The Reign of Dregoth

Meanwhile, in Tyr (Part 2)
The Defiler

Meanwhile, in Tyr…

The New Antalus Theatre Troupe rounded the corner in the dark inner labyrinth of the mad King Kalak’s ziggurat to discover a templar to Hamanu of Urik and two of his Obsidian Knights standing in a chamber lit by bizarre geometric signs glowing on the floor. From these glyphs, the templar had summoned black humanoid flames to send against the Troupe. They fought, pursuing their quarry deeper into the ziggurat, finally defeating them in the heart of the monstrous edifice.

Sumita, the templar to Dregoth, seemed to understand at least a little of what the ziggurat represented, demonstrating an ability to call up gray flames of her own during the fight. After the battle was over, she proposed negotiations between herself, representing Raam, and the Troupe, representing New Antalus. Jace Kritikos and Sumita discussed mutual goals and discerned that notwithstanding the potential for enmity between Dregoth and Abalach-Re, realpolitik demanded certain alliances for the benefit of their respective cities when it came to the besieged city of Tyr.

The Troupe investigated the interior of the ziggurat and determined that it had been painstakingly built over the course of centuries, perhaps millenia, and that the humanoid flames that could be called from the runes were actually the souls of the dead. They theorized that millions of souls might be bound into the structure. They had also determined that the glyphs were a runic script corresponding to a language with no verbal component, purely telepathic, as if the script were developed for a species that communicated entirely via concepts transmitted mind to mind.

Keluk Windfall utilized a telepathic technique to “read” the glyphs, and ascertained that the entire ziggurat appeared to be built to channel immense forces for the purpose of opening some sort of portal. The power it could theoretically channel might even be able to punch a hole through time, let alone distant planar boundaries. Whether Kalak’s disappearance represented the success or failure of the ziggurat remained unclear. It was apparent, however, that the dispatched spies of King Hamanu were most interested in determining what became of Kalak and where he might be hiding.

As they investigated and negotiated with Sumita, the obsidian scarab given to the Troupe by the mysterious Sorcha so long ago, the item which permitted them, presumably, to enter the ziggurat and survive in the first place, began to pulse with arcane power. It ultimately disgorged Sorcha herself, who was fascinated by the Ziggurat of King Kalak. The Troupe ran their political agreements by her, which she disinterestedly seemed to agree with. They informed her of the portal theory, which made her eyes light up. With a certain glint of mischief, she told the Troupe, as well as Sumita, an extremely abbreviated form of ancient-history myths.

Sorcha asked them to imagine the world as a green and growing place with abundant water, but a world where all the species and races were enslaved by a psionic species that kept everyone else as slaves and food. According to Sorcha, there was a slave revolt. Certain leaders and champions arose in that revolt, some of which discovered the ability to siphon the life force of the planet itself to render them immensely powerful and immortal and capable of defeating the slavers. The battle was pyrrhic, however, and the world itself was drained of most life, the victorious champions ruling over what pockets remained as kings and queens. As for the enslaving species, they worked an immensely powerful ritual far to the south in the Great Obsidian Plain that permitted them to flee back in time, and to different worlds, leaving Athas the burned out husk it is today.

Sorcha’s theory was that Kalak built the ziggurat to emulate that ancient working. She had no further speculation as to whether he succeeded.

The Troupe, and Sumita, were left with this rather fantastic tale. They returned to King Tithian where they presented the corpses of Hamanu’s Templars, forcing Urik’s diplomats to retire for the evening. They then negotiated Sorcha’s presence in the Ziggurat, promising a share in her discoveries. King Tithian was pleased, granting them the run of the palace and the city. They performed in the public square a great play in three acts with a theme of the common man rising above great adversity and tyranny (to inspire them against Hamanu, presumably) which drew a great crowd, including King Tithian himself, in disguise, and Sorcha.

Eventually, however, they received word that New Antalus was sending proper diplomats with Sorcha’s aid. King Tithian informed them that Hamanu’s armies were once again on the march, and that they may wish to depart before the city became invested.

In a bit of daring, the Troupe decided to travel to Urik, bypassing the warring armies, to see what the stronghold of Hamanu said about the King and the culture he fostered. They discovered a rigidly-ordered city and society with a strict code of law, where the templarate, the nobility, and the military were effectively all one, ruling over the fairly poor commoners. They learned that the common Urikite thought of Tyr with pity, but an expectation of the inevitable victory of Hamanu. They looked upon Raam with fear, as if the sheer speed of Dregoth’s conquest led them to believe that Hamanu’s subsequent stated aims of unifying all the remaining cities against him was an excellent idea. Dissent to Hamanu’s rule was hard to find, but hidden in dark pockets.

Not wishing to push their luck, the Troupe moved on, pausing briefly near the ruins of ancient Yaramuke, before arriving eventually outside of the city of Raam, seeking to learn more, at the behest of their distant patron, about how or why the Lord-High Arcanist of New Antalus could also be Dregoth’s apprentice.

XP: 3,000
Total: 124,357

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A Daring Rescue
The Date Palm

Meanwhile, back in Raam…

The agents of Dregoth planned their assault on the disused Stel emporium wherein they had reason to believe Nerek and his awful experiments on Safa’s sister were holed up. Najaf consulted once more with Mon Adderath and met “The Guardian,” the alien Raaig who was capable of mentally directing undead at range. Najaf was linked into the spirit’s mental network, which gave him a cold chill, but no more information on understanding the thing. This permitted Najaf to more directly influence the movements of the undead city guard who would be filling the tunnels, old sewers, and buried streets that they group hoped to use to infiltrate the emporium.

They me in the tunnels beneath the city and discussed what guises to wear to both disconcert Nerek and to comfort the young, tormented khayal. Safa and Najaf adopted forms intrinsic to the khayal’s species and culture and they moved carefully through the tunnels. As they came up into the offices of the old emporium they encountered a door into the main warehouse floor. Concealed by Najaf’s magic, Dhaara carefully opened the door to reveal a large open space in a vaulted warehouse with a balcony/promenade about 25’ up, and crates stacked around like walls. In the center of the open space was a ritual circle, and in the center of that circle, chained to a wooden post with wicked, barbed, iron chains, was an amorphous, ever-changing creature of flesh that spawned smaller seemingly-independent flesh blobs that were still connected via tenuous umbilicals. Also standing in the room was Nerek, who was clearly gazing at the open door with concern.

Realizing their stealth was blown, they rushed in to attack. Nerek wielded psionic ability, but also flagrantly arcane power drawn, no doubt, directly from his new Sorcerer-King patron, Hamanu of Urik. His first act, however, was to break the circle, releasing the maddened flesh-warped khayal while an archer sniped the invaders from the balcony.

Queri-Sed unleashed her gossamer wings to fly to the balcony, assaulting the archer and knocking him to the ground below where Dhaara finished him off. Safa summoned her fires and Najaf summoned his illusions and charms against Nerek, but it was Alekel’s psychic insinuations of comedy that most seemed to cripple the rogue Templar while everyone else fought the aura of entropy that enfolded him to beat him inevitably to unconsciousness. Safa’s mad sister unleashed pain in the form of telekinetically manipulated chains and spawned, exploding flesh blobs, but ultimately, as the fight wore down, Najaf, Alekel, and Safa were able to get through to her, calming her down enough to remove the psionically-invested chains. Upon doing so, she deliquesced into an amorphous pile of gooey flesh. It took great effort of will for her to assume a vaguely humanoid form.

The agents wrapped their captive Nerek in the very barbed chains they recovered off of his victim. Najaf ritually bound him so he could not escape by magic. They summoned a disc of force to bear the rescued khayal, and made their escape after informing Padme Shuja via sending that there was a warehouse full of stuff to plunder. They escaped via the tunnels under cover of undead, using the sending ritual to arrange a palanquin from House Maarham for the concealment of the rescued khayal.

As they agents made their way through the streets to House Maarham, an unusual number of beggars were seen on the route. Their alertness, street-savvyness, and knowledge of the arcane revealed that each of these beggars had been touched by power, and that this was a demonstration of their power to the scions of House Shuja. Najaf approached one such beggar who indicated that they would deliver a message at Shahzadi’s wedding, to which their messenger had already, apparently, been invited.

They arrived at House Maarham where “Jai Maarham” (actually his khayal body double) met them. Najaf, “Jai”, and their prisoner went to a back room to “interrogate” him via brain consumption while the rest of them stopped in to visit with Aasif and make sure all was in readiness for the forthcoming wedding.

Najaf woke the prisoner long enough to taunt him with his imminent doom. Nerek spat the Tyrian word for “shadow,” the name used by the khayal of Tyr, and seemed to think that the mere existence of Najaf’s ability to consume brains and absorb their knowledge was proof-positive that the entire species needed to be wiped out. Najaf cracked open his skull and ate his brain as carefully as he could to ensure that the prisoner lasted… a long time. The plan was to subsequently accompany the young, tormented khayal to an “Elder” of their kind arranged by “Jai Maarham” somewhere out in the desert. Najaf’s brain eating revealed, among other things, that Nerek had made contact with Hamanu’s High Templar, and ultimately Hamanu himself, via a potent psionic ritual used by a member of House Stel that Najaf didn’t recognize named Likud.

XP: 4,000
Total: 121,357

Level 19

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Meanwhile, in Tyr...
The Songbird

The New Antalus Theater Troupe at last arrived in the Golden City of Tyr. They had set out from the nascent city-state founded by Abalach-Re a year ago on a mission of entertainment, performance and espionage, spreading culture and the message of recruitment that kept new citizens filtering into the ruins of ancient Kalidnay. The Troupe had been formed by famed playwright and entertainer Michaelis Taliodoros and sent forth to both recruit and to spy on those who would do harm to the fledgeling city.

Events in Tyr were becoming troubled. King Kalak’s mysterious disappearance had sparked a war of invasion. King Hamanu, Lion of Urik, Master of War, had been stalled by a rag-tag army of freed slaves, but most rumors indicated it was only a matter of time before he conquered Tyr. After that it did not take much of a stretch to see New Antalus as his next target. The Troupe had been directed by Michaelis to enter Tyr, perform as they were able, but most importantly to gauge the balance of power and politics in the area and try to get a handle on how long Tyr could withstand their foe.

The troupe began by winning the hearts of Tyr’s military patrols and finding a spacious inn / caravanserai within the city to settle. Warlord and playwright Jace Kritikos, second to Michaelis and head of the Troupe as it traveled, began to inquire amongst the city’s nobility while Keluk Windfall, Master Thespian and cunning telepath, engaged in some impromptu performances on streetcorners to attract the common people. The mysterious Eladrin warlock, Valen, sought pockets of arcane power, spying from rooftops and from shadows. Achaeus, the former Balican soldier-turned-wasteland Ranger, did his best to keep tabs on all his companions lest they fall into trouble. Aukati, the savage halfling sideshow with the curiously erudite accent took to burgling homes in search of information. The rest of the troupe settled into the inn.

Their attempts at information gathering revealed a city on the edge. The first month after Kalak’s disappearance left its scars, the violence of the slave revolts, the murder in the streets and nobles vyed for power, still left their telltale signs. But once Hamanu began to march, Kalak’s former High Templar, Tithian, had seized the throne. His first act was to free all the slaves upon which Tyr’s economy depended. His second act was to create the world’s largest ex-slave army, each member equipped with an iron-tipped weapon from Kalak’s private armory. Those nobles not lynched by mobs supported the new King with their reserves of cash, propping up Tyr’s economy as it struggled to repel the invader. In return, King Tithian promised them political power in the new regime should it survive. Gladiator-slaves, being some of the few skilled in combat, were elevated to officer ranks in the new army, but those few remaining career soldiers were having a hard time instilling proper military tactics and combat methodology into those who had developed rather different habits in the arena.

The city was staggering, but miraculously appeared to be stabilizing… if not for the ever-present threat of Hamanu’s armies. And on that score, the members of the Troupe noticed small patrols of undead, dressed in the military garb of Raam, in the streets. Inquiries revealed that King Dregoth of Raam had sent a significant military force of undead to the succor of Tyr, and that this support had made the crucial difference between victory and defeat in the field of battle.

The members of the theater troupe gathered and shared their information. Keluk Windfall reported what they had learned via Sending ritual. Michaelis, on behalf o Abalach-Re, granted Jace Kritikos official diplomatic powers to proffer the military might of New Antalus to King Tithian, including the promise that Taros, General of the Blood, could have an army in place within a week if necessary. They went forth into the city, found a templar, and communicated their bona fides.

That evening, the leaders of the troupe got dressed in their finest, taking Marissa, their Nibenese acrobat (and outcaste noble) with them, dressed in her finest regalia. Jace Kritikos and Marissa conveyed the impression of noble envoys, while the rest assumed the positions of guards and advisors and they were let into the golden palace of Kalak to meet with the new King. After some pleasantries in the gardens, the various diplomats were shown into the throne room.

King Tithian sat on a simple wooden chair on the dais, flanked by a woman in flowing robes with manacle scars on her wrists and a sullen Mul guard. Representing King Dregoth was the Templar Sumita (formerly a smuggler sent by distant Najaf Shuja and company long ago…) and General Khalid Hanafi, a Kaisharga of palpable power. Representing Nibenay was Naidu, a man dressed in blood-red robes and claiming the titles “Priest of the Blood” and “Envoy of the Regent of the Shadow King.” The newly-minted ambassadors of Abalach-Re comported themselves well. Finally, there were two Templars of Hamanu, there under flag of truce.

Tithian received them all and asked their petitions. Dregoth’s templar conveyed her King’s commitment and support in keeping Hamanu from turning Tyr into another Yaramuke, a desolation with ever-poisoned waters. The Nibenese representative gave flowery words that amounted to “we support you, but not in any tangible way.” The representatives of Hamanu, however, conveyed their King’s assertion that had he wanted to turn Tyr into another Yaramuke, he could easily have done it already. After all, Tyr has no sorcerer-king to stop him from simply destroying the city. Hamanu’s intention, it would seem, is to bring Tyr under his protection specifically to ward off the threat that Dregoth represents. Hamanu’s messengers asserted that Dregoth seeks to turn the world into a dominion of the undead, and that only a strong alliance of the living can see off such a threat. Hamanu’s messengers offered Tithian the High Templarate of Tyr under Hamanu’s rule, and high positions within the new regime should he stop this foolish pretension of Kingship, and provided he send the “serpents you’ve invited into your midst” … the representatives of Dregoth … packing.

Jace Kritikos conveyed to Tithian the support of Abalach-Re’s new city, implying that she was grateful to Dregoth for reinvigorating her interest in the world, and that she could overlook past slights to work in cooperation with his undead forces to defend Tyr from Hamanu. He offered the surprisingly swift time-table for an army led by Taros and received surprising support from the “Priest of the Blood” for Taros’ ability to do as claimed.

As all parties began the diplomatic eyeballing of each other, a Templar to Tithian burst into the room to declare that a number of members of Urik’s envoy had just broken into the mighty ziggurat, known to most as “Kalak’s Folly.” The two diplomats from Hamanu seemed upset, trying to convince everyone that they knew nothing of such plans. Tithian revealed that the ziggurat had been sealed, as only true, empowered Templars to the King could enter and live. As Tithian himself no longer had such powers, he had sealed the edifice. Apparently, however, templars to other Kings or Queens were suitably immune, and Hamanu’s had infiltrated the edifice. As a gesture of diplomatic good-will, a number of the diplomats offered to enter the ziggurat to stop Hamanu’s templars, including the representatives from New Antalus, despite not having any actual, formalized templar connection to their queen. Some study revealed, however, that the obsidian scarab given to them by the mysterious Sorcha, and used as a badge of authenticity earlier in the evening, had sufficient power drawn directly from the black to keep any such doom at bay.

The representatives from New Antalus, along with Dregoth’s templar Sumita and Nibenay’s representative, Naidu, hurried to the ziggurat and cautiously entered. They wound their way deep into the immense pile of stone via twisting, maze-like, claustrophobic tunnels. Only the keen ears and direction-sense of Achaeus kept them wending ever closer to Hamanu’s invaders. Soon they caught up to the invading templars, the light of their torches visible from around a corner. The invaders likewise easily heard the assorted diplomats. Each side prepared for conflict…

XP: 3,400
Total: 117,357

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A Turncoat's Prize
The Pyre

As the Shuja siblings and their associates watched Padme Shuja unveal the sculpture commissioned for Shahzadi’s wedding, Safa Maarham quietly returned to rejoin them.

The statue was a masterwork, showing Shahzadi and her husband-to-be, Aasif Maarham, in the traditional wedding poses, but with gender-roles reversed, Aasif embracing her, casting adoring eyes at her, while she looks confidently into the distance, a protective arm around him. It bemused the viewers, but Usuch-Si’s craftsmanship was appreciated for only a moment. Safa had news. She had spent most of the week looking into the last loose end of the conspiracy that attacked both Houses, assassinating Padme and driving her own father, Jai Maarham, into hiding. Nerek, former employee of Dynastic Merchant House Vordon, and theoretical templar to the missing King Kalak of Tyr, was still wealthy, still throwing money around, still hiring muscle and spies and thieves and assassins, even though House Vordon’s coffers were now closed to him. These funds were trickling into the city, being smuggled in by diverse elements, bespeaking the backing of a well-organized group. The Khayal affiliated with House Maarham had put all their cunning and skill to work tracking Nerek and his organization, learning much, but they got careless. A young Khayal was captured by Nerek and being held in an old Dynastic Merchant House Stel Emporium, currently being used as warehouse space.

This caused some consternation and curiosity amongst the agents of Dregoth. House Stel, the militant merchants of Urik, had been the first to lose their Templar infiltrator, Agar Stel, to those very Agents near the very beginning of their service. It had been a fluke that had pitted them against him, a contract on behalf of the telepath Ismail. Stel’s sudden seeming involvement with a renegade from House Vordon, traditional rivals of Stel, could mean nothing good. Speculation as to what Nerek might want with a live Khayal captive led Najaf down darker roads of speculation, especially once later investigation revealed that the Stel agent responsible for that warehouse was none other than Agar’s widow, Liese… Ismail’s lover and co-conspirator. Najaf feared that Ismail had once more become involved, and was seeking to advance his understanding of Khayal psychology and physiology.

Subsequent intelligence given to Safa by House Maarham’s Khayal allies gave credence to the theory that Nerek was seeking to buy his way into the service of King Hamanu of Urik, who was currently at war with Tyr, under the presumption that Hamanu’s victory over that city would be inevitable. The coin of this purchase would be, perhaps, the means to breed Khayal-like spies and servants loyal only to King Hamanu. If Ismail was, in fact, involved, this would be treason against Dregoth.

The Stel warehouse-emporium was surveiled, but it appeared to all the world like an ordinary warehouse, conducting ordinary warehouse levels of business. Intel eventually discovered, however, that the back half of it was heavily ritually warded to obfuscate the attention of the weak-willed such that Nerek could operate there without alerting the warehouse workers to his presence.

Najaf decided that Mon Adderath would need to be informed prior to any action taken. The High Templar revealed that Ismail belonged to a secret society of Psions that regulated their own, and that it was unlikely that he was actually engaged in trying to aid a foreign King. It was more likely that he was manipulating Nerek in some way, but Ismail is notoriously untrustworthy. Mon Adderath put any resources Najaf might need behind him, including a Raaig, a type of ancient, alien-minded, incorporeal undead capable of directing hundreds of lesser, corporeal undead in infiltrating and clogging all the underground tunnels, sewers, and remnants of buried buildings that would permit for secret escape routes from the emporium. Shahzadi and Alekel arranged a show-piece gang-fight to occur in front of the emporium that night between Shahzadi’s stable of gladiators and some Night Runners willing to do this favor under the tentative agreement worked out by Najaf and Alaa New Moon. The fight would be a distraction for the agents to infiltrate the emporium.

Najaf, Safa, and Alekel went, then, to confront Ismail. The telepath, in his usual blithe, arrogant fashion, openly admitted to horrific experiments upon the captured young Khayal, which turned Safa’s eyes into flinty daggers of murder. Clearly bemused at the reaction he was getting from her, Ismail revealed his involvement. Using what he had learned from studying Najaf, this young captive Khayal was his first field-test in using psychic-parasitic constructs to create physical, biological changes. He wanted Khayal-stock, as they are already… flexible… in form. He claimed that this experiment taught him the last things he needed to know to create a creature much like Najaf, a psychic parasite that would transform a human into a shapeshifter, but one with cunning, hidden mental programming to serve and obey Ismail. His plan was to get these spies into Hamanu’s service via Nerek, but to use them for his own purposes (and, he implied, to make that information available to Dregoth).

Najaf expressed admiration for the plan, but indicated it violated certain agreements Dregoth had with Hamanu, and that Ismail would have to pull the plug. Ismail seemed nonplussed, but recognized it was time to cut his losses. He told Najaf that Nerek was a disposable tool, and that he, a few bodyguards, and the still-living remains of the Khayal-experiment, were all that were in the secret laboratory in the back of the emporium… but that the remains of the khayal were probably rather dangerous, as his experiments had rendered the poor young creature into a mass of amorphous, ever-changing flesh that could spawn lesser fleshy units, and that all of them were channeling barely controlled psychic power. This caused Safa to glare at him even further. Safa made it clear that it was her intention to rescue the creature, which Ismail seemed amused by. He offered to “do his best” to undo what had been done to her as a gesture of good-will to “Safa’s Family.”

The three agents left Ismail and went to House Maarham, where they told the Khayal vizier the fate of his young relative. He was distraught, and indicated he would prefer to deliver the poor creature to an elder of his species who, with Najaf’s cooperation, might be able to restore her.

In the course of their conversation with Ismail, and later with the vizier, it became more and more obvious to Alekel that Safa was, in fact, a Khayal herself. Najaf appeared to already know this fact. When the three returned to House Shuja to confer with their other allies, Safa admitted to them all that the young creature, broken and tortured by Ismail’s experiments, was in fact her “sister.”

XP: 4,000
Total: 113,957

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A Work Completed
The Unclean

Safa departed to her house to learn what she could about Nerek and his vendetta while Shahzadi was pulled aside by her mother to discuss the details of her upcoming wedding. That left the remaining four agents to look into the mysterious message asking Najaf to come to the Garden of Benevolence.

On the way, they noticed that many of the beggars seemed unusually aggressive in getting their attention. The beggar population of Raam had been steadily declining, as Dregoth’s templars would sweep the streets, conscripting any who could not pay a “squatter’s tax” into the military. Those who were left were typically those beggars who had a patron, such as Padme Shuja, who makes extensive use of them as part of her information network. These beggars, however, seemed specifically to be targeting Najaf and his party, and when Najaf contacted one telepathically, was told: “convey the blessings of Amnuet to your Lady Mother.”

Najaf and Alekel put their heads together and surmised that “Amnuet” was a Kalidnese name, and a historical figure in Balic who had arisen about a century before, unifying the beggars of that city into a single organization / religious cult. Something similar happened at about the same time in Nibenay, under a prophet named Amitabha. The clear implication was that this religious cult had spread to Raam, and may well be a competitor to House Shuja’s dominance in the information trade. They speculated that the only reason such a group would openly call out House Shuja is if they felt absolutely sure that they had secrets that could ruin the house.

Concerned by these speculations, the agents arrived in the Garden of Benevolence. It was near sundown, and the young scions of the moneyed classes were enjoying the opportunity to interact with their betrothed in a chaperoned public setting, often attended by retinues of slaves or servants. A handful of groundskeepers could be seen keeping the Garden and the famous statues by Usuch-Si well-tended.

While Najaf, Alekel and Dhaara engaged in the subterfuges necessary to discover who had asked them there, Queri-Sed noticed the young female Dray Nawab scion Shia Tolon sitting on a bench with her date, a male Dray, and accompanied by their human slaves and servants. Queri-Sed engaged in excited conversation which resulted in Shia getting invited to Shahzadi’s wedding and attracting a great deal of attention. Alekel had to resort to telepathically shouting “Braxat!” in her mind to get her to panic and hide in the bushes.

Najaf and company were approached by a human vizier functionary who, in conversation, made it pretty clear that she was really a disguised Alaa New Moon. The Night Runner Elf proposed to Najaf a bargain. She expressed that much of her tribe still held a great grudge against the city of Raam for expelling them, and that the tribe was seeking to find a path forward. Some sought to dredge up the tribe’s ancient past and return to a nomadic existence, while others sought some way to return to the city legitimately. Alaa proposed that if the Night Runners handed over the Kuotagha currently in their midst, then Najaf could pull strings such that the Night Runners would be treated no differently than any other tribe when it came to securing the necessary permissions to enter and trade in Raam.

Najaf, recognizing that the Night Runners would never again by the power they once were in the city, especially if the Templars in charge of running the elf-licensing regime were competent, and seeing an opportunity to have contrite former criminal masterminds in his pocket as well as an opportunity to resolve the matter of the last extant Kuotagha, agreed.

The ruse, as decided, would be that the elves would tell the Kuotagha that they were dispersing, leaving Raam, but that they had found an Offspring with a grudge against the King willing to take the assassin on. Shahzadi, under the hat of disguise, would be that Offspring. After the handover, Alekel would speak for Shahzadi, convincing the Kuotagha of their legitimacy so that it would agree to be transported via Najaf’s magic straight to the inscribed teleportation circle in the depths of the Ivory Palace, where an alerted templarate would be available to arrest it.

After discussing the matter back at the Shuja household, and warning Padme about the new beggar group in town, they put this plan into motion, which went off pretty much without a hitch. The elves delivered the Kuotagha, Alekel convinced if of their legitimate grievance against the King, and Najaf teleported them all into the Ivory Palace… where Mon Adderath and Dregoth himself were waiting.

With almost casual delight, the King gripped the creature in telekinetic power and left the room, giving very little heed to his agents who had brought it there. Mon Adderath, however, took them back to his offices where he debriefed them on the entire mission, and issued to each of them vouchers against the Palace Treasury to the amount of 120,000 ceramic pieces. Mon Adderath indicated that he had a new mission for them, but in deference to House Shuja’s needs, would delay briefing them on it until after Shahzadi’s wedding.

While the rest of the agents departed, Najaf stayed behind to discuss this strange beggar-cult and learned that the leaders were all members of an unusual group of people capable of channeling power from the mysterious plane known as the Black. In many respects, they considered themselves servants of The Dragon (as opposed to the Cult of the Dragon that venerates Dregoth). Mon Adderath speculated that they had begun to infiltrate Raam as a reaction to Dregoth’s decision not to perform the Dragon Sacrifice in the preceding year. Curiously enough, a high-ranking member of this cult was determined to be the person who Najaf had seen raising Taxma from the dead after their ill-fated altercation, a woman named Sorcha, who resided in Abalach-Re’s new city of New Antalus far to the south.

While Najaf was distracted, Alekel went forth into the city. Now that he had some free time, he was determined to make a splash as a performer. It turns out his recent absence had been noted and had the perverse effect of making speculation as to his activities all the more subject to gossip. The fact that he was commonly seen around town asking questions of strange people about strange subjects led to all manner of speculation, and when he started performing once more, the houses were packed.

Queri-Sed, having seen in the Garden of Benevolence the sheer inefficiency of human mating rituals, decided, with some help from Dhaara, that she should use her monetary reward to commission a statue from the famed scuptor Usuch-Si. The tracked the artist down to his house where Queri-Sed pitched the idea of a life-sized statue of her, engaged in a “risque” Thri-kreen mating posture. This, she reasoned, would inspire humans to be more appropriately aggressive in pursuing their mating opportunities.

Usuch-si was… surprised and clearly amused at the request and didn’t really take it seriously until Queri-Sed pulled out the treasury vouchers before Dhaara could stop her. Realizing suddenly that the Thri-kreen before him had procured treasury vouchers in her name from the templarate, the sculptor took about half of them and accepted the commission, instructing Queri-Sed to return the next day for a “sitting” which would include a lengthy discussion about her culture, her personality, and all the other things he would need to bring a statue “to life.” Queri-Sed then asked how she would go about getting such a statue installed in the Garden of Benevolence, and Usuch-Si referred her to the Templarate, as the Garden was now the King’s land, the nawab house that had previously owned it having been eradicated by Dregoth during the conquest.

Dhaara and Queri-Sed then went back to Mon Adderath where, much to the ancient templar’s amusement, Queri-Sed explained the whole matter. For reasons known only to himself, he approved the installation.

Alekel, with a disguised Najaf acting as the ultimate “wingman,” attended some of the most popular parties in Raam with the goal of increasing Alekel’s fame and visibility. Such were their talents, that Alekel is now the most popular and sought-after performer in the city.

Queri-Sed spent about an hour alone with Usuch-Si, where the sculptor learned… any number of secrets from the indiscreet Thri-kreen.

Some few days later, as Dhaara was explaining Queri-Sed’s fascination with statuary to a horrified Najaf, Usuch-Si arrived at the Shuja household having finished the previous commission of Shahzadi and Aasif. The veiled statue was presented to Padme Shuja, and the rest of the agents waited with bated breath to see it unveiled…

XP: 3,750
Total: 109,957

120,000 ceramic pieces each

View
Primal Combat
The Erdlu

The agents gathered some supplies for a day trip to the badlands to the northwest of Raam. Utilizing various travel magics to ease their progress, they journeyed past the cultivated lands surrounding the city and into the rocky gullies and ravines wherein the smuggler’s den where Darayavaush of the Dynastic Merchant House Shom was hiding.

Alekel and Dhaara noticed strange paw prints in the sand at various points, but were unable to identify the creature from which they came. They eventually arrive in the ravine where the inconspicuous crack leading into the smuggler’s cave could be found. They detected the primal spirits lurking the scree rock-slide approach and opted to do some rock climbing instead. Even Najaf managed to make it to the narrow ledge near the crack without falling or making too much noise. Their approach, however, was not sufficiently quiet to prevent the three individuals inside the smuggler’s den from hearing them.

Kalyani Shom, observing from a distance, and having a Sending pre-cast, informed Najaf that Darayavaush, a female half-giant, and the Kuotagha were alerted and ready. While the agents debated whether to attack or open negotiations, Queri-sed made the discussion moot by charging in, setting off the trap of lashing thorny vines in the entrance-crack, and slashing into both the half-giants (unable to see where the Kuotagha was lurking). Dhaara charged in afterwards, while everyone else clustered at the entrance, intimidated by the vines. The Kuotagha made his appearance, scuttling down from the ceiling to attack Dhaara, wrapping her in his ropey tendons. Darayavaush demonstrated incredible strength, smashing those who came too close and throwing them across the room.

The female half-giant druid went down first, having never even attacked anyone (aside from the thorny trap). The Kuotagha was rendered helpless by Najaf’s magic, and then rendered dead by Dhaara’s staff. Najaf, seeing a position of diplomatic strength, asked Darayavaush to give up. The half-giant complied, warily. The two parties engaged in negotiation while Alekel healed the fallen druid. Queri-sed ate a piece of the druid, which upset her enough to cause her to shift into the form of a sleek black predatory cat, the origin of the earlier paw prints, and fall through the rocky floor, insubstantial, to make her escape.

In conversation with Darayavaush, the agents learned that he was not technically a templar of the Shadow-King. He had, in fact, been simply recruited as a spy by agents of the Regent of Nibenay. Darayavaush, perhaps due to the influence of his cousin the druid, was readily recruited by the notion that Dregoth was an undead abomination who planned the deaths of all sentient beings so as to someday rule the entire world. He hoped that by spying for the city-state of Nibenay, Dregoth’s power might be at least somewhat checked. This espionage was coordinated by the Regent’s agents, coupled with pressure on high levels of House Shom. He had practically unlimited discretionary spending, but once the cabal of merchant-spies was uncovered by Eliphelet’s cell, he removed himself to this smuggler’s den, keeping an ear to the ground via the Kuotagha delegated to him. He promised that, since his cover was blown, he would never return to Raam, and would depart if they permitted him to live.

They asked Darayavaush about Nerek Vordon. The half-giant indicated that the five spies communicated almost entirely via Kuotagha, and so he didn’t know a lot of the details that might be useful to them. He did say, however, that Nerek seemed well aware of the precise moment when his templar powers from King Kalak of Tyr vanished. At that point, his behavior changed markedly. He started actively drawing heavily on his funds from House Vordon, hiring and bribing all manner of agents in the city. When they were contacted by other disaffected parties via the Kuotagha on the coordinated revenge-strike, Nerek was the one who pushed strongly to attack House Maarham. Darayavaush believed that he has some personal grudge, and once his loyalty to King Kalak evaporated, he turned the funds and resources at his disposal to his personal vendetta.

Najaf checked in with Kalyani, and the agents let Darayavaush live. They departed. Alekel managed to convey an apology to the druid, and they returned to Raam.

Queri-sed scuttled off on a mysterious errand of her own while Alekel and Shahzadi hit the streets and the drinking establishments trying to map out Nerek’s anti-Maarham organization. They found it, and managed to get the names and locations of Nerek’s two lieutenants before returning to House Shuja.

Najaf, Safa and Dhaara had returned to House Shuja already, where they spoke with Padme Shuja who was slowly recovering from her ordeal. Upon mentioning Nerek, Padme indicated that her spy network had ascertained that Nerek Vordon was the survivor of a Khayal assassination / infiltration attempt in Tyr, and that Nerek has a personal vendetta against the shapeshifters. It is possible his attack on House Maarham is an attempt at revenge or extermination due to Maarham’s arrangement with the Khayal.

Eventually all of the agents rendezvoused at House Shuja where they discussed all they had learned and debated plans to draw Nerek out. Padme Shuja mentioned to Najaf that an undead spirit had come looking for him, and awaited him “at his convenience” in the Garden of Benevolence. Also, Shahzadi’s wedding is in just over a week.

XP: 3,000
Total: 106,207

View
Rebirth and Espionage
The Bride Price

Najaf and Safa returned to the Sepulchre of Badna where they met with Taxma who was understandably displeased at having been killed by them the day before. Nevertheless, the manner in which they approached him made it clear they sought a diplomatic solution, and since they had already de-facto agreed to the arrangement Taxma sought before by sparing AkuNu, Taxma let them go with merely the promise of a future service, namely a trip to a dangerous locale once their duties to the King would permit such a thing.

Alekel asked questions amongst the Tyrian expatriates seeking information on the rogue Dynastic Merchant employee / Templars and discovered that the rag-tag armies of Tyr had defeated the armies of Hamanu, military genius, due in no small part to the sudden intercession of an army of undead, led by Khalid Hanafi, sent by Dregoth to “defend his ally, the King of Tyr.” He learned also that Lissette Vordon, third daughter of the Patriarch, was in charge of that Dynastic Merchant House’s affairs, and he arranged an appointment to meet with her.

Dhaara spent time with her uncle, helping him convalesce, and studying the rituals and rites of her caste. Her uncle told her a legendary tale of an ancient Saddhu that revealed that sometimes impure acts are necessary for the greater purity and benefit of the caste as a whole. Dhaara started taking steps to minimize the bloodshed she would spill in battle, opting to adopt a simple staff and divesting herself of her two swords.

Once all had returned to House Shuja, they discussed how to approach House Vordon over their rogue agent Nerek. During these deliberations, an undead messenger arrived from AkuNu informing them that the Kuotagha associated with the Veiled Alliance had been slain, and that Jia had dedicated its soul to the Dread Queen Sielba, thus fulfilling the bargain for the return of Padme Shuja’s soul. Najaf began ritual preparations to bring his mother back to life.

They went to Alekel’s meeting with Lissette Vordon. The Merchant was straightforward in her euphemisms, and it became clear that she had been sent by her house to Raam immediately after the mysterious disappearance of King Kalak of Tyr to forcibly excise Kalak’s Templar, Nerek, from their House’s service before it became a diplomatic incident. Sadly, Nerek had gone to ground before she arrived, and she hasn’t had a lot of success finding him. She has, of course, made it clear to all and sundry that Nerek is a rogue, disavowed, and no longer a part of House Vordon. She offered to the agents significant funds should they bring Nerek to her alive, or even dead. She also provided some intelligence on her rival Dynastic Merchant House Shom indicating they may be a softer target when it comes to tracking down these Templar / agents.

They returned to House Shuja to take care of some needed business. Shahzadi took her fiance Aasif Maarham into a private room where they proceeded to drink copiously. Shahzadi came clean to her future husband that she was an Offspring. He took it fairly well, all things considered, and was relieved that the King, or at least Mon Adderath, was aware and that she wasn’t some sort of fugitive. He in turn revealed to her that he had two bastard children, one in Balic and one in Tyr, and that he wished to ensure that some small funds were regularly sent to ensure their well being, but that they would never come to Raam to make any claim on their patrimony. Eventually Shahzadi drank him into unconsciousness, whereupon she fetched her father to ritually determine that Aasif was not, in fact, a Khayal.

Dhaara returned to her uncle’s house and procured his agreement to come to the Shuja household to perform certain religious purification rituals upon Padme once she was brought back to life. Dhaara explained that her soul had been in the possession of Sielba, and that she would definitely need some spiritual healing and guidance.

Safa and Alekel watched Najaf’s resurrection ritual, learning it as it was performed. Eventually, Padme Shuja opened her eyes. She seemed… shell-shocked. Her memory was slow in coming. She recognized her husband and children, though. She spoke of being a mote of silt in the storm that was the Dread Queen, her soul’s energy an insignificant part of a vast and terrible whole. She spoke of being separated out from that whirlwind, the attention of which was terrible to experience, before being called back to her flesh. At this point, Dhaara’s uncle Gaurav spent some time in purification rituals, augmented by subtle telepathic nudges to ease painful memories and soothe away stress. Jahandar Shuja ultimate took his wife to her bed where she slept, warded by ritual magic prepared by Najaf.

Upon the morrow, they decided to actively surveil the emporium of Dynastic Merchant House Shom. Over the course of the day they discovered telltale signs in the comings and goings and suspicious activities that things were being subtly shaken-up in the emporium. Established command structures were being subverted, goods were being moved. They surmised that a high-ranking member of the House must have recently arrived. Queri-Sed was distracted by another Thri-Kreen who was apparently working for Shom. They ran off together somewhere.

Eventually the rest of the agents saw the nominal factor in charge of the emporium, an old soldier named Jarl, depart to a drinking establishment. There, Alekel approached him.

Jarl revealed that while he was in charge of the emporium, House Shom is a vast and complex organization which commonly doesn’t communicate amidst its various branches. He confirmed that a “tall fellow” who Alekel took to be the Templar / agent Darayavaush, had come to Raam and that Jarl was instructed to extend him every courtesy and not ask questions. This Jarl did. Jarl also revealed that this very day “her Ladyship” arrived with “new orders” regarding the “tall fellow.” Alekel stressed his personal connections to both the local nobility and the local templarate, and his willingness to help House Shom discreetly take care of its problem. Jarl secured an audience with “Her Ladyship” nearly immediately.

The Agents were brought deep into the lavish emporium of House Shom, behind a nondescript door, and to another door guarded by a bald man in a simple tunic who carried himself like a monk of some sort. Jarl departed and the monk opened the door, beckoning them within. Alekel walked right in, but as Shahzadi sought to follow, she found herself curiously unable to pass through the doorway. The monk looked at her with some curiosity, and inquired into her humanity. Najaf also was unable to pass through the door, and made a point of telling the monk that he needed to enter. Dhaara walked through the door with no difficulty, but Safa was similarly unable to pass.

The monk, clearly in communication with whomever was within, ultimately indicated that the ward protecting this room might be lowered, but that the lady within would need to speak with Alekel a bit first.

Alekel went deeper into the chamber, draped in expensive silks, with a light incense in the air. On a reclining couch he encountered a beautiful woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties, who was entirely naked except for cunningly applied body-paint. This took him aback briefly before he recalled a curious custom amidst the nobility of Nibenay wherein a lack of clothing denotes high social status among the nobility. She was not being sexual in any particular way, merely making a statement about her position and power. She asked Alekel some pointed questions about “what” his companions were, and ultimately whether or not he trusted them. Upon receiving satisfactory answers, she shattered her ward letting the rest of his companions in.

She identified herself as Kalyani Shom, the eldest (surviving) daughter of Giovvo Shom, former head of his House (and now a noble of Nibenay). She indicated that Darayavaush was once an employee of hers, personally, and that his status as a Templar to the “Regent of Nibenay” was something she thought completely out of character for him. She revealed that she had been watching him from afar for about a week, although she had personally arrived in Raam only earlier that day. She knew where he and his turncoat Shom employees were holed up (in an old smuggler’s den about four hours to the northwest of the city) and that they seemed to communicate with the outside world only via a “strange, stealthy creature” who emerged at night. She was well aware that the former Sorcerer-Queen of Raam had all manner of human seeming but inhuman creations, and that these were the sorts of things her ward was meant to keep away. She speculated that, since the three who were barred were also the three nobles in the group, that perhaps their lineages were somehow implicated.

She indicated that Darayavaush doubtless had other Shom employees on the payroll in the Emporium as spies. She has been hesitant to rally them to pursue him as he would likely be forewarned. She offered knowledge and aid on finding him in exchange for the agents doing the actual dirty work of hunting him down and bringing him in. This they seemed entirely willing to do. She expressed a personal interest that he be brought to her alive so she could discover how this erstwhile loyal employee had become embroiled in a plan by the Regent of Nibenay to co-opt House Shom as part of an espionage ploy.

The agents departed the emporium to plan their expedition.

XP: 3,600
Total: 103,207

View
Ambushing the Assassins
The Dead

Upon defeating Taxma, at least temporarily, the agents returned to the Shuja estates to lick their wounds and plan their next move. They knew they had to act fast if they wanted to hunt down AkuNu Dark Moon before Taxma got resurrected and warned the newly undead assassin they were coming.

Najaf knew they had a handful of hours, nearly all of which he would need to spend resting to recover his magical reserves. The rest of the group similarly rested and recovered, but not until they had contacted Jia asking her to set up a “meeting” with AkuNu in a particular dark alley. The plan would be that one of them would disguise as Jia to lure him in, then they would attack.

As Najaf slept, his father, Jahandar Shuja, and Safa Maarham watched over his sleeping body. Jahandar sought to understand better the transformation that was happening in his son, and he cast a number of esoteric arcane rituals to monitor such things.

Upon resting, they put their plan into motion. AkuNu approached the site, and some of the agents detected another, shadowy figure following in his trail. They lured him within reach and immediately attacked. The shadowy figure revealed itself as a Kuotagha, which despite its skills as stealthy assassination, was rapidly dispatched by the focused attacks from behind crates and boxes of the rest of the concealed agents. AkuNu, however, proved a harder nut to crack. His elven facade fell almost immediately to reveal the withered flesh and carious burning yellow eyes of a Mohrg. He called upon the tormented psyches of the New Moon Elves whose minds were ripped apart by Mon Adderath’s ritual. They manifested in a swirl of vengeful agony. As the combat progressed, many of the agents found themselves briefly overwhelmed by a mindless vengeful hate that caused them to lash out at their own allies, while AkuNu flew about the alley shredding into them with claws.

After a long and difficult battle, as AkuNu began to feel somewhat taxed, he opted to attempt to flee the battle (being an assassin, and preferring unfair fights). Dhaara called upon primal wind to drag him back, and Shahzadi pierced him through the thigh with a sword to keep him immobile, at least for the moment. That’s when he put up his hands and asked if, perhaps, they could negotiate a peaceful solution.

The agents, bloodied and battered, minds frazzled by surges of vengeful hatred, were not absolutely certain they could defeat this creature, and so began negotiations.

They learned that AkuNu felt a sense of blood-debt against House Shuja for their part in annihilating the Night Runners in Raam, but his sense was somewhat loose, as he had been an outcast from his tribe. He was willing to drop the blood debt if the Shuja children were willing to do the same. The agents asked him to help them track down and kill the remaining Kuotagha in the city, which he seemed willing to at least help them to do. He revealed that the Kuotagha they had killed was the one currently attached to Taxma. He indicated he could probably fairly easily kill the one attached to the Veiled Alliance, but the one attached to the Night Runners was unlikely, as he himself was not welcome among his own people, especially now that he had accepted undead servitude to Taxma. The last one, the one attached to the Mercantile Templar-spies, he was willing to help the agents locate and defeat.

Upon reaching this tentative arrangement, Shahzadi let slip that Jia had sold AkuNu out, which upset her, as she appeared in a flare of gray light. Nevertheless, Jia was able to dedicate the soul of the slain Kuotagha to her patron, which opened the door, as it were, to negotiating the return of Padme Shuja’s soul.

AkuNu departed cautiously, as did the agents, to lick their respective wounds.

Dhaara returned to her Uncle’s house where she took pains to hide all evidence that she had been engaged in caste-violating combat. The rest of them dropped by one of their safehouses. While Najaf took a bath, Shahzadi and Queri-Sed returned to the Shuja estates so that Shahzadi could discuss with her father the possibility of detecting Khayal, for fear that her betrothed might be one. Jahandar Shuja indicated that as a result of his study of Najaf, he could probably detect if someone was a Khayal if they were unconscious in his presence long enough for him to cast a ritual.

Najaf, after his bath, cast a Sending to Taxma, who was alive once more, to relate their arrangement with AkuNu, and try to smooth matters over with Dregoth’s apprentice. Taxma seemed somewhat put out, and asked Najaf to meet him once more in the Consecrated Sepulchre of Badna to discuss such terms.

XP: 3,000
Total: 99,607 – Level 18

Loot:
Shadowdancer’s Mask (lvl. 10)(5,000gp)
Shadowdancer’s Gloves (lvl. 11)(9,000gp)
Shadowdancer’s Boots (lvl. 12)(13,000gps)
Shadowdancer’s Cloak +2 (lvl. 9)(4,200gp)

View
Confronting the Dead
The Blood Feud

The agents finally gave Shahzadi some time to rest while Dhaara returned to have a painful reunion with her parents. They seemed somewhat mollified by her explanation of why uncle Gaurav and his family was poisoned, but the relationship remains somewhat strained.

Afterwards, refreshed and ready, the agents put into motion their plans to track down this conspiracy that had attacked them and their allied houses. Najaf cast forth his sorcery to arrange a meeting with Eliphelet bin M’ke, a former associate who had been put on another task for Dregoth involving the Dynastic Merchant houses. Before that meeting, however, they went to the Ivory Palace to meet with Mon Adderath. They informed the High Templar about Jia, and while he was unfamiliar with the name, certain details nagged at his recognition. He informed them that a valued servant of the Dead Queen Sielba had, some years before, been granted the gift of becoming a Kaisharga by Dregoth himself as part of a loose alliance. Mon Adderath cast forth his own mind to communicate with the person he remembered, and sure enough, discovered she was operating in Raam under the name Jia. He summoned her and she arrived.

The agents discovered that her alliance came from a previous business arrangement with the Night Runners prior to their purge, and that she was ignorant of the fact that Padme Shuja was in any way particularly important to Dregoth or his agents. She was fairly blunt and straightforward and the agents found themselves quite able to believe that she hadn’t put a great deal of thought into the assassination. The result of these negotiations was that Jia would work to retrieve Padme’s soul from her dark patron, but would ask for at least one soul of equivalent “value”, two would certainly cement the Dead Queen’s assent. She also offered to throw in a “freebie” soul dedication on one of their enemies should they wish.

The agents asked Jia about finding AkuNu Dark Moon, the Night Runner assassin that had worked with her on the assassination. She told them she could certainly call on him and lure him into a trap, but that he was now a Mohrg, a powerful undead. Najaf and Alekel had heard of such creatures, created in a lengthy ritual first developed by the long-lost King of Kalidnay, and one still favored by the Sorcerer-Monarchs in creating undead servants. In considering who in Raam would be capable of casting such a ritual, the list was fairly short, and included Dregoth, Najaf himself (possibly) and Dregoth’s apprentice Taxma.

The agents went on to their meeting with Eliphelet where they learned that in the aftermath of Dregoth’s conquest of Raam, the Sorcerer-Monarchs of five other cities took steps to lean on the Dynastic Merchant Houses based out of their respective cities to plant Templar-spies in their ranks. These Templar-merchants would then infiltrate Raam as a means to keep an eye on Dregoth and his movements. This was problematic, as it stepped all over the traditional neutrality of the Dynastic Merchant houses. Eliphelet and his own band of Dregoth’s agents had uncovered the five agents, each of which had their own power base and considerable wealth. Fortunately, one of these agents, Agar Stel, was slain via seemingly unrelated activity (namely the contract work Najaf and Company took from Ismail so long ago) but Eliphelet pulled strings with his former family, Dynastic Merchant house M’ke, to purchase Agar’s body from the Night Runners and raise him from the dead, learning much from their new prisoner.

Under the cover of the purge of the Night Runners, Eliphelet’s band took out two of the remaining four spies before the other two, Nerek of House Vordon and Darayavaush of House Shom, managed to escape. Eliphelet told them that his cell had uncovered information about the “black monks” who were helping the five spies stay in contact. They had theorized these were under-cover Yellow Monks, but it made more sense to conclude they were Kuotagha.

Having learned the names of the two who were presumably responsible for the attack on House Maarham, the agents went to the Consecrated Sepulchre of Badna to speak with Taxma. They asked him about why he had a Kuotagha working for him. He explained that one of his apprentices was an Offspring, and he’s fond of picking up dangerous tools when other people leave them lying around. He eventually was convinced to offer up this tool to Najaf etc. if it would smooth matters over. Najaf then broached the subject of AkuNu, and Taxma, amused at their dogged investigation, revealed that he was seeking to gather to his hand all manner of powerful weapons who seek to oppose his master Dregoth both to keep them in sight, and as a potential resource should Dregoth turn on him, or (so it was presumed, yet unspoken) the time would come to turn on Dregoth. Taxma informed the agents that Dregoth was important to him, but that as an ambitious individual, he has to think long-term.

The agents of Dregoth, perhaps a bit nonplussed, discussed the matter further. Taxma informed them that while he was willing to give up his Kuotagha to them, he was not willing to give up his Mohrg elf assassin. Najaf, in an unusual display of passion, informed Taxma that AkuNu had slain his mother, and his death was non-negotiable. Taxma shrugged, smiled, and summoned forth enslaved spirits of a half-dozen of Abalach-Re’s deceased consorts, a black shadow of terrible power, and a mighty construct assembled in a whirlwhind of shattered alabaster shards.

The combat proceeded. Taxma himself was rapidly driven from the field by Dhaara and Najaf, his body erupting into flame and vanishing. Taxma’s various minions, however, proved rather more difficult to defeat. Najaf and Alekel were both quite grievously wounded before Dhaara shattered the alabaster construct and drove the black wraith back to the Gray. Queri-Sed handily dispatched most of the ghostly consorts and softened up the remaining targets for Dhaara while Shahzadi kept to her usual role of protecting her allies. Alekel’s sorcerously enhanced words of encouragement kept them fighting, particularly Najaf who otherwise may well have fallen to death.

After the fight, they retreated back into the Ivory Palace. Najaf scried upon Taxma’s body, piercing the sorcerous illusion set up to fool any such scriers, and saw a disorienting scene that appeared to be the flat top of an obsidian tower. Instead of vista, however, the tower seemed to be hovering above the Ivory Palace itself. Najaf concluded that Taxma was in some sort of scrying chamber. His body was being chanted over by a blonde half-elf in black silk robes who shortly noticed Najaf’s scrying before Najaf’s ritual ended.

The agents considered this vision, and discussed taking the opportunity to hunt down and kill AkuNu before Taxma could sufficiently recover and return to Raam, and then present the matter as finished and perhaps negotiate a cease-fire.

XP: 4,444
Total: 96,607

View
Regrouping
The Daughter

Alekel was led into a secure basement room in the fortified palace of House Maarham where he met with Safa. After a hesitant few moments seeking to ascertain that she was the genuine article, he informed her of the events of that evening, the assassination of Padme Shuja, the death of Salim and a Kuotagha, and the general chaos. She informed Alekel that she also had been involved in a battle as assassins sought to kill her father. The Khayal allied with House Maarham had stepped in to maintain the ruse of business as usual while her father remained in seclusion.

The two of them returned to House Shuja and, after a brief scuffle with the Shuja household guards, met with their fellow agents to compare information. As part of their discussions, they studied the statue of Badna they recovered from Salim, the one sculpted by Usuch-Si. As all other statues by this famed sculptor seemed to have some unusual quality, they rightly suspected that this statue may have something to do with the surprising supernatural effect that Salim’s invocations to his god created. They ascertained that the statue acted as a sort of psychic reservoir for “faith,” or at least the emotional and mental energy associated with that emotion… but it furthermore appeared that some other entity had subverted the statue. Enough hints were discovered to lead some of the Agents to belief that the hand of the long-dead Sorcerer Queen of Yaramuke, Sielba, was acting upon the statue.

Before they got far in their investigations, however, word came from the servants that an elf was at the door seeking to speak with Dhaara.

The elf, dressed as a ragged beggar, was none other than Alaa New Moon, the Night Runner who once worked the Garden of Benevolence and who had briefly been a prisoner of the agents. Apparently, notwithstanding her membership of the New Moon tribe, her mind had escaped Mon Adderath’s ritual. Why she would appear at the house where her Tribe-mates had recently assassinated the Matriarch was a bit of a puzzle, but one shortly explained. Alaa told Dhaara that during her captivity in the home of Dhaara’s uncle, she had been treated well and with respect. She was here to repay her perceived debt and informed Dhaara that even now her uncle Gaurav and his family were dying of a slow and terrible poison. Alaa provided a vial of the poison. Dhaara permitted the elf to depart and took the vial to Alekel who identified it as the extracted venom of the Zombie cactus, a particularly insidious poison that degraded the mental capacities of the victim until they became mindless killers.

The agents rushed about the city gathering vials of antidote. Mindful of the fact that their last interaction with Alaa New Moon had been a trap that resulted in the death of one of the employees of the “Iron Ring,” Shahzadi and Alekel infiltrated the home of Gaurav Kelas and saw him and his wife convulsing in the central courtyard with an emaciated waif of a girl dancing about them singing a hymn to Badna. The girl was none other than Whisper, the Badna cultist who Dhaara had convinced to trust her, and the means by which the agents had long ago infiltrated the now purged cult. The agents handily knocked the girl out. She made no attempt to fight them, and in fact seemed pleased to see them.

They administered the antidote to Gaurav, his wife, and their two teenaged sons while Safa fetched a Sadhu priest with healing skills and magic. It eventually came out that Gaurav had taken Whisper in as part of the larger project to look after poor Saddhu that he had instituted at Dhaara’s suggestion long ago so as to prevent them from being used by criminal elements. She had become one of the household servants. She sent the other three servants away on some ruse before poisoning the ritual food that the entire family ate as part of the sunset ritual service to the ancestors.

Shahzadi and Najaf took Whisper prisoner and returned to House Shuja where Najaf, exhausted and not wishing to risk the destabilization of his identity by consuming a second brain in one night, sought to get some sleep. Shahzadi watched over the prisoner with Queri-Sed while Dhaara, Safa and Alekel looked after Gaurav Kelas’ affairs, setting everything in order, ensuring the loyalty of the three servants who had returned, etc. Dhaara and Safa determined that Safa should fetch Khayal in service to her house to create suitable guises to look after the affairs of both House Shuja and the home of Gaurav Kelas (as well as their safehouse where their housekeeper Lia resided) so that the Agents could be freed to pursue vengeance.

One Khayal in the guise of a middle-caste performer went off to look after their safehouse. Another, in the guise of a young, freshly-shorn initiate of the Sadhu mysteries went to the Kelas house to look after its affairs. The third, in the guise of a young Shuja “cousin,” accompanied Safa to the Shuja household by the time dawn crested the horizon.

Shahzadi was not happy with the notion of letting a Khayal into their house. The psyche of Padme Shuja, trapped in her own Usuch-Si sculpture, was even less happy. They left the Khayal to wait for a bit, however, while Najaf sought to “interrogate” their prisoner. She seemed resistant to blandishment, strong and secure in her faith. He was in no way resistant to having her head sawn open and her brain eaten, however, although Najaf had assumed the form of Salim in order to question the girl, and Queri-Sed was in the room, and Queri-Sed attacked Najaf.

The short scuffle resulted in some harsh words about Queri-Sed’s apparent inability to comprehend that Najaf is a shapeshifter, treating all his guises at face value. Najaf consumed enough of the child’s brain, however, to understand that the poisoning was a personal matter. Whisper had felt personally betrayed by Dhaara and had seen her entire belief system devastated, her friends and allies slain, and so simply took matters into her own hands. Her goal was for Dhaara to come, see her dancing over the twitching bodies of her family, and to taint Dhaara’s Saddhu soul with her own death as Dhaara cut her down.

Upon finishing his “breakfast”, Najaf and Shazahdi spoke privately about the wisdom of letting a Khayal into their home. The discussion was cut short, however, by the arrival of their father, Jahander Shuja, and Aasif Maarham. The agents, Aasif, and Jahander retreated to a private room to compare notes.

It appeared that multiple factions had organized to hit multiple targets. The Night Runners, supported by Jia, attacked Padme Shuja. A force from the Veiled Alliance apparently attacked Jahander Shuja, but was fought off with the help of Aasif. A group of spies that had infiltrated a number of the Dynastic Merchant Houses and had, apparently, recently been uncovered by other agents of Dregoth attacked House Maarham.

There was some speculation. Some potential near-term goals were:

1) Find Eliphelet bin’M’ke to discover what they could about the group that had attacked Maarham
2) Find Taxma and discover what his apprentices were up to and why they were apparently allied with a Kuotagha
3) Find Nanda Shatri and determine if she was Veiled Alliance, or what she knew about her former Night Runner Assassin guest, who had apparently been one of the ones who had killed Padme Shuja
4) Find out what the dead Queen Sielba was up to, and whether Padme’s soul could be recovered from the “Soul Dedication” rite that Jia had apparently performed. They speculated that they may need to cash in Dhaara’s vouchers for one “favor” from Dregoth himself.

XP: 4,000
Total: 92,163

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