Elemental Occam

Red Larch Defence Systems Up
The one were they scored some awakened plants

There had been some arson when they were gone. Mellikho Rubberworks, where they once found an entrance to the underground lair/place of worship of The Believers, had been reduced to a charred pile. More worryingly, there were clearly burnt-in marks of the fire cult’s emblem on some remaining floors and walls.

Asking around town brought them back to Yalantha’s Boarding House, in search of a chimneysweep named Tythol Prodniev. “Tusk”, to his friends. While he expected a bribe for his full cooperation, he had indeed seen an odd customer leaving the Rubberworks just before a blaze broke out: A child, or possibly some other diminutive creature, clad in a once luxurious but now burnt robe, who seemed to speak to some strange object in his hands.

With that description, they once again started to ask questions of the townsfolk, and Kaylessa Urquhart provided that she had recently seen an urchin boy in the described robes. She was adamant that he was a new addition to Red Larch, but still suggested they go to the local library, as it was the most central place of gathering for orphans in town.

It was not a big place, but it stood out by virtue of the symbol of Ioun covering the entire height of the front facade, made with white bricks in contrast with the otherwise red. Jenny, the warforged running the place, recognized them and immediately asked if there had been trouble with one of the children.

Upon the description, she sighed and offered the name of ‘Bang’. He was indeed a new addition to the urchins frequenting her establishment, but he had yet to offer up anything about himself. He was, however, upstairs right then.

They found him sitting crosslegged by a book in a back room on the third floor. He held an oil lamp up to his mouth, clearly whispering to it as if in conversation. The book in front of him Ethan could identify as one on the elemental plane of fire.

Conversation began, tentatively, with our heroes asking about his interest in fire. Bang would ask his lamp for guidance before answering any questions. Ethan tried to conjure a small flame to impress the boy, but failed for lack of practice. Things then started to escalate, badly, as Bang’s temper was clearly unstable. Before long, he cast a burning hands on them all, and several books as well.

As the others put out books (and Jenny), Jack grabbed the boy, who started to scream at the lamp for help. Rook picked it up, which went bad for him. He was immediately brought under the influence of someone calling themselves “”/characters/haltoth-mal-taun-yi-takoth" class=“wiki-content-link”>Haltoth Mal’Taun yi’Takoth, The Fang of Brass, The Reaver of Daeadum", speaking inside his head. This naturally began with casting of flame wall, and jumping out the back window.

Valna and Ethan got everyone else out, and Jack jumped after Rook. Yanking the lamp from his hand, he to felt the compulsion to help “The Fang of Brass”, but in an uncharacteristic show of mindfulness fought it off long enough to dump the lamp. And, fortunately, this brought Rook the clarioty as well. The Fang did not take kindly to this rejection, and out from the spout a huge, red-skinned genie rose on a cloud of ash. He brandished his wicked scimitar, and started going to town.

Here’s the thing, though: Our heroes all had some level of fire resistance going for them. So The Reaver of Daeadum could suck it. Rather than being killed, he retreated into his lamp again, and was silent. Still, the party was not going to take any chances, and Jack picked up the lamp by mage hand. They brought it to Ulrich, to be put into the vault as well.


Valna still feared for the safety of Red Larch in case of a giant resurgence. Senna had provided them with the name of a treant, Turlang, who would possibly help in this matter, and Valna suggested this as a logical short stop before continueing on the hunt for the elemental cults. Visiting Kryptgarden, where the treant lived, would only take them a day, after all.

The others agreed, and they all arrived at noon to the border of the dark, dense “park” that was Kryptgarden. It was dense and overflowing the wall surrounding it, a literal jungle slap bang in the middle of the city. While finding a recalcitrant treant in a dark wood would be difficult, Senna had also given them the name of Tharra Shyndle, a witch living in the Kryptgarden who supposedly acted as assistant to Turlang. And the locals living around the place told them that finding her hut was as simple as following the red ribbons leading from the main gates.

“Do not stray from the ribbons!” they all cautioned.

Yes, the other generally known bit a about Kryptgarden, aside from its denseness, was the ancient green dragon living in there. “”/characters/claugiyliamatar" class=“wiki-content-link”>Old Gnawbones", they called her. She respected the ribbons, but the rest of the place was hers.

They entered, and walked for some thirty minutes along the ribbons. Based on a map of Kryptgarden this would have taken them out the other side, but parks in Occam had a tendency to be bigger on the inside. At that mark, more pressingly, they began to hear the rumblings of something big between the trees, coming closer. And closer. Until the massive head of a green dragon shot out of the growth above them. In the jaws a skeletong hung loosely.

“What are you doing here? You should be visiting the ”/wikis/Eye%20of%20the%20All-Father/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Eye of the All-Father, in the mountains to the south."

She spoke with a voice like an old crone, suckling the bones in pauses between words. But nevertheless they thought it sounded like a spiel of some desperate soothsayer, like she had said this before to anyone wandering past.

“”/wikis/The%20Ordning/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>The Ordning is broken. All the world will feel the giants fight to establish a new one with their own giantkind on top."

She left the script, briefly:

“I have watched you. Hunting these cults. I do not believe they pose a threat like the giants. How could they? They are much smaller.”

And then she disappeared.

Our heroes made note of it all, after they dared to breath again.

They reached the hut of Shyndle some five minutes later, and knocked on the door.

The witch turned out to be a welcoming if not overly friendly sort. They were offered tea and if they would like to buy any of her fine mushrooms, mosses or plants they were welcome to. Rook naturally took the chance to expand into further reaches of his mind.

As for their business speaking with Turlang, she was at first reluctant to speak about him, but as the party explained their intention to defend Red Larch, she agreed to a meeting. So she took them outside, walked up to the nearest tree, and said:

“Wake up, Turlang.”

And the bark split into the outline of a face.

“Why, though? Why?” it said. “I have no patience for adventurers come to beg my aid.”

However, at the mention of Senna’s name, the treants bad mood softened quickly. He reminisced about past days, mumbling to himself a little while, before snapping back to the conversation.

“If she asks for help, she shall have it.”

And his gift for them was two awakened trees and one awakened shrub, who followed them out of the forest and back to Red Larch. With the right skills in magic and horticulture, they could possibly be a source for more of their kind, giving Red Larch a wooden defensive force. But for now, our heroes let them plant themselves in a small patch of grass.

Next step? They all agreed that they had put aside their hunt for the pirate long enough, especially Ethan. Time to set Empyrion’s plan of a bait ship into motion.

Our heroes reached Empyrion Shipping by late afternoon, and walked straight into the unwelcoming two guards outside.

In no uncertain terms it was made clear that Helen was quite angered by the way she had been left on the roof with Kalinoth et al. Accordingly, she had made clear that our four heroes were not welcome on the premises.

However, some light pressure on the issue had one of the two guards go inside to check with her if perhaps she would allow just Ethan to come inside. And what do you know, she did allow that.

“I know that the healthy thing to do after being dumped by your date is to just move on. However, I confess that this time I did some… stalking. And mark my surprise when I found out that you carry the badge of a dead man. In fact, you are part of the ”/wikis/Crushing%20Wave/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Crushing Wave. Or you were, perhaps?"


“I imagine my ex-husband has no idea about this? Of course he does not. No matter. The important thing is that you are still interested in hunting down ”/characters/gar-shatterkeel" class=“wiki-content-link”>Shatterkeel?"

“Yarr. His place as prophet should be mine.”

“Whatever you say. I have a proposal that could work out very well for both of us: You stick to the plan of luring out Shatterkeel with one of my ships, along with the other three, and when you have taken his place, the two of us keep working together to take out some of my most annoying competition. In exchange, I do not immediately reveal who you are to the rest of your party so they kill you.”

“Yarr. I accept.”

“Excellent. This could be the beginning of beautiful friendship. I will have a ship ready for you in two days, which should leavy you plenty of time to prepare.”


“Now. I do have one further request. By no means is it a must. But… I do hope that you can find a way to not kill ”/characters/jack-hughman" class=“wiki-content-link”>Jack. The other two I do not care about. Like, at all. If you have to, the mission comes first. It is just a slight wish on my part."

The others were suprised, but elated, when Ethan returned with the news that the plan was still on. Wasting no time, the four of them together set about the first part of the plan: Spreading the rumour of a valuable shipment leaving Occam for Laorost in two days. Time to get drunk with some sailors.

Eye of the Storm
The one where the eye is seen

So, a fight broke out on the roof. Of course, not before some threats were lobbed both ways, but the important thing is that some people died.

Kalinoth instructed her guards to seize the Zeusan, which did not sit well with the party, obviously. Adding injury to insult, she then explained that she sent a present back to Red Larch. A demonstration of the cults power, for her guest of honor, Sansuri. So they might want to hurry up if they wish to reach the district before it is… gone.

Now, the party was not just going to lie down and take that. Saving Red Larch and also keeping their airship sounded much better. As Valna let loose her spirit guardians on the surrounding cultists, Jack brandished his axe for his hostess. Kalinoth just smiled as Atheinshart raised his sword between them.

“Stand down, captain. Do as she says.”

Rook and Windharrow, meanwhile, reached Kalinoth’s office. Looking beyond it with detect magic, Rook could see the outline of the cult leader’s strange instrument, as well as a cubic shape of illusion magic.

The door had an alarm, but this was quickly dispelled. Stepping beyond it, they entered the office of someone wanting to stress their own importance: Full-height glass windows behind the desk, large bookshelves covering most of the other walls, and massive portrait of the woman herself, pictured like a shining angel with wings spread wide in the middle of storm clouds.

Rook went looting. First of all was the instrument – into the bag. Second, Kalinoth’s desk. There was plenty of stuff on it; financial reports, accounting books, letters – into the bag. He did look at the letter she was clearly currently writing:

“You are speaking with your queen, Wolfgang, and I require etiquette even from my consort. But rest assured, your daughter is alive. This bumbling captain of yours did not get close to her, so she was never in any danger. Some of my other subjects were not so lucky, being dragged into his theft of…”

Interesting – into the bag.

Then he turned to the illusion magic, which turned out to be on the outside of the windows. But putting his hand against the glass, Rook found that he could push through it and into a small storage space. It turned out that there was a trap, which sent a lot of electricity through his body, but he managed to retrieve a book from inside. It was written in sylvan, unfortunately, but one of the others could read it – into the bag.

As Valna and Jack fought their way to the Zeusan, sparring with Wolfgang, Kalinoth and her weird invisible, punching servant, Ethan decided to break cover and help. He sent a bolt of lightning to roast the guards closest to the airship. This understandably horrified the others, as he also hit two guests, one of them a child.

“What the hell!?” gasped Helen, backing away from him.

“What?” he shrugged. “Valna said they were criminals?”

The voice of Sansuri rang out, despite her clearly speaking in a normal tone.

“Queen Kalinoth, do you require my help?”

Kalinoth laughed in her unnerving, childlike cadance.

“It is fine, countess, we have this all under control. They are just rebelling against the inevitable, as they feel they must.”

Valna turned to Wolfgang.

“This is some bullshit, how could you throw in with these? Help us.”

“I’m trying to! Just… leave. Get out of here, alive, without the ship.”

“You are a disgrace to the uniform, director.”

Valna rushed to save the fading life of the killed boy (the other guest killed actually was a criminal).

“I vote we leave peacefully. Even if the giants are staying out of it for now…”

Jack and Ethan strained, but relented. Surrounded by dead cultists, they at least felt they had made some sort of point. All of them headed for the stairs down and out.

“Well, this has been just wonderful entertainment,” chirped Kalinoth as they left, while smiling to her mortified guests. “And that boy lives, how nice. Does anyone care about the other man they killed? Anyone want him resurrected? I can do it, but I do not want to waste my energy… No one? Wow, that’s sad.”

Rook and Windharrow ran into two cult guards as they left, but managed to fool them into thinking that Rook had found Windharrow running around outside his cell, and was taking him for questioning. This ruse allowed them to reach the elevators in the corridor outside the office, and they headed down. They ground floor lobby was like many other corporate skyscraper ones, thought the late hour meant few people were around. Two civilian guards at the entrance were ever so slightly questioning the rough state of Windharrow, but they were easily convinced to let them pass.

Windharrow breathed in and leaned on his knees as they entered the street.

“I can not believe you got me out of there. Just… thank you.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“Disappear. Maybe I will see you around.”

As he left, Jack, Valna and Ethan also reached the bottom floor by elevator, and joined Rook outside. A brief exchange of the evenings happenings was made, establishing three major things:

Wolfgang Atheinshart was compromised by the air cult holding his daughter.
The haul of paperwork from Kalinoth’s office was a big win.
They needed to get back to Red Larch quickly, without their airship.

A flying carpet taxi would be very expensive, but it would also be very quick. Rook negotiated a lower price by offering the pilot a golden robe, and they set off.

Ethan had time to read the book that Rook had stolen from the secret compartment, and quickly found out it was a journal of Kalinoth’s. The two hours on the carpet back to Red Larch was not enough for Ethan to find any great revelations, but on the last page he found an interesting section:

“The eye. The elements swirl around it. Or does it rest in their flow? Yan-C-Bin does not answer my questions on this matter, even as I follow his teachings. As I preach them. Does he not trust me? I hold his instrument, which by the way BEARS the mark, and yet he does not tell me, his PROPHET, of it? My master, my PRINCE, my god, mocks me. Because I try to understand his mysteries?”


But then there was a scrawled image next to it, and suddenly Jack flashed back several weeks, to when he first arrived in Red Larch. The necromancer they had fought in Red Larch’s cemetery. His weird orb had projected the same mark. He had not thought about it a second since (because he’s Jack), but seeing the image again brought the memory instantly back.

Rook, meanwhile, suddenly felt his sixth sense connection to Shre Bara-Wûd disappear the instant he looked at the mark. A slightly dull feeling krept over him, as if he had felt something the air and now no longer could. This eye was some bad juju…


They reached the plaza of Red Larch at about 4AM, and things looked like any other hot summer night. A few caravans on the streets, and a few stalwart drunk people at the bars of The Singing Sword and The Helm at Highsun. Carefree. But just as they started to wonder where to look, they heard chanting from a main street leading to the square.

Rounding the corner, they found a procession of air cultists opening a cylindrical container covered in earth runes, to reveal a large orb inside. Beyond the glass of the orb, one could see a miniature stormcloud, lit up in intervals from within by flashes of lightning.

A silence spell from Rook disrupted them, as did Jack charging them straight on, but the man holding the orb (which was clearly much lighter than they would have thought) started to smash it with his sword. Some jostling later, though, Jack had the orb in his hands, running for the hills, as the others finished off the cultists. Ethan called Jack back to them, to shove the orb back into the cylinder. By that point the sphere was cracked and vibrating violently in Jack’s hands, but as the top was put back on the cylinder, it immediately became still.

Looking at a cylinder in person, Rook and Jack realized they had seen something like this, only smaller. Back at the Bargewright Hotel, were they had helped Mei’s acquaintance, the theft from the vault had targeted a miniature of its exact description, only with water element runes, rather than earth.

For now, they needed somewhere safe to store this one. And as it so happens, Kaylessa explained to them as they got back to the Singing Sword, Ulrich had been busy construction a vault in the cellar of the hotel. How fortuitous.

They found Ulrich happily hammering away, and he was made aware of the cylinder’s and the orb’s properties. He would make sure it stayed safe.

Valna also brought up the case against Wolfgang Atheinshart. Ulrich was most troubled by the accusations, and even more so when shown the letter Kalinoth had been writing. Atheinshart did not have a daughter as far as he knew, but he had heard rumors of a romantic interlude with a Family champion, decades back… It was the sort of stories you would always hear about a person who had a adventuring background, so it was hard to separate the facts. But a child would fit the bill for compromising the man.

“Director Atheinshart is a good man. He…”

“Ulrich, he has betrayed the OCPD,” interjected Valna.

“He would not fail us for anything less than a child. This goes to the highest level of our organization. We must tread carefully. For now, this must stay in this room. If we need to expose him, our journalist friend can become useful, but do not mention this to Embla.”

Speaking of, they also handed Ulrich the paperwork Rook stole at the HH, and told him to go forensic accounting on their asses. He said that Embla would be invaluable in this regard, and would call her to join them.

Rook sat meditating in the garden of the hotel, when Shre walked up to him.

“Something weird happened last night. I lost contact with you.”

It was back now, having established itself slowly since then. Rook explained that they had found an image of an “eye” in the journal of Kalinoth, and what she had written.

“The eye which the elements swirl around…” she mused. “A poetic description, which I would say points to the Abyss. That… place… is like a dark hole in the middle of the elemental wheel. But how does that make sense for these prophet, and their princes? They only care about their own element.”

“On the other hand”, she continued, “these orbs you have found, the runes on their containers; I fear they represent elemental evil working together. As I have always tried to prevent.”

Cloud Nine
The one where they went to Kalinoth's cocktail party

Embla handed them a small stone tablet, and explained that it would be able to remember a single page of a book if placed upon it. If they could not get incriminating paperwork physically out of there, for some reason, they could at the very least sneakily retrieve one good page.

But, about that invite…

Helen Empyrion owned a moderately large shipping company, operating twenty-odd ships around the Coins and beyond. She had her office by the docks, at the north-west edge of the Old Towers district. The glass building was directly connected to the wharf and pier where they docked.

Not much for subtlety, our heroes landed the Zeusan on the roof. Some slightly bewildered guards greeted them, and on being told of who Jack was, they brought them all down to the doors of Helen’s top floor office. There were a few minutes of muffled voices through those doors as one of the guards entered alone to brief his boss, but he did before long emerge to welcome them through.

Helen had clearly readied herself, “casually” leaning against her desk with a glass of whine in her hand. But while she was about to say something cool, she stumbled at the scene unfolded in the doorway, as Rook, Valna and Ethan had to physically drag Jack through the opening. Nevertheless, when they were all inside of her office, all she could think to do was follow through:

“Jack, what an unexpected pleasure.”


“Can I get any of you a drink?” she continued, walking towards a minibar.

“Yarr, do you have any… rum?” asked Ethan.

She did, and it was a good one.

“You have good taste. Yarr.”

And with that exchange began one of the great romances of our time. Rook, Valna and most of all Jack watched in disbelief as the rugged charm of Ethan blew the socks of Helen.

Despite the barely contained fury of Jack, they explained their want of getting into the party. She was enamored with Ethan, but still demanded something in return for providing them cover, if not ahead of time. It turned out her ships had been hit especially bad by Gar Shatterkeel, and since The Times had run a story the four of them had actually fighting the man, she asked for them to commit to taking his crew down as their very next thing. Since this aligned perfectly well with their overall plans, they agreed.

Helen also divulged, after some prodding, that she knew of the main reason for the cocktal party being held: For Kalinoth to introduce, or rather show off, her connection with a cloud giant, and one that was high up in the Ordning as well. She did not know details about the giant in question, but the revelation certainly put increased pressure on their mission to go smoothly.

Now they had to get some suits. Even if Kalinoth was clearly not afraid of what the OCPD would do, throwing a party like this, they could use getting the lay of the land before starting a fight in the enemy’s stronghold.

Finding a tailor was no problem, and with the right amount of money changing hands, he would work to finish all of the clothes to measurement before the party started.

Then there was the business with the cloud giant visitor, which they could certainly stand to be in good graces with. A gift, seemed appropriate, considering how cloud giants marked their position in the ordning through displays of wealth. And since they loved theatrical masks especially, Rook reshaped two gold bracelets he had into half-masks – one happy and one sad – fit for a giant’s head.

They returned to Helen’s office the night after, suited up and packing the present, to pick her up. The plan was that Ethan would pose as Helen’s suitor, and the others as their bodyguards. After some last-minute repainting of the Zeusan’s blue hull and the giant “OCPD” letters on the side of the balloon, they were off. Cruising in among the Towers district skyscrapers, they quickly came within sight of the rooftop parking.

The welcoming comitée was courteous, if not friendly, and the airship was secured next to the others as our heroes were pointed down a stairway. This put them in large banquet hall, taking up almost half the floor. It was decorated for the occasion, with light fabrics fluttering gently in the breeze from the, thankfully, open windows. It was another hot, humid day, and despite the elevation there was almost no wind. Beyond the glass a balcony seemed to circle almost the entire level.

Lots of important-looking people were milling about, having gentle conversation over incredibly carbonated cocktails. But it was clear that all newcomers were first directed towards the host: Aerisi Kalinoth stood in the middle of the room, clearly having the time of her life.

Rook, Jack and Valna backed off slightly as Ethan and Helen moved in for the greeting, so as to not risk being recognized. Aerisi was standing next to a large round opening in the floor, with a spiral stairway leading to the next floor down. Helen took the reins of the conversation with Kalinoth, keeping her distracted while the others started to spread out.

Ethan stood by and kept his mouth shut, observing the two women talk. They clearly had some sort of frenemy thing going on, with Aerisi slyly admonishing Helen for the gift of the masks clearly showing that she knew something about the secret guest. Helen’s laughter in response was exactly the right kind of mirthless, void thing that it should be. Ethan let himself relax slightly, with the social aspect clearly covered.

Meanwhile, the others reconvened to compare notes on the situation. There was a number of patrolling guards, who, going by their starved frames (though hidden under much fabric and feathers), were clearly full members of the air cult. The guestlist did not include any overtly famous people, though Jack and Valna might recognize one or two politicians and/or businessmen. More interesting were the members of the catering, because they were seemingly armed underneath their work attire. Secret guards? They did not look gaunt like the others. So some other crew infiltrating the place? Possibly.

They did not have time to investigate, however, so Rook snuck into the nearest bathroom, took on the disguise of a gaunt guard, and joined the rotation. And at first chance, he walked down the spiral stairway into the offices of HH.

It was hard to see clearly beyond the room, because gossamer fabrics hung in all the doorways, and down the halls as well. There was also a constant breeze down there, much stronger than up above. Rook did find some paper laying on a small table below the stairs, seemingly tossed there for later. While opaque in their language, they seemed to report the HH moving out of the ruins of Tyar-Besil, with the prisoners/inductees being the most troublesome aspect of the operation.

Interesting, but nothing good enough to weaponize against Kalinoth, frankly. He moved on. The room to the west was some sort of open office area, with something like 40 desks. Nothing useful. But moving south into another such area, he startled a woman at a desk. She was clearly terrified of his disguise, and excused herself over and over. She seemed to little information, and Rook simply moved on.

The next room was a bit of a leap from the office space he left, because it was a weapons workshop. He recognized several of the designs as in use by the air cult; boomerangs, darts, even a number of flight suits. Rook took some at went back out.

Back in the first office room, he decided to ignore a northern door labeled “HR” and instead move further west. This ended him up in a room with two guards. While suspicious, they wrote him off as a greenhorn (even letting slip that they guarded Kalinoths chamber), and he could backtrack.

Up above, the others gathered to watch the proceedings in waiting for the giants to arrive, or Rook to return. And that’s when Wolfgang Atheinshart walked into the room. Which was surprising on its own, but even more so was that Kalinoth walked right up to the man and hooked her arm through his.

Disbelief and at least some anger colored their assessment of this situation, and they were unable to read the body language between the director and their host. And before they could do anything else, a massive, primal roar filled the air.

The room was stunned into silence, but Kalinoth immediately called their attention:

“Our guests of honor are here! Everyone, if you would please follow me up to the roof.”

And so they all did, to be greeted with the sight of a giant castle (as in a castle for giants, not just a giant- you get it), set atop a cloud, come gliding down from the sky between the skyscrapers and come to a stop next to the roof. A massive drawbridge fell from its gates, and shook the entire building as it hit. And out came a giantess, imposing in a dark green dress and a black chestpiece. She wore a white cloud like hair, and held a mask of a slightly amused expression.

“Greetings, small folk,” her voice echoed.

Kalinoth beamed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Countess Sansuri! Tonight, she has agreed to hear any request of yours as a favor to me. Consider this me paying off my debts to some of you, and paying forward to all others.”

People immediately started to form a line, and Helen dragged Ethan along into it without hesitation.

That shaking was not a good sign.

Another corridor T intersection had Rook choosing between “Stable” and “HR”. He decided HR was more likely to contain juice documents. Which was a good plan, except it turned out to be a torture chamber. And one of the glass cells was occupied, by the bard from Tyar-Besil: Windharrow. He was clearly very hurt, but Rook did not want to drag him along. However, it turned out the next door was locked, and very clearly it would take the handprint of a employee or cult member (if there was a difference…) to open it.

Rook considered the shaking of the building just then. He did not know what caused it, but it drove home the point of being in a hurry. The bard, then. He cast a silence spell and smashed the door of the cell, dragging Windharrow to his feet and giving him a quick heal. A mending spell erased the evidence of how the break-out took place.

Windharrow was frankly in a wretched state, even with a bit of healing. The torture had likely taken some mental toll. But he was very interested in the idea of getting out, and found the prospect of helping Rook find some incriminating documents in exchange for his freedom a good deal. As they got through the door with his handprint, he explained that just down the hall and beyond a trophy room, they would find Kalinoth’s personal office. That would be their best bet.

They ran for it, busting into the trophy room. It was a varied lot. Sticking out was some battle-worn equipment with the marks of Atheinshart, Hrndziir and Majarra. But there was also a large selection of other artifacts and weapons, most likely magical. Most of it was protected by spells, but one very nautically themed trident was not. There was no indication of why, but Windharrow told him that it was a conquest from the Crushing Wave that was not deemed useful enough to actually protect heavily. They just kept it around to brag about their victory. He knew it was magical, but not what its powers were. Rook stuffed it into his bag of holding, right along the body of Dryflagon.

Up on the roof, Ethan and Helen were allowed to speak to Sansuri. Helen offered her the masks with a courtesy, and it seemed they were well received.

Valna and Jack watched this from a few meters away, when suddenly Kalinoth took the moment to walk right up next to them.

“Hello, Jack. Thank you for bringing the airship back to me.”

Ring of Winter, Sphere of Fire
The one where they looked for Artus Cimber a little while

Clean-up took some time. All night, in fact. The damage could have been worse, but there was still a significant death-count, especially among the officers of OCPD. Six of the twelve patrolmen were dead, along with some thirteen civilians. Still, they could only spend so much time on the aftermath. Embla was waiting on them to join in taking down Kalinoth, and there were the other cults. Ulrich got out the paperwork, and they held a short ceremony.

Jack hit the bar. Shre had taken the regular bartender’s place again, pouring two drinks.

“More deaths, huh?” she offered. “It is hard to find good help.”


They raised their glasses.

“Don’t look for the Ring of Winter, Jack. It is only trouble.”


In the late afternoon. After some sleep, Kaylessa called them to the garden of the Singing Sword to speak. They arrived to find her in conversation with Harburk, but she waved them over.

“Red Larch looks to me for some guidance,” she said. “After we dealt with the Believers, I have maneuvered us back into some stability. With OCDP:s help, of course. Now, in that role, I must ask you what we know of last night’s attack, and how we keep it from happening again.”

Indeed, there was not much to know. Harburk had told her of Artus Cimber and the Ring of Winter, and our heroes could not say any more about the frost giants than she herself had heard that evening.

As for keeping it from happening again: Harburk refused to leave Red Larch, even when confronted with the idea that the giants would just return under some other leadership. This was his home, and he would stay and protect it. The concept that he would help the town best by leaving likewise found no purchase.

He did offer a lead on Artus Cimber, however: There was a family in Beliard, called the Roaringhorns, who he had worked with. They should still have an estate there. Maybe they could point our heroes to the man or the ring?

Kaylessa gave her own support, handing them a letter of recommendation to present to her aunt; Inirva Coldwater. She owns a trading ship, operating out of Occam harbour, which could prove useful if they were to follow the frost giants (provided, reasonably, that the had arrived by ship).

They said their goodbyes, and headed for the Zeusan. And got as for as the lobby, where Senna and Danny stood, sheepishly. The airship had been quickly repaired, they said, and they might might be able to help out further.

Danny avoided Jack’s gaze as she gave them two leads: One) A professor lecturing on historical artifacts at the academy, by the name of Jint Bakoss, had a personal interest in the Ring of Winter. If they wanted to know more about it, he was probably their best bet in all of the city. He held tenure at Witchhill University, so finding him would probably not be an issue. Two) Senna knew of a treant living in Kryptgarden, a park between Red Larch and Ashgard. It went by the name of Turlang, and according to Senna it hated giants. And most importantly, it had made itself known for tactical prowess against them.

Ethan advocated strongly for finding the ring. That kind of artifact would be a great help in this fight. The others wondered if looking for it would not just distract them from the cults, but seeing as they could knock out some of the suggested visits on the way, the agreed to at least follow up.

Because Kryptgarden was famously guarded by a ancient green dragon called “Old Gnawbones”, and they had had enough of massive creatures for a while, they headed to Beliard. It was also on the way to the Times, at any rate.

The local OCPD force gave them a rather stiff welcome, likely because last time the Red Larch crew rolled through town, they got chased out of town. But they smiled and waved, and respected the Captain’s badge enough to take care of the airship for the moment. As for the Roaringhorns, they merely pointed down a street, and said they could navigate by the sound after that.

And indeed, there was quite a raucous party going on in and around the house of Roaringhorn. Even the two guards were a bit sloshed, but not enough to let the cops in. Rook tried sneaking in through the garden party while the others distracted them, but tripped over his own ass. Eventually, however, the good nature of our heroes convinced the guard to at least go inside and as for his lord; Zelraun Roaringhorn, treating our heroes to some gratuitous nudity going on inside.

A few minutes later, Lord Roaringhorn did emerge with the guard, as well as an 11-foot golem of metal and wood. The man himself was a closer-to-40, with a thick, square, black beard and soft robe on.

They spoke at length, with Zelraun being quite surprised at hearing Artus Cimber’s name all of a sudden. They had indeed worked together, some 70 years ago (so he was clearly not 40, then), at the Occam Times. After several years of busting various villains and taking on any corrupt use of power.

“A grand old time we had, haha…”

Wistfulness overtook the man after a while, even as the party continued swinging around him. Artus had apparently started working on some secret mission, not revealing his story to anyone. And then one day, he had simply disappeared. There were stories surfacing here and there in the world outside Occam since then, hinting that he was still at large, running around all over, fixing people’s problems. But he never stayed long, and the stories suggested he was hunted constantly, but by what was vague at best. Could be many things.

Zelraun had pieced together, in the first months following Artus vanishing, that the man had looked for the Ring of Winter. But that was pretty much the end of it. He did not want to be found, so Zelraun respected that. Hearing that frost giants were looking for him and the ring caused concern.

“It is not the only notice of rampaging giants I have heard in recent weeks. Some say there are hill giants are trampling in the fields, and that fire giants have been walked brazenly into the city, dug up streets and smashed houses, and walked away with what they found. You should be careful…”

Before parting, he also dug impossibly deeply into the arms of his robe, and produced some random potions and dusts he found. Wishing them good luck, he went inside.

They reached Witchhill by half-past eleven that night, but as they did, Valna spotted something by the harbour to the west. Two fires had broken out a little over a mile in between. Nothing much strange there, but she saw something else as well: There seemed to be a… bubble around them and the surrounding city. A huge one, something like a mile in radius. It was very hard to see at night, but the air stirred inside it, like it was very hot. Jack and Rook realized it was quite close to the dock were they had entered the tunnel to Tyar-Besil, and found the pirate.

Heading over took mere minutes, and when they did, they saw people running out of it in masses. They had no problem flying into it, but as soon as they were inside, they realized it was over 40 degrees inside. Luckily, they all had fire resistance (damn it…), and they could stand it without problem. Parking the Zeusan between the edge of the “bubble” and the nearest fire, Rook went to see if he could dispel the edge of it somehow, causing the air to leak out, and the others headed for the flames.

While Rook managed to punch a hole in it, the magic feeding heat was strong enough that no real drop in temperature happened. It did cause a strong gust of wind as warm air rushed out, but that was it.

The others reached the fire and went to work. One house was already lit as fuck. Valna organized the scared people running around into a proper bucket chain, with some thaumaturgy, focusing them on keeping the fire from spreading. Jack and Ethan started asking questions, but found out little. As Rook reached them as well, they wondered if they would find out more at the center of the effect. Making their way to it took some 10, 15 minutes and they found a crossing with a small stone centerpiece. On it stood a wide, low cone. Solid, with an indentation at the top. Various people stood a “safe” distance from it, some whispering, some shouting.

Around the cone was a traces of ash on the cobbles, but itself it was featureless. Just a metal cone. Asking around here proved more useful, as it turned out. A local man told them of strangely dressed figures putting down a cylinder covered in blue runes. The details he gave – sooty black leaders, protective glasses, black robes adorned with thin lines looking like heated metal, burnt skin – were enough to understand the fire cult was behind it. They had removed the cylinder casing to reveal a large orb resting on the cone they now saw, and then left. Within the orb there was trapped a swirling flame. Eventually one of the local boys had moved up to it, but before he was even five feet near it, it had exploded in wave of sudden heat. The boy had just disappeared, leaving only the soot marks, and the heat had just stayed.

Ethan looked closer at the cone. The metal was of a make often used in containing magical effects, but it alone could never have subdued the kind of powerful magic they were now seeing. The runes on the outside of the cylinder must have had something to do with it. As for the magic itself, he theorized that the sphere must have shifted everything within a mile from it closer to the plane of fire to reach the level of magic being pumped into the air at every moment, to keep it hot. It could only go on for so long, but he said it might last as long as 24 hours.

Because the cultists had vanished over an hour ago, they headed over to help at the second fire, and Valna yelled some organization into the response there as well. Splitting up between the fires, they worked on for four hours keeping them contained, before word reached both groups of a third fire. Rushing over there, Jack immediately busted into the burning store looking for anyone trapped. Finding a halfling woman inside took him little effort, beyond some burns.

Asking around while Valna again organized the fuck out of the locals, they understood that no foul play had been seen. No cultists running around setting fire to stuff. Ethan suggested that being closer to the plane for fire would increase the likelihood of a violent flare in a flame or even cause spontaneous combustion.

For now, they knew that they were fighting a losing battle. The other two fires were spreading despite their best efforts. To save as many as possible, they would have to organize a retreat-and-contain operation. The found the major of the district, Jint Bakoss, and convinced him to give up the place and have his people arrange along the edge of the “bubble”, where they could stand the heat, and keep the flames from leaving it.

Flying the Zeusan back and forth, rescuing stranded and forcing the stubborn to leave, they spent the almost 18 more hours helping, before the effect suddenly vanished in seconds, with a rush of cold air coming in. While in the end more than half of the district had burned down, they had kept the fire from spreading beyond.

So with THAT done… They had lost enough time before dealing with the air cult. The professor could wait. They headed to the Occam Times.

Flying between the skyscrapers of Centerpoint, they reached the home of the paper, and landed among the other airships on the roof. The welcome there was not warm, but cordial. Some guards said they were late, but expected. Embla was waiting below.

Taking the elevator down the 17th, they walked out into the wide open space of messy cubicles. The guards led them directly to Embla’s. She was wide-eyed, sleep-deprived, and ready to take on the world. Or at least Kalinoth.

“And we are in luck. Probably. I have good, bad and worse news. You see, she is brazen enough to hold a social function at the HH Holdings offices. Even after openly attacking OCPD. She’s invited all sorts of allies and competitors. Apparently, she has some important, secret, benefactor as a guest. And she is offering to introduce others to him or her. The good news is that we can use that to get to Kalinoth, or at least get into their office under the cover of this party. You all have suits, don’t you? Oh, and the bad news is that for her to be this brazen she must have dealt with the possibility of OCPD getting at her. Because many there are furious over the attack near the High Forest. The worse news is that we need an invitation, and I have only one lead. Her name is Helen- OH GODS JACK COME DOWN FROM THERE!”

A Cold Northern Wind
The one where frost giants came to Red Larch

Embla left immediately, but Rook needed another two nights at least before he would be fit for a fight. Too bad, too, because that evening some crazy shit went down.

It was still early summer, but it was already getting very warm in Occam. By all accounts, it was shaping up to be a hot season. But at around eight PM on that day, Red Larch suddenly shuddered as a bitter cold wind drew in from the north. People had the presence of mind to notice a bad omen when they witnessed one, but the subject of the warning was perhaps more immediate than many would have guessed.

Rook was sitting in the garden of the Singing Sword when the temperature fell, and flaring his senses, he noticed vibrations in the ground and buildings. Growing stronger. He was still beat from the dying, but headed for the roof, taking Jack and Valna with him. Still growing stronger. They scanned the surrounding skyline, but since Red Larch sat at the bottom of a quarry, it was not until they could almost hear the shaking that they saw the cause:

Twelve giants, along with two massive wolves, marchin straight at them.

“Frost giants,” said Jack.

Ethan was soaking in a bath at Haefleeya Hnarzm’s bathhouse, thinking about the sea and… stuff. He would not have minded it being a bit colder given the heat of the evening, but it was so nice to just rest in the water. He pushed his little boat model around. And then he saw it bob on the waves. What in Davy Jones’ name was vibrating the whole building?

He reluctantly dried himself off, paid Hnarzm when reminded him, and went outside. Why was it so cold? And why- ohshitgiants!

The giants were spreading out now, with the leader and two guards heading for the main plaza of Red Larch while the others took created a ring around the neighbourhood. The leader and her two guards reached the plaza just as Jack, Rook, Valna, Danny and Senna reached the entrance of the hotel. Kaylessa stood outside already, just shaking her head in annoyance.

The leader was a head higher than the others, and carried a massive horn made from some frightening beast. Once she had taken in the surroundings for five seconds, she barked out:

“We have come for Artus Cimber! You will give him.”

It was clear common was a secondary language, but the sheer noise sort of compensated. However, they did not know any Artus Cimber living in Red Larch. But searching their collective memories, they remembered Cimber being a hero of note in Occam. He had saved the city on a number of occasions, though that would have been something like seventy years ago. In fact, he had just disappeared, had he not?

“He does not live her, lady.”

“Liars! We know he is here, his blood has told our jarl of it.”

She shoved a massive piece of parchment into their faces, presumably to underline that statement, but it was written in giant. Kaylessa could read it, as could Ethan, with the help of magic.

The blood of Artus Cimber tells us that he is hiding in Red Larch of Occam. Sail there, and get the Ice that Never Melts from him.

Only Ethan understand what the Ice that Never Melts referred to. That was one of the poetic names given to the Ring of Winter. Which he found very exciting, but yes of course also concerting that these giants would be hunting something like that.

Because that name was something some of the others knew as well, with Danny having studied it some. The Ring of Winter was a legendary artifact, tumbling from legend to legend, hero to villain. It was a superweapon of legend, said to be able to freeze the world.

This was going to take some negotiating to avoid massive damage to Red Larch and its inhabitants. Drufi, for that was the giant’s name, was very convinced of this blood thing pointing her correctly. They figured Artus Cimber either lay buried in town, or at least one of his descendants lived there. They heard a massive crash.

Constable Harburk stared at the giant looming over the street corner it had just smashed. There were screams, he did not know if they were under or past the wreckage, but he started to dig. It was massively heavy, but was else was there? The giant laughed at him.

They needed to stall before the giants destroyed any more. Drufi was teetering on the edge of a rage, that much was clear. They managed to convince her that they might know where to look for Artus – concealing that it was the graveyard – but she insisted on following them. Great.

Senna and Danny stayed to see if any descendant of Cimber stepped forward, but Kaylessa followed our heroes and the giants to Lance Rock. On the way, Jack passed out protection spells using the Kalt rune, to guard against the first hit of the giants’ axes.

At the cemetery, they frantically under the displeased scowl of Drufi, but found no grave with the name Cimber chiseled into it. Jack tried to talk to Drufi, make her understand that they did not want to hide the man, they really did not know were he was. But she snapped, grabbed him, and threw him straight into the nearest crypt. Now, she was certainly surprised that he simply walked away from that as the Kalt rune saved him from the impact, but wasted no time. She blew her horn, and down in the city they all at once hear how the other giants started wreaking havoc.

Danny and Senna had gone to the roof to commandeer the Zeusan when no one stepped forward as Cimber or his spawn. They figured Jack might need help and would forgive them for using the airship. While he did not know of it, they had done so before for a bit of fun, so they had no problem steering it. They had set course for the cemetery to provide aerial support, but once the horn sounded and the giants went ham, they started to get creative. The Zeusan had a PA system installed, and grabbing the mic, Danny turned it up to maximum as she yelled for Artus Cimber to please show himself to save Red Larch from this.

Harburk was still frantically trying to dig through the ruin when the horn sounded, and his heart sank as he heard the laughing giant tear down the wall of another building. And then he heard the name of his father echoing out from the OCPD’s silly airship hanging above him. He shouted back.

Just as the fighting was getting started at the cemetery, the PA system of the Zeusan (Jack made a mental note of the unapproved flight) rang out a second time, claiming that they had found the son of Artus Cimber. That had the giants’ attention, and they set of down into Red Larch at speed. Our heroes set after, though they could not keep up.

As the giants were getting close to the airship, Danny and Senna got the quick version of Harburk’s relation to his father: It was not much of one. Artus had disappeared mere months after his birth. According to his mother, he had to leave because of dangerous people chasing him for the Ring. She had been aware of that possibility, though, and Harburk had grown up comfortably with an extended family. What stood out was the timeframe. This would have been 47 years ago, more than 20 after Cimber had gone missing, and by the account of his mother he looked at most 30. Something was keeping him young.

At the moment, however, the most crucial part was that Harburk had no idea what had become of his father after that. Danny and Senna did not see how handing him over would change much. Drufi wanted his father before she would leave. Still, Harburk insisted that he would like to try and reason with her, maybe convince her to take him instead. They relented and let him jump off on a nearby roof before they set out to find reinforcements in the likely event things became a lot worse.

Jack, Ethan and the others caught up with the giants as they stood beneath the airship, waiting. Kaylessa headed off to organize some kind of response to the mayhem the giants were causing all around Red Larch.

“Fix this, Jack. Please.”

It became clear that Drufi would not be satisfied with Harburk, and they needed to act before the whole town was reduced to rubble. So it became the fighting option, come what may.

Rook felt like shit, but he through up a wall of fire to divide the three giants, and then commanded Drufi to run through it, away from them. The winter wolves were simple enough to just rush the team, but the two giants were confused by their leader’s command of attacking them while she started running the other way. One simple grunted, and the other went for Harburk, who had just climbed down from the roof.

By the strength of that tactical advantage, our heroes were able to deal several rounds of spells upon the giants before they countered. Jack held off the wolves, while Ethan threw assorted elemental chaos upon them. Rook and Valna, meanwhile, started some clerical one-upmanship of spiritual weapons and guardians. Harburk ended up in the bag of the giant, but said giant was then rammed by the quickly returning Senna and Danny in the Zeusan. It took a big chunk out of the front with its axe, but dropped the bag and was pushed into the street.

Banking, correctly, on that laying Drufi low would deter the other giants through lack of leadership, they brought her down, along with the wolves and one guard. The second one, holding its ribs after being rammed, roared in defeat, before blowing to sharp burst into his own horn. The sound of giants smashing house died down quickly, and was followed by the crashing of their feet as they retreated north.

Born for the Moon
The one where Celendril woke up on the moon

Staring down on the pile of moss and mushrooms that was once Celendril, Jack and Ethan cursed. And then they heard something very big moving in the woods behind them, so they picked up that and the bags of Rook, and ran.

Running in the general direction Celendril had pointed towards for getting to his village, they ran. They were getting away, but suddenly an arrow hit a tree two inches from Jack’s head, bouncing off it. Twenty feet up, among the branches, they caught eye of the origin: The bow of a human man wearing clothing much like their deceased elf. Moonborn.

The human and his partner, a gnome woman, told them to be quiet, because “the fire giant is nearby.” Considering the heavy footsteps behind them, they agreed to this request. Jack did climb up to look them in the eye, just to let them know he could. With his position thus established, they could talk about the next steps.

The moonborn apparently knew Celendril, though they were very confused about the bag of weeds that Jack showed them when they asked about were his body was. While reluctant to welcome any strangers into their village, Jack did match himself in the story told by Gariena when she came back from looking for Celendril and the Circle of the Scarlet Moon.


Celendril awoke with a serious headache. He also awoke in a greyscale forest, which took precedent over the pain. Seconds after he did, around him appeared his assassins. Though, at this point, they seemed just as confused as him. On of tall ones asked, groggily, what the trickery this was.

Our elven hero shrugged, and concluded neither of them were to blame for this particular bit. One of the taller darklings, their leader, introduced himself as Erasmus, and offered a truce. They were just after the bounty, and that seemed sort of pointless right then. More pressing: Where the hell where they?

Looking around for a second, Celendril wrestled with a sense of familiarity, before realizing why: The wood around him was a mirrored copy of where they had fought in the High Forest.

Before he had time to think about this for real, though, he saw another thing: A strange, green glint dancing in the air, slightly above his head’s height. The flashes were so faint and quick, it was hard to even follow, but he thought it looked like the head of Jack’s axe… It hovered above were he had died (in the original forest) for a minute or so, and then it set off towards the “east north-east”. Mirrored. This is harder to describe in writing than it is actually. Basically, the axe went towards where Celendril’s would be (roughly), if the High Forest was mirrored. Which it was. Obviously. You understand me, right?

Celendril and the darklings followed the axe for a minute, before it suddenly stopped again. As Celendril looked around it, he caught eye of another pair of greenish glints as well. They mapped well to what would be the position of Jack’s eyes. With further searching, he also saw what he thought could be the shimmer in the eyes of Ethan. It was like seeing only the reflection in them, and nothing else. They moved around too much to get any details, though.

And suddenly, “Jack” seemed to climb up a tree. Before Celendril could react to that, he heard soft footsteps coming from behind them. They seemed to be coming from some hundred meters away. Which was odd, since it sounded like someone walking super lighly over the forest floor.

They all hid. And saw a pale female tiefling step out of the vegetation.

“Really?” she said. “Come back out.”

It was impossible to tell her age, and she glowed with a pale blue light. Celendril had paid enough attention in his religious schooling:


“Among other things – yes.”

With their guides leading the way from the trees, Jack and Ethan reached the village of Leádth in a few hours. It was a number of huts and tents raised around a spring issuing from a low cliff. An official-looking hut stood on the top of the cliff, right above where the water gushed forth. And somewhere close by, someone was playing a violin.

They were exhausted, but they were not going to sleep with the remains of Celendril and Rook tucked into a corner.

“Can anyone here help with this shit?”

A brawny woman, almost as big as Jack, stepped out of a tent, and went to stop them from going any further. Her name was Hilon, the village champion, and she wondered what the fuck the scouts were doing leaving the fire giant unwatched and bringing strangers to the village.

Jack showed her the bag of Celendril-related moss. Her face hardened, and she said that she recognized Jack from Gariena’s tale.

“But the druid clearly left out an important part…”

Hilon dismissed the scouts, and ushered the officers towards the cliff.

Julian will decide what happens next.”

They entered into the main hut, and found the unmistakable abode of a healer and shaman. Full of various nick-nacks and stocked with herbs on every free space. There was a bubbling cauldron in the middle, a slab for patients, all of it. A big window looked out over the edge of the cliff, and a telescope stood there, pointed to the sky.

The sole occupant was an old elf, a male one. Actual age was pretty much impossible to tell. He looked at them with scepticism, which deepend to a dark mistrust when shown the remains of Celendril.

“Call Gariena here immediately.”

Hilon disappeared for two minutes, as the old elf stared at them. First at Jack.

“You I recognize from her story,” he said with a frail, cracked voice.

And then he turned to Ethan, and started to sniff.

“You… smell of the sea-”

“Yarr. Thanks.”

“-too much…”

The sound of the violin stopped suddenly, and a minute later Hilon showed up with Gariena in her grasp. The druids shot a pained look at Jack, before Julian spoke to her.

“You might have left something out of your tale regarding the journeys of Celendril,” he said, and pointed to the pile that had now been put on the slab, next to the bags of Rook.

“I might have.”

More awkward silence. Jack broke it:

“Could you help bring them back?”

The elder, champion and druid all looked at him with about the same level of incredulity.

“Because you helped deal with the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, I will bring the cleric back. Given that you provide for me the cost of resurrection.”

Jack emptied out the valuables from the bag of holding.

“That enough?”

Julian nodded and proceeded to pull open a small drawer on an apothecary’s bureau, and pick up a small diamond. Pushing them all towards the walls of the place, and scraped the contents of the blood-soaked bags onto the floor. Over about an hour of grisly, ritualistic puzzle-laying, he formed the pieces into the shape of a man.

“That right hand looks weird,” thought Ethan, but decided not to say anything.

In his spiritually reconstructed old workshop, Rook suddenly heard voices over his shoulder. First one he did not know, and then Jack’s. He looked down at the breastplate he had been making. Barely begun, but it was turning out well. He put it down with a sigh, turned around, and walked back into the material plane.

The reformed Rook gasped to life before them, breathing heavily. He looked like crap. And it turned out the right hand had not been his, so there was just a stump there now. Great. Oh, and they had given away pretty much all his valuables to bring him back. He had mixed feelings about that.

Julian threw them out of his house.

Hilon was eager to send the three of them away, but upon Jack’s asking for a place to get some rest, she looked them over and relented. They were given an empty hut with some hammocks.

“You leave tonight.”

Gariena stayed with them for a while, talking about the nature of Celendril’s choices. He had made himself an enemy of his people in his pact with the Queen of Air and Darkness. The moonborn had made their pact for the forest’s protection when the courts had not answered their calls for help. “Too busy to answer the call of any tribe that came a-knocking on their door.” But when they could no longer have the High Forest, they wanted it more than anything. And so they were always trying to find a way to reconnect it to the feywild, to reestablish their power, or at least gain more influence over it than the other court.

The moonborn are not many, and the two main reasons they have not been overrun is that, one, the courts fight each other more than the people of the forest; and two, the moonborn are always watchful. For Celendril to leave their ranks, and then join the forces of the enemy? Gariena tried to look past it, to his good reasons – but as much as she liked him, she had a hard time to buy it. It was short-sighted, plain and simple.

They followed Sehanine for hours. She only spoke when spoken to, and said that while she would not lie to them, all the details of their current situation would take too long to go into.

Celendril asked if she could tell him about his friends. To which she walked up onto a small hill in nearby, from which she could more clearly see the night sky above them.

“Yes, they are fine. They have gone to your home village. Your cleric has been resurrected.”

He walked up to her to see what see what she was looking at, and found that it was the earth. Specifically the coastline where Occam lay.


They walked on for a short while until they reached the end of the forest, and looked out over a similarly greyscale desert.

“So. As a first point on your initiation, I would like to welcome you to the moon. Well, one of them. Mine, specifically.”

And over the horizon behind her, the second moon arose slowly.

“And there is our mutual enemy.”
There was a bit of stunned moment. Another female tiefling came walking from the desert, one slightly younger than the woman they spoke to, but entirely fitting of the name “Sehanine” as well. They nodded to each other, as the new one walked past and into the woods.

“You may ask me any questions, I have other faces doing work as well, so there is no rush.”

The obvious question was what “enemy” the other moon represented. Celendril knew, as did most others with a basic knowledge of the history of the world, that the second, smaller, moon had shown up suddenly unknown millenia ago. It was referenced in pretty much all lore as a cataclysmic event, triggering planetwide earthquakes, tidal waves, and magical chaos. But there was no indication of reason to fight it.

Sehanine explained that it was technically the people on it that was the enemy. The moon itself was merely their vessel. And their weapon. They were trying crash it into the planet, into Occam. The impact would without a doubt kill every living thing on the earth, so why they were aiming so specifically for the city, she could not say. But she intervened, keeping it in orbit instead.

“They do not like this, of course, and send their forces to attack me. So I need an army to protect myself. My pact with your people is a part of this.”

The darklings actually agreed to the idea, seemingly glad for a purpose beyond bounty hunting. That, and Sehanine promised them something about art. Celendril was slightly confused by that part. He himself coughed nervously, and brought up his current quest.

“Yes, I had heard the princes of elemental evil were stirring…” she began, though she quickly waved her hand to dismiss the thought. “But our predicament up her commands my attention and priorities, as I think it should yours. If you are sorely needed, your friends can resurrect you.”

Come the evening, Jack, Ethan and Rook were preparing to leave. Outside, they saw that the villagers had gathered around a small campfire, and were now going back to their everyday chores. Only Gariena remained by it.

Hilon pushed them onwards, but allowed them to exchange words with the druid. Apparently, the fuel of the fire was Celendrils remains. This was what observance he got. Julian had stayed in his hut.

“Yarr. This is ridiculous,” said Ethan. And before Hilon had a chance to react, he ran for the elder’s home. “Celendril is an assets, and then makes one mistake…?!”

Hilon was going to make a dash for him, but suddenly there was a yell from the edge of the village.

“The fire giant, it is here!”

And indeed, it was. Coming out from between the trees, roaring and swinging, was a huge humanoid figure, completely ablaze. It looked made completely from fire at first, but inside there seemed to be some form of misshapen skeletal structure. It swung madly at the trees around them, not doing any damage, which seemed to enrage it. Then it laid eyes on the village, and went towards it with massive steps.

They sprung into action. Jack rushed it head-first, giving Rook just enough time to charge the captain’s weapon up. Efforts to hold it were temporary at best. Gariena tied it down with vines, but its flames kept them from stopping it long. Ethan tried to stop it with a sleet storm, but it powered through. But it did provide opportunities: Rook smashing it with his magical anvil and Jack cutting into it with his now magical axe.

Judging by the wood and some few pieces of metal that their attacks sent flying when hitting the thing, it seemed like it was some sort of wicker giant come to life. The thing climbed upon the roof of a hut, after a particularly brutal attack by Rooks anvil, and roared at him. In the heat, Rook’s gift of sight from Shre Bara-Wûd kicked, and for a moment he thought he saw the face of Elizar Dryflagon screaming at him, instead of the fire giant.

Hilon felt a bit up-staged by the laters charge, so she went in as well. They burned, but before they fell, Ethan sent a lightning bolt straight at the thing, causing it arch its back before it exploded into hundreds of burning parts, raining down over the village.

And in the wreckage of the hut it had burned down, they found the very badly burnt body of Dryflagon.

The burning hut was put out. Hilon looked at Rook and especially Jack with some measure of respect. Ethan meanwhile had slunk of to speak with Julian.

The elder stood in his window, having watched the chaos below.

“You?” he said as Ethan walked in. “I imagined they might come to speak with me, to convince me to help the traitor. But not you.”

“Yarr. Come oooon, though! Know know you want to help him.”

Julian walked up to him.

“What you serve will not give you what you think.”

And the elder walked right past him down to Jack and Rook.

“It is things like this that you fight?”


“And they threaten us all?”


“And Celendril helped you with fighting them?”


The old elf sighed.

“Let’s talk”

Hunted by Moonlight
The one where Rook got killed for picking up a cone

Celendril knew that his adopted queen was watching, so in asking for help he put a bounty on his head.

He had no idea how to break it, but he reckoned the best choice would be to ask with his own people, back in the High Forest. After all, they had cut it off from the fey courts’ influence. Perhaps they could do the same for him.

They left at once. Or they tried, at least. But in the lobby they were stopped by Embla and Bero Gladham, fresh out of the infirmary. And they both wanted to know when they were taking out Kalinoth. You know, because she was running a cult imprisoning people.

Jack managed to calm them, saying they would get right on it, but that they needed to help Celendril first if they were going to succeed.

Embla said she would start preparing for that, and expect him back post haste.

“I just want my wife back…” said Gladham quietly.

Up to the EAC Zeusan. Ethan kicked her into gear (rather harshly), and the hunt was on.

They made it perhaps a quarter of the way to the High Forest before shit went down. It was, however, shit from the inside.

Let me try that again.

When trouble did arrive, however, it was from within our heroes own ranks. And the moon. Jack suddenly felt a tingling through his skin, as the full moon abruptly peaked out from above the heavy clouds. And, a hot second later, there was a massive boar standing where he used to.

The airship started to tilt as the beast thrashed against his comrades, threatening to tip them all out. But Rook threw himself at Jack with both hands, and with a jolt cast off the curse from him.

Silence fell, with only their panting breaking it. And then a man with a balloon pack came falling past the airship from above. Before they had a chance to make ask “what”, “why” and perhaps most importantly “how”, he summoned a powerful gust of wind that nearly threw them from the ship.

And then he just continued down. But he was replaced by wingsuit-flying martial artists. Our heroes did kill them, but not before Rook went falling over the side. This would have killed him of course, falling some 600 feet, but thanks to the power of death ward, it did not. But in a curious display of irony, he had landed in the results of a massacre.

Stepping out of the trash pile that had broken his fall, Rook looked around in the alley at the literal remains of a bloodbath. At least 20 bodies lay mutilated around him, with blood covering much of the ground and walls. A quick look around told him that many of the victims were members of the Hrndziir family, bearing their telltale heraldry: A kiln, a star and a river.

Most curious was, however, the three red cones sticking up through, and covered by, the blood. Rook tried to pick one up, which was a mistake.

It turned out to be the hat of a murderous… garden gnome, for lack of a better description, and the little guy’s body was lifted out of the ground by the strap of his cap. Armed with a vicious sickle and great boots of iron, he went to town on the firbolg, who promptly went down.

Not knowing about any of this, the other three dove after him in Zeusan. But it took to long. As they came down enough to see that he was not a pancake, but killed by what Celendril recognized as “*redcaps*”. The little monster Rook had let loose on himself had freed two brothers from the ground, and they had all proceeded to turn their victim into mush with their sickles.

Ethan braked to not hit the ground, but failed, and smashed down on the redcaps. Not a total mistake, at first glance, but the little buggers were incredibly strong, and held Zeusan above their heads. They dropped it, and climbed onto the deck. Seeing Celendril, they became very excited, and yelled something about a reward from “the Queen”. Easy enough to decipher.

Our heroes killed them, but not before their boots had done some serious damage to the airship. Which would be expensive to fix. And of course Rook was very dead. They gathered up his remains in some trash bags. Hopefully they could find someone to revive him.

Now, the crime scene around them. Leaving it would of course mean it was contaminated beyond fixing in the morning. But keeping Celendril alive would have to take precedent.

Rook awoke in his old workshop. Old-old workshop. Not the one under Occam, but back in Hrndziir. Which was weird, because it should not exist anymore.

He went up to the first door he saw. The one leading into the supply closet. He could hear someone on the other side, humming. He knocked.

“I’ll be right with ye,” came rough voice from the other side.

So he waited a while.

Our three living heroes parked Zeusan at the OCPD office closest to where Celendril wanted to enter the High Forest. Jack convinced the captain there, a miss Jyllfast, to take care of it’s repairs. Her payment would be that she could keep it if they did not come back, to which she agreed. It was a nice ship, after all. And she could probably write it off as giving help to another captain was sort of part and parcel of the whole… police force thing.

A dwarf emerged from the storeroom. Red-haired and with a noble look, he introduced himself: King Torhild Flametongue, founder and ruler of Besilmer.

He had made this “midpoint”, as he called it, resembling Rook’s old workshop, to easy his mind in a trying time. By order of Moradin, as a thanks for his service and working to rid Tyar-Besil of the cults. But nevermind: Indeed Rook was dead, and would have to make a choice.

There were two doors leading from the workshop; one into the storeroom, and one into the street. The first would take him to the afterlife, and working for Moradin in his grand designs. It was by no means final, he stressed. Anyone could be resurrected.

There was however another force vying for Rooks service now, the king continued. A ki-rin called Shre Bara-Wûd, who had her own plans. Taking the door into the street would allow her to bring Rook back, under somewhat greater control than before. It was a compromise, because she was… nice… enough not the press the contract he had signed with her too harshly. Probably because she did not want to anger Moradin.

“Anyway, I’ll leave ye to it. I stocked the workshop enough that you can make something with yer hands while ye think. See ye around, firbolg.”

Reaching the woods and starting the walk towards Celendril’s village, they made camp at about 3 in the morning to get some sleep. It was a scant few hours until they would reach their destination, but they would have been up by 24 hours at that point.

And of course they were immediately attacked. Several humanoids, some small and others the size of an elf, sprung forth from the shadows, slicing deep into Jack and Ethan. Their skin was completely covered by thick fabrics, except over the eyes. This betrayed their dark skin and dusky eyes.

Celendril hissed “dubh sith”, but before he could say more the assassins summoned magical darkness around them. This seemed to have little effect on themselves, but our heroes had to swing wildly. Still; magical effects suffered little from this handicap, and Ethan killed several with a lightning bolt. Turns out whatever these things were also exploded in a flash of blinding light when killed, just to keep their vision even more busy.

As Jack cut down the last of them, their magical shadows faded. And he could see Celendril lay dead on the forest floor.

Escaping Queens
The one where they commandeered EAC Zeusan

Aidëon threw down his gauntlet, and told Rook he would let the rest of them fly away in the airship if he stayed and dueled. Rook accepted. And as soon as he did, and they got on, Aidëon cut the rope to it and let the ship drift. Hilarity ensued.

With Embla and the prisoners being stowed into the covered part of the cart of the thing by Celendril, Ethan and Jack discovered that controlling the thing was less than clear. There was a nest of pipes hanging down from the balloon, littered with various levers and gauges, and the markings were said things like “Mood”. However, because there was a steering wheel and a handle marked with arrows, Ethan was able to figure out basic steering; yaw, pitch, roll and propulsion.

Of a fashion. Because as they decided to help Rook (against his wishes, mind you), Ethan succeeded mostly at banging the balloon against the big gates of the step pyramid. The noise rang out in the cavern.

“Don’t interfere, dweebs!” yelled Aidëon.

The nest of pipes hissed and squealed like the world’s biggest set of bagpipes. And there was the sound of something like a voice ringing in them. Ethan figured the thing was actually powered by an air elemental, and all the controls were for somehow keeping it happy. All in all it seemed quite dangerous as a machine, but it was their only realistic way out…

Rook and Aidëon traded blows, trying to push each other over the edge into the waterfall, and Rook traded best. Aidëon went over the edge and disappeared down the dark chasm. Jack and Rook heard him utter a spell as he went over, but nothing came back up.

And they soon had more pressing issues, as the gates to the pyramid flew open to reveal an elven woman with wings like an angel.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she said. It sounded like a whisper, but still somehow rang clearly for them all to hear over the din of the waterfall. “That is mine.”

In her right hand was a spear, and in the other, an instrument unlike anything they had seen. A metallic, s-shaped horn of some sort, riddled with buttons. Rook had a strange feeling at first, looking at her, almost like when Shre Barawûd would speak to him.

“Well-” began Rook, now hanging from the rigging around the balloon.

“Silence you insolent dog! You will only speak when spoken to!”

The whisper had evaporated in terrifying moment, with her voice coming out like thunder in a storm. Rook rather quickly came back from the shock, however:

“Well, you did ask-”

“I. Was. Not. Finished.” she said, her voice back at a whisper.

“Get her instrument, that’s what we need to free the prisoners from her thrall!” Embla suddenly yelled.

This was riveting stuff, but Ethan couldn’t be bothered, so he hit the gas. The piping almost exploded as he went full throttle into the chasm, disappearing around a bend from the scary lady.

This was, frankly, not that much safer than where they had been, because they were flying down a pitch black, narrow corridor at high speed. Causing the balloon to light up with magic provided temporary respite until they found controls for two spotlights at the front of the ship. As soon as they did, they saw a stone bridge dead ahead. Ethan reacted instinctively, spinning the wheel and pulling at the rudders, and kick-flipped the whole thing above the bridge. Everyone held onto the ship and their belongings like mad, except for Embla who saw her sword disappear from her hand as they spun.

Coming back around, Ethan looked very pleased with himself, not really noticing that the pipes of the thing were now vibrating like they were going to explode. Everything was on red. Jack started to flip at the instruments in desperation, succeeding in bringing the… pressure, or something down.

And then things got worse. Two wyvern riders showed up in pursuit, the first one immediately casting lightning bolt towards the ship. It killed two of the rescued prisoners immediately, and knocked out everyone but Rook and Jack. The drug-cleric went for the stabilizing, and the cop-barbarian went for the wheel.

Attempting evasive maneuvers, he shrugged the wyverns off as they tried to pull at it. You’d think these cultist would want the ship back in one piece for their queen…

Performing some grim calculus in need of a distraction, Rook tossed the body of Celendril overboard for the wyverns to snack on. He would come back of this no matter, they would not unless they could get some distance on these assholes. And it worked! The wyverns dove after it, presumably starved like the rest of the cult members. Jack hit the gas, hard, and flew on until they reached the entrance they had gone down into the chasm through.

There was no sign of their pursuers, but they wasted no time. Raising the ship up through it, until they reached the maintenance corridors, suddenly the ceiling above them started to glide open. And as soon as it did, a dense mist came up from below them, streamed past and out. Within 30 seconds, the ceiling (or ground, as it were) had opened enough for them to fly out. The mist provided perfect cover, not letting them see more than ten feet ahead, and crucially not allowing anyone in the Valley to see them fly up, either.

The mood of the air elemental seemed to improve as it went into open air, with the gauges sinking a bit further.

“Yeah, me too, buddy” said Jack. And they set course for Red Larch.

Celendril hit the floor of the Court. Hard. Again. This time though, there was no party around him. The members were standing in a wide circle, exaggerated scorn and disgust on their faces. From somewhere in the back came a loud “Booo!”

This would not be great.

He turned to face the throne, and was immediately pulled up to it by some unseen force, sliding over the dark, polished floor through the piles of dead leaves and blooming flowers. The Queen of Air and Darkness spoke thus:

“What was my command, my soldier?”

“To kill the Queen of Air?”

“For my courts entertainment. And you ran from her. My soldier – we are not entertained.”

Back in Red Larch, the local witch slash matriarch slash possible mastermind, Minthra Mhndzzver, had insinuated herself into the ranks of the OCPD office research unit. At great cost, it should be added. Ulrich admitted caving into her demands, but said they would all regret not doing so. Jack took the hint.

She was no help with repairing the airship, though. They had stranded it on the roof of the Singing Sword. Urquhart had just stared at Jack and said that she would charge rent for a landing pad, even if it was not technically a room she could rent out. But as they asked if Mrs Mhndzzver could at least help with speaking to the air elemental, Danny piped in and asked about who owned the ship. If the air elemental was made by a spellcaster, it could usually speak it’s language.

Considering the Queen of Air was an elf, Ethan tried sylvan. It worked! The elemental was not a big talker, but seemed to accept serving as the engine. Now for the important part; naming the ship. Asking the elemental for its name seemed appropriately respectful:

Zeusan,” it replied.

Somewhat unfortunate, but oh well: “EAC Zeusan” it was. Danny started repairing the damage caused while they waited for Celendril to come back.

And he did, though not… entirely. In place of his left arm there was now a branch, bent up into a small crown. For added “entertainment” as he would go after the Queen of Air again.

“Guys. I need to get out of this deal.”

Circling the Court
The one where Rook met Aidëon again

Going towards the prisoners pointed out by Windharrow, our heroes noticed voices before actually reaching the place indicated. They followed them, busting into a large room dominated by two mill-ish wheel structures. One of them was currently being pushed at slow pace by five emaciated, and by the looks of it quite strung-out, people in tattered garbs. Two cult priests were whipping them on, and did not hesitate to point them towards attacking the intruders.

It was rather safe to ignore them and focus on the slave-drivers, though. The wind magic was annoying, but within seconds the latter were cut down, and the prisoners, without guidance, laid down their weapons. They did not do much more than that, simply standing around, seemingly dumbfounded at the fact that their jailers had lost.

Going by their garb and very gaunt appearance, they were probably not prisoners in the straightest sense, but initiates much like the ones found bound to the pillars. Not as far gone, but enough that none of them could speak properly. Rook did not know what they had been given, but it was probably there to lessen to pain of their fasting. It was clearly quite strong. While they first shied away from Celendrils attempts at handing out goodberries, some trickery with magical light seemed to convince them that he was some form of benign spirit, and they ate very happily.

Asking what the wheels did, one of the initiates mimed something wavy rising and falling. As well as some form of large, walking… zombie? No, not that. Some other simple, walking, man-like thing.

Right… Very helpful. Well. They could not bring these people along, but neither did they want to leave them to die (or potentially cause trouble if they snap out of it). So they barred the door and went further into the ruin, towards were Windharrow had pointed them initially.

Embla was trying to work through the whole thing, on a personal and professional level. The latter won out:

“This is crazy. This ‘Queen of Air’, doing this, she is a sadistic maniac. Do you know anything about her?”

They did. Her name: Aerisi Kalinoth. It had been signed to a letter, in possession of the late Thurl Merroska, thanking the leader of the Feathergale for his gift of Deseyna Majarra as prisoner.

The name rang warning bells with Embla. Doing her digging into Feathergale before attempting the botched subterfuge, she had seen it. Kalinoth was the boss of HH Holdings, a shady company doing deals all over the place, morally speaking. Nothing was spelled out, but between the lines had been clear that she was someone you talked to when a competitor needed to have an accident. A dangerous person, possibly with some hold on the OCPD, even.

They reached a residential district. Quite nice, once upon a time, by the looks of murals and mosaics. Now it was used by the cult as quarters, evidenced by the priest they surprised (an slew) in the middle of her meditation in one of the old homes. Another home seemed like a kind of bird nest, full of feathers and some shiny baubles.

And then they opened the door to an old dwarven shrine to Moradin, and the source of the screams: Four kenku torturing five prisoners. The bird-men were mimicking the yelps and whimpers as they jabbed their charges with whatever sharp edges they had in hand. Claw. Whatever. They killed the kenku.

The prisoners were thankful indeed, and indeed prisoners, and not addicted cult members, which seemed to be the norm down here. One of them, a Bero Gladham, spoke for the others. He had been there longest, though this was only for a few weeks at most. It was a little hard for him to know since he was stuck below the earth. He had been kept by the shrine for the most part, but knew a little of the goings on. There had been several prisoners before, many of whom were now dead. One of special import, matching a description of Deseyna Majarra, he knew had been taken further down, below the ruin of Tyar Besil, alive. The same was true for his wife, Nerise. While he knew it was asking much at this point, he asked if there was any chance they could find her.

There was not much time for rescue with the air cult running all over the place still, but they offered some assurance that they would attempt to save as many as possible. For now, it would be best if the prisoners could stay here, faking sounds of continued torture to not alert the cultists that they were free.

Meanwhile, our heroes went onwards. Gladham had also pointed out that the leader of the cult, their “Queen of Air”, was holding court in the central pyramid. They figured taking her out would be the best option for dismantling this entire operation and getting help for prisoners of whatever kind.

Heading for it, they first ran into a djinni; Ahtayir. He turned out to be a nice guy, though he was in quite an annoying predicament. Apparently there was a horn; currently in the possession of Aerisi Kalinoth, but previously in the hands of the dwarfs of ancient Tyar-Besil. This could be used every one hundred and one years to summon him and command him to perform a single task. The dwarves had used him to build this part of the city – Kalinoth had told him to restore it to its former glory. He had been at it for a little over a year, and was very bored.

Sensing or hoping that our heroes were decent people, Ahtayir asked if they would not mind taking the horn from Kalinoth and using it to free him. If used again before he had finished the previous task, it would overwrite that one. They told him they would give it a go if there was a chance, and so they simply parted.

Only to run out onto a bridge over a large moat, leading to the central pyramid some hundred feet forward. There were pillars along the sides of it, one of which a cult member on a wyvern suddenly landed on. Demanding their names and intentions, and not satisfied with the answer, he attacked them. He turned his wyvern invisible, which was a bit of a problem, but before long both it and him were bleeding out into the water.

They went up to the big doors on the pyramid, and Jack pushed them open. Inside were a number of other cultists, meditating on… air, or something. From a hole in the middle of the pyramid, a strong wind was blowing straight up.

The cultists seemed to know exactly who they, and immediately mounted a strong attack to repel them from the pyramid. Manipulating the wind of the hole to push our heroes back, using flying kung-fu, and bullshit, target-seeking, electrocuting darts, they did a lot of damage before being put down.

By the end, all but perhaps Jack were hurting bad. They knew that Kalinoth’s court was in the room above them; they could hear strange, blaring music and unsettling giggles coming down two big stairs leading up there. But if Shatterkeel was any indication on the powers of these “prophets”, they would not survive the encounter. It hurt their pride, but they chose to get the prisoners out.

Heading back to pick the five who had been tortured by the kenku up, and circling around to come at the pyramid from the south, they tried to reach the airship that was moored there. And they did; it hung still above the chasm. But there was a man there, guarding it. He wore armor of the same style as the Feathergale Knights, with many ridiculous bands draping from it, and feathers to accent – but it was black as pitch.

Black, like betrayal.

“You hurt me, bro,” said Aidëon. “I will have satisfaction.”

The Winds of Tyar-Besil
The one where they almost started a band

They barely started to talk about their next steps before the wind suddenly picked up in the canyon, blowing from the southeast direction. And with it came a dense fog, cutting their vision down to meters despite darkvision. It seemed to head up the slope they had descended. Following it, Rook noticed that a large source of light had appeared above. Considering the size and relative dimness, he thought it must be that a large gate had opened in the ground above the tunnels, into the daylight.

Considering what exactly was going on got cut short, however, as Celendril picked up incoming beasts on the wind. With him pulling the the shadows in around them, they tried to hide by pressing against the wall. But they had barely heard the beating of wings before spears and lightning came out of the mist to pin them.

Feathergale Knights, three of them, and something worse: A mage riding on a wyvern. It looked pretty dicey for a while, but once Jack started cutting the heads of the knights giant vultures as they flew by, things turned around. The mage fled after Ethan traded back some lightning of his own, and the Knights were cut down in turn.

Our heroes now needed to rest, though, after some nasty wounds. Taking a breather while Celendril kept tracking the wyvern-rider as it flew away in the fissure, they saw the mist disappear up into the daylight above after a few minutes. Eventually the rider came to a stop, some three miles east of them. They were here to find out what their deal was, so they walked after him.

The ledge was only really enough for one person at any point, and it hugged the jagged wall tightly. On occasion they could see an opening into Occam’s underneaths above the path, though never close enough that they could reach it. It seemed fair that this path did not see much use, especially given the flying capabilities of Feathergale.

It took almost two hours for them to reach where the Knight had stopped, and it was a sight to behold. Across the chasm, underneath the passage on the other side, opened up a huge cavern in the wall. And in it, underneath the glittering stones of its roof, they saw an ancient step pyramid in the middle of a plaza. Around it, a moat emptied water in a misty waterfall going over the edge into the depths of the canyon. And around that moat was the ruins dwarven estates. In the air above the waterfall, tied to the walkway surrounding the pyramid, was something clearly much newer: a rigid airship of slipstream design. It wasn’t big, but could perhaps carry ten people.

While it was hard to know for sure, Rook had enough experience moving about underground that he thought they might be back at Tyar-Besil, just from another angle, and clearly at some other district.

There was movement among the buildings, though hard to see from this distance what moved. On the top of the pyramid, however, they could clearly see a wyvern and its rider, keeping watch.

Not that they had to worry about being seen from this side. They kept walking, hoping for a bridge, and that came true. Just after having passed the cavern, a stone bridge went over to the other side, meeting the path on that side going down after passing above the large opening. And they both led to what seemed the main entrance of the place. A large, fortified gate, with reliefs of dwarves chiseled into the arch.

As they walked across the bridge, however, they were suddenly greeted with dozens of agonized screams. They came in rolling waves, from wailing highs to whimpering lows, echoing in the huge cavern.

Moving into the narrow, zigzagging, path beyond the main gates, our heroes were almost deafened by the noise bouncing on the hard surface of the walls. Arrowslits looked upon them, the crooked path giving defenders an advantage in the event of an attack. They saw no one at first, but Celendril suddenly caught glimpse of a dark silhouette beyond a slit. Pointing to it, it had disappeared by the time the others look that way. But not without him seeing it move to the side.

When called out, whatever hid there had no response. This gate was a bad place to be caught in, so rather than investigate, they moved on the other end of the hallway, passing a gate into a wide corridor. And as they did, they suddenly realized not all the screams were from people. Some were from flutes. Played at an almost artistic level of incompetence. They pushed open a door, and beyond was a small stone plaza with a fountain, looking out over the canyon.

The occupants were five flutists (well, they were blowing into flutes, at least) and their director. He stood with his palm to his face, for obvious reasons.

“Hello,” said Jack.

Roused from his personal hell, the director asked irritably what they were doing there. They were interrupting a crucial practice session. But before our heroes could really answer, he assumed they were new recruits and asked if they were able to take the places of the fools currently making up his band; The Windwyrds. Oh, and his name was Windharrow.

It had never really come up before, but Celendril did in fact have some talent as a musician. Just not as a flutist, but he could make a decent sound. And channeling what he usually reserved for when bathing, Jack was able to hit clear notes for a stanza.

Any indication of starting a band all of a sudden quickly went over the canyon edge from that point though. Rook noticed that the former members of The Windwyrds being shooed away by Windharrow looked very relieved, more than expected from just not having to play an instrument you could not anymore. A Celendril regretted playing those notes earlier, because checking on the flute he realized it was made from humanoid bones. And made rather recently.

As Jack’s voice failed, so to did any residual will in Windharrow. He slumped down on the edge of the fountain and started to pour his troubles out. Actually, he only had one, but since it was that his “Queen” would kill him this time, and not just his band.

“The Queen of Air?” they asked.

“Of course, how could you not know…,” he began, but seemed to realize suddenly the error of assuming they were recruits.

He smashed a bottle into Rook’s face and raced for the door, out into the hall. Chasing him around a corner, they saw him run past several pillars to which was tied incredibly gaunt, starved prisoners. Beyond was the plaza, which Windharrow tried to reach, yelling above the screams still echoing from the entire ruin. He tried to go invisible, but did not get far before having been hit hard enough fall to his knees, turn around and surrender. He could help them, if they let him live.

First order among their questioning was the tied up prisoners. Though now that they looked at them, they were wearing garb suspiciously similar to the Feathergale members. And indeed, Windharrow confirmed, these were initiates finishing their introduction by forgoing anything but air to live on. Attempting to free them made them protest, however weakly, that they had to stay.

“Are there any more prisoners here?”

There was, and Windharrow pointed them down another hallway. Jack thanked him and knocked him out.

Embla was looking intently at the closest prisoner. There was something more than disgust at their treatment, there was also some recognition. Celendril asked what was up, and she struggled for words for a while.

“I thought we could get here to free Savra,” she began. “But looking at these people, protesting our freeing them from torture… I had forgotten how easy it is to be lost when in a cult. Shre Bara-Wûd got me out of mine, but she is incredibly powerful, and she has no purchase in these strongholds of Elemental Evil. What do we do?”

Rook took a deep breath and found the voice of the Ki-rin.

“Gaaaaahhh…,” it said. “For Elysium’s sake… I cannot speak to you freely, and absolutely not when you are in that place. Ask you question quickly, cleric.”

He asked for how to free these people from the cults clutches.

“They are under the sway of Yan-C-Bin, but through his prophet… Break the prophet’s instrument-”

And then there was silence from the celestial. Rook returned to normal consciousness.


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