as Srasama was. She should not have fallen, especially not… so quickly.” At this, the demoness glanced pointedly at Kida.

Ashima: “Ashima sees greatness in these travelers, and so will aid them. She believes that someday they may meet the two who know the Secret, and find the truth of what happened to cause the Great Malice, for both of the pair still exist somewhere in this world. Ashima wishes greatly to know, but accepts that she may never find out. By helping these five travelers, she believes she can undo some of the damage done, and protect against a great many future calamaties she sees coming soon… though she can never atone for what she has done.”

Qiyet: “Atone? Since when do demons care about what’s wrong and what’s right? And why should we trust any help you have to give?”

“Ashima has been the guest of priests for many centuries now, and has had ample time to reflect on the nature of morality. She is a demon, true—but demons are creatures of mercurial natures as much as they are beings of evil intent. If demons cannot change, what can? Ashima will help the travelers if they will accept it, and there will be no catch, for she is not a devil, and cares not for contracts and bargains. Ashima simply hopes that the truth of the Malice will be known, if not by her, then by someone.”

Kida: “What do you know of my sister? Does she live?”

Ashima: “She does. In the land of the eladrin.”

Hugo: “Is there any help you can give to… her?”

Ashima: [sees Hugo gesturing at empty air] … Ah, you have two hearts! Yes, there is hope for the curious professor. Ask the Mindmaker; though he cannot help her just yet.

Hugo: “Thank you… if I learn anything about the Malice, I will tell you.”

Talon: “What did Gene want with you?”

Ashima: "The godhand wanted what all Clergymen want. Ashima’s secret. But Ashima will never, never tell. Ashima thanks you for disposing of this annoyance. And to answer the first question of the warrior who holds nature dear, yet serve’s progress’ greatest city… Ashima is doing well. Considering.

“Ashima has told the travelers all they need to know. Now, they must speak the name of where they would travel to, and dive into the well. Ashima will see them all safely there. More, she will cloak each of them in her shadows, so their enemies will think they have died in the Vault, should they attempt to use magic to determine their fates.”

View
Architect of Heresies
The Vault's designer offers valuable intel.

Winter 16 – Day 6 of 6… but not on the train anymore.

GM’s note: Talon’s player was not present for this session.

After their much-needed rest, the constables elected to continue toward room 4, cautiously walking down the 15-foot-wide hall in staggered formation. Midway through the trip, Calius began to hear an animal up ahead… and as the group drew closer, it sounded like a simple dog.

So it was—mostly. Sitting in the middle of the corridor was a small statue of a stubborn hound, bent over and yapping at them from a seated position. Given the nature of their surroundings, it was only natural for the five of them to be nervous, but casual inspection proved that it did little more than bark incessantly. Oscar (with Xambria’s help) correctly identified it as a magical item, not a creature. After a few minutes more, he was able to come up with the command word and they were on their way, though it was obvious that the room ahead would be well warned of their arrival now.

Entering the chamber of Blasphemous Artwork, it at first appeared to be devoid of any living thing – only paintings that seemed to be windows into other worlds, moving as though utterly real, and even filling the main hall with music, sobs, and laughter. Each scene depicted the theme of a different Clergy sin, though Melancholy appeared to be missing. Other sub-chambers contained lewd statuary, skulls on fish-hooks (a desecration of the faith’s symbol), and other minor (though well-crafted) affronts to those of holy demeanor.

The keystone exhibit was an intimidating 20-foot high painting of an aged but muscular man, who introduced himself as Giovanni; a mage who had sealed himself in a painting long ago to avoid punishment after insulting the Clergy. As an image, he was immortal, and now passed his time by having his followers (other prisoners and tomb-robbers, now given over to hedonism out of sheer boredom) craft new works or simply enact sinful performances upon the room’s Pious Mount, just for the irony.

He informed the constables that they were all trapped here: after entering, a curse had turned all their gold into lead, and a teleportation trap would send any heading toward room 1 back around into room 8. Only gold loops could foil the effect.

Instead of escape, he offered the constables a safe place to rest and plenty of food. He even offered a painting of their own if they’d do him a favor: his favorite lyrist had been captured by the devil known as Belcamp, who presided over room 7. Return her, and he would show his great gratitude.

The party agreed, but took the opportunity to pose a few more questions before setting out. Did Giovanni know William Miller? No. Did that door in the back lead off the map and back to room 6? Yes. Were the angels being tortured in that painting over there real, or illustrated? Not real.

Moving on to chamber 6, Afflicted Innocents, it was clear most of the individuals herein had been either slain or set free, to join the ranks of either Belcamp or Giovanni. The only one left was an old man in Clergy garb, whimpering quietly within a pillar of fire that burnt his skin, but did not consume his flesh. He spoke in a very old dialect of Common, identifying himself as Ennio Adolini, the designer of the Vault itself. Having been possessed by a devil of ice, he was sentenced to the prison he’d designed, there to burn for all eternity. He had forsaken his faith, eventually coming to terms with the likely reality that the hierarch he’d served under simply wanted poor Ennio in a position where his knowledge could be easily drawn upon for centuries to come, yet never fall into the wrong hands.

Asking for their promise to share his story with the outside world and caution it against the Clergy’s corruption, he gave them what knowledge he could:

  • A chant to tame the skeletal priests that rose up when blood spilled anywhere in the Vault
  • A warning about the random-teleportation trap between rooms 7 and 8, designed to break up organized groups of raiders
  • The knowledge that room 9 could only be accessed by those who had been blessed in rooms 2 through 8
  • A second exit: below room 9 was a well that led to the ocean… but it was nearly 500 feet long and enchanted to negate any kind of shapechanging or water-breathing magic

The constables thanked him, only to hear a malevolent voice snap back from the old man’s mouth. The devil had taken control of his senses, but the party didn’t stick around to listen to its offers or insults.

Between the party and the next room lay a swath of crushing-pillar traps, the first of which nearly crushed Oscar. Joliet proved her resourcefulness, however, and slung a sackful of ball bearings down the hall, setting all the traps off at once. From there, they just needed to run down the length, weaving between the new obstacles and being careful not to slip on the bearings.

Room 5, Accursed Items, was sadly empty of most of the impressive gallery of magical (though evil) contraptions it must have once held. A pair of cursed rust monsters had broken from whatever pen had originally held them and wandered here, eating the entire horde and leaving nothing but sparking piles of unusable residuum. They weren’t overly powerful, but Joliet’s new firearm was devoured before the pair of beasts could be slain.

The corpses left behind strange gold-colored eggs, which Oscar believed could be used to summon the beasts back for a time. And sitting in a nest of bones in one corner was an ivory scepter, apparently with the power to negate many forms of magic.

View
Into the Vault of Heresies
The party gets a taste of the Vault's defenses.

Down the stairs of the dilapidated lighthouse and through a battered pair of bronze doors with a makeshift door-bar of three swords melted together, the party found the entrance to the disused Vault. The construction must have taken decades, a series of nine cathedral-sized rooms connected by 400-foot winding passageways, all built of stone mixed with the crushed bones of Clergy priests to sanctify the place against corruption, and laced with gold to prevent anything from ever teleporting in or out.

The first room was a sort of preview to everything that lay beyond. The walls were inscribed with the Clergy’s doctrines and an overview of the Vault’s purpose: to seal away evil that could not be destroyed, or objects and individuals for which destruction would only free the evil spirits inside them to wreak havoc elsewhere in the world.

Among lesser exhibits like a lawbook from the Demonocracy of Trigenes’ time and a spellbook of someone called Giovanni the Painter, there was little more than broken statuary and unsettling skeletons of Clergy priests with handprints scorched onto their bones. But the keystone exhibit was remarkable beyond words: a living (but emaciated) angel, driven half-mad by isolation.

She eagerly accepted water from the party, and engaged in halting conversation with them, mostly giving cryptic advice…

  • “You have no torches. You’ll go blind.”
  • “He travels in your breath, on your words, in the rustle of your hair in the breeze. You are not possessed. Don’t believe the voices in your ears. Believe only the voice in your head.”
  • You’ll die of thirst, but drink with the left hand!"

Aside from that, she would only beg alternately for death or freedom, offering to “agree to their lies and call them gods.” It soon became clear that ‘they’ were the Clergy, though she would not say the word itself. Her advice would prove rather prophetic, though nigh-impenetrable. Nearly half an hour was wasted in determining that her third hint was aimed at telling them to drink holy water with their left hands atop the mosaic floor in each room in order to receive a healing blessing.

Kida brought all her strength to bear on the angel’s chains, but no force seemed able to shatter them. Vowing to return with something that could destroy the stone she was anchored to, Kida left toward Room 2 with her companions.

Just before reaching the end of the first hallway, Templeton (bringing up the rear of the group, heard a whisper in an unknown tongue, right behind him. He chose to ignore it. Seconds later, a curtain of deadly radiant energy shimmered into existence behind him and began to slowly sweep forward, obliterating even the dust that clung to the floor and walls.

Oscar ran ahead, puzzling over the strange lock on the door that was only ever meant to open for Clergy clerics. Calius’ curiosity got the better of him and he stuck his arm into the energy, nearly singing all the hair off the skin in the process. Before things got too dicey, Oscar dispelled the magic holding the door shut, and the party rushed into the chamber.

After they’d caught their breath, they realized that Oscar (the first one through the door) was now nowhere to be found! The arcanist had been teleported to the other end of the room, chained to an iron pole atop a massive pile of books which slowly began to burn. His comrades fought a small collection of dretches—lesser demons—while making their way toward his panicked shouts, and in the process were hit by a strange magic item; a scrap of the book of Lorem, which can tell no lies. All their light sources were doused, except for fire, and it would remain their only light for the next 24 hours.

Calius stomped his way through the flames and freed his coworker, taking minor damage in the process. Kida finished off the last few dretches, only to have them dissolve into smoke and force their way into her lungs, likely to enact some mysterious malady that has yet to take shape.

Taking the Lorem scrap and a fair few other armfuls of text besides, the party headed out toward room 3, bypassing a slightly-malfunctioning barrier involving a broken statue and an endless hallway. This new room was an armory, filled with twisted, rusted, and cursed weaponry and suits of armor. The keystone exhibit had been stolen; all that remained was a massive boulder with bent iron bars jutting out of it, as though something had been restrained against it, to weigh it down.

A disembodied female voice called out midway through their exploration: “Identify yourselves! Only friends of Giovanni may pass, and I know all of Giovanni’s friends.”

Recognizing the name from the spellbook in the first chamber, Beckman offered to bring the spellbook to appease Giovanni and thus be allowed to pass. The voice seemed intrigued by the offer, but ultimately grew impatient as the party seemed more interested in lingering around this room rather than making good on their promise to bring the book.

Hilde, a possessed suit of armor, stomped toward them, a single baleful eye glaring at them from the center of a wolfhead-shaped helm. Weapons near her spontaneously animated, swinging without wielders and inflicting all manner of curses while she pummeled away at the constables with iron fists. Even worse, her lack of weak points made her nearly impossible to wound with weak attacks, and the effort to bring her down was long and costly. Finally, her body was destroyed, and Beckman managed a shot clean through the center of the floating, retreating helmet.

Knowing that the train would leave without them (but counting on their previous arrangement for a teleport into Vendricce), the party set up camp in the cluttered armory to rest for the night.

View
Three Milestones
Ottavia is spooked, and sets up a trap.

In the aftermath of the party’s attack on Elanor Yanette, another archway opened in the hallway, seemingly opened by a man sitting above the arena’s audience in an opulent throne. Following the hidden stairs to a room below, they met with him—Lord Kulp, Master of the Games in the Grand Casino.

Citing an innate ability to control the stonework of the building (apparently common to all landowners in Nalaam) and a strong dislike of slavers, he freely offered to safely send the rescued Isobel Travers to a safe place of her choosing. In the end, she decided to go to Risur, interested in meeting a woman she’d heard of known largely as Gale. Andrei Von Recklinghausen decided to act as bodyguard during the journey, and likely planned to stay in Flint for a while afterwards.

Though the party couldn’t directly reveal their connection to Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen, as it would violate their cover stories, Simon Beckman III slyly dropped the name, suggesting that he’d heard of the doctor by reputation. Andrei was surprised to hear his father’s name, but brushed it off. All he would say on the matter was that he and Wolfgang had “a falling out,” and they no longer were in contact with each other.

The constables made their way back to the rail enclave in two groups, while Isobel and Andrei were spirited away by unknown means.

Winter 15 – Day 5 of 6 on the train.

The constables continued their tried-and-true method of chatting up their POI’s while doing their level best not to become suspicious themselves. Bree received an offer from Joliet Dubois to become her replacement bodyguard (Calius had been fired) once the train hit Vendricce, and she accepted, though Kida sensed it was not sincere; the woman was merely trying to placate her.

Boone actively sought out both Beckman and Dubois, hyping them up with an exciting new opportunity to go treasure hunting out in the Malice Lands. Both agreed to at least hear him out, and would meet with him in the lounge car around 5pm.

Verzubak Tantalovich won a killing at the casinos last night, and so drank his fill.

Calius approached Ottavia Sacredote and Luc Jierre under the pretense that since he’d been fired, he’d need a new charge to protect as a professional bodyguard. She rather rudely rebuffed him.

Around 5pm, the party (minus Calius) met with Boone, who outlined the barest framework of his idea before something very strange indeed interrupted them. The nearby lanterns lighting the train in the evening hours suddenly flickered red, then deepened to purple flame, and the sound of the rain hitting the windows fell to silence. The scenery and sky outside was replaced by a wall of gloom.

It took them a bit to realize it, but the constables had been pulled somewhere between the Bleak Gate and Nem, the plane of ruin. Or at least, their souls had. And the ghost train that they were now riding on was rapidly pulling them away from the point where they died, hastening the deadline by which they could never return to the land of the living. Traveling at nearly 60 mph, it would only take about three minutes for them to be pulled from the world forever.

Calius discovered the bodies of the constables (as well as Boone, the barkeep, and the piano player), and a strange sigil drawn on the outside of the caboose door. Having just seen Luc Jierre and Ottavia leaving the scene, he knew they had to be responsible, and immediately knocked on their door. When they refused to let him in, he broke the door down, only to see Ottavia glancing behind her before jumping off the train.

Hardly afraid of deadly high-speed impacts, Calius followed.

Back in Nem, Boone ran screaming from the room as four ghostly women began to chase him. Putting the pieces together later, it would become obvious that Boone was behind the grisly murders in each of the towns they’d hit, and the poor women’s souls had somehow bonded to his weapon, but were only visible here in the land of the dead. Panicking, he turned on the party after a few moments’ deliberation, but was quickly slain by Joliet.

Qiyet followed a hunch and ran up toward the front of the train, looking for anyone else. She found no people, only spectres that aimed to devour her life force. She bulldozed through them, hardly pausing, even vaulting up to the roof to reduce the impediments to her speed. Spying a strange purple light emanating from the engine car, she sprinted towards it. Dodging a dozen and a half opponents, she finally made it, shattering a lantern-like device and returning herself and her coworkers to the material realm.

A mile or three outside Vendricce, Talon confronted Ottavia, but became paralyzed when she began to telepathically preach to him. Reproaching him for his brash ways, she claimed she would never allow her charge, Luc, to come to harm, as he would achieve an important goal by reaching Vendricce safely. After carrying on for long enough to recover from her fall, she attempted to simply outrun her pursuer, using her elven speed to quickly distance herself, and then lose him in the woods.

Gale’s messenger wind was used to re-establish contact between Talon and the other party members. Kida and Qiyet made haste to catch up to him, and together they followed Ottavia’s tracks. The three of them proved to be rather abysmal at sneaking up on her once they’d found the oracle, but it didn’t matter; she was after all, deaf. She attempted to stun them all with a sermon again, but Brug would not be kept still, and shook off the effect after mere seconds.

The three constables captured her and brought her to their ship (which had already docked in the train’s penultimate stop; Sid Minos) for safekeeping, instructing the crew to interact with her as little as humanly possible, save for keeping her fed and very very drunk.

Beckman spotted Luc getting off the train… apparently he hadn’t jumped out with Ottavia, but rather hid in his suite’s bathroom until the ruckus was over. Instructing Hugo to protect the group’s luggage, he headed the tiefling off and booked it to the lighthouse on the harbor of Sid Minos… but Luc never showed up.

Once the party reunited, Xambria Meredith (still a disembodied presence in Hugo’s mind) claimed she might know where Luc had headed: the abandoned lighthouse on the isle of Odiem, a rocky spur a half mile or so from the shore. Beckman went first, donning Hugo’s shoes of water walking, but when he did not return, the other four constables took a rowboat out to find him.

As the sun set, the island became overrun with drowned corpses, their briny decomposing forms shambling up from the shores and creeping farther inland. The rowboat was nearly pulled under, but a combination of sustained firepower and raw muscle carried them to the beach and beyond. With the dead closing in on all sides, there wasn’t much choice but to head to the lighthouse… where Verzubak of all people was waiting for them.

He calmly explained that he’d traveled here in the hopes that he’d be followed. Ottavia had been paranoid about Beckman and Joliet, and so was trying to either kill them or delay them enough that they’d never reach Vendricce until well after Luc had arrived. He was under no delusion that he could best the five of them in combat by himself, however, and was content to wait with them until dawn when the zombies would stagger back into the sea and they could try to salvage the rowboats or swim to shore together.

With nothing else to do, the party decided to explore the passageways underneath the lighthouse, which Xambria knew to be the entrance to the Crypta Hereticarum. Also known as the Vault of Heresies, it was a Clergy storage facility keeping all manner of evil artifacts from causing pain and destruction in the world, and likely held great historical significance… the archaeologist could hardly contain her excitement at the opportunity.

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The Decadent Playground
The train stops in Nalaam, the world's foremost exporter of vice.

Winter 14 – Day 4 of 6 on the train.

The rumors of murders taking place in each city along the train’s route continued with Sherman Muck’s new report on the matter. Even so, the party had little time to look into the matter, focusing their energies on the persons of interest, watching for clues of their secret affairs, or signs of their possible membership in the Obscurati.

Hearing of Brug’s encounter with the strange hobo, Joliet made a point of making her way up to the cargo cars shortly after the train departed at 7:30. Putting on a suitable mien of haughty stubbornness, she demanded to be let through, despite access to the freight being expressly forbidden to passengers while the train was in motion. Though she came to a fair amount of friction with Malia Baccarin, she eventually was forced to admit defeat and instead use sheer acrobatic ability to navigate along the outside of the train.

Once she’d found him hiding in a crate, she agreed to meet up with him in Nalaam to execute a plan to free Isobel from the clutches of Elanor, though the specifics would obviously have to wait until they got their bearings in the mountain city. He bowed his head deferentially and thanked her, unaware that Kida’s true identity was neither eladrin nor noble.

Killing time while the train rolled along, the constables found themselves on the receiving end of an unexpected and suspicious treat: a server brought a bottle of wine and a tray of fine cheeses to their suite, courtesy of Ottavia Sacredote. Immediately on guard, the constables hesitated to even let the man inside to drop off the gift. Once it was with them, they debated how best to deal with the potentially-poisoned meal. They could sense no sort of magic on it, however.

Lacking the proper tools (or guinea pigs) to test the food for poison, an elaborate plan was concocted to see if there was some dire alchemical reaction that might occur from mixing the cheese and wine. Hugo used his psionic ability (granted through his mind-merge with Xambria) to levitate a filled wine glass outside the train window, while a piece of cheese was thrown into the beverage from a dubiously safe distance.

No effect.

At length, though the constables could find no overt evidence that the food had been altered with ill intent, they feared what the wary Ottavia might have attempted against them in her paranoid defense of Luc Jierre. Bottle, tray, and all were thrown out the window.

Deprived of free alcohol, Calius made his way to the common meal car and spent some of his stipend on entirely too many drinks, which immediately soured his relationship with his employer, Joliet (a convenient ploy to let the constables be a little more spread out along the train without arousing suspicion). While imbibing, however, he got the chance to hobnob a bit with Verzubak Tantalovich. Inquiring about the dwarf’s tendency to roll his two six-sided dice, the bodyguard asked, “So what number will these roll?”

“What number do you want them to roll?” Verzubak asked with an intrigued smile, handing them over to Calius.

“One and five.” The dice fell from his hand, unerringly toppling onto the named sides as naturally as could be.

Verzubak looked pleased and scooped his dice back up, further solidifying his reputation among the party as a Logos—a sort of psionic-powered philosopher with the limited power to narrate reality around him.

Just before hitting Nalaam, Olivert Boone went out of his way to speak with Joliet, mentioning the possibility of embarking on a joint expedition once the train reached its destination in Vendricce. Likely he’d been tempted by the sight of a woman both beautiful and able to handle a firearm, as he’d seen during the robbery yesterday.

Finally the train hit Nalaam at 5:57 pm, the glittering, opulent city with all its sculpted stone structures loomed over them. Elanor went forth with a will, meeting a small cadre of lawmages at her hotel suite and having them escort her to the Grand Casino. Joliet, Oscar, and Simon (all in new disguises so as not to even be recognized as their covers, let alone their true selves) teamed up with Mr. Mapple, following their quarry from a distance and hoping she’d split up from the mages soon enough.

It wasn’t until they’d made their way into the rooftop arena that they’d finally caught up to Elanor again, now secured in a room with three influential buyers:

  • Nikola, a human necromancer from Drakr.
  • Father Balthazar, the Clergy’s highest priest in Nalaam.
  • Jaime the Weevil, a corrupt druid from Risur.

All three looked to be talented mages in their own right, but Mapple judged the risk to be acceptable, and forced his allies hands by starting the brawl, leaping into their suite rather than let Isobel be sold to one of their lecherous appetites.

Without Calius and Qiyet to back them up, it was a difficult fight, though Mapple proved himself extremely resilient to attack. Balthazar and Jaime rained deadly radiant prayers and hails of wasps upon him, but his body seemed to regenerate from any wound quite rapidly, not unlike a troll. It certainly would explain why he felt such pain at the bandit-leader’s use of fire magic the day before.

Jaime was almost taken out by a slew of attacks until Balthazar healed him with divine magic. For this, Mapple threw him off the balcony, where the Arena’s famed Pyrecat waited to impale him on the giant hook attached to its leg. Kida delievered the killing blow to Elanor, ending her annoying volley of charm spells.

Meanwhile, Calius and Brug accompanied Damata Griento to a nearby part of town, inside the smithy of one Azon the Stoneforger. A family contact by the name of Sylvester Fomazelli awaited him there, along with ten mace-wielding thugs. He threatened the businessman, gleefully informing him that his children would work in the city’s mines until the day they died. Either bravely or foolishly, Damata informed them he’d rather die than be owned by the Family, and so a bloody battle began.

Sylvester proved quite slippery, turning himself and all his cronies invisible as soon as hostilities began. Qiyet’s axes and Calius’ shield did the majority of the work, though Damata proved himself useful in at least one aspect of combat: inspiring his allies to greater heights of focused anger. The Family was no match.

Quickly, the Beran constables made their way to the Arena, guessing that they’d be needed as soon as they could rejoin their companions. The pair were just in time to intercept Jaime on his way out the door, but not before he’d covered poor Simon in fleas.

Outnumbered, Nikola sputtered for mercy as the hobo grabbed him by the neck and held him aloft over the edge of the balcony, where the Pyrecat still paced hungrily below.

“Who are you…? WHAT are you…!?” the bald man choked, his vitality seeming to drain out of his body the longer Mapple touched him.

“I am Andrei Von Recklinghausen!” shouted the white-haired hobo, before dropping the evil mage to his doom.

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Train Robbery!
Bandits rob the train as a monster strikes.

Winter 13 – Day 3 of 6 on the train.

The day started out normally enough as Malia Baccarin took many of the first- and second-class passengers atop the caboose for another Malice Land Safari. A few solitary creatures were spotted during the morning’s ride, making for an entertaining few hours of leisurely shooting and abundant refreshments. Simon Beckman (Templeton) was adventurous enough to stand while he fired.

Suddenly, the train slammed on the brakes, sending poor Beckman over the side of the train (tumbler of scotch still in hand, with not a drop spilled). The cause soon became apparent, as from the swamps to one side of the train emerged a massive five-headed monstrosity. Its form was similar to a hydra, but it attacked by purposefully shedding its own heads, which then split into four spawn apiece.

Wary of using their magic in the Malice Lands, Joliet and Oscar (Kida and Hugo) stayed put, firing rifled weapons from long-range while Brug (Qiyet) charged into a thicket of monsters, felling them by the handful as they tried to skirt by her/him toward other meals. Beckman hustled back to the train, making good use of his boarding boots. Calius (Talon) slept peacefully in his bunk.

Meanwhile, a half-dozen or so bandits lead by a man named Rodinn rode up to the front of the train on bird-like steeds. After they killed two guards, the conductor surrendered, and the bandits moved onto the cargo cars. As they started unloading valuables into their saddlebags, the train’s unusual hobo was disturbed from his nap. He moved to confront their leader, but was repelled by a volley of well-aimed fire bolts, which seemed to disable his preternatural healing ability. Screaming, the hobo fled from Rodinn, only to be caught in the line of fire of a few advancing train guards. Weakened and outnumbered, he dove into another cargo car and hid for the remainder of the fight.

Calius woke from his nap, hurriedly joining Brug as she advanced toward the front of the train. Mr. Hengehill and a half-dozen or so train guards had set up formation just behind the midway-point of the train, and helped to finally drive away the screaming malice-beast, after it had been significantly softened up by Brug. Once it had fled, Joliet’s bodyguards confronted Rodinn, who began jeering at them in rhymes, and unleashed a strange spell that transformed Calius’ battleaxe into a stack of capital tax papers (thankfully, a temporary effect).

Since the blockade of boulders that had caused the conductor to stop the train in the first place was merely an illusion set by Rodinn, the train was able to continue on after putting the bandits in restraints. All in all, the train was less than an hour late… but that was still enough for the engine to be met in Trekhom by a group of concerned soldiers with lots of questions for the crew and passengers.

Calius decided to follow Mr. Griento, who muttered to himself and generally looked rather pale as he went to the scheduled presentation with Vlendam Heid at the local theater. The two were the only audience members from the train that night, sharing the aisles with a studious group of philosophy majors in the back.

Vlendam broke from his prepared speech, launching instead into an honest discussion with Calius and Damata about the tragedies of the day, how they relate to Eschatologist beliefs, and in particular how Damata could best move forward with his life now that he was facing its possible end…

Many of the details didn’t come out until after the show; apparently Damata was heavily indebted to the family after being suckered by a con artist posing as a train magnate. In talking with Vlendam, however, he realized he’d rather have a noble end to his life than a cowardly continuance under the syndicate’s heel. He asked Calius to come with him in Nalaam to formally refuse the Family’s demands that he hand over his family’s heirloom magic items.

Joliet followed Elanor, who met with a dwarf in the basement of the Korol Morya, an inn near the Trekhom docks. With clever eavesdropping, she was able to pick up a conversation between them, though the dwarf’s voice seemed to lapse into differing accents: a brusque Drakran, a charming Crisillyiri, and a smarmy Risuri. Elanor responded as if addressing a group, assuring them that she would “deliver the goods unmarred—I haven’t had to beat her once, yet.” They agreed to meet at “the Tower” in Nalaam, which Hugo suspected might refer to the Grand Casino.

They also asked her about “prospective fodder for the arena,” to which Elanor answered that there were plenty of good fighters on the train, but none of them easy to abduct.

“Besides,” she added, “I can’t very well go around kidnapping wealthy travelers. Some of them might be clients of mine, someday!”

As Joliet moved to the rooftops, watching for Elanor’s departure, Simon Beckman and his batman arrived, keeping tabs on Luc and Ottavia. As chance would have it, they arrived at the very same inn, along with Verzubak and Boone. Oscar managed to “overhear” the sign language conversation that night once again, in which Luc mentioned pulling a few strings to “get them all set up,” even though “it was kind of an extreme measure.” Ottavia reassured him it would be worth it.

Afterwards, the two of them left, and were followed to Trekhom’s lighthouse where they met with an important-looking dwarf, whose address was noted for future investigation.

As Elanor left the inn, she was struck (non-fatally) by a shuriken of unknown origin.

Qiyet chose to shadow Mr. Hengehill, who went straight to his hotel room after leaving the train, changed into innocuous clothing, and then rented a room in the cheap hotel, carrying a duffel instead of a suitcase. After midnight, he left the cheap hotel for the railyard.

In a dilapidated warehouse, Cardiff met up with a fat old dwarf and a dozen or so thugs armed with maces. They exchanged a few cautious formalities, then exchanged bags. Hengehill walked away with a sack full of gems and platinum coins, while the dwarf received the man’s briefcase, apparently full of Danoran military intel.

Qiyet, seeing no reason to jeopardize her own mission over this spy, quietly left. On her way back, she was stopped by the hobo, who finally introduced himself as Mr. Mapple. He’d hoped to find a kindred spirit in Brug, but he/she rebuffed the man, almost flat-out telling him that Isobel’s situation was of no concern.

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Into the Malice Lands
The train coasts for safari-time before it reaches Orithea.

Winter 12 – Day 2 of 6 on the train.

The train left Cherage promptly at 7:30 am, but not before a few new passengers arrived:

Cardiff Hengehill. a Risuri man with a briefcase tied to his wrist, his first act upon boarding was to accost Malia for some unknown information.

Luc and Ottavia. A stuttering tiefling man and a sternly beautiful elf woman adorned with geometric tattoos (marking her an oracle of the Clergy). Both dressed in high fashion, and conversed with each other in a strange sign-language that no one in the party had ever encountered.

The day’s train ride was mostly uneventful until 4:51 pm, when the locomotive crossed over into the Malice Lands, stopping at a hilltop fort on the border. A boisterous band started up as numerous soldiers departed the train, likely to lift their spirits—in this chaotic region, even negative emotions can create frightening magical effects if left unchecked. Malia made the rounds through each of the cars, reminding passengers to please refrain from practicing magical talents or activating enchanted devices, as they could cause unforeseen mishaps.

Not long after crossing, it was time for the “safari,” which consisted of gathering interested individuals on the roof of the caboose and arming them with rifles to shoot at passing monsters.

Bree, Boone, Cardiff, Damata (with his daughter Dabo) were present at the event, along with Malia, four train guards, and most of the party—Calius (Talon) stayed behind in Joliet’s (Kida’s) room to watch over her luggage.

Only about a half-hour could be spared before the train arrived, but in that time Simon Beckman III (Templeton) proved himself the most capable shooter of the group, while Dabo shot quite well for a girl her age. All the ruckus woke up the hobo from the night before, who had apparently stowed away on the train. This stirred up an argument between Malia and Brug (Qiyet) later about the woman’s qualifications to run the security of the train.

A small incident occurred at the end though, with a fractal-legged spider making a prodigious leap onto the side of the train car. Damata cried out in shock and dropped his rifle off the side; Brug stepped in to make short work of the monster before it could harm anyone.

Orithea was a city filled with curved architecture and wondrous sunsets, the light seeming to bend and shift colors in a way that was possible nowhere else in the world… but the party had no time to sightsee.

Qiyet and Kida decided to investigate Elanor and her mysterious veiled accomplice, hoping to discover whether she was simply a slaver or if she had Ob connections as well. Staying out of her sight was easy enough, but the two constables almost missed the fact that they weren’t the only ones tailing her! The hobo was spotted as Elanor emerged from a shady potion shop in the Night Market, having purchased a few concoctions with mind-controlling properties. Before he could step into the street and intercept the pair, Qiyet dashed out from hiding, weapons drawn.

The skirmish sent citizens running in every direction, Elanor included. Taking the veiled figure by the hand, she barked, “Come ”/characters/isobel" class=“wiki-content-link”>Isobel! We’re leaving." Kida followed her for a time, hoping to gain more information, but she only fled back to the rail enclave, to the safety of her hotel room. Qiyet was left to fend for herself against a surprisingly strong and agile opponent: after a few rounds of trading blows, it was clear that he had no formal combat training, just immense physical ability. More unsettling was how each wound she inflicted on him started to seal up in seconds, not unlike a troll’s regenerative powers.

Switching to more diplomatic tactics, the hobo was seen to be eager to cease hostilities. He claimed he had no quarrel with the half-orc, he merely “hated to watch people in cages.” Inquiries from that point failed to get the man to admit just what was so odd about him, though it did show him to be a surprisingly unworldly individual, lacking basic knowledge of geography and other topics.

They parted peacefully—it was doubtful that the hobo was an Obscurati member, but he was certainly odd.


Beckman and Oscar headed to the Effervescent Cup, the fanciest drinking establishment in the enclave. Much like the night before, they saw most of the train’s POI’s there, including Bree, Boone, Verzubak, Luc & Ottavia. Templeton focused their investigation on the newcomers, engaging Luc in talk of his work as an arcanoscientist and travels. Ottavia never attempted to truly join the conversation, but consistently exchanged stern looks with her compatriot while signing him messages with both hands.

While Calius (Talon) ingratiated himself with Bree (though it seemed like she was pressing just as much information out of him), Hugo excused himself to the restroom, correctly assuming that a casting of the comprehend languages ritual would allow him to interpret the hand gestures. He then telepathically relayed each exchange to Templeton through his handy command circlet. Ottavia’s messages were mostly warnings to Luc about how foolish it was to get so chummy with total strangers, along with the admonition: “You’ve lived a sheltered life, Luc Jierre.”

The appearance of a member of the Jierre family was too suspicious to ignore, so Templeton followed the pair after they left the bar, sending Hugo to fetch the others. Leaping across rooftops, the warlord kept up with his quarry all the way to the docks, benefiting from Ottavia’s complete deafness in lieu of stealth training. A conveniently-timed collapse of boxes barred his path, but his boarding boots provided an easy method to find a detour.

From a high vantage point, he could see their carriage turn onto a narrow peninsula, heading toward the city’s lighthouse. He sent off another message to his party, and approached this unusual destination.

At exactly 10:14 pm, something strange happened. All the seawater in a wide radius around the lighthouse blazed with fire for a brief moment, while fires all around the city (mostly streetlamps) extinguished themselves and became soaked with water… saltwater, as Hugo observed. Had the fire and seawater swapped places somehow?

The night’s revelations ended with observing who left the lighthouse after the incident: Luc and Ottavia were expected of course, but Bree exited also, as well as a man that the constables had never seen before (they obtained his address, hoping to run his records once back in Flint).

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Chapter 4, Always on Time.
The Avery Coast Line may be carrying Ob members.

OOC note: Talon’s player was absent for this session.

Gathered in secret on the constables’ ship, Stover Delft outlined his plan to infiltrate the train that the late Caius Bergeron had planned to take. The team would adopt cover identities to obscure any suspicion from them as they kept an eye out for members of the Obscurati, a mysterious group of conspirators with designs in Flint, and likely with global connections.

The party would have about seven weeks to prepare for the trip. In that time, they had to continue their normal jobs, tying up loose ends from old cases. They would leave for Beaumont (in Danor) on the 85th of Autumn, but as far as their coworkers would be concerned, they’d simply be setting out for Ber to check on the status of the Mavisha ruin.

Once in Beaumont, they’d have about a week to pass until the train left. The ship they’d arrived on would follow them from port to port along the Avery Coast route, and pick them up at the end of the line, in Vendricce (Crisillyir). Along the way, Delft advised them to keep their heads down and their eyes open. This was not a mission focused on taking down the Obscurati, but merely to learn more about them: their membership, their goals, etc.

The team launched into the prepwork with gusto. Between actual busy-work and stealthy conduct, they were able to keep their true motives hidden from even their allies. Meanwhile, documents were forged, accents and mannerisms were rehearsed, and contingencies were set into place. The constables also discovered one of the RHC secretaries was keeping tabs on them, forwarding their activities to a local reporter… whose knowledge could very well wind up in the Ob’s hands further down the line. Not wanting to take any chances, they had Hugo weave an intimidating spell into his words, warning her to drop the snitching.

The results of their hard work: five cover identities which made them look important enough for people to listen to them, but far enough removed from law enforcement to not scare away low-lifes. In addition, they set a handful of backup plans:

Cover Identities.

  • Templeton – Simon Beckman, III. A haughty human from Risur, and veteran of the Yerasol War. Boastful, but secretly ashamed of himself.
  • Hugo – Oscar. Simon’s former batman and now valet/manservant. Skilled with firearms, being a former military member, but also has taken it upon himself to learn the arcane arts.
  • Kida – Joliet Dubois. An high-class eladrin lady from Danor, who drapes herself in gold as a show of her wealth and to distance herself from her heritage.
  • Qiyet – Brug. Gender-ambiguous half-orc bodyguard of Joliet.
  • Talon – Calius. Not-so-gender-ambiguous bodyguard of Joliet.

Contingencies.

  • Qiyet has spent time learning about the train’s controls and functions, and can now operate the engine car or other mechanisms of the train as need be (Hugo already knew how to do all this).
  • Two one-way teleportation trips, either into or out of Vendricce, thanks to contacting a ritual mage from that city.
  • A newbie RHC agent to ride the train in Coach class, under the assumed name “Sherman Horatio Muck.”

Autumn 89.
Four days into their naval voyage to Danor, Qiyet (acting as the ship’s lookout on board the Khalundurrin) spots a mysterious steam cloud following them, seeming to arise from nothing. Even a spyglass couldn’t see a ship on the horizon, and Hugo was unable to detect any magic that might be concealing an entire vessel.

Acting on suspicion, the constables decided it would be best to throw Qiyet overboard. No, really. Secured by a line of rope, she put her eyesight to underwater use, and spotted a strange submersible craft on their tail, gliding a full 30 feet below the water level.

Templeton gave the order for a hard about, and in little time at all they had found themselves upon their mysterious tail. The craft came up, and the solid iron deck was boarded by the constables. A hatch came open, and Templeton fired off a shot at the man who emerged. Ducking back down into the craft, he yelled for the crew still down below to “turn it on.” The deck became charged with electricity for a few seconds, but when this failed to defeat the enemy, more marines came pouring out of the hatch, accompanied by an aged man who turned the sea spray around him into tiny ice crystals, simply by drawing near.

Rather than test themselves against this new enemy, Kida had the idea to actually try a more diplomatic approach, calling for a temporary ceasefire while they figured out what country the flagless craft hailed from.

The aged captain claimed that his ship was Danoran, and assigned to patrol Axis Island… which the constables had taken care to avoid. He rolled his eyes and said that the garrison there was constantly observing the results of divination spells and sending him and his men off to wild goose chases, spying on ships that were simply passing through.

Satisfied, the two sides agreed to part peacefully.

Winter 11 – Day 1 of 6 on the train.
Ten days after arriving in Beaumont, the constables arrived at the train station in two groups, decked out in their new disguises. They made the acquaintance of Xorin Marchand, the conductor, who personally ushered them to their first-class rooms.

Crowds of people boarded onto second class and coach as well, but only two individuals seemed noteworthy at the time. First was Brianne Kaldeckis, or “Bree,” a somewhat grumpy and mannish-looking lady with a prominent scar on her upper right arm. Second was a dapper half-orc by the name of Damata Griento, who brought his wife and two children onto the train with him.

Almost as eye-catching as a half-orc in Danor was the head of security for the rear part of the train, Malia Baccarin, who offered the opportunity for a “Malice Land Safari” to both Brug and Beckman, though only Beckman accepted.

The train was quickly underway, roaring along at a speed of sixty miles per hour, a velocity that even magic found hard to match in most cases. Brief stops were scheduled for several small towns along the way, though the train wouldn’t be parking and refueling until reaching Cherage that night. At one such minor stop, Keskay, three more persons of interest boarded.

First class saw the two more curious individuals: a tiefling by the name of Olivert Boone, and the obese Elanor Yanette. Elanor was particularly conspicuous for pulling along a figure shrouded in black veils, the two of them linked together by a pair of golden bracelets with a thin chain between them. The constables immediately assumed she was a slave trader, and the veiled person some poor eladrin woman being taken to some new owner.

Almost unnoticed by comparison was a bleary-eyed dwarf, Verzubak Tantalovich. Boarding onto second class, he seemed to cause a small incident, subtly bumping into a man already seated by the aisle, who promptly choked on a nut and died. His body was taken off the train, and while the constables would certainly have loved to examine the corpse for clues, it wasn’t worth compromising the mission. Their train had a schedule to keep, and it was bound for Cherage with or without them.

The hours passed with Beckman getting to know both Boone and Bree, finding the former to be a ladies’ man who made his living by ruin-delving in the Malice Lands, and the latter to be a Danoran veteran of the last Yerasol War. While she was cold to his approach at first, they connected over sharing their experiences of the conflict, and she revealed that her limbs were replaced long after her injury, by none other than Wolfgang Von Recklinghausen!

By contrast, Joliet remained in her suite for much of the journey, only venturing outward to strike up an idle conversation with Elanor. Behind her cover, Kida probably knew she’d get little out of the haughty woman, but couldn’t seem to resist using her eladrin guise to make Elanor uncomfortable; and at any rate it reinforced the elf’s suspicions about the identity of that veiled associate.

As the train pulled into Cherage’s rail enclave for the night, Elanor was overheard negotiating with a guardsman to gain a pass into the city proper, normally impossible due to the city’s curfews. Whether due to sheer influence of wealth or some unknown connection, she was granted her request, though forced to wait while a document proving her permission to travel outside the enclave’s gate was brought to her. Joliet attempted to pickpocket the document as it came back through, but had to pull back at the last second to avoid arousing suspicion. She fumed as Elanor left, wondering if she had been lacking in her vigilance as a Mystic: would she ever see that veiled slave again?

Using Hugo’s telepathic enhancement, the constables worked out a plan to follow some of the persons of interest. Kida used her disguise’s exotic beauty to easily gain Boone’s attention, while Templeton exploited his connection to Bree to accompany her in gentlemanly fashion.

Interestingly, both ended up at the same bar, though to be fair, L’Wabe du Fonne was easily the fanciest such establishment in the enclave. Even Verzubak arrived there without a tail, starting up a game of chance with a few other passengers (a curious sight; Beckman had seen him in the lobby of the hotel nearby just before setting out with Bree… the dwarf had been rolling two six-sided dice over and over, recording the results in a notebook).

While the constables certainly managed to socialize and establish their covers, little important information was gleaned that night. As Verzubak won a large pot at the end of the night, he raised a toast to the bar and trundled off, content. Bree bid Beckman goodnight, and Boone left in the company of a totally different woman, seemingly ignoring Joliet.

On the way back to the hotel, Beckman had a very unusual encounter. A white-haired man in a long coat ran barefoot into the street, chased by two guards, shouting for him to stop. Being a man man of rules and order, Beckman tried to trip the runner, only to watch him vault casually over the attempt, his coat flying up in such a way as to explicitly reveal he wore absolutely nothing underneath.

Disgusted and offended, Beckman drew his weapon, aiming for a wounding shot… but the man dodged with uncommon deftness, leapt off a bridge onto a parked train car, rolled to the ground on the far side, and was gone. The panting guards he’d left in his dust were baffled; they’d thought him just another vagrant, and were chasing him away from the hotel where he’d managed to sneak into the empty mayoral suite on the top floor.

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