Valetas

Session 23
The Awakened Mind

Sep 18-19, 253AC

You finished your fight at the base from last session, and came out victorious, knocking out and tying up both of your assailants. Before that, however, the melee lady tried to stab Annalyn with an ophicine-encrusted dagger (but was put to sleep by Teris before she got the chance).

Investigating the rest of the back-corridors of the base, you found a runic tile embedded into the wall, that an empowered Detect Magic revealed as not actually magical, but had a passive field that seemed almost… anticipatory? Like it was poised to become magical at any moment. Hard to explain.

In addition, you had the chance to look into those notes you found in the hidden drawer. It seemed like they were doing some sort of experimentation on the runes — one rune in particular cropped up a lot, and the design matched the one found on the wall in the back-corridor.

You caught up to / coordinated with Devon and Vella to get all three of them (those two + the one caught from the drop site) ferried back to the high-security prison. The archer was the first to wake up from being knocked out — you tried interrogating him for a while, but he was fairly smug and uncooperative, and Bartooke knocked him out fairly shortly after.

When the melee woman woke up, she was much less smug and much more angry than the archer. She was passionate that her group was doing the right thing, and that they were simply trying to repair a broken world (“not that any of you could understand”).

Annalyn then asked her what she had connected her (Annalyn) to, in that incapacitation spell. She replied, “are you an awakened mind?”, which Annalyn replied affirmatively to. After this, a long conversation occurred between her and Annalyn, which took place entirely in their thoughts (she didn’t cast a normal spell to form this connection, because her hands were tied up / preventing her from doing somatic components). (Annalyn told you about this after the fact, of course.)

In that “thought-conversation”, the woman told Annalyn that her (Annalyn’s) talent was raw/untrained, but that her group could help her develop it. She said that the “other” that she connected Annalyn to was sort of unexplainable — “it that is”, “the soul of the universe”, “the unseen force behind all things”, etc. Also, the blue crystals / runes are merely a means to an end, since the problem they face — “healing the broken world” — is so difficult.

According to her, the world today is a mere shadow of what it once was, before others long ago shattered it into fragments. The Awakened is their term for people who can still interact with those splintered fragments, whereas the Unawakened can’t even see them / fathom their existence. Apparently, some force is still actively working to keep the world split apart, and her group is trying to counteract it.

She also explained how the Unawakened never understand the importance of what they’re trying to do, so her group simply avoids the issue and operates from the shadows. She pleaded with Annalyn to get the Spellknights to stop investigating the group, saying that their work is too important to go unimpeded. Annalyn said she would try her best; the woman was unconvinced, though, and said to Annalyn to hurry, or else others from her group would have to step in and try to stop them in other ways.

After Annalyn told the group about all this, you formulated a plan wherein Annalyn would try to infiltrate the group, posing as a newly Awakened Mind who wanted to help them heal things. (You’re still not sure whether or not they’re actually helping the world or hurting it, but infiltrating will help you figure that out, at least.)

During this conversation, Bartooke also finally got the chance to update you on the religious experience Bartooke had a few days ago. Apparently, she spoke to a god directly — Desma, the All-Guardian (a human deity from the Tuvessan pantheon). Desma told her that some were working to destroy the world, using dangerous knowledge that, once gained, could not be taken away. You debated for a while whether these people you’ve tracked down were working against that group, or were that group, or were just completely unrelated; unfortunately, you didn’t come to a clear answer.

Talm had decided to leave for Baegrim, after finding too many questions that she thought could be answered there. You spent some time tying up loose ends here — giving notes to Jaccobux, etc — and then made plans to head off. Annalyn also said her goodbyes to Nalora, by giving her a huge kiss, blurting out “I have to go, I’m sorry”, and running off before Nalora really had a chance to respond.

Annalyn eventually told the archer lady that she’d convinced the spellknights that this lead was a dead-end. She was pleased, and told Annalyn about a particular location that “she might find to be enlightening”.

Come 2016, plan: Annalyn Infiltrates is a go!

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Session 22
Attacks

Sep 17, 253AC

You finished up investigating the drop site from Session 21. You found a somewhat random selection of herbs on the altar in the house, but Annalyn noticed that each of the herbs seemed like slightly different strains (or possibly mutated?) from their “standard” versions. On top of that, the types of differences were consistent with the herb diagrams from the note the Spellknights found from Mian’s house.

Additionally, past the illusory floorboard was a basement area; firstly was a moderately sized, plain stone room, which extended out to a more newly added rough-hewn corridor leading to the (now dried up) well. Talm spotted a secret compartment in the basement area, containing a magically-encrypted note (of the style you ran across with Jethir and Kit), and a set of mundane objects arranged in seemingly very precise ways (an evenly spaced row of variously sized pebbles, eg). You sketched a diagram of those objects, and then left everything as it was in that compartment.

As Vella and Devon helped prepare the man you captured for travel, and Enada finished the full magical-history sweep, the party (plus Teris, a Spellknight assigned by Vella for backup) headed off to follow Locate Object signatures to what was ideally this week’s drop site.

You found a hidden doorway buried at the base of a tree, with a ladder extending down underground to a darkened corridor. Talm stayed outside to keep watch as the other three headed down. After examining the corridor fully and finding no apparent traps or clear magical signatures, everyone headed down, stopping just outside the lit room at the far end. The doorway here had an Enchantment/Abjuration hybrid field on it. Annalyn noticed a few gaps in the walls that seemed like they might betray hidden doors.

The room had a bunch of shelves full of assorted objects, including a half dozen or so blue crystals, various broken bits of material (scrap metal, wood splinters, etc), and some assorted fine tools that appeared to correspond to the different scrap material types visible. Teris used Mage Hand to ferry the crystals (and some of the more bizarre looking tools) near to the doorway, stopping just inside it (so as to not trigger whatever the spell effect was, ideally). There was also a set of notes tied down inside a drawer, which Teris used thieves’ tools with mage hand (and later, his shortsword) to sever the tie on and eventually acquire.

After a short while, Barnaby heard a sound from behind one of the back walls. Teris’ mage hand couldn’t push open any of the suspected doors, so Bartooke charged in and tried to shove it open herself, with Annalyn and Teris following close behind. It turned out, however, that it wasn’t actually a door, but merely a loose patch of wall; it took several rounds of shoving before fully collapsing inwards.

In the meantime, however, a set of iron bars fell across the doorway you entered through, and a magical Darkness descended upon the room. Annalyn used an amped up Faerie Fire on some mundane objects to try to overpower it, which mostly worked (albeit backfiring onto herself somewhat). In the process of trying to get the spell more balanced and under control, an arrow shot out from seemingly nowhere, both injuring Annalyn, jarring her into dropping her spell, and putting her under the effect of a fairly powerful poison. (However, being a healing-specialized Druid, it only took but a moment — and a level two spell slot — to set herself right again.)

Barnaby was able to fly back through the gap in the wall before it was fully broken down, and with his blindsight, was able to see two figures despite the magical darkness. After a brief scuffle, he managed to Shocking Grasp the archer who had shot Annalyn, but the archer swiftly responded with a shortsword swing that cut Barnaby down. (Teris, incensed, responded by managing to Fire Bolt him through the weirdly small gap he had used for his arrow.)

By the time Bartooke finally broke down the wall, she grabbed one of Annalyn’s Faerie Fire objects and charged into the back. However, by the time she got there, Annalyn’s spell had winked out, leaving Bartooke in the dark. (Talm had responded to Annalyn’s signal, and managed to re-cast Faerie Fire on some new objects, but by then Bartooke was already around the corner.) After a few dodged blows, she took a hit (from a blade that was also poisoned); fortunately, Annalyn was just around the corner, with both a new light source and a healing spell for her as well.

At that point, the woman dropped her shortsword and threw her arms back, casting some sort of wave of force that also tried to latch onto the minds of everyone nearby (namely, Bartooke and Annalyn). Bartooke managed to shake it off, but Annalyn was less successful (despite having been inspired by Talm’s music). She became incapacitated, overwhelmed by strange rattling screams inside her head and a flurry of jumbled visions.

Focusing in to try to deconstruct what was going on, Annalyn got the sense that this wasn’t a normal spell / magical effect that was cast on her — her mind was being linked, somehow, with another. Furthermore, her confusion arose from how incomprehensibly foreign this “other” was; you’re not sure exactly what it is, but definitely not human (elven, etc). Perhaps some sort of… monster, spirit, demon, extraplanar creature, elemental, god… who knows?

Bartooke decided that enough was enough, and decided to drop her shield and go all out on this guy (now that darkness wasn’t a concern). After landing a couple serious hits, the archer from down the hall popped around the corner and cast some sort of spell on her friend, after which everyone nearby got the sense that it would be a Bad Idea to attack her (though you’re not sure why).

Teris ducked around the corridor, quickly deciding to attack the archer instead (after experiencing that bad feeling), and dodged nimbly down the corridor to try attacking the archer. His attacks missed, however, and the archer then began to retreat away down a new path.

By this point, at Annalyn’s earlier suggestion, Talm had grabbed the crystals from near the doorway and run back outside, intending to stash them in a good hiding spot nearby and then come back to try casting Sleep.

Combat to continue next session!

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Session 21
Capture at the Drop Site

Sep 16-17, 253AC

The three of you, along with a team of Spellknights, went to try and set an ambush at the drop site.

The plan was for Devon to cast Disguise Self and look like Bonte and complete the ritual as if nothing was amiss. Ideally, he would then “see” the location where the next set of artifacts were being kept, and you could then both investigate those and any other leads that happened to arise. Talm, Annalyn, and Seccain (another Spellknight would be hiding near the drop site to observe, while Vella, Bartooke, and a couple others would camp farther down the road to serve as backup if necessary.

The site had a house in the centre of a small clearing, and the “ritual” Bonte performed was to begin and end at an altar inside the house. Around the border of the house, however, was a strange magical aura, of intermingled Enchantment and Abjuration magic. (Not the two schools layered on top of each other, but some completely separate school that could be best described as a blend of the two.) Confident in the magical buffs you had laid on him, however, Devon continued through this magical barrier and into the house as planned, and continued with the ritual.

To get around the fairly small radius of Detect Magic, Talm cast an invisibility spell on Seccain, and sent him off to investigate more of the clearing than could be safely observed from hiding. From outside the house, he was able to observe an active field of mixed Illusion/Enchantment magic overlaid onto the floorboards in the corner of the house. Since Devon had been fine after crossing the mysterious Enchantment/Abjuration threshold, he decided to go inside and investigate further.

At this point, Annalyn (as a mouse on the windowsill) detected a spell being cast — divination/enchantment that morphed into pure enchantment — after which Seccain spoke aloud “We’re Spellknights, Bonte told some folks about strange magic going on here, and we came to help them investigate.” An abjuration effect then appeared as Seccain’s invisibility was broken, and he began running out the door signalling everyone to abort the mission. (After catching up with him, you learned that the abjuration effect was him casting Resistance on himself to help break whatever compulsion he had been put under, and that the act of casting that spell broke his invisibility.)

Devon initially attempted to keep the ritual going and proceed as planned, but after Vella convinced the others that the time for subtlety was over (they clearly knew we were there), you instead went for a full charge on the base. With some well placed Detect Magics, your team was able to lock and eventually capture the man, who was trying to escape the house invisibly by coming up from the well (apparently connected to the basement of the house via some underground passage).

Some preliminary (and largely unsuccessful) attempts were made to question him, while Enada performed a full magical-history sweep of the area. You then began to take him back to the prison where Content Not Found: bonte and Mian are being held.

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Session 20
Auras

Sep 15-16, 253AC

Bonte got taken into Spellknight custody. Many conversations with Devon and Jaccobux happened.

Updates from Vella

Investigating Mian’s house

Someone used magic to conceal the traces away from the house, but one of the Spellknights barely detected signatures of this trail and was able to follow that. It led to a spot on the edge of the major river north of Tasden (on the east side), where a set of notes were buried. These notes contained some very heavily/strangely ciphered text and precise sketches/diagrams of some leaves/flowers/other herbalism-related ingredients. The sketches look similar to some species which Talm knows of (which tend to grow near rivers west of here), but with a few particular discrepancies. Talm received a copy of the ciphered text to look into.

The secondary drop site

Extensive magical readings were taken there, detailing what magic was cast there recently (within the past week). The signatures did not originate from a Wizard, Sorcerer, or Spellknight tradition, or a Ritual derived from any of those schools. Jaccobux confirmed that it wasn’t Divine Magic either. Annalyn and Talm struggled to understand the notation scheme used in the notes. Talm couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but Annalyn understood it a little, and noted some areas which seemed like signatures of Druidic Magic (but other parts which seemed quite different).

Mian

A historical magic check on him showed only the moment of detonation, which was an incredibly powerful blast of seemingly every school of magic at once. Before that, however, nothing was detected at all — despite the fact that you know he cast Charm Person on Annalyn, and that should have registered. Either the blast somehow wiped that “memory”, or those signatures were being actively concealed from the start (which is possible to do, although non-trivially difficult).

In addition, his passive aura was quite different than the sort one would expect of a person. A few key markers, such as the one for intelligence/autonomous thinking, were almost if not entirely absent.

Updates from Jaccobux

He had made more progress on sifting through the false fields on that artifact from Mian’s house (thanks, Nystul’s Magic Aura!). He narrowed it down to the “true” magical signature being divination, but a strange and somewhat warped form of it, warped in somewhat similar ways to the other artifacts you’ve come across. He hasn’t pinned down the specific functionality yet, and that might not even be possible with 100% certainty without taking it out of its lead box for yet more readings.

He confirmed that the “ritual” Bonte described was not a true ritual. When Talm asked if it could have been a ruse/farce for him participating in an actual ritual, he offered two possibilities: that he could have been an unwitting subject of a ritual, or the energy source for one. Both of these are pure theoretical speculation, however, and Jaccobux is planning on looking into the possibility further for the next little while.

If he were the energy source, there are a multitude of different forms that could take. Realistically, the reason rituals are performed at all is because more energy is needed than can be supplied by traditional magic, so there isn’t much point in doing a ritual whose sole power source is as simple as, say, making someone a bit more tired (although it would be possible in theory). If a person were made the power source for a ritual (a horrifying thought), it would likely be incredibly obvious — perhaps the person would be killed instantly, or enter a magical coma, or some such thing. Less obvious (though also questionably possible) alternatives include sourcing energy from someone’s passive aura, in a sense transforming who/what they are, or by harvesting the energy normally used to transport one’s spirit to the afterlife on their death. (This would have no obvious effect until their death.)

Aura suppression would, in theory, make it easier for compulsion effects to take root. There is a ritual to detect a target’s aura, and see what (if any) suppression has taken place. Bonte and the three of you all had your auras intact; Mian’s has been horribly messed with, but you’re not sure if that was from the detonation or before. You also had the thought to try to test the head of the thieves’ guild for this at some point, if possible.

Talm asked Jaccobux to set aside some books for next time, specifically the few he has on dwarven history and (the considerably more detailed) architecture. He doesn’t really know much at all about Runic Magic: the Baegrish keep a tight lid on all that.

Plans for the Drop Site

Vella and Devon both definitely want to go. There’s also one spellknight who can cast Locate Object, and one other who can cast third level spells.

Devon can cast Disguise Self. One possible plan (which Devon has volunteered for), is to have him disguise himself as Bonte and try to trick the Sellers into believing nothing is wrong. (Especially since you know the question is supposed to be “have you broken the contract” and his truthful answer is “no” — since he never agreed to it in the first place).

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Session 19
Directions

Sep 14-15, 253AC

Annalyn tracked down Bonte, and with a well placed Hold Person spell, managed to capture, bind, and gag him with no real damage done to him or his horse. Bartooke and Talm caught up after an hour or so, and the group interrogated him.

His saddlebags contained a few days rations and other basic supplies (eg a blanket), hastily packed, alongside a large utility knife/sword and a fairly nice shortbow with a few quivers (one of which had the arrowtips soaking in poison). His personal cloak had a map of the drop site with specific locations marked/notated in odd ways, along with two more vials of poison, a small vial of powder that would be dangerous to inhale, and a bunch of other miscellaneous odds and ends (eg wire).

He told you:

  • Everything that Pendys and Katell told you the night before, echoed faithfully.
  • A very precise description of the man they met as the Sellers’ contact.
  • A description of a ritual he was told to summon the Sellers back to the drop site (which used the spots marked on his map). It seems like it would take about an hour to perform, and it doesn’t seem in the style of any ritual you’re aware of.
  • A bit more background info on the Baron. Bonte’s been working for him (through Texim) for a few years now, but has only met the Baron directly once; he gets a good deal more work from this Baron than many others in Astherel (more willing to use sketchy means to get stuff done?); Nymdra is a fairly high-tier person in the Baron’s employ, who carries out a lot of his orders behind the scenes / makes sure much of the actual governance takes place (though without necessarily making decisions herself); he thinks he can get you an audience with the Baron if you need one.
  • Other work Bonte has done for the Baron over the years has involved mostly ferrying sealed packages (containing vials of…liquid?, encrypted notes, etc) to whoever has the code phrase. This is the first time he’s ferried amulets — for anyone, not just this Baron — and the first time he’s ever run into this blue crystal outside of jewelry.
  • The powder is some sort of noxious smoke-bomb: break it while holding your breath and run like hell as a get-out-of-jail-free card for bad situations. It’s apparently fairly expensive.
  • The poison is “Khriiven’s Own Certified Thrice-Brewed Ultimate Venom Formulation TM”, but he doesn’t know what it does beyond “it’s poison, I paid pretty well for it too”.
  • Details on how Pendys fights / her weaknesses. Apparently she’s kind of a badass. (Also, Bonte knows enough about fighting to recognize those weaknesses.)

After briefly considering trying to find (and stick him in) an abandoned mine next to Lake Tantis that Bartooke had heard of, you resolved to bring him to Vella’s super-magical-prison (the one Mian is in) after a night’s rest and a day’s ride, and so sent Vella an animal messenger informing her of the situation.

During the night, some hungry lions were lured to your campsite by the delicious smell of Annalyn’s stew. After giving them all those leftovers, Annalyn cast Speak with Animals, and told them about some nearby deeralopes they could catch for more food. They thanked you for the info (and the stew), and headed off that way.

The next day, after about a half-days’ travel towards the prison near Tasden, you ran across a dwarven totemic site on your path — they’re places of worship, and it’s customary to stop at any you come across for a short while on your travels to pay your respects. Bartooke did so, and had a bit of a religious experience in the process.

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Session 18
Merchants vs Sellers

Sep 13-14, 253AC

The group you interrogated:

  • Bonte (m, merchant)
  • Pendys (f, associate, fighter/muscle)
  • Katell (m, associate, has a thing for Pendys)
  • Taleno (m, not present, connects with seedier types alone)

Info you gathered:

  • They have a contact, Texim, who acts as an intermediary between them and the local Baron in terms of hiring more unsavoury types for jobs (they’ve worked for the baron in the past)
  • Texim put them in touch with these Sellers a couple months ago, saying the Baron wanted their goods and to coordinate delivery with them directly
  • Original contact with the Sellers seemed nervous, foppish, out of her element – they assumed the group was simply new to interfacing with criminals, which also explained the absurdly high price tag (5 tln. deposit, +1 tln. per pickup)
  • Pickup is every three weeks at a specific point; the next one is scheduled for this week on Felling (Sep 17).
  • The first pickup they went to, voice-in-head asked them to promise never to reveal anything about the group / etc: when pushed back on this (“why are you making us swear all this / or else what”), the voice directed them to a nearby “abandoned” shack with a man chained up inside. The man screamed for their help, but then as they watched, he turned into this strange horrific entity — whose description matched the one you ran into back when you were tracking the crystals with Jethir and Kit.
  • They then had to swear a bunch of things – basically that they’d never reveal any of this to anyone under any circumstance – which was all referred to as their “contract”
  • Each time they go to collect a drop, a voice in their head asks if they’ve broken the contract, and they feel compelled to blurt out “no” (the truth) – after which they’re told (in their head, again) where the actual drop point is this time
  • The group knows about Pendys’ wife, Daravna, and has threatened Pendys with her safety as well

The locket Pendys threw away was simple and barely engraved, with a small lock of hair on the inside.

You told them a good spot to rest for the night, and that “two of your associates” they’d already met (Annalyn and Talm) would meet them in the morning.

You also convinced them that the amulets were dangerous, so Bonte left his pack behind. It had one more amulet in it, equivalent to the others you’ve collected, along with some money and typical merchant goods, plus a full talent&two and a detailed map of the region’s roads contained in a hidden pocket.

Talm stayed up for most of that night examining the amulet for any trace of the writing from before, which it did contain (though barely and very faintly). Bartooke recognized the style of writing as belonging to a very old form of dwarvish script.

When you met up with them the next morning, Bonte was gone, and Katell had a black eye – apparently, Katell woke up to Bonte rooting through their packs, and on questioning him, he punched him hard. By the time Katell was done reeling, Bonte had already taken off. Pendys suspects he went to the drop site, to inform the Sellers of everything that took place the night before.

After some deliberation, you directed Pendys and Katell to go to Sarno and hide inside one of the abandoned mines there (so the thick rock shielding would protect them from most forms of magic), and await further instruction from you. In the meantime, Annalyn took off towards the drop point with Longstrider up, intending to catch Bonte on the way.

As dusk began to fall, Annalyn spotted a man on a horse off in the distance. Intending to catch up, she cast another Longstrider and headed straight for… well, hopefully Bonte.

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Session 17
Intimidation

Sep 13, 253AC

Bartooke killed a few bandits on the “toll road” on the way over, and hid their bodies under a cart.

Talm and Annalyn scoped out the farmhouse. Talm got briefly spotted by a woman inside the house, who then sent her dog out to investigate, but the dog found nothing. Relieved, she went back inside.

Talm then scoped out the wheat circles in the field for the best hiding spots and sightlines before hiding up in a tree with a good view of the road.

Bartooke arrived after about an hour. Talm hid her armour nearby, since it was far too loud for stealth, with the promises that Annalyn would cast Barkskin on her at the first time of trouble.

After a while, Talm saw the woman from before (later revealed as Pendys) skulking down the road. She blew a whistle, then stayed hidden; after a few minutes, the woman in the farmhouse headed out to the stables with a small pack on her pack, then prepped her horse and rode out of town past Talm and Pendys. Pendys then waited a few more minutes before heading up to the farmhouse, doing something near the door / possibly just inside (later revealed to be, at a minimum, hanging a small wreath on the door), then headed out to the wheat circles.

The man came a few hours later, skulking down the road for a while, then heading straight for the fields. The merchant didn’t arrive until much closer to midnight, but followed the same pattern when he did.

Everyone then skulked out to the wheat circles and hid nearby, overhearing their conversation. Highlights:

  • Their employers were always referred to as, simply, “the sellers”, with no other identifying details — intentionally, it seems.
  • They were convinced that these sellers were basically omniscient: any course of action that involved some sort of deception against them was quickly met with a “they’ll know” from someone. (eg. go to ground / they won’t find us, say that somebody other than us slipped up, etc).
  • Their primary fear was that “the two” (presumably, annalyn and talm) would find the sellers, and that it would be their fault for letting it happen. They’re terrified about the sort of retribution that would happen.
  • They thought up all sorts of fantastical “but what if they could do X” brainstorming about annalyn / talm’s possible talents. At one point, two of them had the exchange “do you know enough about magic to be sure that will work?” / “Well, I thought I did. Before all this, anyway.”
  • They eventually settled on step 1 at the very least being to track the party down again. They decided to call in a favour from Pedas, who was alluded to be in charge of a wide-reaching spy / information network, to do so.

After a bunch of inter-party discussion, the party decided to intimidate them into giving up their secrets. To start with, Talm issued a series of threatening _Message_s, and Annalyn cast Entangle and set a hay bale near them on fire. When the merchant looked like he was about to talk, the woman punched him hard and knocked him out.

The woman then briefly clutched a locked inside her shirt, at which point Talm cast Phantasmal Force on her, giving the illusion that the locket was choking her out. She sputtered in between gasps of air, “you bastards, what did you do to her?” As soon as Talm dropped the spell, she took the locket off and flung it away (conveniently, towards Talm!), and broke down crying and repeating “what did you do to her”. Talm then _Message_d, “We can fix it, but only if you help us”, and “we’ll get the information either way, but this way will be less painful for you”, and “if you help us, we’ll do what we can to make sure they don’t find out it was you”.

After a bit more intimidating back-and-forth-ing, she eventually relented, croaking out a quiet, “what do you want to know?”

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Session 16
Runes Outside Baegrim

Sep 12-13, 253AC

Talm and Annalyn got dragged to the regions’ Keeper, the woman in charge of the local conscripted forces under the Baron. Her name was Bartooke, and she’s a dwarven fighter who holds the conscripts in a very low regard. Upon seeing that the amulet contained runes, she freaked out — Runic Magic isn’t supposed to exist outside of Baegrim, and as a dwarf, she felt responsible for tracking down the source of the leak.

She filled the group in on a bit more info — for one, the blue crystals are completely inert on their own, and are occasionally used in jewelry and such, but are a necessary component of runesmithing.

Found out that the man who had taken the note from the merchant (that you’d then followed to the tavern), later met up with a woman who he left with. On top of that, said woman was seen with the merchant at the stables, when he / his caravan first arrived in the city.

Talm also managed to decrypt the cipher in the note the merchant passed to said man:

(description of annalyn and talm.)
these two aren’t any of ours, and they know way too much. not sure how, but they know about nymdra, now about the baron, and about the artifacts. and i fucking sold them one. gods, i hope i didn’t just sign our death warrants. who even are these people?
the baron can go fuck himself, don’t care about him — but if they manage to track down the sellers through us, we’re dead yesterday. and not quick or clean, either — i’ve seen some of the shit those fuckers can do, and it’s… well, let’s just make sure it doesn’t come to that. i mean i’m sure they were just trying to intimidate me into taking their secrets seriously, but damn did it ever work.
looks like we need to do some damage control. meet me at (location), tomorrow at midnight. get pendys to come, and taleno too if you can find him.
we never should have taken this job in the first place. should have known the money was too good for things to go smooth.

(Pendys is a gender-neutral name, while Taleno is masculine.)

The three decided to get to said meeting point before the meetup, and hide nearby to overhear any discussion. Bartooke had her own stop to make beforehand, so Talm and Annalyn went straight there to scout out the area before Bartooke was to arrive later.

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Session 15
"The Baron thanks you."

Sep 8-12, 253AC

The dynamic duo continued travelling west! They eventually got to a city ahead of the merchant of interest. Learned that a number of merchants had been setting up here recently from out of town, as the city was becoming more of a trading hotspot what with all the people moving up the Lutia these days.

After finding the merchant and name-dropping the contact you’d heard about, the merchant sold you a “totally generic dagger” that just happened to be in a box with a blue amulet. When he passed the box to you, the merchant leaned in and said softly, “The Baron thanks you and sends his regards.”

The amulet came with a note that was definitely targeted at people who knew nothing about magic, which blusteringly described the myriad wonders the amulet would do to keep you safe from “the evils of the north” (weapon attacks, some kind of magic that can “break one’s will”, and a few other things).

The amulet was primarily the blue crystal in the centre, with similar-styled gold filigree to the other artifacts around the border, all contained in a new metal casing. The crystal was very rough and scratched up, but with a bit of polishing from Talm, had a faint small glyph etched in near the bottom. Talm also managed (with some effort) to work the crystal out of its metal casing without damaging it. (The case, by the way, seemed fairly new and rather poorly put together all things considered). After popping it out, the sides of the crystal could be seen to be incredibly smooth and polished, unlike the faces.

It gave off a faint aura of Evocation, which — on closer inspection with an amped up Detect Magic — showed some similarities with the other artifacts you had seen. The field was moving, like the other artifacts, but was simply slowly spiraling inward, unlike the convoluted and powerful twists and turns the fields made in the other artifacts. The amulet was slightly warm to the touch, and warmed up slightly more (and the field twisting accelerated slightly) when any magic was cast near it.

With the goal of acquiring another artifact to compare against / serve as a backup, the two of you went to watch the market stall and see who was making purchases. You sighted a few people, but given how subtle the seller’s sleight of hand was with you, you aren’t sure which of those buyers (if any) were just buying things, versus buying things.

After a little while, the merchant started acting decidedly more uncomfortable, then began to pack up his stall early. He left out a note on the corner of his stall, which Talm managed to snag with Unseen Servant. It was written in a cipher, which Talm dutifully copied before replacing the note where it was taken from. After a few minutes, someone walked past the stall and discreetly grabbed the note on the way.

You followed the man who grabbed the note (from a good distance back, of course) back to the tavern, and then went inside yourselves and grabbed a drink and some stew from the barkeep, Devrani. He asked you a few questions, like when you were supposed to head up north and who your keeper was, which you deflected (“forget their name”, “sometime soon”, etc). After a short while, you went back outside to scope out the tavern’s exterior.

In the process, a woman walked down the street to meet you with an overly wide grin, speaking in Thieves’ Cant about your “mutual friend” Nymdra. After asking a few pointed questions, she said to drop the act and tell her how you heard about any of this. Simultaneously noticing a few other people posed just a bit too casually around the alley, you answered her with the partial truth — that you had heard the name Nymdra from a drunk gentleman in such-and-such town, and that you “just thought it might be worth something to look into”. She responded by saying that the magical artifact you “bought” was the rightful property of the Baron, to distribute among his followers how he saw fit. She then gave you an ultimatum: give the artifact back and leave, or join up to help fight the orcs.

After a bit of back-and-forth, you decided to give back the amulet, but had taken it out of its metal casing earlier. This woman, who appeared to know next to nothing about magic, was furious that you “broke” the artifact, not listening to any of your pleas that it was still 100% functional. She angrily demanded an explanation for why you did so, and also seems to wants you to answer for this “crime”.

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Session 14
Heading West

Sep 6-7, 253AC

Annalyn went on her date with Nalora! They baked pomegranate tarts together, and then Nalora watched the trio put on an incredible performance that night at The Sorcerer’s Cask. Nalora mentioned that she was running the pen and paper stall for another merchant, in order to make money for tuition at The University of Tasden, which she’d likely be able to afford within a couple years. She also confided that her boss had been asking more and more of her lately, asking her to work suddenly and at odd hours, or do things like keep a watch over supplies that didn’t exactly fit the job description. On the walk home together, Annalyn intimidated a pair drunk idiots with a fire cantrip. The two made plans for a second date in two weeks, on Sep 16 (Threshing again).

You followed up with Vella, to see what she and her spellknights had dug up at the other artifact site you sent them to. They detected some magical signatures that definitely didn’t correspond to standard Astherian magical traditions (Wizard, Spellknight, or a ritual derived from either), but they weren’t sure what it was beyond that. It was also gone before they could home in on its location.

Vella had also gotten a lead from some mysterious elven woman (who you inferred was Zacharina), that artifacts similar to the one you had given Vella were being smuggled out of the city to the west. She also knew the sigil the cart was bearing. To follow up on that lead, you borrowed some horses from Vella and rode off along the western road to investigate, after telling Rakkan (and explicitly not Vella) the location of Cali’s new base.

When stopping in to one of the larger towns along the road towards Sarno, you asked around for information on this caravan. Annalyn talked to merchants who had seen them stop in to town, and they mentioned that the proprietor did a very rushed and halfhearted job of trying to trade only a few things. They gave her a decent description of the man who ran the caravan, as well. Most of the merchants were worried by what they’d heard of the orcish conflicts, hoping it could be stopped before it came south enough to start threatening their livelihood. (Some had more… colourful things to say about the invading orcs, as well.)

Meanwhile, Talm had a conversation in thieves’ cant with someone in a local tavern. He implied that this caravan was coming through to “help out” the local militias in their fight against the orcs by supplying them better (see Recent News – Astherian). He claimed not to know who was sending them, but didn’t care either as long as the supplies were good. The caravan was due to make several more stops at outposts along the border with the Northern Hills, and gave Talm a name to drop at the next town in order to be “let in on the deal”.

Raelynn met up with someone who had seen his circus in the past, and had a wonderfully engaging and distracting conversation with said gentleman that lasted the whole day. He has a new best friend, but no more information. Raelynn, Jethir, and Kit all stayed behind in Tasden (retconned due to missing players).

After foraging for food, disguising themselves for safety, and restocking herbalism kits, the party made camp outside town.

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