Episode Forty Four - Yáloin at the Gala
Episode Forty Four – Yáloin at the Gala (Level 16)
*Vash and Tobias manage to extricate themselves from Wroth, and he returns them, and Carmenith, to the palace by simply wrapping them in tentacles, a far less disturbing experience. Tobias has phrased his request to be returned carefully, so they don’t end up in a wall, or naked in the middle of the party, or in the waste disposal pits below their latrines. The trio are deposited in Ichtaca’s suite. They get cleaned up. Tobias and Vash make their way back to the still-ongoing party, while Carmenith goes to bed.
*Darius, meanwhile, has not yet returned to the party himself. He’s snuck into the apartment adjacent to the one where the starborn half-breed changelings are holding a clandestine meeting. He averts a fire that would have threatened the building, incidentally saving the baby, cat, and sleeping woman in the apartment. Then he impersonates the landlord, waking the woman. This apartment was once a connecting room to the next one, and between them is still a door, boarded over and painted to match the color of the wall. Darius gives the protesting woman some money, and then quietly removes the boards, finding the back of a bookcase and an empty room on the other side. He takes off the back of the bookcase, pushes through the books, and is now inside the apartment with the meeting, past all traps, undetected, and able to overhear every word being spoken in the next room. He listens as a man and a woman discuss their plans in Norlythin. The local “cell” needs help infiltrating their people into some new positions of power within Maricualatan. The hand is shaking things up in the area to help them, while also taking advantage of the conjunction of stars to complete some ritual. Darius learns that they are acting as Quotál to the vampires and as the vampires to Quotál, manipulating both sides to benefit the starborn in the brewing conflict. They also have broken the Duke-Regent Alben Bergeth out of prison, impersonating one of his loyal vassals, and a group of spies under that vassal’s command. They are using the Duke to start another war, encouraging him to desecrate the sacred tomb of Icarasla. They briefly discuss some cryptic spell they need him for, then go over plans to assassinate King Halden Thandemar and pin it on Emperor Icarasl, if Quotál cannot be provoked into doing it publically. Either way, they want war in the Norlythe. It’s the best way to open new opportunities for the lesser of their order. They discuss something about a ritual they have going somewhere in or near the tomb of Icarasla, but Darius realizes he’ll have to go there himself to find out what’s going on. He sneaks back out of the apartment building, and heads back to the party.
*Darius arrives back at the party in time to schmooze and keep an eye on Quotál, but Vash and Tobias have been mysteriously gone for some time. They arrive just in time to see Ichtaca facing off for a showy display of martial prowess against the scrappy “bastard king,” Tolebesh Buthe. Then screams rise up from the crowd as Yáloin soldier-priests pour into the room from the open archways and the two mirrors near the throne dais. The Yáloin are here to kill Quotál, for reasons unknown. The heroes may hate Quotál, but they can’t let him be murdered by their enemies at Ichtaca’s electoral announcement gala.
*The heroes set to action, battling five elite Yáloin commando squads, trying to protect civilians, especially their friends, key civilian assets, and the other electoral candidates. Ichtaca takes the center of the huge room, keeping Lali and Princess Izel by his side, and using his spirit vines to pin down enemies while he finishes them off. Snowball moves around him, striking enemies before they can come around to flank him. Vash charges in from one door, striking hard with his maul and taking out the mirrors. Tobias targets groups of enemies, turning them against each other and making one after another fall, bleeding from ears and eyes. Darius slips into and out of shadows, flickering around the room and stabbing, cutting throats. Lyda shines here, coming in from the balcony with her twin pistols ablaze, then switching to a shotgun to take down more enemies in this fight than any of her male counterparts. It’s a grim place to defend, with so many panicked noncombatants in the way, and as they come to grips with their foes, the heroes also work together to get people out safely. When it’s all over, only nine civilians are dead, but among them is an old friend, the Chayrshellechan Ambassador, Rilaytha Miatherra. Tobias searches Quotál’s mind, but can find no reason why Mathis should go to so much trouble to kill him, unless he’s trying to send a message. It’s unsettling in the extreme.
*After the party, Ichtaca is pulled into a war council with Tlacat Lonumec Coszcatl and Halítzl, along with the other Tlacats. Lali is at his side, her advice and her eidetic memory both extremely useful assets. Snowball creeps off to guard Carmenith as she sleeps. Lyda goes back to the ship, and Jennish is down in the kitchens, working the night through with Chamanaltia, to set up the equipment to produce the cure for the Nemelethe en masse. Princess Izel will start distribution in the morning, spreading the story of the party’s events, Quotal’s lies, and Ichtaca’s glory, with every bottle she passes out. Lali has advised Ichtaca not to confront Quotal until public opinion has swayed against him, to avoid seeming a bully.
*Tobias follows Quotál, to eavesdrop on his meeting with the “vampire lord,” who is a half-breed changeling. Utlíl is there as well, Quotál’s vassal, also secretly a starborn changeling, and the one responsible for Quotál’s “spirit magic.” Tobias overhears a damning conversation, in which Quotál refuses to arrange for more civilian slaughters for him to intervene in and look heroic, but only because he’s ready for the war. He asks them to move tomorrow, and using a map and records of troop movements, pre-decides which towns will stand and which will fall, and which the vampires may have for their “experiments.” As long as the men loyal to him survive, he looks a hero, and his rivals die, Quotál is happy. He seems to think the vampires will keep to their side of the bargain when all is said and done, and also seems to think himself a valuable ally to them. These misconceptions are being fostered by the two changelings, who manage both sides of the “planning session”, the “vampire” arguing just enough for Quotál, to feel he’s won a victory with each concession, and “Utlíl” manipulating his lord with ease, giving him all the documents and arguments they have readied together to “convince” the vampire representative. Once he’s learned all he can, Tobias dominates the mind of the “vampire” changeling, and forces him to attack the other two. The psion follows up with pinpoint magical attacks that leave both changelings dead, their withered, half-deformed bodies revealed in their horrific true form. Quotál, believing himself to have just been targeted by more aberrant assassins, goes to meet the vampires in the woods, but Tobias stops him in the hall, and subtly convinces him that he will be killed if he does so. He sends Quotál along to the war meeting, and convinces him to stay inside the Callixoco for the night.
*Vash and Darius go to the rendezvous point where a changeling disguised as Quotál is meeting with a real bloodline vampire, the scout who has been making arrangements with the prince. They overhear a similar conversation, only with the changelings manipulating the vampire scout so that he feels he clearly has the upper hand with an idiot prince. The same military information is used, Quotál’s willing betrayal of many of his people, in order to secure the throne and have his hated brother killed in battle.
*Darius heads off after the starborn, while Vash stalks the vampire deeper into the woods, following him through a magical portal the vampire opens with a ring. The portal takes him miles away, into a dense wilderness, where a huge encampment of Vampires is preparing for military takeover of the Norlythin empire. Vash creeps along behind the vampire scout, following him to the command tent, and eavesdrops as the scout reports in to Lord Namuth Taimor, the same bloodline vampire noble who made Catzin in to the curious bloodline vampire hybrid that she is. Vash learns that Lord Taimor is a doctor, an old friend of Dr. Marik Northwell, the vampire the heroes slew in Forteth months ago.
*Vash learns that the Nemelethe outbreak was bad here because the vampires were intentionally spreading it, setting up various experimental scenarios in the isolated villages of the Norlythe. The isolation of the large communities allowed for containment, clear data, and multiple experiments within a similar human population. When Mahua returned from meeting the heros, with a bloodroot extract as a mild oral vaccine, he unintentionally aided them in controlling their experiment, choosing which victims to infect, which not to. At least one bloodline vampire officer has infiltrated various levels of society at all places where outbreaks exist. They were gathering data with spies only at first, but sparsely spread villages (containment and clear data), treatment of victims (kept alive and treated, not killed) and more open-mindedness about magic (slightly more) in the case a bloodline vampire was caught, made this an ideal testing ground. Doctor Marik Northwell set up the original experiments in this area, but left before the operation militarized. Experiments are going well. Data is being sent to Morvugol and Perrith Gorr, not analyzed locally. An army is massing here to take the next step: Conquer the population, control them entirely as a nation of lab-rats. Vash already knows their goal, though Lord Namuth Taimor is likely the only vampire officer here who does Taimor and Northwell set up a great experiment here in the Norlythe, using the people to cultivate the Nemelethe, in order to trace the path of lost memories into the plane of memories, and in hopes of finding Volgothyde’s memories before the Illiantri can find Daemoth’s. This would allow their god to be resurrected first, and perhaps to take a dominant position. Vash also learns that Lord Namuth Taimor (sometimes Dr. Taimor) is still obsessed with his “daughter” Catzin, asking his scout several times about “the slayer” and her reported activities and location. The scout has little to report. Vash follows him back out of the camp and through another portal bringing them both back near Maricualatan, then Vash goes to meet up with his friends, and share what they’ve all learned.
*Darius, meanwhile, follows the changelings on foot, all the way to the tomb of Emperor Icarasla, where the Duke-Regent and a small army of 300 men are piling up sacred relics to be smeared in dung and burned. Darius creeps through the camp, watches three changelings convert into two “Norlythin spies” and a colonial “loyalist,” eavesdrops on them, and then eavesdrops again as they report in to the Duke. They seem to want to keep the Duke alive, for now, because the life forces of he and his men are feeding some sort of secret ritual the starborn “hand” are running here. The duke, superstitious about magic, and nervous about the constantly whispering spirits here, has no idea. He thinks he’s here to start a war and get his nephew killed in the process, thus winning the throne of Trentsmund. Both ends serve the starborn. Darius then follows the three through a side room and up a secret stair, into a hidden chamber, where they are working on a mysterious and eerie ritual. They continue to converse in Norlythin and Trentsmin, allowing him to gather a few more precious bits of information. The ritual he doesn’t fully understand, but it is clearly meant to free their mentor, Anducaid Ylcuroth, from his imprisonment in Wroth’s throne room underneath the worldfire. Anducaid is the right hand man of Omechroth Tessamach, and has several of the “hands” of Omechroth (including this one) loyal to him instead of their cruel father. Darius is shocked to find out that Anducaid is “the purifier”, and thus the man who murdered his family and lover when he was seventeen. Reeling with this revelation, he watches as the changelings manipulate a magical construction made of lines of green light, runes and constellations, fed by the starlight of the coming conjunction of stars. He doesn’t understand the arcane magic of the ritual or the implications it has on the spirits of the dead who reside here. He needs to tell Ichtaca what is going on with the Duke, and he needs to know what the others have learned before he acts. He goes back to consult with his friends.