28 Sydenstar (Folsen) 845 PD
Wrapping up at the Temple
The rest of the day after defeating the harpy is spent helping to clean the temple. There’s still going to be a lot of work to get it back into shape, but they at least make a good showing. Rinn goes up on the roof to clean it off. Up there is a giant, harpy-sized nest, as well as enough bird shit to make the roof look white. Rinn goes to investigate the nest before he shoves it off. He does find a couple of harpy feathers and a bit of a broken, large egg shell. (Harpies like eating eggs.) A very large egg shell. While not big enough to have been a fertile, ‘live’ roc egg, this was one of the random little, infertile eggs they will sometimes lay that the harpy somehow got ahold of. Rinn knows Stubby uses such things for some of her potions, so he snags that to give to her before he knocks the nest down off the roof and uses the Decanter of Endless Water to power wash the roof clean.
Gaspar lets them stay the night in one of the other old mining huts. It’s a bit run down, but they can clean it up quickly and have a place to sleep indoors that night.
And as for sleeping…
They fall asleep, and their dreams are normal at first. Random, odd things happening, the usual. But then the whispering voice starts.
For Rinn: “You’ve never studied magic, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to get your friends killed.”
For Stubby: “You’re too reckless, you’re going to get your friends killed.”
For Fisch: “You’re a stranger, they’re going to kill you, you can’t trust them.”
For Tāmarai: “You have stepped too far from Xhorhas, you’re going to get killed, they don’t like you.”
All disparaging things, playing upon their fears. Things in the dream flicker and change- pain, injuries, blood- and then back to normal for the rest of the night.
They wake up the next morning. It’s slightly overcast and cool, a good day for traveling. Gaspar has been up, fixed them some breakfast though it isn’t much. Though even with the bad dreams aside, the morning is not off to a good start. Stubby and Fisch have a nagging sense that something is watching them. Rinn and Tāmarai know something is watching them. Rinn is certainly on edge, one hand constantly on a dagger, and asks Stubby if she can send Sentri out, to keep watch, patrol around… ‘Like a Sentry?’ Fisch asks. (He’s discovered wordplay and puns!) Stubby does send her familiar out and about, but the metallic bird sees nothing. Tāmarai is able to get a sense what direction the watching feeling is originating from, and it is the direction they’re heading towards.
Before they head out, Gaspar has a letter for them to give to Commander Johiya as well. Plus, Stubby surprises Rinn with a pin she made that should help his stealthy abilities. (Similar to a Cloak of Elvenkind- but called ‘Victoria’s Secret’).
The walk to Fort Pyrah is pretty easy, much like a scenic roadway with old battlefield tourist sites. It’s almost too nice, as far as Rinn is concerned. (Especially since it still seems like they’re being watched!) Once they get closer to Fort Pyrah, the direction Tāmarai senses the feeling coming from is more off in the hills rather than the Fort itself.
They approach the Fort- and this is much more of an actual fort, compared to Fort Victor. There are soldiers on watch, with their uniforms much more put together and taken care of, weapons included. The gates are closed but open as they arrive, and one of the soldiers heads out to greet them. The figure asks who they are- all three of them turn to Stubby, but she’s been quiet and rattled since the dreams last night and is not forthcoming with her usual ‘Heroes of Vasselheim, the Agents of Numina!’. So Rinn carefully steps up, saying that they’ve traveled from Volgograd and are on their way to Pyrah itself. The soldier is a bit taken aback. “You all better come in, it’s dangerous out here.” “Ja, we know, we’ve dealt with it.” There’s a closer study of the group, and then a bit more respect. “Looks like you have. What are your names?”
Rinn starts to introduce people, starting with himself- and gets a “You’re Otel’s boy?” And is stunned for a moment before a careful “I guess so…” The soldier’s name is Rani, and they hand them off to another soldier (quiet, shrugs a lot, they and Rinn are able to communicate perfectly!) who escorts them to the Commander’s tent.
Tent? Yep. Inside the fort looks like it’s been attacked, with rocks and boulders in places. One large boulder has crashed into what looks like the officers’ offices. Not quite a rock slide, it’s the wrong area for one.
They meet Commander Johiya, finally! He has a permanent scowl and scars, but is a friendly enough fellow- and with a thick Zemnian accent like Rinn’s. He’s thrilled to meet a fellow countryman, and also to meet the ones who deposed the Empress and helped move Vasselheim back on track. Johiya is a bit of a gossip as well- his family runs the ‘Zemnian Cultural Center’ (tavern) in Volgograd, where Rinn’s birthday dinner took place. In Zemnian he apologizes to Rinn if his niece hit on anyone during the party. Rinn gives Stubby a sideways look and grin. They hand over the letters, and tell him that they also put out the spell pyre in Vasselheim, so magic should be getting better-
But no, it isn’t? Johiya takes them out and up onto the battlements, so they can see in the direction of Pyrah. Not quite to the fort, but certainly close enough to see, is that familiar red-orange taint on the ground. That happened 5 years ago, and it hasn’t changed much. Magic had been starting to get better, but now it’s going back to what had been ‘normal’- and that started six weeks ago. (Sounds familiar.) For example, there was a resurrection yesterday that failed that shouldn’t have. Aside from the one cleric they have (who is off visiting Pyrah, Johiya thinks they’re sweet on one of the Ashari there), they have no other magic users.
The red-orange of the poisoned ground spreads out in a fan from Pyrah. Rinn pulls out his map, Johiya marks a few things on it, and they take a look. No, the fan isn’t aimed towards Vasselheim- it is spread out through a hole in the caldera wall that was caused by Thordak, many years ago. However, that fan spread is aimed out in the direction of Stillmyst Fort.
(Back to his office tent, still looking over the map.) That taint did happen when the rifts blew when Vasselheim blew up, probably caused by whatever the Empress did to set up her spell pyre and also take a shot at the Ashari. But while it happened to Pyrah, Keyleth never mentioned anything of the sort happening at Zephra, and they have no idea if it happened at the other elemental locations either, as it was mentioned that there’s been no communication with them.
They discuss Stillmyst with Johiya, and what Garnet had mentioned to her father, which upsets him. He has been sending supplies up there, even though Garnet said the Fort hadn’t been. And in fact, the boulders in the fort? Were from an attack from the post! He has no idea what’s been happening with the place.
They offer to take a load of supplies up to the Fort, however- Rinn asks if the supplies can be repackaged so they don’t look like they’re from the Fort, but maybe from New Vasselheim. And if the paperwork can say they’re from New Vasselheim as well. If there’s issues between the Fort and the Post, better if it doesn’t seem like he and the others are from the Fort. (He does have to sign for the supplies, and looks through previous papers and receipts. Many different people from the Fort took supplies up to the Post, but only one person signed for the supplies up there: Rust.)
Stubby does ask if there’s a cleric around. Nope- they’re off visiting Pyrah. She also asks if people have been having bad dreams lately. Not that Johiya knows of- but Fisch speaks up and says he’s had some.
They’ll need a new map to get up to Stillmyst. Johiya calls for Melvin- the same Melvin who made Rinn’s map with all its mistakes! Rinn is less than thrilled to meet him, and points out all the inconsistencies on his current map, along with his fixes and edits. And if they could get a new map to Stillmyst, and a good one?
Stubby spots the look in Melvin’s eyes, and realizes that the mapmaker is going to give Rinn a shitty map. She sweet talks to him- “Can you give me a good one so I can show him up later?” Which works- Melvin gives Rinn a (bad) map, and slips Stubby a good one. And his maps are enchanted- say ‘Melvin the Mapmaker’, and they chime ‘You get what you pay for!’. Stubby loves this, and offers to show him her magic spyglass if he can teach her how to do this. Melvin immediately asks if she’s single. Stubby declines, and Melvin then hits on Tāmarai as well.
(Stubby also sneak-stashes what’s left of the bottle of vodka she and Rinn shared a couple of nights ago in Johiya’s desk drawer, feeling that the Commander may need it, dealing with Melvin.)
Johiya lends Rinn one of a pair of Sending Stones, saying if they run into too much trouble to give a call, and the Fort will come and back them up. “Also, don’t die.” They go out to where the newly-loaded cart is, with a war rhino hauling it! It’s name is Licky, it is a coward when it comes to fighting, but can pull a cart- and they’ve noticed the war rhinos deal with the Ursines a bit better more quickly than the horses.
Into the Mist
On the way to Stillmyst! There are some forks in the road, and other details that Rinn’s map is missing. At the second fork, Stubby takes pity on him and shows her her (good) map. Freaking Melvin. Rinn cumples the first map. They go over their plan on the way. Be subtle, see what’s going on. Say they’re from New Vasselheim, not from the Fort. Rinn hides his Slayer’s Take mark on his armor. Stubby sends Sentri up high to help keep watch. Tāmarai tries seeing if Lesser Restoration would work on cleaning the taint from the land, but a Wild Magic effect causes her to go insubstantial and slip through the cart to land on the road.
Closer to the fort, Fisch spots four watchers. Two up ahead, two following them. Tāmarai waves at one of the ones up ahead that Fisch (figuratively) points out. They step out from behind a rock and drop down out of a tree, and one approaches them. A female fire genasi (looking a bit tired and haggard) who eyes them suspiciously, but Rinn greets her (Nat 20 Deception, sans accent!), and says they have a delivery of supplies from New Vasselheim. It works! Smo introduces herself, and escorts them to the fort, chatting with Rinn. Says they haven’t gotten any supplies in six months. (And yes she totally starts hitting on Rinn.)
Meanwhile, Sentri is flying up high with Stubby looking through the mechanical bird’s eyes. (While she leans against Fisch in the back of the cart, the Ursine watches out for her while she is blind and deaf to her immediate surroundings.) The buildings of the Post go back far in the space between the mountains. It’s big, much bigger than the Take, and maybe even equal to the Fort. Some of the buildings look like they continue on into the mountain side- and behind them looks like a bit of farmland, but it is all currently red-orange with the magical taint- and it’s even a darker, stronger color than what they previously saw around Vasselheim. Near the mountainside, Sentri spots a slag pile, and behind it is a stack of crates. From some of the markings, it looks like they found the missing supplies from Fort Pyrah! The mechanical familiar swoops in closer to take a look. From the amount of crates, it does look like six months worth. And some of the boxes look like they’ve been opened and are now empty, but most are just sitting here. Sentri circles up, and makes notes of a cart trail leading into a cave one way, then towards the Post’s water supply the other way. There are people out in this area, but it doesn’t look like any of them (even the guards) can spot the hidden stash.
The cart approaches Stillmyst. Unlike the Fort, it is made entirely of stone. There are tons of guards on watch- more than even the Fort had out. They all seem on high alert, and have to be waved down by Smo, otherwise the group may have been shot for simply approaching. “Warm welcome?” Smo mentions that they are on high alert, ever since the Fort attacked them a couple of days ago with a poison spell- the ground is now all red-orange and nothing will grow. If it wasn’t for the Empress they’d all be dead. Rinn asks some general questions about the post, Smo giving some answers. Most of the genasi here were outcasts from their families, the elemental changes starting on them usually later in life (adolescence). She makes a comment about Rinn, only being a half-elf, wouldn’t quite understand it. Rinn keeps a straight face and shrugs with no comment.
Seems like they found some loyalists who have not gotten the recent news. Fisch is told quietly via earring to mention to Stubby to use only her nickname. Stubby soon returns to herself, gets the information, and then sneakily places a couple of ‘flash bugs’ into a couple of the crates. (Same thing she placed on Rinn ages ago.)
Inside the Fort, a reddish-orange Earth Genasi comes up, being called ‘Captain’. She introduces herself as (the infamous) Rust. Rinn gives his name (keeping up the non-Zemnian accent), and then Fisch introduces himself as well- giving a long, complicated name, ‘Fisch of the Farwalker Tribe, son of – , grandson of – ‘ and so on. All as a cover for Stubby who is slipping the last of the flash bugs in one of the supply crates. Tāmarai gives her name as ‘Hannah’, and finally Stubby steps up with just her nickname. Rust looks over the group, “It’s a pleasure to meet like-minded folk”. She means misfit and outcasts, pegging an Ursine, two half-elves, and ‘different’, unusual gnome to have been treated as such. Tāmarai and Stubby both pick up that Rust is giving off a similar to feel to the long-ago Emror, with unusual vibes- perhaps being possessed? Stubby also asks if she can call her friend down, and motions to the sky. Rust waves the archers to stand down, and Stubby calls Sentri down. Rust looks very impressed, saying they need such creatures to help them for scouting on their missions. (Stubby also feels the hag’s eye necklace, in two pouches and in a pocket, warm up slightly.)
Perhaps in warning for this. Some sort of effect is sent on the group. Tāmarai and Rinn manage to shake it off, but Fisch falls under Rust’s charm. Stubby nearly does as well, trying to even use the Mote of Possibility that the Luxon gave her this morning to change her chances, but to no avail-
But she has other help on her side. She feels the presence of her uncle, and his voice saying “No, niece”, and with that added help pushes the influence from her mind.
Keeping up the cover, Rinn pulls out the supply papers (listed as being from New Vasselheim/Empress), saying they won’t have time to head home this day, since the post will need to unload everything and take inventory- but can he start things with the quartermaster? Turns out Rust is the quartermaster as well as second in command. Rinn is suitably impressed (Working on mundanely, platonically charming her as well.) But Rust is training someone as well, and pulls out a young woman named Jinx- who certainly looks like she’s under some mind control influence. Rinn hands over the papers, watching them sign and start to unload the cart and mark off inventory.
Since they’ll be staying overnight, another genasi (one of the few men they’ve seen) named Bronto comes over to take Licky. He doesn’t seem as mind-controlled as Jinx- but it seems like everyone here has a touch of it to some extent or another. (It even could be mundanely being ‘leaned’ on and persuaded.) Rinn keeps an eye on them unloading the supply wagon, fully playing his part as a delivery driver, and schmoozing all possible.
One thing to note, on the outside wall of the quartermaster’s office- Rust’s office, are two masks, looking like theater masks.
Stubby takes this time to talk to Rust, asking her how things have been at the post, she heard things had been rough the last few years? No, Rust says things have been calm. The Fort must be lying, of course- how else can they get funding for the military? But thankfully the Empress seems to be rooting things out. They haven’t gotten any supplies for six months, and that last shipment had been from the Empress. Stubby seems pretty surprised at this, then points to one of the boxes being unloaded- all the supplies were from New Vasselheim, except for that one that the Fort added. (This being one of the crates she put one of the flash bugs inside.)
Rust is suspicious, and they pull that crate to investigate it- and do find the flashbug. Rust looks it over- and does an odd spell of some kind. Rinn just knows it’s odd and different from any other magic he’s seen before. Stubby and Tāmarai can tell it’s an older, more primal, fae-type casting. (Pre-Calamity!)
While Rust is trying to identify the little bit of metal and crystal, Tāmarai uses this moment to step closer to Fisch and quietly cast a Lesser Restoration on him to remove the charm.
Rust ends the spell, not really finding out much (or saying so), and Rinn subtly uses Gust to blow the device off the flat of her hand and into the side of the quartermaster’s building, shattering it. (The eyes of the masks flash for a moment.) Rust just comments that it wasn’t made well, then uses this as a moment to decry the villains of the military at Fort Pyrah- trying to spoil their supplies! This is why we listen to Garnet, and why we prepare!
Cue Garnet, who drops in (literally) into a 3 point hero landing, big and badass. She asks Rust what’s happened, and Rust accounts how the villainous Fort has attempted yet again to subvert Garnet’s rule. But these kind friends of ours- she motions to the group, who get the sense that Rust is totally lying and doesn’t believe them- have warned us. They are our brothers and sisters!
Garnet goes over to shake their hands. Tāmarai decides to go Leeroy Jenkins. Without warning the others, thinking to keep their cover, or keep them (or the Luxon!) safe, she uses that moment to cast Lesser Restoration on Garnet. (Saying “we bring you greetings from your Father”, another thing that could have been an alarm to Rust and others!) It works- and thankfully Garnet also manages to keep her cover as well. She invites them all to stay in her quarters overnight, (a surprise to Rust), and escorts them into the Post and to her rooms. (Rust is also watching Stubby’s bag, where the Hag Eye necklace is being kept.)
Into the Fire
As soon as they get to Garnet’s room, she shuts the door, and asks if any of them can cast Detect Magic. Stubby does so- thankfully cutting off Rinn’s ‘What the Fuck?” to Tāmarai, who starts doing ‘what about’-isms based on things that happened over a month ago. Asides from the usual magical items the group has, Stubby spots Garnet’s belt- not only is there a ‘regular’ sort of spell on it (enchantment), but a curse as well.
Stubby takes a risk on Thieves Cant, asking if Garnet can understand her. So-So. “Your belt.” Garnet is ticked off, the belt was her father’s (he had been an Adventurer when younger). She can’t take the belt off. Cursing, she lights a familiar type of candle- an anti-scrying enchanted one. “Who sent you?” “Your father and the Commander at the Fort are worried, but we mostly decided to come on our own, so no one really did. The Commander has been sending supplies.” “Rust said they were poisoned. But the water really is poisoned. I remember before everything went hazy, I saw Rust at the cistern pouring a vial, and afterwards everyone agreed with her, that all the army are villians, and the Empress-”
Garnet lets them know that someone will be bringing up some tea and food for them all- but don’t eat or drink any of it. Stubby speaks up- she can purify the food and drink. Garnet calls her by name- Lady Victoria. Turns out she fought alongside Vex ages ago, against Vecna! But can Stubby purify the whole water supply, and the food stores?
She suspects it’s something that Rust brought back with her from Vasselheim, 2 years ago. Said it would make people at the Post stronger- but that’s when everything started happening with Rust slowly taking control.
They get to planning. Stubby can cast her cleric spells through Sentri, so she can send the mechanical bird to the cistern. It’s a lot of water, so it will take her some time to do all of it. (Ritual casting!) But at least she won’t have to sneak over there herself. But at least to alleviate suspicion, she will cast it on the food brought up, so the group can be seen eating and drinking it. After they get the food, Garnet will take them on a ‘walk and talk’ to show them the Post.
However, if this poison was something Rust got in Vasselheim, that could be a threat to the people starting to move back! Tāmarai does a Sending spell to Vonya, warning her about the water in Vasselheim, and the forming military group in the post planning to attack Pyrah, with a hag influencing things. Help.
Vonya replies back that they’re checking the water now, but they can’t send help, magic is back to being unreliable again. Hags don’t have any known vulnerabilities and they can shapeshift.
Rinn is reminded of the Sending Stone that Johiya gave him, and he pulls it out to send a message to the Commander as well. (In Zemnian.) ‘Magic poisoned water influencing minds. Think Fort attacked them 2 days ago. Rust running things. Making army to attack fort and Pyrah. Don’t come yet.”
The reply back to Rinn comes quickly. “We won’t prepare overtly so they aren’t forewarned. But we stand ready to aid in any way. We will tell Pyrah, maybe they can help. Good luck and don’t die.”
But while Stubby can deal with the water for the Post, there’s still all the food supplies that are tainted as well. Rinn mentions they could just set fire to the stores, but that idea gets vetoed. Garnet knows of someone else that can maybe help, if Tāmarai might be able to do another Lesser Restoration. There’s a paladin at the fort, named Eclipse. They might be able to do that Purify spell as well, and they wouldn’t be suspect if they went to the food stores that night. So when the food is delivered (by a young water genasi, who Rinn charms as well and the poor teen probably has a huge crush on him), she asks for Eclipse to be sent for to join them.
They just need to keep Rust busy while they go on the walk and talk. Fisch volunteers, and Rinn gives him pointers on… not exactly lying, but how to ask questions, evade answering things on his end, and so on.
Stubby takes a sample of the tea to look at later, then purifies the tea and sandwiches, and they continue their plans. Garnet mentions the masks- none of them know the story, so she tells it. There is a local story about how there was a coven of three hags that terrorized the area after the Calamity. A Champion of the Lawbringer imprisoned them into the masks, and they were stored under Vasselheim. Well, with the explosion, guess what must have happened? Rust must be the third hag, while the other two are still trapped in the masks hanging on the wall outside of her office.
While waiting for Eclipse, Stubby takes a look at the tea sample. It’s a bit similar to the dunamancy-laced food she and Tāmarai dealt with in Ravina. It could trigger memories in consecuted people, but would make you much more susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings- the very same ‘feel’ or flavor of the nightmares the night before…