Empire Rising

The Hunt is On

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, and Ragnar Smotson. (Fiona Scarlatti was ill and was played as an NPC by the GM though was run through some solo stuff later to catch up with the group. Totally playing the wife card.)

The Adventure

The party returns to Ceccana and, following inspection by the family priest, are deemed cleansed of their sins. Tohmas Ramathustra welcomes them back into the fold. They are greeted with a fine dinner and finer breakfast. He has leased for them a townhouse near the center of the city that they might use as a domicile during their time in Ceccana as well as the services of a full-time maid. If they have need of a butler, they may request one from his household (this being most likely for dinner parties, in which case he hopes they choose to invite him).

Following breakfast, Tohmas Ramathustra tells them that an informant of his at the Guild of Coin and Trade has told him that a private shipment arriving for Guildmaster Colvino was stolen, the page killed, as the man attempted to deliver the package from the ship to the guild. A mahogany box with a brass latch was being delivered from a ship called the Scarlet Wench, captained by the guildmaster’s son, Captain Colvino (a cultural scandal that the man should name his son after himself). The box contained two items: a velum parchment and a gold amulet. The parchment is sealed with red wax and marked by a very distinctive crest, a two-headed vulture holding an anchor in one claw and a spear in the other. The amulet is more mundane, 3 inches in diameter and marked by concentric circles. If the party should be able to acquire these items, Uncle Tohmas is certain that he can arrange a meeting with the guildmaster. They will split the reward equally and the political gain will be good for all.

Accepting this task as a ready source of income and influence, the party sets out that day, beginning their investigations at the docks. On the way there, Brek Sturnson sees a Skivendian laborer and asks if the man knows his father, Sturn Kelvinson. Though the man does not know him directly, he does know the name. It seems Sturn made a name for himself some months back. A number of taverns have contrived to create an organized sporting event. Taverns host non-lethal pit fights, allowing sponsored combatants to use any methods of hand-to-hand combat they are skilled in (whether it is boxing or wrestling) to best their opponent. Wagers are made, trade goods exchange hands, and the gentlemen of the city see some sport. Sturn was known to be an undefeated champion and a source of pride for the local Skivendians, but after two months of success disappeared without a trace. The laborer suggests they inquire at a restaurant in the south of the city called the Stately Gentleman.

Once on the docks, they find the Scarlet Wench (Captain Colvino’s ship) still in dock, loading supplies for a new voyage. Though the captain is not present, they do speak with the first mate, offering to “make it worth his while” if he should speak to them. He says that he is off duty in four hours and that they should meet at a tavern called the Mermaid. In the mean time, the group takes a rickshaw to the south side of the city and eats lunch at the Stately Gentleman. Elihas’ attempts to draw information from the waiter fail quickly and Brek, being of short temperament and a direct nature, chooses instead to address the entirety of the restaurant, asking that any information on his father’s whereabouts be passed on to him directly. This less civil approach does not yield any immediate results, but a bottle of fine wine is delivered to the table and an invitation to dinner offered for the next day (on the third floor of the restaurant, a most prodigious invitation indeed. Brek accepts and the party makes their way north to meet with the first mate of the Scarlet Wench.

First Mate Roberto tells them the basics of what happened (the same story he told to at least two other groups of investigators). The box was acquired by the ship’s Merchant’s Man, Jocopo. Jocopo delivered the box to an attendant page once they ship docked, a man named Tomo. Tomo was found dead a few blocks away from the harbor with the box missing. The first mate is unwilling to offer them any more information until they make it worth his while. Having drunk the fine wine rather than bringing it along to for a bribe, the party has little to offer him and makes to leave. This does not sit well with the other tavern patrons who had been eavesdropping. It was clear an arrangement had been made and that the party meant to welch on that arrangement. Elihas consents and pays for the man’s meal (twice over) and the party departs, having lost that source of potential information.

The group then goes to the harbor master’s office to look up the manifest of the Scarlet Wench, discovering that Merchant’s Man on the ship is named Jocopo. Gathering information along the docks, they learn that Jocopo lives on the west side of town. The party heads there (except for Brek who heads to a local tailer to buy a better outfit for the next day’s dinner—fortunately for him the tailer has just the thing for a traditional Skivendian suit and after a little haggling promises to have it ready by the next day).

Questioning Jocopo leads to some more specific information…and a few missteps along the way. The box was not listed as being purchased by Guildmaster Colvino but by his head clerk, Ciro. The box remained in Jocopo’s cabin during the duration of the voyage (a cabin that no sailer would have entered on thread of flogging, not that any of them were capable of picking the lock that held the box shut). Jocopo delivered the box to Tomo sure that it had something in it (the weight was certainly more than a normal mahogany box), but he had never been informed on what its contents were. The fact that the party and their patron had this information implied that they were somehow involved in its theft. Jocopo felt this information relevant to the constabulary’s investigation and would pass it on in due course. He suggested they make haste to retrieve the box’s contents in a timely fashion as to prove their innocence.

The party believed Jocopo did not know the contents of the box, but were uncertain if that information was as secret as the Merchant’s Man believed. Questioning his uncle, Elihas is able to learn that the informant was Ciro himself. Given that Tohmas learned of the box’s contents only after it went missing and not before makes them wonder if the man had any ulterior motives or only wished to retrieve the box’s contents as quickly as possible. Heading to the Guild of Coin and Trade the next day, they find that Ciro is no longer at work but quarantined at home with a case of the measles. They are told that if he survives, he should return to work in a few weeks.

Finding out where Ciro lives, they head to his house and see the notice on his door that he is in fact quarantined. Since no one in the party has had measles, they are not so inclined as to break the quarantine to question the man. Brek, meanwhile, heads back to the tailer to retrieve his new suit. The “suit,” while including a nice jacket and shirt, turns out to be a kilt. The tailer swears it is a traditional Skivendian style, but Brek has never seen such a thing. A mountainman would freeze his balls off wearing such a thing. Still, he accepts the tartan, hoping to make an appropriate spectacle of himself with people who clearly pay to see spectacles. So dressed, he prepares for his dinner as his search for his father finally gathers steam.

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Dinner and a Disease

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, Ragnar Smotson, and Fiona Scarlatti.

The Adventure

Because of business travel and illness, the previous session was cancelled so it was a full month before we came to this adventure. This meant a lot of game time was spent reestablishing some of the facts of the previous endeavor, remembering layers of the intrigue, and players that may or may not be able to influence what was happening.

Brek Sturnson finally went to the Stately Gentleman for the dinner with the man that knew his father. The man, a tobacco merchant named Polonis, claimed that Brek’s father had been an indentured bond servant, agreeing to fight organized gladiatorial events in exchange for room, board, expenses, etc. to be covered by Polonis. The contract made allowances for Sturn to bet against himself and throw a fight, not that he ever did. The clause specified that if Sturn were to throw a fight, he must alert Polonis of the decision so the man would not suffer any unnecessary losses. Given that Sturn won every match he participated in, this was not much of a concern. Until the last match. Sturn did not arrive and forfeited the match. A match where Polonis had wagered his wife on Sturn’s victory, losing the woman to his social rival, Guildmaster Colvino. According to Naissani law, debts are passed in perpetuity, making Brek now responsible for his father’s debt. For the contract to be fulfilled, Brek must retrieve Polonis’ wife before Colvino discards her or sells her off. Otherwise, Brek will become Polonis’ property to do with what he pleases.

Polonis tells Brek what little he knows of Sturn’s disappearance. He had provided a home for him and when they inspected the home, all his belongings were gone and all that was left was a red carnation. This flower has no significance to the group. The best they can figure is the flower included on the coat-of-arms of another village in Skivendia. Much like Brek’s home claims the white rose for its flower.

They go to Sturn’s previous home, vacated since his disappearance. Arriving at the house, Brek is overcome by a vision of the house in use, a maid, his father, and a woman that looks very much like his mother—perhaps an aunt or a cousin. His father is reading a note. Finishing, he collects his belongings and leaves the house without another word. With the vision passed, they search the home. They find the flower still there (though stepped on). They find the letter in the fire. It was not parchment but leather and had not burned up. The ink had been scorched away, loss in the black burn marks of the leather sheet. They also find Sturn’s wedding ring, in tact but warped from the heat. A Skivendian would only toss his ring into the fire as an act of divorce or when his/her spouse had died. Brek’s mother is alive, though.

Knowing that they are searching for items of value to Colvino, the group sets off to find the missing box and its contents in hope of advancing their own goals, helping Elihas’ uncle, and saving Brek from a life of slavery. This takes them back to Ciro, Colvino’s clerk. Elihas breaks into the man’s house, ignoring the quarantine and finds the man covered with hideous boils oozing puss and blood. He also noticed a faint buzzing, though he could not determine where it was coming from other than about Ciro’s body. His previous experiences with magic suggested to him that some evil creature had been summoned to plague Ciro as his ailment clearly wasn’t measles. After lengthy experimentation of stabbing and cutting the flesh from the clerk, Elihas gives up and returns to his party to inform them of what he found.

The group is appalled and after much discussion cannot come to a better solution. They return home and ponder. Here Brek realizes that the buzzing they heard must be some kind of invisible mosquito or other parasite causing Ciro to become ill. They return to the house, find a wound, and throw flour above it, revealing a mosquito the size of Elihas’ head. The group engages the thing and eventually kills it, rescuing Ciro from immediate danger.

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KNOWLEDGE!

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, Ragnar Smotson, and Fiona Scarlatti.

The Adventure

Ciro recovers and, after some not-so-subtle intimidation, confesses that the page was deliberately murdered and the box – which never actually contained anything – was discarded into the canal where it spilled out into the bay lost to everyone. Guildmaster Colvino hopes to affect the discovery of items by people wanting his favor without drawing undue attention by his adversaries that would hope to thwart him if he were searching for it openly. The question remains who set the monster on Ciro. Was it Colvino or was it one of his rivals?

Fiona reveals a gold medallion she found while in the jungle. It matches exactly the description of the medallion the group is looking for. Further, in Elihas’ hands, it is warm and he believes it to be an item of magical power. Fiona stated that she had received messages from the Oracle, stating that powerful forces were searching for the medallion, and that they needed to find a way to give them what they wanted without giving them what they wanted. Keep it hidden, keep it safe.

Following this revelation, Brek and Elihas say that something happened to them in the pool as well. Since he swam in the pool of the Tear of God, Brek experienced visions more frequently, mostly of his father. In Elihas’ homeland, he would be called a prophet. Elihas reveled that since he had swam in the pool of the Tear of God, he had become more attuned to things magical. There is a power there he is still trying to understand.

Next, Brek and Ragnar go and meet with Polinis, asking him if he knows that Colvino is searching for two items. They say they might have a line on the gold medallion. They offer a trade, Brek’s contractual obligation to Polinis for the medallion, so that he (Polinis) could trade it Colvino in exchange for his wife. Polinis was open to the idea, though he admits to liking the idea of keeping something Colvino wants more than retrieving his wife.

With the truth out that Colvino never had the medallion or parchment and has staged the whole thing so that people would find it for him, it was noted as odd that he started the search before the medallion was even in Ceccana. Elihas, however, did not find it odd, because the medallion was there now, which was what mattered. If that was the case, then it was possible that the parchment was there now as well. He started searching pawn shops and scrivener shops to see if he could find it. While he did not find the parchment, he did find some one who thought he recognized the design, a scrivener named Entonio (not the same Entonio he met before). Working with Entonio, Elihas and he were able to find that is was an ancient Haen design supposedly when the Haen controlled Ceccana, though Entonio knows of no such time.

The group decides that, while Elihas is doing research with Entonio, they will go to try to make a duplicate of the amulet. Elihas had found a gold coin and they would use that to plate an iron fake. They made a clay copy of the amulet and traveled to Terracina to find a jeweler to do the job. Along the way they were ambushed by highway bandits, but they managed to win through.

Elihas’ research into the Haen parchment found that there used to be a temple of some sorts near the current Governor’s Palace. The entrance is believed to be somewhere in the sewers.

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Hot Pursuit

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, Ragnar Smotson, and Fiona Scarlatti.

The Adventure

Returning from Terracina with the fake amulet, the group sets about gathering supplies and resolving their plans. Before heading down into the sewers for an indeterminate amount of time, Brek decides to meet with the maid, taking Fiona along as a chaperon in an effort to make the woman more comfortable. They discuss his father, her duties in his employ, and the reasons why Stern left. She retells the arrival of one of Brek’s aunt who bore a note claiming that Brek’s mother had been kidnapped or killed or kidnapped and killed. The maid was unclear on this point. Brek left his mother safe in Skivendia and it is not possible that a messenger could have arrived with news of her demise months before his arrival in Ceccana, so for reasons he does not know, his aunt lied to his father. The maid was instructed to clean the house and that Stern was not returning. She was also instructed to leave a red carnation, though she does not know why. Having begun to master his visions, Brek is able to see the vision he saw of his father’s departure and identify which of his aunts had brought the message.

While Brek and Fiona are meeting with the maid, Elihas and Ragnar return to Ciro’s home to see if any of their competitors have made as much progress as them. They find the place ransacked and Ciro missing (though no signs of his demise). Later Elihas and Brek return looking for Ciro’s journal, but it is missing. Brek attempts to divine what has happened and hears the search through the house and a man shout, “I found it!” With Ciro’s disappearance and the loss of his journal, it is likely those who took it know about the party. The group starts to be more cautious and indeed discover that their house is being watched. They leave for the sewers at a time they believe is free from observance.

The group heads up The Hill toward the Governor’s Palace (where the magister lives). They find a manhole cover to the sewers at the end of a dead-end alley. They pry it open only to discover that the hole is barred. Rather than going farther way from the palace to non-barred holes (places Fiona has been in before) like any sane person would, Brek simply smashes the bars from their bolts. The resultant noise draws the attention of the local street patrol. The group hops through the hole and recovers it before anyone enters the alley. The patrol is able to open the cover and when they see the bars are missing, they call for reinforcements. The party takes a few turns in an attempt to avoid pursuit.

Traveling through the sewers, they head toward the palace. Though Elihas’ research did not provide an exact location, they figure to start at the source and then search outward. Security in the sewers increases the closer they get to the palace. A locked iron gate bars there way, no challenge to Elihas’ nimble fingers. But when Fiona walks through, she steps on a pressure place that releases a trap. A spiked log falls from the ceiling and swings at her. The group nimbly ducks out of the way. The falling stone from the ceiling, however, alerts the guards to their location (as they had actually turned the wrong direction). The party cuts the ropes and tosses the log and the debris into the sewer water. They then close the gate and jam the lock so it cannot be opened (not thinking to jam the lock to the door on the other side of the canal). They continue forward, more wary of traps and discover murder holes. The deliberate for a LONG time and the Skivendians finally step over the pressure plate and avoid the trap all together.

They reach the end of the sewer. The water retreats underground. But for some reason, the passageway continues onward. They find a decrepit, broken down door that leads into a circular chamber. There is only one other door in the room and it is well maintained. Oiled hinges, iron banded, with wood not warped by weather or age. The guards are still pursuing them and the group decides this is an opportune place for an ambush. The group fights and eventually wins, killing all the guards (despite Ragnar’s best efforts to knock them out). As the blood drains from the soldiers’ lifeless bodies, the party notices that there are small grooves in the floor. They begin to fill with blood, one circle, then another concentric circle, then another…

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Haen Temple of the Two-Headed Vulture

With the threat of capture by the city guards eliminated for the moment, the group disposes of bodies into the sewer, keeping anything of value and letting the beast they had seen in the water (perhaps an alligator?) have a free meal.

Examining the strange, circular room, the determine that the walls are solid and wall sconce are just all sconces—pushing or pulling on them does not open any “secret doors.” Worried about someone coming through the fine door, Elihas attempts to jimmy the lock. It was hard to tell if he succeeded but nothing came through the door while they were there.

Not having any luck figuring what to do next, Brek, at Fiona’s suggestion, tries forcing a prophesy, hoping to see a way forward. But instead of a vision, all he hears is two screeching sounds and so loud they affect his hearing. Unable to hear the others over the ringing in his ears, he is able to conclude that the sound was like that of a vulture’s cry.

Elihas, thinking that maybe the amulet would serve as a key if placed in the middle of the concentric circles, begs to borrow it from Fiona. He promises to keep it safe and she relents. Handing it over, she notes that it has become too hot for her to hold, though Elihas has no problem handling it.

Amulet in hand, Elihas receives a shock! Where Brek was standing in the middle of the room there is now a column of brilliant white light—and no sign of Brek! And at the bottom of the column of light at the center of the rings is a hallway, running vertically down and away.

Setting the amulet down, the column of light vanishes and Brek re-appears, having never really vanished. Elihas tried the amulet again and light re-appears, only this time he could see Brek through it. Looking to push Brek from the light, Brek worries about being burned by the amulet and jumps away. When Elihas steps into the light, the group is shocked when he disappears from sight.

Elihas finds himself in the long hallway he had seen. It is lined with doors on both sides, leading off into the distance. There is light, and everything looks clean—no sign of dust you’d expect to find in a temple forgotten in history. Turning, he finds a door but no sign of the circular chamber or the column of light. Fortunately, touching the door brings him right back to the group.

Following Elihas’ lead, everyone touches the amulet and they all step into the light—and into the long hallway. While marveling their new location, Brek alone notices a person in robes far down the hallway cross from one door to another. They check the first door and find a small sleeping chamber, neat and tidy, and also no sign of decay. A large mirror in the room gives them a frightful vision or lack of one. They group does not have a reflection, though anything they do in the room can be seen.

Elihas checks the next room down the hall to see if the mirror might be a window, but it’s not. That room, too, is a neat and tidy sleeping chamber. Elihas speculates with Fiona that maybe they traveled not only in distance to this place but also in time.

Ignoring the rest of the doors, the group goes down the hall to the door that Brek had seen the robed person enter. This room proves to be a well lighted library, with shelves and shelves of books—more books than in all of Ceccana, Terracina, and Viadana combined. The group looks at the books but cannot decipher any of the titles.

Off in the distance Elihas spies a table with a single candle and when he goes over there he finds a person in robes sitting at a table, reading a book. Nothing he does or says gains the figures attention. He does note that the man’s face is not Naisani, not Skivendian, definitely not Brinish, and in fact looks nothing like any he’d ever seen – except for the faces in the strange road-side monuments they’d seen while traveling to Dohme Jungle.

Elihas calls the others over and shows them this strangeness by waving a hand in front of the reader’s face. It isn’t until he tries to take away the book that the man reacts. In the act of moving the book, though, Elihas receives a bit of wounding shock, but now he finds he can interact with the man, whose name is Francis. “Welcome to the Temple of the Two Headed Vulture,” he says.

Francis is full of information. He directs the party to the section of library where the scrolls are stored. He tells them they may use any of the bed chambers as they need, and may borrow the material if they like, as long as they return it when they are done. The group moves over to where Francis indicated the scroll they needed was. They examine the shelves along the way, and Brek and Elihas each take a book.

They reach the spot where the scrolls are, and start searching. Elihas takes the time to examine each scroll, hoping to find the one they need, but it takes time. Ragnar decides to take a more direct approach starts looking rooting through them all, looking for pictures. His method works – he finds the missing scroll with the red ribbon. Elihas swaps the ribbon with another scroll, one with a green ribbon. The group decides to move out of the library to somewhere more private to discuss their next move. Elihas has taken several red-ribboned scrolls off the shelves and gives the missing scroll (now with a green ribbon) to Ragnar to hold.

  • Fuzzy here – I don’t remember why we decided to go back to talk to Francis **

The group returns to find Francis gone. They check the room across the hall, the room that Brek first saw him come out of, and although it shows signs of recent habitation, it is currently empty. They then here a bell tolling. “Lunch time!” Ragnar declares, but the rest of the group thinks it might be a calling to prayers. They follow the sound and find other people dressed like Francis (in robes) all heading in the same general direction. They follow and come to a large room, an enormous temple. The people are all kneeling and facing the center platform, chanting in a discarded harmony. The people around the group notice that they are not chanting, so the group joins in, mollifying them.

Upon the center platform are three men, all wearing robes. There is a large set of concentric circles there and they are moving about them, also chanting. The chanting gets louder and louder and suddenly, within the circles appears a gigantic form, that of a man-like shape, only where it’s head should be are the two heads of a vulture. It lets out a double screech, leans down and devours one of the men on the platform. This causes Fiona and Elihas to flee as fast as they can. Brek and Ragnar are stunned but otherwise ok, and don’t even notice their departure.

A moment later, the creature starts sniffing the air, as if sensing something. It spies the two remaining members and glares at them. The other people in the temple all turn and point. They decide it’s time to leave – now! They make the temple exit just as the two-headed vulture does (despite how much of head start they had!) and they get away from it, but not from the other people now chasing them.

It’s a race to the exit. Fiona and Elihas reach it first and turn to see the others fleeing with their chasers gaining on them. With everyone touching the amulet, Elihas reaches the door – but only he goes through! The rest are stuck and the chasers are upon them. With an effort, they throw them off and try again, and this time they are all through, back in the chamber in the sewers.

The group make their way out of the sewers, coming out not where they came in, but elsewhere, and it turns out to be not far from where Ciro lived. Rather than return to their own townhome, which seems to be being watched, they entered an empty building to determine what to do next.

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Repercussions

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, Fiona Scarlatti, and Ragnar Smotson

The Adventure

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Elsewhere

Party present: Brek Sturnson, Elihas Ramathustra, and Ragnar Smotson

The Adventure

After deciding to travel east across the Amani wastes, the party reconsiders and books passage from Astina to Westport (outside of Temple) in Aman’Brin. Elihas attempts to reach out to his family, first with a message to his father. His father rejects his note out of hand, so he attempts to contact his brother. His brother sends him a note at the same time, telling him that his father is upset that he has returned to Aman’Brin so quickly when it had been understood that he was leaving for Naissan. He recommends that Elihas leave Temple as soon as possible.

The group dines at The Black Sheep Tavern, planning on leaving for Skivendia as soon as possible. During their meal, the bar maid stares at Brek. The begin conversing and he learns that his father had passed through this tavern a couple months before. He had been a very popular patron for the few days he had stayed. She passes her affection to Brek as well and he convinces the group to stay the night at the tavern. A few hours later, the two have consummated their association and the girl, Dahlia, asks Brek to marry her and to take her with him on his travels. He starts to agree until he remembers how easily he agreed to a slave contract and then chooses to drink her under the table.

Brek stumbles out of the room and calls for his companions, waking them but waking Dahlia’s father as well. This leads to Ragnar dropping Brek out a window and then sneaking out the front. Elihas and Fiona wait until the father has turned his attention from his guests and back to his daughter. The party regroups at the docks and sets out for Skivendia the next morning.

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