Forgotten Suns: Log - Chiaroscuro
From DivNull RPG
|17th day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Dense Effulgence Root||22 Sep 2005|
The morning the circle planned to leave, a message showed up in a bottle claimed from one of the dragon-blooded:
Dearest cousin -
I know you said not to use the bottles until you contacted me, but I have news that bears directly on the matter at hand, regarding the one with whom you have struck a deal. I inadvertently (really!) overheard a discussion between our mothers. They seem to believe they've uncovered a connection between Last Envy and the Cult of the Illuminated. If that's true, I can't help but wonder if the cargo you will deliver to him will be handed over to those heretics, though I have no idea to what use they might put it. Surely they are not sophisticated enough to actually forge it.
I beg you again to avoid this business altogether. At the very least, postpone it until I can dig more into this matter. Breaking an edict is one thing, but consorting with heretics is another. They'd never let you back here if that happened. Tread lightly, cousin. I couldn't bear it if anything were to happen to you.
The group realized that they'd killed Last Envy, but had only a vague idea of what the Cult of the Illuminated is. After some discussion, Varden found enough writing samples of the intended recipient of the message to forge a response (five successes):
Your words have persuaded me. I will try to delay as long as possible, but time is of the essence. Find out quickly.
Regret and Cruxis took the remaining horses and a share of the manse water used to communicate. After saying farewell, they headed south at a gallop.
After some last minute preparation, including Gutts taking crude pictograph notes from Kardak on his techniques of "wooing" women, the group piled into the Cloudwalking Ingot and took off. A quick flyby of Watch Valley revealed the shield had been deactivated, and dragon-blooded seemed to be in charge. The group flew towards Chiaroscuro at low altitude, mostly over the water. They circled around to approach the city from the south, landing well outside the wall to the old city. Concealing the vehicle (five successes), the used the water from the Forgotten Manse to contact Jorias. He indicates his just arrived in the city, and will be looking for a hotel on the north side. After agreeing to use the water again in two hours, they headed on foot into the city.
After a long walk, they reached the main slave market in the old city. Gutts buys two 20-year old slaves, both of attractive northern stock. Emily, the female, is a skilled tailor and cook. Morton, the male, is built more for manual labor, so Gutts buys a rickshaw, ording Morton to pull he and Emily northward, leaving the rest of the circle to walk. He eventually hits a commercial district and stops at Fig Leaf Fashion to but clothes for himself, the circle and his new slaves.
Meanwhile, the group eventually hires a coach and heads north as well. While many foreigners mill about the city, an ornate carriage with a jade seal of House Mnemon on the doors catches their eyes, largely because a half-dozen humanoid creatures with no eyes or other facial features stand guard around it. The circle ignores the blank looks of the nearly jet-black beings, continuing north. By then, Jorias has secured a suite in the Marble Crane, an up scale hotel on the north coast. Checking in under the name of Grey Rose, the group eventually rendezvous there.
Upon arrival, Gutts comes across as noble of some kind, and the concierge assumes Guen is his seneschal, negotiating everything with him. A smaller suite of rooms is reserved for the new slaves. Jorias, fully shaved and in much better physical shape than Gutts and Guen remember, waits in the main suite and the group catches up.
Guen tells the circle about Tamuz, the lunar who installed the Tri-Kahn of the city into power and Tamaz, a First Age lunar with a suspiciously similar name who is thought to lair near by. He suggests that these two might be one and the same and, even if they aren't, it might be useful to talk to someone who lived during the First Age at some point.
For his part, Jorias informs them that Adrios wants a message delivered in secret to the mother of Golden Hand of the Tri-Kahn's wives. The mother's is apparently referred to only as Unfettered. Adrios didn't specify the contents of the message, and Jorias didn't look. The rest of the circle doesn't even consider reading it, or wonder much about who the woman is what Adrios wants with her. Gutts remembers that Adrios mentioned working for the Tri-Khan at some point in the past.
He has also has been told, via whisper in his ear from a spell, that Sundial wants them to meet Pollen Song at a place called the Vermillion Ribbon about an hour before noon the next day.
Emily knocks on the door, indicating she has prepared a feast, so the circle eats, bathes and sleeps.
Dancing Girls, Scavengers and Books
|18th day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Chiaroscuro||28 Sep 2005|
At first light, Guen becomes a bird, grabs the silver tube containing Adiros's message and flies into the palace of the Tri-Kahn to locate Unfettered. His efforts are hampered by not knowing what she looks like, and by the fact that he does not speak the language that the people in the house speak. He uncovers a couple of candidates for Unfettered and Golden Hand, but is interrupted when a northern looking man notices something odd about the bird carrying the metal tube and starts asking it questions. Guen eventually returns back to the hotel with the message undelivered.
Stag goes to Vermillion Ribbon ahead of time, a couple hours before noon. Noticing a very long line and sign saying "Dancing today only: Blossom", he bribes his way into the club through neighboring apartment. Having talked to some people outside who described Blossom as the most amazing and beautiful dancer ever, lauding her performances at the Tattered Rainbow, Stag develops an irrational need to get past her guards to get backstage, but does not succeed. Guen comes later, shapeshifting in. Gutts, who was looking at houses and buying another elephant, comes with slaves, presenting a massive bribe to get in, really irritating the patrons on line. Varden's gem of desire allows he and Jorias to get past the doorman with no problem.
After introductions, Pollen Song indicates that he has seen a sapphire containing five glowing lights, mounted in a necklace in possession of unexalted member of imperial family. He gave it to a dancer at the Vermillion Ribbon named Volaria. Volaria supposed to be there, but isn't. While this is happening, two dragon-blooded enter with eyeless servants and start questioning a waitress named Rila. Just as the circle moves to investigate, Blossom starts dancing, transfixing everyone in the room. With eye contact, she plants suggestions into most people's heads:
- Gutts: "You should impress me by putting a large tip in my donation bowl." Gutts didn't even try resisting, and put something like a talent of jade into the bowl.
- Guen: "You should order two bottles of Marin Etos for your table, then tip the waitress really well. She�ll take good care of you." Guen doesn't resist, and orders the wine.
- Stag: "You should remove your mask. You'd be more comfortable." Stag resists this compulsion
- Varden: "You should find out what the names of the two Imperials hassling Rila are, then write them down and slip the paper into my donation bowl." Varden does as he is asked.
After the dance, the dragon-blooded take waitress by the arm outside. At various intervals, Gutts, Guen and Jorias follow, while Stag tries to get back stage again, this time succeeding. When he gets close to Blossom, he is entangled by her suddenly animated clothes. They flirt a bit and she kisses, then releases him. Stag leaves via the stage, barely hearing Blossom chew out her guards and start smashing stuff.
Meanwhile, outside, Guen finally manages to eavesdrop a bit on the dragon-blooded. They are clearly using truth detecting magic, asking Rila about whereabouts of someone named Emerald Singer. They asked her where "the book" is, but she does not know. Eventually, they toss her out of the wagon, and the circle befriends her. She eventually tells them that Emerald Singer is an scholar and treasure hunter with whom she had been intimate. He was driven out of town by another scholar, named Tower Horse. She calls them both "crazy old men" and "occultists" who were members of a group called Order of the Silent Dawn.
The circle wandered back into the now empty club and bribed the manager, Mara to reveal the location of Volaria's home. Gutts insists on taking his elephant and entourage, so they arrive at a run down apartment building with more fanfare than most members of the circle (i.e. everyone but Gutts) would have liked.
|18th day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Chiaroscuro||10 Oct 2005|
The entire circle walks into the apartment building, and manages to track down Volaria's door, which they pick. The place is lived in and cluttered, but unoccupied. A bit of opium is discovered. Using his nose, Guen estimates no one has been in the room for 36 hours or so. Volaria's scent is mingled with faint traces of someone else, but is strong enough to track. The follow the scent all the way back to the Vermillion Ribbon, where Guen picks up a more recent scent trail leaving the club. Following this scent leads the circle to an abandoned building.
The building is being used as an opium den, with addicts strung about. There is, however, a basement, and concealed among the clutter is the dead body of Volaria, evidently strangled to death. Guen picks up another scent, a male, in the basement, which he is pretty sure is Volaria's killer. The necklace is not on Volaria's body, but looks like it might have been ripped from her neck. On the assumption it was taken by the killer, the circle buries Volaria's body and leaves to track her killer.
This scent is tracked across town to a set of low-rise First Age buildings completely surrounded by rubble: the Plaza. The heart and soul of the Plaza is a powerful spirit named Grandmother Bright, who has a reputation as an information broker. In spite of Gutt's wearing full armor, she offers them tea and cookies, expresses condolences about Volaria's death. The circle describes the necklace and asks if she has seen it. She indicates that someone visited her and exchanged the necklace to information. While Grandmother Bright refused to identify the person or discuss for what it was trader, she offers the circle the necklace if they will find on object for her. According to rumors, a mortal scavenger savant named Emerald Singer brought a book bound in white feathers back from an archeological site he'd evidently uncovered in the southern deserts. This book is apparently quite a find, but Grandmother Bright has not been able to find out much about it. She has determined that it is causing trouble in the city, with a man named Tower Horse having driven Emerald Singer out of town. If the circle brings her the book, she will give them the gemstone. The circle agrees and leaves peacefully.
On their way out, Grandmother Bright tells Gutts that she recognizes his armor, warning him that "its creator will want it back if he ever sees it". Gutts asked who it was, but she said that he wears a different form now, and she is not sure she would recognize him any more. By then, it was dark and the ghosts were out in full, so Grandmother Bright provided a lamp that would keep the ghosts away for a time. The circle ran full speed, some of them being carried by others and made it across a salt-lined road just as the lamp went out.
Stopping by a bar, they manage to discover that Tower Horse is fairly well known in the city, and lives near the harbor.
Once they made it back to the hotel, they got cleaned up. In a bath, Stag sang songs making fun of Gutts. Gutts threw his sword into the bathroom door, shattering it. After being taunted by Stag for his poor accuracy, Gutts storms into the bath and picked up the tub. Stag possessed and animated the bathtub, wiggling out of Gutt's hands and making it walk across the room. Gutts, naturally, shot it with a firewand, torching a good portion of the room. A bellman came to investigate the ruckus and smoke, but Varden made an oblique comment about fondue and he went away. After returning the bathtub to its normal place, Jorias lit a pipe with some of the smoldering wreckage and went out on the balcony to smoke. Gutts showers in the room of his slaves.
|19th day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Chiaroscuro||20 Oct 2005|
After being warned by Gutts to avoid the tub, Emily and Morton make breakfast. Guen flies to the harbor and starts asking after Tower Horse by pretending to be an antiquities buyer. Eventually, Guen meets a merchant who directs him to Tower Horse's shop, providing an origami token which will supposedly allow Guen to get into the "back room" where the real antiquities are.
As Guen approached the house, he saw the Mnemon carriage from before, with several of the dragon-blooded leaving the house, looking irritated. Transforming into a bird, Guen flew to the penthouse to find Tower Horse dead with a broken neck, laying in the open doorway to a concealed room. Both the room and the bedroom to which it connects are in disarray.
Guen informed the circle via the earrings, and Jorias jumped on a conjured horse, speeding to the scene but arriving too late to save Tower Horse. The rest of the group catches up, storming into the house to find all the servants killed. They find a number of trinkets, a ledger for a candle shop that Tower Horse evidently owned and ran across the alley in back of the house, and a journal. The journal contains mostly details of the various trinkets in the vault, but the last few entries contain references to Tower Horse stealing a book from Emerald Singer. Details in the journal are hazy, but Tower somehow forced Emerald to flee town, then Tower sent men to forcibly search his collections, specifically for the book. The second to last entry, over two weeks old reads "I've started to translate and read it. It's the most remarkable find of my career." The last entry is a page and a half of gibberish.
The circle decides to check out the candle shop mentioned in the ledger. Guen manages to detect a faint smell in one of the drawers, a mix of human and bear. This baffles the circle, but Guen suspects there may be a shapeshifter involved.
|Chiaroscuro||25 Oct 2005|
Neither Jorias nor the rest of the circle was particularly stealthy when they entered the building, and unbeknownst to them, the dragon-blooded were still watching. Figuring the circle might succeed in finding the book where they failed, the dragon blooded sent one of their number, an master of Air Dragon martial arts named Mnemon Caras Para to eavesdrop, floating invisibly outside Tower Horse's bedroom window. When the circle moved into the candle factory, the dragon blooded decided to try to ambush the circle as they came out of the factory, hopefully capturing some of them alive.
Guen hears people moving down the alley toward the candle factory. This turns out to be the eyeless ones. With no consultation to the others, Stag runs out the door to confront them. He sees two dragon-blooded at both ends of the alley and becomes entranced with a magical contradiction floating in the air above one of them. Unresisting, two of the eyeless ones bind his hands behind his back. Gutts runs out to defend him, but is also transfixed by the magic. He is disarmed and led down the alley. As the rest of the circle starts making ranged attacks at the eyeless ones from within the factory, Stag manages to solve the contradiction and shake off the effects, spin-kicking the eyeless one leading him down the alley into unconsciousness and running back into the factory. Just before diving through the door, he sends one last kick, this one magically ranged, towards Gutts, which snaps him out of his fascination. Gutts breaks his bonds, calls his sword to him, and moves back into the factory.
Gutts starts cutting through walls, leading the group through a restaurant. Guen follows, in beastman form, causes quite a stir. The mortal patrons of the restaurant stream out, screaming. Some of them make the mistake of looking up as they pass the alley, and get transfixed by the magical contradiction.
Stag jumps onto the roof, running afoul of the still floating Mnemon Caras Para. Meanwhile, Gutts runs back into the factory, cutting holes in the other wall, into a warehouse.
|Chiaroscuro||22 Nov 2005|
Gutts and Varden finally move through the warehouse, exiting into the alley, attempting to outflank their attackers. Instead, they run into Mnemon Kena, a master of Earth Dragon martial arts. Her large white jade tetsubo disarms both Gutts and Varden, mangling their orichalcum weapons in the process. From the roof, Stag manages to inflict a ton of bashing damage on Para, who drops down the meet the bow wielding Mnemon Lapel, a Wood Dragon master who heals Para, taking his wounds onto himself.
Both Jorias and Guen fall prey to the magical contradiction, but manage to shake it off quickly. Guen goes to help Gutts and Varden, but gets distracted by Lapel and the two keep each other occupied. Stag suddenly finds himself encased in vines that grow out of the rooftop, a spell cast by Mnemon Marbado from a third floor window overlooking the alley. Stag escapes by possessing the wall around Marbado. As Stag prepares to make the wall attack him, he unknots a cord he carries, and a spiraling whirl of razor wire cuts down Jorias, incapacitating him.
|Chiaroscuro||29 Nov 2005|
Stag animates the wall, tossing Marbado to the street, but even this isn't enough break his concentration on his next spell. Guen connects with Lapel, killing him. Kena, meanwhile, continues to put the hurt on Gutts, Varden and Guen, eventually unleashing an effect that traps them all to the ground. In response, Stag possesses him canceling the hold on his circle makes before Kena pushes him out of her body.
Having nearly run out of essence, the dragon-blooded are in trouble. After sustaining a number of hits from the circle, Marbado turns into a flock of black birds and flies up out of the alley. Para isn't far behind, running up the air and over the buildings, managing to barely dodge incoming attacks. Kena, left to her own devices, makes a break for the carriage that comes down the cross alley for her. She manages to grab on, only to be knocked unconscious by the circle (and later killed). Stag manages to commandeer the carriage, killing the eyeless ones within.
|Chiaroscuro||6 Dec 2005|
Picking up the unconscious Jorias, all pile into the carriage, including the bodies of the two dragon-blooded. As they circle hears sounds of large numbers of approaching infantry, a slightly glowing Stag steers the carriage up the waterfront. Varden, the only one in the circle not glowing or unconscious, hires a boat. With some heavy bribes, the captain arranges a distraction in the streets, which by now is crawling with Chiaroscuro troops. During the furor, the rest of the group is brought on board, with the crew paid not to look.
While the boat makes its way out to sea, the two dragon-blooded bodies are searched. Many artifacts are found, but the group elects to use most of them to weight down the bodies to make them sink, including half a dozen hearthstones, a Traveler's Staff, Pale Shoulder and a number of jade weapons. All that is kept is:
- A warding charm against demons
- Veil of Privacy
- Actualizing Nature Band
To distract the crew, Varden and Guen (as Frank and Bob) stage a fight in the bow of the boat. Meanwhile, Stag (Stan) and Gutts (Eduardo) dump the dead bodies over the back. Stag gets the distinct impression of hearing a French accented voice saying "I see you", but isn't sure. Once completed, Guts breaks up the fake fight.
Eventually, the circle talks to the captain, Silver Face of the Sunrise who mentions some unusual ghost activity in the city.
Bring Out Your Dead
|Chiaroscuro||4 Jan 2006|
As night comes, the circle watched the living leave the streets and the ghosts take to them. While the rest turn in, Stag takes watch. Two ghosts appear, wanting to talk with the circle. Stag recognizes one of them as the wife of Tower Horse, having seen her body several hours earlier in her house. She doesn't remember her name, but the other ghosts introduces himself as Silent Procession and claims to be helping the woman but won't say (or, perhaps, doesn't know) why. The two talk with the circle (save Jorias, who is still unconscious) for several hours. Tower's wife remembers the the feathered book, calling it evil and indicating that it made Tower Horse crazy. She claims she saw the book carried away by a very large bird the day before, which drove Tower into a frenzy. She didn't know the contents of the book, but knows it was called "the Broken Crane, or something". This sets off bells for Stag, but he keeps silent.
Tower's wife was a bit confused from her recent transition to being dead, so didn't know much else. Asked about the ghost activity mentioned by the captain, Silent Resolve knew that ghosts had been recently attracted to a vineyard outside the city walls, but was too afraid to go himself. He suggested humans avoid the place. He also asked the circle to get vengeance for the death of Tower's wife, tracking down and killing those responsible. He suggested that he could refill Varden's essence containing gem if they succeeded, but mostly was playing to their charity. After asking a few general questions about the Tri-Kahn, the circle ask the ghosts for some privacy to talk further.
During this discussion, Guen suggested that the large bird Tower's wife saw was probably a lunar, and the circle talked a length about this lunar and how they might find him or her. Unbeknownst to them, this conversation was being heard by the lunar in question, courtesy of a Voices of Distant Regard spell he had cast. Unsure of the nature of those conversing, he took several tomescu to investigate.
The cloud-like demons killed most of the crew almost instantly, their cries alerting the circle. Stag activates a red, demon harming haze over all he can see, which given the view of the city is quite a bit. It lasts for the next five days. While most of the circle dispatches the demons, Guen tunes her perception to the max and hears the beating of wings high above them. He fires several arrows, which drives it away. Meanwhile, the circle's lack of ranged attacks allowed the last demon to fire arrows at them with impunity, until Gutts used his boots to leap and kill it. Still fairly wounded, however, Gutt's armor started to drag him under, distracting Guen from tracking the bird. Turning into a shark, Guen dragged Gutts back to the ship, then took flight as an owl to catch up to the bird. By now, the large bird had transformed into something smaller, but Guen's enhanced charms spotted a seagull out of place in the dark of night and followed it.
|20th day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Chiaroscuro||17 Jan 2006|
Before sunrise, the gull led Guen to Velvet Savor Vineyard, a vineyard on cliff overlooking the sea, outside of the walls of the city. Guen lost track of the gull, though it was clearly headed to a large house at the center of the crops. Guen took a quick flight around the grounds, spotting several spine chains patrolling the fields near the house. Not wanting to risk entering the house itself, Guen returns to the boat.
By know, Jorias is conscious, and a bit freaked out by the realization that the book they are after is the Broken-Winged Crane, warning the group that it is thought to be the body of demon and that even rumors that you possess it can mark you for death in much of the world. He suggests that since all of the immaculate monks they fought were from house Mnemon, a family deeply into the occult, and the immaculates were clearly looking for a book of some kind, it is probable that Mnemon knows exactly what the book is and are seeking to unlock its secrets for some reason. He can't imaging what Grandmother Bright wants of such a book, and the thought of giving it to her disturbs him.
With all the crew except the captain dead, the circle returned to harbor. Gutts bought the boat from the captain for an enormous sum and suggested he find a new life. Deciding to go after the book in the vineyard, the circle first returns to their hotel to gather their stuff. The return relatively stealthily to find the dancer from the Vermillion Ribbon in their suite, waiting calmly with three other people. After some initial tension, the groups sit to talk. The dancer politely introduces herself as Onyx Blossom. A northerner that Guen recognizes as the man who interrupted his reconnaissance of the Tri-Kahn's palace introduces himself as Flaxen Catacomb. A short energetic woman claims her name is Hammer in the Woods and introduces the last of the group, a burly, quiet type, as Masked Ox. After a bit of tiptoeing, a deal is struck to exchange truth.
Blossom explains that the four of them are solars, and they have set themselves up as the true power behind the throne in Chiaroscuro. They want to know what the circle is doing here in general and specifically what happened at Tower Horse's house. The circle decides to level with them, and tells them about the book and the undead in the vineyard. Flax agrees that the presence of the book cannot be tolerated and the groups agree to unite to stop whatever is happening at the vineyard. (Portions of this conversation that involve the lunar that may be behind it all are also overhead by Voices of Distant Regard). Guen asks about Unfettered, still looking to deliver the message for Adrios, and eventually it is determined that most of them know Adrios.
Gutts asks for some assistance in repairing his sword and Varden's serpent-sting staff. He suggests that he might be able to provide some orichalcum in exchange for this help, and ultimately the circle reveals its source: Last Envy. Hammer looks shocked and says that Last Envy was working for them as an undercover agent. They'd been awaiting the arrival of the orichalcum and had suspected Envy had been exposed and killed. The groups agree to sort that out when the book situation is handled.
Flax suggests that the group move to a semi-ruined First Age building known as Tears of Heaven. The bottom is flooded, but just above the flooded level is a First Age forge. With access to the forge and some of the tools that remain in the building, Stag and Varden begin to combine talents to repair the weapons, Stag providing insight into how the occult forces in the weapon need to be handled, with Varden making the actual repairs.
|21st day of Resplendent Wood, RY 769|
|Chiaroscuro||25 Jan 2006|
While his comrades are repairing their weapons, Guen made more detailed reconnaissance of the vineyard, which in daytime appears obviously owned by House Cynis. This time sneaking into the house, exploring mostly as a bat, he discovered a slaughterhouse, with house master and servant alike having been obviously killed in cold blood. Some had been reanimated as zombies in various parts of the house, with packs of hungry ghosts roaming with a purpose. Guen found three noteworthy rooms. The first of these is a chamber containing a huge tree that grows from a hundred feet below ground, through the house and out over its roof. Obviously a wood-aspected manse, one of the underground chambers feeding into it contained a large soulsteel and green jade urn in a magically significant position. Another room held stairs leading down to a large wine cellar that held a concealed door that Guen could not penetrate without giving himself away. The same cloud-demons that attacked the boat patrolled here. The last room contained various undead and a number of shadowy demons and two man-beasts guarding a door, but Guen was spotted by one of the demons, and had to flee.
The team spends a lot of time plotting, all of which is overheard by the lunar's Voices of Distant Regard spell. The initial plan was to split into two teams, one stealthy, one loud. Flax arranged for a pair of catapults, with crew. The idea was to attack at dawn, using the catapults to get as much sunlight into the house as possible. One team would attempt to get into the room that Guen got chased out of, the other will go into the wine cellar, to find out what's in a secret room that Guen couldn't get into without revealing himself. Guen will attempt to find the lunar and make sure he doesn't escape.
|Chiaroscuro||combining 30 Jan 2006, 7 Feb 2006, 15 Feb 2006, 1 Mar 2006|
The attack begins. The catapults made a bunch of noise and spine chains were lying in wait for them. The group dispatched them without much trouble. Gutts (on the loud team) stormed the east side of the house, going through the large hole created by the catapult. The others followed more quietly, arriving a bit behind him. Cutting down the wall into the map room (where Guen had been spotted during his first recon), Gutts found five shirikai (shadow demons), a number of war ghosts and the man-animals Guen saw earlier. (Later, these man-animals are determined to be named Arbox and Priam, chimera created from the dragon-blooded couple who ran the vineyard with a cat and a dog using Spawning of Monsters.)
Blossom charms ghosts with her dancing while the rest of the loud team dispatches the demons and ghosts. As this is going on, Guen enters the main tree chamber of the manse and spots the lunar and strange companion, who smells very wrong, but also has an unmistakable carnal attractiveness. As Guen hides in animal form, this figure steps into a shadow, then steps out of another shadow right near Guen, touching him. As Guen tries to react, he realizes he's been infected with a disease that makes him want to shun the light and starts draining his essence.
Meanwhile, the quiet group has penetrated the other side of the house and moved to the room containing the stairs to the wine cellar. Varden opens the door, exposing a small roomed crammed full of zombies. The team manages to shut the door to regroup.
As Guen's essence drains away, and the shadowy form is whispering to him, trying to convince him to join with them, Guen realizes he's not going to have much essence left soon, and becomes a beastman before it all is consumed. In the process, he uses the Whispering Earrings to tell the group he found he lunar.
Hearing Guen's message, Gutts breaks away from the battle in the map room to head towards Guen. Most of the rest of the loud group follows, leaving Blossom essentially by herself against a number of ghosts and four demons. As she convinces them to attack each other, Stag lags behind the rest of the loud group to let in more sunlight.
The loud team's ruckus attracts the attention of the (supposedly) quiet group. Gutts joins them long enough to hurl a firebomb into the zombie-filled room.
Guen, fighting the effects of the disease and both illusions and seduction attempts from the shadowy temptress, exchanges blows with the lunar, who is also in beastman form, half polar bear, half man. The lunar, named Ninth Hunter, regenerates as well as Guen, so neither does much lasting damage. Guen, however, is at a severe disadvantage with the disease and the mind altering work of the shadow, who is a second circle demon named Ronwe, the Unlit Pedagogue. Guen is drained of essence and wounded by the time the rest of the circle fights its way into the manse.
Once most of them arrive, Ronwe appears everywhere at once, difficult to track down or attack. More tomescu materialize as well, attacking the circle. With ample targets, Ninth Hunter breaks away from Guen unleashing several nasty area spells intended to rip the flesh from the circle and stun them. The circle is undeterred however, eventually brining down the lunar, removing his head to prevent his regeneration. Though the circle, particularly Stag, attempts to kill Ronwe, it dematerialize and escapes, speaking directly to Stag and saying "I doubt the book will bring you much happiness, Flowing Pen." As the circle ponders the meaning of this, the tomescu float upwards out of the manse, but none give chase.
|Chiaroscuro||7 Mar 2006|
When the lunar died a large, egg-shaped chest appeared next to his body. Within, a number of books were found, including the Broken-Winged Crane. It is left in the chest for the moment and the circle splits up. Some remain in the hearth room, checking out the rest of the egg contents, the urn that Guen saw and resting. The others swept through the house, killing remaining zombies and some stray demons. The secret room in the wine cellar is found to contain a number of cells, and looks to be where the Ninth Hunter manufactured the spine chains from the bodies of the vineyard workers. The map room leads to an underground vault with a number of summoning rooms (one for demons evidently used by Hunter) and walk-in safe filled with cash, drugs and armor. It also contained records of who attended parties at the house and what they did there (these were claimed by Hammer).
Stag buries the bodies with magic, ensuring they will not rise again. Some of the circle attunes to the manse, and the urn is discovered to be a potent artifact for manipulating ghosts known as a Shade Urn. The manse's hearthstone is found on Ninth Hunter's body, and it is placed back into the hearth, everyone passing on claiming it. Much of the house, though now severely damaged, is revealed to have been something of a den of vice, with rooms and artifacts dedicated to sexual parties, drugs and other pleasures. It also appears to have be the home of a serious armor collector, as all sorts of historic armor is on display. Within the vault were a number of suits dating to the First Age and scattered throughout the house are dozens of suits of "beast armor", jade suits fashioned after various animals in both appearance and power.
As the groups are deciding how best to split the loot, Hammer informs the group that she knows of a training facility that may be of great use to the circle. She knows they have access to a number of solar charms and many martial arts styles, including the Immaculate dragon styles. Even though the camp normally requires three years of training, she thinks that with some of the loot, including most of the armor and all of the drugs, it might be possible to work a deal.
All told, the following were found throughout the manse:
- Broken-Winged Crane - Given to Gutts initially, since he cannot read, but ultimately entrusted to Stag
- Shade Urn - left within the manse
- Sheltering the Pack - Ninth Hunter's moonsilver armor, taken by Guen
- Evanescent Aegis - oricalcum armor, now used by Jorias
- A collection of other armor, eventually turned over Flaxen Catacomb and company
- Deliberative Guard Dress
- First Age Legion's Officers Armor
- Jade Mail of the Imperial Cavalry
- At least one each of all the armors
- White Treatise -
- Black Treatise (Obsidian Butterflies, Demon of the First Circle, Emerald Countermagic, Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, Stormwind Rider)
- Crossing the River (primer on necromancy, Banish Ghost, Iron Countermagic, Summon Ghost, Soul Brand, Hungry Creeping Shadow)
- Bodybuilding Flesh-Sloughing Wave, Raise the Skeletal Horde, Walking War Machine, Exquisite Undead Aide, Reaping the Fallen, The Spawning of Monsters
- Alone - Emerald Countermagic, Emerald Circle Banishment, Sprouting Shackles of Doom, Demon of the Second Circle, Sapphire Countermagic, Voices of Distant Regard, Swift Spirit of Winged Transportation
- Red Treatise - Thunder Wolf's Howl, Blood of Boiling Oil, Magma Kraken
- 3 Book of Infinite Potential
- Cache Egg - Four foot storage egg that can be banished elsewhere, given to Jorias
- Dragon Tear Tiara - a moonsilver tiara, given to Guen
- Essence-Containing Gem - emptied by Ninth Hunter, given to Stag
- Hearthstone Compass - claimed as party loot
- Furniture intended to enhance sexual pleasure - two pieces saved for Cruxis
- Candles that cast a contraceptive aura - a dozen saved for Cruxis
- Dueling Torcs - Gutts
- World Affirming Melody Box - given to Flax & co.
- Saram Saru's Oracular Hookah - Stag
- Harrowed Daughter's Paleskin Cowl - party loot
- Skin-Mount Amulet (jade) - Gutts
- Gem of Memory Will - put back into hearth
- Stone of Dream Entrance - Guen
- Map of Azure Victory - Gutts
- An abundance of drugs were found in the vault, eventually all given to Flax & company
- Ghost Flower, 25 doses
- Age-Staving Cordial, 10 doses
- Ice Fern Spores, 100 doses
- Rasp Spider Venom, 50 doses
- Hallucinogenic Woad, 3 pots
- Heroin, 20 doses
- Opium, 250 doses
- Cocaine, 100 doses
- Qat, 20 doses
- Marijuana, 500 doses
- Seven Bounties Paste, 50 doses
- Sweet Cordial, 3 doses
- Philtre of Desire, 10 doses
- Madien Tea, 500 doses
During disposition of some of these devices, Guen gave Varden the Actualizing Nature Band claimed from Mnemon Lapel.
|Chiaroscuro||14 Mar 2006|
After Stag had pondered how to extract information from the Broken-Winged Crane without going insane or becoming cursed, he first tried summoning Fern to read it, but she refused, eventually getting so frightened she turned into a plant. She did confirm that it is a low-level demon, however. Lacking other options, Stag possessed the book using God Ways.
The demon fought against Stag's intrusion, trying to cast him out, while schizophrenically welcoming him, trying to lure him into understanding of its contents. As a result, stag only remained for a few seconds, but in that time understood two things about the book. One was the demon's taxonomy, the demons that spawned it and those that spawned them. The second was the book's purpose: to give knowledge and, once the reader was properly prepped, to open a gateway to hell and even higher knowledge.
Once Stag was done with the book, the decided to give it to Grandmother Bright as planned. She reacts strangely to the book but, as promised, gives them the sapphire. The circle asks about Ronwe and are told its name and that it is a second circle demon. Grandmother knows it is the messenger soul of a third circle demon, but doesn't say which one. She only knows of Ronwe because it can breed demons by mating with ghosts.
They also ask about retrieving memories from the gems. She suggests that she might be able to arrange it, in exchange for what the secrets are. The circle considers this, but makes no decision. Ultimately, they elect to wait on attempts to pull the secrets from the gems until they see what Hammer's training camp is all about. They hole up in an insignificant hotel for the night.