Zeitgeist

Madness in the RHC
The RHC office is attacked!

Tyler Starke was turned over to the police, raving at Kida ve Alema that the “stag” would take his side. Kida seemed pleased with the turn of events, as did Kvarti Gorbatiy, who claimed that he was first hired by the man to assassinate Rock Rackus. The dwarven assassin had a change of heart though; having an eschatologist’s bias, he decided that the docker celebrity was ultimately harmless, and was undeserving of such a sudden end.

Eager to scout recruits for an all-star RHC Team 2 roster, Kvarti was invited back to headquarters for questioning and coffee. Hugo Von Gearkinson took an interest in the carved message in the dwarf’s weapon, but otherwise contented himself with going back to work on Alexander Grappa’s body.

Safely locked away in a mage cell, Xambria Meredith spilled all the details she could about Sijhen’s memories, as well as knowledge it had taken as a result of devouring the brain of Caius Bergeron. She was rambling, but the basics of her intel were as follows:

  • Sijhen had been locked away behind the seal of the Apet ziggurat for thousands of years. Her team’s tampering accidentally unleashed it.
  • Reed Macbannin and Caius Bergeron worked for a shadowy organization called the Obscurati, which is interested in learning more about the Ancients and their planar seals. Neither man was in charge of the group, though, and Caius had a spell put on him that prevented even Sijhen from learning who he reported to. Later in the conversation, she also revealed that the head of the party’s office, Margaret Saxby, was also an Ob agent.
  • Sijhen wanted to return home, but something always seemed to prevent him from establishing a successful portal. But he seemed to figure out what had gone wrong, and was on track to opening a door to Gidim, his homeworld. It was opening tonight. When asked where it was, she only said it was “down and sideways.”

When this information was brought to Stover Delft (the constables decided not to mention Saxby’s involvement just yet), the Assistant Chief Inspector pulled out a city map, marked with the routes of the under-construction subrail line. Some of the zoning paperwork had passed through his hands some time ago, and sure enough, one of the tunnels currently being dug was less than fifty feet from the RHC’s basement.

The constables hurried to the nearest access point, and followed the tracks to the end of the tunnel. Several lanterns had been appropriated from the walls; now glowing with silvery light, they’d been arranged in a semicircle around a two-ton golden seal, likely the one from the Apet ziggurat that had been replaced with a fake. Hugo and his simulacrum, SNARE, ventured forward to use his new spell, Gold of Urim, to deactivate the lanterns that were now obviously some kind of ritualistic foci. The spell worked, but there was an unforeseen consequence. In Hugo’s pocket sat the Golden Icon of Apet, which he’d originally gotten from Xambria – it seemed to activate the ritual, which until now had been unable to function.

Sijhen never wanted the three relics taken from the ziggurat. He had only come to the Gala to allow himself to be kidnapped, to be closer to the things he needed to complete a ritual to return home. He’d planned it all, even using the constables as unwitting pawns!

Spacial mana flowed outward all directions, turning the world translucent, then to ghostly transparency. The constables could see through walls, streets, ceilings. They looked back through the rock to see their headquarters being invaded by a half-dozen killers from the Bleak Gate (later found to be Lorcan Kell’s men, suggesting he was part of the Ob as well), as well as Xambria simply walking out of her cell. To make matters worse, a worm maw and several smaller Gidim appeared, instantly turning their attention to the helpless RHC staff.

Reeling from disorientation, the constables scrambled to return order to their home office, navigating several different threats, including the escape of all the prisoners in the RHC’s cells! Luckily several members of Team 3 were on the scene to help, along with Kvarti. Saxby also waded into battle against the Kell-guild killers, but made escape her priority. Talon Silverhawk almost prevented her escape, but without backup, or hard evidence to prove her betrayal, he had to let her go.

While reality continued to phase in and out, Xambria was brought down thanks to a team effort by Qiyet Outrunner and Serena Fynes. One floor below,Alain Templeton and Carlao Langford held a hallway against a small group of Kell’s killers.

Stover Delft completely lost his cool, the formless monstrosities forcing him to have flashbacks to the mimic that tore a chunk out of his leg all those years ago. He shot Kida with his pistol, then drew his sword on Qiyet – but the martial scientist brought him back with a combination of carefully-worded arguments and a powerful slap to the face.

While most of the team was distracted with the worm maw, Sijhen emerged from Xambria’s unconscious body, pulling the professor’s mind with him in a thoughtform version of herself, leaving her physical body to die. Sensing that the ritual had been stopped by Hugo (who stayed out of the fight this whole time), he phased back through the street to stop the technologist.

Drawing forth his pistol, he unleashed a magic missle at the psionic tendrils binding the Gidim to Xambria, freeing her! Unfortunately, she started fading almost immediately, unable to hold her thoughtform. With no where else to go, she dived into Hugo’s mind, where she still resides to this day.

Alone, Hugo’s psyche was no match for Sijhen’s mind-control power, and he unwillingly handed over the Icon, which Sijhen needed to restart his ritual to return home. Hugo fled, meeting up with his team, and leading them back to the tunnel’s end. Templeton managed the flashiest entrance, borrowing the Experimental Steam Suit from the RHC evidence locker and smashing through the street above.

With nowhere near enough time to open the door to Gidim, Sijhen was soundly outmatched and eventually destroyed, his incorporeal body flickering between states as his corpse curled up on the stone. For once, Hugo didn’t get the killing blow.

Autumn 32
A ceremony was held, in which Nigel Price-Hill awarded Stover Delft with the title of Chief Inspector, and city governor Roland Stanfield personally congratulated Team 1 on their valiant defense of the city. As far as the attack itself, the official story was that a monster got out of an Ancient ruin, came to Flint, and killed people in an attempt to reclaim old relics. Nothing was said of Saxby’s betrayal, or of secret societies, or worlds unknown to even skyseers.

Later in the day, Delft assembled Team 1 in a secret place, urging them to tell him everything they knew. With all the cards on the table, he apologized for his lackluster performance as their supervisor, and vowed to do away with the bureaucratic bullshit stopping the constables from doing their job.

“From now on,” he said, “You five are my anti-Obscurati specialists. I don’t know what they’re up to, but I won’t rest until we take them down! Our first step will be to infiltrate that train Caius mentioned…”

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Gala of the Ancients
A trap is set at a fancy party for the corrupt Professor.

The note was hurriedly scrawled, and crumpled in many places. In it, Xambria claimed that a Gidim named Sijhen had taken possession of her ever since she’d mysteriously survived the incident at the Apet Ziggurat that killed her whole team. She asked Hans to warn the constables that it wanted the three relics, and that it was also interested in something else, known as the Obscurati.

Stover Delft also informed his employees that Xambria’s patron, Caius Bergeron, had been found dead at his hotel, and had likely been killed at least a few days before they’d all left for the seas of Ber. With no clue where Xambria might be hiding now, they went to examine Bergeron.

Not much was missing from his room, though it was clear that he’d somehow gotten his hands on some of the notes from Xambria’s team, though the redheaded professor’s journal was not among them. He also had a map with the location of the Mavisha Ziggurat pinpointed on it. As for cause of death, something had punctured the palette of the man’s mouth, and through that opening, his brain had been completely removed.

Most interesting was the ring he wore, a simple golden band with an inscription on the inside: “Old Bergeron Gold.”

Finding no other leads, the scene was left to the RHC cleanup crews, and the constables returned to headquarters. Checking in with Kaja Stewart’s progress on thwarting planar magic, she’d finally come up with the basic outlines for a spell that could cancel teleportation rituals in progress. But she needed another expert in planar magic to give her a hand with final calculations. After asking around, it was determined that Nathan Jierre would most likely be able to help.

Finona wasn’t proving nearly so cooperative. During her interrogation, she brought up the point that she had done nothing illegal; merely studied an underwater site at the behest of her patron, and defended herself when a group of armed individuals stormed into her camp without identifying themselves. She was loath to give up her findings about the nature of the Ziggurat and the golden seal it contained, even after learning that her patron was long dead. But she did give up her ring, hoping it might shed some light on what Caius was up to (though she was quick to point out she had nothing to do with any criminal dealings of his). Her ring was also a simple golden band, inscribed on the inside with “Original Brave Ideas.”

Autumn 25

Before they could continue with their work, Margaret Saxby called the party into her office to discuss the results of their audit. Nigel Price-Hill was there as well, and the pair cheefully informed them that agents from Slate had been keeping an eye on them for the past month or two, even before the audit was announced (so it was lucky that no one had contacted Morgan Cippiano during that time).

A few minor issues were discussed, such as the fact that Talon Silverhawk hadn’t spent enough of his stipend, and that Hugo Von Gearkinson was rumored to be friends with a drug dealer (but there seemed to be little evidence of it). More concerning was Alain Templeton’s brutal execution of Cillian Creed, and Qiyet Outrunner’s slaying of Asrabey Varal. For Templeton, she seemed to think he was at risk for demotion, or even getting fired. For Qiyet, she had taken the initiative to ask the king himself what action should be taken, and the response came back that Constable Outrunner would personally be responsible for Kelland’s Tribute to the fey, next time it was invoked.

Seeking better news, the constables checked in on Nathan and Kaja, the former of whom had the idea to fuel the magic with earth mana, creating the spell Gold of Urim.

The day finished with a cursory casting of Detect Planar Energy to try to locate Xambria. Unexpectedly, a trail was found leading to the back wall surrounding Chief Inspectress Saxby’s manor home. Wisely, the party put this information in their pocket and brought it to the attention of no one.

Autumn 26-27

With no way to track her down, Delft approved a (admittedly reckless) plan to ensnare Xambria. Hans Weber had been lobbying for some time to have the three relics on display during his museums Gala on the 31st, so Delft planned to give them to him, transporting the weapons under heavy guard to the much less strictly defended museum, where Sijhen/Xambria was certain to strike. Qiyet worked tirelessly on an evacuation plan, hoping to minimize civilian casualties.

Autumn 28

Constable Von Gearkinson, after acquiring a False Blood Amulet, turned his body into a fusion of man and machine, allowing him to install construct-like components into himself. With a command circlet drilled into his skull, he telepathically contacted the brain of the golem he’d been trying to repair, who identified itself as Alexander Grappa (see character page for the results of that conversation).

Autumn 31

As expected, Xambria crashed the party, clad in black leather armor and wielding her archaeologist’s pickaxe like a weapon. With a small force of Gidim creatures in tow, she set her sights on the relics, but only managed to retrieve one of them from their glass cases before she was set upon and defeated.

During the skirmish, most civilians fled to safety, but three acted unexpectedly. Rock Rackus leapt to the party’s aid, while a dwarf that would come to introduce himself as Kvarti Gorbatiy assembled a custom rifle from his briefcase and helped fire upon the monsters as well. In the shadows, Tyler Starke pulled a gun on Rackus, but Hugo redirected his shot before he could shoot the celebrity in the back.

With the exception of Kida being “swallowed” by a gutless maw and knocked unconscious, the party was victorious, clapping the former professor in special magecuffs.

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The Seal of Mavisha
The constables reclaim the ruin, and discover their quarry.

Once the crew of Il Draçon de Mer had been detained, that still left the specialists underwater tending to the dig. Paco of La Inspriación had designed special diving bell lanterns that would create areas of unlimited fresh air at the bottom of the ocean, so the specialists wouldn’t need to surface anytime soon.

The constables briefly considered starving them out, but a quick payoff to a nameless mercenary crewman revealed that there was a druid protecting the team down there, with octopuses and sharks at his command. Finding it likely that he could escape and bring back reinforcements, the constables ultimately decided to take advantage of a Water Breathing ritual and dive down.

The team had two researchers and two bodyguards who were of little threat; the constables were much more threatened by Krantos, the trident-wielding half-orc druid (a local the team had hired on for extra muscle) and Finona Duvall, the head expert at the site, and an arcanist of no small skill. She specialized in teleportation magic, using it in unforseen ways, like displacing a huge cube of water in order to create a momentary vacuum, causing the surrounding ocean to surge in and batter her foes.

Kida and Talon pinned down the tielfing mage, though Talon found himself teleported away from melee several times. Qiyet’s new anti-tentacle technique came in handy against the grabby cephalopods, and Hugo earned the title of “Thunder Stealer” among his co-workers for yet again dropping a named foe with a simple magic missile after they’d been involved in prolonged melee combat.

The diving bell lanterns were used cleverly to put the aquatic foes at a disadvantage, though it didn’t quite work in the favor of the RHC agents when doing so caused Krantos to fall across the magic circle surrounding the seal, breaking the wards. The gold slab toppled over, spilling out several gibbering eel-headed fishmen. Simultaneously, a wave of hydromantic energy flooded outward in all directions, turning many of the now-unconscious researches into pools of blood, though the constables managed to resist it; indeed, some of them (including Finona) managed to synthesize the mana into a healing spell!

Working quickly to prevent a more serious breach, Hugo and Finona re-primed the warding magic around the seal while Krantos and most of the party slaughtered fishmen. Templeton climbed up to the crane, managing to figure out the controls just in time to hoist the seal back into position, blocking away the immense water elemental that was trying to emerge.

Disaster averted, the seas began to calm. Krantos tried to flee again, but was brought down with yet another of Hugo’s magic missiles. After that, he and Finona were loaded onto boats along with the captain of the Crisillyiri ship, to be brought home to Risur for further questioning and processing.

Autumn 18

On the voyage back however, the Dagger was attacked by a group of slime-men whose touch dissolved flesh. Cannon fire and ranged attacks picked them off easily, but left a slimy residue on the water’s surface which the survivors scooped up, adding to their strength. As if that wasn’t enough, a hydra emerged while the ship was mired in goo, snapping viciously at anything that drew near.

But it was all a distraction! After most of the party had left the Audacious, a blue-skinned humanoid phased up through the bottom of the deck, latching onto the restrained Finona’s face, feeding off her thoughts like a Gidim—the constables had found the target that the Voice of Rot had brought to their attention. Focusing fire, they drove it off in a single round, but it disappeared through the side of the Dagger, belowdecks to where Xambria was hiding.

Flinging open the door, they caught one last glimpse of the professor putting the finishing touches on a Linked Portal ritual she must have been prepping for the last several minutes.

Autumn 24
Back in Flint, Stover Delft met Team 1 with a message left to Hans Weber. It appeared to be hurriedly scrawled by Xambria…

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Dragon Slaying
Though not the dragons you're thinking of.

Autumn 10.

Returning from southern Risur by train, the party had a few days to clear their minds of Distant Madness. Being no stranger to emotional trauma due to his stint in the country’s last war, Talon Silverhawk helped talk a few of his companions back toward sanity, though by the end of the trip he himself had succumbed to the illness, practically needing a blindfold like the poor victims in the bottom of Goodson’s Estuarial Reformatory.

Luckily, Kida ve Alema had the funds for magical alleviation, and the constables were able to turn their attention back toward their case. Now, they knew that one of the creatures (“Gidim,” as Kida called them now) was sentient, and loose in the city: if they captured or killed it, that would likely put a stop to any future appearances of the thought-eating beasts. But where to find it?

They reported back to HQ, reporting their finds to Delft, who was locked up in the basement due to what he described as a very unprofessional cautionary move by Chief Inspectress Saxby. Apparently, Lorcan Kell had sent a letter to Delft, thanking him for killing some minor criminal, and attaching a payment of 200 gold. Delft said it was ridiculous to assume he was in cahoots with the crime lord, or that the man would be so sloppy as to send a message so easily found to someone he’d corrupted… but Saxby jumped on the chance to throw him behind bars until she found evidence suggesting his innocence. Kida gave him some wine to make the time pass faster.

Meanwhile, Qiyet Outrunner found a parcel of mail from the Battalion waiting for her. The mages there had uncovered an interesting property of the creatures, thanks to their receipt of one of the corpses from the fairground incident. These “Gidim” were not made of normal matter, but rather pure psionic energy, able to manifest corporeally at the whim of the creature itself. As such, the beasts were more easily affected by thought than they were by matter. Indeed, a trained psion could, with practice, bend their focus on an otherwise insubstantial corpse to render it solid for the duration of an autopsy. Valuable information, especially when coupled with the text of Colonel Sebastian’s thesis, “Methods of Extricating Warriors from a Variety of Tentacled and Tendriled Monsters.”

The party used the ritual instilled in them by the Voice of Rot, each of them now familiar with the ‘scent’ of dusty Apet. Unfortunately, the trails across Flint were numerous, making any individual impossible to track. But a few sources were found:

Xambria’s apartment radiated the energy. Though locked, the constables found signs of a struggle inside, and no hint of the Professor herself.

Fildi and Dilfi, the gnomish inventors, had apparently seen one or two of their badgers spontaneously mutate after the original fairground incident, but had elected not to report it to anyone so that they could begin working on a mutated badger gun. The corrupted animals were taken to a safe location to be studied.

Rock Rackus had a ceremonial dagger in his cases of show props, though he seemed ignorant of the significance, and annoyed of the less-than-friendly search procedures the party enacted in his tent. Hugo performed an object reading, and from there it became clear that Rock had been to an Ancient Ziggurat before… again, he seemed to think little of the coincidence, and casually mentioned that yes, he’d gone there under the employment of one Caius Bergeron… the very person who had funded Xambria’s dig. And supposedly, the tiefling was in town.

The constables tracked Xambria’s trail to the dock, and from there farther out to sea. Setting her as their top priority, they requisitioned the RHC’s excise cutter, the Audacious and set out at the next morning, along with a group of five crack sailors, courtesy of Nigel Price-Hill.

Autumn 17
Their voyage led them to an open swath of sea just off the coast of Ber. Three vessels were parked, staring at each other across the waves.

  • Dagger, a Risuri vessel chartered by Xambria under short notice.
  • La Inspriación of Ber, carrying the goblin archaeologist Paco de Los Loros.
  • Il Draçon de Mer (“The Dragon of the Sea”), warily guarding the underwater dig site, letting neither the Audacious nor the other two ships draw near.

Linking up with the Dagger, Xambria filled the party in. She claimed that she’d left Flint in a hurry after speaking with Caius, and finding out about this new dig site, a ziggurat much like the one in the High Bayou, but buried beneath the sandy bottom of the sea. She tried to convince him to call it off, lest another breach of some kind allow strange and hostile creatures into the world, but he refused, and so she came to try to put a stop to it. Unfortuntely, the Il Draçon de Mer’s numerous cannons made getting close enough to reason with Caius’ specialists impossible.

She had no explanation for the state of her apartment, and Qiyet privately found it odd that the previously sickly-looking and somewhat traumatized Xambria was now looking hale and hearty, fit enough to handle a week’s voyage at sea… but the constables agreed that the dig had to be stopped.

Hugo, Kida, and Templeton set out under the cover of night, swimming over toward the enemy ship to disable their rudder. It would have gone off without a hitch, except that a hungry shark forced them into a battle for survival, which ended up giving away their position. The Draçon hoisted sail, voices shouting on deck to man the cannons, and the three constables watched helplessly as the fully-armed vessel sailed off to do battle with the Audacious.

Qiyet and Talon stood ready, Talon taking command of the ship and barking orders to the crew. With Qiyet standing at the fore of the ship as lookout, the tiny ship managed to take full advantage of the enemy’s limping, rudderless movement, and stay completely out of its line of fire, even pummeling them with their own pair of cannons. Swinging around to pick up their friends, the Audacious closed to boarding distance.

Leaving the crew behind, the party stormed onto the aft of the enemy’s deck, finding the ship swarming with cutlass-wielding mercenaries. Only their sheer numbers made up for their lack of combat prowess, but Hugo and Kida cut them down in droves. Qiyet made a beeline for the enemy captain, driving him back to midships before he was finally cut down, the rest of his crew surrendering in short order.

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Touring the Heavens
So much danger, so little reward.

When all the monsters had been slain, Kida tried to explain to her comrades what she’d seen. She stumbled over nonsensical syllables first though, her eyes widening as she realized she could now speak the Ancient language. Once she’d forced herself to start using the Primordial tongue again, she told of her vision: three orcs defending an ornate golden slab, wielding the staff, sword, and amulet while staring down a small army of the incorporeal beasts the party was becoming familiar with by now. They referred to the creatures as coming from a place called “Gidim” (though smelling of Apet) and the staff-wielder concentrated on them, turning them solid enough for the sword-bearer to cut.

As Kida explained, the group was joined by a nymph (“Pretty”), replacing the satyr that Kida had requested from the Unseen Court. Since none of the other constables could understand the new words she claimed to know, of course, so it was unclear if Kida had truly envisioned a scene from Lanjyr’s distant past, or if she were merely starting to crack under the strain of Distant Madness.

Putting a cap on that for the moment, they decided to press on, looking for more clues about what had happened to Xambria’s team. Beyond the ‘rainbow chamber’ was a room with a map of Lanjyr inscribed on the floor. Inspecting it, Hugo Von Gearkinson determined that there were minor differences in the topography and continental shapes, as well as a more obvious inconsistency: Where the modern-day Yerasol Archipelago lay, there was instead shown to be a solid landmass connecting Risur and Danor. An apparatus of ropes and stone disks was secured above the map, but the constables left it alone. Equally useless was a control apparatus in the western wall, the keys removed.

Pressing on, they found a secret door that had been wedged open with iron poles, and with a curious ‘Welcome’ mat laid out front. Inside was a huge golden plate not unlike the one in Kida’s dream, and more than a half-dozen dead researchers. Talon Silverhawk studied them, finding simple claw or bite wounds on many of them, but also terrifying mutations… the bodies sprouted extra eyes, limbs, or even tendrils, though they had obviously been normal humans and tieflings, once. Hugo and Kida warily inspected a pair of statues flanking the gold plate: depicting feathered serpents the size of a man. Under the mat was another of the seven-ring icons, by now seen in various places throughout the ziggurat.

While the room was searched, Templeton stood guard outside, and Qiyet soon joined him. But when she stepped out of the room, she suddenly found herself standing in the cafeteria at the Jierre Sciens d’Arms. Stunned, she looked around, trying to get her bearings… was this her past? No, none of the faces looked familiar. Had she somehow teleported? She turned to leave, only to find herself back in the ziggurat, with Templeton facing the other way, having witnessed nothing.

She only needed to consider it for a moment. She would tell no one of this.

Eventually, curiousity won out over caution, and Talon used a prybar handily supplied by Kida to pull the gold slab away from the wall, crushing the corpses of two researchers in the process. Beyond was a huge span of… nothing. A few experiments with tossed bodies and light spells revealed it to be some kind of extradimensional space, about a hundred feet across. Before they could puzzle about it much further though, Qiyet heard a trickling of water in the hallway. Templeton looked up the corridor, spotting a thin sheet of water creeping along the floor toward them… “Time to move!” he called out.

Wasting no time, the party started to move toward the nearest exit, only to realize the water was coming on too fast. They took an unexplored route back to the entrance, stumbling across a half-dozen traps on the way, each themed after a different planet in the night sky. Talon took the brunt of many of them, getting flattened by force in the Urim trap, and lit on fire by the Jiese trap. Hugo was the last to leave the secret chamber, having to suddenly contend with the bodies of the researchers rising up as zombies.

The spear traps in the hallways also opened up to reveal their inner workings: each was manned by a spear-toting mummy, which now lumbered after the constables with a murderous will. Pretty helped immensely by using her gifts with charm magic to confuse them, letting the constables step past, staying ahead of the toxic flood rushing up behind them.

Cutting a path through elemental traps and dozens of undead (and a particularly nasty pitfall room), the party’s path to freedom was blocked by the trio of mummies at the entrance, who had in life been the wielders of the relics seen in Kida’s vision. She spoke to them in Ancient, but they were largely uninterested, having been reduced now to simple guardians.

The constables were giving retreat their full attention now, leaving the guards in their dust as they hustled up the stairs to freedom. But as they emerged in the High Bayou, they could see the dead-raising energies given off by the ziggurat’s final trap had reached far beyond its walls… every dead spider-husk, ettercap corpse, and crocodile carcass within a mile or more was advancing on them in a rotting horde, and without their poleboats, there was nowhere to run.

In a panic, the five of them started climbing up the three tiers of the building; Hugo’s wimpy arms required him to be pulled up with ropes. But the dead kept coming, trampling each other in their desperate, hungry fervor, their limbs reaching out to clutch at the warm flesh of the living. Templeton seemed strangely unconcerned as he ordered Kida to send off a message to Gale using the messenger wind, fully expecting a dramatic rescue by her despite the fact that it would take the message at least 40 hours to reach Flint.

Qiyet was not so keen to wait, drawing her axes and hacking off the grasping limbs as they started to clamor onto the top level of the ziggurat. Talon quickly followed suit. Kida and Templeton joined in as well, keeping a hopeful eye to the skies. The corpses had long-rotted, each of them falling with no more than a single blow, or several at once from one of Hugo’s spells or Kida’s ki-blasts. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, then thirty, the party growing weary of cutting through the weak foes, using up the precious stores of vitality still remaining after dodging through traps just before. Finally, after a full 100 minutes of fighting, after burning up all their resources and most of their energy, the horde began to thin out, and the stragglers scattered or slid down the slippery corpse-slope that now lined the Ancient ruin.

Tired, mentally disturbed, covered in rotted gore and surrounded by the stench of a charnel house, the party allowed themselves a bitter but much-needed rest.

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Ziggurat of the Ancients
A temple to Apet is found in the High Bayou.

Following up on earlier leads, Qiyet Outrunner had done some cursory research of what modern society had learned of the Ancients.

Finding few other helpful details in available books on the subject, she enlisted the help of Talon Silverhawk to track down two prominent names cited as sources with notable frequency: Hans Weber and Xambria Meredith.

Talon found Hans at the Museum of Natural History, where he worked as its curator. As it happened, he was just setting up a Ancients exhibit, gearing up for a gala taking place near the end of the month. At the mention of golden relics, the scholar’s eyes lit up, and he offered to look them over, though he asked that the constable consider asking Margaret Saxby to turn them over to the museum once their role in the current investigation was finished. He also admitted to knowing Xambria. In fact, he’d set her up in one of the dorms on Pardwright University’s campus after she’d come to town looking pale and deeply unsettled. Weber never got the full story out of her, but it seemed she’d been working on a dig site in southern Risur, and something terrible had happened… terrible enough to give her a limited case of amnesia surrounding the event.

Qiyet found the archeaologist in her room, looking a bit disheveled, but otherwise displaying none of the poor balance and disorientation that comes from a case of Distant Madness (which the party had learned about by watching Kida ve Alema’s troubled mental state, and by visiting long-term patients in Goodson’s Estuarial Reformatory). She answered what she could about the Ancient culture, even giving Qiyet her theory that they had never learned to mine gold, but rather traded or stole it from another civilization at the time, possibly involving a figure named ‘Egal the Shimmering, Lord of the Golden Legion,’ mentioned briefly in a set of Danoran Clericist scrolls listing demons and other heresies. Then she told her story of the dig site…

“We’d discovered a ziggurat out in the High Bayou in Spring, following a hunch given to me by an interested sponsor, a tiefling by the name of Caius Bergeron. He gave us the money for equipment and supplies, but stipulated that he be kept apprised of whatever we found there… especially if it included what he called a ‘golden seal,’ a large golden disc bearing astronomical symbols and infused with protective magics.

I don’t remember the layout of the place exactly, but there were traps to bypass, and collapsed passages to clear. By early summer, we found the seal. Caius insisted on sending specialists out at that point, and I met them at the train station in Bole: a trio of tiefling spellcasters and a pair of human guards, all Danoran. Oh, and there was something in the papers about a scandal in Flint at the time, something involving one of the mayors, maybe? Anyway…

I brought them back to the ziggurat, and they started working on the seal. I… don’t remember much after that, just getting off the train and going straight to someone I could trust: Hans."

Qiyet asked if there were anything she could do to help, and Xambria hesitantly asked if there were any way she could find out what had happened to her dig team. She dared not venture out there herself, too shaken by the mysterious trauma. Taking the matter to her teammates, it was agreed that this was the best lead they had on learning more about the creatures summoned from the staff, since it and the other two relics had come from that very dig site. Delft agreed, and sent them off to equip themselves with a fresh new stipend.

Autumn 6
The train ride down to Bole took about a day, and the trek through the hills to the little town of Agate took the day after that (during which time, Kida shook off the effects of her mental illness). Finally, the party acquired a few pole-boats to traverse the bayou, and burned most of the daylight hours of the 6th making their way into the wilderness, guided by Xambria’s map and Kida’s knack for finding paths through a maze of trees strung together with walls of thick webbing. The party managed to avoid the indigenous crocodiles and giant spiders, and only lost a little blood to biting flies.

Finally, they found a trail of markers: strips of gold fabric tied around tree branches, leading the way to Xambria’s campsite. Three students lay there, dead for a week or more, but strangely not eaten by local predators. No wounds could be found, though it was obvious they’d been examined before, their pockets turned out. No journals or notes were anywhere to be found. A sound was heard from within one of the tents, making the constables reach for their weapons, but it was only a satyr that Kida had arranged to meet them, lending whatever assistance he could. He asked to be called “Friend.”

As they approached the ziggurat, each of the constables was assaulted with feelings of sudden vertigo, the sudden strain leaving their minds frail – the first stage of Distant Madness.

Inside was an antechamber with three well-preserved mummies resting in alcoves, and a note from Xambria asking her team not to touch them. Hallways branched off to the left and right, and a decision was made to follow the left-most wall, at least until the basic layout of the place could be determined.

The first room was quite impressive – a series of stone platforms overlooking a pitfall onto stone spikes, with colored switches that toggled colored bridges and walls of force. Halfway into navigating the puzzle, the party was suddenly set upon by giant centipedes, living orbs of light, and skittering things with pincers and tentacles. The environment was less than ideal for combat, isolating those with melee expertise, and creating impenetrable barriers to limit Hugo and Alain’s ranged capabilities. Kida took it upon herself to start passing through the series of color veils on the far side of the room, relying on her allies to deactivate each one in turn. When the last one came down, she touched the control stone, and saw a vision of the distant past…!

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Macbannin's Legacy
More is discovered about the late mayor's projects.

Autumn 2.

The next day, the constables met at the office, making their way through a small crowd of people who had assembled to greet Rock Rackus as he was released from RHC custody. Before they could meet up to mull over their new leads, Kida ve Alema found a package waiting for her: a ghost strike ki focus that she hadn’t ordered. Doubtless it would come in handy if she ever had to face those strange thought-eating monsters again, but who had it come from? It was hard to focus on such questions, as her mental state had deteriorated since yesterday – even the simplest acts of navigation were dizzying, and the other constables noticed when she had to constantly steady herself. The elf found it difficult to establish between sights that were near or far, which made the prospect of combat daunting indeed.

The constables were called into Margaret Saxby’s office, where she introduced them to Lord Viscount Nigel Price-Hill, the head of the RHC itself. As brief as all meetings with the Chief Inspectress were, the message she left them with was to cooperate fully with the Lord’s employees, who were here investigating further instances of corruption, seen as a necessary measure after Reed Macbannin’s betrayal. If anyone had been watching Stover Delft’s face carefully, they might have seen a hint of nervousness – suddenly he was regretting his nonchalance about the constables making a deal with Morgan Cippiano, the resident representative of the Family. Hopefully, no one would find out about that…

Left to their own devices afterward, it was decided that Hugo Von Gearkinson and Talon Silverhawk would pose as buyers in order to meet face-to-face with the woman Simon Langfield had purchased his staff from. They even went so far as to equip the technologist with one of the brittle factory-made swords from the fair, to further cement his facade as a clueless moneyed individual.

They were given a meeting place – a construction site for a station of the up-and-coming subrail system in Flint. The woman, Kaja Stewart, came with a single bodyguard and a huge chest full of weapons and other items, mostly exotic gun/blade combinations, with two notable exceptions. A stone amulet and a crystal-edged sword, both radiating strange magic and clearly evoking similar aesthetic design to Simon’s confiscated staff. The sword even turned to gold briefly whenever it was swung, which Talon tested.

There were a few tense moments when it was realized that neither of the constables had brought near enough money to purchase either of these relics, but they quickly recovered, buying a lesser weapon so as not to anger the arms dealer. Rather than confront her here, Kida used her new gift of the goddess Srasama’s sight to follow Kaja to her hideout, where they were able to arrest her and confiscate not only her stolen goods, but a few barrels of witchoil as well. The less said about Kida’s failure to sneak along the roof of the warehouse, the better.

Two of Lorcan Kell’s thugs were in the hideout as well, and after interrogating Kaja it was confirmed that she had been working for him recently – though originally, she’d been in Macbannin’s employ. She had been one of the experts involved in the creation of the rusted rings and other methods of travel into the Bleak Gate. In exchange for leniency in what could very easily be considered High Treason, she was put to work in her cell, puzzling out a way to counteract shadow influences, or altogether ward an area from incursions from the world of shadow. It became personal for her after Qiyet Outrunner did some digging on Kaja’s father, realizing he was killed in one of the Yerasol wars. Confronting Kaja, she claimed she’d been working for Macbannin’s projects in an effort to prevent future wars… but even without an armed conflict, her work had already led to the deaths of many people, their souls infused into the witchoil to power the technology she helped create.

Placed under heavy guard, she was left to her work, which she seemed to pursue with sullen determination. The presence of witchoil was brought to the attention of Team 3’s Dima Kosygin

Autumn 3rd.

Following up on a request from Team 3, the constables arrived the next morning in the basement of a factory in Parity Lake. A crime scene had been discovered there, containing the body of a victim with a bashed-in skull, and what appeared to be some kind of advanced golem, shattered into thousands of pieces.

Through the use of careful detective work, they were able to ascertain the following.

  • The murderer must have been a spellcaster – the victim’s hands were bound with a steel bar, bent too precisely to have been brute force.
  • Rusted iron links were found in the vicinity of the victim’s neck – he was probably wearing an iron amulet, similar to those found at Macbannin’s estate, and the witchoil reservoir below.
  • Based on decomposition, the victim died in early summer.
  • With more than 5 pp in his pockets, it wasn’t a robbery. He was also carrying a bundle of papers with departing schedules for a number of different ships, all bound for Elfaivar, and all set to leave between the 5th and 15th of Summer.
  • The golem was almost completely dismantled, apparently having exploded along every major seam and joint simultaneously, though there was no trace of scorching on its body to suggest a normal sort of detonation. The number of tiny gears recovered suggested it had fine motor control, but it was probably too delicate for use in combat.
  • Most interestingly, the bulk of the golem’s skull was intact, and still radiating magic. It was still alive, just blind and mute.
  • Obvious to any onlooker, there was a rusted ring set into the wall. What wasn’t obvious was the tiny scrap of fabric clinging to one edge of it.

Hugo performed an Object Reading ritual on the scrap, calling up three images.

  1. An image of the owner of the fabric: an eladrin woman, seen wearing the dress that the scrap had come from. Its style hadn’t been in vogue since before the Great Malice.
  2. An image of the room, a minute or two before the scrap was removed from the dress. In it, they could see the golem, the victim, the woman, and the murderer himself, frozen in the act of forcing a vial’s worth of witchoil down the victim’s throat. The golem looked on impassively, while the woman held her hands to her face in horror.
  3. The place where the woman had spent the bulk of her waking hours over the last month (Alain Templeton made sure to word this correctly to ensure that the ritual wouldn’t simply reveal an ordinary bedroom), prior to the scrap being removed. For this, Hugo saw a huge underground bunker or hangar of some kind, windowless, with catwalks up near the ceiling. At one end were an enormous set of doors, while at the other end was a blurry lump of metal. Obviously, over the course of those thirty days, something had been constructed, and the time-lapse image of it was too indistinct to tell exactly what it was. But it was big… much bigger than the flagship of the Risuri navy, the Coaltongue.
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The Incident
Horrible creatures terrorize fairgoers.

Assembling at the Fuel Prospectus tent, Talon Silverhawk took it upon himself to negotiate with the owner, Colleen. Setting himself up as a potential buyer, representing the interests of the RHC itself, he was able to determine with a reasonable amount of certainty that she had no idea of the dark origins of witchoil. After some smooth business-talking, she agreed to get into contact with her supplier to find more witchoil for Talon to buy, though she wouldn’t give up any names. Wisely, Ssgt. Templeton decided to have the place watched in order to catch any more clues.

While he was setting up something with the police, though, a series of screams echoed from the fairgrounds, followed by a wave of terrified people fleeing from Gun Alley. The other four constables hustled toward the disturbance, and were shocked to see four creatures that seemed to have come straight out of a feverish nightmare! Three of them looked like huge fleshy dragonflies as big as a man, with long elephant-like trunks that ended in sharp beaks. The fourth was nothing more than a ring of muscle, lined on the inside with teeth and covered in tentacles on its outside. All of them seemed to fade in and out of existence, from solid to glassy translucence.

In their midst stood a mage with a solid gold staff, flinging magic missiles at the horrible things to minor effect. Before the constables could reach him, he was on the ground, cut down by a series of rays fired by the flying things… they looked to be composed of an impossible combination of light and dark energies. When the constables showed up, they turned their attention toward Hugo Von Gearkinson; the party would later theorize they were drawn to individuals of high intelligence.

Meanwhile Kida cut her way to the back of the battlefield, engaging the maw on her own, just barely managing to keep ahead of its smashing, flailing, clutching tendrils. At some point during the battle though, even her nimble form was snatched up, and before she could get away she watched in horror as her very thoughts were drunk up through the monster’s limb, leaving her mind deeply unsettled.

The creatures were not easy to defeat, even with two individuals popping out of the scenery to help: Rock Rackus (seasoned adventurer and local celebrity) and a mysterious dwarf armed with a long-barreled carbine. Even after the mage was put back on his feet, the creatures provided a stern challenge, since they seemed just barely affected by normal attacks. Magic missiles from both the staff-wielding mage and Hugo seemed to strike them normally, as well as one of Kida’s primal attacks, but everything else passed through them partially. Thankfully, the constables soon noticed that the flying things did turn corporeal for brief periods after firing their ray attacks, and exploited this advantage to the fullest.

Despite being low on ranged options, Talon proved quite deadly, his axe finding the weak points of his enemies rather easily. Hugo picked up the Nock Gun at some point during the battle, managing to pelt one of the flying monsters with a devastating hail of lead.

Following the battle, the party urged Rock to take credit for the monsters’ defeat, so that they could stay on Chief Inspectress Saxby’s good side by staying out of the headlines of the Flint Tribune. He agreed, provided that they all attend his concert later in the week.

Soon enough, Sarah Lockheart (sergeant of the police presence at the fair) and RHC agents appeared, giving everything a brief looking over before deciding to confiscate every last scrap of unfamiliar magic in the vicinity, including the mage’s staff (now mysteriously having turned to wood) and Rock’s diamond-studded, golden pistol. Rock himself was placed under arrest after one of his golden bullets was found lodged in an innocent bystander, which the constables correctly recognized as a freak accident. They advised Delft to find a way to let him off easy—their boss sounded uncertain if it was possible, but he promised to do his best.

The mage with the golden staff was brought in for questioning. He identified himself as Simon Langfield, a student at local Pardwright University with some small skill in the arcane arts. After some well-placed pressuring, he fessed up to the truth: he bought the staff on the black market (more or less), having purchased it at a steep discount from a dark-haired human woman wearing a naval officer’s jacket, though the garment was unadorned with any of the pins or patches that would make it an official uniform. He gave them a clandestine way to contact her: visit the trinket stand at the fair, talk to the jeweler, and state, “I’m looking for an anniversary gift for my wife, Ethel.”

Additional. The constables wracked their brains for anything in their respective experiences and educations that might be relevant to these beings, but quite simply, none of them had ever heard of or seen anything like these “aberrations.” At the moment, all that is known is that they come from another world, very likely Apet, judging by the energy they give off. They don’t obey normal physical laws, and have impossible anatomies going by current biological understandings. They are solid while feeding, but otherwise the only attacks seen to be effective are force or psychic based.

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Chapter 3, Digging For Lies
The Kaybeau Fair comes to Flint.

Autumn 1.

Having been assigned grunt-level busywork for the last few months, the constables now found themselves working as glorified security guards for the Kaybeau Arms and Technology Exposition, despite their newfound fame with the Risuri government for all their investigative success. In the end, it was Saxby’s call, and there wasn’t much they could do except hope that Team 3 would do a tolerable job of tying up the loose ends of the Macbannin case.

In the meantime, Hugo Von Gearkinson certainly didn’t seem to mind the assignment. Like a kid in a candy store, he wandered from pavilion to stall to tent, taking in all the wondrous new gadgets and enchantments (including steam-powered armor and a freakin’ badger gun), while showing off his own creation: a water-powered pistol.

Qiyet Outrunner, on the other hand, was having the most boring day of her life. She wasn’t interested in gadgets, preferring the simplicity of her axes and hide armor when it came to reliability in combat. And the one attraction that sounded promising, Swords of Tomorrow, was just a collection of factory-stamped blades that only resembled weapons. They were cheap enough for anyone to buy and put above their mantle, but they’d bend after a single blow and probably break on the next.

Templeton was unimpressed by the propaganda-like manner in which the Risuri military’s put on historical dioramas and displays which glorified firearms (not even giving Danor credit for their invention) while downplaying the role of magic in large-scale conflicts. Kida had hoped to see larger presence of local druids and shamans at the event, but was nonetheless weighing her options as to whether or not to buy something.

Talon slipped Qiyet some gold so he wouldn’t have to babysit Hugo.

All in all, things were surprisingly uneventful, at least until a barrel of witchoil was discovered at the Colleen Fuel Prospectus.

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Chapter 2, Finale
The villain is discovered, just before catastrophe!

Fearing that whoever was responsible for the laboratory was planning on unleashing the foul creations upon Nevard Sechim, the constables raced to Dawn Square in Bosom Strand. They wasted no time informing the police of a possible attack, and word spread among their ranks to be ready for anything, with Plan A being to evacuate the gathered civilians as quickly as possible. Nevard took their warning seriously, but refused to call off the rally. He claimed that his news was too important not to share with the city, and as a frail old man, there was no guarantee he’d live to reschedule the event anyway.

While Qiyet and Hugo remained on stage to provide some much-needed defense for the old skyseer, the other constables interspersed themselves into the crowd, looking for signs of potential sabotage. Kida found a collapsible rusted ring in a nearby wagon, not unlike the one in the laboratory, when unfolded. They were moments from finding the wagon’s owner when they were interrupted by the sounds of screaming.

Out of the fountain in the square leapt a skinless jaguar, snarling at the crowd around it and stalking its way closer to the stage. The constables leapt into action, with Talon taking the lead by engaging no less than two of the beasts, which continued to appear through the pair of rings nearby—one lining the bottom of the fountain, and one set up by a man in a green cloak off to the left of the stage. Hugo and Qiyet managed to spot almost a dozen dressed just like him (they’d later learned they were skeletons in a cheap disguise), and masterfully picked them off at range, managing not to hit any of the civilians swarming around them. Meanwhile, Templeton took advantage of the command word written in the notes, and somehow managed to get not one, but two jaguars under his control, which he then rode into battle with a huge grin on his face.

But one cat managed to get past Nevard’s defenders, laying the poor elder low with one brutal claw-swipe. With his dying breath, the wind carried his words to all the frightened citizens fleeing the square.

Aside from Nevard, there were relatively few casualties, thanks to the constables.

Summer 6.

The constables knew whoever was behind the attack had to be brought to justice; but they only had one lead left: the arson brothers. They searched the city for clues, spoke with all their contacts, and even spent a fair amount on residuum using Gale’s special ritual to try to find another hotspot of shadow energy, but with no luck. Only a chance encounter with a drunken halfling named Bill got them pointed in the right direction: Cauldron Hill.

A minor tremble shook the city as they walked the streets to the house of Reed Macbannin, mayor of the Nettles. Sure enough, the carriage sitting outside matched Bill’s half-assed description, meaning it was the vehicle that had given the arson brothers their marching orders all along. This meant that Macbannin was purposefully buying up Flint factories, smuggling goods into the Bleak Gate, and dabbling in shadowy rites to create monsters… but why?

The career politician greeted the constables in his front garden with a smile and open gestures, dismissing their accusations as ridiculousness, but graciously inviting them into his home for look for evidence of any nefarious deeds. The party was beginning to think they were on the wrong track… but as fate would have it, the ground shook again, and a rent opened up in the yard, spewing witchoil into the air!

The mayor straighted his collar, dusted his sleeves, and turned to his butler. “Creed, check the reservoir.” Then he waved at the rest of his house staff, most of them watching curiously from the balconies and windows of the house. “Everyone else, kill these people for me.”

Creed sped away the first chance he got, fiercely pursued by Kida. As he ran, his body melded into matte-black skin, exactly like the shadow-men the party had seen in the Nettles and atop Cauldron Hill just days ago. Kida slowed him with cruel shuriken shots, but once he’d had enough, his claws started tearing through the poor elf. The last thing she could do before being left for dead on the ground was drive a Nail of Sealing into the door of the garden shed that Creed seemed so intent on getting to.

The other constables made quick work of Reed, who professed to be a master of curses and other dark arts, but was flattened in seconds by Talon and Qiyet working together. After that point, it was simply a matter of mowing down the two knife-wielding gardeners and using ranged attacks to knock the flowerpot-hurling house staff off the balconies.

Kida was propped up by an annoyed shout from Templeton, and they entered the shed, finding a secret elevator that led below. It seemed to phase through the solid concrete foundation somehow, and they could only ride it down while wearing a special rusted amulet, which they found on the body of a dead woman sticking half-out of the floor.

Below was a series of rooms littered with iron contraptions, control panels, pipes, pressure gauges and more. As they explored, it became obvious to the party’s technologist that each room was part of a giant machine made to manufacture, store, and then pump witchoil to an unknown destination. The problem was that it was malfunctioning—all the oil was backed up, overfilling the reservoir. Likely, what had happened was that the relief pipe had been crushed and blocked by the recent quakes. Before disaster occurred, Qiyet and Hugo managed to get the oil flowing through the “Down” pipe, to parts unknown.

Just as things looked to be under control, Eberardo and his brother Valando showed up, lured by the sounds of destruction to what they quickly realized was their employer’s home. Desperate to protect their source of income, they battled the constables on the catwalks above the oil – putting themselves at a disadvantage since they couldn’t use their huge blasts of flame, lest the entire batch of oil ignite all at once!

Knocking them out, the five constables tried to take the elevator upward, only to be met by Creed. He implored Talon to behave like a patriot, and to join he and Macbannin in ‘protecting Risur,’ though he wouldn’t be any more specific than that as to his master’s true designs. Standing by his friends, the shifter refused, and so began a battle that nearly cost several of the constables their lives!

The party’s talents were a poor match for Creed’s abilities—just by standing next to a foe, he could hide in their shadow, vanishing from sight. His claws infected their target with necrotic energy, and his penchant for aiming toward the eyes left his victims temporarily blinded as well. The worst part, though, was that even when the party’s wild swings managed to hit him, they passed through his body as if it were made of darkness itself, each attack only half as lethal against him as it would be on ordinary flesh.

Kida gave everyone one big chance to get out of this with their lives intact: as Creed struck at Talon and Qiyet, the Vekeshi elf called on the power of the dead goddess Srasama, and an image of a six-armed eladrin appeared to strike Creed with a blade of fire and pure white light. He screamed, his black skin burning away, revealing corrupt muscle and sinew beneath… for a scant six-second window, everything that struck him wounded him like he was an ordinary man.

In the end, Hugo (who had to take the stairs up from the sub-basement and showed up late to this battle) ended his onslaught with a magic missile, and Templeton brutally beheaded the butler’s unconscious body with his bayonet.

Epilogue.

In the weeks that followed, Nevard was given a state funeral, laid to rest in a place of prominence with other past heroes of the city – Flint city Governor Roland Stanfield even said a few words honoring the man… and some say that they caught a glimpse of Gale watching the affair from a distance.

Macbannin was placed in a maximum-security cell, one which made spellcasting impossible while his trial was planned. RHC Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft urged the constables to get their story straight, as they would all be key witnesses against him. But when the day of the trial came, the former mayor never arrived. He’d commited suicide in his cell less than an hour before he was to be picked up, somehow managing to ram his head repeatedly against a stone wall until he smashed in his own skull.

The guard watching him said Reed had acted perfectly normal up until a few minutes beforehand. Then he just kind of slumped over, muttered to himself for a while, then stood up and asked for a cigarette. No one had ever known the man to smoke, but he truly seemed to enjoy the leaf of Nicodemus to its fullest, and killed himself immediately after finishing.

Chief Inspectress Margaret Saxby ordered the constables off the case soon after—rumor had it she was jealous of the attention the media were giving them. Team 3 is on the case now.

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