Hallowed Ways

Catching like a...

As they wait for Leera to return from hunting the escaped slaver, John and Chris try to figure out what to do with their captive. The answer becomes rather apparent, however, as they realize what danger has been looming before them since the dawn – a wildfire. And with the winds being what they are on the plains, there is are unsavory odds that it will cut them off from their chosen route.

They are unable to wait for their comrade much longer than an hour, and hurriedly depart. Along the way they abandon both their prisoner, and eventually their donkeys. A great deal of equipment is stashed away, hopefully to be found later.

The duo rush north, alternating between a hustle and hike as best they can, and pushing through a few hours of forced marching. Tired, hungry, and sore, they see their chances of reaching the pass (and safety from the fire) grow even more slim.

Leera, meanwhile, tracks the runaway back to a camp, where he apparently rendezvoused with others. She quickly abandons a foray into the edges of the camp, and treks the way back to where she left the others. Dismayed, she sees only signs of their abrupt departure. Her story shadows that of the men, with better time. Despite having been separated for more than twenty-four hours, she finds herself only three hours behind them.

Slavers in the mist

As the party approached the Ibran/ Cardegossian boarder, they devised plans for acquiring the goods needed to travel into the Jokan provinces. Sadly, these plans were for naught as they found themselves face-to-face with a refugee checkpoint that proclaimed that Cardegoss was temporarily closing its boarders until a stable system was developed for the refugees already in the country. Refugees on the boarder were given temporary living arrangements and protection by the Cardegossian government and protection by it soldiers. While heartwarming, this did little to help the party which proceeded to head north in the hope that they could find a shop with the provisions they needed in Heartland.

After some discussion, the party decided to head via the main roads for expedience. Two days later they came under attack.

The attackers were a group of three men laying among the tall grasses of the northern planes/ desert. Two seemed intent on capturing the party alive while the third took more murderous measures. It became apparent that they were slavers.

After a short skirmish that resulted in Chris, Leera, and John being lightly wounded and leaving one slaver gravely wounded, one dead, and the third fleeing with Leera tracking him, Chris and John questioned the wounded one.

Their lines of question revealed that the northern provinces were looking for slaves, but to what purpose was unknown as the slaver themselves were not in the business of asking questions. However, it was discovered that slaving itself can be a lucrative trade as they generally received 350 gp per working slave.

As it stands now, John and Chris are awaiting Leera’s return and questioning the surviving profiteer.

Slaver Roster:
Slaver # 1: “Jake” tied up & charmed for approximately 17+ minutes.
Slaver # 2: “Sped” on the run with Leera tracking him.
#3: Dead at the hands of a traveling cartographer and a farmer… good luck explaining that in Valhalla.

Facing forward

In short:

Leera danced, juggled, and seemingly caroused the nights away to the tune of 2gp and 55sp. She also thought one of the guards had a chimera emblem, before realizing one of the ruling merchant houses of Ibra has a snake head on its coat of arms.

John and Chris sat down to a game of dominoes, and looked up to find a familiar face! Umegat found himself on the same caravan heading west – while looking for the party. Some time later, the two present find themselves enlightened on the matters of theology, and the plot as it stands in Castilchas. Towards the end of the evening, Leera rejoins the group just in time to hear the idea that John should try to head up north. Umegat tries to call upon his god to instill divine charms on some trinkets Chris had picked up, in order to protect them from renegade demons.

Optics Improved

Vision Enhanced

(A lengthy discussion on the level of technology required for the discovery of concave lenses)

Vision Clouded

In an effort of compromise between prudent retreat from the encroaching armies of horror and a strong desire to overcome the horror by burning away the cloud of mystery surrounding them the party split to the library to sift through the ancient myths for kernels of truth and to the streets to seek safe methods of escaping the city. If the armies of the northern chimera can be understood, they might possibly be faced (by more capable groups, of course) if they cannot, then fleeing is the wisest option. The only truth discovered by all three party members three hours later was that we are all still inexperienced and nothing was found.

Vision Lost

With no new knowledge and the clock ticking (or possibly a more primitive timepiece, depending on the level of technology available in this world) the party revisited the grand plan, and realized there may not be one. For most of his travels John was under the impression that an enlightened one had sent him to be trained for a higher, unknown, purpose. With the imminent besiegement of the city and John’s training incomplete, there is question if there really is a final purpose, or if John was simply a problematic risk sent to be handled quietly. Arguments ensued as the elders stood by passively preparing themselves to maintain the sanctity of the compound and protect the archives in futility before the dark tendrils of Jokan. The party went to sleep with a failing sense of purpose, in the morning they would attempt one last effort of reconnaissance.

Vision Overstimulated

The morning bazaar seemed more active in the face of invasion as prices were hiked and haggling was passionate with passing refugees. John stopped to scout out the bazaar on the way to the gates with Chris and Leera, tapping into the quirks of his demonic contract. Chris silently, almost subconsciously, spun a quick prayer for clarity in discovering the enemy scouts and was overwhelmed with a vision of Loyd sitting, winking!, in John’s solar plexus. The image ended immediately yet Chris was left reeling for several moments. Outside the gates Leera and Chris found no signs of scouts. With worries the scouts may already be in the city, they returned to John to prepare their escape.

Vision Sought

Without a boat, and to avoid the unlikely yet ever-present threat of psychic fish beings and their mind kraken, the party joined a convoy heading west along the coast to the country of Cardegoss. Once danger has been avoided and answers gained, John hopes to head back north into Heartland to find the one who sent him. There may still be a purpose for him yet…

Stand a little closer

(Order of events is questionable here, please correct this if you remember a little more clearly)

John learns a little more of what Lloyd is actually capable of doing – and it isn’t entirely pleasant. After Lloyd tries to force his own agenda on John, the man collapses. Leera stays with him, threatening a quick prick with a coated blade if his feet start wandering without his intent again. John’s condition after waking is questionable, as he may have tried to hit on Chris?

While John is down and out, Chris pursues a few sticky ends in his research, and learns more about The Battle of Holy Tree. It may relate to the army about to advance on Majal.

Wait, what?

When the party reconvenes, they hear from the nurse caring for John that there is an army marching from the north. It moves with incredible speed, the scouts even more so. It seems very large, and the Sun of Ibra is not entirely prepared for warfare. There are mixed feelings about how to proceed. John uses his knowledge in his craft to produce a vision of the northern affairs:

"You begin with the sensation of slowly rising out of of your body, the feeling being akin to you expelling yourself out with each breath. You rise, and you fly to the northwest. Skimming over river and grasslands, you see small groups of three to five moving swiftly through the grass. They area mixed group of foot-soldiers and mounted riders, but all travel with the same speed beyond that which the horses should be capable of.

You blink with your eyes that are not eyes as your vision grows gray and cloudy. You think you are imagining it at first, but as your vision clears you see writhing threads like purple and black lightning thinly strung between the groups. They all center on one individual, from which the threads rope together and pass back towards the army in a thick knot.

Flying onward, you pass over the army. They seem a lot of mixed regions, but all wear the same chimera medallion on their chest. The numbers are vast, and they are a muddy sea of violence on the grasslands. The ropes from each scouting group touches down on one of several leaders before passing back in further congealed masses, leashing them to something further in the distance."

In the end, Leera recommends organizing a forward party to try to capture a scout, and learn what exactly is going on.

The Sun of Ibra

Still flustered by wolf’s attack the previous night (and further motivated by some unnerving dreams), the haphazard party tries to move with haste for the trading post. The pace doesn’t last long – the first to drop is Chris, who is gracelessly deposited in the wagon beside the priest. When John and Leera grow weak the caravan is forced to slow their pace.

Rogar, still walking strong, takes his leave of the group at the trading post to find passage back home. The guards urge all to press on after the other three have recovered.

At long last we arrive at the city of Majal. It is bright, loud, and full of life. The architecture is full of sweeping arches and bulbous towers. At the heart of the city is an expansive bazaar, studded with stretches of low walls marking where it had spilled over old boundaries years before. Everything exotic and wonderful can be found here – for a price.

The group heads straight to the high temple, with John imposing himself on an acolyte for a meeting with the archdivine. No audience is imminent, but the priest who shows up offers a lesson in manners, and to take the party to the tower of the daughter – where Leera’s maps may be (and are) sold. The scribe who makes the transaction cautions her about making such detailed, strategic maps for unknown employers in the future.

The archdivine comes available. All three enter, and find the portly priest (“Pudge”) in conversation with the man they will come to know as Finnegan. The priest begins candid discussion about John’s demon before he realizes that it was heretofore a secret. Finn offers to tutor John in the ways of living with his spiritual parasite so as not to become overridden by it.

Two and a Snake

Umegat sends the group to Majal, searching for a particular Divine of the Bastard. They take the north road between the mountains and the lake, and encounter the dirty Rogar Davadrum along the way. He joins the caravan, and they head into Ibra by way of the closest outpost. The second night on the road, they are attacked by a sickly wolf and slay it with the help of the guards.

Festival of the Daughter

(Feel free to edit, embellish, and fill in the blanks)

As all roads lead to Rome, everyone somehow seems to be swept into Castilchas as the Spring Festival gets underway. John and Chris are both exploring the town, moseying along and seeing what there is to see (with ale in hand), while Leera sets up a makeshift shop. She takes to dancing in the square, earning her some small coin and the attention of the other two. John gets bumped into in the crowd, and soon finds himself distracted by a conversation with himself. He comes back to himself to find a strange man watching him. The dance ends, and the three part ways after a few words.

Leera returns to her carpet to find a potential client. He hires her to draw out a detailed map of Heartland, some of Ibra, and whatever she might know about the Jokan Provinces.

Time passes, and all three find themselves in a tavern. No real surprise, as it’s the only one left in this district that has much of anything left. They run into some footpads looking for trouble, and manage to deter them without much indecent. They return, however, with city guards in tow. They accuse John of stealing a ring, which he is surprised to actually find in his pocket! John, with help, manages to befriend the lead guard, and he allows John to pay a small grievance fee and leaves with the upstarts. Before turning in for the night, they happen to see a different set of guards run down a lone rider. As they turn back to the Keep, the group sees that it is a very distraught Royesse – presumably, the same young lady who will be playing the Daughter of Spring in the festival tomorrow.

The festival day arrives, and everyone’s out to watch the parade. The Royesse doesn’t show any sign of her midnight escapade, and is escorted by a haggard Father of Winter to the main temple. It seems that the whole city turns out to offer their gifts to the Daughter and the temple today. The loose party falls in line, taking their places at the end. They see the Royesse deny the gift of a judge, who (almost purple with rage) is led into a side alcove to discuss the matter. The procession of gifts continues. Chris makes a heartfelt offer of his arms and services to the Lady – whether he means to her personally or the Daughter herself, she makes no indication as to the acceptance. John conjures a pretty flower to try to alleviate some of the hidden sorrow behind her mask of dignity. The group finds themselves surrounded by halberd points with extreme efficiency.

They are led out behind the Mother’s alcove to the Bastard’s tower, and find the same man who was watching John there. He explains that he is a sort of petty saint of the Bastard, and that John’s use of magic [read: demon magic] in a holy temple set off some wards. They were known to the honor guard, and the citizens who were left there, and it would be best if they left Castilchas until their faces were forgotten. He has just the solution, and prepares to send the trio on a journey.

The Story So Far

The world still likes to feel that it is young. I suppose it is, for every day youth blossoms on its face in the new green sapling and the fawn taking its first trembling step. But it has the worn signs of care carved into its skin as well. Monuments to the fiery strength of the past now lay in shambles, forgotten whispers of what once was at the end of a forgotten path, that sleeps in the shadow of a land where no men dare to tread anymore.

The Season of the Great Sorcerers has long past. Magic is mostly forgotten; those who remember it fear it (and not without reason). Sorcery is outlawed in all the civilized lands. Even in the unending turmoil of the Jokan Provinces it is hated with a vengeance (demons being of the Bastard’s domain, and He himself considered the master demon of evil incarnate). Other countries have been preoccupied with recuperating from that dark time. Some have managed to grow their roots deep, and finally have begun to drink the rewards of all their effort.

Heartland flourishes as a center of trade – all good routes walk through one of her gates. At the center, Castilchas shines at the epitome of modern masonry. Gilded arches welcome the weary traveler. Verdant gardens spill over the walls of private gardens. All basks in the golden glow of fortune and plenty.

At least, it had of late. There is a thread of tension, barely visible throughout the city. The Royina had passed almost a decade ago, and now her consort Roya has taken to his chambers. The capitol bravely continues its preparations for the Spring Festival, and the Royesse shall play the part of the virgin Daughter for what may be the last time. She must be wed, and soon, if the country is to avoid a civil war. For the merchants, naturally, would prefer a certain other leader that would favor their pockets. A royesse is perfectly capable of being the single crowned monarch of a country, but one so young (and with whispers of such, ahem, eccentricities as hers) would be challenged every given moment. The current Prime Minister offers much in the way of support and guidance for her.

So there you have it. A cheery festival in the making – garlands or fresh flowers on every nook and cranny of stonework, the sweet smell of holiday foods, and the cries of taskmasters while the gayly colored tents are raised. But the smiles are a little strained, and never quite meet the eyes of most who try.

The Battle of Holy Tree

The last real stand of the war in the Season of Great Sorcerers. There, the banner-carriers of magic united against the Golden General. Despite their amazing strength in numbers and desperation, they still lost. Now, all free magic left in the world rests in the Lion of Jokan, and the ghosts of the banner-carriers haunt Bloodtree until their leader makes them whole once again.


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