13:35 – 13:50 – The group spend some time calming down, shuddering, and searching the chamber for anything of value (they find nothing; the cultists being naked and the daemons leaving only stinking greasy spots where they were destroyed).
13:51 – With great caution, the group open the doors of the mausoleum and step outside into tangled woodland. Jaeger immediately realises that the party is far from Peregrine, noting that the trees here are broadleaved, and that the spring plants are several weeks ahead of those in the north. He estimates that the party are now at least 700 – 1,000 miles to the south of Peregrine.
The woodland they are in is small and clearly ancient. Numerous moss and lichen covered headstones can be seen scattered through its winter-browned grasses, many fallen and trampled, others pushed out of alignment by the expanding trunks of the oaks and hollies that are common here, and it quickly becomes apparent that this is a familial burial ground, almost certainly attached to a small settlement or homestead. Beyond the woodland, the group can see empty, unploughed fields, surrounded by dry stone walls, and to the northwest, a tumbledown building that looks like it may have been a large farmhouse.
13:53 - However, the party are distracted, for they hear a woman sobbing, and soon find one of the cultist weeping hysterically amongst the trees; naked, still covered in a drying skin of filthy fluids, her long dark hair encrusted, shivering in the cold, spring wind. They approach her cautiously, wary of any tricks she may have, but she turns out to be a simple, horrified woman named Salara Cooper, a wife from Irin.
13:53 – 13:54 - The group argue over what to do with her. Schnecke states that a “mercy killing” is in order, fingering the razor edge of his axe (this sends Salara into another torrent of horrified weeping). The Warlord also seems in favour of dispatching her. However, the priest, handing her his cloak, talks to her softly, and informs her that if she makes herself useful to the group and tells them all they need to know, they will not kill her – though she panics when she discovers that she will be handed over to the Unified Order once they reach Irin.
15:54 – 14:10 - They interrogate her, and learn that up until a year ago she was happy to be the wife of a successful Cooper (Halsfur Cooper). However, she began to suspect her husband was seeing another woman and began to plot her revenge, seeking out illicit relationships; chasing the idea of a glamorous, secret, second life of guilt free debauch and heart stopping new experiences. What she found instead was Maelazeiria, who subtly and completely entered and violated her mind, to the point that she willingly entered into the vile ritual orgies that the daemon arranged. Now, with Maelazeiria banished, she has come to her full awareness, and the realisation of what she has done (as well as the fact that her husband left her several months ago when she would not tell him what was up with her) has hit her like a gigorim fist. She is a broken thing, disgusted with herself entirely and sickened at the permanent destruction she has sown into her own life.
The group continue with their interrogation and learn that Salara knows very little about the workings of the cult, except that they would be “summoned in visions” by “the mistress”, and that they would meet in various places around the area. She reiterates the almost dream like state she has been in for so long, but is able to recall that some of the meetings occurred in a slaughter house – possibly in a poorer area of nearby Irin (the group now know where they are; west-central Fey) called “The Roughs” - and tells them of how on one visit one of her fellow cultists summoned the spirits of the slaughtered animals held on hooks there, and made them dance in the darkness above their lustful acts. She also mentions orgies held in the desecrated crypts of a Solum'Tassadexite chapel, overseen by a corrupted priest. She is unable to tell the group which denomination of the Solum'Tassadexite church the priest fronted, though she recalls his symbol depicted a supine crescent pieced by a stylized, flame-wreathed sword.
Further questioning reveals that Maelazeiria had a “dark knight” who would stand guard over her at times, and who would occasionally join with her during the rituals. She cannot give a name, though she describes him as “indescribably beautiful and cruel” “Like an Aelwyn, though crueller still” “Pale and grim”.
And she recognises Rubus from his description, though she states he usually wore a mask made from a human skull.
14:10 - The group decide that they have heard enough, and that they should explore the farmhouse – partly to see if there are any more cultists hiding in there, and partly to find Salara some clothes.
14:15 - Within the ruin they discover another cultist, a male, crouched and muttering in the shattered kitchen. Emmiven (who has kicked the houses' front door in and charged to confront him, despite knowing that the assassin is poised by the back door for a stealthy entrance) strides towards him, only to watch as he uses a shard of filthy glass to open his arms up to the bone. The male bleeds out quickly and dies with only a sob and a whimper.
14:15 – 14:35 - The group explore the building and find many discarded clothes, which Salara informs them are those of the cultists, as well as a few trinkets. They also find that a small, ruined chapel to Arnelc'Caliel stands, shattered and empty, at the edge of the farms yard.
Whilst the group are doing this, the priest rests alone, feeling suddenly weary and tearful. As he gathers himself a little, he suddenly becomes aware of a voice in his mind...or in his soul...a voice that strangely, he realises has been speaking to him for some time now. It is a normal, male voice, that seems earnest and a little scared, and Grigori finds himself letting it speak, despite knowing its source.
“I was misunderstood.” It whispers, “They hated me because I proved them to be charlatans.”
Grigori tries not to listen, knowing that to keep doing so is dangerous and wrong. However.
“I simply showed them that there is no mystic force driving life, but simple principles of alchemy and natural energies. All I did was strip the fancy and emotion out of the study of life and death, and they decided I was a monster.”
Grigori flinches at the reasonable sound of the statement, especially reflecting on the way the Unified Order restricts knowledge that does not agree with their version of things.
“Don't let them silence me forever. Please. I only ever wanted to find the truuuuuth...”
Grigori forces his mind away from the voice, and feels the vial suddenly wet and cold against his thigh, where it sits, putrid and dank, in his robes' pocket.
14:40 – 16:00 - The group head northwards towards Irin, guided in part by the sobbing cultist, and in part by the growing spectre of the oldest city on the planet. The first thing they see is the Tomb of the Dreaming God rising in the distance; a shimmering tower of shadow, dimly flickering with green fire, and some of the taller spires of the cities larger temples and private dwellings. Hovering above the city the group can see a large number of brightly coloured hot air balloons and cruising sky ships, which all seems a little odd.
As they get closer to the storied city they begin to see increased signs of a military presence, and soon they are within clear sight of its perimeter, its defensive glyphs and standards shining brightly along its high, newly constructed outer walls, vying for space with huge, colourful pennants which have been draped over the walls.
16:00 - The group arrive at the main southern gate, which is watched over by a large number of warforged, as well as a handful of humans and a couple of Dundorin. Two Warforged Titan's stand either side as well – Speciosus Senior (Imposing Lord) and Letalis Pulsus (Fatal Blow), their unblinking eyes scanning the flow of humanity into and out of the city.
16:01 – 16:05 - Seeing the group dragging a weeping, near hysterical woman with them, the guards quickly move to stop them, lowering spears which crackle with an edge of potent offensive magic. The leader of this group of guards is a particularly tall warforged who bears the mark of a newly minted specimen, who's armour plating has a blueish tinge. The living construct demands to know what is happening in a booming, resonant voice, and the group begin to explain, painfully aware of the crowds of people looking in horror at them. However, they stop as the tall warforged suddenly sags a little, its head tilting slightly to the side, before suddenly holding up a silencing hand and informing its allies in a burst of machine cant that the group are free to go under the authority of the Unified Order.
Before the group go Salara is secured by several of the guards. The group explain her crimes and her explanations for them, and she is dragged off to face an uncertain future. At this point, another sending finds the warforged, and it informs the group that rooms have been arranged for them at the Staff of Wands – one of Irin's most exclusive inns, located in the great plaza that surrounds the lake in which the Tomb of the Dreaming God rises.
16:06 - The group enter Irin.
16:06 – 16:40 - The party move along the cobbled streets of the city, and are at once aware of the powerful sense of impossible age and ambient presence it possesses. Their minds fill with the hundreds of tales of the greatest heroes of the ages and how their paths inevitably brought them to this very place – often to speak with “Mad Magico” - the very being who's dreams supposedly hold reality together where it slumbers in the heart of the tomb tower. They see both incredibly rich and healthy nobles – many of whom are mages or associates of the Unified Order – and great collections of folk who are homogeneous in their wretchedness and disease. Modern magical devices and conveniences are everywhere, next to buildings and statues that were here before the ages last turned, and the meandering roads are broken here and there by huge, venerable Oaks and Beeches; just coming into their first leaves of the year.
Posters are everywhere, declaring upcoming events in the Grand Fayre. Most of them seem to be referring to the opening of “The Grand Spectacle” “A grim show of blood and heroics” - a great arena event that will begin on the first day of the Summer Solstice and end five days later on the final day. Near to these are requests from the spectacles organisers for “Monster Hunters, Adventurers and Fortune Seekers – Work Available – Please speak with Septimus Aalv at the 'Prayer of Banturn' Inn for details”.
The group ask for directions to the Staff of Wands, and even guided by them it takes them the better part of an hour to reach it; a huge and impressive building, draped in numerous standards showing either the Unified Order's symbol, the cities standard (a closed maze) or the symbol of Merriel'Shaava. Window Boxes overflowing with flowering plants decorate its front as well, and over the door, the sign is a permanent illusions of a staff that shifts into a wands before exploding in a burst of illusory flame.
However, they are more awestruck by the soaring structure of the Dreaming Gods tomb, which dominates the centre of the plaza.
It is impossibly huge, and seems to somehow exist apart from the rest of the city, the distances between the edge of the lake and the tower itself seeming far greater than the actual physical distance could possibly be. It soars to a height of many hundreds of feet, and is a gigantic edifice of darkest green stone – so dark as to appear black save where the light reflects off it. It comprises a main central oblong tower, supported by four lesser towers. No windows, no doors, no battlements. Seamless and immaculate. The only apparent ornamentation is a circle of huge, green glowing runes of impossible complexity rendered close to the top of the main tower, and a huge halo of green fire that floats silent and impossible at the same height around it.
A placid lake surrounds the island upon which the tower stands, and four bridges, one from each cardinal point, leads from the plaza to the island. In the grounds around the tower, grow numberless weeping willows, their long branches hiding the base of the tower and its grounds.
The group also notice that despite the lack of guards, defensive structures or even signs of warning aruond the structure, no one has attempted to set up a stall on any of the bridges. No one even walks or sits on them, so potent is the aura of ineffable power and the supernatural presence of the whole place.
16:41 – 17:20 - At the Staff of Wands the group are informed that their rooms are pre-booked under the name Archevult, and a moment later they discover that the grand magus is waiting for them, appearing to be alone for once. None of the other diners sit near him, or even seems to look at him - and he looks odd...he's....smiling...
...And he's not wearing his usual robes of state or mask...
Archevult greets the party warmly and shakes their hands. He tells them how pleased he is to see them, and orders food and wine for them. Once the group are settled and their food and drinks have arrived, he whispers a word of power, and the rest of the taproom suddenly seems far removed and unreal. Archevult remains objectively bright, but an edge comes to his voice that is more like his usual self.
Archevult will firstly congratulate the entire party for their incredible work, and will again apologise for the foul burden thrust upon them. He will then tell them that they must bear it a little longer, though he has a temporary solution to its insistent call to the powers of darkness. With this he produces a scroll tube, from which he pulls a string of glowing glyphs. He asks to be allowed to see the vial, and that it be placed on the table. He then weaves the glyphs around it, muttering a powerful sounding incantation that makes the glyphs stick to it in a shower of angry, white sparks.
As soon as the final glyph adheres to the mottled container, the party feel a great weight – a weight they did not even know they carried – lift from their shoulders, and a sense of freedom in their souls. Archevult explains that the corrosive evil of the vial will eat away at the glyphs, and that he cannot say for certain how long they will last, but that they should at least be able to enjoy a short break from the foul things dark presence. However, he then warns that party that Rubus was not captured, and that it is unlikely that the Ravensoul Cabal and Death Loved are the only foul organisations looking for the vial. He tells the party that he and a select few allies are trying to think of a place where the vial can be safely stored, and asks that they keep it for now, whilst they come up with an answer. He then bids the group to eat, and states that they should probably stay local for now to let their presence in the north die down a bit, and suggests they find work in the city, adding that the Order can always send some jobs their way.
He then gives the party 1,000 gold in paper money, and thanks them once more for their work, adding that they might want to speak to a local wine merchant named Vastam Dirk, who is looking for capable souls to help him with a little problem he is having.
“I'll find you” he states before standing up, allowing the taproom to return to full reality, and striding out of the Inn.
18:30 - After finishing their dinner, and realising that for the foreseeable future their rooms at the lush inn have been paid for, the group decide to rest up for the rest of the day, agreeing that the next day shall be spent shopping and checking out the employment opportunities in the city. And with that, they retire to their rooms, to enjoy the unexpected luxury – made all the better without the insubstantial weight of the vial's soul crushing presence and a distinct lack of enemies trying to kill them.
11/4/1472 (Bright and breezy. Winds warming)
10:00 – 16:30 – The party enter the busy streets of Irin and shop for various items, visiting a number of merchants and specialist suppliers. They also offload some of the gear they have collected during their adventures. As they wander through the maze of streets and districts they also visit several individuals seeking hired help.
Firstly, they visit Septimus Aalv and sign on as a team to take part in the upcoming arena battles. Septimus – an awkward, bookish man – tells them to attend the selection battles, on the 21/4 – the precursor rounds that determine who gets to fight for the pleasure of the Irinite crowds.
They then, on Septimus' advice, speak with Jurgen Throndor'Gulv, a grey bearded, grey haired, piercing ridden Dundorin half drunk in a bar called the “Raging Taurag”– Beast Master for the upcoming spectacles. Jurgen is looking for adventurers who can find him living monsters for the arenas, and he is willing to pay handsomely for any specimens brought to him. However, he seems less than convinced as to how much use the party will be; regarding them woozily, before bursting out with laughter when they tell him they want work.
However, he gains some control of himself and with a snigger, tells the group that a rogue Morgog'Gigori has been spotted to the west, some six days away, in the wild foothills where the Faerie Gates meet Argent Wood. He tells the party that if they can bring the brute – who is supposedly tattooed with runes of power and wields a huge club bearing the skulls of several wyverns – back to Irin alive, he will pay them 7,500 gold and will give them further monster capturing contracts.
Then he tells the party to get lost.
This request does not sit well with the group once they learn from Grigori that the Morgog'Gigori (known as Stone Giants by men) are not one of the depraved lesser Gigorim races, but intelligent and usually peaceful creatures, and they decide that for now, they will not try to impress the drunk Gigorim.
16:50 - And so, as the suns sink in the northwest, and the streets of Irin begin to fill with shadows, the group knock on the front door of Vastam's wine shop, and prepare to see what help he needs – and more importantly, how much he is willing to pay...