After a restless night spent in Fort McFaren, the party shared their visions, or at least part of them. Ignomine had seen Edagener attacking goblin children, Godfrey, and his mentor Alduin Halfar in his home town of Fragnick, apparently about a month from the present. Artas saw his past as a Knight of Sidus, advancing on the mountain with a host to presumably attack and imprison the Betrayer, Rovagug. Vyktor saw people scheming to compel his mother to perform some kind of ritual to break some magical seals, threatening her life and anything she might care about to further their ends. Polycarp saw his “friend” Ayda from the Free Shivar movement captured and being tortured. Drael saw someone reporting that his father had been captured, possibly killed, somewhere in Adweld.
With all their secrets figuratively on the table, they decided to put their loot literally on the table to try and plan their course of action. They knew the Commander of the fort was going to be arriving shortly, and with it likely whatever course they would have to take… best to be prepared for it. They sorted through the various treasures, oils, potions, and items they had acquired over their adventures and divvied them up as best made sense. That done, they listed their assets at hand.
- 1 airship (empty, and busted)
- 1 dragon egg (bronze, probably infested)
- 1 dagger (evil, incredibly, unfathomably so)
- 5 different visions involving several different destinations, all with terrible personal consequences
Unable to ease their minds, the party set to repairing what damage they could to the airship, which they decided to christen Retribution. Vyktor and Artas, working together to translate the ship’s manual and try to understand the power crystal, were able to make a repair using the control gems from the mountain. They also realized that the “tool holders” on the walls were actually receptacles for much larger gems like those they took from the mountain control panel. Finally, with nothing else to occupy their minds, the party decided to rest for the remainder of the night, posting watches aboard the ship while waiting for the Commander to arrive.
Morning brought a buzz of activity at the Fort as the Commander approached, revealed to be none other than Toradan Honorforge along with a human cleric. The party stood to greet him upon the Retribution, but he apparently didn’t notice at first. It was clear that he was irate about something, and the party overheard him griping about a dragon being seen over one of the Kharlin forts and that he was being distracted from investigating that by this trip. It was about then that he noticed the airship, and his wrath diminished to something closer to his usual constant annoyance.
“Oh. So I guess there is an airship.” His gaze then fell on the party, including Artas standing with one foot propped on the bow’s railing. “Oh no, you again.” When the cleric accompanying Toradan whispered into his ear, Ignomine was able to pick up a scrap of phrase, “…we need to investigate that ship.” Seeking to maintain control of the situation and their authority over the Retribution, Ignomine invited them to board the airship and to take a guided tour of the facilities. Toradan seemed unimpressed, but the cleric appeared suitably pleased, cooing at the various magical elements and masterful construction woven into its design.
With that concluded, it was time to tell their story. As they recounted their journey to the mountain, mentioning the Snow Goblin Nisav and her system of hideouts they stumbled upon, Toradan’s eyebrows began to climb; at the mention of the dragon, his skepticism turned to incredulity; when they mentioned the ghost paladin of Abadar and the guardian angel encounter, he scoffed; but when they got to the giant crystal and the culmination of his disbelief, Toradan interrupted them and said he had to respond to a message.
Toradan left the airship then, summoning the Lieutenant to direct him to his office in order to respond to this message, leaving the party without having conveyed the most crucial part of their tale. Momentarily at loss for what to do, Tavi, Tack, and Lance took the opportunity to badger them for information now that they had talked to the Commander. It was at this point that Ignomine remembered that they hadn’t even mentioned the Necromancer and the undead fighting other undead in the North, and that Toradan and the Lieutenant were likely ignorant of a large and potentially hostile force bearing down on their position. When informed of this, the Lieutenant’s face became very pale, his eyes opened wide, and he began stammering in his panic.
He revealed the fact that most of the young recruits in his company were scions of noble houses, and that they were not expected to fight. Ignomine clapped a heavy hand on the officer’s shoulder and gave him clear and direct “suggestions” – warn the rest of the garrison, begin preparations for attack, and make sure the recruits knew methods for fighting various undead. The officer, now steadied, hurried off and began issuing orders. Artas and Vyktor, for their part, shared what they’d learned of means to defeat ghouls, wraiths, and spirits to Tavi and the rest in the hopes that it would give them and the other soldiers an advantage and maybe save some lives.
Toradan returned, incredulous that they had neglected to mention warring undead in their tale. When informed that was not even the worst of it, his eyebrows practically leapt over his scalp. They adjourned to the officer’s conference room for privacy to discuss the release of Rovagug, his role as the Betrayer, the appearance of Lawgiver, and Artas’s past memories of Sidus. Toradan’s eyebrows, now released of any association with his face, demonstrated his shock and disbelief.
With that and confirming the airship was operational, he ordered that they were going to take the airship and head directly to Ceres. The party acquiesced, sensing that resistance would only result in their arrest or possible death, and that they could perhaps get aid within one of the Great Cities and that Ceres might be the best option. As they set off they confirmed that the repairs were holding, and that the Great Causeways seemed to augment the power crystal and helped forestall its constant draining. They made it back to Ceres in record time.
As they approached the outer walls of Ceres, Toradan explained that they were going to speak to the Ordermaster of the Order of Alion. He also warned (delivered with a grim smile) that he was not as trusting of the orc-blooded as he himself was, and to be cautious what they told him.
The outer walls were revealed to be little better than stone curtain walls stretched across large stretches of land enclosing the farmlands of Ceres, and were relatively unmanned. Their flight raced onwards towards the inner walls that appeared near on the horizon. Several minutes of travel later at their rapid pace, however, revealed the walls were much further away, and much, much larger than what might first be assumed. Toradan had sent word ahead, and the party saw the much more heavily-defended inner walls laden with ballistae, catapults, and other siege equipment that could have made quick work of their hobbled air ship.
Once they neared the city center, Toradan directed them to a large landing platform near the Order of Alion and the College of Ceres. Vyktor guided the Retribution to a smooth landing, with nary a bump, and staff on the platform quickly cast grappeling hooks over the ship and anchored it to the platform. The party disembarked, and Toradan guided them into the entrance and through the fortifications to the Order Master’s office.
They were led to a large room with a large man sitting behind a desk busily at work writing on parchment. Behind him were two massive creatures, a large celestial wolf on one side and a large dire tiger on the other, sleeping upon large cushions. Following Toradan’s lead the party remained silent until they were acknowledged, the scratching of the quill oddly loud in the vast room.
“I didn’t expect you to be back so soon, Toradan,” the Ordermaster said finally. He looked up, weighed the sight of the party, and then began rummaging in his desk. Pulling out pieces of jerky, he tossed one at the wolf, who caught it without opening his eyes, chewed it, and then stretched to sit up and regard them languidly. The other piece he tossed at the tiger, which hit it in the face, until it too chewed its snack and observed the group with keen intelligence. It gave the impression that they were being weighed.
With their audience gazing at them intently, the party repeated their tale, including what information they could without unduly incriminating themselves. Once finished, the Ordermaster regarded them seriously for a moment, then gestured to his page and began whispering to him. The messenger raced out of the room, apparently intent on delivering a message. The Ordermaster then turned back to them and said, “Your tale is fantastic, but I find myself wanting to believe you. Surely someone couldn’t come up with such an incredible tale on their own. But I have to be certain that you’re telling the truth. Do you agree to have your truth and the motivations of your actions tested?” One by one, the party members gave their assent.
After a seemingly long wait, the messenger returned panting heavily in the company of a refined-looking old woman. The Ordermaster regarded her and asked, “I want you to Commune and have these people prove their story. Are you prepared?” The woman nodded, and said, “Of course. Follow me, please,” and gestured back to the doorway she had come through.
The party followed her into what must have been one of the building’s towers, for they took a spiraling staircase down, down, down deep into base of the building. She led them into an immense chamber with a ritual circle embedded in the floor. It was approximately at this point that Polycarp decided to check out; he’d had enough of this magical shit. The rest of the group followed the ritualist’s gestures and stood in the center of the large circle forty feet or more across as more casters appeared and stationed themselves at points around the outside of the circle. They began chanting a prayer of some kind, mumbling under their breath over and over as the ritual circle began to glow. Suddenly, the circle flashed with brilliance and the party found themselves within a cylinder of radiant light reaching up beyond their sight, their vision outside of the circle blocked by whiteness.
A voice rumbled, vast and rolling:
What is it that you seek?
The ritualist replied, “We seek judgement of the word and actions of these present.”
A figure appeared in the circle then, and approached Artas first.
Why did you fail?
The figure nodded, then turned to Ignomine.
Why did you not obey the laws of Guest Right?
Ignomine stuttered an answer, “Because I knew of the challenges we must face, and that I would need Drael’s help to complete them.”
The figure regarded him for a moment, then turned to Drael.
Why did you kill a foe that had yielded to you?
Drael made a smirk, and then said, “Well, see, I only had a moment to react, and he had just been attacking us, and I didn’t want to take the chance that…”
The figure drew its blade as Vyktor stepped up and spoke, “Whatever punishment is in store for him, let me take in his stead.”
The figure stopped, then nodded, and Vyktor vanished in a flash of light. The figure then nodded to the rest of them, and intoned its farewell:
Your actions and intentions have been judged. These proceedings are at an end.
… and vanished, as did the wall of light surrounding them. The party stood flabbergasted at the empty spot where Vyktor had stood, and Ignomine felt the first rushes of rage and anger at Drael, first for being the cause of his Fall, and now for condemning Vyktor to who knew what fate for his own actions.
Before they could react, however, the ritualist gathered them together and ushered them up the spiral staircase back to the Ordermaster. He seemed moderately surprised to see them, but made no comment on their missing member.
A bird flew on his desk and mentioned some things, then flew off.
Vkytor appeared, good as new.
The Ordermaster called the bird back from eavesdropping to deliver a message to someone.
They remembered the evil-as-heck dagger, and the Ordermaster summons the ritualist again (who complained about making her climb all those stairs again, she’s not getting any younger you know!) to cleanse it. Turns out it possessed the soul of the wizard that was attempting to reach lichdom. Also (and this may not be known to the party) the guy that got killed was the High Priest of Abadar. Whoopsie!
The Ordermaster asked them to meet with a person to discuss a possible deal.
The party meets with an elderly gentleman who asks that they look into the assassination attempt on his niece. The party belatedly realize who he is, and he offers to repair their airship. Once they agree, he explains his plan and suggests the party get into Shivar discreetly and disguise the airship as a regular water-borne craft on the Shivar Docks and meet with some of his contacts there.
By the time the party get outside they see that Rufus Amillos has already been aboard and repaired much of the damage, including the installation of a brand-new (ancient) power crystal in exchange for the old one, and the stabilization of many of its trim crystals and the repair of the extradimensional storage room.
The party take off, the newly-augmented power resulting in them yanking the anchor ropes off of the platform with them, and launch off to the north to disguise their path. Once outside the outer walls, they climb higher and look for a place to cut east. Finding a riverbank, they dive down at low level and race toward the coast, hugging the ground to foil observation (though some fishermen may have poured out their drinks after seeing them pass.) Once out over sea they climbed significantly higher to continue to avoid observation and headed south towards the Docks.
Once at the coast they were beset by air elementals. Polycarp was on the bow’s observation post and was the worst afflicted, but held his own until Artas and Ignomine could charge in from the engine room. Vyktor flew the Retribution to minimize the impact if the elementals knocked them from their altitude. Drael blasted the elementals, until finally the last of them dissipated in a cloud of dust.
Later as the party recuperated, they realized the Bag of Holding they kept the egg in was writing around. They moved to the barracks as an enclosed space, opened the bag, and a tiny dragon hatchling flew out! It said its name was Vord and its Purpose was to guard, though it hadn’t heard the voice and instructions of the Mother for some time. It asked if the party were Vord to which they said nothing, but strongly implied that they were. Vyktor very cleverly gave it a small pile of gold coins to guard so it could fulfill its Purpose, but also help remember its draconic heritage. Also it ate the Croach-infused remnants of its shell, so hopefully it will be able to eat other stuff.
Also holy shit a hive-mind possessed dragonling, this isn’t a dangerous idea at all! (Ignomine puked over the railing of the airship once he realized what had happened to it and what it might become.) Who knows if they can break the influence of the green goo, which is apparently Vord.