Episode Twenty Three - Stars Align
Episode Twenty Three – Stars Align (Level 11)
*Vash escapes from jail, reaching the harlequin and enlisting Tuoch, and Cátzin’s help. Cátzin goes to bring Tobias and Darius, and they discuss the delicate situation. Vash was to be executed at dawn, along with the child, and he has no intention of allowing harm to come to his infant half-brother. Cátzin and Darius help him sneak out of the city, and Tuoch returns to the Ambassador’s estate, keeping quiet about Vash’s rash plans, so that no one will have to lie. Sure enough, within the hour, they are dragged from their beds and questioned, and both the Ambassador’s estate and the Harlequin are searched several times for the fugitive. After a night of disturbed sleep, the group (minus Vash) return to their ship.
*Back on board the Harlequin, Darius has received a love letter from Queen Linwë, begging his return to visit her again, to help her with an urgent problem. Tobias is feels a sudden weight in his pouch of sending, and opens it to find a brief, urgent cry for help from Professor Jennish with a stone in it. As Tobias touches the stone, a portal opens, and Professor Jennish arrives, fleeing through the portal along with Tobias’ family. They are being pursued from a burning room by several members of the eitharmos. There is a brief fight, but the portal is closed, and the eitharmos defeated. The family had been staying at King Tolebesh Buthe’s winter palace in En Fallad, but when Jennish was attacked again in his office, he went to check on them and got there barely in time.
*Ichtaca escorts Lyda and Cátzin to a homeless shelter in Imsund’s hill district, where Lyda intends to spend the day helping Némelethe victims. Cátzin remains to play bodyguard, while Ichtaca goes to investigate a home nearby, where some ruckus is going on. The city guard is trying to enter the home of a ‘crazy cat lady’, who has an animal in her possession that has supposedly been mauling people to death. The guards are reluctant to enter because the lady has also been taking in Némelethe victims, and they fear infection.
*Ichtaca offers to handle the situation for the ungrateful and racist guards. He finds the lady of the house to be a kindly old woman, and the cat in question to be a giant snow leopard, which takes an immediate liking to Ichtaca. “Spot” has only mauled and eaten very bad men, the lady assures Ichtaca. She says that if he will help a patient of hers, she will gladly give him the cat, who would be happier out on the road. The patient is Glenmarel, a wild elf of the Red Arrow tribe, and a childhood friend of Vash. He is dying from the Némelethe, and wishes an honorable death, before he can no longer remember his name or hold a sword. Seeing Ichtaca, he claims a vision from Sarnoss confirmed for him that he was the man who was meant to kill him. Ichtaca sends the guards away from the old woman’s home, promising to take care of the leopard. He escorts Glenmaril out of the city, where the two fight, and Ichtaca slays Glenmarel honorably in combat.
*Meanwhile, the arrogant court mage, Imander Ferronulath, a star-pact warlock, who snubbed Tobias at the party, has changed his tune. He wants help with a project, and is willing to consider a gifted human for an apprentice. He has sent a letter requesting Tobias to come to the palace, and to bring the lady Carmenith with him. Oddly, he asks them to enter secretly, hooded, through a back way, with only his guards as escorts. The two head to the palace, where the Ferronulath shows them a hidden open-air courtyard, with several vaults hidden below. One contains several dozen meteor fragments, a treasure worth far more than their volume in gold.
*Ferronulath explains that he is the one who recognized Carmenith as a jhareth, and who informed the king. He needs her blood for a ritual that will convert all the meteors into powerful magic artifacts, rings that can be set around a model of a city, making the arcane city-shields of the feykin nearly impenetrable. The artifact would also weaponize the shields, allowing King Amraseth to conquer by force the eladrin city states of Illuithum who do not willingly join his spreading nation. Tonight at midnight will be a magically significant astronomic event; a conjunction of fateful stars that will greatly intensify any arcane magic done under its light. Choices made tonight, pacts sealed, spells cast, artifacts created, according to Ferronulath’s research, will all be invested with unimaginable power and cosmic significance. He warns them that if the world is a great game, every piece on the board will move tonight. For his ritual, he will need a few cups of Carmenith’s blood, and her participation at midnight, but he assures them that she will not be otherwise harmed. He wants Tobias’s help, to focus the psionic magic of the meteors into arcane artifacts.
*Ferronulath also explains the need for secrecy. The king’s other advisor, Maddeyan Nerune, is a priestess of the solace. She has counseled the king that the curse on his line can only be purified by an ancient fertility ritual done under the fateful constellation. Before the witness of all the high court, he must take an immortal woman as his bride, consummating their union on the altar under the light of the aligning stars. The ritual will purify his blood of the taint, but also, the child conceived by this act will be pure of the taint, a son and worthy heir for the throne. To both Queen Linwë and Ferronulath’s dismay, the king has decided this to be a far better use of the jhareth woman he finds so attractive. Ferronulath asks Tobias to choose to help him instead of the King. He offers to pay him with a powerful magic item made in the same ritual, a ring not to protect a city, but to cloak the airship with a protective shield of invisibility.
*Although tempted to remove Carmenith immediately to safety, Tobias immediately sees the potential of twisting Ferronulath’s ritual to his own design. He plans to come out with his magic item, but without allowing the fey king to create such powerful tools and expand his empire with war. Carmenith agrees to help him, trusting him entirely. She gives the warlock three cups of her blood, and he goes off to begin his preparations.
*Darius spends the morning at the office of the city guard, charming the local law enforcement into helping him track down more clues to the murders in this city that Jenmai told him about. Like the ones in Athelshoth, these murders are obviously the work of the same organization that slew his own family; the Starborn. He learns much, and determines to seek out their local lair after dark. Satisfied, he goes to the palace to visit the queen.
*Queen Linwë gave birth early in the morning to a drow male, who Vash has snatched from the sacrificial barrow, causing quite a stir in the court. The king is not in the palace, still scouring the city for the fugitives. Linwë, meanwhile, through magical means, has completely recovered from her pregnancy, and the lascivious queen is delighted to spend the afternoon with her newest lover. She and Darius linger for hours in her private chambers. She asks him a favor. The king will be taking a second wife this evening in a ritual at midnight, and she wants him to kill this rival and prevent her humiliation in front of the court. She also begs him to run away with her. He convinces her to go to the vault and remove her private hoard of jewels and money, and lock it in the far less secure safe in her room, in preparation for their escape after he kills Carmenith. She complies, and he spends a long, pleasant afternoon of lovemaking and false promises.
*As he leaves the palace, Darius runs into Tobias and Carmenith, who are trying to sneak out. A group of ladies maids accost them, leading Carmenith into a suite where they intend to spend the day pampering her and fitting her for a fabulous gown of jewels and priceless fabric. Planning to steal this treasure as well, Darius convinces Tobias to let her be fussed over while the two of them scheme. They concoct a devious plan, requiring Carmenith to be in two places at once at midnight. She will both wed the king and be the focus of the warlock’s star-ritual, with Darius taking her place with the king well before she is ravished in front of the court. Although Darius wants to steal the priceless gown, he is also hoping to humiliate the king in front of the court, creating a political distraction that will hopefully take some of the heat off of Vash and the fugitive infant.
*Meanwhile, a night and day of high adventure including breaking out of jail, sneaking through town (with Cátzin and Darius’s help), slaying a dragon, saving a shanty-town full of dark elves, stealing a baby, running from the guards, and locating an Avan operative to leave the baby with, Vash sees Ichtaca heading back into town, having just given an honorable death to the tribesman of the Red Arrow. Vash joins his friend, smuggling himself in on the same wagon, and hearing the last tale of his childhood friend with sorrow. They collect Vash’s things, then go to collect Ichtaca’s new animal companion. Ichtaca names her Snowball. Finally, they head to the homeless shelter to check on Lyda and Cátzin. It is past sunset.
*They walk into a fight. Vampires are observing patients at the clinic through strange devices called memnolabes. One of them is Lord Sondham Berris, Marquis of Easting, the bloodline vampire Cátzin and Ichtaca killed at the ball in Trentsmund. Cátzin sees him enthralling Lyda, and steps in to slay him before her friend is fed on. When Vash and Ichtaca arrive, Cátzin and Lyda have already slain half a dozen lesser disease-vampires, and much appreciate the help with Lord Berris and the rest of his flunkies. The last vampire escapes through a magical portal. Vash holds the portal open, wanting to know where they are going. To do so, he taps into the shadow powers of his past life, and discovers a vast reservoir of energy. Using the energy, however, opens his mind to the influence of his past life and its personality.
*Vash succeeds in holding open the portal, which he sees now is open to the wastes of Perrith Gorr. Doing so, however, triggers his past life personality, that of King Revikoth Kavan, a cruel tyrant and a blackguard paladin of Ulmhasa. Revikoth takes over momentarily. Revikoth ignores the people around him, immediately drawn to the drinking blade sheathed at his hip. Impressed by this artifact of ancient power, seeing at once its potential, he commands it to transform into its true form. It swells into a mighty tower, crushing aside the walls of the building they are inside, and threatening to kill everyone as it does so. The party manage to dive through the windows of the growing tower, with the snow leopard grabbing Lyda in her teeth and saving her from certain death. A huge sword-like tower erupts from the building, rising up into the city and piercing the magical shield over it. Energy crackles along the shield and the tower, and people run and scream. Tobias leaves Carmenith in Darius’s guard, and flies to the tower, panicked that Lyda is in danger. It is now well after dark.
*A huge demon-dragon arrives, landing on the dome of the city shield and scrabbling to get at the sword. It is a nassa, a troop transport used by the eitharmos, a great creature made of scything wings, bony sharp limbs, and fleshy pouches. It begins the slow work of tearing through the city shield, causing panic in the streets below.
*Vash, although still under the influence of the evil and ruthless Revikoth Kavan persona, has the same goals and is still loyal to his friends. He collapses the tower, making sure they all get out safely. He, Ichtaca, Cátzin, Lyda Tobias, and the Giant Snow Leopard all return to the ship, where Tobias fills them in on what is going on in the palace. He glosses over the danger to Carmenith, but assures Vash that he has things well under control, and emphasizes the potential gains of his and Darius’s plan. The others reluctantly agree to assist, by having the Harlequin ready for a getaway vehicle, right after midnight. Tobias heads back to the palace, and Vash fills the others in on what has been happening with him. They take the ship to Ambassador Losoran’s townhouse, warning him of what is going on, and mooring above it. The Ambassador evacuates his entire household onto the ship, knowing that after bringing this upon the city, his career is likely ruined. He plans to set fire to the house at midnight, and escape with the heroes.
*Darius and Tobias, with Carmenith’s trusting assistance, are playing to two factions at once, planning to ruin both rituals at the fateful hour of midnight. Darius hopes to gain treasure and wealth, and relishes the idea of manipulating and humiliating such powerful people. It’s a thrilling game he can’t refuse. Both he and Tobias hope to accomplish more with this double ruse, however. They hope to draw heat from Vash, prevent King Amraseth from waging a bloody war across Illuithum, and acquire a powerful magic item. To accomplish these goals, they are willing to put Carmenith at risk, and they carefully explain this to her. She agrees, wanting very much to be of use and repay everyone for giving her some of their souls.
*There is a disturbance in the palace as what seems to be a pile of meteor fragments made into some sort of a golem breaks through the vault, walking through walls and heading out into the town. It makes a bee-line for the ship. Tobias feels his pocket, and finds the dreamshard is gone.
*Meanwhile, the Yáloin have located the ship through the mirrorscape, and launch an attack on the Harlequin and her crew. Vash, Ichtaca, and the others repulse the attack, and shatter the contraband mirror that made it possible. Wary, they search for Mathis, whose voice they thought they heard. They find no sign of him. They do see the meteor-golem, however, and are forced to bring the ship up just under the city shield to escape it’s incredible leaps. It follows, staying always just below the vessel.
*Tobias and Darius stay close to Carmenith as the fateful hour approaches. King Amraseth is weaving a charm spell on her, and through the evening, he has been wooing her, making her see him as Vash, and confusing her mind so that she can’t think straight. Despite repeated intervention by Tobias, every time the king seeks her out again, Carmenith is blissfully happy, thinking that she is attending some fine ball, and that the charming Vash will be dancing with her all night. When the king begins kissing Carmenith, professing his love for her, and his caresses become too much for the other two to allow to continue, they intervene, despite the danger of early discovery. The king is leading her farther and farther into the garden where the altar lies, but Tobias distracts him while Darius takes her shape, her clothing, and her place in the King’s arms. Tobias then rushes Carmenith away, hiding her and helping her shake off the spell again.
*The two rituals proceed. Tobias taints Carmenith’s blood offering with his own, and pollutes the smearings left on each meteor. He doesn’t notice when the dreamshard containing Gallister’s spirit rolls out of his pocket and tumbles under a pile of meteors, moving on its own volition. Ferronulath’s ritual involves channeling the magic of the artifacts through Carmenith’s blood, then focusing it into the new artifacts he is making. Tobias intentionally sabotages the ritual, so that the power flows only into the ring they are making for him. The rest of the energy, however, is a startlingly vast pool of psionic power he cannot control or direct, and the arcane light from the conjunction of stars is maddening, intensifying that power by magnitudes he cannot comprehend. It has nowhere to go once it enters Carmenith’s blood, and under the light of those fateful stars, it settles into her very soul, making of her a powerful artifact unlike anything ever made before. She arches, blazing with light in her true-glory form, and falls limp to the floor.
*Darius, meanwhile, is suffering the attentions of the king, allowing the ritual to go farther than he had intended, because he is intrigued by what the priestess is chanting over the altar, and because he is enjoying watching Queen Line’s horrified face as her power and position in the court are threatened. He is also having trouble avoiding the charming effect of the king’s spell over him, seeing Vash instead of Enarran, and being charmed into enjoying the building consummation. He shakes that off quickly, however, when the words of the ritual make it clear that it will unquestionably leave him pregnant, and trapped in Carmenith’s form for the duration of the pregnancy. He groans, crying out about poison, and vomiting over the ardent king. He successfully ruins the ritual, barely in the nick of time. He is taken to the kings quarters, where he convinces the guards to leave, knocks out the young girl who is tending to him, then climbs out the window with the priceless gown. He sneaks into the queen’s chambers and removes the jewels from her safe.
*The ship arrives to collect the trio. Tobias flying up out of the hidden courtyard with a blazing unconscious Carmenith cradled in his arms, and Darius running and leaping off of the Queen’s balcony, both pursued by shouting guards and showers of arrows. The ship heads for the shield, now cracking and straining under the continued assault of the huge Nassa demon.
*A pillar of light erupts out of the building Darius recognizes as the starborn lair, small figures rising with euphoria to what they seem to think is some sort of transfiguration in that mad constellation above. Instead, their joy turns to horror and pain, each of them burning up instead of ascending.
*The city shield collapses, and the nassa crashes down into the city, turning and pursuing the ship. In its vast mouth is Ouleithe Jodram Zabir, along with a witch priest in a throne, driving the beast. Tuoch and Lyda get off a pair of amazing shots, Tuoch planting a bullet in the forehead of the Olethirim, and Lyda’s shot ripping through the heart of the witch priest. The Ouleithe touches the wound and stares at his bloody hand, but is only dazed, not killed. The witch-priest dies, and the Nassa crashes into the ground, allowing the Harlequin to escape. Tobias crawls out on the figurehead, placing the large ring over the arm of the harlequin figure, and the ship becomes invisible. The meteor golem follows them, still able to hone in somehow, but they leave it behind.
The queen’s jewels: A fabulous collection of platinum pieces with fire opals, diamond, sapphires, amethysts, and tanzanite. They will need to be appraised.
Carmenith’s ritual gown: Dark blue-violet silk damasque of the finest quality, sewn over with rich embroidery, panels of silver thread, and set with a dazzling collection of amethyst, sapphire, lapis lazuli, moonstone, and tanzanite. Will also require appraisal.
Darius also stole a ring of invigoration (level 14), a pair of couters of second chances (paragon tier), boots of elvenkind, (level 7), and a survivor’s belt.
Tobias made a custom magic item, a shield for the ship, which is a new and powerful artifact.