Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 39

Godsday, Patchwall 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

The next morning, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken. Dhavita recalls vaguely dreaming of the Scandshar military patrols between here and Duchy Jepson, and informs the others. Croitus empties his canopic jars and builds a pyre for animated corpses therein; he says he is on a new path now. Margot apologizes to Dhavita for her behavior in the Shadowfell, explaining that she was just overcome with a terrible despair that she could barely even articulate.

After discussion, the group decides to head east to Dawnslight to find what they can about Kiris Dahn, and possibly head there in search of a teleportation circle to return to Duchy Jepson.

It is early afternoon on Earthday, Patchwall 13, when the travelers arrive outside Dawnslight. Noting the very real possibility that they could be recognized, particularly since some of Marguerite’s former slaves might still be in residence, the group decides to camp outside town while Croitus, wearing his hat of disguise, and Thava enter the village.

They arrive without incident and decide to look around briefly before having a bit to eat and drink at the local tavern. Everything seems normal, although Croitus thinks he spies some residents who appear as though they may have been former House Weogora slaves. Thava asks about Kiris Dahn, and the barkeep explains that an adventuring party known as the Platinum Claws — an adventuring party dedicated to Bahamut — cleared out the goblins from Kiris Dahn some months ago. Since that time, merchants have been there surveying and trying to rebuild the abandoned town.

After a bit, Croitus and Thava leave the town, bringing food and ale for the others and relaying the information they learned. The group discusses the possibility of using Kiris Dahn as a base of operations before deciding to go investigate and potentially use whatever teleportation circles remain. The group rests, planning to journey in the morning.

That night during his watch, Croitus summons a spirit, the ghost of a Kiris Dahn town guard named Leeke Whitetall. He asks if there is an active teleportation circle in Kiris Dahn, and Leeke agrees to reveal this information if Croitus will undertake a quest — find his wedding ring, left in Kiris Dahn and stolen by goblins, and return it to his wife, Naldda. He also requires that Croitus will not suffer any evil creatures he encounters. Croitus agrees to the terms, and Leeke indicates there is a teleportation circle. He will ensure Croitus has the information he needs to complete both tasks.

The next morning, Freeday, Patchwall 14, the group awakens, and Dhavita notices a glowing symbol on Croitus’ chest. He indicates it is a tattoo representing his pact with the spirits; it appears on his chest as Croitus but is hidden when he is in disguise, although Dhavita always sees it as a glowing sigil. The group disembarks for Kiris Dahn, which they expect to take about three days. That evening, Resh notices goblin tracks. As per Croitus’ taboo, they must hunt the creatures down. After tracking them for a couple of hours, they find the goblins’s camp. Their leader appears to be some manner of shaman.

Croitus and Southie rush out of the shadows into the light of the campfire, trying to scatter the guardians and kill the shaman. Resh fires arrows at the shaman while Thava covers the group with her magics; Dhavita provides support. After being wounded by an arrow, Croitus and Southie kill the shaman, although before he dies he manages to fire some orb of acid at Southie, who is forced to remove his armor lest he is covered in acid burns. While Southie fumbles with his armor, the former gladiators make short work of the rest of the goblins.

Once that is done and the campsite has been searched — the shaman carried a clay pot stuffed with coins — the group moves away from the carnage to camp for the night.

The next day, they again set out for Kiris Dahn, finally arriving in late afternoon on Sunday, Patchwall 16. Several bored mercenaries playing cards guard the rickety gate. They ask for the travelers’ business, whereupon Dhavita explains they hope to barter with the merchants to find their way home, and the mercenaries explain that the merchants are headquartered in the Kiris Estate at the opposite end of town. Dhavita thanks them, and the group enters the city.

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Session 38

Moonday, Patchwall 10, 552 CY (50 AN)

Suddenly, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Osvanpyw, Resh, Southie, and Thava find themselves somewhere else, without their horses. They are in a well-appointed (albeit somewhat gloomy and bitterly cold) throne room. Sorrowsworn stand at attention around the walls, each standing guard. Two of the creatures flank an ornate throne upon which sits a black-clad maiden with alabaster skin and a cloak of raven feathers — the Raven Queen. She stares impassively ahead.

She inquires why they have requested her assistance, and Croitus reveals that they wish to return home. She seems offended that they have asked of her what any properly-trained magus can do, but they indicate that is their request. At discussion regarding his allegiance, Croitus expresses that she does not wish to stand against her, and so she enters into a non-aggression pact with him — he will not interfere with her and her servants so long as she does not antagonize him. Southie also volunteers that Bahamut made him an offer to leave this plane for another once his tasks are complete, chief among them likely involving slaying Lazghul the Lich-Lord. The Raven Queen notes this would please her, as he is a servant of Orcus (no doubt why he seeks the Shard of Evil, to slay assist his master in slaying her) and has evaded death for far too long. His Ivory Tower, however, is a fortress, and they would likely have to raise an army of their own to besiege it, unless they take it by stealth. She says if they agree to fight the Lich-Lord, she will send them home and see to it that they are no longer wanted for their crimes. The group huddles to discuss these matters, and says that doing the Raven Queen’s bidding sounds significantly more difficult than just finding some wizard to send them home. Dhavita also notes that she does not know if the Raven Queen’s offer to clear their names has some unforeseen loophole, such as the group no longer being wanted because they’re dead, or some such. Southie notes that he doesn’t know what constitutes standing against her, as he assumes Croitus’ pact binds them all, but the others think it does not. He breaks away to ask, and the Raven Queen indicates the pact only binds Croitus, as the others are not worrisome. Southie asks if she’s just a little concerned about him, but she replies that he will either come for her first or last. If he kills her first, how will he kill the other gods? If he kills her last, she will have too much time to prepare, and then how will he destroy her? Southie ponders this.

After much deliberation, the group decides to reject her offer. She bids them to leave immediately. Croitus makes one final comment, again calling her Nera, and she bids him to go, telling him she will not see him again.

The former gladiators leave her hall and travel through the palace, descending the stairs and descending the steep mountain that bears her keep. They begin heading south, and as they come to the ring of mountains, they notice a temple overlooking the pass to the south. They decide to investigate, ascending and knocking on the door. A pale, dark-haired woman answers, robed like a monk, tattooed, and bearing a spiderweb of slender silver chains threaded through her facial piercings. Croitus recognizes her as one of the shadar-kai, humans now native to the plane, and when they ask for sanctuary, she bids them to enter. They indicate they wish to raise a friend and return to the Prime Material Plane, and she says she will summon the priest. She bids them to sit and wait in a small chapel within the temple. She returns with a similarly tattooed and pale-skinned priest. He bears black robes embroidered with the raven’s head symbol of the Raven Queen. Piercings along his arms are threaded with chains terminating in two incense censers that dangle from his wrists, spreading clouds of fragrant incense. The priest seems pleased to see them, recognizing them as the Scandshar Six who have sent so many souls through the Raven Queen’s domain. They repeat their request to raise Resh and obtain transport back to the Prime Material, and he requests a donation of 5,000 gp. They’re about the discuss matters when Croitus merely pulls 5,000 gp from his pack. The priest asks if they have Resh’s body, and to bring it forth. They lay it upon the altar, and the priest chants over it and anoints it with oils and incense. There is a call and response, when some of the few shadar-kai in the pews wail. Finally, Resh’s ghost disappears and his body slowly awakens. When he has recovered, the priest bids the group to join hands and continues his chanting to enact a plane shift. After a few minutes, the vision of the chapel fades.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava appear in an overgrown field next to a small, ruined shrine to the Raven Queen. Osvanpyw does not accompany them. It is late afternoon. To get their bearings, Thava transforms into a dragon and flies into the air. Based on the position, they appear to be in the southeast of the Sorrowfell Plains, likely some miles to the west of Dawnslight. Before she can land, however, the spell ends prematurely, and she begins to fall. The others try to stand beneath her with a bag of holding, but she manages to weave a spell to slow her descent. When she lands, she reveals the information, and the group determines that this shrine marks the battlefield known as the Battle of Mezzik’s Farm during the Cackledread War.

As they prepare to camp, they hear footfalls through the grass. Croitus dons the hat of disguise, and with the exception of Southie, everyone finds cover. Southie is greeted by three hobgoblins and their contingent of thirty goblins. When he gives greeting, the hobgoblin leader demands, “Your money or your life.”

Southie is overjoyed.

The battle is swift and brutal. The three hobgoblins are quickly decimated by Southie’s axe blows, Croitus’ ghoul-amalgam, Resh’s arrows, and Thava’s fire magics. When Thava emerges from the trees as a dragon — albeit a grotesque, misshapen dragon as her magics again go awry — the goblins scatter and flee, although at least four of them don’t make it. The ghoul-amalgam manages to grab one and return it to the group for questioning. In broken Common, it reveals that it is a refugee from Gorizbadd. The others recognize Gorizbadd as the goblin name for Kiris Dahn, a human city that fell about eight years ago. Apparently, something has chased the goblins back out. As they question the captive, a brief shadow flickers over the sun. The interrogation is interrupted when a relatively young green dragon interrupts the conversation to snatch the goblin in its jaws.

Again, the battle is swift. Croitus orders the ghoul-amalgam to hold the creature’s jaws shut, while Resh and Southie antagonize it with weapons and Thava throws spells. Dhavita weaves a glamour using song to empower Southie’s attacks, but that draws the beast’s attention. Resh, however, leaps in its way and takes the blow as Southie cuts deeply into the beast’s neck. It falls and is still.

With that unpleasantness done, the group searches the fallen goblins and finds some trinket that potentially looks valuable. They also make camp and spend the rest of the day skinning and dressing the dragon to harvest anything of value.

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Session 37

Sunday, Patchwall 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

At the alpha wolf’s request, Southie indicates he will not cause any trouble. The wolves let them pass, indicating they will not stop them, but the road ahead is still treacherous. The group continues onward.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Osvanpyw, Resh, Southie, Thava, their horses, and the mercenaries continue along the road. As dusk approaches — what passes for dusk in the Shadowfell, anyway — they note a figure sitting by the side of the road. He wears only a loincloth and carries a begging bowl, walking stick, and a pack. His features and dark complexion mark him as a native of Nadhi; his head is anointed with Tilaka and his body is covered in ash, marking him as a sadhu, or holy man (and potentially as one of the death-focused Aghori). As far as anyone can tell, he is alive. Dhavita greets him befitting his station, and after inquiries, he reveals he is there for her. He is an associate of her father’s, and although her father has not requested her presence, it goads the sadhu that she is living beneath her station. He would like to return her to her father. She has pointed questions about this — namely, would she be free to go if she journeyed to her father. The sadhu presumes so, but does not know. As far as she can tell, his belief is genuine, although she suspects his purposes are more mercenary (trying to toady to her father, perhaps?) than his indignation suggests.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava take a moment away from the ascetic to discuss the matter. Southie wants to take the deal, as he thinks dealing with a vampire is better than dealing with the goddess of death — he even acquired magic weapons to fight vampires! Dhavita counter-argues that they don’t know what the situation may be when they arrive — he may have legions of soldiers in some massive temple complex, and they end up having to fight their way out. She interested in leaving, however. She asks if it would disrupt Croitus’ plans if they leave before confronting the Raven Queen, and he replies that he will have to speak with her eventually, but it does not have to be now. He has plenty of time.

The group returns, and Dhavita indicates her terms — she is willing to go with him if they may be returned to neutral ground in the Sorrowfell Plains with no agents of her father around and with three days before he or his representative arrives. The holy man replies that starting three continents away with three days’ head start sounds like no meeting will occur. Southie, however, indicates he is willing to return to Nadhi with the holy man. Ignoring Southie, and with no further negotiations, the sadhu takes his leave, walking on the road back to the House of Black Lanterns.

As it is near dark, the group decides to camp for the night.

The group rises without incident the next morning. As they continue their march, the road ends, giving rise to a deep wood of evergreens. Croitus notes this is the outer border of Letherna, and will progress into rugged mountains before leading to Letherna proper. As the group penetrates the woods, they notice silver streaks in the sky, heading in the direction of what is presumably the Raven Queen’s domain. As they notice this, Resh feels a curious pulling sensation; he acknowledges it but resists it, not wishing to leave just yet. Osvanpyw apparently also resists it, but the mercenaries do not — they and their skeletal horses transform into silver streaks of light and rush toward the sky.

Resh questions why Osvanpyw did not pass on, and he indicates he still wishes to discharge his debt. The group continues to walk until they notice chains stretched across the trees like spider webs. They move to circumnavigate the chain webs, but a creature — humanoid, but covered in chains — rushes out at the group. Southie does not engage, thinking this creature may be a native and attacking it would go against his agreement not to cause trouble, but Croitus, Resh, and Thava absolutely do. Thava slings spells and Croitus throws his spear while Resh drains its essence with his enervating touch; the creature quickly falls and dissipates in a greasy mist and a puff of brimstone.

As the group debates what needs to be done next, and that Southie should participate in future battles, two creatures silently descend from the trees. They are humanoid, bearing lean, cadaverous faces, raven’s wings, and scythes. Various piercings and tattoos adorn these creatures. Croitus recognizes them as Sorrowsworn, servants of the Raven Queen. Battle is joined — Southie engages one while Croitus and Resh engage the other. Southie cuts at the beast with his axe while Croitus sends his amalgam-ghoul after the other. Resh menaces the creature with his enervating touch. Thava throws spells of flame and force at both, and Dhavita tries to keep her wife out of harm’s way. After a few moments, the chaos of battle is over, and the creatures are destroyed. Croitus speaks a brief incantation to keep them from dissipating, then places their bodies in canopic jars. Dhavita treats the injured — Thava is a simple matter, although trying to develop a symbolic treatment regimen for Resh is more difficult — and then tries to calm her wife again.

While the others recuperate, Croitus moves away from the group as if in prayer. In truth, he invokes the Raven Queen, Nera, and says if she wishes to speak with him, she should do so in person.

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Session 36

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

Dhavita throws her arm across Margot and starts ushering her out of the building, chased by the maddened Zafira. She manages to avoid the knife, and as she exits the building, Resh grabs Zafira. His translucent hand passes through her, but it seems to do something as she howls and her own form grows more translucent and ragged. Croitus, having made his way back to the inn (but not before asking the Dead Man the location of the Crux of Eternity), casts some spell to knock her to the ground, and before Southie or Thava or even Osvanpyw can intercede, the mercenaries make short work of her. Zafira howls and her spirit dissipates.

The excitement over, Dhavita tries to comfort Marguerite and calm her while the group discusses potential options for leaving the Shadowfell. They decide that trying to search for a shadow crossing between the Shadowfell and the world, or trying to cut a deal with some settlement leader or temple priest seems like a roundabout path.

Instead, they decide to journey to Letherna, to deal with the Raven Queen. After all, she probably wants them out of her domain as much as they want to leave. It certainly seems the most efficient arrangement.

They march along the road, and as night falls — such as it is in this strange, twilit place — they camp. As Osvanpyw, Resh, and the mercenaries do not need to sleep, they keep watch.

That night, Dhavita dreams of a merchant caravan of elves trying to fix their carts. Her group approaches and offers to help, but only she apparently notices that the elves do not breathe, and their eyeteeth are too long, and they look upon the travelers with lean and hungry looks.

The next morning, they awaken and breakfast. Dhavita tells the others of her dream. Osvanpyw quietly notes to Dhavita and Thava that he researched these mercenaries before he tracked them, and many of them had families and seemed like normal people. But the lands of the dead change things, and in the past several months, he has known them to be lazy and cruel. Just so that everyone keeps it in mind. Dhavita and Thava quietly inform the others; Dhavita makes certain that Southie in particular knows that he may have to murder his own mercenaries.

The group marches to Letherna. When Resh scouts ahead and spots a caravan of elves, the group decides to leave the path and skirt around them. Picking their way through the badlands, they come across a robed figure sitting next to a campfire. They similarly decide to avoid this entity, moving further into the badlands before camping for the night.

Wolves howl throughout the night, but do not approach within the firelight. Although many of the group catch sight of glowing red eyes throughout the night. Dhavita has dreams of nameless fear and dread, although it is more of the Shadowfell in general than the prospect of visiting the Raven Queen.

The next morning the group continues its march. Returning to the path, they across a group of pilgrims marching in the same direction. Peasants, they defer to the obviously important travelers. As they pass, one of the mercenaries strikes one of the peasants and suggests he remember his place.

They continue to walk until they are confronted by a pack of wolves in the road — fur so dark that they appear as great, wolf-like shadows, and glowing red eyes. The alpha speaks with a gutteral, growling voice, and indicates that they march to Letherna. He asks if they come in peace, referring to Croitus, and after some discussion, he indicates he means no harm, he only wishes to negotiate.

Expectantly, the alpha asks Southie the same question.

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Session 35

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

As the spirit screeches, exorcised by Thava’s arcane power, a low, sinister chuckle sounds. Dhavita recognizes the tell-tale signs of some manner of illusion or message, set to convey when specific triggers are met, while Thava recognizes the signs of a teleportation trap about to spring shut. A thick, black mist forms over the area, and a grinning, leering skull forms from the mist, speaking with Lazghul’s voice. As he begins to speak, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Southie, and Thava all start to leave. When they reach the outer boundary of mist, however, it triggers the trap prematurely — Lazghul absolutely seems the sort to want to monologue, and to punish interruptions — and everyone feels the eldritch vertigo of transitioning between realms.

When they return to their senses, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Southie, and Thava, as well as their five horses, are standing in a rocky valley full of howling winds. They appear to be at the intersection of five roads with an ancient and unreadable signpost marking the spot. Lashed to the signpost is an ancient, leathery corpse. The mournful demeanor and perpetual twilight unbroken by a sad and haze-covered sun suggests they are in the Shadowfell, the shadowy realm forming a boundary between the living in the dead. Surprisingly, Resh is also at the crossroads; his demeanor has taken on a significant pall, and wisps of smoky ectoplasm waft off him. Notably, he bears a heavy axe wound in his chest, and his right leg bears a bleeding wound where the bone is visible, with only a few scraps of sinew joining the top of his thigh and the bottom. The last thing he recalls, through a dream-like haze, is traveling through gloomy burrows and rocky tunnels before finding himself here. Whatever place he found himself, it felt like home.

Lazghul unceremoniously appears at the crossroads and Southie instantly hefts his axe at him. He is dejected when it passes through him, like an apparition. Lazghul indicates they must have cut his message short. He apologizes to Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava, indicating it was not quite his goal to send them here. He notes that he has regretted letting Southie go, since the dwarf attempted to kill him, and rigged it so killing his Executioner and the other undead would transport them to the Shadowfell. Since Southie apparently sent an angel back to its domain with the knowledge that he would kill the Raven Queen, it seems an appropriate place to send his foe to meet his final fate. He notes, however, that if they escape from the Shadowfell, Lazghul is willing to let the matter drop. If he comes after Lazghul again, however, he has a ghost following Manny and Quithyra, and will use the location of the Creation Forge to his advantage. Although he has not yet decided if he will use it or destroy it. With that, he disappears.

After discussion, Croitus indicates the Dead Man upon the sign will answer questions regarding the locations of things by pointing. He asks which way to the House of Black Lanterns, an inn that often appears in the victinity of Dead Man’s Cross, and the corpse points off to the right. After asking about ways to escape and where the Raven Queen’s domain might be, as well as Southie asking where Bahamut’s domain may be (although he keeps calling him “Bathmat,” to the consternation of some of the others, particularly Thava) and if the Dead Man wishes to be destroyed (he does not respond; Croitus suggests he is cursed to remain here for choices he made in life), they decide to investigate the inn. Before they walk to it, however, a mournful bell tolls three times and a mist rises in the direction the Dead Man pointed. When the mist falls, an ornate two-story inn with black lanterns bearing blue flames appears. It is surrounded by a courtyard of cobblestones, and someone has apparently set up a haphazard and ragged tent city near the inn. Croitus, Resh, and Southie decide to go to the inn while Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava investigate the tents.

Inside the inn, the place appears to be occupied by several sad, grey shapes in dusty corners, as well as the innkeeper, a woman in a kimono whose mouth has been slashed. She has a broad knife tucked in her obi. As Croitus, Resh, and Southie enter, a quiet voice accusingly mutters, “You.” They look to see Zafira Shulud, who looks momentarily angry before returning to her mug. She no longer has the sores around her mouth, but her neck is now bent at an odd angle and bears rope burns. Southie goes to talk her while Croitus decides to talk with the innkeeper. Southie learns that Zafira was executed as an accomplice to the Scandshar Six — the Peacocks wanted someone to blame, and she formed as good a target as any. He apologizes for his part in these events, as well as for decaptiating her before, and asks if she wants to accompany them on her journey; she agrees.

Resh listens for a bit, and asks why she has not moved on — introspection, she says; she wants to be truly ready before meeting her deity — before deciding he’s more interested in seeing what is happening outside.

Croitus speaks with the innkeeper, learning her name is Nishimura Kumiko. She seems a bit off-kilter — not too abnormal for the lingering dead, though — but otherwise like a normal innkeeper. He orders a drink, and determining that this place probably doesn’t care about such things, removes his hat of disguise.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava investigate the tents. It appears to be composed of whatever scraps of fabric the inhabitants were able to scavenge, and more likely forms one tent with several flaps. Nine skeletal horses are tethered outside. The tents house several military men — Dhavita counts eighteen, and by their markings, notes they are likely mercenaries. They appear to have been battered or crushed. In the middle of the tent is a dark-skinned man clad only in a loincloth and tied to the supports of the tent. He bears a couple of arrow wounds in his shoulders, several stab wounds in his abdomen, and a vicious abdominal wound that appears to have started small in his back, like a rapier point, but left with much more force, leaving a terrible crater. It looks like some form of magic, perhaps. Ancient whip scars mar his shoulders, and in addition to his bleeding death-wounds, he generally appears to have been mistreated. He bears the angry, sullen silence of a slave or prisoner.

The mercenaries greet the ladies as they approach. When questioned, they explain that they were killed in what they determined to be an engineered rockslide. They’ve been waiting here for the rest of their mercenary company for…well, time passes strangely, but perhaps three or four months. They’ve set up this tent city because they’re not welcome in the House of Black Lanterns; when they arrived, there were nineteen of them, but one got handsy with the barkeep, and she stabbed him to death. (Whatever lies beyond death in this realm, anyway.) The man they’ve captured is the man responsible for killing them — they waited at Dead Man’s Cross for someone to pass through who looked surprised to see them, and found him within a day of their passing. Resh, having joined the ladies by this time, inquires why they keep this man bound and why they have not yet moved on. The sergeant indicates they mean to punish this man and to wait for the others to return so that they can properly determine what to do with him. For emphasis, the sergeant strikes him; he winces, but says nothing. Resh asks why this matters, and the mercenaries seem to think it is important for nonspecific reasons. Dhavita asks if she can speak with the man, and the sergeant shrugs. She and Margot step into the tent, and ask how the man came there. He says he should not have let the halfling go; he was an assassin sent to track down some robbers who burglarized a merchant’s house and burned it to the ground. This group of mercenaries he killed was collateral damage, as he was instead supposed to assassinate their employer, an adventuring band. Before he was an assassin, he was a hunter from the Kinamsitu region of ’Ichi. He was captured and sold into slavery, only to be purchased by House de Rais. At hearing them mention Southie, he indicates he knows the name as they were owned by the same master, Revaz de Rais, and he heard it with some frequency. As the de Rais family sometimes does, they hunted him for sport, but he was so skilled at evading the hunts that by the time he was freed, his greatest skill was hunting men. So, he became a professional assassin and moved to the Isle of Anhak.

He remarks that one is never free of slavery; that it continues to shape one’s destiny, even as a free man.

Dhavita and Thava ask if they mercenaries can be hired, and after some deliberation, they say they can: 30gp should cover costs for a month. When inquiring about the man, they say they will free him for 150gp.

Southie then exits the House of Black Lanterns with Zafira, and reintroduces her to the rest of the group. She looks briefly angry when she sees Dhavita, but then apathy reasserts itself. He says she will be coming with them and trying to help them find the way out of this plane. She seems a little surprised at Southie’s change of heart and profuse apologies for decapitating her, and the others indicate that Southie has grown since last she met him. Southie makes note of the tents as Croitus comes out, and while the rest of the group tries to keep him away, Southie ends up striking up a conversation with the mercenaries anyway. When he finds out they can be hired for 30gp, he agrees; he waves aside most of the explanation for the bound man and deigns not to purchase his freedom, partially because he is running short on money. Dhavita and Thava decide to split the cost for the bound assassin’s freedom.

Dhavita asks his name, and he introduces himself as Osvanpyw de Rais. She tells him he is free to go, but he explains that he does not want to pass to the afterlife with a debt on his soul, so he will assist them in returning home. He is a skilled tracker, and although he does not know this land well, he will offer his services. She asks about the strange wound in his abdomen, and he explains it is a wound from a device called a firearm. To lighten the mood, Thava ignites her arm with magic; this prompts Marguerite, barely keeping herself together in the face of being in the lands of the dead, to begin sobbing uncontrollably. While comforting her, Dhavita asks the man to proceed; he explains that it is a rod that forces a projectile out by means of igniting smoke powder. He says a man called Giblets gave him the wound.

Once that line of questioning is finished, Dhavita takes her wife aside to try to calm her down.

Southie indicates that he wishes to find the way to the domain of “Bathmat”, as he wishes to make him a deal — if Bahamut will help him deal with Lazghul he will willingly go to one of the realms without gods Bahamut mentioned. Although he may, of course, have to delay leaving so that he can deal with the slavery problem.

While the others are deliberating, Croitus returns to the Dead Man’s Cross. When he is certain no one else is around, he asks where to find Pluton, dead Nerull’s domain. The corpse points to the mountains.

Also while the others deliberate, Zafira returns to the inn. Seeing that Zafira is gone, Dhavita and a still-shaken Marguerite enter the House of Black Lanterns to find her inside. She again seems displeased to see Dhavita, but apart from grimacing and threateningly reaching into her robes, she says nothing. Dhavita asks why Zafira sought her in the first place, and Zafira explains that she was given a quest to serve Cihuacoatl, whom she understands to be Zehir, god of serpents, poisons, and murder. She was to find Dhavita, remove her appendix, and if she survived for a week, take her back to her temple so that she could be sacrificed. This was not the only mission she had, though; among other things, she was also tasked with cutting out the heart of an enemy’s child, but placing it in the home of still another enemy and being caught in the process, for that is the only way for her to get close enough. Dhavita asks to what she was trying to get close — she responds simply that it was her goal. Now she waits in the hopes that she can prepare herself before she must stand before Zehir. When Dhavita inquires further, Zafira turns on her and draws a knife, a mad gleam in her eye.

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Session 34

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

Dhavita dreams of a stone archway, revealing only darkness beyond. The vision of it fills her with dread.

Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken, and Dhavita recounts her dream to them. As Dhavita seems agitated, Southie pulls Marguerite aside and asks if she and Dhavita are having marital problems. Somewhat perplexed, as she often is with Southie, Marguerite replies that they are not, and Southie says to make certain she keeps plying Dhavita with sexual intercourse, as that should keep her mood elevated. As they break camp, Dhavita inquires about the wisdom of trekking toward the Creation Forge. As Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Thava discuss these matters, Southie continues to walk at a brisk pace, leaving them behind. Quithyra joins him first, followed by Manny; after discussion, the general consensus is that it is probably wiser to travel with Southie so that any unfortunate circumstances caused by activating the Creation Forge can be examined and remedied, rather than Southie creating them on his own and the consequences happening without anyone else’s knowledge. Dhavita, for her part, is concerned about the wisdom of investing souls into Warforged in the first place. Resh notes that in terms of Southie using them as weapons of war, the Warforged are supposed to have free will, and so Dhavita would have the opportunity to argue against warfare when they are created.

As Southie walks ahead, with Quithyra having joined him, he passes an old man sitting on a rock. He is dressed in robes, and surrounded by seven fluttering canaries. Of note, he has no pack or gear. He greets Southie, and as Southie is about to travel past him, he notes that things do not have to go the way they are going. Over the course of the conversation, Southie surmises he is some deity in mortal form, and asks what his purpose is. The old man replies that the deities are the holders of natural forces, and if they are destroyed, those forced may go awry. He notes that he knows of two places where the gods hold no sway, and that he can take Southie there if he wishes. Southie indicates he would rather finish his work here first; given his philosophical proclivities, the old man notes he would probably feel at home in the planar city of Sigil, where the gods are unable to tread, either. Southie notes that given the old man’s gentle demeanor, he is likely against slavery, so their goals are currently in alignment. The old man agrees, although he notes he does not agree with Southie’s methods. With that, Southie takes his leave. Manny joins Southie’s advance group at that point, and waves at the old man.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava arrive to find the same old man, and Croitus and Thava instantly recognize the Old Man with the Canaries, a folkloric form of the Platinum Dragon Bahamut. They give greeting, and after some conversation, Bahamut indicates he tried to speak with Southie, but to no avail. The others acknowledge this, and before they leave, Thava asks for a blessing on her people and her kin, Torinn. Bahamut grants this.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava finally catch up to Manny, Quithyra, and Southie, and within an hour or so, Resh finds very strange tracks. Someone — or rather, several someones — has crossed their path. It appears to be a densely-packed group in the middle surrounded by a looser gathering of people. No one in the middle wears shoes, and only some in the outer group wear them; they appear humanoid. Not wanting to encounter this apparent army down the road, the group decides to track them. After wandering through the mountains for another hour or so, following this strange trail, the group finds their quarry — a throng of soldiers gathered around a cloaked giant with a massive axe. Close examination with Southie’s spyglass discovers the apparent discrepancy as the soldiers are all dead, bearing rusty armor and battered swords. The giant comprises several bodies melded together to form one large creature, explaining the more tightly-packed tracks in the middle of the group. While the group deliberates, the giant turns and looks at them, an amalgam of human faces melted together to form one giant face.

The group retreats to find a defensible location. Wanting to keep the location of the Creation Forge secret at all costs, Southie sends Manny and Quithyra with the map and Warren, his war pig, to travel to the Creation Forge and begin plans without him. As Manny and Quithyra leave, the others wait to make their stand, and Resh starts assembling a trap to collapse on the entrance of this pass. However, his trap falters, and the giant evidently found another way around, meaning that the group is sandwiched between the army of undead at the pass, and the giant at the other end. Southie deigns to hold the pass while the others try to fight the giant.

The battle is chaotic. Croitus unleashes his ghoul amalgam to antagonize both the army of the dead and the grotesque giant. Southie holds the pass, keeping the legions of the dead at bay with his axe. Dhavita and Marguerite try to offer Southie aid in holding the line, but end up riding into the thick of the undead soldiers and are nearly pulled off their horse when Croitus’ ghoul-amalgam intervenes. Resh antagonizes the giant with arrows, but it rushes at him and flings him across the pass with a savage axe blow. He stands and continues to fire arrows at the beast while Croitus’ summoned monstrosity attacks it. Thava attacks the giant with her magics before turning on the army, transforming into a dragon to rain fire upon them.

As Resh peppers the giant with arrows, its attention turns upon him again. It crosses the battlefield in a few long strides and swings its axe. The force of the blow knocks Resh back, and the axeblade severs his right leg. As he flies through the air, before he loses consciousness, he flings his spear. It flies true, embedding itself in the creature’s head. The beast falls and the spear dislodges itself to return to Resh’s waiting hand — but life has already left him, and the spear twists and lodges itself in the dirt several paces from his corpse.

With the giant slain, the rest of the group makes short work of the undead warriors. Dhavita checks on Resh to find there is nothing further to be done, and then bandages her arm — one of the undead warriors touched her there during the battle, and the skin is blackened with frostbite.

Once the travelers have recovered and bandaged their wounds, they turn their attention to the day’s events. Although some initially think that the undead noticed their passage, most of the group quickly agrees that the things were probably sent by Lazghul, and were tracking them by use of his bound ghosts. Thava quickly weaves a spell to reveal the presence of the hidden, and the passage of energy reveals two such creatures. Temporarily solid, she slings fire at one while Southie cuts the other ghost in half. The first only appears injured, however, and quickly becomes incorporeal again. She prepares herself, and attempts to invoke arcane power to exorcise the remaining spirit.

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Session 33

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

Captain Chandler returns and sits next to Thava. He asks if she knows where her friends have gone; they are not in trouble, but he needs to know what they know. She explains that Croitus is currently disguised as the man sitting in the corner; Chandler summons him over, and once he makes his way to the table, Chandler confirms he is speaking to Croitus and asks if the others are available. Croitus says they probably are, although he is not certain. Captain Chandler asks if he could find them as he has questions; he again reiterates that they are not in trouble, but he needs to know what they know. Croitus wanders away to retrieve the others while Captain Chandler and Thava wait.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie make their way into the Vistani camp. Leolann greets them and explains that Croitus indicated they would be coming. They ask when the Vistani are leaving, and they say tomorrow morning; the former gladiators are welcome to stay until then. Should they wish, they can also travel in the same direction when the time comes.

They do not wait long when Croitus arrives and relays Captain Chandler’s request. They agree and all go to the inn.

At the Addled Alchemist, Captain Chandler is surprised when everyone wanders into the tavern. He suggests they hold this meeting somewhere a little more private, and everyone agrees to relocate to the guard barracks. (The prisoners are being held there for the moment, but he has no plans to bring the former gladiators and their associates back to the holding cells.) Southie idly requests mead. Once there, he gathers everyone in a room typically used for questioning, and asks to know what they know. Dhavita explains her dream, and Captain Chandler indicates that matches with what he knows — the captured bounty hunters are an adventuring party known as the Breath of the Basilisk, based out of Sorgforge. Chandler also notes they have four members, and inquires about the elf. After some conversation, the Scandshar Six obliquely admit that the elf is probably not going to be a problem anymore. Captain Chandler declines to inquire further. Additionally, during the course of conversation, Croitus reveals that they had plans to go public with their suspicions of the Scandshar Six’s residency in Duchy Jepson, and that if they do not return to Sorgforge, the information will be released via a safe deposit box. Captain Chandler notes that might be an issue; if there is ever definitive evidence that Duchy Jepson has housed the Scandshar Six, conflict is the expected outcome, either with the Scandshar military or the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. The logical options to avoid war appear to be either the Scandshar Six leaving town, or quietly making the problem go away. Chandler also notes his legal limitations, that he cannot keep the Breath of the Basilisk incarcerated unless Thava is willing to press charges, which would of course mean that she would not be free to travel. Without that, he can probably only stall them for a couple of days before he will be forced to release them.

After some discussion, they say that they will go on their way but will somehow handle the situation. Captain Chandler ought to let the Breath of the Basilisk go after a couple of days. He agrees, and indicates that he does not want to be informed of their plans further. Whatever they do, he knows nothing about it. They agree, and ask if they can use the room for a bit more to discuss matters. He agrees, and takes his leave as one of the guardsmen delivers Southie’s mead.

The assembled party cycles through several iterations of the plan, trying to determine how to sneak into Scandshar, find the Breath of the Basilisk’s bank, and extract the letter. After discussion, they finally decide to go with a simpler approach — make it appear that the elf’s body was found, the scout having been killed by a rockslide, so that there is no evidence of the Scandshar Six’s passing. Hopefully, with the surviving members of the Breath of the Basilisk having been arrested and having lost a member, they will be discredited in the eyes of any other bounty hunters who might come to investigate. Eventually, it is decided: the group will purchase horses, head north, and assemble about a mile outside of town. Croitus will appear as one of the merchants and return the elf’s body to the guardsmen in town, claiming he was found in the rockslide earlier. Once complete, they will head to the northwest to investigate Southie’s alleged Creation Forge.

Once the plan is agreed, the group leaves the barracks. As Thava still plans to travel north with the Vistani, they bid her farewell. Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie travel to the stables to purchase horses — the stablemaster is very surprised and amused to see them again — and then they ride out of town. Dhavita and Marguerite share a horse, as do Manny and Quithyra, while Southie continues to ride his dire boar. Once they are about a mile down the road, the group stops and Resh gets to work building a makeshift cart. Once he’s finished, Croitus removes the elf from his canopic jar and carts him back into Jepson.

The guards at the gate are very shocked and escort him to the guard post. He’s forced to stay there for a few minutes while the guards determine what to do. Once Captain Chandler catches wind of the proceedings, he examines the body in the cart, looks for a long while at the disguised Croitus, and notes that further questioning is probably unnecessary. He lets Croitus go.

On his way back, Croitus is surprised to find Thava trotting up the road on horseback. She evidently thought better of her decision, deciding to travel with the group. Satisfied, the assembled travelers follow Southie’s map to the northwest, leaving the roads to travel where the hills rise wild. They make camp that evening in the shadow of the Hoarfrost Ridge.

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Session 32

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

Thava lands outside the walls of Duchy Jepson near the east gate. Before she has an opportunity to go to the Vistani camp, the guards note her injuries and insist she sees the town’s abbot for treatment. Exhausted, she agrees.

The guards lead her to a house apparently being used by the Jepson clergy while the church is being rebuilt. Abbot Aelius inquires about her injuries while treating her, and she explains her run-in with the mercenaries. The abbot recommends she contact the guards. She agrees, and after she is healed, she goes to the guard barracks, again explaining her plight. After a brief wait, Captain Chandler mobilizes a guard contingent and asks if she can accompany to lead them to the mercenaries. She agrees.

Meanwhile, Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie wait by their trap. Southie watches with his telescope, noting an elf scout is walking up the road in their direction. Dhavita confirms it to be the elf traveling with the bounty hunters. They take positions and wait.

He tracks them, but apparently doesn’t notice their trap. He falls into the pit and is buried by the rockslide. The group uses the telescope to see what the mercenaries are doing in their camp. They appear to discuss the matter — the rockslide was definitely noticed — but they continue to wait. Eventually, the telescope reveals that Thava and a contingent of the town guard have arrived. They speak briefly with the mercenaries and everyone leaves peacefully.

Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie proceed to clear the rubble, both so that the road is passable and so that they can get rid of the elven ranger. Once he is uncovered, Croitus tastes his brain. He recalls a conversation between the elf, Carondir, and the dwarf leader, Ukhad, that the information regarding their suspicions is set to release from a safe deposit box in case they do not return to Sorgforge in twenty-four hours. He searches the body, finding a small trinket, a wooden carving of an elf done in the elven style. His other equipment is broken by the rock slide; Croitus scoops his remains into one of his canopic jars.

Having spotted a merchant caravan on its way, the group works to clear the rock slide, and after some discussion, they decide Croitus should return to Jepson to determine what is happening. Once they have finished, they’ll return to the Vistani camp.

In Jepson, the guards return with the mercenaries to the guard post for processing and interrogation. Captain Chandler asks Thava what she knows about the mercenaries, and tells her to stay in town as he’ll likely have more questions for her. She says she’ll be in the tavern.

Croitus returns to Jepson without incident, and enters the Vistani camp. He finds Leolann, and after trying to dance around the subject, he indicates he is Croitus and that his friends plan on coming soon. Leolann indicates that should not be a problem, and they will be ready to receive them.

After Thava has been sitting in the tavern for nearly an hour, a stranger enters and indicates he’s Croitus. He doesn’t explain much — as he says, for Thava’s safety — but the others will be returning to Jepson shortly. She explains what happens, that the mercenaries were arrested (although the elf was missing; Croitus indicates they may have been involved, although he declines to give details), and that she’s waiting to see if she needs to render additional assistance to Captain Chandler. So, they wait.

When the merchants arrive at the rockslide, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie explain that they’re helping clear the road after an unexpected rockslide. The merchants help them finish and thank them for the assistance. They ask if they need to purchase any provisions before continuing on their way, but the group declines. They then proceed back to Jepson to meet with the Vistani.

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Session 31

Waterday, Patchwall 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Upon returning to the Addled Alchemist, Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, Southie, and Thava find many within, among them still being Antonio, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Vianibrar, and Yavanna. Manny has moved to another table, and is currently engaged in a lengthy debate with a young wizard — the same handsome young man who was storming away from the Vistani camp, muttering, earlier in the evening — about cosmology. Croitus decides to go wandering around Duchy Jepson instead. Southie, noting that Manny seems to have taken the position that nothing truly exists and his counterpart taking the counterargument that reality has empirical existence, joins the argument with the idea that one can only prove one’s own existence and nothing else. Resh and Thava decide to have a drink. Dhavita sits next to Margot and surreptitiously runs her fingers up her thigh. The two lovers excuse themselves shortly thereafter.

After a few minutes, Southie has managed to irritate the wizard enough so that he leaves the Addled Alchemist in a huff. With the excitement over, Manny, Quithyra, Resh, Thava, and Yavanna all head up to their rooms. With only a few visitors, Southie, and Vianibrar left in the common room, Southie asks if Vianibrar can tell him an uplifting story, one not involving gods. Vianibrar tells him the tale of Theronna Onyxarm and her revolt against the giants. Once the tale is finished, Southie also retires to bed.

That night, Dhavita has a dream. She is in the backroom of a tavern, she thinks somewhere in Sorgforge. A stout, ginger-haired dwarf studies a map of the Sorrowfell Plains. Several blue pins have been stuck in various points on the map, but only four red pins have been — Dawnslight, Scandshar, Sorgforge, and Vonseloth. After a moment’s consideration, three other figures enter the room a heavily-armored male human, a lightly-armored woman with white hair and grey skin (but otherwise appearing human), and a male elf with the look of a scout or ranger about him. These mercenaries gather, and the dwarf addresses them, explaining that he thinks the others have gone about it all wrong. This map depicts all collated sightings of the Scandshar Six. However, those that are definitive sightings — in which local law enforcement have verified the Six — are displayed in red. When accompanied by knowledge of the timing of the sightings — the Scandshar Six were in Scandshar for several days, then in Sorgforge for about 24 hours, then in Dawnslight about half a week later, and finally in Vonseloth about a week later — it is clear that some form of magical transport has to be involved. So far, two accomplices have been discovered; a Zafira Shulud was tried and hanged, and a Mr. Monkshood was found dead, badly beaten and malnourished, in the Weeping Bay in Sorgforge. The dwarf finds it notable that there is a definitive logic to the Six’s travel. In Sorgforge, the Six had business dealings with the Patenaude merchant family (Dhavita’s former master and suspected lover, Lady Marguerite Weogora, was a member of Sorgforge’s Patenaude family); in Dawnslight, they recovered Lady Weogora and a member of Dhavita’s family; and in Vonseloth supposedly resides the remnant of Dar’amaraltria’s tribe. The dwarf finds it suspicious that there are no confirmed sightings of the Scandshar Six in Duchy Jepson, given that it is known to be friendly to slaves, forms another major settlement in the region, and would certainly have the resources to facilitate travel by teleportation circle. He notes that he would like to investigate Duchy Jepson, with one caveat — if one of the party falls, they don’t rescue that person. The survivors just retreat. The others reluctantly agree, and further agree that they will leave for Jepson around dawn.

Dhavita awakens with a start, and as often happens, Margot awakens with her. The night outside is still gloomy; it is apparently just before dawn. After briefly explaining her dream, and the fact that she is unaware whether the bounty hunters are coming by foot or by teleportation circle, Dhavita indicates they need to inform the others. She and Margot quickly dress and leave in search of the others. Dhavita recalls that Southie has been rooming just down the hall, and he might know where Resh and Thava are staying, so she goes to his door first. Southie answers the door, nude, weapon in hand. Manny similarly brandishes his spear, although he is wearing pants. She briefly explains her dream, and Southie says he will inform the others. Dhavita and Marguerite go to find Croitus while Southie and Manny dress.

After Southie and Manny are ready, Southie, unaware of where the others are staying, begins knocking on all the doors in the inn, looking for Resh and Thava. Several people stagger out, realize that it is nothing urgent, and return to their rooms. Yavanna opens the door, wearing a sheer nightgown and apparently with a client. Southie explains the situation, indicates she should likely not get involved (and should deny any association with Southie), apologizes for interrupting, and lets her return to her business.

Quithyra, Resh, and Thava eventually look out from their respective rooms, recognizing that Southie is the source. He explains the situation, and they proceed to get dressed and agree to all meet for breakfast.

Meanwhile, Dhavita and Marguerite search for Croitus and eventually find him, wallowing. They explain the situation to him, and he agrees to prepare and meet them back at the inn. Dhavita and Marguerite return to the Addled Alchemist while Croitus makes preparations. He snoops around for a stray cat and manages to catch it and snap its neck. The sound awakens someone, who comes out to investigate the commotion, but he sends them back inside. He then reanimates the cat and takes the mangy beast to Guard Captain Chandler’s house. He orders the undead cat to curl up outside, then knocks on the door. Captain Chandler answers after a slight delay, apparently having been asleep, and Croitus, wearing his hat of disguise, explains that he is Croitus and that people may be coming to look for the Scandshar refugees. If he encounters them, he should inform the cat outside, which will come and find them. Captain Chandler seems somewhat perturbed at the confluence of bounty hunters and undead cats, but agrees. Croitus then returns to the Addled Alchemist.

Everybody dresses, gathers what they can carry, and orders breakfast. After quickly eating, Thava decides to stand outside as a sentry. She sees someone approaching the Addled Alchemist, but quickly realizes it is Belnan Zivkovic, the dragonborn Vistani she met last evening. He informs her that they were originally going to leave this morning, but since the eladrin ladies want to visit their returned cousin in the Solaeque Purlieu in Vonseloth, and since that lies in the rough direction of the last known location of Thava’s tribe, they thought they would offer to escort Thava if she wishes to travel that way. If any of her companions also wish to travel with them, they are welcome to do so. She says she is interested, and he informs her that they will leave tomorrow at dawn; if she wishes to accompany them, she needs to be there by then. Otherwise, they will likely meet elsewhere on the road. He then takes his leave.

Croitus, still disguised, joins her to keep watch. They talk for a bit, and she explains the offer she was just given. After a few moments, figures come walking down the road — four of them, armed and armored, and matching Dhavita’s description. Croitus takes his leave to enter the inn and warn the others. Dhavita puts a platinum down on the bar and instructs the innkeeper that they left in the night sometime. The group then scurries out the backdoor and heads north. Croitus removes the enchantment on the zombified cat, allowing its body to return to its eternal rest.

Once they find a defensible position, a valley of sorts, they camp and Resh sets a trap — a gauntlet of falling boulders and spiked pits. They wait.

Thava is still standing on the Addled Alchemist’s porch when the bounty hunters arrive. They ask her a few questions about the Scandshar Six, and show her a stack of wanted posters for Ashraf, Croitus, Dar’amaraltria aka Nobody, Dhavita aka Khuna, Resh, and Southie. Each has a 50,000gp bounty, dead or alive. She says she knows nothing, and the quartet confer. They then go inside the Addled Alchemist, although the grey-skinned white-haired girl remains, inquiring about Thava’s background and family. They pair then go inside to see the other three inquiring about the Scandshar Six with the innkeeper. Thava gathers that they have grown suspicious of her, particularly as they all deign to sit with her and breakfast. They ask a few more questions before the dwarf requests they get down to cases — he knows she knows of their location, and wants to know where they headed. She says east. They send the elf scout, whom the dwarf calls “Carondir,” to investigate. The three mercenaries and Thava sit awkwardly and wait; he returns a few hours later, seeing he found no sign. They ask again, and she says south. The dwarf settles on north and requests that she accompanies them.

The four bounty hunters and Thava exit the inn and leave town without any difficulties. Carondir scouts ahead while the others stay with Thava as an escort. Apparently tired of her evasive answers, the dwarf moves to hit her once they are far outside town — Thava responds by conjuring a gout of flame to scorch the mercenaries. They manage to dodge out of the way, and Thava is forced to fling herself to the ground to avoid a well-placed arrow from the elf. The others gather around to subdue her, and the dwarf manages to catch her with his warpicks while the slate-skinned woman cuts her with a sickle. Injured and bleeding, Thava responds by conjuring the shimmering form of a dragon, soaring into the sky and effortlessly pinwheeling out of the way of another arrow from the ranger Carondir. She wings her way back to Duchy Jepson.

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Session 30

Waterday, Patchwall 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Renthiruhar thanks Croitus, Dhavita, Resh, Southie, and Thava for their time, and finishes cleaning Croitus’ hut. She wanders into the night.

The group returns to the plan of visiting with the Vistani. Dhavita returns to the Addled Alchemist to fetch Margot; when she arrives, Antonio, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Vianibrar, and Yavanna are dining together and having a lively conversation. Wanting to be polite, she invites the table; Antonio and Vianibrar decline, and Quithyra asks if Southie is going. Dhavita says he is, so Quithyra declines on behalf of his employees. Dhavita grabs Marguerite’s hand and the two dash into the autumn night.

As the sextet leaves Duchy Jepson, they run into a handsome young man, a magus by his look, muttering and walking back into the gates. Southie asks what is the matter, and he exclaims the Vistani don’t know what they have. He enters the town, muttering all the while.

The sextet make their way to the Vistani camp, where they are greeted warmly. The Vistani named Vicnan, a human male, makes introductions. The leaders of this clan are the humans Wiltiln and Zinnauvial, although the latter is still in her vardo; the other humans in the group are and the others are Leolann, Frurry, Victarath. There is also Magatris and Quiora, elves; Olomorn and Hollyemita, halflings; Belnan, a dragonborn; and Nasd, a goblin. After some conversation, Vicnan notes they are likely the escaped gladiators from Scandshar. He indicates there are many tales of their exploits, most of them fabricated, he is certain. After some further conversation, Dhavita expresses that she would like to have her fortune read. He instructs her to wait at the main vardo and knock. Zinnauvial Zivkovic will call her when she is ready.

Dhavita and Marguerite approach the vardo and knock. After a few minutes, a voice beckons them to enter. They open the door to find a vardo stuffed with knick knacks and colorful fabrics. An elderly human woman sits at the far end, behind a table holding a crystal ball and a small wooden box. After introductions, Dhavita and Margot request a reading. Zinnauvial charges 10 gp, and they begin.

Zinnauvial opens the box and unwraps the Barovian Tarokka, explaining that the cards are a Vistani tradition that uses archetypes for divination. She asks if Dhavita and Marguerite have a specific question; they just want to know about their future. After shuffling, she has them cut the deck, and begins laying out cards in a Basic Cross.

Not knowing Dhavita or Marguerite, she lets the cards determine the focus. She draws The Marionette, the fourth card of the Fortuna Magna, suggesting that Dhavita and Marguerite are self-willed, but still beholden to some greater force with a notable agenda. She wonders if this comes from their previous circumstances as master and slave, their troubles with the law, or their connection to the gods. Representing their past, she draws the Tax Collector, the Six of Coins. The Tax Collector represents corruption in the government and aristocracy, an obvious reference to the decadence of the system from whence Dhavita and Marguerite came. The present is represented by The Prison or Donjon, the eighth card of the Fortuna Magna. It represents imprisonment, banishment, or isolation. She initially focuses on the idea that they are prisoners of circumstance, perhaps, until Dhavita and Marguerite note they are both exiles from their former lives. For the future, Zinnauvial draws the Trader, the Three of Coins. The Trader represents any manner of commerce. Are they starting a business venture or perhaps a new job? Dhavita initially thinks of Southie’s business, although she isn’t involved, but then considers her possible job teaching medicine at the University. Finally, for the outcome, Zinnauvial draws the Illusionist, the Seven of Stars. It represents some form of trickery or misinformation, and typically has an evil connotation. Being somewhat vague in terms of the rest of the reading, Zinnauvial admonishes Dhavita and Marguerite to be honest with one another.

She is intrigued by the presence of the Fortuna Magna in Dhavita and Marguerite’s reading, and says she would be interested in investigating more. She asks if Dhavita has any other questions, and perhaps she will ask a source with more resolution. Dhavita inquires about her father, and Zinnauvial consults her crystal ball. She says she does not think he is coming after her. She also asks about the serpent woman, Zafira Shulud. Zinnauvial cannot find her with the crystal ball, suggesting she has no future and has passed away. As conversation turns to the slave trade, the elder Vistani notes that the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks appear in her tarokka readings with some regularity, frequently as the Darklord. She does not know what this portends.

By the time Dhavita and Marguerite leave, Thava has queued behind them, so she enters the vardo. Zinnauvial greets her, and asks for her question. Thava pays and indicates she wishes to find her people. The elder Vistani shuffles the deck, and while shuffling it, The Esper, the fourteenth card of the Fortuna Magna, falls out. Zinnauvial notes that it is the hero, an represents a powerful or unexpected ally. Does Thava have allies of which she is unaware? Is she herself the hero? She reshuffles the deck, Thava cuts it, and she begins the reading. For the focus, Zinnauvial draws the Six of Coins, the Beggar. The Beggar represents radical changes in fortune, which as far as she can tell given Thava’s enslavement, represents her relatively well. Representing her past is the Trader, the Three of Coins, appearing for the second time in the evening. It represents commerce, again in this case likely referring to her enslavement. Her present circumstances are represented by the Tax Collector, also appearing for the second time in the evening, representing corruption among the powerful. It is also a reference to how her enslavement continues to affect her circumstances. Her future is represented by the Berserker, the Six of Swords, barbarism and brutality in battle. Clearly there is brutal and gruesome violence in her future, a struggle to overcome. Finally, the outcome is represented by The Enchanter, the Three of Stars, which suggests her determination will overcome any obstacles in her path.

Thava thanks Zinnauvial for the reading and takes her leave; by the time she does, Croitus has queued behind her. He enters the vardo, and Zinnauvial notes that he is disguised, and he replies that his typical form usually elicits a negative reaction, whereupon he reveals it. After introductions are made, she shuffles the tarokka, has Croitus cut the deck, and begins the reading. For the focus, she draws the Dictator, the Eight of Swords, representing a tyrant or oppressor. Croitus says he has been shaped by and been the tyrant in his time, so it certainly fits. His past is represented by the Darklord, the first card of the Fortuna Magna, representing a potent enemy against the petitioner, a mastermind. Croitus is again familiar with this entity. Representing the present, she draws the Broken One, the eleventh card of the Fortuna Magna. It represents one broken in mind, body, or spirit, but in Croitus’ case, she suspects it means he is lost more than broken. He indicates he is in the process of being found. For his future, she draws the Illusionist, the Seven of Stars, representing trickery or evil information. He suspects that is in his path, brought by the entity represented by the Darklord. Finally, for the outcome, she draws the Spirit, the tenth card of the Fortuna Magna. It is a grim omen, suggesting the past will return to affect the future adversely. Although, given Croitus’ path, perhaps it refers to the spirit itself. Time will tell.

Croitus thanks her for the reading and pays before leaving. He rejoins the others.

While the tarokka readings were occurring, the others were without, drinking and discussing matters with the Vistani. Resh and Southie both abstain from the tarokka; Southie does so for firm ideological reasons, indicating that once your destiny is known, you’re beholden to it. Thava counter-argues that knowing your destiny allows you to change it, and Vicnan likens it to gouging out one’s eyes in the hopes of defining one’s own reality. Southie indicates he always defines his own reality.

As conversation continues, Southie and Dhavita begin discussing his business, and he says he will discuss matters further at the Addled Alchemist; he also notes he will issue her 200 shares of stock since she spent 200gp on his behalf earlier in the day. With that, the group bids the Vistani farewell and returns to Duchy Jepson.

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