Fate Core: Agents of the Black Buck

Four Simple Rules
Season 4, Episode 2

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With a powerful divine artifact and strange animals from Kalahar in tow and the weight of their decision to sever the nature god from the world weighing on their minds, the adventurers decide to return to their home in Mejas to take stock of their progress and how best to approach the Black Buck’s agents who are said to have last been seen in Scrapebottom Haven.

While headed home, Sven discovers to his horror that “Blue” the Water Elemental has disintegrated back into water. The divine spark that kept him alive was extinguished when Gozreh was cut off from the mortal realm.

The Green Dragon arrives in town and Ria sees to the care of the “dambros” a pair of tusked four legged creatures with large ears and an elongated snout. Declaring the two mating pairs are holy, she installs them in a menagerie at her temple to the gods Sarenrae and Desna: The House of Sun and Stars.

While inside, Ria prays to both her goddesses but finds their guidance missing. A priest at the temple says it’s not unusual for the gods to not answer prayers, but Ria recognizes what’s happened. After the party’s actions on Kalahar — and with her devotion to two opposite gods — the goddesses are unhappy.

While in town, Satine stops by the local notice boards and collects some bounties, pulling in cash for the party’s adventures. Erasmus and Francis the monkey spend some time in the library with Donovar Shett while the rest of the party finishes its errands.

Sven asks around to learn more about Scrapebottom Haven, where he might finally get his revenge; however he is sidetracked by tales of a legendary courtesan at the port’s “Isle of Innocence” named the “Starlighter.” Sven resolves to meet her.

[FOR AMARYLLIS’S EYES ONLY]

Amaryllis returns to an informant for Aeleth’s Padlock and reports what happened on Kalahar. She explains the party is in possession of the Ur-Stone. Amaryllis is told to head to Scrapebottom Haven at once and meet with Gwaelor Al’qua ver T’Jinez, the regional director and a member of the organizations Board.

[END FOR AMARYLLIS’S EYES ONLY]

Malakai returns to his business, Cross & Cross Inc. A line there stretches out the door. Shana greets him and explains that the deaths from the defense of the city have made their services highly sought after. Unfortunately, with Malakai out on adventures, no one has been in Mejas to finish the jobs. The waiting list, she says, is dozens of people long.

The rest of the party arrive at Malakai’s headquarters and are shocked to see the unruly line. They are even more shocked when Shana introduces the business’s newest hire: Gregoroth Hatesower, a towering, red-skinned infernal with a goat’s skull head, horns and wearing small glasses. Ria and Satine immediately prepare for battle, but Malakai explains that Hatesower — better known as “Greg” — isn’t dangerous.

Greg shows the group some marketing material and Malakai, impressed, promises him a promotion. Satine and Ria are still skeptical, but agree to simply keep an eye on Greg for the time being. Malakai completes one assignment for Cross & Cross, helping to locate a missing painting for one of Mejas’ most well-known artisans: Rudolfo Norris, who promises to be an ally in the future if need be.

With their preparations complete in Mejas, the party set sail for Scrapebottom Haven, a seedy pirate cove in the middle of the Circle Sea. Along the way, the party see docks, taverns and hideaways set up on small tropical islands.

With Sven’s careful piloting keeping the ship safe between the sharp reefs, The Green Dragon arrives at the haven’s atoll, a protected, calm deepwater port. Scrapebottom is mostly made up of floating shops and markets built out of old ships and connected by planks of wood and rigging. In the center of the haven is a small craggy island where the floating markets are anchored. A square fortress is perched on the top of the rocky island alongside small timber-framed framed buildings and a shipyard.

In the distance, Hell’s Gate burns with a furious red glow. Occasionally, the volcano sputters to life and the rumble of explosions echo like distance thunderclaps.

Sven pulls the Green Dragon in to dock, drawing stares from merchants and sailors at the harbor. As the ship’s passengers disembark, the stout halfling dockmaster named Ralphie Conway approaches with a clipboard.

“I … I must say. I’ve never seen a ship like that before,” Ralphie says, adjusting his glasses. “Fine ship… A fine ship, to be sure.” The halfling introduces himself as the dockmaster for all of Scrapebottom Haven. He serves the pirate queen who runs the sanctuary: Sar Taranga.

Ralphie explains Scrapebottom is a welcoming place for all manner of sailors, from draft-dodgers and deserters to pirates and privateers. The queen promises protection to all within her jurisdiction, on the condition that they follow four rules:

1) No killing.
2) No stealing.
3) No slavery.
4) No unpaid debts.

The party agree, and Ralphie tries to charge them a high price to dock in town. When the adventurers protest, Ralphie says the quality of their armor and their ship clearly show they can afford to pay a premium to keep it secure. Amaryllis negotiates the halfling down to a lower price. Malakai introduces himself as a “necromancer for hire,” but is shocked when Ralphie laughs away his business card and explains Scrapebottom already has a spiritual assistance company in town: Merrington & Foast.

Ghak and the other orcs head into the fighting pits in town to satisfy their bloodlust while the rest of the party head along the main plankway to the nearest inn: Rigger’s.

The inn was once a huge shipping galleon, but it’s days of sailing the seas are over. Instead, the ship has been lashed to the planks and anchored to the atoll floor. The bow of the ship has been sliced open to make room for a pair of large double doors and the castle of the ship in the stern has been renovated with several new floors added to the top to make room for lodgings.

Inside, the main room is an active bar with more than a dozen fishmongers, sailors and travelers enjoying tasty ales. The inn appears to follow the seaboard theme, with rigging draped from the ceiling as decoration and mounted fish on the walls — the biggest is a large swordfish curling over the entrance. Each of the tables is draped with old sail cloth to complete the decor.

A burly human with a thick black beard tends the bar counter. With a rumbling laugh he waves the party over to him. “You’re new to town, I see,” chuckles Hans Kreuger, the owner of Rigger’s as he cleans glasses. “I can tell. Haven’t seen you around before.” Ria explains the party was cheated out of a fair dock fee by Ralphie, and Hans takes pity on the adventurers.

He offers them a deeply discounted stay in three rooms to make up for Ralphie’s greed. When the adventurers ask why the price is so cheap, Hans says there’s been an “incident.”

A group of clerics of the nature god Gozreh had recently arrived in Scrapebottom, he says. They were on some mission to conduct a diving exploration.

But when the clerics dove to the bottom of the sea, something went horribly wrong. Only one, an elf, returned from beneath the waves with severe injuries. Another cleric of Gozreh that stayed behind has been tending to him in an upstairs room, but not even the town’s greatest healers have been able to cure him of his wounds.

All of the adventurers — except Amaryllis, who excuses herself — head upstairs where they find the cleric’s suite. A knock on the door produces Neera Popwhittle, a frazzled red-haired gnome who looks like she hasn’t slept in days. When Ria offers to help, Neera shrugs. “I suppose it can’t hurt,” she says. “We’re desperate.”

A stack of nearly packed bags are piled into the room, more than a dozen in total. They belonged to the missing clerics, Neera explains. Only two are left open: her and the one owned by the injured elven cleric, Vestal of the Windsting.

Vestal is wrapped in sheets on the bed as though prepared for burial. His skin is a pasty pale color and Neera pulls back the sheets to reveal his arm and leg have turned to stone. The infection seems to be spreading.

Neera explains the clerics gathered from all over the world to investigate rumors of an underwater temple that had been flooded in the Age of Legends when Gozreh was said to have flooded the plains, making the Circle Sea. The group was a gathering the finest divine Gozreh scholars to verify the find. With the nature god’s power waning, the clerics were desperate to learn why and hoped the underwater temple would hold a clue.

Neara invented diving suits for the clerics to wear and they found the temple. But while the group was underwater, Neera felt something sap the strength from her. She describes it as though her senses dulled. She could no longer sense the flow of the water beneath her ship, nor the intentions of the breeze.

One by one the lines leading to the diving suits went slack. Near desperately pulled one of them back, rescuing Vestal. He claimed to have seen a horrible monster in the water, but slipped into a coma. No one has been able to heal him.

The adventurers realize what’s happened: with the nature god Gozreh disconnected from the mortal realm, the party have unwittingly robbed every nature cleric and shaman that worshipped the god of their powers.

Ria offers to try to help, but Neera is skeptical and dejected. “The gods have truly forsaken us,” she sighs. “What hope do we have?” Ria raises her hands above the elf and calls on Desna and Sarenrae to provide their strength. The adventurers watch in awe as two orbs, one a bright blazing yellow and the other ephemeral and silver hover in her hands. She presses them against the elf, who gasps back to life, his limbs healed.

During the healing, Ria saw a vision of an underwater temple. A large stone had held it shut, but it was cracked open and she hears a woman’s laughter as an aquatic medusa emerged, attacking the clerics. Vestal says the temple was not a shrine to Gozreh, but a prison for the medusa. Now that she is free, Scrapebottom and the surrounding islands may be in danger. Neera and Vestal ask the heroes to defeat the creature and to rescue any clerics that may have survived.

After some debate, the party decide they are obligated to help since they indirectly caused the calamity.

[FOR AMARYLLIS’S EYES ONLY]

Meanwhile, Amaryllis heads to the Chest & Barrel, a shop in Scrapebottom serving as a front for Aeleth’s Padlock. After passing through the show floor, complete with more tacky mounted fish, she’s ushered into a back room to meet with Gwaelor Al’qua ver T’Jinez. He’s a blonde-haired elf of the famed Jinez clan of Falia.

He questions why Amaryllis allowed Gozreh to be disconnected. She attempts to deflect the blame onto the other adventurers, but Gwaelor is not impressed.

“Amaryllis … your chief attribute as an operative to this organization is precisely your ability to convince others of the worthiness of our cause,” he says. “Tell me — what use would such an operative have if they cannot convince even their so-called friends not to do something so rash and moronic?”

Gwaelor says Amaryllis has great talent, but has a record marred by terrific failures, and brings up the death of her friend and former paramour, Ambassador Remus. Gwaelor explains The Black Buck is an even more important figure now, and could be a powerful ally. Amaryllis’ mission is now of top priority.

He demands Amaryllis bring him the Ur-Stone for safe keeping, a request she gladly agrees to. She leaves and contacts a group of mercenaries to steal the stone in the night. Later in the evening, they approach her and she gives them detailed instructions for where to cut the stone from the ship and where to deposit it once it’s been stolen. The mercenaries accept the job and carry it out later that night.

[END FOR AMARYLLIS’S EYES ONLY]

The party regroups before splitting up again. Ria and Amaryllis stay behind at Rigger’s, where Amaryllis confides in Ria her distrust of her fellow adventurers. Satine heads to the main island and retrieves several bounties to investigate.

She, Malakai and Sven head to Merrington & Foast to meet the owner: Cornelius Wilfred Merrington. Inside, among the lounge chairs, the fine wooden dressers and the ubiquitous mounted tuna above the door, they find a distraught innkeep named Saoirse Doherty, who’s furious C.W. has failed to adequately help her.

Malakai and C.W. meet. He’s a brash human in an olive green coat and a skull-shaped broach. He carries a spellbook with him at all times. C.W. forgets the name of his assistant, Christopher, and believes Malakai to be an admirer. He touts his own expertise and success — nearly a dozen Merrington & Foast storefronts across the world. His attitude and bravado annoys Malakai, who secretly plans to take down Merrington however he can.

Meanwhile, Sven and Satine learn Saoirse’s father, Emmett of the Seadog’s Rest tavern, recently died. But she believes he was killed by a competitor. Before they can help, Malakai makes an off-hand remark that offends her and she storms off.

With the sun already having set, the trio head to the Isle of Innocence, the brothel island of the atoll under Queen Taranga’s domain. Satine is on the hunt for a wanted bard, while Sven is looking for Starlighter. The volcano’s explosions cast the island in a red glow, which only accentuates the strumpet’s gyrations outside the brothels.

The party head to the Savored Sting, a holy house of prostitution dedicated to the elven lust goddess Calistria. Inside the clean and elegant building, Satine finds a trio of cloaked musicians playing on the main stage. She introduces herself and learns the cloaked figures are actually three monstrous beasts!

In a dressing room, the smallest — a kobold named Lemler — explains that he and his bandmates were once the backup band for a popular sea shanty bard named Twift. The trio — himself, Garagek the Bugbear mandolin player and Orfo the Troll percussionist — wanted to form their own band called “Beasts 4 Peace” to spread a message of acceptance for so-called monstrous races. But Twift found out and stole the band’s money. Satine says she’ll try to help them later.

She also finds a drunk young man named Aidan, who happens to be Saoirse’s brother and is wanted for theft of valuable liquor. Aidan says the death of his father hit him hard and that he got drunk and stole the liquor in his stupor. He begs Satine to spare him, since he’ll be put to death for breaking one of the Four Rules. The heroes take pity on him and bring him back to The Green Dragon to sober up. Erasmus agrees to watch over him and the drunken orcs.

Meanwhile, Sven waits for Starlighter and eventually gets and audience. The elven courtesan uses illusion magic to augment her attractiveness and the two share a few hours. After the fireworks, Sven and Starlighter get to talking. To his shock, he learns the Starlighter has a frequent client — Jarvas Sloane. The elf explains he is due back soon, having sailed southwest about a week ago. Sven rushes back to Rigger’s to relay the news.

With much on their plate, the adventurers decide to first take care of the medusa before Sloane and his men arrive. They retire to their rooms at Rigger’s and sleep.

In the morning, the party is awoken by the frantic shouts of Erasmus — the Ur-Stone is gone! The heroes run back to the docks to find The Green Dragon has reverted back to its original state. Someone took the stone in the middle of the night!

A crowd has also gathered around the ship, where Ralphie is dealing with an engraged Ghak.

Malakai investigates and finds the stone was cut from the mast where it had implanted. He deduces that either the thief had the ability to sense the subtle magical cues of the location of the stone or knew where to cut. Amaryllis shares that Sloane’s ship The Pandora just arrived in town early this morning.

As the party deal with the fallout of the missing stone, C.W. Merrington arrives on the scene. He boasts that he will solve the case with his prodigious investigative skills.

When Malakai stands up to him, C.W. offers a challenge — if C.W. solves the case, he gains ownership of the Mejas market, and if Malakai solves it, he’ll get C.W.’s flagship Circle Sea store in Scrapebottom. Malakai rejects the deal and C.W. loudly calls him a coward. As he leaves, one of the party members secretly snips his pants, causing them to fall down. He curses them and storms off.

Ralphie and the party are called to meet with the queen. The nervous dockmaster leads all of them to the fortress on the main island, where they enter a large greeting area. Sar Taranga, a voodoo queen with dark skin, white facial tattoos and a snake around her neck, and greets them. Malakai senses two powerful sources of magic in her pocket, glowing with necromantic energy; he is unable to probe further.

She apologizes for the theft and immediately exiles Ralphie. Malakai describes the missing stone and Satine suggests that Sloane may be the culprit. Taranga seems surprised, but offers her assistance.

However, Amaryllis notices a boar’s head on the wall and fears the Black Buck may be listening. The party cut the meeting short Taranga says she’ll investigate and make sure those who took stone are brought to justice; the party head back to the ship. Sven and the adventurers begin outfitting the ship for battle and prepare to launch an attack on the Pandora, which is docked near the Savored Sting.

Satine and Hans head off on their own to investigate, thinking they may be able to learn more. At the Broken Bow bar, they run into two familiar — and unwelcome — faces: the tiefling and agent of the Black Buck “Lucky” Marcel and his henchman Frank “Madman” Mercer. Satine remembers the pair were last seen being thrown in jail by the party in Firmrock. Nearby, a group of Sloane’s men eat breakfast.

She confronts the pair and a fight breaks out. Satine uses her martial skills to not only deflect the attacks, but subdue both Lucky and Madman Mercer and tie them up while Hans runs for help. However, two thugs escape in the melee and run away to warn Sloane.

The adventurers arrive and carry the two outlaws back to The Green Dragon. They decide it’s best to interrogate their new captives before setting out to take down Sloane, his ship and the other agents he’s working with…

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Fantastic Gods and Where to Find Them
Season 4, Episode 1

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About a week after The Miracle at Mejas the Shadow Huntress is fully stocked and ready and Ghak the Liberator and her orcs are set to serve as crew. The adventurers decide to set sail into the strait north of Mejas towards Scrapebottom Haven, a pirate cove said to be the last sighted hangout of Jarvas Sloane, an agent of the Black Buck.

While headed away from their new home, the ship’s lookout spies a strange sight in the warm waters: an iceberg.

A few of the orcs grab the iceberg and haul it on board. The party investigates to find the iceberg is still cool to the touch and appears to be hollow inside. Erasmus peers through the deep blue ice to see something swirling inside. He uses his fire mage abilities to melt away some of the ice. Once a hole forms, a jet of water flies out and assumes the form of a snake.

The snake-like stream of water jumps across the ship’d deck until Erasmus is able to control it with his magic. Sven quickly grabs a jar and seals the water inside. The mage quickly determines the being is a small water elemental, probably a divinely created creature of pure water energy. Sven names the creature “Blue” and carves runes into the jar to make sure the water elemental doesn’t escape.

The adventurers determine the iceberg came from Kalahar, a mysterious island off the western Dravidian shoreline. They decide to divert course from Scrapebottom Haven and head to the island to investigate.

As the Shadow Huntress approaches Kalahar, the adventurers see more and more icebergs but find no more elementals. On the horizon, the party begin to see other vessels headed in the same direction. A check of a spyglass from Freya’s old bag shows the vessels are actually pirate ships. But the ships appear not to pay the Shadow Huntress any mind.

After a few days’ travel, the party arrive at Kalahar just as the sun is setting and a large thundercloud builds overhead. The island appears to be a volcanic mountain, with a large crater having blown away the top and left jagged edges. The middle section of the mountain is wrapped in a thick jungle that extends all the way to the sandy shores.

The party see dozens of ships — privateers, pirates and the like — gathered around the island in the rollicking seas. But the ships are not sailing close to it. A quiet lagoon called Gozreh’s Cay a short distance from the island is home to a few encampments. Amaryllis scans the ships on the horizon and spots a familiar flag: Dominion, a galleon captained by a old friend named Obert “The Fox” Boyer.

The orcs hail the ship and a gangplank is lowered between the two ships. A large man with a tricorn hat, worn suspenders, a ruffled shirt and a bushy white beard strides out of the galleon’s bridge. He is shocked to see Amaryllis so far from land and the two catch up.

The Fox invites the adventurers into his captain’s chambers and whips up a meal for them. Amaryllis asks why so many ships are surrounding the island. The Fox explains that the Dravidians had blockaded the island for years while conducting research.

But recently a Dravidian invasion force got wiped out “by a bunch of commoners” in Mejas. With a huge chunk of their navy missing, the northern empire pulled the blockade to protect more sensitive areas. That left Kalahar open for the taking and the pirates, privateers and smugglers all arrived seeking the treasure rumored to be hidden in the jungle.

As the adventurers and The Fox eat, rain begins to patter against the ship’s windows.

The ships have circled the island, but no one has made a move yet, The Fox says. A few pirates tried to land, but were immediately sunk by the other ships. Now, he says, it’s a waiting game to see who runs out of supplies or gets desperate.

Wind begins to whip at the galleon and a first mate arrives at the cabin door. The Fox excuses himself, but Satine listens in on their conversation and learns a storm is growing outside. The Fox returns and informs the party that he and his crew must start settling in for the night. The adventurers thank him for his hospitality and make their way out of the cabin.

Outside, the storm has whipped itself into a frenzy. Large waves rock the two connected ships and howling winds tear at the ship’s sails. Most of the adventurers rush across the gangplank back to the Shadow Huntress, but as Amaryllis steps onto the plank, a huge wave crests over the Dominion.

The wave smashes down, destroying the dock and snapping a mast. The Fox is swept overboard and Amaryllis grabs onto the gangplank for dear life as the Dominion is ripped away. With her dangling on the side of the party’s ship, Sven snaps into action. Using an extendable arm, he reaches down and pulls Amaryllis back on board.

In the distance, lightning strikes and the adventurers see ships go up in flames. Ria calls out to Sarenrae to protect them, and a brief clearing in the storm manages to divert away a lightning bolt. Unfortunately, the bolt strikes the Dominion, setting it aflame.

Sven rushes to steer the Shadow Huntress away, but can’t dodge the burning ship. The Fox’s galleon slams into the bow of the Shadow Huntress and sets the ship on fire. Erasmus rushes forward and extinguishes the flames with his magic. Meanwhile, a wave strikes the ship and sweeps two of Ghak the Liberator’s orcs overboard. She dives into the water to rescue them.

A gust of wind snatches at the sails and Sven shimmies his way up the mast to wrap the sails again. From the deck, Ria peers through the rough seas and driving rain to find a place to land. In between the crashing ships and cracks of thunder, Ria sees a space of open beach to aim for. She yells for the orcs to sail for the shore as Ghak climbs back on board.

As the ship weaves between the burning and torn vessels of the pirates and privateers, Ria spots a rocky outcropping reaching up like spikes hidden under the waves. Satine grabs onto one of the swinging booms and yanks it to steer the ship around the rocks. The Shadow Huntress scrapes its way past the rocks and tears into the churning seas as a huge wave lurches ahead of them …

The next morning, the adventurers awake on board the Shadow Huntress on the sunny shore of Kalahar. The ship, leaking through holes in the stern, beached itself of the sandy beach during the night. The orcs take stock and find that, miraculously, none of their number are missing.

Along the shore are the ruined remains of pirate ships, many of them snapped in half or dash upon the rocks. The lifeless corpses of crew members float in the pristine tropical waters. It appears the other ships either fled or were sunk.

Sven rushes below decks and finds while sloshing through the water that one of the smokescreen runes has been damaged. However, the water elemental is safe. Malakai takes charge of rallying the orcs. It’ll take a few hours at least to make the ship seaworthy again.

Amaryllis waits until her friends have left, then sneaks downstairs. The stress of the storm has her desperate for more birchroot, the herb that cures her poison symptoms but has also proven addictive. Ria had promised to hold the party’s supply in her cabin.

“That birchroot will be safer with me,” Amaryllis reasons as she breaks into Ria’s cabin and takes the drugs.

Meanwhile, Erasmus hears a noise from a nearby wreck and recruits Satine and Ria to help him investigate. The wreck is the bow of the smuggling ship Trieste that’s washed ashore in waist-high water near the beached Shadow Huntress. The ship was apparently torn in half by the storm, and the middle decks appear exposed.

The trio climb into the bowels of the ship and hear the sound of dishes breaking from a storage area at the end of a long hallway. Erasmus slowly opens the door, only to find a large rat rush escape. Satine quickly beheads the vermin and the party relax.

Suddenly, a spear strikes from the storage area, cutting into Erasmus’ shoulder. A lizard-like humanoid creature dressed in ragged leather armor with a crocodile-shaped head leaps out and screams in a high-pitched voice. Another lizard creature jumps out from behind a desk, spear in hand and shouts to his brethren in the floors above. Kobolds!

Not wanting a fight, Satine, Ria and Erasmus attempt to reason with the kobolds, but the tribal creatures appear to have no interest in peace. Satine stuffs one into a closet and bars it shut, while Ria uses light magic to form a barrier holding the other kobold in.

Erasmus retreats into the hallway, where two more kobolds jump down and attack. The mage uses a shield of fire to block their attacks, which scare the kobolds away. Sven and Amaryllis, having heard the commotion, join the others in the wreck.

With the threat gone, the adventurers try to reason with the kobold in the light cage. Erasmus and Amaryllis have a cursory understanding of the language of kobolds, Draconic, and begin to question the creature. The kobold says his name is Ahihi and warns the adventurers to stay away from “The Great Mountain.”

Ahihi tells the adventurers the kobolds worship The Great Mountain and says its power comes from Gozreh, the Thunderlord and God of Nature. The kobold yells at the party to leave, threatening that Chief Oowakanaka will destroy them, but instead the heroes take him and the other kobold captive.

The adventurers release the creatures back into the jungle, knowing they can track them back to their tribe’s camp. Ria finds a ship manifest inside the wreck of the Trieste near the body of a first mate. The manifest shows the ship was loaded with illicit cargo and that the vessel had departed from Aramoor, a nearby port.

The smugglers apparently circled Kalahar after the Dravidian blockade retreated. The first mate states divine researchers connected to Company Zero had been investigating the island for years and rumors told of untold treasure inside the jungle. Ria returns to the rest of the party and reports what she found.

While Malakai and the orcs prepare the ship to depart, Satine tracks the kobolds through the jungle and Ria blazes a trail behind her. As the party journey deeper into the jungles of Kalahar, they notice the trees becoming thicker and the leaves and fruits becoming bigger. Along the way, they find a giant tiger that appears to have gotten caught in a kobold trap. They also spot strange creatures never before seen on the mainland.

Finally the heroes pierce the jungle and find themselves on the ridge of a crater blown out of the mountain of Kalahar. In the center of the crater is a bubbling pit of lava. Suspended over the lava on four red-hot metal chains is a large stone pyramid-shaped temple. Both Satine and Ria sense waves of powerful magic emanating from the temple.

The edge of the crater appears jagged and it slopes down to form a horseshoe shape. One end appears rocky, while the other end of the crater edge ends in a cave with an overhang and sharp stalactites and stalagmites lining the entrance.

In the space at the opening of the horseshoe is a small village of straw huts, some decorated with giant bones and feathers. Many of the kobolds in the village are hurrying about and preparing for battle. A group is picking out armaments at a pile of pilfered weapons. Near the cave entrance, a bigger kobold steps out of the largest hut near the cave.

Chief Oowakanaka wears a tiger’s pelt over his muscular frame and a feathered skull on his reptilian head. He wields a large staff as he walks towards the cave entrance and the kobolds immediately stop what they’re doing and pay attention.

The chief pulls out Ahihi and the other kobold and begins shouting to the village in Draconic, announcing that outsiders have arrived and that they must be killed. Chief Oowakanaka roars that the outsiders will burn like the fires of the Great Mountain. As he speaks, the ground beneath his staff liquifies into lava and hardens.

“But first,” he says. “These vermin have failed.” He drags forward Ahihi and three kobold shamans in headdresses approach. “Now there must be punishment!” the chief yells. The crowd of Kobolds begin to chant “Punishment! Punishment!” as Ahihi is dragged screaming into the cave. A loud scream emanates from the cave.

The other captured kobold attempts to escape, but is struck down by one of the shamans, who transforms into a bear and mauls the kobold. The chief grabs a second kobold at random from the crowd to punish instead and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy. Many of them grab weapons and begin charging toward the beach.

The party decides it’s best to avoid the kobolds.

The adventurers split up. Ria and Sven decide to investigate the monster inside the cave, while Erasmus, Satine and Amaryllis try to find a way into the temple.

Ria and Sven sneak their way past the chief and his shamans and enter the cave. Inside, they find a cold breeze blowing out of the cave and then an inrush of air. The stalactites and stalagmites are sharp to the touch and the pair can hear dripping noises from deep inside the cave.

The two find a sloping central path that leads up to a wooden sacrificial altar coated in blood. On the other side of the altar, Sven and Ria find the cave dips down into a deep hole that trails off into blackness. After hiding from the chief and his shamans, the pair escape the cave.

Meanwhile, Satine, Amaryllis and Erasmus slide down the crater to the stone temple suspended over lava. Erasmus spots that the chains holding the temple up are red hot from the heat, yet aren’t melting. Satine and Amaryllis suspect magic is keeping the temple in place.

Erasmus uses his transmutation magic to craft a narrow stone bridge across the lava to the temple and he and Amaryllis cross. Satine tries to cross, but feels herself being pushed away by an unseen force. The pressure gets so strong that Erasmus and Amaryllis see it physically affect her. Satine falls to her knee on the bridge and prays to Iomedae to protect her. As though surrounded by a bubble, Satine suddenly feels renewed strength and is able to finish the crossing.

The adventurers enter the stone pyramid through an elaborately carved entrance on the side. As they pass over the threshold, they notice the stonework is slowly moving as if it’s growing. Inside, the party find a large open area. Vines twist and turn along the walls, then wither and die, only to crawl back up the walls again. Flowers bloom and perish over and over. Even the stonework itself seems to undulate.

On a raised center dais that looks like a tree trunk is a smooth egg-shaped rock. Even Amaryllis can sense the magical power flowing out of the stone. She and Erasmus inspect the stone and try to discern its purpose. Meanwhile, Sven and Ria sneak across the bridge and join the others.

The adventurers eventually figure out that the stone — the entire temple — is actually built on a “station” of Gozreh. Ria and Satine explain that all the gods need a direct connection for their power to flow into the mortal realm. These locations are called stations and are places where the god has injected some of their power. Of the many gods in the pantheon, it is known that stations exist, but their locations are kept secret and closely guarded by devout monks, clerics, paladins and even beings of immense power.

However, the gods’ power has been waning since the Age of Legends. Some scholars believed that magic was balanced between the divine (magic from the gods) and the arcane (magic from the fabric of reality). But the waning of the gods’ power hasn’t led to the same increase in arcane power. This has been unexplained; however, there is a theory that some well of arcane power might exist outside current knowledge that would account for the difference.

Of all the gods, Gozreh has suffered the worst decline. No stations were known to exist in the world, making Kalahar’s temple the last line between Gozreh and the mortal realm.

The party debate what to do. Ria and Satine are both against taking the stone, since it would cause trouble in the godly realm and involve the party in divine issues. Amaryllis also opposed taking the stone because it might play into the Black Buck’s bigger plan to fight the gods.

Yet, Sven and Erasmus want to take the stone. They argue that the stone isn’t safe here and that if the adventurers could get there without trouble, the Black Buck’s agents may be able to as well. Having the stone in their possession would ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The two say they can also try to reattach the station if things go wrong.

The group argues for several minutes until Erasmus says to take the stone. An impatient Sven quickly pulls a box out of Freya’s bag and before anyone can react picks up the stone. The moving walls and flowing vines immediately stop moving and the ground begins to quake.

Sven puts the stone in the wooden box, which begins to sprout leaves. The party run outside to see the mountain crater itself begin to tremble. They race across the bridge back to the crater, but are stopped short when Francis, Erasmus’ monkey, begins to panic and points at the mountain.

The ridge of the crater buckles and rises. Huge wings of stone rise from the ground and four muscular legs pull themselves from the earth. The cave itself lurches into the air, revealing itself to be a giant mouth. An elongated lizard-like skull forms from the rock and a pair of huge eyes blink.

The mountain shakes as the massive stone dragon demigod Athanasius roars to life, spitting caustic acid across the island.

The dragon focuses on the party and attacks. The heroes manage to dodge the beast’s gnashing teeth as it dives into the earth, smashing its tail into Amaryllis and Erasmus. The adventurers quickly try to cross the bridge back to the temple, but it crumbles before Sven can make it across. Erasmus rebuilds the bridge and the heroes — save for Amaryllis — rush back in.

Sven places the stone back onto the altar, but nothing changes. The station has been severed. Just then, Athanasius bursts from the lava pool below, grabbing the temple in its mouth and flying towards the sky. The adventurers are knocked to the ground and hang on as the chains holding the temple in place snap. The dragon carries the party into the air above the island.

The dragon roars in Draconic at the party, cursing them for destroying the station and betraying the trust he had in the heroes to protect the shrine.

Ria calls out to her gods for assistance, but they offer little help. As the air begins to thin, Satine takes matters into her own hands and leaps off the temple onto the dragon’s face. Digging in with her divine axe, Max Fightmaster, she manages to hold on.

Back on land, Amaryllis dusts herself off and finds herself alone. Realizing her friends are trapped in the temple, she rushes out of the village past the rows of kobolds furiously worshipping the dragon. She arrives back at the beach as Ghak, Malakai and the orcs are wrapping up the battle against the kobolds.

Amaryllis and Malakai determine they need to flee in the Shadow Huntress, whether the ship is fixed or not. They push off the beach just as the dragon wheels around back towards the island.

Satine uses her axe to dig into the dragon’s head, but it does little to stop him. Once back over the island, the furious dragon drops the temple towards the lava lake in the Kalahar crater.

As the temple falls, Ria desperately grabs the magical stone and calls upon its power. Trees, vines and bushes suddenly lurch and grow across the crater, forming a sort of net. Stone wraps around Ria, Sven and Erasmus to protect them as the temple smashes through the net. Pieces of stone are torn away as the adventurers hang on.

Eventually the temple rests on the final trunks just above the lava pit. The heroes scramble out and race for the beach. Along the way they meet Amaryllis, who came back onto the mainland to search for her friends after she saw the dragon throw the temple back to earth.

The adventurers rush back to the Shadow Huntress to pursue the dragon and Satine as the demigod flies over Gozreh’s Cay.

Finding no luck defeating the dragon from the outside, Satine leaps off the dragon toward the atoll below and Athanasius chases after her. She throws her axe, which miraculously finds purchase in the dragon’s tongue. Now in a free fall, Satine dives into the dragon’s mouth and rips out the axe, splitting the stone tongue in two and spraying acid inside his mouth.

She fends off his ferocious bites and leaps back out of his mouth, this time latching onto his skull near an ear. The dragon continues its dive as Satine smashes away with her axe, finally digging her way into the dragon’s ear.

Down below, the adventurers see Satine locked in battle with the demigod. Sven puts the stone down on the ship, where it fuses to the main mast. Weaving between the wrecks of ships, Sven runs the Shadow Huntress aground in Gozreh’s Cay as the rest of the party aim the ballista on board. They fire, but the bolts miss their mark.

Satine realizes what her friends are trying to do and prepares to steer the dragon into the final bolt. Sven quickly carves runes into the ballista bolt’s side, giving it additional power. Erasmus sets the tip of the bolt on fire while Ria blesses the bolt with as much strength as Sarenrae will provide.

As the dragon continues its dive straight for the ship, Amaryllis lines up a shot and the ship itself seems to hum with elemental power. She fires and the blazing bolt rises through the blue afternoon sky. Satine yanks on the dragon’s ear and backflips off the demigod. The bolt strikes Athanasius directly in its mouth, tearing through the stone and blowing the dragon’s skull apart. The dragon crumbles away into stone chunks which speed toward Gozreh’s Cay.

Using her protection magic, Ria diverts the falling pieces, which smash into the sea and the other wrecks. The party watch as Satine dives toward the earth. Just before she lands, she casts a “featherfall” spell upon herself, slowing down her speed just in time for her to gracefully step onto the deck.

The rest of the party and the orcs are stunned. Then, with a whistling noise, Satine’s axe descends from the sky and sinks into the deck next to her. The orcs roar with delight and the party embraces.

Ria immediately begins to argue with Sven, saying she didn’t think he’d actually pull the stone. The party agree that they’ll have time to discuss their decision later. For now, they say, it’s time to go.

Sven and the orcs help maneuver the ship off the shore, but it’s still badly damaged. But before they can begin repairs, the ship heaves. Like a ripple on a pond, living wood sprouts from the ship’s planks beginning near the stone, which has completely embedded itself into the ship’s mast. As the deep mahogany wood repairs the holes, the sails disconnect and float away. Branches form in their place and leaves grow rapidly to form new sails.

The Shadow Huntress is now alive. With their new ship — which they rename The Green Dragon to honor the defeated demigod — the party head back out to sea towards Scrapebottom Haven to investigate where Sloane was last known to be.

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The Miracle at Mejas
Season 3, Episode 10

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With Bob the shapeshifting doppleganger killed and Mejas back in the hands of its rightful ruler, the Marquis Felip De Sousa, Ria, Amaryllis, Satine and their new friend Sven Stonestein wake up early to prepare for the incoming Dravidian invasion.

Amaryllis meets with the marquis, who’s come to realize he is in far over his head with the Black Buck. Amaryllis explains reinforcements through Ghak the Liberator’s orcs are on their way, but de Sousa is still concerned. Realizing he lacks the loyalty of the people and the city’s guard, he cedes control of Mejas to the heroes.

While the heroes eat dinner and watch the invasion fleet massing on the horizon, a warning bell rings. A lone rowboat has been spotted headed toward the eastern part of Mejas’ harbor. Meanwhile, the orcs have arrived at the front gates and are terrifying the guard. To top it off, the marquis explains that some of the city guard are unwilling to fight since they don’t trust his leadership. The party will have t convince some to join their cause.

Sabine heads to the King’s Gate to welcome the orcs and the return of their friends, Erasmus, Malakai and Shana. She meets up with the head of the city guard, the brave Samuel Harrenhaw. Harrenhaw promises to fight with his loyal troops and Satine offers to lead them in the upcoming battle.

Ghak seems skeptical of working with the human guards, but the heroes tell her glorious battle awaits. The orcish leader is convinced and agrees to assist the humans in their struggle. Ria also spots a familiar form standing in the forest nearby — Bork, the friendly warg. The demonic wolf explains that he is now the “alpha” of a dire wolf pack and wants to help his friends. The party have him wait in the woods for their signal.

Meanwhile, Ria, Amaryllis and Sven journey to the waterfront to greet the rowboat. Stepping out of the boat is a red-robed figure — a diplomat for the Dravidian Empire. The diplomat explains that Prince Nolan Highstall, son of the Emperor himself, wishes to parlay with them. Though the group is suspicious, they accept.

The rowboat brings them out to see to the Dravidian invasion fleet. The heroes see large warships outfitted with balistas, huge galleon troop carriers and, finally, a three-masted, square-rigged warship — the Prince’s flagship Falia’s Pride — fringed in gold and flying the red dragon flag of the Dravidian Empire.

The trio are led inside the sailing ship’s aftcastle to the captain’s quarters. Inside, the Prince is waiting at a table that has been loaded with fine foods and drink. The party take their seats but are wary; they think the food might be poisoned.

Sensing their hesitation, the prince takes a bite out of his turkey leg. “Do you really suspect that I would harm guests on my own ship?” he asks. “Unlike you southerners, we in the Empire have honor.”

The party take their seats, but barely touch their food. The prince cuts to the chase of his offer.

He explains that without a fleet, the city is defenseless. He says a fierce warlord, Archduke Rikart the Indomitable, was tasked with leading the southern offensive and has already taken Eytral. However, the prince hopes to take Mejas for himself and gain the glory. He has little interest in bloodshed if it can be avoided.

He proposed a solution: The heroes will turn over the marquis, the city and have the town guard lay down their arms. In exchange, the army will allow the city’s residents to flee without being pursued, at least until Rikart arrives. If they party accepts, they can light the Lone Point Lighthouse to tell the advancing fleet not to destroy the city.

The party is not pleased with the idea, and Amaryllis takes particular umbrage with the notion that the prince will take the city’s riches back to the Dravidian capital, Falia. Sven attempts to sneak away to lay explosives in the ship, but he’s spotted by a guard and returned to the dining hall. The heroes say they’ll consider the offer, and Amaryllis says they’ll speak again. But on the way back to Mejas, the party agrees they won’t turn over the city.

The party meet back up and manage to recruit a few more town guards to their cause. The angry mob at the Grand Repository has stirred up patriots to form a makeshift militia. The civilians aren’t strong or well-equipped, but what they lack in equipment they make up for with determination. A few of the scholars at the school also agree to use whatever magical talents they have to aid the city.

The heroes organize their defenses, setting up boiling oil in the weak western gate and leaving the harbor completely empty. Sven uses his alchemical skills to mix up some explosives and buries them under the docks and sand in the harbor with lines leading into the dockyards to serve as triggers. Meanwhile, Satine prepares with Lord Harrenhaw for the arrival of the invaders from the south. The party light the lighthouse to complete the deception and then prepare for their sneak attack.

Soon, the Prince and his invasion fleet arrive on the shores of Mejas en masse to find a pile of weapons laid on the docks. Thinking the Mejas defenders have fled, the imposing invading army dressed in heavy armor have their guard down. When enough have landed, Sven and Ria quickly light the explosives and duck for cover.

With an enormous thundering explosion that shakes the foundations of the city, the harbors are engulfed in alchemical fire. Hundreds of the invaders are burned alive, while others are seriously wounded by exploding shrapnel. The dazed army manages to regroup on the shore as the bombs continue to detonate. Sensing now is the time to attack, Ria, Sven, Amaryllis and Jarkko lead the rag-tag defenders and their orc allies into the battlefield and the two armies clash.

To the south, Archduke Rikart the Indomitable has set up trebuchets, which damage and breach the city walls. The invading army busts down the door to the Western Gate, but are immediately met with boiling oil poured from above by Erasmus and his contingent of defenders. The army pulls back to regroup when Satine and the town guard sally forth from the King’s Gate to the east, clashing with the soldiers.

The fighting is fierce, with continuous fire from Archduke Rikart the Indomitable’s arcane archers and siege artillery, until Satine whistles. With a bone-chilling howl, Bork and his dire wolfs leap from the forest and join the fray, mauling the army and breaking their spirit.

Meanwhile, the battle at the harbor yards has grown fierce. Despite the overwhelming losses suffered in the sneak attack, the Prince’s army is more than a match for the weak militia and manages to push back off the beach into the dockyards. The orcs hold the line against several charges of the Prince’s army, but the battle is turning.

While defending the harbors, the heroes see a Northern assault force push east towards the lighthouse, capturing it. Amaryllis also spots an elite unit, Company Zero, make their way towards the Grand Repository.

In the midst of the battle, the Prince spots Amaryllis leading a mob of civilians and orders his men to attack. He personally wades into the battle and engages with her. Amaryllis calls for Ria to help and the two fend off the Prince and his personal guard, but the militia guarding them falls. Amaryllis retreats from the battle unscathed, but her unit is routed.

Realizing the opposing army would also lose morale if their officers were defeated, Sven and others try to loop around the troops on the beach and manage to catch a few Northerns off-guard, chasing the archers from the field of battle. Malakai, who leads an army near the city’s fortress, realizes the battle is turning against his friends nearby. He orders his men to guard the entrance to the crypts and he runs inside.

Down in the catacombs, Malakai calls upon his ghostly brother, Deacon, to summon the ghosts of the dead to fight. But his idea is quashed when the ghosts of the city turn out to be long-dead nobleman, fat and more used to trade disputes than actual war. At first they are unwilling to help, but Malakai begs for their help. The ghosts eventually realize they must protect their city and phase through the city streets to spook away some of the Dravidian troops, sparing a few of the town guards.

Meanwhile, the scholars and militia at the Grand Repository make a valiant defense against Company Zero and a unit of Dravidian heavy troops, just barely holding the line and keeping Company Zero from raiding the library’s vaults. Erasmus, the mages and a group of town militia rush to their aid and clash on the library steps.

Outside the castle walls, Satine faces off one-on-one with Rikart the Indomitable as the Mejas Honor Guard fight with the invaders. Richard taunts the bounty hunter, insulting her as being merely a woman, but this only fuels her fury. Satine uses her transmutation magic to weaken a part of the city wall, sending it crashing down on some of Rikart’s troops.

The two clash swords in an even contest until Satine spots an opening to gain the upper hand and with a clean strike, castrates Rikart. As he staggers from his wound, Satine taunts him, asking “Who is the woman now?”

They clash again, and Satine quickly beheads the northern warlord, ending the fight. His troops, stunned and badly beaten, immediately retreat to the woods. Satine and the units under her command rush the trebuchets, scattering the siege engineers.

Through the holes punched in the city walls, Satine, Harrenhaw and Bork can see smoke rising from the Grand Repository. Thinking quickly, Satine orders Bork into the trebuchet and takes aim. With a swing of her axe, Max Fightmaster, she launches Bork into the air. The warg flies over the castle walls, far over the slums and lands deftly on one of the Dravidian heavy troopers, ripping him apart immediately with his teeth. The unit is stunned, allowing Erasmus and his allies to advance.

In the midst of the battle, the mage spots a large man wielding a halberd in a golden suit of armor who announces himself as Alexandre Bergeron, a feared warrior. Erasmus pushes his way through the battle with two members of the militia and sends a fiery blast at the golden warrior, but Bergeron simply laughs it off and swings at the trio.

Erasmus orders his two militiamen to use their spears to attack the weak points in Bergeron’s armor and pin him down. The two manage to avoid his blows and stab through his armor to hold him down. With pinpoint precision, Erasmus begins blasting off pieces of his armor. First a shoulder guard flies off, then the other side. Through it all, Bergeron swings his halberd at the militiamen, who miraculously dodge the strikes.

Using his fire magic, Erasmus cuts off the chest plate, and the two militiamen stab their spears through Bergeron’s feet, pinning him in place. “Now!” they yell and dive out of the way just as Erasmus summons all of his potent magical power and sends a column of flame shooting out of his hands directly into Bergeron’s chest. The golden knight roars as he the fire burns through his chainmail. His feet pull up the spears and he staggers towards the mage, but Erasmus continues his blast.

Suddenly, the back of Bergeron’s armor glows red and the fire bursts through, showing the mage has carved a hole directly through the knight. Bergeron slumps to the ground, dead. The Mejas scholars are inspired by Erasmus’ heroism and rush past, driving the unit from the battle and slaughtering those who attempt to retreat. During the chaos, Company Zero slinks back onto their ship and set sail, fleeing the city.

Thanks to Erasmus’ and Satine’s heroic actions, the battle is beginning to turn. The Mejas defenders push back into the dockyards, where Ria, Amaryllis, Sven and Malakai have been pushed to their limits by the Prince’s troops. With reinforcements on the way, the orcs charge forward and singlehandedly wipe out several units of the Northerner’s army. As his fellow troops surrender or retreat to the ships on the ocean, the Prince vows to fight on, but is cornered by the heroes.

A haughty Amaryllis steps forward and demands the Prince surrender. He resists at first, but faced with a group of angry orcs that demand his head as proper tribute, he ultimately throws down his sword and is imprisoned in the Tower of Mejas.

With that, the long and hard-fought battle is over: the heroes have won and Mejas is saved!

Erasmus takes some of the mages to made hasty repairs to the damaged city walls and the city guard and militia catch their breath after the long days battle.

[FOR AMARYLLIS’ EYES ONLY]

While the Prince is kept in confinement, Amaryllis sneaks away from the group without their knowledge and asks the guards to give her a moment with him alone. As the town guards leave, the door to his cell slams shut and they can hear muffled screams, but dismiss them.

A few moments later, Amaryllis steps out, content that she got the information she needed for her organization.

[END FOR AMARYLLIS’ EYES ONLY]

The party decide to press the Prince for information, so they head to his cell and question him. The Prince explains the Dravidian Empire decided to invade the south based on information their spies retrieved. The plan was to strike south of Mejas and invade by land, but after the Marquis ordered his fleet out on a suicide mission, the Prince and his army decided that was the best time to invade. When questioned about the Black Buck, the Prince is incredulous.

“What, that boogeyman?” he replies. After some further questioning, the heroes are convinced: the Prince isn’t working for the Black Buck, he was manipulated by him to do his bidding. The party realize they have a powerful bargaining chip with the Dravidians, but ultimately decide to stay out of the war. They also want to keep Mejas safe. The Prince’s army may have been driven off, but the Dravidian fleet still has control of the harbor, leaving the city exposed.

The party proposes a deal: they’ll hand over the Prince and let the troops who surrendered retreat onto a few boats. But the majority of the Dravidian fleet, including the Prince’s flagship, must be turned over to the heroes. The Prince balks at the idea and accuses the party of being dishonorable for faking a truce then launching a sneak attack. Amaryllis reminds him that no matter how underhanded their tactics were, he lost the battle.

The Prince relents and the party successfully transfer him back the Dravidians who leave nearly all of their fleet behind and beat a hasty retreat back across the seas. As the ships sail away, Sven reveals that he pilfered the Prince’s royal sword as a souvenir.

The heroes meet back up with the marquis. De Sousa had holed himself up in his fortress during the fighting and runs out with his bags packed and his caravan ready. He explains that he realizes now he’s messed with a powerful figure by harassing the Black Buck and fears for his life. Knowing the mage has his spies throughout the world, the marquis announces he is retiring and going into hiding.

He takes enough of his gold and wealth to get him set up in a new life in the country, then offers the rest to the heroes as payment for their help. De Sousa thanks them and departs.

The party decides Mejas is as close to a home as they all can share, and admit they have grown fond of the city. In a private ceremony, they declare themselves the Kings and Queens of Mejas, but don’t immediately seize power. Instead, they install Harrenhaw as Lord of the city to act as a steward of its well-being while the party are away. At a later date, the heroes say, they’ll return to claim their stake to the city. Harrenhaw agrees, noting Mejas is forever in their debt.

To assist Harrenhaw, Malakai speaks with the ghostly noblemen. They will serve as advisors to Harrenhaw, using their wealth of knowledge to assist in the daily functioning of the city. In exchange, Malakai promises to help them move on to the afterlife when he returns.

The orcs are rowdy after the battle, and many in the city are nervous about these new residents. Donovar Shett, the mage of the Grand Repository, is appointed as trusted liaison between the city and the orcs. Harrenhaw promises to train the orcs as a fighting force, giving them the opportunity for battle while also keeping the city safe.

The heroes shower the city with their wealth, using most of the Marquis’ money to pay for repairs and beautification projects. The walls are to be reconstructed, the ruined homes rebuilt and the damaged Grand Repository restored to even greater splendor.

The Happy Mask District where the library is located is renamed “Martyr’s Square” to honor both the militiamen who gave their lives in defense of the city as well as the civilians massacred in the uprising that uprooted the doppleganger conspiracy.

Across the square, Ria decides to build a large temple to both Desna and Sarenrae. Satine pitches in for a fountain in front of the temple of a lion spewing forth water, a tribute to her god, Iomedae. The heroes also commission the finest glass artists of the city to create portraits of each of the heroes in their honor.

Ria leaves to goes to check on Fosco, the friendly lighthouse keeper that had promised to fight to the end before the battle. She rushes up the steps of the lighthouse, stepping over bodies of Northern troops. Reaching the top, she gasps — Fosco’s body lies against the stairwell wall, stabbed multiple times by spears and swords. A spent crossbow still lies in his hand. Ria says a silent prayer for her friend and the heroes give him a burial near the lighthouse.

Next to Foscoe’s grave, the heroes build a small shrine to some of the friends they left behind: Captain Hamilton Raleigh, Freya Black and Ivan the Kind.

While the other heroes continue their work cleaning up the docks and rebuilding the harbor, Malakai and Shana return to The Warren. They purchase a large, multi-storied crooked building and christen it the global headquarters of Malakai’s business enterprise: Cross & Cross Inc.

Shana suggests she stay behind to take care of the shop, offering their necromancy services to those who need it. Malakai is reluctant to leave behind his intern — and protege — but ultimately agrees after Shana assures him it’s for the best.

The party finishes setting its affairs in order before planning their next move. The Black Buck will not be pleased that they thwarted his plan, and will likely try to attack them again. The heroes decide to take the fight to him. Last they heard, an associate of the Black Buck was camped out at Scrapebottom Haven, a pirate’s den in the Middle Sea. Thinking they can find a new lead there, the party decide to set off.

They repaint the Prince’s resplendent flagship pitch black and rename it “Shadow Huntress” to match it’s new mission: to catch the Black Buck. At Sven’s request, a knowledgable mage etches runes into the ship’s keel that, when activated with a spoken word, will create a foggy mist to serve as a smokescreen.

Ghak the Liberator and about a dozen of her orc companions insist on accompanying the party on their journey, ready to serve as crew aboard the Shadow Huntress. With the city safe in the hands of their allies and a new ship to call their own, Amaryllis, Satin, Ria, Sven, Malakai and Erasmus set off into the dawning sun towards the Circle Sea, ready to bring the fight to the Black Buck.

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The Enemy of my Enemy
Season 3, Episode 9

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After freeing the orc-women and recruiting the warriors to their side, the heroes decide to begin their journey to Mejas, where they suspect the Black Buck is due to attack. Malakai, Erasmus and Shana stay behind with the orcs to prepare their supplies and promise to arrive in Mejas as soon as possible.

The rest of the party — Ivan, Ria, Amaryllis and Satine — make camp for the night for the last time in the Charwood. Ivan seems to act somewhat distant, but the heroes pay him no extra mind.

But the next morning, Ria awakens first and discovers Ivan’s bedroll is missing. In its place is his holy scimitar and a note to her. Ria takes the sealed note and reads it. Her eyes fill with tears, but she doesn’t share the notes contents with her friends.

They wake up to find Ivan is gone. Ria confirms that he left the group, but says nothing further. Amaryllis suspects her old compatriot felt bed for her worsening condition and split from the group to try to help her. The party, now having lost yet another friend, carries on to Mejas.

They approach the city from the south, and once again gasp at its beauty: ornate walls protect the city as it hugs the cliffs above a curved port. The heroes realize just how unused those walls have been, and recognize the city’s tower, which hasn’t been used for defensive purposes in years. Instead it houses the city jail.

The party are relieved to see the city hasn’t fallen, but notice streams of citizens leaving the city with their worldly belongings. Sabine stops one of the refugees and asks what’s wrong.

“The city is doomed!” he exclaims. The refugee explains the Dravidians have massed an invasion fleet and are crossing the Western Deep to mount an attack. The city was safe with its ships able to repel the invasion from the Mejas’ harbor, but for some reason the Marquis Phillip De Sousa sent the ships away to meet the invaders head on. The fleets seems to have been lost in the ensuing battle.

Amaryllis polls her organization’s contacts in the city and catches up with a wary city guard. The guard explains that a few days ago a strange ship appeared in port that had a glass bow and appeared to be moving independent of the wind. The ship only stayed a night but then left. Then the Marquis made his decision and sent the fleet away. The guard said some admirals protested but were thrown in the Tower of Mejas.

The party decide they need to talk to the Marquis, but realize that none of them have ever actually met him in person (the heroes that he originally hired either left or were with Ghak and the orcs). Nevertheless they forge on.

As they pass through the market, a hooded dwarf watches them. In between the crowd, he spots the Devil’s Right Hand hanging on Amaryllis’ hip. He pulls his hood further down and quietly follows…

The party reaches the Marquis’ keep in the City Square and try to talk their way in. At first, a guard won’t grant them entry but once Amaryllis tell him her name the guard checks inside and then lets them in. The dwarf secrets himself inside the keep, climbing onto a second floor.

The party are led past a courtyard into the main hall where the Marquis is waiting with two cloaked advisors. The Marquis is excited to see the party and asks them what they’ve learned in a friendly tone. Amaryllis introduces herself to him formally, but the Marquis insists they met when he hired her. Amaryllis is puzzled; the Marquis never hired her directly.

Amaryllis explains that the party know the city will soon be under attack and asks why de Sousa sent the fleet away. The Marquis explains he wanted to cut off the invasion fleet and had “full confidence” in the ship captain’s abilities.

The Marquis presses to learn more about the Black Buck. Amaryllis explains that the group met one of his agents, Lucky Marcel, in the Scorchlands and had him imprisoned in Firmrock. She also reveals they thwarted another of his plans in the elven village of Anhe Talas and mentions the soon-to-arrive orc army but stops short of telling the Marquis more.

Still, de Sousa presses to know more. Satine and Ria exchange suspicious glances.

Meanwhile, the dwarf above places around the upper part of the chamber. Lining the walls he spots stuffed animal heads and, lurking in the darkness, a row of archers ready to fire.

Amaryllis makes an excuse for the party to leave and the Marquis acquiesces. “Please,” he insists. “Take your time. Relax in the courtyard and we can discuss more here when you’re ready. The party depart and the dwarf above notices the archers beginning to move out above the courtyard.

Sensing the trap, the dwarf quickly scrambles back down a hallway to intercept the party. Leaping down silently, he pulls them into an alley. The heroes are shocked by the strange dwarf before them. he wears a cloak that obscures his face in shadow. His arms and legs appear to be wrapped tight in bandages and a single eye appears to have been replaced by a stone fake one carved with a strange unrecognizable rune.

The dwarf leads them away from the courtyard and to the wall of the keep, throwing down a rope to spring their release. But just before they escape, a guard spots Ria and Satine climbing up. Sabine quickly dispatches the guard and the dwarf pulls out a molotov cocktail, lighting the nearby thatched roof on fire.

In the confusion the party leap off the keep and into the crowd with a group of city guard hot in pursuit. The party races to the Warrens, the lower-class neighborhood in town known for its winding passages and unkept and unsanitary crowds. Using a mix of trickery and skill, the heroes eventually lose their pursuers and duck into a vacant building.

The dwarf removes his cloak and reveals himself to be none other than Sven Stonestein, the dwarf friend of Orren. The heroes recognize Sven from Orren’s dying vision, where he was seen being crushed by Restelaan using blood magic.

Sven explains that his will to survive kept him going and that he was eventually discovered and nursed back to health. However, his limbs, an eye and much of the rest of his body was broken beyond even the strongest healing. Sven recruited the help of master engineers who used strange runes to power new mechanical arms and legs for him. His ruined eye was replaced by a stone-crafted one with a rune that has scrying properties.

Sven heard that the same Black Buck agents that killed his friends may be in Mejas so he came to investigate. The dwarf seems surprised that the others know him so well, and was suspicious of Amaryllis carrying the Devil’s Right Hand crossbow that formerly belonged to Lucky Marcel. But the party tell him they’re on the same side and Sven agrees to help them.

Sven recognizes the description of the strange ship as being the Pandora, the massive airship stolen from a Duke in the north that was later captured by Sloan and his men. The party quickly realize that Sloane likely arrived in Mejas and somehow replaced the Marquis with a doppleganger named Bob who was working for the Black Buck.

Amaryllis walks the streets and learns that Doppleganger-Marquis is going to meet with a scholar at the Grand Repository in the cultured Happy Mask District of town that night. The party decide to overthrown the Marquis by finding the real one and causing a scene.

They figure the Marquis is likely being held in the Tower with the admirals and other resistance. With the town guard on high alert, they sneak through the harbor to Lone Point Lighthouse at the edge of the harbor. While there, the friendly drunken lighthouse keeper Fosco spots Satine and Ria and invites them inside.

Fosco shows them the top of the lighthouse, where they see the Dravidian fleet massing. They also spot town guardsmen near the Tower of Mejas who appear to be dejected and demoralized. Fosco says the city has given up hope, especially since the Marquis ordered the gates sealed shut, trapping the citizens inside.

Satine and Ria thank Fosco and pray for his safety. He tells them that his family has guarded the lighthouse for generations and he will do the same. He offers his lighthouse as a place of last refuge to make a final stand if they so choose.

The heroes sneak into the Tower and manage to rescue a disheveled Marquis from the dungeon after Satine knocks out one of the guards. The Marquis explains the Black Buck must have found out about his plans and sent the doppleganger to destroy him.

The party wonders why the Black Buck didn’t kill de Sousa outright, but Sven remembers his dealings with the mage. He says the Black Buck likely didn’t want the Marquis dead, he wanted him embarrassed and shamed. The Marquis would give up Mejas through terrible blunders and let his most hated enemies sack the city. He wouldn’t just be killed, his legacy would be tarnished forever.

The party clean him up but remind him that his reputation as a intolerant jerk likely made it easy for the Bob as the Doppleganger-Marquis to take over. He agrees to help overthrow the imposter.

The heroes bring the true Marquis to the Grand Repository, beating Bob to the library. There they see Donovar Shett again, the library scholar who had a dispute with Erasmus weeks before. The scholar initially laughs off the group, but when Ria reveals her Voidtouched hand, Donovar is shocked and immediately agrees to help since he knows of the power she possesses. Meanwhile, Amaryllis spreads rumors that the Marquis is a double agent for the north and rallies a crowd to the library steps.

Bob, his advisors and the Marquis’ retinue of guards arrive at the library to find the crowd waiting. Donovar, playing along, asks the Doppleganger-Marquis to make a speech, but the fake is interrupted by the real Marquis who calls out Bob as the imposter. The confused crowd and guards don’t know what to do until Amaryllis takes a shot at Bob, who deftly avoids the arrow and reveals himself. Bob’s two advisors shed their disguises as well, showing their true natures as shadow creatures from the Children of Dusk death cult.

A brawl breaks out as Satine and Sven rush in to eliminate the shadow creatures and Bob. Bob dodges an initial blow from Sven.

“It seems I didn’t do a good enough job killing you last time,” he quips.

From the balcony, Amaryllis whips the crowd into a frenzy until the citizens charge into the fight as well. Satine and Ria team up to slash apart the shadow creatures, which were harming the people in the crowd and he guardsmen. Sven manages to hurt Bob, who tries to fade into the crowd, but Sven uses an ink bomb to mark him.

At Amaryllis’ insistence, the crowd turn on Bob. The doppleganger slices at the civilians with his dagger, killing many, but is overwhelmed and dragged to the floor. The mob beats the doppleganger to within an inch of his life. Then Sven steps up and the crowd parts ways.

Sven grabs Bob by the hair, pulls him to his feet and responds to his taunt — “No. You didn’t” — before slicing off his head. The heroes and the crowd are shocked as his features melt away into a gray featureless face — the true form of a doppleganger. His body also changes to a strange, gray alien-like form.

The Marquis tries to rally the mob, but realizes they follow Amaryllis now. She approaches the balcony and urges the citizens to spread word that an imposter was in their midst and that though the Dravidians will try to invade, they will be repelled. The mob cheers and sets off.

De Sousa explains that the doppleganger did enough damage during his short reign to seriously weaken the city. The guards are demoralized and many have fled. The city is also exposed from the sea due to the disaster with the fleet, meaning they Dravidians will likely try to simply march into the city through the harbor.

The party round up as many animal heads as they can and stack them to be burned, figuring they’ll cut off the Black Buck’s ability for him to spy on them. At once, the dozens of animal heads turn to the heroes and in dozens of voices ask whether they expect to survive. Amaryllis steps forward and taunts the Black Buck, saying they’ll stop his plans once again.

The animal heads laugh, but Amaryllis warns the Black Buck: “Remember this moment the next time we talk.”

“There will not be a next time,” the Black Buck responds before deactivating the mounted heads. The party burns the heads and decide to rest for the night. When morning dawns, they’ll have a city to save.

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Murder Most Foul
Season 3, Episode 6

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Amaryllis, Ria, Malakai and Ivan stumble out of the Akashi Temple into the night, their minds still racing from the experiences they shared inside the tribe’s Collective Mind. Outside, Captain Hamilton Raleigh, Erasmus and Freya have set up a fire with Shana, the Akashi monk the party managed to rescue.

Erasmus explains the group had vanished inside the temple, but he, Freya and Captain Raleigh weren’t ready to leave them behind. The four who accessed the Akashi’s Collective Mind share what they saw with the others.

Captain Raleigh asks if they were able to learn more about his past, but the adventurers admit they forgot to ask. The party realizes they need to get back to Umar, The Wandering City before the beast continues on its journey next morning. Ivan keeps his silver-tipped Akashi spear, but the rest of the party decide to leave the rest of the temple alone, fearing the blue flame Arius may attack them.

Freya picks up Edris’ belongings and shoves them into her endless bag before they leave. The party exits the valley and finds the sandstorm has subsided. Ria leads the party through the desert and they eventually reach the oasis and Umar around midnight.

Carefully tying their horses to a post, the party find Jaze Narang’s tent and enter. Inside, the Bodani merchant is thrilled to see them. He informs them he was able to sabotage Umar’s cart, slowing the beast’s departure time until the next noon. He eagerly asks for the strange, smooth white stone he had asked for.

But the party tell him they destroyed the stone and yell at Jaze for putting them into a dangerous situation. He retorts that he was in a dangerous situation himself, since he committed a capital offense against the city. He demands to know why the stone isn’t his.

Ivan, losing his patience, tells Jaze the stone turned people into werewolves and that they had nearly died on his foolish mission. When Jaze demands someone else from the temple, the party refuses. Jaze, now believing he’s about to be robbed, pulls a dagger on the party. But Ivan moves quicker and puts his own knife to Jaze’s throat.

Amaryllis tries to diffuse the situation, but doesn’t manage to calm anyone down. She switches tactics, subtly threatening to expose Jaze’s crimes to the authorities. Jaze is horrified his hired help have turned on him and orders them to leave his tent.

Without a place to stay, the party leave and decide to set up camp under the stars. Still wound up from the stresses of the day, the party decide to split up before heading to bed.

Captain Raleigh is among the first to leave, simply saying he’s going to go for a walk on his own. In fact, he hopes to find a way to gamble the few coins he has left into some sort of winnings to pay back Jaze, still believing he can salvage their relationship.

His exploration carries him to The Twilight, a mobile gambling den within a tent city on the outskirts of The Wandering City. Captain Raleigh approaches the entrance, but is stopped by the large guard and stripped of his visible weapons. The Twilight’s owner, Vibishani Baneek, waddles over and eagerly explains the setup inside.

Most of the gambling is set up on cushioned pads on rugs in the center of the tents; however, Vibishani notes, the most exclusive games are held in private booths, where the desert’s shadiest characters and most influential people bet high stakes games. Captain Raleigh, a true pirate at heart, can’t resist the pull of the game and asks to be seated at the highest stakes match.

Vibishani leads Captain Raleigh to the back of the gambling den to an area sectioned off by beaded curtains. Inside, a group of individuals are playing a gambling game with cards, one the captain recognizes.

Among the players is a member of the city guard, a old mustachioed man in a duster, a young woman with dark bushy hair, and a teifling who matches the description of the Black Buck’s agent from Orren’s dying memory.

Captain Raleigh introduces himself, but only the old man and the trifling respond. The mustachioed man introduces himself as “Midnight” Haney, a mercenary of the desert. The bushy haired woman glances up but doesn’t introduce herself.

The trifling brags about his reputation, saying he runs the town of Sapwater and is well-feared across the land as the wielder of “The Devil’s Hand,” a hand crossbow with a deadly reputation. He identifies himself as “Lucky” Marcel.

Captain Raleigh, through luck and effective gambling, manages to take out various members of the card game, including the guard, the bushy haired woman and Midnight Haney, who bids the captain and Lucky farewell.

Since no one else remains at the table, Lucky stands up.

“I think you’ll be cashing out now,” Lucky says, and the captain agrees.

Lucky comments that Captain Raleigh is a skilled gambler. Captain Raleigh returns the favor, but subtly accuses Lucky of cheating. The false smile on the teifling’s face fades away and he briefly flashes a sneer.

Yet after a beat, Lucky bursts into a laugh and slaps Captain Raleigh on the back, guiding him out of the Twilight. As they leave, Vibishani sees the two walking out and his eyes widen. He quickly rushes away.

Lucky leads Captain Raleigh outside of the gambling den without allowing him to pick up his earnings or his weapons. He leads the captain down a side alley between two of the gambling halls.

“Well, I have enjoyed our evening,” Lucky says. “Have a safe night.” He turns and leaves.

Moments later, the tents rustle as a half-a-dozen burly thugs all wielding clubs and bats step into the alleyway. They crack their knuckles and surround the captain, who now realizes he’s in a bad situation.

One of the thugs says they’ll teach the captain a lesson and the gang members charge forward, nearly landing punches on Captain Raleigh. The captain dodges the blows and pulls out a hidden knife from his boot, slashing at two of the thugs and badly injuring them.

One of the thugs knocks the captain to the ground and two others go to pin him. Captain Raleigh manages to stab one of the grunts, but the knife gets stuck in his back and the captain is disarmed. As he struggles to free himself, one of the armed thugs reaches back and clobbers the captain across the head, dazing him.

The scuffle becomes more violent, as the thugs realize the captain is fighting for his life. Captain Raleigh valiantly tries to fight back once more, refusing to yield to the ruffians, but is struck again — hard — by one of the thugs and is immediately knocked out.

Meanwhile, Amaryllis, Ria and Ivan decide to head to the nearest temple to pray to Sarenrae for guidance about Ria’s cursed hand. They are directed to Umar’s Tower, the large parapeted structure that Umar pulls on his cart through the desert. Amaryllis convinces a guard to allow them through to see the high priest in the temple and the trio enter the tower.

Inside the base of the tower, they find a beautiful temple to the sun goddess, the Dawnflower. On one of the prayer mats lined on the floor sits a man deep in prayer: the head priest of the temple, Glory Fallon Vael.

The “glory” (as high priests of Sarenrae are called) is unlike his fellow Bodani citizens. He has pale white skin and a sharp angular face tucked under cropped dark brown hair. He is dressed in flowing robes fringed in orange at its bottom and quickly turning a pure white towards the waist and above.

Glory Vael speaks, and Amaryllis immediately notices a Dravidian accent. He asks what the party requires and Ria implores him to assist her. The priest brings them inside his chambers, a sparse room with a delicate symbol of Sarenrae posted on the stone wall.

She shows the priest her cursed hand; the glory is nonplussed, as if he’s seen such afflictions before.

Glory Vael explains the curse is from the Goddess of the Heavens, Desna. When Ria asks why Sarenrae has not healed her, the glory explains that the gods no longer directly interfere with their creations. Instead, they deign others to act on their behalf and fulfill their wills.

Ria begs the glory to heal her, but he admits the curse is beyond his power. Only one given Sarenrae’s direct blessing, like her great champion Kira the Fervorous Flame, would have enough power to overturn the affliction. Glory Vael also says a high priest of Desna could also petition their goddess to lift the curse.

Glory Vael tells Ria to return in the morning, and he will do what he can to ease her pain and ensure the curse does not trouble her much as it spreads. Amaryllis asks the priest about the mysterious poison coursing through her blood, but he is unsure of how to heal her.

The two leave the temple, but Ivan rushes back to speak with the glory without his companions nearby. He describes how he destroyed Desna’s moonstone to stop a plague of werewolves at the Akashi temple in the Scorchlands. Ivan confesses that he feels guilty for Ria’s illness, and takes responsibility for her suffering.

Her devotion has inspired him to be less impulsive, and, as proof of his new outlook, he offers up the silver-tipped Akashi spear he plundered from the temple. He asks Glory Vael if the temple has any holy weapon that Ria could use to protect herself, now that the curse has weakened.

Glory Vael accepts the spear and studies the half-elf, then turns to his dresser and retrieves a ceremonial scimitar. Unsheathing the blade, the glory reveals its well honed edge and its hilt, which is cut into the shape of Sarenrae’s body. He presents the scimitar to Ivan.

“The daughter of light does not need such a weapon to defend herself,” he says. “But Sarenrae says you may need it to defend your friend. Take it.” Ivan is stunned, but graciously accepts.

At the same time, Malakai has wandered around the tent city hoping to find some customers for his necromancy business. He’s unable to find any takers he can assist — one man accepts Malakai’s offer, but the necromancer refuses the resident’s money when he’s unable to contact the man’s deceased mother.

Malakai returns to the group’s camp and talks with Erasmus and Freya. Erasmus is troubled by how they left things with Jaze and worries that it was not a heroic thing to do. He, Malakai and Freya return to Jaze to try to smooth things over.

Unfortunately, Jaze is still terrified of the party and remains upset they didn’t bring him anything. At that moment, Freya nudges Erasmus and shows him Edris’ notebook, which she pilfered from his camp. Erasmus offers the notebook to Jaze as compensation and the merchant, realizing its unique value, gladly accepts and warmly welcomes the group back into his tent for the evening.

Just then Malakai, Erasmus, Freya hear a low whining siren of a horn blast. Jaze tells them the horn is a warning from the city guard that something serious has occurred. The party, realizing Captain Raleigh has not returned, rushes into the street. From the other side of the city, Ria, Amarylllis and Ivan also hear the horn and run to the source.

They arrive at a seedy area of town near the Twilight gambling den. A crowd has gathered around a space between two of the tents and city guards are pushing the onlookers back. The party see an investigator standing over the stripped body of a man lying in the sand.

Malakai, using the connection he made earlier, manages to convince the guards to let some of the party through. He approaches and realizes the horrific truth. The body — badly beaten and stripped to its underwear — belongs to that of his traveling companion.

A guard confirms what the party already knows: Captain Hamilton Raleigh is dead.

Malakai quickly summons his spectral brother, Deacon, who communes with Captain Raleigh’s spirit. Through Deacon, the Captain explains what happens. The party vow to avenge his death and Captain Raleigh thanks them for their travels. The spirit of the captain says he sees his old ship and shipmates waiting for him and bids the party farewell before passing on.

Ivan, who has been watching from the crowd, notices a hooded figure watching the proceedings. As the figure turns to leave, Ivan realizes it’s a tiefling and trails him to an alley. But the tiefling notices and the two square off in the alley, Ivan with his dagger and the tiefling with his crossbow.

Ivan threatens to harm the man if he was responsible for Captain Raleigh’s death. But Ivan, who is subtly bonked in the head by the holy sword strapped to his back, explains he’s trying to turn over a new leaf and would prefer not to fight.

The tiefling, who introduces himself as Solomon, denies he was responsible for the death. He explains he’s after Lucky Marcel and came rushing to the area when he heard about the attack. Solomon says it’s unlikely Lucky ordered Captain Raleigh killed and deduces the mugging simply went too far.

The two put away their weapons and Ivan offers to take Solomon out for a drink to get to know him better, realizing they share a common enemy and could work together to suss him out.

Back at the crime scene, Erasmus pushes his way through the barricade and finds Captain Raleigh’s corpse. As the rest of the party try to comfort him, Erasmus feels a raging fire build in his belly. He had sworn to never lose another friend and had failed. Unable to control his anger, tongues of fire flicker out of the mage and begins to burn the nearby tents.

Ria, quickly realizing what’s happening, uses her shielding magic to trap Erasmus just as he erupts in a rage. The divine bubble manages to just barely contain Erasmus’ flame burst and after a tense moment, the mage regains his composure. Erasmus swears to find the man responsible for his friend’s death.

The group returns to Jaze’s camp to discuss their next move. They decide to try to track down more players from the card game that night to prove Lucky was responsible, and also set out to find the thugs that Captain Raleigh was able to injure. Sapwater, the town Lucky claimed to run, may be a good place to start.

A few hours later, Ivan returns with Solomon, startling the party and Jaze, who is shocked to see a devil-man in his abode. After a heavily-intoxicated Ivan diffuses the situation, Solomon introduces himself and explains he’s also after Lucky, since he’s somehow connected to a man Solomon used to work with as a Relic Runner for the Oalans: Jarkko Stepanek.

The party recognize the name from Orren’s dying vision and invite Solomon into the party to help them avenge their friend’s death and catch Lucky.

The next morning, Ria returns to the temple and is healed to the best of the Glory Fallon Vael’s ability. The party gather up their things and prepare for the long journey to Umar’s next pit stop: the ruined city of Firmrock.

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The Death of Orren
Season 3, Episode 5

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After the creature atop the Akashi Temple dome leaps into the building, Erasmus, Freya and Captain Hamilton Raleigh agree to investigate where Edris went. They’ll also remain out by the temple’s entrance to prevent the creature from leaving. Malakai, Ivan, Ria and Amaryllis agree to forge on and decide to return to the temple’s catacombs.

Venturing inside, they find Arius, the tribe’s collective memory represented as a blue flame, in a brazier. After Amaryllis brokers peace with the flame, Arius warns that his children are “whispering” and have shunned the mind. He explains some tried to “shout down” the whisperers and were silenced. Arius also tells the party that within the catacombs is one who is “whispering.” The party takes this warning to heart and prepares for a fight.

They venture further into the crypt, finding dead bodies wrapped tightly in linens and stashed in cutouts from the rock. Ivan attempts to cut off an arm to see if there is treasure inside the wrappings, but is attacked by the blue flame, which stretches around the corner to strike him. The party realize that Arius will protect the Akashi in the temple from outsiders, but refuses to turn on one of its own.

Further down a hallway, they heroes find a few Akashi bodies, seemingly torn to pieces by claws and teeth. The party find a bloodied spear with a silver tip that Ivan takes up as his weapon.

Using his spirit brother, Malakai converses with one of the Akashi’s spirits. The monk, named Putarum Findor Durneston Arius Faldrus Werneston Arius, explains what happened as best he can remember: recently, a strange stone crashed through the ceiling of the temple’s library, it’s most holy place.

The temple’s elders thought the stone was a gift from Irori, their god. However, those who studied the stone grew irritable, then filled with anger. Some in the temple realized the stone had corrupted them and attempted to stop those affected, but were attacked. The elders changed into wolf-like beasts and the Akashi monks and Putarum grabbed a ceremonial spear and fled to the catacombs to hide. Inside, they found a monster and fought it, but failed to defeat it.

Putting two and two together, the party realize they may be dealing with a werewolf, but they’re unsure why, since it was daytime and there was no full moon. They take time to properly care for the Akashi bodies nearby and Malakai helps their spirits pass on. As they tend to the corpses, a pair of yellow eyes peer out of the darkness: it’s the werewolf!

The werewolf — a hulking, muscular monstrosity of gnashing fangs and sharp bloodied claws — howls and strikes fear into the heroes. Ivan readies himself with Putarum’s spear. Meanwhile, Amaryllis notices a gaping open wound on the werewolf’s side. Malakai uses his necromancy to enflame the wound and Ivan strikes with the silver-tipped spear, pinning the creature to the wall.

As the werewolf thrashes and swipes at the heroes, Ria is overcome with a singular emotion: compassion. Realizing she may be able to save the poor creature, she calls to the power of her mother’s staff of Sarenrae and purifies the werewolf. The wolf’s muscular frame fades away and the hair on its body is blasted away by light.

In its place, stands an emaciated-looking Akashi woman, young, hairless and completely naked. She collapses to the floor, and Malakai quickly wraps her in his cloak. When she comes to, the Akashi teen is unaware of what’s happened. She realizes with horror that she was responsible for the deaths of her fellow monks.

She identifies herself as Shana Durneston Arius Sentalor Woarg Findor Reiiar, an assistant to the elder council. She verifies much of Putarum’s story, explaining the elders were sure the stone was a gift when it landed a couple of weeks ago. All the Akashi monks touched the stone, but not all were affected. Only those that spent extended time studying the stone were changed.

Shana described the affliction like a growing hunger and rage inside her that she couldn’t stop. She says her memory of that time is hazy.

The party ask Shana to tap into the Akashi collective mind to find out about Orren, the Akashi boy Kristoff told them about who knew something of the Black Buck.

Shana explains Orren is dead, and vaguely recalls his memories — she sees him murdered in a burning city as his friends are cut down by an angry woman and a man wielding a shield. But she warns that her ability to access her ancestors’ memories is clouded.

The party are disappointed to learn she has no further information to share about the Black Buck. After she meditates at the blue flame in the catacombs, the party bring her to the front gate, where Freya, Captain Raleigh and Erasmus will shield her from danger as the party return inside. They decide to try to destroy the stone.

They head back up to the wall, wanting to get a better look inside the library by climbing up the dome. Ivan makes it up and sees three werewolves skulking around in the library room. A fire of Arius is contained in a large brazier in the center of the room, casting blue light on the walls. A series of bookcases wrap around the walls, and the center of the room features meditation mats laid in a grid pattern. Ivan spots the small smooth stone lying near a mat on the far side of the room.

Ivan scurries back to plan a way in with the party. But when he arrives, he notices Edris has snuck up on the party. Ivan, in turn, sneaks up on Edris while he threatens to kill Amaryllis.

Edris explains he’s a Pupil of the Unseeing Eye, sent to the temple to destroy the powerful moonstone that corrupted the monks here. He also demands to have Malakai’s sword, but the necromancer refuses. Edris, clearly perturbed, warns Malakai not to unsheathe it.

Edris is dismissive of the party, but eventually, the party and Edris agree not to attack each other and will work together to destroy the stone. Edris hands them a vial of perfectly clear liquid, saying it’ll melt the stone away. Reaching into his coat, Edris impossibly draws a rapier from one of its pockets and hands it to Malakai, telling him to use that instead of his own sword.

They decide to split up. Malakai and Edris head downstairs to serve as a distraction while Ivan and Amaryllis lower Ria into the library with a rope. She’ll then use her magic to pull the stone to her, and destroy it with the goo in Edris’ vial. The first part of the plan goes off without a hitch. Malakai and Edris pull the werewolves out of the room by making a loud noise. This gives the rest of the party enough time to grab the stone, but the moment Ria touches the stone, she falls unconscious.

[FOR RIA’S EYES ONLY]

Ria finds herself floating in perfectly black nothingness. Then, slowly, pinpricks of light appear, as if someone is poking in holes from the outside. Eventually the spots of light multiply, forming the cosmos and the stars.

A butterfly with a moon, sun and star symbols on its wings flutters into Ria’s view. A breathy voice echoes in the heavens and asks what Ria’s purpose is. The half-elf explains she’s there to help the Akashi by cleansing the temple of the evil within.

The butterfly is silent. Then it speaks, explaining Ria will suffer a curse as well. Ria has no time to protest before the stars are sucked away and she is left in complete darkness.

[END FOR RIA’S EYES ONLY]

Ivan and Amaryllis see Ria’s body go limp and quickly pull her up. Ivan attempts to take the stone from her right hand, but find she’s gripping it tightly. Her eyes flutter back and forth, as though she’s dreaming. With no other options left, Ivan uncorks the vial and pours the liquid over the stone, trying to avoid Ria’s fingers.

The stone immediately melts the moment the liquid touches it, but some splashes onto Ria’s fingers. Immediately, she wakes up to find her right hand in agony as if it had been frostbitten. She watches in horror as her fingers and knuckles seem to wither and blacken.

Using her mother’s staff, Ria calls upon Sarenrae to heal her, but the staff is blown away by an unseen force the moment she tries the prayer. Amaryllis sees the staff falling and rappels away from the wall, catching it at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Malakai and Edris had been running from the werewolves when Edris tripped Malakai, leaving him to be attacked by the werewolves. Malakai was prepared fight but the wolves suddenly stopped in their tracks and shrieked. Grabbing their heads, the wolves backpedal. Their bones snap as they transform into naked — and dead — human monks.

Malakai picks himself back up, only to see Edris approaching him. Edris again demands to have Malakai’s sword, but he won’t give it up. Edris explains he’ll have to kill him then, and activates two blades of pure psionic energy that appear out of his arms. Malakai, in turn, draws his own sword — Epilogue. Though the sword appears normal, Edris immediately takes a step back, and his hair flutters as if blown by a gust of wind.

The two come to blows, with Edris swinging wildly at Malakai, pushing him back. The necromancer retreats back toward the library, reaching a garden. By that time, the rest of the party has rappelled down into the library and see that Malakai is in trouble. While Amaryllis remains with the fire, Ivan and Ria rush to their friend’s aid.

Edris is knocked off balance, and Malakai seizes his opportunity. He weakens his foe with necromancy and rains blows down on his foe. Edris grows weaker and weaker until Malakai bashes aside his psionic blade, leaving him open to attack.

Red runes appear along Epilogue’s blade and glow red as Malakai slashes across Edris’ chest, killing him in one stroke. Blood from the Akashi’s wound splatters before freezing into droplets in mid-air and being sucked into his sword. Malakai, for a brief moment, felt undeniable pleasure from using the sword, but quickly regains his senses and sheathes his blade.

Lacking a cloak, Malakai takes the brown overcoat from Edris. He discovers it contains a extra-dimensional space in its inside pocket that could hold a weapon of any size, and slips Epilogue inside. Ivan searches Edris’ body, and takes a strange ring he finds on the dead man’s finger.

The party return to the flame, and Ria is still reeling in pain. Before they can tend to her, Arius announces in a booming voice that the party is “accepted by the Mind.”

The blue flame then asks the heroes to step inside. Innately curious, Ivan is the first to enter, immediately bursting into ash and evaporating. The rest of the group is stunned, but Ria is driven to find answers about her strange affliction and trusts Sarenrae will protect her, so she steps inside as well and is also vaporized.

Malakai, realizing this may be his best shot at learning what happened to his brother, also steps inside and is destroyed. That leaves, Amaryllis, who is hesitant to enter the flame. She is concerned Arius will seize her own memories, endangering the safety of her secret organization. But she is convinced she can resist and could use what she learns inside to share with her group. Plus, Ivan — who worked with her in the past — has likely already given the Collective Mind more information than she would. She enters.

On the other side, the heroes find themselves standing in a strange white environment, where grey clouds of fog loom a few yards away. A sharp pain strikes their heads; Amaryllis and Malakai are able to resist the pull of the Akashi, but Ivan and Ria give their memories to the Collective Mind.

A face appears before them in a flash of blue flame. He appears to be a human, but as he speaks, his features shift from man to woman and back. He explains he is Arius, the parent of these Akashi children. He thanks the party for helping to bring his children peace, then asks if they have any questions for the Akashi.

Amaryllis asks about her withered hand and immediately the party loses consciousness. They wake in the mind of another — an Akashi named Reyo Alistair Orthus Arius Petrani Loriin — and experience his memories.

Reyo is slumped over his desk, having fallen asleep over his papers again. No matter how hard he looks, there appears to be no cure for his wife’s affliction. There’s a knock at the door and Reyo turns to find his wife limping in, her foot blackened and withered. The tips of her toes appear to be translucent and black, like the night sky. She urges him to come to bed, telling him there’s nothing that can be done. With a sigh, he agrees.

The vision flashes forward. Reyo’s eyes are filled with tears as his wife, almost totally transparent and twinkling with starlight inside her, lies on a bed. Reyo begs for forgiveness, saying he didn’t do enough to save her. His wife reaches out a hand and touches his face — it’s cold, like ice. She tells him they will not be apart for long and that Desna’s wrath will not keep them apart. Then, slowly, she fades from existance, leaving Reyo sobbing.

The party suddenly wake up again in the Collective Mind, their cheeks wet with Reyo’s tears. Arius is there and asks for another query. This time, the party ask about the Black Buck.

After falling unconscious again, the party see scattered memories jumbled up and nearly completely destroyed by a crackling white film. They can hear conversations, events, the clashing of swords, but its all muffled and overpowered by a screeching static. Occasionally the name “Black Buck!” can be overheard, but the voices’ discussions are unclear.

Then the crackling film partially parts, and the party enter the mind of Shelly Arius, a young Akashi girl. Shelly experiences the same dreams each night: a land by the sea engulfed in a blinding explosion and destroyed.

The Akashi elders tell Shelly that her visions may be a gift from Irori. They decide to send her far from the comforts of the Akashi temple to a school of magic that could explain her strange dreams: the Somon School for the Arcane on a mountain in the Circle Sea.

The memories flash forward to her schooling days. She sees the school for the first time, a vast complex of columns and temple-like structures perched on the side of the mountain. She works and studies hard; magic does not come naturally to her but she is ultimately able to tap into her own power, however limited.

She remembers her friends. One is a teen named Hal Bartob from the First City to the north across the Circle Sea. Hal is an immature, boisterous boy, and loves to skip his classes. He was never born with innate magical talent, and Shelly suspects it was his rich grandparents who sent him to Somon to learn more about magic users.

Her best friend is a boy from the southern continent named Elias Renten. When he first came to Somon, Shelly overheard her teachers mention that his hometown had been destroyed by the constant fighting there. Elias is a studious and ambitious teen, and rarely likes to discuss his past. Shelly knows it causes him pain and doesn’t bring it up.

She respects Elias and his loyalty to his friends. Despite having great magical prowess, he chooses to associate with Hal and her and not the other students who are more talented.

It’s just after a round of exams when Shelly walks past the docks, and up the mountain to where her friends are waiting. Elias motions her inside the nearby pub: “The Black Buck.”

The vision suddenly becomes engulfed in disruption again, and the party hear arguing voices. Their words are muffled, as if spoken through a wall. For a moment, the disruption fades. Shelly is a few years older now.

She sees the mountain she now calls home ablaze in fire. The dormant volcano has been ruptured, sending lava flows cascading over the Somon School.

“Thank the gods we got Hal away before all this,” she murmurs.

As she steps through the rubble, Shelly is horrified to find the bodies of her fellow students, charred and mangled and twisted. A fury rises inside her. She climbs higher up the mountain, to the destroyed remains of the pub. There among the wreckage, stands a familiar figure.

Shelly screams to Elias, demanding to know what he’s done.

“I must do this,” he replies in an even-keeled tone. “No other mortal can. They’re too afraid. It has to be me. But first, no one can remember this place … or me.”

Elias turns to look at Shelly, a pained yet determined look on his face.

“Not even an old friend,” he says as the memory is torn apart and vanishes.

The party reawaken again and quickly realize they’ve somehow accessed a memory showing the Black Buck’s origins. This must hold valuable information for them in their fight to bring him down.

Malakai asks the flame to show him how his brother, Deacon died.

The party are transported to the body of another Akashi, an advisor to King Oala during the “War Without End” named Kilian Durneston Faldrus Arius Pugol.

Kilian is traveling from Mejas to warn of an impending Dravidian raid against their ports to the east. He and his bodyguards decide to make better time and cut through the nearby forests around Undermountain.

The caravan stops. A knight is standing near the forest, motionless. When the soldiers compel him to move, he refuses, saying in a voice that echoes through the trees that the caravan is intruding. The bodyguards attempt to strike him down, but their swords find no purchase. More knights suddenly drop from the trees, dangling on nearly invisible strings. One by one the bodyguards are slain, and Kilian is dragged from his cart by a giant spider.

Kilian is bound in silk, dragged into a mine and hung from the ceiling. He becomes dizzy and passes out.

When he awakens, the Akashi stands before two drider, a King and a Queen. The queen, seemingly disinterested, says she would choose to spare the man, as he intrigues her. But the king will hear none of it, shambling over to the Akashi and baring his fangs at him.

The Drider King asks Kilian if he knows what the fangs are, but the Akashi doesn’t know.

“These were a gift from my creator, Rovagug,” the Drider King explains. “They will kill any I so choose, should they cross me … even a god.”

The king says Rovagug is trapped in his cell now, but will someday return. “There is a story whispered of in the shadows,” the Drider King says. Two brothers, one of great wisdom and one of great power, will be born and they will usher in the return of the Great Devourer.

“Are you concerned your death will hurt?” the Drider King asks the shaking Akashi.

“I am,” Kilian replies.

“Oh, it will. Terribly.” The drider springs forward.

The party are jolted awake as they began to feel the hot burning in their chest of the king’s fangs sinking into them. Arius asks again if they seek any other knowledge.

Ivan asks about the ring he found on Edris’ body. The party are bombarded by visions of similar rings, all which appear to have the quality of making it easier to see through illusions. The heroes return to the Collective Mind.

There, Ivan asks to see the memories of an Akashi named Orren.

The party are transported into the mind of Orren Arius Alistair Durren Faldrin Faldrus Durneston, a young Akashi boy who has nightmares each night: he sees a land engulfed in a blinding explosion and destroyed. His elders are ashamed of him, telling him that his dreams are just that — dreams and nothing more.

One night Orren eavesdrops on the elders’ conversation. He hears them talk about how dangerous Orren’s visions are. None of the elders seem to be able to remember what he describes, but they agree that some things are “so powerful, they crack history and leak into memory.” They advise isolating the child, since his nightmares are clearly a curse from Irori.

“The boy is impure,” one elder says. Hurt, Orren packs his bags and sets off from the temple, running away from the only home he’s ever known. He wanders the world for two years, searching for ways to expand on his dreams.

One day, Orren finds a mercenary camp, and despite his age, impresses the men by winning a duel through the memories of his ancestors who were great warriors. One wanderer wearing a floppy hat is particularly impressed. He introduces himself as Jarkko Stepanek, a traveler from the destroyed southern continent.

Orren and Jarkko become fast friends. They set out on many adventurers together, ultimately heading to a small town in the south called Longbranch.

The party are pulled out of the vision briefly, as the crackling static and disruption overtake their vision and their hearing. A high pitched ring deafens them until everything goes completely white. Arius’ voice thunders into being.

“He shunned the mind,” Arius says. “He filled it with lust and distractions and his own foolish ideals. But he returned.”

“Tell me,” the flame’s voice continues. “If he was your child, would you allow him back?” The party feels the answer swell inside their minds: Yes.

The vision of Orren’s memories is restored. He’s now about 10 years older and a counselor for a duke in the Dravidian city of Bayherst Falls. At first, Orren uses the Collective Mind to sabotage the Duke’s efforts, rationalizing the deception as necessary to save his adoptive home. But eventually Orren comes to love the city of Bayherst Falls and its people too.

His vision flashes forward to his bedroom high in a tower overlooking the city. But the city is on fire, as an Oalan army lays seige. Warning bells chime through the night as whole sections of the city are burned. Siege engines destroy the walls of Bayherst Falls and Orren quickly packs his bags.

“Where are they?” he mutters to himself.

Then, the door bursts open. A group of Oalan soldiers push through the doorway, swords drawn and advancing slowly to Orren. But before they can strike, Orren feels a hand on his shoulder. Jarkko has leapt through the window behind Orren to rescue him. He leaps into action, taking out the soldiers and the pair rush down the steps.

At the base of the tower are the rest of Orren’s oldest and dearest friends: Tevala, the gruff half-orc ranger, bares her teeth in a typical smile; Starhammer, an ever-joking half-elf turned hero, bows dramatically; and the dwarf Sven Stonestein appears to be completely drunk, but happy to see him. For the first time in months, Orren finally feels he is home.

Jarkko explains they have the Pandora waiting for them at the top of the plateau overlooking the city, but an army of Oalans wait between them. Orren and his friends run along the walls, charging through the army’s ranks and slaying many of the men in their escape.

After much fighting, Orren and his friends reach the top of the plateau where Bayherst Fall’s signature waterfall begins. But standing between them and the Pandora is a familiar face surrounded by her own ragtag team. Adira Solene — the right hand operative of the Black Buck whom the party once worked with — quietly reads a book through her small glasses. She’s holding the latest romance novel, “Temptation of the Centaurs.” She doesn’t appear to have aged a day in the 11 years that have passed since Orren saw her last.

Standing near the Pandora is the infamous tiefling sharpshooter himself, “Lucky” Marcel. Poking out of his dark trenchcoat, his mahogany hand crossbow — “The Devil’s Hand” — is decorated with a skull and hangs at his hip. He flashes a grin at Orren.

Then there’s the Oalan soldier who gives a wink. His face dissolves away and Jarkko’s eyes widen as he recognizes Bob, the shape-shifting doppleganger they once freed from Isete.

Nearby is a wizard with frazzled hair and wild eyes. Orren has never met him before, but his reputation as a blood mage precedes him: it’s Restalaan Ketch. Finally, an armored man bearing a shield walks off the Pandora’s ramp and flicks blood off his sword. Jarvas Sloane waves hello as he joins his fellow agents of the Black Buck.

“Hey guys,” Sloane says, resting his hand on his sword.

A pause passes between the two parties. The silence is suddenly broken as Orren can’t resist and shouts out the ending of Adira’s novel. Adira’s mouth purses and she snaps her book shut. She faces the party and shakes her head, sending her blonde curls bouncing.

“You know,” she begins. “He was going to leave you alone. He had no more use for you. But then you did this.” She waves her arm out over the burning city and her lip curls in anger.

“We leave you alone for 11 years and this is what you manage to do. This is the mess you’ve caused. Now we’ll have to clean it all up. Starting with you.”

Adira stares at Orren. “Really, it’s an honor, in a way,” she says. “Of all the ways he could have destroyed you, he sent us to do it personally. That meant it mattered to him.”

Orren shifts his weight. “Come on, Adira, we-”

A crossbow bolt lodges itself into Orrens chest. Orren grabs at his wound and slumps to the floor, gasping for air. Across the plateau, Lucky Marcel reloads his crossbow and laughs.

Orren’s friends scream in rage and attack. Tevala charges directly at Lucky, but is stopped in her tracks by Adira. With a wave of the woman’s hand, Tevala is lifted into the air and thrown off the plateau, tumbling into the mist of the waterfall.

Sven rushes forward, but his body is suddenly contorted and twisted as Restalaan uses the blood from his now-bleeding wrists to control the dwarf. Sven smashes against the ground, motionless.

Starhammer draws his sword, but is caught by one of Lucky Marcel’s shots and falls. Jarkko, still left standing, faces off against Bob. The two duel back and forth before Bob ultimately gains the upper hand, stabbing Jarkko and slashing across his arm. Jarkko tumbles to the ground.

His friends all fallen, Orren tries to crawl towards them but he’s stopped by the meaty hand of Jarvas Sloane, who props Orren up against a stone wall. Sloane pulls back his sword.

“Sorry, friend,” he says. “Nothing personal.”

The sword pierces through Orren’s body and the Akashi feels his life slowly draining away. Sloane rips out his sword and wipes the blood off before putting it back in his sheathe. Adira, standing nearby, looks down at the dying Orren and shakes her head. She and the Black Buck’s agents leave him to die, climbing into the airship and taking off.

As the ship lifts into the sky, Orren sees the bodies of his friends lying around him. His vision begins to darken and lose focus. As he fades, Jarkko, gravely wounded, pulls himself to Orren’s. He reaches out and clasps his friend’s hand.

“I’m sorry,” he says as Orren’s vision goes black. “I’m sorry.”

The party — Amaryllis, Ria, Malakai and Ivan — reawaken once more in the Collective Mind and ask to see no more memories.

The heroes find themselves standing at the brazier in the darkened Akashi temple. A chill fills the air as it’s now nighttime. The party realizes they must move fast to make it back to Umar in time, and rush to meet up with their friends outside.

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Just Deserts
Season 3, Episode 4

Akashi_Temple.jpg

RECAP

Leaving behind the hauntings in Einspanner, the party continue on their journey. Their new goal is to track down a lead they got from Kristoff moments before he became lost in his delusions again: an Akashi boy named Orren.

They ride west and the grassy hills south of Undermountain soon give way to harsher terrain. Before long, gentle hillsides and lush forests become rocky outcroppings and red, fine dirt. After a few days, the party notice mountains looming in the distance: the Fiery Mountains, so called because of the way the morning sunlight reflects off the snowy peaks.

Eventually, they reach a break in the mountain range and find their destination. It’s a walled city made of peach-colored sandstone, with blocky building rising above the walls. Above the structures and parapets looms its largest building, a keep topped with a red painted dome that seems to glow in the unyielding heat. They have reached Sanctuary, the last city before entering the harsh desert known as “The Scorchlands.”

The party are relieved to get out of the blazing sun and enter the city. Amaryllis remembers a name that could aid them: Meeran Boff, a halfling mercenary who fought for a rebel uprising that her organization supported. After asking around, she learns Boff is likely in the Darkened District near the exotics shop and tavern called The House of Oddities.

The party head down the narrow alleyways crowded with merchants to the House of Oddities. Outside, they run into Jaze Narang, a smuggler who owes Ivan a favor. Jaze tries to weasel out of his favor, but agrees to buy the party drinks in the tavern.

Captain Raleigh immediately becomes drunk and wanders off to make requests to the bar’s musicians.

Inside, Erasmus, Malakai, Amaryllis and Ivan tell Jaze about their mission to find the Akashi. The smuggler says he believes a temple to the Akashi is hidden somewhere in the desert, but it’s almost impossible to find. Still, he thinks that Umar, the Wandering City will be able to help.

The party ask about Umar, but Jaze is cryptic. “You only get to see The Wandering City for the first time once,” he said, “and I would hate to ruin it for you.” Jaze points to a strange clock on the wall and says Umar should be arriving tomorrow.

The smuggler says for hundreds of years, the Wandering City has marched through the desert, from the Sanctuary to the shores of the Western Deep and back. But in the last few years, the old city has been been wandering off his traditional path, meaning merchants, treasure hunters and grave robbers have been finding strange artifacts in the ruins of the desert. Jaze says the House of Oddities is far busier now than its been in years.

Thanks to Umar’s new routes, the party could reach the possible location of the Akashi temple. Jaze agrees to help, in exchange for someone from the temple: a rare, polished white stone. Jaze says he’s heard rumors that the Akashi have acquired such a stone recently, which he knows would be valuable.

The party agree to his conditions and Jaze says he’ll meet them by Umar the next day.

While the rest of the party chats with Jaze, Ria and Freya head to the back of the House of Oddities to check out the exotics shop. Inside they find various strange artifacts, like a compass with a spinning needle and a mirror that reflects elven faces.

Ria takes an interest in a spear supposedly owned by the Akashi, but backs off when the shop owner demands her holy symbol in return. Freya deduces the mirror is a fake and shatters it. The shop owner is furious and calls for the store’s security to detain them. Ria and Freya flee the House of Oddities, with the shop’s guards and the rest of the party (minus Captain Raleigh) close behind.

In an alleyway nearby, the thugs move in on the two women, but Amaryllis defuses the situation with some smooth talk and a little deception. After the guards leave, Amaryllis spots Boff, her contact in Sanctuary. The two embrace and Boff offers to bring them back to his place to stay for the night. The party gladly accepts.

Meanwhile, Captain Raleigh is still partying in the House of Oddities, having not noticed the rest of his companions had left. After closing out the bar — and purchasing the strange compass for nearly all his available gold — Captain Raleigh stumbles back out onto the street and tries to make his way out of the Darkened District. It’s night, and the cool desert wind whistles between the narrow alleyways; Captain Raleight, sobering up, braces against the chill.

As he rounds a corner, he spots two humanoid figures talking. One is a hulking creature at least 7 feet tall with an imposing frame draped by a cape. The other figure is only about 4 feet tall and wears a cloak that conceals his figures.

After ducking behind a corner, Captain Raleigh listens in. In a scratchy voice, the smaller figure thanks the large man for the poison. The large figure thanks him for his business while handing him a vial. A dagger-point red tail appears out from under the smaller figure’s cloak and it grabs the vial and tucks it away.

In exchange the strange-tailed creature gives the tall man a small coin purse. The large man inspects it and chuckles. “It seems your employer is generous with those who work with him,” he says.

“Indeed,” the smaller figure says. “The Black Buck always treats his clients well.” With that he slinks off into the darkness of the alleys.

The large figure turns around, revealing himself to be a green-skinned orc. Captain Raleigh, realizing he’s been spotted, tries to fake drunkenness, but the orc figures him out. In one fluid motion, Captain Raleigh goes on the attack, drawing his saber and slicing at the orc.

In the blink of an eye, the orc counters the blow with a long curved dagger. Captain Raleigh notices a foul green liquid oozes off the blade and figures out it’s been laced with poison.

Realizing he’s in danger, Captain Raleigh attempts an escape, cutting a rope and riding it into the air. But the orc is ready and cuts the rope. Captain Raleigh then clambers up the side of a building, dodging the orc’s attacks.

As he reaches the roof, the captain sees a guard looking down at him. But before the guard can react, the poisoned knife thrown by the orc accidentally strikes him. The dying guard tumbles off the roof and collides with the orc, knocking him out.

Captain Raleigh reaches the roof, but sees there are guards racing to him from every direction. To lose them, he dives into a hale bale. Unfortunately, the hay bale was covering a bag of rocks and Captain Raleigh is captured by the guards.

Back at Boff’s hideaway, the party prepare to rest for the night. Suddenly, a guard appears at Boff’s home with a message: Captain Hamilton Raleigh, charged with conspiracy in the murder of a town guard, has asked for Ria to be his counsel.

After shooting each other some stunned glances, the party follow the guard to the jail tower next to the Dome of the Goodwill Rose. Inside, the party find a large relief of Sarenrae, the goddess of the sun and healing. Ria notes that Sanctuary is a holy city of Sarenrae, though the followers there tend to emphasize her purifying flame and not her healing light.

A member of the Rose Guard approaches and explains that Captain Raleigh’s counsel may speak with him in his cell before he meets with Magistrate Kesto, a newly elected and harsh city judge. Erasmus and Ria decide to go up and must pass through a jet of divine flame. Both walk through unharmed and speak with Captain Raleigh, who explains what happened.

Immediately, Erasmus realizes what strange creature Captain Raleigh saw: a tiefling. Erasmus explains that Tieflings are humans whose demonic ancestry is so strong it manifests in physical transformations like horns, clawed hands or feet or a devil’s tail. They are exceedingly rare and are often persecuted because of their reputation as creatures of evil intentions.

The party — minus Captain Raleigh — regroup outside the jail. While the party rest for the night awaiting the captain’s court appearance in the morning, Malakai heads back to the crime scene to investigate.

He uncovers some valuable evidence that could clear the captain’s good name, but ends up briefly detained after he mentions he’s a necromancer to the Rose Guards stationed there. As morning rises, Malakai rushes through the streets to make it in time.

Back in the courtroom, Magistrate Kesto is ready to hear Captain Raleigh’s case. The magistrate claims the orc, a master of poisons named Grag, has claimed Captain Raleigh was an apprentice of his who went mad and killed the guard.

The captain presents his side of the story, noting how none of his weapons were coated in poison like the murder weapon. Freya notes the dagger was too big for regular human hands, while Ria and Amaryllis serve as character witnesses.

Convinced by the testimony, Magistrate Kesto spares Captain Raleigh … just as Malakai bursts into the room, flinging his business cards and shouting he has evidence of the captain’s innocence. The rest of the party hush Malakai and usher him out of the room. Unbeknownst to them, a cloaked figure in the audience picks up Malakai’s business card and tucks it away.

A free man once more, Captain Raleigh heads back to Boff’s apartment with the party. As they climb up the stairs, they notice the ground is shaking. Reaching the roof, they look out into the desert sands to see a giant creature pulling a tower on a giant ornate cart. The beast, a tusked four-legged monster that looks like reptilian ox, lets out a rumbling roar: Umar, the Wandering City has arrived.

Around Umar, hundreds of armed men ride on horseback, escorting the creature to the back gate of Sanctuary. Dozens more merchants, pulling carts and tents, walk near the creature having reached the end of their long journey across the Scorchlands.

As citizens of Sanctuary rush out to greet Umar, a few servants pull the cloth cover off a large circular watering hole, which Umar drinks from greedily.

Boff explains to the group that Umar is a creature hundreds of years old, as old as the desert itself. Long ago, the beast made a deal with the Bodani people and now ferries them from Sanctuary in the east to the coast of the Western Deep and back. The wandering city is now the capital of Bodan and is run by an elected elderly merchant named Yevel the Seer. His trusted advisor is a xenophobic dwarf named Holinur Highcliff, Boff says.

The party thank Boff for his help and head down to the market to meet with Jaze. They greet him near the Wandering City and with his help manage to get past the Bodani guards.

After getting set up in the sand before Umar leaves the next day, Jaze explains the Akashi temple is about three days journey away. Around that time, Umar should wander off his normal path and stop at a new oasis. If the party race to the south, they may be able to reach the temple’s rumored location. Jaze, for his part, will sabotage Umar’s cart to delay the city from moving on. That should give the heroes just enough time to get to the temple and back.

Before leaving, the party go to a horse merchant to rent horses. When he requires more money than they have, Freya and Amaryllis team up to steal a camel merchant’s emerald jewel as payment and acquire the horses.

After a few days travel, Umar reaches the oasis. But a fierce sandstorm threatens to unravel the party’s plans. The air is thick with blinding sand and the party, but thankfully, Ria’s survival skills helps lead the party through the storm.

Through the clouds of whipping sand, they spy a small rocky valley. They continue into the valley, only to find it goes deeper and deeper under the sand. As they journey farther inside, the wind dies down and finally ceases, with clear blue skies overhead.

Inside the valley is a large temple, ringed by towers and parapets. Atop the temple is a large dome that appears to have a small hole punched into an area at the top. It seems quiet, as if none live inside.

Captain Raleigh immediately notices someone has set up a tent near the large temple doors and a camel is waiting patiently.

The party approaches and the tent ruffles. A man with a messy mop of greasy hair stumbles out, clutching his side and welding a crossbow. The party attempt to calm the man, but he fires, missing the heroes. Now unable to reload, the man slumps against the tent.

Amaryllis explains they aren’t there to hurt him, but to see the Akashi. The man — who introduces himself as Edris — says he is a merchant who became lost weeks ago and happened to find this temple. But something inside has corrupted the temple and he is too afraid to enter.

Ria rushes over to tend to his wounds, but feels a strange lack of Sarenrae’s healing light; however, Edris says he is okay and reveals his torso is untouched. He also seems unfazed by Erasmus’ magic.

The party discuss amongst themselves the discrepancy between what Jaze and Edris are claiming. Either Jaze is lying, or Edris is, they deduce. The party is concerned Edris will run away with their horses, but the man promises he’s in no condition to leave and wouldn’t know how to return even if he could.

The heroes leave him behind and decide to enter the temple. At the front door, a wooden plank has been placed over the door, barring it closed.

They remove the barrier and enter, finding a grand hall stretching before them. Columns line the hallway, and elaborate paintings on the wall show large family trees leading back to singular Akashi names. In the center of a room atop a dais is a large brazier with a towering blue flame swirling inside.

As the party approaches, a booming voice echoes in the chamber asking who the heroes are. After a brief conversation, the party deduce this flame’s name is Arius, a manifestation of the Akashi collective mind. Arius says his “children” are “whispering” but no longer heed his call. He also notes that one nearby has “shunned” the collective mind.

First Erasmus, then Captain Raleigh attempt to win the flame’s favor, but are unable to repel its flame attack and fail. The flame informs them that the party is unwelcome and activates traps across the temple.

The party consider leaving, seeing no sign of the Akashi boy “Orren” they seek, but decide to press on having sensed something is not right. They continue to the wall, where they find the tower abandoned, as if in a great hurry. Looking down from the tower, Malakai spots two things: Edris is nowhere in sight, though his camel, tent and the horses remain, and that the body of an Akashi man is lying on the ground atop a pile of rocks.

Malakai attempts to fasten a rope and repel down the wall, but the rope breaks and he falls to the ground. Erasmus tries next with bedsheets and again falls. The two approach the body and Malakai uses Deacon to speak to the dead man’s restless ghost.

The ghost identifies himself as Helra Arius Findor Werneth Durneston Reya Faldrus, an Akashi monk who lived at the temple. Helra can’t remember how he died, though Malakai suspects he threw himself from the tower. Helra says the stone they seek fell to earth not long ago. Since then, things went wrong, though he is too distraught to elaborate. Malakai helps Helra pass on.

Freya uses her crossbow to fire a rope down to Erasmus and Malakai, who return to the top of the tower. Freya says she’ll go wait by the tent.

The rest of the party presses on, finding a tunnel bored into the stone from the wall. After following the tunnel, they realize it’s leading them back down. Eventually they reach a doorway with the word “Catacombs” written above it. The door has been hastily barricaded with chairs and tables.

Captain Raleigh says the party should be pressing higher, since that’s where the dome — and the rock — likely is. They return to the wall and begin searching for another entrance into the temple.

That’s when the heroes are startled: perched atop of the dome in the midday haze is a strange dark figure, humanoid in shape but larger and crouched on all fours. The being looks at them and lets out a bone-chilling howl before leaping back into the dome…

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