The Undiscovered Country

Last Orders

Brond the Barman chucked the last of the stragglers out and locked the pub door. The old muscles maybe weren’t what they’d been, but these days his voice was usually enough to get them out at closing time.

He did his final round of clearing up, grabbing stray tankards and greasy plates. The same old routine, but he wasn’t complaining. It was a peaceful life now, and all the better for it. Why bother about who’s on the throne or who’s at war with who? His regulars didn’t. Oh, they’d hold court with their views and opinions, but it was all just talk. None of them did anything but drink. And that suited Brond just fine.

His glance caught the twin rapiers, hanging over the bar. Looking a bit dull. He couldn’t remember when he had got out of the habit of polishing them every day. One evening he’d just been a bit too tired, the bar had been a bit too busy, and ever since then he’d found himself taking them down less and less often.

He opened the trap door behind the bar and went down the wooden steps, a lantern in his hand. A quick inspection of the barrels in the cellar confirmed his suspicion – it was time to get started on a new batch of Brond’s Best. It was getting more and more popular, attracting drinkers from villages as much as three miles away. There was even an ogre who made sure to buy a small kegfull every time he was in town. Mustn’t disappoint the ogre.

Climbing back up the stairs, his head was no sooner out of the trap door than it was yanked back from behind, and a sharp blade pressed to his throat. “This is for my sister,” hissed a voice in his ear.

Before he could ask his assailant to be more specific, the blade sliced sideways and blood sprayed across the floor behind the bar. He felt his legs give way beneath him, and he fell back into the cellar, his lamp blowing out as he fell into darkness.

Lying on the floor, he could feel nothing, see nothing. As the gushing blood slowed to a trickle, his mouth widened into a smile.

I’m going to meet Asmodeus, he thought.

And this time I’m going to give that fucker what for.

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Jasmine/Jack timeline part one: Jasmine

1: Party think Jasmine is super good archer! Woo – look at my arrows killing things – woosh.

2: Tuakiin burns down the pub while getting in a fight – Jasmine wonders if he is a follower of chaos. Tuakiin isn’t punished. This makes Jasmine more relaxed and trust the group more.

3: Drinking competition – with Brond and Kai – I win!

4: Tuakiin does an oath of vengeance – Jasmine interjects drunkenly and tries to join in. As he is clearly follows chaos. This is very interesting. I am not really sure how I can help his destiny. I am sure I can think of something.

Brond Stabby Stabby – Stella. – Brond agrees to protect Jasmine.

5: Tuakiin is super angry with Brond – Jasmine protects Brond by telling Tuakiin that the box broke and the green gas killed Stella. (Jasmine instructed Brond to open the box) – but he kicks it open to see what is inside. I wanted to see how far Tuakiin will go, when he is angry. He nearly kills Brond. Oops.

6: Tuakiin doesn’t kill Jasmine for trickery. Jasmine is relieved because this would be annoying. – I actually convinced Tuakiin not to kill Brond – Phew. Tuakiin does take all the shiny things away and gives them to a dragon. That’s pretty chaotic. Clearly he follows me.

7: Jasmine says a eulogy which expresses sorrow that Brond would do such a thing, and offering useful hairstyling advice should the gods see fit to give her an opportunity to take it (a plait would really suit her). I think it is fitting that I did the ceremony especially as I am a trainee God.

8: Jasmine and Rima glamourise their appearances using both mundane and magical means, and entice the two guards, luring one of them away onto the road to Fandolin where Rima overpowers him and ties him up “like he’s been on a stag do”. Rima is cool!

7: You are a what? – I am warlock – mind control baddies – that’s bad is it? Oh. Bugger. I had a deep and meaningful with Kai. Have to change my ways. Will do that then.

8: Spirit weed and buying a pub. After the spirit quest Jasmine and Krom share food and continue to smoke the spirit weed which causes intoxication. They awake some time later, both naked, surrounded by the bodies of many hobgoblins, that have been killed by arrows (so probably not by Krom or Jasmine). Cool, then we buy the pub. Better buy beer with the new girl Madeline.

9: Jasmine Dies (The First time) – Jasmine & Madeline are in the Grey Wastes. Madeline recalls advice from her tutor regarding Heaven & Hell, concluding that they’ll both be fine & soon be eating peaches & cream. Jasmine is not going to Heaven. They won’t let her eat peaches & cream she’ll make sure she’ll have her peaches & cream with her friends at the end.

10: Rima persuades Mortimer and the group to bring Jasmine back. – Yippee! I am back!

11: No body, oh my, I am not well. I persuade Mortimer I don’t need Jasmine’s mangled body. That cheeky handsome chap lying dead on the floor will do.

12: I have a male body. What do I do with this? Do I still drink cocktails? – yes. Excellent. What do I do with this then? Errrr. Okay I do that with it. This is brilliant.

13: Mortimer is my new best friend. He isn’t interested in the other thing so I don’t mention it.

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Lowest Gods Since Records Began

“Library’s closing young Master Greysproket… take any volumes you need to the librarian please.”

Mortimer pulled at the navy blue trousers that were a little too large for him (they had halfling size, it had to do for Gnomes), and tucked the grimoire that weighed more than he did under his arm, he had to lean his entire body to the right to move toward the desk with the book.

“I’m sorry young mister, but you can’t check out this book from the library, it’s only for journeyman magi and above. It’s from the top stacks.”

“Yeah, y’er not wrong, I hadda climb 3 shelves!”

“Well I’m afraid that was rather to discourage youngsters to seek out such material…”

“Miss, I could be 65 years old and I ain’t gettin’ up der… that’s just hightest!”

“Oh NO! I mean we would never, I mean, we have many Gnome…. What I mean to say is… I need to lock up.”

Master Greysprocket nodded and made his way out before the flustered librarian. She wished him well, and was so concerned she might have come across as insensitive, she missed any sense of deception on the young boys face.

2 hours after dark; Master Greysprocket’s silent gnomish feet padded down the corridor, he’s had a mage hand the lock behind him, and now the library was at peace.

He raised a hand to the door, magically warded, of course. He was just beginning his magical studies, and couldn’t have broken the spell in a month. Which of course was the point, no man could crack the lock, no magi could travel through the wards. Thankfully, he was no Man.

Taking the tiniest of Tinker’s Tools, given to him by his Grandfather (a Gnome said to have invented a machine that could receive the mind of a living creature), Mortimer set his adeptly dexterous 3 fingered hands to work on the lock. It clicked in under a minute.

He made his way over the top stacks, climbed 5 levels, and pulled down a book nearly as large as himself. Such dexterity and awareness should have been impossible for an interloper, but a City Gnome was more than adept enough… after all, that was why 90% of those that remained were pressed into military service as guerrilla warfare specialists – a fate he knew awaited him. All the more reason to amass this knowledge now.

He opened the Grimoire.

3 fingered hands flicked through the pages till they arrived at the first page he’d discreetly marked:

The two faiths that drive forward the war machines of our survival is the Citadel and Free States belief in the power of the Queen of the Shining Citadel vs the Cult of Acererak

both sides know these two faiths to be demonstrably true, as they are the powers that protect either side from the attacks of the other. In such a way our lives are given in the service of our protector Sorcerer Lords. Our worship is vital for the war effort, and treaties to the contrary should be considered to be detrimental to the survival of the Shining City

Mortimer threw the book aside, what use was information is if wasn’t truth, just manipulation?

And so he climbed.

Two hours later he had the oldest book he had been able to find in the whole citadel before him:

“The Magi that conceived the barrier made their choice under the prehistoric moral imposition imposed on them by the now dead monotheistic religion of the time. Of this, little is known. History books carried over from the past world, such as they are, speak of a single ‘god’, a being beyond this plane, standing in judgement over all mortals at their end. Unhappy to let them do whatever they need to survive, instead imposing strict moral values on the mortals.

It is telling that this/these gods (as some scripts deal with them as two) are clearly dead and gone by the Common Era of our history books record. There is no record from their practitioners, of any trace of their influence lending boons to their practitioners (indeed there are non). Nor of their indecipherable moral code being enforced on any of the contemporary peoples.

At this time of study the recorded religions are the Worship of the Goddess Queens of the Shining City. The Old Ways still regarded by some Elves and Gnomes. The Neon Gods, as worshiped by what remains of the Dwarves in the subways, and of course, the beliefs of the Battle Mages, who put magi and demi liches above all else.

That the Gods before the barrier are dead now show they were either fictitious, or wiped out by powerful magics….”

Mortimer collapsed back on his heels and fell to his back, giggling, a thousand years hence, he finally answered the question that had haunted him as a small boy: what had killed the Gods?

He had! He and his conspirators in the East,they had wished the Gods unto death, he was the answers to all he sought as a child. He and those he fought along side had killed the gods and defined the world he would grow up in, the world that would shape him.

Well except for this one… Jack-shaped… wrinkle

“Be careful what you wish for”…

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The Word of the King

Sal had stood before them many times, teaching them first of her race and then of the Fey. Today it was time to start consolidating it, giving them the links that would help them find the true path. This would be the legacy of her time here. This was her purpose.

She looked at the faces staring at her with such attentive reverence…and began her calm refrain.

“In the beginning there was the Fey and the Fey were all. All things came from the Fey, were nourished and given life by the Fey. Their light shone bright and pushed the darkness from creation. All they touched was beauty and light. From the wild forests to the creatures that roamed them, all were beautiful in the eyes of the Fey. They saw all they had created and it was good.

In their infinite wisdom they created the Court, to better protect their creation. Each monarch and their kin pledging to forever keep the harmony of life and the seasons safe. This they did, their beauty and grace reflected in all things.

Each Court had its own focus within the whole, their own refrain that fed the harmony of life.
The Spring Court ensuring new life and progeny.
The Summer Court ensuring prosperity, sustenance and growth.
The Autumn Court ensuring renewal and harvest.
The Winter Court ensuring survival and rebirth.

All things came from the Fey, are beloved of the Fey and are forever joined to the Fey. We are one with the Fey and the Fey are with us."

She stopped and let her eyes scan her pupils for their response. They were rapt once again. It wouldn’t be long before the questions began, but she knew what to say. A few more titbits, a few more clues that would have them joining dots. And it would not be long before the structure of the day had been re-purposed to suit her. Each quarter dedicated to one of the Courts. Their rituals replaced.

The second quarter of the day – that would be the one where they would make the most discoveries, where they would learn to feel the presence of the Fey, their link to creation. Where they would learn that of all the Fey, the Summer King was supreme.

She let her eyes close for a moment, feeling her connection to everything around her and to the only person who mattered. In her mind she sang out to him, “I am one with the Fey, the Fey are with me”.

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Season 7 Session 8

The next morning, Illyria awakes in her bed in the tower of Hommlet. Beside her, still asleep, is the prettiest and most innocent of the guards she ended up drinking with the night before. She wakes her gently, and the embarrassed guard picks up her clothing from the floor and quickly leaves, making her walk of shame back to the barracks.

The rest of the party wake in less questionable circumstances, and soon they are having a combined breakfast and planning meeting in the main room of the tower. Regular checking with truesight and detect magic reveals no attempts to scry on the meeting. There is a general desire to pick off more high-value targets in the enemy horde, like the dragon the party killed the previous day. The problem is, how to locate them? Mortimer sends a message (in phonetic Elvish, courtesy of Sal) to Seleria, queen of the owl-riding elves who are stationed in Theria, requesting some reconnaissance of the horde. Seleria is happy to oblige, but it will take time – she instructs Mortimer to contact her again the next morning for a report.

Unwilling to spend a day twiddling their thumbs while the horde advances, the party forms a new plan. They will again travel via the Grey Wastes to the edge of the horde, but this time will remain in the Grey Wastes and move into the midst of the enemy, only returning to the material plane once they have identified a suitably high-level target to attack. Then, once the target is defeated (or if the battle is proving too difficult) they will all teleport back to Hommlet once again. There they will rest, awaiting the elves’ reconnaissance report.

Breakfast over, the party prepares to depart. They transport themselves into the Grey Wastes, around where the horde ought to be by now if they have continued their march, and find – nothing. They should be able to see the entire horde as shadow figures before them, but instead all they can see are the ghostly impressions of the open countryside. Nothing is moving, except for two or three owlbears away in the distance, but even they seem to be keeping themselves to themselves.

Lacking much in the way of options, they decide to come out of the Grey Wastes into a copse of trees on a hillside. Illyria blasts a tree to splinters out of sheer frustration. The more mobile members of the party do some scouting – Sal on foot, and No Name in the form of a bird. Neither finds any sign of the horde. Both Mortimer and Illyria try scrying – he with a vessel of water, she with a bowl of blood – but neither has any success. Mortimer even tries sending a message to the Vizier asking for any available information, but all he gets back is a torrent of abuse, and the information that the person Tuakiin attacked was not Javier Asturro after all, but an impostor.

After making camp, the party debates at length where the horde could have got to. They might have turned right or left from their route, which would at least delay the attack on Theria. Or they may have gone en masse into another plane – presumably the Feywild – but that would require prodigiously powerful magic. One possibility would be to teleport to the vicinity of Theria and wait for the horde there, as that is still presumably their target. However, no one really wants to sit waiting for a week or more when they could be taking action.

Illyria decides she will try to contact her lord. She is reluctant to do so out here in the wilderness, given the dangers of the spell going wrong, but needs must. Mortimer, as a fellow devotee of Asmodeus (albeit in his own special way) agrees to look after her if she falls into delirious madness.

She falls into delirious madness. Sal has seen this before, of course, and No Name pays little heed, but Mortimer does his duty and ensures she comes to no harm as she writhes and babbles in Infernal gobbledegook.

Illyria has a series of nightmare visions. In the first, she walks through the door into Asmodeus’s study, only to fall into an endless pit of demonic monstrosities, tearing at her body as she plummets through the horror, one wrenching off her leg. She hears Jack’s voice, saying “I’m your friend. Please trust me.”

Sal, listening to Illyria’s babbling, makes out a word in Infernal: “Leg”.

Then she is on a vast, icy plain, crawling across the cracked and frozen ground. Jack’s voice says “I’m your friend, Here’s a blanket.”

Sal makes out the word “Frost”.

Now Illyria is in a wilderness of mirrors, stretching out to infinity on all directions. She looks into one of the mirrors. She sees Jack waving back at her. He says “I am your friend. Trust me. I want to give you presents. I want you to win.”

Sal hears her mutter “You”.

After some hours, Illyria comes round. She does not tell the rest of the group about her visions, but after they have all slept for the night she takes Mortimer aside, on the pretext of morning rituals, and confides in him about Jack’s presence in her dreams.

Also in the morning comes the report from the Elvish reconnaissance. They have found no trace of the horde. It seems all the party’s sources of information have come up empty.

In desperation, Illyria tries to contact her lord once again. This time should be less hazardous, however. Despite her apparent disdain for this business, No Name has prepared nature magic that can lift Illyria’s madness should it come upon her again.

It is not needed. Illyria finds herself in Asmodeus’s study, face to face with her lord once more. He tells her that the horde is no longer on the material plane, but this news seems almost irrelevant to her compared to the passionate intensity of the long, lingering kiss he places on her oh-so-willing lips. When they finally break their embrace, he tells her “Whatever you wish, will be done”.

Her audience with Asmodeus over, Illyria relays the information to the rest of the group. It seems that the way forward is for Mortimer to use the Wish spell which is in Clausis’s spellbook. At least, this is what Illyria advocates, and she can feel the hand of Asmodeus on her shoulder as she does so. Mortimer, however, is reluctant. There is so much that can go wrong, he doesn’t even know what plane the horde is on, he has so many objections. But Illyria keeps pressing. She can hear the voice of Asmodeus telling her that nothing can possibly go wrong, and she repeats to Mortimer “Nothing can possibly go wrong”. Mortimer still prevaricates, and now Illyria even sees a vision of Asmodeus, telling her it will not go wrong. Again she pushes Mortimer, telling him again and again that their lord has assured them that it will work.

Eventually, Mortimer acquiesces. He studies the spell in the spellbook, in all its inefficient and archaic layout, and meditates upon the precise wording of his wish. Meanwhile, Jack, Lubash and Sal are looking at the view, discussing what they want for the future. Lubash wants to help ogres who are downtrodden or repressed, and Jack assures him that he completely agrees with the principles of the Ogres’ Union and that he will be sure to always uphold them. Lubash isn’t quite sure what to make of this, but welcomes it in any case.

By now Mortimer has decided what he is going to do. He speaks aloud as he begins the spell:

“I wish that Azarr Khul, all who follow his word, and all those who count themselves a part of his horde, and the Feywild, and all those who hide themselves upon it be irrevocably destroyed.”

In the Feywild, the horde of Azarr Khul is on the march. A golden light suffuses them and each and every one of them, hobgoblins, manticores, ogres, giants, sphinxes and the great Azarr Khul himself, disintegrate into golden dust. The light rushes through the Feywild, annihilating all in its path.

Still encamped in the copse of trees, the party presume that the spell has succeeded and the horde is destroyed, but they are not immediately aware of any change. Apart from Jack, that is. He springs up, saying “Thank you, I knew you could do it. You’ve all helped me in so many ways.” A crown appears on his head. “Thank you all again. I am the Summer King. And I’m going to give you presents.” He walks through a golden door into his domain.

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Kata

A sound like a whipcrack as the air rushed out of the way of the reappearing dragonborn. His nostrils flared and ears twitched as the pressure equalised. Okay, hold your breath next time he thought as he drove the staff humming with radiant force into the sphinx’s side; and around into the other sphinx’s neck; and precisely six seconds after he materialised, he vanished just as abruptly.


The red dragon, ancient and majestic and glorious and powerful and it sees me as an enemy, as a snack, as a pest, this is not Escapar bore down on his friends. Tuakiin closed the distance as fast as possibly he could, the magical energy coursing through his veins hastening his stride, travelling the last thirty feet as mist.


Green and gold-scaled arms outstretched, Tuakiin focused all his attention on the tips of his clawed fingers, willing the lightning to form, needing the lightning to form, and it did.

The air tasted metallic as the electricity arced between his fingers and coursed the dozens of feet towards the dragon.

And Tuakiin realised.

This is not my power.

I didn’t call on my wrath to cause this.

This is not from my vengeance.

This is dragon magic.

This is a dragon duel.

The lightning flickered, faltered, renewed in strength and struck the dragon, brighter than ever.


I helped kill a dragon. I helped kill a dragon, and I feel no remorse.

Back at the Welcome Wench once again, he nursed a flagon of small beer. No ale for him, not any more, but you wouldn’t drink the water, now, would you?

My dragon blood has power. I have power, and it has nothing to do with my revenge on Javier. I can have a life that has nothing to do with Javier.

He poked at the suspicious-looking lumps of probably-mutton in his stew with his spoon, and decided he wasn’t hungry. Taking a quick moment to dispel the scrying sensor that had appeared in the corner of the room on schedule, he stepped out into the early winter twilight.


Atop the tower, Tuakiin paced, going through practice motions with his staff. He’d heard his friend Kai refer to kata before and thought the idea strange, but in the last few months the dragonborn had grown both more powerful and less sure of his power. Or, perhaps, less arrogant, since he knew now what a danger his magic and dragon blood could be.

And so he practiced. And paced. Alone with his thoughts and the dying light in the west.

A folaskiir might not have the intelligence or a fraction of the power of a dragon. But we are people. I think I’ve shown we can change the world. And if not, maybe there’s something I can do about that.

A step, a swing of the staff, a burst of magical energy from three sources at once: the staff itself, his own convictions, his dragon blood. The three… not quite aligning, not quite harmonising. Have to work on that coordination.

His rusty hand-me-down armour creaked under the strain of his muscles.

A step, a swing, a burst. Not quite there.

Another. And another. And another.

Maybe with dragon power I can make a difference. Maybe with the other folaskiir in Arnest we could find a home here. Make the western dragons see our worth.

Another repetition. The dragonborn smiled.

This time it was perfect.

And so he kept practicing.

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Pratical advise for the jobbing minon
A friends of the Ogres Union leaflet

Welcome to the friends of the Ogres Union. Your membership has may perks including up to date advice. Please find unclosed practical advise for the jobbing minion.

1. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY
2. Practise basic fire safety, it is a small thing but removing combustible material and/or avoiding fire spells could be the difference between returning to your favourite watering hole and retuning to a smouldering heep.
3. Beware of mounts and pack animals, while valuable assets they are very unreliable. Current scientific research has shown horses can be ten times more explosive than dynamite.
4. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY, but if you can not prevent, it make sure you stick with the healer.
5. Invest in a strong pair of fire proof gloves and avoid touching anything with your bare hands, while its good to grab loot and get your fair share, its best to avoid being the first creature to open or touch something.
6. The best way to ensure your share is to offer to carry the loot.
7. Do not annoy Dragons or attract their attention.
8. Ensure you have some advanced payment, there is a high chance they will not live to pay you at the end of the adventure.

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Only Forever

The druids had finally stopped shouting at her….again….finally. She had held herself together throughout, not one betraying emotion escaping, like a good Elf. At least she couldn’t be berated for that. Before they could caveat their dismissal of her she was gone, not to her home or anywhere they’d have sent her, but back into the forest.

As soon as she was into the trees her strolling gait became a run, the action releasing her tears from where they were dammed. She ran. Ran until she was far from the Elven settlement. Ran until she reached a grassy bank where she dropped to the ground and buried her face in her arms. Exactly when the grass beneath her arms became fabric, she wasn’t sure, only noticing when a hand began gently stroking her hair. Looking up, it didn’t matter her vision was blurry from crying, she instantly recognised the figure sat before her. Her arms now rested atop his thighs where the grassy bank had so recently been. She sniffed back her distress, as he continued caressing her hair.

“Little one”, he soothed. “I’m here. You’re safe with me!”

She tried to speak, to tell him what had happened, but words would not form while the memories still burnt across her mind. He looked deep into her glistening eyes.

“They’re angry, because they’re afraid of you,” he explained. “You’re not like the rest of them. Your family, the druids – none of them understand you. Not like I do”.

He continued, not releasing her from his searching gaze, “I know their words sting you – the reprimands for not being what they want you to be, the rejection by your family, the taunts about your differences…the punishments when you disappear to answer my call.” His voice melted “I am with you then and always. Not like them!”

“They would pass you from pillar to post, trying to amend your nature.” he muttered irritably. “But I won’t have it. You are mine. You will travel a different path than the one they would have you take. All you have to do is trust in me!”

A blink, his, and she felt calm sweeping through her mind. He wiped the tears from her young face. “Now, lets see if I can’t teach you something wonderful to do with those remarkable eyes!”

Behind her heels, a grassy mound grew from the earth into the shape of a small seat. She couldn’t help but sit on it, her hands steadying her balance. Taking her chin in one hand, he once again stared into her molten silver eyes.

“Now my child, I shall show you a trick, but you must use it sparingly,” he explained slowly. As she gazed into his eyes they changed, the colours swirled, his pupils twisting and changing shape until they were overwhelmed by a strange glow…almost like they were being lit from behind. She gasped at the beauty of them, rapt with attention and devotion. “You try. Concentrate your thoughts on how to get your way, push that energy out so it radiates from you like a torch…..yes – like that.”

The child imagined what it would be like to be wanted, to have people do as she asked, and no longer yelled at, to be free. The silver in her eyes began to slowly swirl, her pupils vanishing as if drowned. A faint glow emanated from her, much less powerful than his, but there none the less. She felt strong….but suddenly very tired. A flicker of her eyelids and the effect was gone. Before she could topple from her seat, a warm strong arm enveloped her, reviving her spirits.

“Good. A little practice and you will be able to command others to your will.” he promised silkily, with a kiss to her forehead. He pulled her close to his side and whispered, “They will make you feel lonely, but you won’t be, for I will be with you, even in your dreams….forever!”

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The Teachings of Bais Lai

The cold only began to bite as his meditations ended, frost clung to the stubble that belied how long he had sat in lotus position, that, and the ache in his knees.

Once, he would have faced a day’s trek to the sacred spaces directly below. These days, he had a more direct route… stepping into the frigid void Kai fell. As the winds howled around him, whipping his yellow/orange robes about his body and face he brought a closed fist up across his body, 2 fingers, raised together passed through each of his chakras, drawing his Ki up from his center to his limbs. Through his Ki he reached out to the spirits of air, ceasing to fall and instead taking six graceful steps on the very wind itself. As he reached the ground he reached out to the stone and asked it to accept him gently as a visitor on their lands. They acquiesced.

The young man, for he was truly now a man, touched down with a thud in a closed kneel, one fist supporting him, the other arm extended out two fingers upturned to where he had fallen from.

It was warm on the lower slopes, he felt himself begin to thaw. The air was spiced with cherry blossom, indeed his direct descent had caused quite the swirl of petals to mark his arrival. They parted all the more suddenly as the young man called the mountain winds to his aid as he made all haste to the library caverns of the lower complex.

Kai arrived at a flat sprint, skidding to a halt that sent up a miniature eddy of dust. Master Kuàijì coughed and spluttered his way through it as he sought to be civil:

“Young Master Kai, What brings you back to the Libraries? There was a time in your youth I couldn’t keep you away, but I haven’t seen you this way in years. Some said you had joined Brother Kenco in seeking Mercantilism as a path to enlightenment?”

“No! I have been speaking with the Shunryu. He had a warning for brothers and masters alike! I must see the Foretelling scrolls of Grand Master Yosoku!”

Kai pushed past the master once again accelerating at the speed of the east wind.

With a resounding boom of ancient wood on ancient wood, and a accompanying clang of weathered iron on the same, the huge doors before him swung shut.

“Those stacks are sealed from all but Grand Masters, Master Kai you know this…”

The young man is for a moment humbled, he looks down, turns his head to look over his right shoulder at the older master, nods a bow. Then stamps his right foot down. The earth responds to his focused Ki, it rises up around the older Master’s feet and ankles, shackling him in the rock of the mountain side. It won’t hold for long.

Snapping his head back left to face the barrier to what he seeks, he also snaps his hands around, thrusting them outstretched toward the huge door palm-heels together, fingers outspread. Now it is the wind that answers his call, a howling gale thunders past the trapped Master and threatens to knock Kai over as it hammers open the ancient doors.

The youth flees inside. Moments later the older man is free and perseus.

Inside the cavern the light is subdued, the air is still and dry (this is why this place was chosen). Kai’s incursion into it with the east wind at his back stirs centuries of dust, ruffles pages of codexis, rattles scrolls in tubes. He passes the majority of the stacks but has to pause when he gets beyond the generally permitted shelves. Strictly speaking no knowledge is off limits here, but…

“You go to far Kai, you are not ready to read the foretellings!” Master Kuàijì confronts him from the end of a row.

He sits down into Neko no shisei, ready to challenge Kai in one of the elemental forms he has never truly mastered. In response Kai drops into Uma no shisei, his Ki burning on his fist and feet.

Kai stabs the air with a punch from his waist that emits a bolt of burning ki when it hammers into its apex. He follows up with his left leg, flicked round in a deadly arch from left to right, turning the fighter around and lashing off a second bolt of fiery ki.

Kuàijì sighs, and steps back, once, twice, each step accompanied by a sweeping wave of his arms, first one meets fire, then the other, each sweep pulling water from the air to wrieth his arms and extinguish the attacks. There is a hiss of steam.

“Really Kai, fire in the great library?”

“My apologies Master, I forget myself” Kai sags into a submissive bow.

At this the older man charges.

“So. You. Do!”

It is Kuàijì’s turn to be carried by the winds as he saws across the space between the stacks, left leg out in a fearsome Hikō kikku.

Kai flinches, left arm, out middle fingers pressed to thumb, the others extended skyward. Around his hand a golden inverted pentacle burns, surrounded by a binding circle, described in Tensar annotation script, from which radiates a golden arcanic energy plane. The Masters kick strikes the wholey not Ki force barrier, the resulting Thaumic discharge leaves him panting on the ground.

“So you learned all that you threatened to on your Pilgrims Walk, young master sorcerer? He spits venomously.

“No, but I learned some, and it is not incompatible with The Arts. Now if you will sit still a while wise Master, I need to do a little reading…

Kai rolled the scroll closed with more force than a three thousand year old document deserved. It rattled as he rammed it back in the rocky chamber from whence it had come.

“And they will carry amongst them a darkness amongst the ‘ones of hope’ that will stand in the way of the forces from the north, and from the far west, and so the middle-west is doomed by the forces enshadowed”

Kai spas back at the older Master that stood at the other side of his golden enconjured barrier.

He lets it drop. The master is smiling.

“And the Middle-west means so much to you, doesn’t it? Because they use magic, instead of Ki there?”

“No! The Middle West means much to me because I have friends there! I… had… friends there! They have an evil in their midsts, and I know what it is, there is a little man with them, he is from the far-west, he invests his power, his ki, his soul maybe, into the bodies of the blessed ancestors and plucks their rest to serve him unquestioning, He defiles the ancestors and courts hungry ghosts. He is the enemy in their midsts!”

Kuàijì thinks for a moment, then crosses the gap to the young master without fear of further assault, but at that moment the doors to the library are darkened by the last figure either man would expect to see here.

He throws his knee-length grey beard over his shoulder

“And what do you believe the Spring Dragon told you master Kai?”

Kai is prostrate on the ground, as is the older Master, for they are in the presence of the Saikō

“It told me there was a hidden evil amongst the people of hope that currently fight for the middle-west as named in the foretelling scrolls! I know that evil, it is a magi who seeks to power of the dead and would use it to poison the Hun and Po of the living and the dead around him….”

He would go on but Saikō holds up a hand

“You read the words, but you do not hear young Master. These were the teachings of the Spring Courts to our people when the Winter Courts preyed and feed upon we, mortal kind… “

“These warnings concern themselves only with the four courts. The Spring Court taught us to defend ourselves against the aggression of the Winter Queen, but foreseeing scrolls warn us against more than the motivations of one court. The courts have remained quiet for decades, they have grown tired of us, we can defend ourselves.”

He strokes his long grey eyebrows into place

“The courts do move in the middle-west, their motives are shady, but the Spring Court continues to protect us in the far-east”

“Then I must warn them!” the young man unintentionally shouts at the old Highest Master.

He starts by trying to describe a portal in the air, but when that doesn’t work he assumes a stance and through ritual punches attempts to make a hole in space and time.

“Kai, my son” Kuàijì voices, approaching the lad, putting an arm around his shoulders.

“It is a shame this revelation came to you now, a few months too late, but perhaps embrace the words of Master Bais Lai: this is no longer your Monastery, nor your Monkeys.

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Season 7 Session 7

That night, Illyria tries again to contact her lord. She reaches out with her mind – and finds herself in a room, where a dark-haired, sharply dressed man is sitting. He greets her with his usual devilish charm.

He informs her that Hell has indeed been destroyed, but that she carries a little part of the power of Hell within her. She asks him whether destroying his enemies who are advancing on Theria will elevate her in his sight – he tells her she will become the highest of all his servants, which delights her most intensely. Unfortunately, he is rather more non-committal on the matter of whether the Vizier can be trusted.

Meanwhile, in the Feywild, Sal’s patience is rewarded by an audience with the Summer King. Jack is mysteriously also present for this briefing, in which the Summer King explains that Theria must fall. That event will cause the people of Arnest to lose faith in the power of the One and turn back to the worship of the Fey, allowing them to become the dominant power. The meeting ends, and Sal and Jack are returned to join the rest of the party in Hommlet.

The next morning there is the by now customary breakfast planning meeting in the Welcome Wench. Jack and Sal betray no hint of their meeting in the Feywild, and Illyria is positively glowing with private satisfaction, but Mortimer is troubled. His conversation yesterday with Jack, who is by now an old friend, shook him and now he does not know who he can trust. Jack apologises, and explains that he too is a servant of Asmodeus, that he has been acting a bit funny because he is so flustered by Illyria’s beauty, and that he has got to know Asmodeus through spending so much time hanging around in the Grey Wastes, which is Asmodeus’s place.

This last point seems a bit off to Mortimer and Illyria, who go off to the bar for a private discussion. They are sure that Jack is not what he seems, but decide they need more information. Returning to the group, Mortimer announces that he has decided he does not know who he can trust, and that the only way to set his mind at rest would be by reading the minds of his companions.

Illyria is happy to volunteer. Mortimer reaches into her mind, questioning her motives, and finds that she is indeed working on the instruction of Asmodeus to help defend Theria. (He also finds a lot of rather graphic and imaginative imagery involving Illyria and her Lord, but that kind of thing holds no interest for him.) As he goes round the group, everyone seems to be honest, Sal painfully so, giving him a glance into a painful childhood. Even Jack appears to be absolutely telling the truth. It’s almost uncanny just how truthful Mortimer’s mind reading reveals him to be. Sadly, Mortimer stops due to limited spell casting power before he can get round to Lobash. Mindful of Jack’s earlier words of flattery, Illyria asks if he will give her a lock of his hair – when he demurs, she gives him a massive snog, during which she takes the opportunity to cut herself a lock of his hair in any case.

None of these shenanigans are getting them any nearer to a plan to attack the enemy. The merits and limitations of continuing to whittle the enemy down through meteor strikes, as opposed to striking at the enemy leadership, are debated at length. In the midst of this discussion, some magic detection shows that someone is scrying the group. This is quickly dispelled, but it causes some worry.

Eventually, a plan is agreed. The party have previously seen an ancient red dragon flying above the horde, and the last time they attacked it seemed to take an interest. So this time the party will attack as before, bit this time wait around for the dragon to show up, and kill the dragon.This will hopefully be a significant blow to the enemy’s strength. Assuming, of course, the dragon doesn’t kill them.

At this point Jack notices another scrying point, which is again dispelled. The party decide to press on with their plan. Illyria’s scrying of the horde indicates some burning farmhouses nearby, with some hobgoblins doing some looting and whatever else it is that hobgoblins do. The party take their usual shortcut through the Grey Wastes, taking care to emerge some distance from the hobgoblins to avoid distractions, and Mortimer once again summons meteors from the sky to pummel the enemy.

After the previous attacks, the horde has now been spread out about as much as it can while maintaining unit cohesion, so Mortimer’s assault only kills about 200 hobgoblins, plus three manticores. (One manticore just manages to escape with a burning tail, flying off in some considerable distress.) Then the party spread out and wait, dispersing themselves so that the dragon’s fiery breath can’t get them all at once, and taking cover behind rocks where they can.

Soon enough, the dragon appears, flying towards them, flanked by four sphinxes. Illyria pushes back at the dragon with eldritch blasts, which slow but do not stop its advance, and her reward is to be the first target of its flame breath when it does manage to get into range. Meanwhile the sphinxes swoop down, emanating blood-curdling wails that completely spook Jack, who elects to remain hiding behind a large rock.

Illyria manages to banish one of the sphinxes, but the other three land and the melee ensues. Tuakiin’s magical blinking in and out of existence manages to frustrate both their blows and their terrifying howls, but it is a bloody battle nonetheless. The dragon swoops down at Illyria, despite Mortimer’s lightning bolt, and she catches it with her glaive and pulls it down to earth – as if the sphinx wasn’t enough to deal with. Sal and Lubash sprint towards the battle from their more distant positions, defying the terrors of the dragon and the sphinxes.

For a while Illyria is facing the dragon and a sphinx pretty much alone. Her vicious glaive and retaliatory fire blasts against the sphinx prove effective, and hurling the dragon through a nightmare dimension for a few seconds is certainly helpful, but it is when Tuakiin manages to smite the other sphinxes to oblivion and attack the dragon, followed by Lubash and Sal, that the tide begins to turn.

Lubash attempts to grapple the dragon, but this is a larger and uglier beast than the black dragon he wrestled out of the air over Rhest, and it is all he can do to pin its wing. This is enough for Sal, who subjects the dragon to a flurry of powerful blows. Eventually the dragon pulls free of Lubash’s grasp and takes to the air, severely wounded and apparently in retreat, but before it can get far Illyria blasts it into pink mist, which sprays everywhere, closely followed by small fragments of dragon raining to the ground. The remaining sphinx, wounded and suddenly very alone, flies off. Lubash manages to find one of the dragon’s teeth on the ground, to add to his collection.

Bloody but alive, the party teleports back to Hommlet.

The last sphinx reappears from its banishment, to find itself flying above deserted and very gory ground.

Azarr Khul emerges from his tent. A sphinx is there to see him. It looks the worse for wear. “They killed us,” it says, “They killed us all.” Azarr Khul’s jaws expand, his neck grows, his arms stretch out into wings, and he transforms into the largest golden dragon anyone has ever seen. His transformation complete, he chomps the sphinx up in a single gulp. Returning to human form, he announces that it is time for a change of plan.

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