An old soldiers tale...
recounted some 30 years after...

“Hello young un’s, what can an old soldier do fer ye? The Battle of Heidelgard? Aye, I was there, that whole campaign I was; well, Pull up a pew, be my guest… oh, thank ye lass, make mine a Stetzling Best, muchly obliged. Newlyweds is it? Aye you have that look about ye both, nice to see… So, what about the battle takes yer fancy? Ah, the Goddess, the Pillars and their allies eh? Of course… well, most folks want to hear about that, I’ve told it enough I guess… Aye Menken, I’m fetchin to tell it again, just you keep them beers coming and let folks sit close as they like…”

“ I were a Sergeant in the 1st Light Company, 1st Regiment of Foot in the Glorious Tenth under Colonel Korvanis and she were under that legend of a man Marshall Xamander (course, he were still a general at that time)… that uniform you’re in lass, Light Dragoons is it? Nice musketoons ye use these days, you know that the inventor of your pieces was Erzbeta Slalek, a friend of the Pillars? Well, now ye know… So, right, let me set the scene for ye, Heidelgard, like the rest of the lands was under the Hammer o’ the Dead, only we was getting’ it worse an’ that ain’t no lie… you hope you never see battle or death like that lass, never… dead like carpet on the streets, stench of the black beyond, fear like you can’t imagine, fear of a foe who’s already dead and itchin’ to make you just’ like them, and they don’t stop ‘cept with the comin’ of dawn. Us in the 10th and the boys and girls of the 4th Battlegroup were fightin’ like maniacs to hold back the dead, aye and a number of civvies were also pitchin’ in an all, but it were endless, and that ghostly ship the Raakir with its dead whale guardian was causin’ terrible trouble to those poor sods guarding the docks and the western walls.

“There were loads of heroes in that battle, but if I had to choose one above all others, I’d choose Ruprecht Schalko… aye, he were an Inquisitor of the Society lad, but he were a good one, upstanding, brave and selfless. His attack on the whale and the Raakir saved lives I can’t count, and there’ll be more’n a few soldiers kids named after him I’d warrant; man suffered for it mind you, disfigured, lost an eye and that’s just the stuff ye could see. Man died saving the Cathedral from an underground evil, saved loads more lives, and may the prayers of all who owe him be heard by the Goddess…

“Anyhows, the arrival of the Goddess Calliszia and her Pillars started to change that… sure, she had the Legion of the Goddess under De Valuac, Koryull and Vasi-Darra comin’, and the Cantabrians too, and… yes yes, that flying Island as well lad, hold yer horses… yes, and that Dragon, now who’s tellin’ this tale Menken, me or you? Good… send another Best over an’ I’ll continue… ta… so, right, the Goddess and the Pillars… we knew from the Bishop and his proclamations that the Goddess had arisen and when we felt somethin’ when we prayed, somethin’ answerin’ us and soothin’ us, but to see this winged and wonderful woman appear at the Begeerstrat Church, it made it real ye see… she walked with a limp then, but as her strength grew and our faith in her grew, that limp started to ease up, and I know at the end she walked straight and tall, a Goddess who defended us and took on the First Denied… the Pillars lass? Oh yes, quite right, we never forget them… of the Divine they were and if they wasn’t supportin’ her and protectin’ her , we’d all be dead and worse… yes, and that big bloody great sun burnin’ overhead, thank her for that again, an the moons an stars at night, an lastly but not leastly, those Embassies we now have from Outlanders…

“Those Pillars lass, they could fight I tell ye… that goliath Skal Dreissel, that shootist Zeru Otxoa, the peerless archer Geesje Van Kuipers, that crafty Fullica Atra, and as he was known then, Jorik… the feats they performed in the nights after their arrival, destroying Nightstalkers, holding and then drivin’ back the Undead at any battle they fought… gave us belief in ourselves to keep sluggin’ away and never givin’ up… the Goddess saved our souls, but they helped save her and our own mortal bodies lad… anyways, one night it were getting’ bad, worse than before, and we heard that the Goddess and the Pillars were going ta cross the Black Wall surroundin’ the Old Murk (as bad a place for people even when it weren’t overrun with the Undead), we were instructed to escort them there, it were where so many of us in the 1st Regiment either made an end or made a name… Colonel Korvanis was leadin’ us, Captain Mierko an I were tasked with leadin’ the Light Company scouts, an bloody work it were, with 40% casualties on the way to the Murk…

“That bloody great black column o’ evil still gives me the fear I don’t mind sayin’, so when we saw the Goddess and the Pillars march into it, I can say I never felt so much fear, but never so much pride; that were my Goddess there, and that were humans helpin’ and protectin’ her walkin into the worst place in the world… Still, we weren’t none too safe either, as we had to hold our position and defend that area, hopin’ that the Goddess and the Pillars would make their return… Hardest fightin’ we ever did over that battle as all manner of evil and foulness came at us, but we held, and with the word reachin’ us that the Legion of the Goddess and the Cantabrians had arrived and were givin’ the evil hordes somethin’ to think about, not to mention those wondrous clockwork contraptions (and that great big towerin’ one layin’ waste to swathes of the dead) and the Dragon, we felt we had the chance… We was fightin’ for hours, and then it all seemed to go odd, as all and I mean all the dead forces started barrellin’ towards us and the Murk… we knew somethin’ was up and got ready to sell out lives dearly, when the dead passed us, an ignored us…we saw the Death Wall fade and then scores of people came out of the Murk, human survivors… they was followed not long after by the Goddess and the Pillars and some other folks with them, and that’s when we hears this sound, like a voice or musical note, says one thing and that thing hangs in the air, growin’ in sound and meanin’, and then came the light… I saw the dead turnin to ashes and explodin’ where the light touched ‘em, an then the sound ended, though I can still hear it at quiet times in me memories…

“The light stayed for some hours and to you young un’s only ever known the real sun, it was a taste of what we’d been missin all our lives, like somethin’ warm and wonderful touchin yer face and healin’ ye…When we heard that it was an Angel called Korvuus, and he were apparently the most powerful one in the world who sacrificed his life and essence to do that and destroy the undead attackin’ the land, well, I tell ye I give praise every day for him and that soldierly thing he did, an if anyone says I’m comin’ over all Cantabrian about that, well, sod them…anyways, lookin back, where the Murk had been there was this crater you all know now as the Solaarus Lake, and no Undead anywhere to see… well, almost no undead… I know nobody believes me, but I tells you that in the aftermath, when we was helpin’ the civvies and others back to the GaartenKwarteer, me an my squad were patrolling, and I sees this one fella walkin down the street towards one o the holes in the wall…He were dressed like some Cassezan gunslinger an I thought it mighta been a friend or countryman o the Pillar Zeru, so I calls out a friendly greetin ta him afore I start to askin meself why do his footsteps sound like toppling tombstones and when he turns to look at me afore he goes, I tells you it was the coldest, mos’ pitiless stare I ever felt… maybe it was the fact I been so close to death for so long it made me attuned, but as he was walkin, I thought I saw the shades and shapes of hundreds, mebbe thousands o forms walkin in his wake and matchin his stride… with that stare and those 3 block pitted pistols on his person, I thought I was next an I could hardly move or shout to the squad nearby, but he turned and carried right on walkin, and all those dead walked right on with him… yup lass, I just spoke to The Black Whirlwind hisself, and lived to talk of it, and I don’t care who says I’m lyin’, I don’t…

“In the close aftermath o the Battle, there was time for the old King Maximillian (a great man and a great King, may he rest in the Goddess light) to hold a public gathering of praise and celebration, and we was gathered all near the Begeerstraat Church, an there he took a knee afore the Goddess and swore his faith, followed by all present… it were a special moment I can tell you, an it still makes me wet around me eyes when I recall it… he were also rewardin the Pillars ( the Goddess makes the Declaration of Conscience Address, you all know it), an he were handin’ out rewards and honours to the Pillars and the other heroes of the City, an that’s when that other famous occurrence happens, the comin’ o the Amarkachans, an THAT, my young newlyweds an other rapt listeners, is a story for another day… hmmm, that was thirsty work sir, howsabout another pint of Best, an I’ll consider carryin on?…”

All Friends and Kingdom Come
Back to Heidelgard

The Bright Raptor descends quickly to the sky beneath from its moorings, leaving behind those watching from the docks of the Isle, and it sets its course for the east and towards Heidelgard City. Conditions aboard can best be described as crowded, but all do their best to make do, with all aboard keen to aid the beleaguered Heidelens against the monstrous powers of Unlife and its nightmarish master The First Denied Soul.

On the 29th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The days from the 26th until the 29th are spent by the heroes in planning, deciding where they plan to go first. It is decided that visiting the Cantabrian Relief Force first may be wise, better to get the lay of the land and make contact with an ally who knows what has happened thus far. Wren will be set down a few miles from the Cantabrians (who seem to be 15 miles north of the city) and make her way there to scout and make contact, for as one of The Avaristrato she knows the codes to give and that her word will be treated as truth by the Cantabrian commanders. From there the intent is to see what the great host of Paladins, Cavaliers and other soldiery known as The Sworn of the Goddess are doing, for they are 20 miles north east of the city, having fought and marched their way south from Treest in a bold and disciplined manner since the heroes witnessed their saving of that town before the Bright Raptor headed first to the Isle. After that, the city, but first things first.

They approach the coast of Heidelgard in the early morning with columns of smoke from current and past fires on the coast and on the horizon, with the column of darkness that they know comes from the Murk in the city. Even though it is daylight, it seems overcast to the point of Dusk at all times, something that the Former Society Captain Malvolio ventures to be the prelude to what is described as a “Necropolis Level Event”.Course is adjusted to take them towards the Cantabrians, and the scenes of devastation in the farms, villages and small towns this close to the capital is heartbreaking, with most in smoking or burnt out ruins. The airship comes in lower and lands discretely 3 miles from the Cantabrians, with Wren alighting in her cloaked costume and departing. They wait for about 40 minutes before a flare comes up from the Cantabrian position, the signal for it being safe to approach.

The airship comes in and lands, seeing the organised bustle of the red and green uniformed Cantabrius soldiers making ready to march. There are 4 of the 6 airships still functioning, the other 2 lost in action. A cluster of officers accompanied by Wren await them and a landing party alights, consisting of Calliszia Myinarra, Fullica Atra, Geesje Van Kuipers, Jorik, Skal Dreissel, Zeru Otxoa and Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius. Calliszia has for now dispensed with the Hat of Disguise and her presence is met from the soldiery with awed and reverential chants of “Praise and Hail to the Seed” and other variants. It seems Cantabrian religious education was a little more heretical and well informed than the mainland.

As Calliszia moves amongst the soldiers, speaking with them and being seen, the officer commanding, General Rya Samarin greets them and in a tent advises them of the situation on the ground. They march by day, for the Undead as yet do not appear by day, and set a defended camp in the evening to defend at night from waves of Unlife. They hope to be at the city in 2 days or so. They have not been able to make any meaningful contact with the Host to their east, but are glad to hear it is the Paladins and their allies. The drone from Tisiphoni Bissara advises the General that help is on the way. The party are curious as to 3 unusual Staff Officers present in the tent, namely that 2 of them (a man and a woman) are Planetouched, with the man being a sword and armoured Tiefling with bestial legs and horns, and the woman with glowing topaz eyes and hair like spun gold. The third is a slight man who wears a uniform (like they all do) but carries a wand in one hand.

Their query is answered when the man uses Arcane Illusions to show images of the new Unlife threats, namely monstrous Undead now dubbed “Nightshades” who seem to appear when black lightning arcs out from the Murk and strikes an area. They come in many shapes, all are huge and extremely dangerous and the advice for the party is to steer clear if at all possible. Other threats are living people who have been encountered who seemingly serve the Great Evil, using deception, assassination and sabotage to commit acts of treachery; all encountered thus far have been fanatics, unafraid of death, and only given to say one thing, “Life is fleeting, Death is Forever”. The party gain some other useful information about proceedings, and are given the escort until evening of the Cantabrian Air-Frigate “Memory of Saints”. The party return to the ship, saying farewell to Wren who will stay with her own people to aid and advise; she hopes to see them on the other side of the struggle, and she is thanked for her assistance.

The Bright Raptor and its escort head across the wartorn countryside towards the long snaking line of cavalry, wagons and infantry that comprise the Sworn of the Goddess. As they approach it becomes clear that this great host sings as it marches, hymns adapted to praise the Goddess they now serve. As the airships come lower, it is seen that the host stops in good order, with swivel guns and wagon mounted cannon brought to bear in readiness against trouble. This wariness abruptly vanishes when Calliszia jumps off the prow of the Bright Raptor and as the falls, unfurls her wings and flies towards the vanguard of the army, followed by the Raptor (their escort starts a circular patrol about 500 feet up about them).

The scenes from the Sworn are of great awe, religious fervour and passionate cries of “Goddess!” and “Praise to Her!” amongst other things. The airship lands about 100 feet from the Vanguard as Calliszia circles the van once and lands amidst the massed soldiery there. The landing party from the Raptor is met by a band of Paladins, amongst them Jorik is delighted to see his old friend Vulkir Haaskirden, a little more grizzled than last time but still a cheery and happy man. They chat as the party is led to where a great circle of the Sworn are gathered around Calliszia, who is in conversation with the 3 leaders of the Sworn, all the while songs and cries are heard from the masses around. Geesje asks Vulkir after her own Paladin friend Ardia ven Tuyko, and is happy to hear that Ardia lives and is the Senior Adjutant in the Baggage train, also commanding the Rearguard. Ardia shell be sent for, Geesje is happy to hear.

Meanwhile, the party make the acquaintance of the formidable Lady Ysbet Koryull, commanding the Infantry and Artillery Corps; the dashing and exceptionally gallant Chevalier Alain de Vassi-Darra commanding the Cavalry, and finally the legendary Arnaud de Valuac, regarded by almost everyone who knows such things as the “Greatest of the Great Captains”, who is Commander in Chief of the Sworn. Illustrious company, but all showing reverence and devotion to Calliszia, and no little respect to what the party now hear amongst the masses as “The Five Pillars”.

As Calliszia walks amongst the gathered soldiers and Geesje catches up with the newly arrived Ardia, the party and the clockwork drone retreat to a hastily thrown up tent to talk, and there are briefed on the Sworn and also able to coordinate with De Valuac and his staff over the coming liberation of Heidelgard. Tisi’s voice is heard through the drone, and between her and De Valuac determine a sound enough strategy for when she arrives, but it is made clear that any of Tisi’s fallen are NOT to be looted, as any who try to steal from her and hers WILL be slain. De Valuac understands this and this quietly spoken man impresses all with his commanding way, different to most officers they have encountered thus far.

With the day wearing on past midday, the party must make haste to do what they can in the city, for like the Cantabrians (who will stay in touch with the Sworn to coordinate) they advise that to be airborne alone at night is extremely dangerous and to be landed amongst allies by evening is most advisable. The party take their leave of the Sworn, as Jorik and Geesje take their leave of their friends and as the massed Sworn resume their march, they send the Bright Raptor off with Hymns and cheers and many a helm and soldiers hat brandished and thrown in the air.

The Raptor heads directly towards the city, and the sight of its once proud walls breached in several places and the rise of smoke is bad enough, but this close, the sight of the Murk and the colossal towering darkness that completely surrounds it is enough to inspire awe at what Evil has wrought. The city north of the river is in disarray, with dead strewn in the streets, smoking ruins and occasional figures moving, possibly survivors but also possibly “otherwise”. Heading straight towards the DeiHuus Cathedral in the Raalskheer district, they see it still holds out, with musket armed troops in the windows and towers, pike and polearm troops at the great barricades and other signs of a vigorous defence. The main bell tower has its roof fortified and is the obvious point to use as a landing tower, and coming in the see by spyglass that none other than Peter Sondus is using one to look back at them. Coming in to land and having a broad gangplank placed, the landing party are gladly met by a worn faced but otherwise Sondus.

He leads them through the Cathedral, talking about what has happened since, as soldiers keep crowds back from gawping at the newcomers; many civilians, foreigners and others who lived north of the river, watch and others took refuge in the cathedral Sondus explains, and to indicate this, Musketeers of the Order of the Lion are seen, part of the Serroyan Embassy. When asked, the party are told that Ruprecht Schalko is still alive and leading the fight here, though missing an eye and being disfigured one one side of his face in his victory over the Undead Whale that had been a big part of the waterborne threat. They are led to main office area of Bishop Hieronus Adelmar who is currently planning defence and strategy in a roomful of other senior defenders. The Bishop is girt for war in his armoured robes, a sword at his waist. He is glad to see them, but when Calliszia removes her Hat of Disguise, his example sends all the others present to take a knee and give praise.

The Bishop advises that the only known holdout points north of the river are here at the cathedral and also stiff resistance seems to be happening at The Kaastig University. Most of the survivors in the city have retreated back to the GaartenKwarteer, which has become as like a fortress as they can make it. Carnage north of the river began on the lead up to the departure of the Bright Raptor with a lone gunman attacking the Glass Parliament whilst it was in session, swearing in new members of parliament. The KIng was present, but some brave souls managed to spirit him and some of the cabinet who survived, though casualties of the Parliament were over 50% by the time of the mysterious and unstoppable gunslingers departure (Xeru winces at this, for he knows who this can only be). The gunslinger was last seen heading in to the Murk.

There was an attack of some kind at the Palace as well later that evening, but the Bishop has been able to glean little from that. His warnings of traitors is also made, but here, with Inquisitors like Schalko and surprisingly the Serroyan Aveline de Criede and her Acquitants, they have managed to root out all who had tried to work their mischief in the Cathedral. The presence of their Goddess (the Bishop has been publicly preaching the new Goddess to all present since the start of the troubles) is also a great boon and blessing to morale. Captain Malvolio will remain here with half his Marines to aid in the defence, something that is very well received by the Bishop.

The party get more information, but they have only a few hours of daylight left (such as it is) and must soon make for the University before they can make for their last stop at the BegeerStraat Church. With this in mind, they pay a visit to Schalko, currently training recruits and militia in the central quad areas. Seeing him up close is shocking and heartbreaking, for his disfigured face, empty eyesocket and half his hair missing is bad enough, it is the look in his one remaining eye of a man who has been through so much in his time, and still accepts and is prepared to give all that remains of himself to his race and his goddess in the faint hopes it is enough. The look on Sondus’ face about his friends condition is hidden well, but the perceptive see his sorrow for Schalkos suffering is almost too much to bear.

Schalko wishes them well and if he does not see them again in this life, he hopes they meet again in the next. He has a few private words with Calliszia before the party leave, and she touches his scarred countenance lightly before joining the party. Guards help clear a way to the airship, for Calliszia appears to have caused an upsurge in devotion and morale by her appearance, but soon they are aloft again and heading towards the University as the day draws on.

They alight at the highest tower of the University, which seems to have deployed its defences against attackers and the signs of a resilient and ingenious defence by students and faculty (along with what seems a great many refugees) are in evidence. A day for off reunions continues as none other than Hieronius Bleek greets them in his calm and slightly distant manner, leading them to their leader. It turns out an attack occurred at a faculty meeting on the same day as the attacks on the Parliament and the Palace, and amongst the survivors was the strong willed if waspish Dahila Huytens who has been placed in nominal charge of the University until proper procedures can be commenced.

She is pleased (if that is the word) that Fullica has returned and with good news. For her part, she explains to Fullicas obvious displeasure that the attack on the University was by Brandt and a host of shadowy undead he commanded. It also appears that the return to a stricken Heidelgard by the notoriously self serving Bleek may have been something to do with Dahila, judging by the back and forth between the pair (spite social cutting with a touch of affection). Dahila is advised of the likely existence of Laeo Tannhauser, his arrival on The Isle of Kellestine and what it is he exactly wishes on his return, namely the body of the Elven Woman preserved in the Proscribed Materials Wing. Some more information is passed, and Dahila is probably happy that the remaining former Society marines are alighting here to aid in the defence. With daylight fast departing and just over an hour left to go before nightfall, the party say their goodbyes and alight for the last stop and ending point of their return to Heidelgard; next stop, The BegeerStraat Church

The Power of Conviction
Our heroes head home

On the 25th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The party wake in the morning and busy themselves in preparation, for it is not long in the morning when Tisiphoni Bissara requests their presence in her Solar in time to see the appearance of the Dreadnought “Conviction” in the scrying mirrors, a couple of miles out but closing upon the Island. It’s 2 escort frigates, normally docked at its side are in advance, and the full compliment of 8 Stormrider airships in escort of them. All watch as the small flotilla of vessels approach, and as the 2 frigates start a slow patrol of the island, the Stormriders scout over the forest, unknowing of the Palace and the House of Seren which are both hidden by powerful illusions.

After an hour of scouting, the Conviction comes in closer and makes to dock at the Tower of the Observatory on the northern hill, much as the Bright Raptor did before. Society Marines alight upon the top of the tower, making a beachhead, and the advance of them makes their organized and careful way down the stairs. Earlier, the incorrigible Devil Kyssamon and his stooge The Imprint made ready in the original summoning room the party met him in, with the fake Orb of Dragons; the Orb is a superb forgery with a special surprise within courtesy of the Alchemist Seren, namely it will explode in a fearsome conflagration if it detects anyone of sufficient magical rank or power nearby but until then it shall frustrate and tease any who try to make it work.

The party watch with interest as Kyssamon waits patiently in the room, the Orb just behind him on a pedestal whilst the Imprint fades into invisibility and out of sight. The first Society scouts peer around the corner into the room and are surprised and horrified to see the Fiend, and the party see one soldier say something that annoys the Devil over his shoulder to their officer (no sound as it is the scrying mirror, but they can imagine he’s just called Kyssamon a Demon). The officer and the young Heart Priest speak first to the Mandratine officer watching from up the stairs who seems to urge them on, and at that the Marines rush into the room to engage Kyssamon. It all goes terribly wrong for them as Kyssamon proceeds to slaughter 10 of them with ease, using his frightfully sharp whiplike contracts and wicked horns whilst his arms are folded; the Imprint ambushes the young Priest who is poisoned by the Imps tail, and the soldiers are forced into a retreat. The Devil slowly kills a wounded soldier whilst mocking or insulting him as they go.

The officer still lives and seems to refuse to lead a new attack (lack of soldiers). The impasse is broken at the arrival of a man in the Uniform of a Mandratine General who also wears Inquisitor Insignia; this would be the formidable Lord Ruthann Sepharian, the leader of this expedition and a very hard man indeed. He moves contemptuously past the Marines and walks alone into the room, drawing his sword as he goes, and he makes a beeline straight for Kyssamon whose own eyes narrow, spotting a major threat when he sees one.

The battle between Devil and Mandratine is ferocious, and it is soon apparent that Kyssamon is not needing to act in losing, as the man beats him back in a display of matter of fact skill and discipline, so much so that when Sepharians sword impales the Devil, it is no act when Kyssamon shows great pain and distress. With a great blast of fire at this point the Devil vanishes, leaving a smouldering room and a slightly smoking Sepharian. One of the pools in the Solar shows Kyssamon appearing in a clearing a mile from the palace (Teleportation), in quite a momentary rage before composing himself and moving quietly and carefully to the palace, silencing an annoying Imprint as he goes with a hand around the throat.

Sepharian sends soldiers to investigate the rest of the tower whilst he waits near the Orb. A Man in the Crimson of a Cardinal arrives from the Conviction, and is recognised by Jorik and Bernie Ven Gillandersas none other than Cardinal Robus Truppmann, the Cardinal of Heidelgard City and most senior clergyman of the country of Heidelgard (until the Society was expelled that is). The Cardinal is gestured by Sepharian towards the Orb, and Fullica Atra is surprised (and angered) by Truppmann using an Arcane spell of Identification on the Orb. The Cardinal nods at the General, who gives orders for the Orb to be packed up carefully and taken back aboard the Conviction. All in the Solar are disgruntled at the hypocrisy of the Society using Arcanism, but note the tension between the Mandratines and the Society Marines, and that Sepharian is openly contemptuous of the Society officers.

Also of note is that though the Conviction and other ships seem to be making ready to depart, the 140 Society Marines are being offloaded with supplies, no doubt to secure the island for the time being.The CO of the Marines, a stocky Varrunnan seems to return the lack of regard to the Mandratines, and as the Conviction flies off with its now attached and docked lesser vessels, the Society Marines set about making the tower their base.

The Solar is now aflame with talk and planning, and it becomes clear that the Marines are no match at all for what the party and the Island can send to kill them, and it is soon decided that if these possibly disillusioned soldiers can be convinced of the evils of the Society they serve and the Holiness of Calliszia Myinarra then more allies can be made and fewer souls sent to the beyond that might strengthen the First Denied.

Waiting until the Conviction is far away (heading due south, oddly enough), the greeting party is decided upon. It shall be Geesje Van Kuipers, Zeru Otxoa, Skal Dreissel, Calliszia, Fullica, Jorik and some soldiers under Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius. Rovhannan Magnarravax in human form will also be along as will be the hidden person of Wren just in case. It is towards the end of the day before they set off, and during the day of watching the Marines they see that a cremation is being planned for the funeral of their fallen. As the daylight fades and the greeting party makes their way towards the observatory on the hill under a flag of truce they are not sure what may happen.

They are seen by sentries as they approach, just before the pyres are lit, and the strong mild tones of the Adjutant-Major carry out as he is in the lead in full uniform. He is greeted courteously by the Captain of the Marines (the Varrunnan) and bid to stop with still 50 feet between the 2 groups. The two exchange civilities (they are gentleman after all), though it is still tense. A towering Master Sergeant stands next to the Captain as the matter comes to the crunch. The captain asks what it is the parley is for, and Sivennius says calmly and matter of factly that the Marines are outmatched, but that a young lady (indicates Calliszia who has come forward) wishes to speak to them before any action or fighting breaks out.

Calliszia asks the Captain and his officers if they have read The Engelmann Prophecies, and when by some awkward looks are the answer, she removes the Hat of Disguise and stands before all in her true form. The glow that quietly swells out from her is also matched by the power of her presence and when she flexes her wings slowly (the better to be seen), a pin could be heard to drop on that hillside. The greeting party all sink to their knees (some surprised soldiers of the 10th need to be encouraged by Sivennius), and a long moment passes as the Marines watching on are still.

It is the towering Sergeant who acts first, taking a knee and bowing his head, followed by other soldiers. The Varrunnan Captain is caught by surprise, and it is his Captain-Doctor who restores control by bidding the greeting party to come up to the top of the hill. As Calliszia moves amongst the reverent and surprised Marines ( a small number are restrained by their fellows including the 3rd lieutenant before they can react badly), the party speak to the Varrunnan Captain and his Doctor. They are Captain Malvolio Maldonaldi and Sub-Captain Bettani Caresco, (the towering Sergeant is Aalbert Green), and it transpires that they are all disillusioned by the recent conduct of the Society, especially after hearing about Society atrocities committed in The Marcher Principalities witnessed by some of the returned company sharpshooter teams who had been temporarily seconded to ground service. The sinister conduct of the Mandratines aboard the ship didn’t help either, along with the other oddities, like the departure of the Paladins and their subsequent hollow sounding denunciation by Society higher ups.

The funeral is resumed, conducted by an awestruck and moved young priest who Calliszia had some kind and inspirational words for. The Marines are given until the following morning to come to grips with the new situation, and the greeting party head back to the Palace, though Sivennius goes ahead to prepare the soldiers and crew there for Calliszias real appearance, especially the pious Corporal Pieter Goossens . Goossens comes around as do the others, though it was harder for him given his beliefs, but after he is spoken to by Calliszia, he seems to find the adjustment a little easier.

The rest of the evening is made for preparations for departure on the next day, for the Bright Raptor and its people would be best to act as a vanguard and warning to the defenders of Heidelgard about the imminent arrival of a flying island of allied constructs. The surprise appearance of Korvuus that evening (it comes as a shock to Kyssamon to come face to face with a Solar Angel, let alone THAT Solar) is also of note. He has come to advise them that the only way for the defeat of the Undead assault and conquest on Heidelgard is for the Murk to be entered by the 5 Pillars and Calliszia, and once inside and at the right time for Korvuus to be summoned by the use of The Silver Storm of Birds carried by Skal. No other ensouled beings can cross the Murks threshold and live, and even Korvuus cannot cross it due to the powerful magics erected by the dominated Master Constant.

Throughout Korvuus’ brief visit, Calliszia (whom he had spoken to privately earlier) is seemingly sad and unhappy though trying to mask it. Korvuus departs as mysteriously as he arrived, though something in his manner and his words indicate that the next time they meet will be of great importance. The rest of the evening is a relaxing one once the preparations are in place to leave.

On the 26th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The morning is dealt with, with the great majority of the Marines opting to join the party aboard their ship for the return to Heidelgard and the fight against the evils attacking it. About 10 are zealots who are kept as prisoners on the Island by Tisi. Tisi for her part is sending a small flying ensouled drone to act as her envoy and voice. Kyssamon and the Imprint (both kept out of sight from the Marines) will remain on the Island, though there was little chance that Tisi would let him free to be a nuisance to the unwary (the rest of humanity to be frank).

A very full ship indeed with all the Marines aboard, and as the ship prepares to depart, they can see Tisi standing looking at them from the dock, and the enigmatic figure of Seren stood next to her. It is still fresh in the partys minds, especially Fullica’s, what Calliszia had said the previous night after Korvuus’ had departed; that Seren is most likely Laeo Tannhauser, the founder of The Kaastig University and also the First-Father all Alchemists and the creator of Alchemy. Fullica has a better idea than most what his capabilities are most likely to be, and all are under no illusion that he is no less dangerous than Tisi, and definitely more unpredictable…

The Ballad of Mallad'Fal
Fal fell man, Fal fell...

The party head out to greet the arrival of Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius, and he relays the tale of what has happened to the Bright Raptor since the party last saw it. The previous night they had set themselves in a low mooring, the better to watch the Palace, when the ship was attacked by something, a winged manlike monster that threw a ball of fire at the ship causing a fire, and when the crew were fighting the blaze, the creature attacked, killing 3 crew and injuring many, including Sivennius who tried to protect his people from it. It looked like a darkly handsome man with great batlike wings, and when it abruptly fled, it grabbed a soldier, one Trooper Rinatta Witt, before flying off with her. The being was inhumanly fast, lightning quick and absolutely outmatching everyone on the ship. In fact, Sivennius believes it could easily have slain the ships compliment, yet chose to flee with a prisoner, and he believes it is more like a lure to draw people to chase it. Though it grieved him to watch the monster flee with his soldier, he felt it more prudent to see to the ship and then seek out the party in the morning to seek help and advice.

The prevailing view is that he did the right thing, but the party are still a little exhausted from their recent endeavours, and they will organise a rescue attempt for the following morning. In the meantime, Calliszia Myinarra, escorted by Jorik and Rovhannan Magnarravax (who is still in his human disguise) wishes to go to the ship and help heal the injured and do what she can for them. The trio accompany Sivennius back to the airship and commence healing. Jorik notes a thoughtful look on Calliszia’s face and he accompanies her to the hold where the bodies of the fallen 3 are laid, awaiting service and funerary rites. With Rovhannan doing what he can above decks (dodging questions about who he is largely), the pair stand before the 3 dead soldiers, all slain by precise and powerful spear wounds. Calliszia, suddenly done with her internal thoughts, steps forward and with a surge of divine power that surprises and awes Jorik, lays a hand on the brow of one soldier and with a great push of energy, seems to drag the soul back into the man, who needs to be restrained by Jorik until he falls into a deep natural sleep. Calliszia, moving swiftly, does the same for the other 2, until all 3 are sleeping deeply, injured but alive and healing. There was no fanfare, not any great noise, yet Jorik appears to have been the sole witness of a miracle not seen in Accitaine for over 500 years. Calliszia seems drained and tired from this, and Jorik helps her to sit down.

Sivennius is called down by Jorik and his astonished gratitude at the return of his fallen soldiers is touching. He is able to break the news of the saving of the 3 to the crew who are told that the 3 were not dead, but gravely injured and cursed. This may not hold up to scrutiny in the long term, but for now it will do. Once the ships compliment are healed as best they can be, Calliszia, Jorik and Rovhannan are ready to return, however it is relayed to them that a docking berth within the Palace has been arranged, and the ship takes off, guided to the underside of the island and up into a great cavern beneath the palace where it can be tethered. The crew are dumbfounded by the industry displayed by the Clockworks as they go about their relentless work, and most elect to remain on the ship for now (probably wise).

The day passes, rest is had, and in the evening the party, Sivennius, Rovhannan, Tisiphoni Bissara, Wren and even Kyssamon all gather in the Solar of the Clockwork Queen to discuss the plan of action regarding Mallad’Fal and the abducted trooper. The rescue attempt will be made in 3 parts it is eventually decided, with the soldiers under Sivennius, aided by the presence of Jorik and Rovhannan (still in disguise) acting as a lure to draw out as many Demons as possible. At the same time, Kyssamon and The Imprint will draw out more from another direction (Kyssamon knows that the chance for Demons to kill a Devil like him will be too much to pass up), hopefully making things easier for the 3rd party, made up of Fullica Atra, Geesje Van Kuipers, Skal Dreissel, Zeru Otxoa, Calliszia and Wren will approach hidden from the west of the island to the Summering Palace where the Demons lair. They shall enter, find and rescue Witt (assuming she yet lives) and hopefully put an end to Mallad’Fal. Rovhannan is also asked if he can destroy the magical device that bars the entry of constructs to the Palace, once the Palace has been liberated.

With this plan in place, they all rest for the remains of the day, though Fullica and Zeru start hatching a plan to fool their Society pursuers in the “Conviction”, a plan that will require the aid of Tisi and Seren in the creation of a fake Orb of Dragons…

On the 24th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The morning comes, and as preparations are made, Sivennius and Jorik lead their party off west into the forest, as Kyssamon heads north-west; by dint of a ride on the backs of the 3 Clockwork Dragons, the rescue party flies out the underside of the island and is deposited on the island west of the Summering Palace (a bracing ride not for the faint-hearted). The party decides that the effectively invisible Wren shall act as scout, going ahead and spying out trouble and opportunity. They approach slowly, and as the first sounds of distant musket fire are heard, make a quicker way forward. They then hear the loud carrying voice of Kyssamon, jeering at the Demons and offering them scant regard,. The party wait a little longer, and when convinced that both diversions are working, enter.

The ruins of the great and once grand Summering Palace (a onetime retreat for Kellestine and Tisi) are impressive, even in its current state. Wren creeps ahead scouting, staying in touch with the Message stone, when suddenly the party note there is no word from her. Concerned, Geesje creeps ahead and in a large domed cavernous room she sees the sight of what appears to be a remarkably well detailed statue of Wren crouched down at a crack in the opposite wall. She also notes the chilling sight of a huge spiderlike creature, hanging upside down in the shadowy corner of the room. The thing is the size of a mythical elephant, and Geesje relays this back to the party. Pooling their planar knowledge, they arrive at the realisation it is either a Bebilith (very bad) or a Retriever (very bad too). Not wanting to spend their strength too soon on fighting something that bad, they surmise that they can do nothing for Wren at the moment and carry on looking, this time with Geesje on point.

The party still hear the sounds of battle outside, however the next alarming thing is a chase from a huge Demon called a Nalfeshnee, with the party wisely trying to escape it, for it is a malign and powerful threat they do not wish to fight. They lose it for now in the undertunnels where stores and servants used to dwell and work, and following it, they come out into the centre of the Palace, a huge courtyard with 100 foot tall walled windows enclosing it. Once a place of ornate and beautiful gardens and water features, it is now a foul and filthy place that Demons have laired in for centuries, and the worst thing seen is the figure of Trooper Witt, almost naked and bloody, suspended by chains about 80 feet up in the air. All is quiet here, and as they come out of the tunnel, they hear a deep and malevolent voice gleefully greeting them. Turning, they see the Nalfeshnee, who has correctly guessed where they would come out. “I have you no…” is as far as the great beast can say, before a blur of gold scales, wings, tooth and claws barrels into the back of the Demon and Rovhannan and the Nalfeshnee plow through a wall nearby and the sounds of a far ranging and savage battle begins out of sight.

Jorik also trots into view just now (he had ridden in on the back of the Dragon so as to join his friends), and united, they see what can be done for Witt. Calliszia and Fullica fly up to see if they can free the much abused soldier, and as they are working at her chains, a blindingly fast blur flies past the pair, with Calliszia taking a nasty spear wound in her side. Fullica catches a good look at the assailant, and judging by his tattooed wings, darkly handsome features and form (he truly is a looker), this is indeed Mallad’Fal. He flies out of sight into the warren and rookeries of the ruined walls about them, with those on the ground watching the sky warily with whatever missile weapons they have at the ready.

The Demon greets them, his voice echoing about the impromptu arena, and lobs a fireball at those on the ground, burning some and forcing them for cover. He fires magic missiles at some and with his amazing speed he flies above them, darting down to stab them and hurt them. This would have been problematic, as ranged weapons thus far seem to be doing little, when the cocky Incubus flies a little too low and Zeru, thinking fast, uses his whip to ensnare a wing of the Demon, forcing it to land. Even now, Mallad’Fal is arrogant and not seeing the danger he is in as he lays about him with his Longspear, gleefully hurting any he can. His tone changes when Jorik, armed with his Paladin zeal and more importantly the sword Herald, charges up and delivers a great smite against the Demon, who is terribly wounded by this. Fullica and Calliszia have also flown in, with Fullica using her Haste extract to aid the party and Calliszia healing and also using Holy Smite magic to further harm the no longer cocky Demon. He tries to fly away again, but an inspired bit of whipwork from Zeru and some grappling from Skal further impedes the escape of the Demon, and the monsters reign of terror on the island is ended when a hasted Jorik steps in a slaughters the demon, cutting it in half.

All goes quiet for a moment, when a loud “phtoo” sound is heard and the head of the Nalfeshnee is spat into the courtyard. Rovhannan in human form walks in shortly after as Witt is freed from her chains and Calliszia applies healing to the barely alive woman. Rovhannan seems to look around a moment and changing into dragon form as he breaks into a run, he bounds through the ruins, and the brief sounds of battle are heard. He returns a minute of 2 later, carefully holding the statue of Wren in his claws. He has just killed the Retriever and is sure that Tisi can reverse the stone effect on Wren. At this point Kyssamon walks in with a pair of Dretch demons writhing their last on his back horns, asking if prisoners are to be interrogated. When told not, he casually slays the pair of creatures and seems well pleased with his days work. Indeed, The Imprint has the head of a Quasit dangling by a rope and also looks smug for want of a better word. Once the magical device prohibiting the presence of constructs has been destroyed, a flood of Clockworks enter, starting the long work of cleaning and restoring the Summering Palace.

The party meet up with Sivennius and the troops who have no fatalities though numerous injuries (the aid of Jorik and Rovhannan avoided deaths to be sure), and all consider the business of the day to have went well. All could do with rest and getting healed and cleaned up, and the disparate band make their way back to the Palace of Blossoming-Steel.

The day passes well, with Calliszia healing and comforting Trooper Witt and the 3 newly raised Soldiers, and as the day wears on, the plans to create a forgery of the Orb of Dragons starts to take shape, as Tisi announces that she is starting the job of dispersing the protective storm about the island, for she wishes to show them all what has been happening back on the mainland recently. Using her scrying pools, she shows them the ongoing siege of Heidelgard City, its valiant defenders now forced within the walls by hordes of Undead who come out only at night. Dead lie strewn in the streets, as the party see the individual heroics of their comrades left behind and the ordinary Heidelens alike. They see the force of Cantabrians who are marching and fighting their way towards the city, with 2 of their airships already destroyed in the battles so far, and the inspiring sight of the same army of paladins, cavaliers, volunteers and faithful who came to the aid of Treest now moving towards the endangered capital. This force of thousands, seemingly named The Sworn of the Goddess, appears led by 3 figures. One is a hardbitten Paladin woman in former Society emblazoned armour, another is a handsome man in the Knight-Commander armour of the Order of the Star (the religious Cavalier order) and the last is recognisable to Fullica, for she has seen statues and paintings of this man, for he is none other than Duc Arnaud de Valuac, the former Grand-Marshall of the Serroyan Armed forces and revered national hero of Serroya, the Greatest of the Great Captains. He appears to be commanding the host with the other 2 his Generals, and his presence on the battlefield is deemed by many to be worth 50,000 men alone.

This is a moment of good cheer, before the magical images change and show the horrific sights of what is transpiring in the east of The Free Midland Duchies. where Society soldiers of The Fourth Legion of the Hand have great camps filled with prisoners and captives, and seem to be systematically torturing and starving people to death in great pits where hundreds are crowded in. This hellish sight appals all who see it, and the cruel and callous way this is being done by the Society shocks with its machinelike efficiency.

Tisi says that due to some magical interference she can see no further east than the borders of the Duchies, and whatever is going on in Serroya, Toralden, Varrunna and other easterly territories and nations thus far remains a mystery. All have their resolve hardened by being reminded what it is they are fighting for, for it is now (and always has been) a fight of humanity against extinction by evil without limit or pity, and all feel the fire of yearning to go home and fight.

are doing it for themselves

The party look up at the magnificent sight of Rovhannan Magnarravax, and it is humbling how much dignity and fortitude is displayed by the noble Dragon as he is pierced and ensnared by many barbed, spiked and bladed chains. He indicates that the great spire in the distance is where The Sisters of Agonizing Compliance are located, and that he would have aided them if he could, but he is somewhat disadvantaged for now. Calliszia Myinarra has removed her Hat of Disguise (in case it gets damaged) and flies up to be face to face with the Dragon, and placing her hands upon his great head seems to send a pulse of energy from her into him that seems to alleviate his suffering somewhat, to his touched and grateful thanks.

With that, the party cast spells and drink extracts as their abilities dictate, for time is frozen here and any spell with a duration beyond instant operates indefinitely. They start the long trudge towards the spire, passing through gloomy and psychologically depressing landscapes of marsh, fen and mist, leaving the dragon behind. It seems like many hours (though time is irrelevant here) but the spire draws closer, and it itself is horrible. Seemingly carved or erected out of bone, it is riddled with holes of varying sizes, and through each one writhes a perpetually rattling and slithering chain of barbs, blades and spikes. The spire is wide, maybe 100 feet in diameter, and there appears to be one entrance at ground level, yawing open like a sinister maw, inviting their entry.

The party enter, and the inside is worse, with horrific viscera, spongy tissue platforms and muscle, sinew and bone criss crossing and supporting the insides. All in all, foul. They can also hear, just on the threshold of hearing, the screams and cries of hundreds, maybe thousands of voices, mostly in languages that cannot be recognised. Over these voices, they can hear a slight running conversation by 3 husky and alluring voices that only Fullica Atra can understand (with her Comprehend Languages extract running). The voices are discussing the divvying up of the party between 3 female sounding voices, and the various ways the voices plan to start their fun with them. Fullica doesn’t relay the specifics as they are exceptionally graphic and horrible to recount, but she does indicate it is for the best that the party prevail.

They start walking up and climbing the platforms and walkways (for want of a better word), and the ascent is gruesome, with ramps like tongues extending to allow higher progress, and each step underfoot seems to cause harm and pain to the tissue beneath. The party finally come to a 50 foot diameter platform a few hundred feet up, and here is where their journey comes to an end, for the way up is halted by no platforms and strings of arteries, viscera and worse blocking the way up beyond this platform. The voices are now audible to all, speaking in a way all can understand, and at this point the party decide to say aloud the 3 names they were given; Kedda, Giira, Lictor.

With a disappointed coo of displeasure the 3 Kytonic Sisters appear, suspended 30 feet above the ground on chains, and immediately start to attack the party with painful barbed chains that pierce flesh and cause incredibly agonizing pain. Fullica wastes little time and, using the command word, releases the occupant of the Iron Flask she bears, and with a hiss of smoke and a boom, a horrific sight appears, towering over the party at 18 feet high. The malevolence of the creature is instantly apparent, and some recognise (from reading the Verses) that this is a Glabrezu, a dangerous Demon from the Abyss (it appears Comatko was free with his evil summonings). Before it can do anything, Fullica commands it to attack the Kytons and, after surveying its new surroundings with a malicious and knowing look in its eyes, it says “I serve…for now”.

With battle fully joined, the party use their wiles and strength to fight the Kytons (aided significantly by the bound Demon), and one by one the Kytons fall to their bows, axes, spells and bombs, though the Demon does take a chunk out of Zeru Otxoa as the Gunslinger rushes past for better position on a sister (it has not been told to avoid attacking the party, Fullica suddenly warns all). The sisters seem to enjoy the pain they receive as much as that they give, and as the last one falls with a joyous shriek, all seems to go quiet. The Demon starts to laugh in a cruel and amused manner, and the party note that maybe 150 feet or so above them there is a pulsating dark red glow, whilst below the tower seems to be changing, tissue knitting together into the innards and insides of a great beast that the spire is becoming. Instructing the Demon to stay where it is and do nothing, the party start to climb up the strands and viscera as quickly as they can, for it looks like death to allow the spires changes coming swiftly from below to catch up with them.

The climb is arduous and tricky, but the party manage to achieve a 30 foot wide platform where the pulsating glow is located, and suspended on great arteries, veins and viscera is a great beating heart, foul and horrid to look on. Far up in the distance, maybe 200 feet or so, is an opening into the external gloom, and with Fullica (who can fly with her extract) and winged Calliszia staying behind to attack the heart with spell and bomb, the rest start their escape, climbing up towards the exit, which seems to be a great fanged maw. The tower is moving about now, writhing and undulating as it comes to life, and the climb is hard for Zeru, Geesje Van Kuipers, Jorik and Skal Dreissel, especially when the spells and bombs of Calliszia and Fullica respectively start to damage the heart, almost causing Geesje to plummet to her doom. As the climbers manage to make it to the mouth itself and they cling to the great column like teeth of the being, the heart suddenly gives out to the assault, and explodes. The 2 flyers race up and the tower seems to go rigid before teetering.

It looks grim for the non flyers for they are now about 500 feet or more above the ground and any fall is likely to be fatal, but the sharp eyed see something golden and fast racing towards them on great beating wings, and the Dragon, still injured but free of his chains, alights beside them, his great claws finding purchase on the carapace of the spire. He bids the non flyers to get on and hold on, and as the last gets on his great back, he kicks away from the collapsing tower. The 3 flyers and the ones they bear fly away, watching the spire collapse like a chimney, with gore and filth exploding from it where it hits the ground. At this point, they all feel a wrenching and stretching sensation happening to them, and in the disorienting moments and seconds that follow, they hear the sounds of battle, coming to their senses in time to see a troop of Clockworks including Soldiers and the Goliath dispatching the Glabrezu. They are back in the Throne room of the Palace of Blossoming-Steel they see, all surrounded by silently watching clockworks and an impassive Tisiphoni Bissara .Bernie Ven Gillanders and Wren are also nearby, looking in awe at the sight of a Golden Dragon, surveying the surrounding area.

It seems mere moments have passed in the real world though hours have passed in the Orb (which has disintegrated into fine dust), though judging by the state of gory disarray the party are in, they have had quite a time. The party still have a morning to play with and divert themselves in different ways, getting washed, resting and so on. Rovhannan seems to spend quite some time speaking to Calliszia, whilst Zeru asks a Clockwork Guide if the Firges would be permitted to take the time to make him one (or even two) double barrelled pistols. Geesje asks after arrows, and Skal rests with Jorik. The party also start wondering about a plan to create a fake Orb of Dragons that they can have passed to the Society to throw them off the trail and distract them.

They also note that the charismatic Devil Kyssamon and The Imprint are free to wander now, though under license and escorted by a guard of Clockwork Soldiers and Clockwork Spies at all time. Tisi advises that he is “still in a circle, though it is a larger one”.

Just after midday, Tisi requests the party to come to her at her Solar, and inside they see a room full of mirrors, clear pools and little else. This is her Scrying area, and she can see what goes on in the world through her spells (from the pools) and her Clockwork Spies (the Mirrors). Currently, a mirror is showing an image of what seems to be Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius walking towards the Palace. He is injured it seems, with one arm in a sling and the other holding a stick with a white flag. It would seem that things have been occurring at the Bright Raptor in their absence…

Look to your Orb for the warning

Tisiphoni Bissara leads the party down through the corridors in the interior of the Palace, passing constructs and clockworks going about their business with a surety and purpose that would be unnatural in living things, until she arrives at a vault door guarded by a quartet of Iron Golems that come to attention at her approach. The vault door opens into series of other doors with similar guards and defences until the 4th door opens out into a vault crammed with innumerable chests, podiums bearing items and curiosities and piles of jewels and coin from many different long lost lands. As the party are led towards the centre of the vault, they see there a podium with 3 items upon it; one is a Staff of polished dark wood shod in iron that seems to thrum with power even to those ignorant of magical matters, the other is a fine ring of mithral and gold bands that sits upon a small pillow, and the last and most ominous is a small globe about 8 inches in circumference, seemingly made from some black crystal or glass and shot through with slowly swirling golden flecks of colour.

Advising the rest to stay back and touch nothing (even here the vault is guarded by defences that will act before Tisi can call them off), the Clockwork Queen invites Fullica Atra, as the only Draconic speaker, to step forward and join her on the podium beside the black orb. Indicating to place her fingertips to the orb surface when bidden, Tisi places her own elegantly tapering mithral fingers to the orbs surface, and it seems to react immediately, the glowing golden flecks swirling a little quicker and brighter even as the blackness of the orb seems to deepen and intensify. At a nod from Tisi, Fullica places her own fingertips to the crystal and immediately feels the power from the Orb sending heat into her hand. Tisi calls out in Draconic, politely requesting for the one within to come and talk, and moments later Fullica feels something large and powerful seem to move just beneath the surface of the Orb and suddenly what seems like a pair of eyes like molten gold come up from the depths of the Orb and regards Tisi and then Fullica; Fullica is struck by the power of the gaze for whilst radiating wisdom and intellect unlike what she is used to dealing with, it also seems conveys patient suffering. In a wry and weary voice the owner of the eyes speaks into their minds in Draconic, asking what is required. Tisi greets the speaker with respect and a compassion so far unseen in her demeanour, and says that someone new wishes to speak to him. The eyes turn to rest their gaze upon Fullica, and she explains that she and her people would like to free him from the Orb. She feels a new sensation, and a prickly and sharp sensation suggesting pain and discomfort on a great level and this seems to cause the expressive eyes to narrow from pain and discomfort.

The voice says, in some degree of pain and difficulty, that if that were true he would be indebted, and Fullica confirms this again; the eyes wait for a moment before saying quickly that he is bound by The Sisters of Agonizing Compliance, and she must learn their names to fight them before, in a roaring howl of agony, the eyes are dragged away from the surface of the Orb back into the depths, and Tisi and Fullica release the Orb from the unbearable sensations radiating from it by now. Tisi then leads the party from the Vault to talk in her Solar. There, she advises what she knows of the Sisters, that they are Evil Outsiders of a race called Kytons who dwell in the Hells but mostly in the Plane of Shadows. A sado-masochistic race of beings who believe pain is the only path to truth with all else being irrelevant, they are race to which no pain or torment is taboo. Sadly, whilst the collective name is known to Tisi, her own library holds no further information on the exact names of the Sisters.

The idea occurs to Fullica and the others that there is one on the Island who may well know more of them, and with some degree of reluctance they all decide that speaking to the Devil Kyssamon may be necessary. Tisi can move him from the circle he is in just now to one within the Palace, and within the hour has done so, with the suave and urbane fiend remarking that this change of scenery is a slight improvement. He is accompanied as usual by the Imp Kassovicus, otherwise known as The Imprint. The party ask if he knows the names of the Sisters, and with an amused laugh he states that he does, and in fact has been in their company back in previous ages. In return for their names, he wishes to be free from the circle and if/when Accitaine returns to the world be permitted to depart for his home in the 9 Hells. The party take a backseat as some horsetrading goes on between Tisi, Kyssamon and Calliszia Myinarra over the terms of the agreement, and after an hour, the deal is done.

Kyssamon reveals that the names of the Sisters are Kedda, Giira and Lictor, and if one wishes to force them to appear, one must state their names quickly lest the ladies stop them from speaking. He also advises that only weapons that are imbued with the power of Good (he quirks his mouth at this) can get past their formidable protections, and since the only person who can cast that particular spell is Jorik, they must prepare for the next day. The plan is this, that only by entering the Orb (actually a demiplane) in a reverse summoning carried out by Tisi can the party defeat the Sisters and destroy their seat of power. This dangerous, for the journey is one way unless the party can defeat the Kytons, which will end the Orb and deposit all living occupants back again. The only ones who can go are Calliszia (as wielder of Divine power) and the 5 she has blessed as Agents, namely Fullica, Jorik, Geesje Van Kuipers, Skal Dreissel and Zeru Otxoa. This disappoints Bernie Ven Gillanders, ever keen to experience something new, but so it goes.

The party decide to rest and prepare for the day ahead in different ways. They witness the wakening of the Forges below the Palace, as new Clockwork Soldiers are being created. They see the huge storehouses filled with many ingots of steel, adamantium, mithral and other metals, the varied types of Clockwork Constructs from small Scouts to varied artisans, through the threatening Clockwork Leviathans, Clockwork Dragons (decidedly dangerous looking) and the formidable awe inspiring Clockwork Goliath, a 45 foot tall giant that shakes the ground when it walks. Zeru allows one of his pistols and Bernie a Musket to be borrowed and examined by Tisi and then her artisans, for they seem useful weapons that can be incorporated into her own warriors. Skal finds out more about the tragic lovers bodies found on the Scorpion Isle, that they were a wife (Magira, a Wizard) and husband (Kaethon, a Soldier) who fled the aftermath of the civil war when Kellestine became dangerous from the mind affecting poison that affected her. That they came to a sad end is eased by the knowledge that they died before the passing of Korvaio and so would have went on to the afterlife.

Geesje tries to make some new arrows but makes a pigs ear of it, before thinking to ask if the Forges could make her some, which they do. Fullica identifies the items she has found, with one being an Onyx Figurine of Power (can become a faithful dog once a week) and the other being an Iron Flask, which appears to have a resident. This is a curious arrangement, for whatever is bound within can be released and made to serve for up to an hour. The party decide that whatever is within can perhaps be made to assist them when they get into the Orb, as time within the Orb (according to Tisi) is static, the better to hold a Dragon in a state that stops it getting older and more powerful, for this means that since time is immaterial, a minute may as well be an hour and and an hour may as well be indefinite.

As the evening comes and gives way to night, the party rest and prepare…

On the 23rd of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The party rise and check their equipment, spells and extracts and assemble in the main audience chamber, where the Orb and the ritual trappings are arrayed. The podium they rest upon is surrounded with Clockwork Soldiers, Clockwork Mages (a curious variation) and the formidable Clockwork Goliath (seemingly one of the Awakened Constructs with a soul). Tisi awaits and is ready to carry out the ceremony, and as they all watch, she begins. It doesn’t take long for her to do what needs be done, and she gives the nod for them all to step into the circle with the now pulsing Orb. They take a deep breath and take the step in, for the 6 of them to feel a bizarre and odd stretching sensation as they are snapped into the Orb in a moment of twisting and unpleasant nausea.

It takes some moments for them to get their bearings, and as they raise their eyes from looking at the marshy unpleasantness of the ground underfoot, they see misty grey skies above them, with hundreds and likely thousands of chains hanging from the mist. The chains are varied, with some being as thin as a finger to some being up to 10 feet across. All seem to sway and writhe in a wind nobody can feel, and all are covered with barbs, blades and spikes. It is in the distance they see a great spire that seems to jut up into the misty skies, but they also then hear a deep baritone voice behind them speak in greeting.

“You did come. Forgive me for doubting your ability if not your intent.”

They turn and see the magnificent yet sad sight of a great golden dragon, suspended 20 feet above on a myriad of chains that impale and worm their way around his great frame. Despite this, his steady golden eyes look well upon them….

The Island awakes
Making new allies and enemies too...

Skal Dreissel starts to turn the key, but it is very hard going and he has to call upon his berserker strength when his initial attempts fail. However he manages to fully wind up the mechanism and stepping back, he and the others watch as this bizarre clockwork oddity starts to come to life. It goes through some checks, as its 3 legs and 4 arms start to flex, before it sizes them up and a mechanical clicking voice greets them, albeit in a language they don’t recognise. When they speak it switches to Heitzen, and it greets them, and it is indeed the one known as Fix that stands before them. After some brief explanations about their purpose, he tells them that he was last on a mission to retrieve a vital item for his Queen, Tisiphoni Bissara. It was stolen by a Quasit demon, no doubt on the orders of the Incubus Mallad’Fal and last tracked heading south on the island in the direction of the waterlogged ruins of the islands Menagery where the formidable 14 headed Hydra known as “Old Snappy” lairs.

At this point the heroes hear the voice of Wren through the Message Stones and she is warning them that they are about to be attacked. This warning is timely for the have enough time to prepare themselves before a gang of Schir Demons (and a Quasit cheating by being invisible) attack them. A Babau demon also ambushes Zeru Otxoa, but with fortitude and determination the heroes manage to destroy all the demons, except for the cunning and wily Quasit which flees, undoubtedly back to its master.

During the fight Fix had called for aid, and a Clockwork soldier, apparently on standby, came out of a nearby ruined house and though it arrives too late to aid in the fight, it stands ready to serve Fix in his task. The party also offer their aid, for only the retrieval of the missing item will allow them access to the Palace of Blossoming Steel and where the Mistress of the Island can be found.

As nobody (sensibly) likes the idea of fighting a 14 headed Hydra, a ruse featuring 3 goats as a lure, the careful use of Fullica Atra and Bernie Ven Gillanders’s extracts and the Message stones allows the rod to be retrieved from the waterlogged lair, and just as well too, for Old Snappy is huge, ferocious and fast in its terrain. As well as locating the object (a rod made of adamantium and mithral and bearing a jewel at either end), she finds a pouch which turns out to have a small onyx figurine of a dog and an iron flask stoppered in brass with arcane runes about it. With the rod recovered, the airship heads off to hopefully lure the attention of any watching demons or foes whilst a group consisting of Skal, Zeru, Fullica, Calliszia Myinarra, Geesje Van Kuipers, Wren, Bernie, Fix and the Clockwork soldier make their way through the forest to the Palace. The formidable Golems and assorted construct defenders defer to Fix as he brandishes the control rod and allows the party entrance into the huge palace. Within the corridors are wide and very high, and as they walk through the echoing halls, they marvel at the quality of the architecture as well as the large amount of inactive machines, items and constructs that they encounter.

Arriving at the centre they enter into a colossal hall with a large raised platform in the centre and many exits. Within there are many more constructs of all different sizes, like soldiers, and all are gathered around the central platform where a tall statue of a woman wrought in adamantium, mithral, steel and bronze stands. Fix moves quickly towards the statue and as the party watch, restores the rod into the body of the statue. The eyes of the statue start to glow an eery blue as Tisiphone awakens, and in a strong mechanical voice bids Fix to start restoring the rest of the gathered constructs to working order and then the Palace.

As Fix starts his work, Tisiphone greets the party, and quickly Fullica utters the Bessengiran words instructed to her by Seren; this has the effect of making Tisi immediately trust them more, for Seren has vouched for them and their own efforts have brought about her revival and also that of her “people”. The party waste no time in explaining about the Orb of Dragons, the Society and pretty much everything before them. Tisi sees past illusions and also sees Calliszia as being at least a Half Celestial (and likely more). Tisi does offer to help, but also tells them about what the Orb of the Dragons truly is; a means of controlling Dragonkind by binding a Dragon within it and compelling its obedience by torture and foul manipulation. The Dragon bound within this Orb is a Golden Dragon by the name of Rovhannan Magnarravax , and Tisi requests that instead of using the Orb, she wishes them to destroy it and so free its occupant from painful servitude. She and before here Kellestine wished to but as neither are powerful wielders of divine magic, they cannot.

Whilst the party decide what they wish to do, quarters are found for them in the Palace as the place starts to awake. They are advised to follow the advice of the small flying Clockwork guide as wandering through the halls without supervision could be dangerous. The party spend a little time together and quickly decide that freeing the Dragon is the only option before them (and as it turns out, the only one Calliszia was even considering). With this in mind, they gain audience to Tisi again and tell her their decision. She then tells them that she can assist, but it is dangerous, and if any can speak Draconic, they may need to speak to someone first; to this end, she leads them deep into the Palace for a very important conversation…

Of Devils, Alchemists and other things
and what happens now

The figure indicates they all enter, and is courteous and gracious despite being the most outlandish thing seen by the majority of them. Calliszia Myinarra looks hard at him and then, in a cruel and harsh sounding language dripping with untold nuances of menace, says something to this Kyssamon, whose charming and suave manner seems to take a hitch for a moment before he carries on. Calliszia states that she knows his true name and so has forced him to deal fairly and in no way make a play for the souls of any humans, for he is, and this is borne out by the rememberings of some of the party on the Planes, a Contract Devil. Jorik is appalled at the Evil emanating from the creature, for whilst his reading of Chagurh Xabo alarmed him, what stands before them is a being so steeped in Evil and wickedness that it shocks him greatly.

What follows is a conversation with Kyssamon who indicates that he was summoned hundreds of years ago (about the time of the Cataclysm, likely a few years after) by Kellestines rebellious and ambitious apprentice Comatko who was leading a coup against his mistress; it seemed that Comatko could not agree terms with Kyssamon and subsequently Kyssamon has been stuck in this circle; the only thing he could do was send his Imp servant Kassovicus (otherwise known as The Imprint ) after the fleeing Comatko (who fled the island once his insurrection had been crushed) in the guise of a line of writing (to get around the conventions of his own binding); this was to aid Kyssamon in gaining his freedom some how, and also to see if the Imp could secretly bring about the painful and final end of the treacherous Comatko. As it turned out, the Imp chips in and states that Comatko made the spectacularly fatal error of making landfall in Amarkacha and then compounding his error by trying to throw his weight around with a local tribe, who wasted little time in capturing him and then leisurely torturing him to death; it took a gratifyingly long time, the Imp winks.

Since then, Kassovicus has been flitting around Accitaine trying to find a was to free his master, with little success for many reasons. In the meantime, Kyssamon has resided in the binding circle, patiently awaiting any kind of rescue or diversion. He is able to warn them of a threat to them, a Demon called Mallad’Fal who leads a contingent of Comatkos summoned Abyssal supporters. Mallad’Fal himself is an Incubus, but one changed and empowered by the island and so more deadly as a result. The party quickly realise that the Devil before them has little knowledge of outside his circle as he has been stuck here the whole time, and whilst he has some mildly useful details, such as there being some human elsewheres on the island who Mallad’Fal wishes greatly to capture, they leave him where he is and leave, as this human, likely the one seen on the smaller island orbiting the main isle, is worth speaking to. Kyssamon watches with patient and impassive mien as they depart.

They up anchor in the Bright Raptor and head over to the flying island, keeping an eye on the forest and trees below, and see a couple of goatlike humanoids briefly in a clearing before making their approach towards the lesser island. As they approach, 3 of the metallic looking figures emerge from the main building and set themselves in a line between the wide green field the ship makes ready to land at and the main buildings. As the ship sets down, with all on guard in case of attack, they see that a number of superb statues in good maintenance are set around this lawn area, all seemingly of the same woman, sometimes in fine clothing, sometimes in armour and girt for battle. It soon dawns on them that the woman, unusual looking, is not a Human, but may well be an Elf.

The away teams of Fullica Atra , Geesje Van Kuipers, Jorik, Skal Dreissel, Zeru Otxoa and Calliszia alights and makes their careful way towards the figures, who make no move to attack; just as well, for the constructs are 10 foot tall and to Fullicas eye, alchemical in creation and origin. One indicates they follow and leads them to the main house, opening the main door and waiting to the side. Inside, they see it is a kitchen area, but one with a decidedly alchemical bent to it, with marvellous machines and apparatus working away. Fullica is beyond impressed with the quality and precision of the tools here, and as they move further into the house to a library, this deepens as the signs and indications are that here is a formidable intellect with a grasp of Alchemy far beyond what is known to man let alone her own. The hundreds of books on the shelves seem mostly to be in the same handwritten script, with bizarre and technical titles and no signature of author named.

Throughout the well appointed house (in good style if a little antiquated) there are also busts, paintings and small reliefs of the same Elven woman seen outside, and something in the womans face nags at Fullicas mind. The next door adjacent to the library leads into a smaller study, and within is the man who Fullica saw previously. He is tall, strong looking and likely in his 20’s (or so it seems). He is definitely an Alchemist and a very experienced one judging by his stained fingers and lips, but the dark greay feathered wings that grow from his back are noteworthy, as is his unreadable flinty stare.

The party introduce themselves first, and he introduces himself in turn after a moments pause, as “Seren”. He points at Calliszia and asks what she is, for he has seen through her Disguise, surmising that she is a Half Celestial or somesuch; she replies that she is something like that. What follows is a tentative conversation as they explain why they are here, and quickly realise that whilst not hostile (yet), Seren has no particular interest in the fate of humanity, indeed going so far as to wonder if it is actually worth saving from the Oblivion that awaits it (“Some people would welcome Oblivion you know”). Still, they have been civil and have not attempted anything untoward, so he offers them some advice on the matter of the Isle; they must gain the trust and support of the ruler of the Isle, one Tisiphoni Bissara, the former lover and favoured apprentice to Kellestine (who died from a foul lingering magical poison attack by Comatko before he fled). Tisi, as she is known died some years after her mistress and upon her death her soul was transferred by contingency magic into a form for same keeping, the intent for Immortal (but not invulnerable as it turned out) Kellestine to find a way to bring her back. Now, Tisi is the ruler of the Isle, though there are other threats that have endured, and Seren advises they need her aid if they plan to achieve their ends. He also asks, on the subject of the Orb of Dragons, that as it is a cruel method of entrapment that makes it work, if they can destroy the item instead of ask for it, as its prisoner does in no way deserve the heinous fate that binds it within.

Over a meal, brought in by servitor constructs they talk some more, and it becomes apparent that what many humans did following the Cataclysm, whipped on by the early Society, was monstrous acts of genocide against non-humans and their supporters, and it is obvious that the hatred and enmity towards the Society Seren has is total. Fullica carefully raises the subject of the Elven woman in the arts seen around the isle. He carefully states she was his wife Milliandara, and that they met years before the Cataclysm and the Plague on his travels to Lyashka. His love and obsessive devotion to her is still apparent even after hundreds of years, and suddenly Fullica remembers where she has seen the face; inside the Proscribed Wing of the University Library was a large metal and glass tank, full of some greenish hued gas, and within the gas was the still fresh seeming body of an armoured Elven woman, with an obvious spear head embedded in her side. Fullica carefully mentions this to him, and his response is strong though carefully reigned in. Only by further talk does Seren confirm her talking truth and that it is indeed his dead wife.

He becomes more helpful, for he would like to see his wife’s face again (and indeed to take back her body instead of being a museum piece), and offers more aid (some powerful potions of healing) and advice, principally that the Palace of Blossoming-Steel has remained shut and impervious for close to 150 years and any attempt as it stands to approach will result in attack by Golem defenders that the party will have little chance of defeating. What is needed is the aid of an “Enhanced Servitor”, one of Tisi’s favoured Clockwork Constructs that has a persons soul bound within, for Tisi realised that her mortal followers would die and not see the afterlife after the death of Korvaio, and so created a means to save her people into a form like hers. One such servitor is known to Seren, and goes by the name of Fix. It was not within the Palace when it closed, and though he does not know the exact location now, he can use some means to locate the general area to aid them.

Other Clockwork constructs exist outside but are mindless automatons, and so unsuitable to aid. He also passes a phrase in Bessengiran (the language of Tisi and Kellestines people) that will indicate that he vouches for them. His advice is to watch out for Mallad’Fal and his small army of Schir Demons (also known as Spite Demons), but also to beware the large Hydra known as “Old Snappy” that lairs in the swampy and waterlogged remains of the Menagery to the south, and also the Catoblepas, a magical escapee from the Menagery that still trawls around the southern island. Other threats exist as well, like the Undead Hauntings in the north east.

After some checking he returns and confirms that Fix is somewhere in the south of the Isle, before the party make ready to leave. He also advises to beware of any dealings with the Devil Kyssamon (he has never spoken to it but he knows their kind) for their interest is always in acquiring souls and corrupting mortals, no matter what else they do. They depart and decide to head to speak to Kyssamon again about Mallad’Fal and any further information he might have, and after a brief conversation, he informs them that Mallad’Fal eats or consumes magic and magical items, due to his arcane imbued nature. They speak briefly by message stone to Wren who had not returned to the ship originally and had instead scouted the north of the Isle. She had a run in with the Schir who can see Invisible as it turns out (a spirited chase there then), and also saw that they take orders from a small winged ugly creature not unlike an Imp (Fullica thinks it may be a Quasit) that flies fast and can go invisible. She shall remain on the ground for now, scouting alone as is her best was and tracking the airship when she needs to relay information. She does advise a look at the Observatory the tower is part of however. With that she is gone again.

The party do indeed see the Observatory, a huge and complex series of machines and arcane contraptions that might act as a map of the heavens of the world. It is currently inactive, but all would dearly love to see it in working order. With curiosity sated for now and the day wearing on, they board the ship (ignoring Kyssamon and the Imp as they do) and the Bright Raptor maintains a circling orbit of the Isle for safety when night comes.

On the 22nd of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The ship rouses itself to a bright day and it starts its journey south over the island, flying a couple of hundred feet above the canopy, passing over the lake where the Water Orm Regards them curiously with reptilian eyes. They decide to head to the ruins of the town called Forge in the south east of the isle, hoping that is the likely place where Fix can be found. As they pass over the overgrown ruins of houses and buildings below, they see a gap in the trees that might be an old town square with a river running through it, and sharp eyes spot a metallic figure standing motionless on the overgrown flagstones. It seems likely, so the ship comes in lower above a large building with a tree growing out of its roof and with several soldiers setting themselves up on the roof, the party, accompanied by Bernie, make their way down to the ground using a mixture of climbing, ropes and in Fullicas case, Featherfall.

On the ground, the ruined township (once larger, but much fell away when the isle became smaller) is eerily quiet except for birds and occasional animal sounds, and they approach the curious figure. It is short at 5 feet tall, with 4 arms ending in mechanical hands and other tools, sitting broadly on 3 sturdy legs. Its head has a number of off bumps and glasslike lenses upon it and all in all, it is a curious thing. It does not stir as they approach, and with the rest hanging back at the ready, Skal (being technicallish) approaches and examines it. He cleans off the moss, mold and vines growing about it, and sees that the metal it is made from is likely a version of that which the sword, armour and holy symbols taken from the Scorpion Island is made from. He is impressed with the level of technical precision involved in the making of this clockwork thing, and locates a flap he can open without too much difficulty on the things back, Taking a tool from the things mid section that seems to fit, he places it into the opened slot which makes a satisfying clock, and starts to turn the key…

To the Island
Where they meet "a man of wealth and taste..."

The presence of a Society vessel this large in the area is a sobering one, and weighs on peoples minds as the day goes on, and anxious eyes scan the surrounding skies in case it or its dependent vessels make an appearance again. However, as the pressures drop in the barometer and the day comes to evening, the threat of bad weather is made real as a storm comes fast upon the Bright Raptor and its crew, and all who are not capable above decks are sent below.

The storm that follows is ferocious and much like the unnatural ones experienced back in Heidelgard with purplish lightning and winds that howl like the charge of the dead; the presence of The Verses of Life and Glory Everlasting on board the ship halts the more extreme elements of this unnatural storm but the winds damage the airship over the 2 relentless days that the storm lasts, with all aboard feeling worn down a little from the continual fight for sleep and stability, however in the course of the night going onto the 14th, the winds die down and the battered airship is let alone by the evils of the storm.

On the 14th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

Tired eyes and weary limbs are the order of the day as the ship stirs, and the extent of the damage to their doughty ship becomes evident; repairs are carried out but all their spare materials are consumed and with still some work needed, the need for raw materials like wood becomes important, and the battered ship moves to the west, lower in the sky and on the look out for land that might have what they need. It’s eyes on, as this far out charts are unreliable at best and non existent at worse, so it is with good luck that a small island is sighted just past noon; it is a couple of miles square, and whilst the western side is a windswept mix of rock and scree, the eastern side over the ridge is forested with a mix of conifers and deciduous, perfect for their needs. The ship descends as preparations are made for the harvest of materials.

The ship comes to a halt the standard 10 feet above the ground and crew and party alight, with Skal Dreissel and Jorik aiding the gathering of materials with the crew; Geesje Van Kuipers heads off to hunt for some food, as Fullica Atra and Bernie Ven Gillanders head off to look for alchemical reagents and Zeru Otxoa accompanies Calliszia Myinarra as she looks for some useful herbs to aid in her medicines. The mysterious Avaristrato Wren heads off on her own, unseen, to scout.

All is fine until, half a mile from the ship, Calliszia and Zeru are surprised when a Huge scorpion, hidden in the undergrowth, ambushes and attacks a pair of goats that the pair had their eyes on, and a fight develops as the huge pincered creature attacks, causing no small damage to Zeru who uses his pistols and wit to extricate himself from the clutches of the beast. As he and Calliszia retreat (with him carrying her as his Mythic Speed buys time for them both), another Deadfall Scorpion (for that is what they are) emerges from the undergrowth in answer to the pained distress of its mate, uncomfortably near Geesje. In the fight that follows some injury is taken, though the combined efforts of Fullica, Bernie, Geesje, Calliszia and Zeru overcome the scorpion menace. As Calliszia heals Geesje and Zeru of their wounds, Fullica, aided by Bernie remove the poison glands from the scorpions, and then Geesje takes some of the chitin from the beasts with a view to having armour made from it in future. Soldiers, accompanied by Jorik and Skal arrive in response to the sounds of battle, and as the soldiers take the poison glands and chitin back to the airship, the familiar voice of Wren is heard, indicating to the party that she has found something of interest and for them to follow her.

She leads them to a cave on the upper slopes of the north of the island, sheltered from the elements. Inside the very dry sanded floor of the cave lie 2 skeletons, there for hundreds of years judging by their dry and brittle condition. Surprisingly neither skeleton animates to attack, and thus the party investigate the scene. One is female, and Fullica establishes that this woman died from the great blunt trauma experienced along the right side of the body. It lies, placed in comfortable repose, and the male, armoured in a curious scaled armour of unusual silvery bronze alloy was killed by an apparent suicide, his gleaming sword of unusual and exotic style thrust up into his ribs in some ritual manner. Both wear holy symbols of Korvaio but also the 2 potion flasked symbol identified as that of Bharnarol, an Empyreal Lord associated with Inventors, artisans and creators.

They also find a wedding ring on each finger, with strange writing on the inside of each band. The female also wears a fine ring of platinum as well. There are decayed and useless signs of glass vials and rotted books as well, and it is clear that this pair have lain here for a long time indeed. Jorik conducts a burial for the pair, with the sword, the armour (which can be used again with new leather fittings), the 3 rings and the holy symbols being taken back to the ship. The rest of the day sees the gathering of the needed supplies, with some good herbs and reagents being found by Calliszia and Fullica respectively. The airship makes camp for the night, as Fullica prepares to analyse the found items using her extracts.

On the 15th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

As the fixed and ready airship makes its way west again with the coming of the morning, Fullica identifies the items. The armour is magical, very light and of a wrought perfection unseen in modern Accitaine. The sword is similar, magical and unnaturally keen of edge, and lethally balanced. The paired rings are wedding bands, named for Magira (the female) and Kaethon(the male), and allow the wearers to feel the emotional moods of the other and also offer some form of protection to the other as well. The last item is the platinum ring, seemingly a Ring of Wizardry. The holy symbols are merely that, of great archaeological interest but no magic within them. The ship continues on with the armour being fitted for Calliszia (who bears no armour for now, but is now trained in its use), and the other items divvied out to the others as needed. The day passes without further event.

From the 16th to the 20th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The next days are quietly routine, with Fullica learning Draconic as others aboard the ship become more practised at their tasks and deeds. This is changed when on the afternoon of the 20th a huge storm (practically a hurricane) is seen to the west, and the familiar scratching of The Imprint is heard by Fullica from her writing case. The mysterious entity informs her that his time is short and that he shall soon be whisked back to the island as they approach, and he has come to give one last piece of aid, namely a strange series of glyphs and runes he creates from his ink and her paper, that seems to act as an odd compasslike image. With this, he vanishes and there is an air of finality in his last scratchings. At about the same time, a shout from the Nest is heard, for the “Conviction” has just breached the clouds half a mile behind them, an imposing bulk forging against the winds. Skilfully Erzbetta Slalek manages to take refuge in a cloud bank before being seen, though it is a close thing.

Fullica heads up to speak to Erzbetta and Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius in the helmroom, and she explains that their path lies into that great storm to the west, using this curious magical compass to guide them; indeed, wind currents and a path is in the imagery as it swirls above the paper, and with the threat of the Society Battleship nearby, their path seems set. They head towards the storm, it getting closer as the skies darken, and as the day draws to a close, they are caught into the maestrom. This storm is different to the recent one, no purple lightning, but with a powerful swirling vortex of winds. It soon appears to those in the helmroom that the compass and the winds are guiding their path and that all Erzbetta can do is adjust steering.

Time passes (hours or minutes, it becomes hard to tell) and the tired crew are anxious, for their is an eery quality to this storm, and when word comes from Geesje via the message stone that she can see glowing rocks and boulders flying towards the ship, Erzbetta does what she can to steer out of their way. Some light damage is taken and the Port-Prow cannon is wrenched away into the storm, but no casualties or greater damage is endured, and now aware, they manage to avoid the worst of the field of rocks, boulders and stones they now fly in, all of which are glowing a blueish-purple. Some more time passes as they are pulled further into the vortex, when suddenly the wind seems to stop suddenly, though the rocks still seem to keep spinning. The airship floats with the rocks in some kind of pattern, and with it being totally dark outside, nothing remains but for sentries to be posted and sleep to be grabbed.

On the 21st of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

As daylight comes quickly, 10 minutes from dusk to dawn, the bizarre and awesome majesty of The Isle of Kellestine is visible. A flying island, now measuring 2 miles by 3 miles, overrun with trees, swamplands and undergrowth lies before them. A large hill with some towered structure is in the northernmost part of the Isle, with numerous waterfalls pouring off the sides of the Isle into the swirling void below. Birds can be seen flying in the trees, as hundreds (likely thousands) of rocks and stones of varying sizes swirl at varying speeds about the Isle, including the largest some hundreds of feet across, orbiting some hundreds of feet above them and to the south west of them. A huge, domed palace like structure is visible in the centre of the Isle next to a huge lake, and as they start a slow orbit of the Isle, all are gathered at the railings marvelling at the incredible oddity before them. Ruined structures are visible in the great forests below them, and also a darkened, miasmic swamp is seen as well, causing all to instinctively realise that bad things may have happened there.

A large ruined greenhouse is seen in the northwest of the isle as they pass by it, and they find themselves catching up with the large orbiting island, with the curious sight of wood and metal walkways connecting openings in the rocky underside of the island, and as they start to rise to get a view of the top of the isle, they see briefly see a curious, metallic gleaming humanoid figure walking along one of them, before it passes into an opening and out of sight. As they rise up and over the lip of the isle, they see a well appointed series of buildings, like an affluent farm holding, with well laid out and orderly strips of vegetables, fruit trees and even what seems to be a pair of greenhouses all laid out around a central building. More of the metallic figures seem to be at work, watering plants, tending to trees and generally doing work. An open tower atop the central building is of note, for a hooded figure stands watching them, and before it turns and descends back into the building, Fullica can see, through a spyglass that the figure is male, and though only the lower part of his face is visible, his mouth and lips have the unmistakeable staining and discolouring of an Alchemist. The metal figures all, as one, turn and head towards the central building and enter, and the Bright Raptor continues on.

They make the circuit of the Isle, seeing what may have one been settlements within the heavily forested canopy. The hill in the north is about 600 feet high, and with the tower on the building there being 50 feet in diameter and 300 feet high seeming like a perfeect docking station for the airship, they come in to land.

The airship is made fast to the structure, and as an away team of the party, some soldiers, Wren, Erzbetta and Bernie descend, whilst the Adjutant-Major remains in command of the airship and on high alert. Once satisfied that all are ready, they descend with Geesje on point. The spiral staircase, made of marble is wide and sweeping, and the first 2 rooms they pass have a definite arcane feel about them, with Fullica and Erzbetta confirming that this place may have been used as some place of conjuring and summoning.

Geesje comes arounf the corner to the 3rd room down, and the rest see her stand with mouth falling open, when a rich, warm and suave voice from within the room bids them enter.

As they come around the corner, they see a summoning circle with a ring of candles, forever burning blue. Within it, rising smoothly from a comfortable seat at a well appointed writing bureau, is a tall, muscular figure, red skinned, dark haired with horns on his brow as well as great horns sweeping from his back and pointing forward into wickedly sharp looking points. Scrolls and parchments of unsettling writing are liberally draped across his person, and his expression is of affable and pleased interest in them. A small figure, like a slim gargoyle with red skin and aquiline features and batlike wings and a barbed tail sits on the desk and waves cheerily to them, especially Fullica.

Greetings, good travellers, I am Kyssamon and I am so pleased you could come, for I think we have so much to talk about…

Ours and theirs

The evening draws on as the airship sits in the clouds, sentries and watch posted as Erzbetta Slalek sets the Tri-Locatus to its winding for the night; the main crew area becomes the food area for the crew and soldiery as the galley cooks and a general winding down after a solid day occurs, with music and chatter drift down to the bottom deck where Fullica Atra, Skal Dreissel, Geesje Van Kuipers, Zeru Otxoa, Jorik and Calliszia Myinarra are sat in the officers lounge, eating and drinking. Adjutant-Major Merten Sivennius has headed upstairs to check on the men and see that all is right with the ship, and the party are alone together for the first time in a while. Over the meal, Calliszia reveals that she wishes to learn how to fight, for she wishes to aid them in their exploits and feels that the time will come when she will have to do more than heal and accompany them. The party all agree looking around and after some discussion, Jorik and Zeru are nominated to impart some instruction, the former for his swordplay and general weapons ability and the latter as Zeru thinks firearms may be a good fit for Calliszia.

After a little more general chit chat, Calliszia stands and advises that she feels a little odd and would like to rest, and leaves the room to head down the corridor to her room. Zeru thinks she looks a little strange and seems a little unsteady, and Jorik follows her to check on her. He knocks on her door and opens it, only for the interior of her room to bathe the corridor in bright warm light, and they hear him say “That’s very odd…”. They all cluster around the entrance to the room the healer shares with Geesje and witness the young healer girl glowing in a golden warm haze, an ecstatic look in her eyes and obviously in the throes of some rapture. She is warm to the touch and as he reaches out to her, Jorik seems almost overcome by something similar to what she seems to be feeling. In a few minutes as the party witness this, the glow recedes and she seems to get a hold of herself, saying that it felt like many many people were calling out to her, not by name but by something else.

The party quickly realise that the time this would have taken place is when the main evening prayers would occur back home, and that this looks like the result of her receiving her first prayers. A low murmured voice agrees, and they turn to see the Avaristrato Wren watching, her dark eyes curious above her veil. She reveals that she and her sister Shrike were aware that there was more to Calliszia than she appeared, and she shows the party a gem that allows the holder to see things as they really are, including past Calliszias disguise. She assures them that she has no ill will to them or the girl, and that her people in Cantabrius have always been opposed to The Society of Harmony and its intolerance towards all who were different, even going to the extreme of sheltering and hiding their Non-Humans, Arcanists and those who would be regarded as Heretics. She and hers are aware that The Engelmann Prophecies are real, and that the Seed is real, and so must the Pillars be as well. She advises that she has the authority to swear her aid and that of her people to the safety of Calliszia and her followers. She thinks that the sensation washing over Calliszia might be related to the Paladin led force who helped turn the tide at the Battle to the south of Treest; they seemed to be followers of some new cult or religion, and judging by the banners borne by the Cavaliers of the Star, the Paladins and other soldiers, they follow a winged goddess. This is food for thought, especially when Wren echoes that a number of eye witnesses claim a great 6 winged angel was seen in the sky above.

She gives them all the Message Stones (like the one she gave Fullica earlier) and hopes this may offer some help. She then says that she shall retire to the room that she shares with Fullica to do her evening reflections and exercises and that she shall see them all later. The party and their cause seem to have some more allies than they knew they had. The party allow Calliszia her own rest and set about their own evenings pastimes, whether book reading, gun making or other such activities, before bed all calls to them as the night comes.

On the 11th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The airship continues on with its crew passing time whether at duties, learning or the like, with Zeru starting to make a pistol (to be followed by a musket in time) for Calliszia. Jorik starts teaching Calliszia the basics of swordplay, Fullica reads more of The Mischief Book especially the section on learning the Draconic language, whilst Skal makes more progress in learning the arts and profession of an Airshipman.

Geesje is again on watch in the Nest, and so at midday sees the sight to the north east of a plume of smoke rising from the sea. She looms hard through the spyglass and thinks it may be a downed airship. She sends word down to the Captain, ans the airship changes course to see what is amiss. Sure enough, it is what seems to be a small merchant Airship, a little bigger than their own vessel. Seeing it closer, it has obviously been downed by cannon fire, with holes in the hull and also in the gently sagging canopy. An away team of the party, Calliszia and Wren elect to head down to the stricken vessel to look for survivors and clues.

Using ropes and harnesses the group alight and find no survivors, with the rich cargo of silks, textiles and expensive lacquer still aboard, and no sign of any looting at all, despite their being 5 bodies on the ship and several in the sea around. The captain is found dead in his Helm-Room, sword in hand and was bayoneted to death, with his logs and charts being taken. The only clue found seems to be several slight threads in a deep red colour caught on some splintered wood. They take the unspoiled cargo and supplies (alchemical supplies as well, Fullica is glad to note) and return to the vessel after Jorik has performed a brief service for burial at sea, before carrying on.

The red thread clue may well be evidence that the fearsome presence of The Mandratines may be involved, for they are the only likely force who wear red in their uniforms. This is sobering, for they are directly sworn to Archimander Vessardad, soon to be (if not already) overall leader of the Society and if information is true, a pawn of The First Denied Soul. Setting more sentries, they carry on but especially aware of any threats.

It is decided quickly that perhaps travelling higher up, hidden in the low cloud layers might be a sensible idea for a while, and they do this. In the later afternoon Geesje sees some kind of bright blueish light, almost like lightning to the north east and below the Bright Raptor. Again, this is relayed to the Helm, and the airship comes to a halt, with everyone going silent, the crew and soldiers awaiting by their stations. Instead of lowering a person on a rope below the cloud level (which seems a little dangerous), Fullica volunteers to scout it out, using her Flight and Invisibility extracts. This quickly agreed upon and as soon as she has ingested them, she flies off, with the dizzying knowledge that this is the highest she has ever flown, with a drop of thousands of feet below her. She approaches quietly and when she drops below the cloud level, she sees a curious sight; it looks like an airship, maybe 20 feet long and 15 feet wide, but it has no canopy, and instead seems to ride upon a bright blue lightning like haze. It has a light cannon mounted on the bow with a swivel gun on the port and starboard. The Helm Room is heavily armoured, and the crew are all clad in the distinctive crimson uniforms of Mandratines. Fullica realises that this fast and agile vessel relies upon Alchemical Engines for both propulsion as well as lift, and when another races up and coded semaphore messages are passed, the pair shoot off at sped to the north east, leaving the wily Alchemist to hurry back before her extracts wear off.

Back at the airship she relays her findings to the disquiet of most and the obvious fascinated delight of Bernie Ven Gillanders who clearly wishes he could poke around on one, let alone see one. The decision to stay in the clouds for the time being is kept with, and as the ship stops for the evening in the clouds, a no lights on deck policy is enacted and all portholes are shuttered to stop any light. So the evening passes, though the barometer indicates that poorer weather may be on the way.

On the 12th of the Aft of Spring, 520 AC

The airship continues on, with all aboard wondering as to what is bringing the Mandratines this far, whether it is the search for The Isle of Kellestine or the Bright Raptor, or both, or something else. Whatever it is, it meant doom for the airship seen recently. As everyone gets back to their pastimes and activities, Geesje again spots something through the clouds, visible for less than 30 seconds, but of some concern. Before the clouds thicken again, she sees a great flying airship, with one superhull and 2 smaller ones either side. Despite being more than a couple of miles away it seems huge, over 300 feet long by her judgment, and she can see a couple of those canopy-less airships flying about it. She is also able, before the sight vanishes in the clouds, to see its proudly displayed name on its prow in great gothic writing; “Conviction” ….