Dragon Watch

Season 3, Episode 19
Silver Crimson Black, Conclusion

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Fateful Rendezvous

Our heroes dithered, debated. For certain the Technic League would cross the border to Numeria near Hajoth Hakados, but when? Hoping to cut them off and expand their chances of catching the erstwhile kidnappers, Orin decided to split from the party and travel to Gorum Pots, another river city and potential landing for the Technic League. The rest of the group, meanwhile, traveled to Hajoth Hakados straight away, to begin their own search.

Orin came to Gorum Pots and set up camp on a hill far from the town, with a good view of the riverdocks, and waited for boats to make landfall. Before long, one such boat did arrive – long and flat – and disgorged a host of figures. Among their number, quite clearly, was a black horse.

Meanwhile, the party landed in Hajoth Hakados. A town guard quickly recognize Hudson – or rather, his rifle. The guard claimed it had been made by the town’s old gunsmith, a distinct work of craftsmanship. Puzzling over this, the party nevertheless continued their search, beginning in the place they always begin a search: a local tavern. Making their way there, however, Hudson noticed more attention – this time from a pale man following them.

Once they got to the tavern, Hudson hung back, waiting for a moment to force the pale man into the open. He surprised the stranger, and encouraged him to sit with them in the tavern and share his intentions with them. He did so – with some “encouragement” from Thorgur – and told them he was working for a local herbalist named Cythrul. He demurred further questions, but insisted he could take them to meet his mistress.

Back in Gorum Pots, Orin landed in the docks and found the black horse he had seen before. Using his arcana, he granted the horse the ability to speak. Transporting the animal away from the city with more magic, he attempted to learn what the horse knew.

Stranger in a Strange Land

The boat’s crew were not, in fact, Technic League agents but in fact the opposite: Kellid warriors who roamed the Numerian Plains, hunting robots and the occasional agent of the League.

Orin saw in this chance meeting a rare opportunity. Though they would be of no aid to the party in the coming battle, ultimately, Orin nevertheless returned to Groum Pots to recruit the Kellid. They were pleased to meet another enemy of their enemy, and proved eager to engage the League in battle direct, should such an opportunity ever present itself.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party followed the pale man to the shop of Cythrul, who proved to be a creature unlike any they had ever seen. Tall, with purpled skin, and three pairs of arms, Cythrul was uncanny and utterly alien As the meeting progressed, it became clear just how accurate that assessment was. Cythrul quickly determined that she could trust the party, and revealed herself as an enemy of the League. Hajoth Hakados was, in fact, a refuge for people like her – or the pale man, in fact an android from the Silver Mount – who were strangers to Golarion in one way or another.

Cythrul was sympathetic to our heroes’ search for Malam and his Technic League kidnappers. She sent our heroes to speak to Hajoth Hakados’ leader, Lady Altouna, who Cythrul promised would know of any Technic League agents in the area – or any en route – for it was her business to know.

Taking this lead, Hudson and his companions traveled to Lady Altouna’s manor and there met the city’s leader. Lady Altouna revealed all they needed to know: the League was indeed en route and still downriver, expected to make landfall in the city in only few days.

As they left, Lady Altouna asked Hudson to ensure they succeeded, then requested he return with word of that success. And so Hudson departed for his confrontation with the Technic League and the Riders in Black.

The Second Rider

Orin returned to the group with news of Kellid allies and on word of the League’s sighting near Hajoth Hakados. Our heroes gathered downriver and plotted their next move. A quick scouting trip revealed that the Technic League was not far and would likely pass their way the next morning. An ambush would be necessary – time to turn the tables at last.

Orin delved again into his magicks, using a move earth spell to construct a dam across the river sufficient to stop the League’s barge. And then they waited.

The League appeared only hours after dawn, as expected, and the river barge smashed into the dam, beaching itself. Our heroes engaged the League immediately, whose number included several arcanists, a powerful gearsman of the kind they had faced before – though much sturdier – and the second Rider in Black, the woman who had escaped their ambush outside Kraggodan before.

Orin took the form of a dragon, making short work of the arcanists, while Thorgur attempted to stymie the gearsman only to take a dive off the boat. The Rider exchanged gunfire with Hudson, but was pinned down by Astrid, quick to join the battle. Yet it was Hudson’s shots that put the Rider down in the end. The gearsman, alone and restrained by Orin’s magicks, did not last much longer.

Waiting aboard the crashed barge was an enormous crate covered in runes – Malam’s prison. Orin, still acting as a dragon, retrieved the box and brought it to shore. It took little effort to open the crate now, and within they found Malam, as hoped. The eidolon was weakened, however, and in dire straits – a fact shortly confirmed by Kel, who had rejoined the group now that the battle had ended.

And then it was with a somber tone that Kel relayed the truth of the matter. Malam was dying – his time on the Material Plane coming to a permanent end. And yet Malam’s work, it seemed, was not over. Communicating telepathically with Kel, he asked for Astrid to indulge him in one more dream – confirming her own suspicions that Malam had been behind several of her visions before.

And so Astrid managed to slip into a slumber and a deep dream.

She found herself in a castle, unknown to her, but within eyesight of an observatory – surely the Observatory of Skywatch – on a distant hill. She was in a hall of some kind, and soon realized that her father was there, Urzen Rogarvia, only old and gray, much older than he had been in the pre-Vanishing dream she had before.

Nonetheless, her father appeared to recognize her, even despite her own aging, and startled her with another revelation. This vision, he insisted, would only be possible if Astrid – or someone near her – had possession of the Dragon Watch.

Astrid had little time for her questions, as the vision threatened to fade almost as quickly as it formed. But her father gave her one more task, asking her to bring the Dragon Watch to the Observatory – into the catacombs that lay beneath it, where she could open it and rejoin her family at last. As for Skywatch being sealed, Urzen told her it was no more than a spell, the workings of which were described in the codex left to her.

The vision faded, leaving Astrid with more questions, few answers, and the bitter knowledge that the final piece of the codex was yet missing.

But as he faded, Malam revealed that final answer as well: it was held by the Man in Black.

The Gunslinger’s Return

With the mourning Kelvennan aboard, our heroes returned to the refugee city in the Titanis. While his companions recovered from the battle with the Rider, Hudson returned to the manor to deliver news of their victory to Lady Altouna.

Lady Altouna greeted Hudson warmly, clearly unsurprised at his victory. Beckoning him into her private office, she then stunned Hudson with her own news: she knew his identity, even his parent’s true surname.

The reason for this knowledge was even more startling to Hudson. Hajoth Hakados had been founded by the Gunslingers of the Way, but when the Technic League threatened to raze the city, they turned its rule over to Lady Altouna, an agent of the League who was in fact loyal to the Gunslingers.

Although many of the Gunslingers had turned themselves over to the League’s prisons to buy peace for the people of Hajoth Hakados, Lady Altouna kept many others hidden. Hudson’s parents, Calia and Mathias Stone, were among those granted refuge in the city. Yet when Calia grew heavy with child, the Stone family decided to leave for Torch, hoping to start a new life, far from the dangers of the frontier in Hajoth Hakados.

As he left, Mathias Stone sought to turn his back on the life of violence he had lived to date. Knowing, however, that there might come a day when his child would need to embrace that volence and cast himself against the Technic League, he did not destroy his guns. Instead, he gave them to Lady Altouna, and asked her to keep them safe until such a time as a Gunslinger in need came to Hajoth Hakados. And if that Gunslinger should prove his honor and valor, then Lady Altouna was to give those guns up and pass them along to the next generation.

And so, as Hudson stood in shocked silence in Lady Altouna’s office, he was given his father’s guns in a wooden box, resting on a bed of red velvet. Two revolvers from another time, another age.

Lady Altouna left Hudson with one more gift. The Man in Black, she insisted, was not far – he had been seen fleeing north, towards Starfall, just that day. His trail was still warm. Hudson could still catch him. The Man in Black could still be stopped.

And so the Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

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Season 3, Episode 18
Silver Crimson Black, Part III

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Wrinkles

Astrid returned to her research for the next several weeks, hoping to learn more about the Silver Mount and the secrets the League seemed so intent on discovering. Yet on coming to the townhome to rest one evening, Astrid was again surprised by a visitor. Yet this one was no League agent, but in fact a young dragonling.

The dragonling, Irthelia, had been sent by Choral and Aszrogal to fulfill an old pact between the red dragonflight of Iskaron and the Rogarvia family, where each ruling member was served by a draconic companion.

Astrid found this intrusion unwelcome but, in many ways perhaps, not unexpected. Once more, her family (and Choral in particular) had sought to carve a destiny for her without her input. Irthelia, it seemed, was not much more excited about this prospect than Astrid, but insisted she should stay for the time being. Nonetheless, Astrid crafted a sternly worded letter of rebuke and inquiry to her great-x-grandfather and returned to her study.

Meanwhile, in Fort Ramgate, Thorgur spoke again with Queen-in-Exile, Rarrel Greathammer, demanding an explanation for the Kraggodan envoys who were allowed to traipse into Fort Ramgate without even the slightest harassment – save that which he had dealt out to the previous one himself.

Queen Greathammer explained that the dwarven refugees in the city were playing a dangerous game, for any sign of military build-up or aggression would cause political problems for the Nirmathan and Molthuni governments – if not provoke a war between the three states. So, she explained, the envoys were allowed to come, make their demands, see the refugees put on a show of fear and hiding, and return to Kraggodan with nothing to report – least of anything to reveal the Queen’s plans to retake Kraggodan.

Thorgur accepted this policy, albeit with reservation (if only because his new pursuit was to exact violence, not abate it), but agreed to leave further envoys to their own devices.

The Other Side of the Fence

Weeks later, Hudson completed his training with Hibok, and the Initiative plotted their next course. As Malam had last been seen in the Molthuni port city, Korholm, it seemed a perfect place to start their search.

All loose ends in Absalom and Fort Ramgate for now resolved, the Initiative boarded the Titanis and set off for Korholm. They traveled for several days before landing in the dessicated Witherbark Forest. After landing, Hudson, whether out of excitement to help his old friend or out of some temporary affliction of the mind, forwent all proper efforts to disguise the Titanis from any passers-by. Orin, however, noting this, did not bring notice of it to his companion, as a gunslinger’s pride is not to be trifled with. Instead, the gillman cast an illusion, disguising the ship from anyone passing by along the path as no more than another row of the endless sickened trees that populated Witherbark.

The Initiative soon arrived at Korholm. As they were heroes of some renown from a war whose losing side they were about to mingle with, the party elected to disguise themselves as mere travelers. Stowing their weapons safely out of sight, they entered the city and found themselves a nearby inn.

The innkeep proved of little use, however, not being eager to gossip about his customers to unknown travelers. Orin chose to drop the subterfuge of their disguises, hoping to win by intimidation what they could not by innocent interrogation. Yet the innkeeper recognized the sight of a dwarven warrior, a noble fighter, and even a handsome wizard – albeit bearded – and was likewise upset to discover the use of such provocative magicks in his inn. Refusing further questions, he instead asked the heroes to depart – and they did.

Yet outside the inn, they were again recognized, this time by troublesome city guards. Seeing that speaking to their leader and bargaining for information in return for a quick departure, the party effectively turned itself over and allowed themselves to be taken to the city’s military leader: First General Lord Duraga Steelsworn.

Duraga was not much suited to conversation but recognized the value in ridding himself of Nirmathan war heroes. And so he acknowledged that a band of strange travelers, carting a large crate, had indeed been seen about Korholm in recent months. He mentioned their exchange of currency to obtain Razmiran coin, and his knowledge that they had already left. He referred them to the dockmaster, with orders to their escort to ensure the dockmaster cooperated, and dismissed them. The dockmaster was as forthright as he could be, revealing that the Technic League had chartered a ship bound for a distant port.

Back on the Titanis, the Initiative decided the League’s next likely destination was to be Xer, the obvious port on Lake Encarthan’s coast in distant Razmiran. Knowing now that the League was on the move and prepared for travel, they surmised further that it was, in fact, returning to Starfall in Numeria. And the most obvious waypoint, their most obvious goal in Numeria’s borders, was the distant town of Hajoth Hakados.

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Season 3, Episode 17
Silver Crimson Black, Part II

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​The Fallen Druids

Hudson’s old adventuring companion, Kelvennan Duskwalker, was in a bad way. Hudson, Thorgur Fireborn, and Amber Wallace had traveled to the Fangwood to contact the druid circle, but they had instead found only ruins. Having last seen Kel in Crystalhurst during the Dead War, it now appeared he was the only survivor – not counting the pale, sickly druids who had captured the summoner and were attempting to poison him with a gaseous cloud of some sort.

Hudson and Thorgur, familiar with the evils of the Fangwood, wasted no time. Thorgur led the charge, with Hudson and Amber’s gun sounding from behind. The battle was short but bloody, but Amber succeeded in dragging Kel from the poison gas. As Thorgur and Hudson put down the druids, they learned that the druids were barely human or elven anymore but instead some kind of fungal growth – a collection of fungus spores who had simply taken on the appearance of the old druids themselves.

Kel came to as the battle ended but grabbed Hudson and hissed through clenched teeth a warning: the Technic League was coming from Astrid.

The League in Absalom

Meanwhile, Kel’s warning had been too late, for Astrid was now in the hands of the Technic League agent, her gearsmen, and a flying construct that seemed to double as a torture device. The agent demanded the location of A Thread of Silver, threatening to kill her Medvyed relatives if she was not cooperative. Unphased, Astrid escaped their clutches and got ahold of her weapon, even as Anthony Arkwright stumbled onto the scene. Knowing himself no match for the League, unarmed and unarmored, he cast a spell of sending to Orin. Heeding the call, Orin arrived on the scene, unleashing his newfound arcane powers on the League’s minions, a disintegration spell putting a quick end to the Technic League’s agent. Astrid was more than holding her own, however, holding the two gearsmen at bay with her bardiche even as she dismantled them with her blows.

The flying construct, now outnumbered, attempt to flee, but Orin halt it with more spells, returning it to the ground. Once there, Astrid dismantled the thing’s weaponry, though she left the overall construct intact. The Technic League’s hunt had, again, ended in failure.

Next Steps

After the battle, having captured the strange robot, Astrid and Orin decided to contact Hudson. Orin reached out to Hudson just as the gunslinger’s battle with the fungal growths had ended, and soon the party was re-united with Kelvennan. The half-elf had by this time fallen into a coma and was unresponsive, so Orin brought him and the party back to Absalom. Once there, he was attended by Anthony, who quickly cured him of the fungal disease that had nearly killed him. Still Kel remained comatose, however, suggesting a deeper illness yet untouchable by Anthony’s clerical magic.

Meanwhile, the Initiative discussed their next actions. They decided to transport Kel to the Titanis, back in Fort Ramgate, and continue their training and research until Kel regained consciousness and could provide them with more leads.

After several days, Kel did just that, awakening on the Titanis to tell Hudson a tale. The Technic League, led by the Man in Black, had slaughtered the druids and captured him and his eidolon, Malam. They had then departed, traveling east through Molthune, where Kel at last escaped them in the port city of Korholm. Yet Malam remainded in their clutches, and so Kel begged of Hudson a boon: help him track them down, free Malam, and destroy the Man in Black.​

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Season 3, Episode 16
Silver Crimson Black, Part I

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Astrid and Orin found themselves within the Arcanamirium’s school grounds just a heartbeat after they stood together in a Tamran tavern. They were accompanied by the cleric and scholar, Anthony Arkwright, and were straight-away met by one of the professors of the school, Magistress Fathom. Ms Fathom stated her intentions to train Orin personally, waiving the bulk of his tuition fees and any delay in training.

Leaving Orin to his own devices, Astrid and Anthony departed the grounds and made their way to the Forae Logos, Absalom’s premiere library and the center of human knowledge in the Inner Sea – if not also the world. Astrid thus began her own journey, and for the next several weeks she devoted herself to the research of the Initiative’s enemies: the Silver Mount, so jealously guarded by the Technic League, and the Dominion of the Black, whose influence time and again asserted itself in her affairs. She attempted also to research the enigmatic Book of Stars, given to her by the druid Gogmurt, yet was surprised to find not a single record of any book of its like within the Forae Logos’ archives. Setting aside this mystery for now, she pondered her next line of research.

While Orin studied, he also visited the House of the Cresting Wave on the neighboring isle of Escadar. There he was reunited with his mother, Majistra. Her joy in reuniting with her son was overcast by the dire news of the gillmen slain in the fall of the House of the Rising Tide. Orin’s own declarations to seek power enough to destroy Chevaghol seemed to give her little comfort.

Realizing the cost of the path he knew he must pursue, Orin turned to his next difficult conversation with his brother, Shalako. The gillman had at least come to Tamran with the final refugees from Lake Encarthan. Contacting him through the mental powers of the Frozen Heart of Orphys, Orin shared his intentions with his brother – and then he shared his difficult decision to step down from leadership of his people, giving it instead to his brother Shalako. Shalako took the news hard, concerned for his brother, but ultimately did not refuse the responsibility. He ended their conversation shortly after, leaving Orin alone. And so Orin resumed his training, heart hard against the aboleth who had terrorized his people for so long.

Thorgur arrived in Fort Ramgate, meanwhile, to something most unexpected: a hero’s welcome. Though accompanied by the heroic gunslingers, Hudson and Amber, nevertheless it was Thorgur Fireborn who received the attention of the dwarves of Fort Ramgate – refugees from High General Ravenguard’s coup which he had barely escaped but four months before.

Leaving Thorgur to his people, the gunslingers sought out Hibok Marbleaxe, Kraggodan gunsmith and old friend. They found Hibok working a new smithy, now named the Adamantine Forge. Hibok welcomed them with open arms, and in no time at all, they were working the forge with the dwarven gunsmith, their hearts set on learning what they could about the technology they themselves wielded.

Thorgur eventually came to meet with the Queen-In-Exile, having won her own moot amongst the free dwarves of Fort Ramgate, Rarrel Greathammer. Thorgur, initially put off by the comfort and freedom exercised by his people in this human city, soon learned the truth. It was, by and large, little more than a ruse to put off Ravenguard’s spies. In fact, the free dwarves were already plotting a return to their home. And so Rarrel revealed her daring plan: to dig a tunnel from beneath Mount Ramgate to the Mindspin Mountains, from which the dwarves could enter Kraggodan and put Ravenguard’s allies to the sword.

Mollified, Thorgur soon began training of his own with the dwarves and rangers of Fort Ramgate, seeking to hone his battlecraft in preparation for the next inevitable fight.

And so the weeks passed, until Thorgur was summoned to Fort Ramgate’s Longhouse to speak with Lady Governor Elizabeth Saewe. Bringing his companion, Hudson, with him, Thorgur made his way to the Longhouse and was surprised to also again meet Forest Marshal Weslen Gavirk. Weslen revealed himself to be the cause of the summons: Crystalhurst, home of the ancient druids of the Fangwood whom the Initiative had aided during the Dead War, thereby securing their participation in the Battle of Fort Ramgate, had been entirely silent for nearly three months. Accustomed to some reticence to socialize with the Nirmathan community, Weslen was nevertheless bothered by this total lack of communication. Unable to commit a squad of rangers to comb the Fangwood for the hidden druid village, Weslen instead brought his concerns to Lady Governor Saewe. Elizabeth herself now asked the Initiative to look into the matter.

The trio agreed and set out on horseback before lunch. Hudson’s keen eye and tracking skills led them through the Fangwood without incident, and they came at last to Crystalhurst in only a handful of days.

The cause for silence was immediately apparent: the village had been burned to the ground months ago, and there stirred no signs of life there now. Yet Hudson also detected fresher prints, less than a week old, leading away from the village. Deciding to follow this trail, the group pressed deeper into the Fangwood.

They came shortly to a disturbing sight: a band of druids, albeit pale-skinned, had gathered near a babbling brook in silent reverie. Yet it was the sight of their victim that gave the group pause: one of the druids appeared to be expelling a foul mist from her mouth, some sort of attempt to infect her victim – a victim Hudson recognized as Kelvennan Duskwalker, his summoner ally of old.

Back in Absalom, Orin had completed his wizard training in a mere five weeks’ time. Anthony offered an eloquent dinner to Orin and Astrid to celebrate. They discussed Astrid’s discoveries over dinner, as well as Anthony’s own research – though he had turned up sadly little new informations in his efforts – and mused their next steps. For the time being, they intended to stay in Absalom – Orin himself had not yet exhausted his options in the city, and intended to visit a church of Aroden in pursuit of his goals.

Orin and Anthony walked Astrid back to her townhome, property owned by House Reykal, a group of Brevoy-loyalists who served Absalom’s Low Council and had many holdings within Absalom’s Petal District. Orin, intending to make the most of his evening, then set off to find a church to Aroden, and Anthony went his own way.

Yet as Astrid prepared to turn in for the night, she was surprised in her room by unknown assailants – at least at first. She could not fail to recognize the steel grip of the gearsmen who held her, however, for she had met their kind before: servants of the Technic League who had accosted her in Kraggodan, seeking after a book and the knowledge she possessed from it.

And so, it seemed, the League had once again caught up with Astrid Rogarvia.

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Season 3, Episode 15
Shadow Over Illmarsh, Epilogue

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As the Titanis brought them over Lake Encarthan towards the Nirmathas capital of Tamran, the Initiative took stock of their defeat at the hands of Chevaghol, and also their victories. Orin settled his intention to attend the Arcanamirium in Absalom and transform his magus training into that of a wizard. Anthony William Percival Arkwright III, Esq., assured Orin of this possibility – as Anthony still held tenure, he had the right to sponsor a student for the school year, which would shortly begin.

Thorgur took the cleric aside himself, heart still full of questions about the nature of the gods and divinity. Anthony shared his views with the dwarf – that the gods are merely names mortals ascribe to either natural occurrences or supremely powerful beings that nevertheless remain nigh-powerless in the face of the oldest gods, those potentially responsible for creation itself. Yet Anthony could not deny the power of the divine either, suggesting that faith was its own power. Thorgur took these thoughts for consideration and began to ponder his next steps.

Hudson found himself once again engaged with repairs of the ancient airship, repairs that seemed beyond his ability. When Amber told him of her own intentions to study under Hibok Marbleaxe, the dwarven gunsmith now expatriated in Fort Ramgate, Hudson saw the wisdom in it for himself. He determined to follow her, at least for a time, in the hopes of learning enough about the strange technology that powered Titanis to make repairs to some of the devices aboard the ship.

As for Astrid, she could hardly pass up an opportunity to travel at last to the Forae Logos in Absalom. And thus the Initiative established their plans for sabbaticals – a time to retrain, research, and prepare for their next conflict with their enemies.

But first, they flew to Tamran.

Forest Marshal Weslen Gavirk was shocked to hear the news of the House of the Rising Tide, moreso for the knowledge of the threat now known to lurk within the waters of Lake Encarthan. Fearing what this could mean for the coastal nations of the enormous lake, Marshal Gavirk determined to contact the other nations of the lake – including Lastwall, Molthune, Druma, Kyonin, and even Ustalav – to notify them of the threat and begin to prepare for war with the tritons, if necessary.

Several days after speaking with Marshal Gavirk, Orin completed his final task in Tamran: dozens of gillmen emerged from the lake’s waters, seeking asylum. When Orin came to the shore to meet them, his failure weighing heavy on his shoulders, he was not greeted as a hero. But nor was he greeted as a traitor or failure. Instead he found himself caught up within the arms of his people – his free people. They grieved with bitter and salty tears, but they grieved together. A people as one. Free.

Within the week, Orin, Astrid and Anthony met with the Arcanamirium’s servant and were teleported to Absalom. And Thorgur and Hudson departed for Fort Ramgate aboard the Titanis.

It was not a glorious end, but it was not an end at all either.

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Season 3, Episode 14
The Shadow Over Illmarsh, Part III

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Orin had come to Illmarsh to find his gillmen brethren, whom he had sent to the coastal village to find answers. Now, Orin had found a part of that answer. He had reunited with an old councilman from his hometown of Tzim’chevaghol, Hagen, and killed the sorcerer for his troubles. He had found a village, not enslaved or oppressed, but enthralled with the very gods he sought to free his people from. And for all that trouble, his gillmen were dead – executed in cold blood.

Orin was not happy.

The traitorous Mayor Fineas, still alive despite the battle that had raged around him, was blinded and deafened at Anthony Arkwright’s hand, at the urging of our heroes, then bound and left aboard the Titanis, where he could be dealt with at a more opportune time. And then our heroes rested. And at dawn, Orin led his companions back to the Seaside Chapel.

A priest was there, and a villager. The former consoled the latter, who had quailed in fear at Orin’s display the evening before. Orin’s appearance now did little to dispel that fear, and the gillman ordered the villager to flee. The villager obeyed, leaving the priest alone to confront the party.

The confrontation itself was short, if humiliating. Orin knocked the priest out cold then drug his body to the front of the church, where he stripped and bound the aboleth’s servant to the podium, a display and a warning for those who had crossed him.

Another priest arrived, though he made no effort to stop Orin. His name was Oreon, the drunk priest from the tavern, and his crisis of faith had reached its zenith with the arrival of Orin and his allies. He told them of a secret door at the base of the cliffs, below the chapel, where he believed Father Gharol conducted his ritual – though Oreon himself did not know how to get from the chamber to that ritual. Orin, armed with the arcane remark confessed by his gillmen brethren in their prison, was less concerned with that part.

Dismissing Oreon to his affairs, our heroes came to the cliff face and found their way through the secret door – an illusion of a cliff wall, where in fact there was a cavern. Inside, they found themselves confronted with a rune – not one of the ritual, but a teleportation circle, similar to those they had found beneath Golushkin. Orin spoke the arcane remark, and the circle flared to life.

Our heroes soon found themselves in another cavern, though with no obvious connection to where they had just been. But they were underground, in a series of damp tunnels – and down the corridor, they heard the telltale voice of Father Gharol, continuing his sermon.

Our heroes stormed through the tunnels, but as they listened to Father Gharol’s voice, Hudson and Astrid found themselves overcome. At great effort, Orin and Anthony helped the others escape their mental prisons, while Thorgur charged ahead to confront the priest directly.

Thorgur found Father Gharol at the shore of an underground river. Preparing to strike, Thorgur was instead surprised to see the priest transform into a terrible creature – a great kyton, servant of the Prophet. Thorgur, however, swallowed his surprise and laid into the Apostate Gharol with his heavy flail, a compelling argument that the priest was hard pressed to counter.

The battle was short and violent, but soon all the party confronted the vile thing, and Apostate Gharol was forced to lay down to rest – permanently, as his corpse was set aflame.

The ritual remained – pulsing and feeding the great barrier that protected the vile skum – but it remained only for a moment. It collapsed of its own accord shortly, leaving our heroes to confront a strange vision. Something was stirring itself up from within the waters, something large. Our heroes readied themselves for another confrontation.

The creature emerged, brutal and quick, and shortly Orin realized what it was he now confronted. Not a servant, not an apostle or priest. Now he stood before her at last. For the first time in almost ten years, Orin faced the aboleth, Chevaghol.

Magic prevented our heroes from leaving, and the battle was again short and brutal – only not in our heroes’ favor. The aboleth made quick work of their defenses, ensnaring each one in her many tentacles. Yet when it should have ended in death, Orin instead found himself held firm, while he watched as Chevaghol dominated the minds of his companions. And through their mouths, Chevaghol spoke aloud to Orin for the very first time.

Orin, she claimed, was a true Azlanti, the successful result of a long aboleth experiment to recreate the old race that had once dominated Golarion, albeit this time not quite so free. He held great power as a result, and Chevaghol petitioned the gillman to give up his fight and serve at her side – as an equal.

Orin considered her offer only as long as it took to tell her to fuck off. Chevaghol accepted this answer, and revealed her full treachery to Orin. The tritons had long been her servants. Their were no skum. And Orin had been allowed to get this far only to distract him from the fall of the House of the Rising Tide, which even now fell to a surprise attack from that triton army.

Chevaghol then began to kill our heroes, squeezing their very life from their bones. As for Orin, he found himself assailed by Chevaghol’s mind. As he lost consciousness, he hallucinated a trident striking the foul beast directly in the eye. And then all was dark.

Orin awoke some time later, aboard the Titanis, to the sight of his brother Shalako. Shalako confirmed all Chevaghol had told him, then revealed a surprise: some tritons had come to the House of the Rising Tide and warned them of the impending attack. By this warning, many managed to escape, though the rest of the fighting force had remained behind to protect those desperate escapes. And so the House fell – but was not extinct.

Shalako offered one final surprise. Orin and his companions had themselves been saved by a triton, an ex-general, Theophania, who had found them and struck the aboleth. For whatever reason, the aboleth had then fled, and so our heroes had survived.

Orin left his bed and met with this creature. Theophania backed Shalako’s story and told him her own. Her people had defeated the skum many generations ago, but they had brought something back from that skum city – a corruption that festered and grew, until the tritons themselves were given over to worship of the aboleth they once opposed. And so the triton city, Taahla’i eh, became another servant in Chevaghol’s empire.

But not all tritons had fallen to this corruption. Theophania, and a handful of her friends and companions, escaped the city before it fell to the corruption. They took refuge in Lake Encarthan, hiding from their own people. And so they discovered the House of the Rising Tide, establishing itself against the aboleth.

Orin took all of this news with a heavy heart. Eventually, he dismissed Shalako to gather the rest of his people and meet in Tamran. And to Theophania, he promised that he would call on her people again, when the time was ready to face the aboleth.

And so our heroes sat with their defeat, and watched in silence as Orin retreated to his chambers, and let the hatred in his heart grow.

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Season 3, Episode 13
The Shadow Over Illmarsh, Part II

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Bestirred by the clarion call of his hated enemy chanted by the Illmarsh’s priests before the entire village, Orin did not notice that his own allies struggled against these words. Enraptured, Hudson and Astrid forgot the mission that drove them to this cliffside evening mass. The barbarian dwarf, Thorgur, was not so easily swayed, however, and made efforts to pull his friends away from the soothing words of the head priest – bodily, if need be.

But soon the priest’s words ended of their own accord, as Orin unleashed his arcane fury. With a flourish, he summoned a host of black tentacles upon the priests, who fell prey to the grasping limbs. And as the gathered worshippers quailed in fright, Orin revealed himself to them, floating overhead. “I am the Archmage of the Lake!” He boomed, hair floating unnaturally above his head, trident outstretched. “And you will obey me, or suffer the consequences!” He gave his ultimatum: bring the missing gillmen to the edge of town within 24 hours or watch their city burn.

The townsfolk fled before Orin’s wrath, and the rest of our heroes bled into the crowd to make their own disappearance.

The party gathered at the Old Man and the Sea afterwards, and Orin made his intent clear to a shocked audience: he would indeed burn the town if that was what it took. He would not debate the evils of the aboleth with these people. If this was their choice, then he would give them their due.

Thorgur balked at Orin’s display, unwilling to sacrifice an entire town for Orin’s vengeance. He pressed the gillman to reconsider his path. Orin was little swayed by the dwarf’s argument, but he did not argue with their need to gather more information – and they would begin by following the single clue left them by the warriors of the House of the Rising Tide, that word “Fineas” – the name of the Illmarsh mayor.

Before our heroes could enact any plan to confront the mayor, however, they were set upon by unexpected enemies: the dialogists, living shadows and walking confessions, ethereal creatures who carried the bitter secrets of their victims wherever they went. Astrid and Hudson fell prey to these creatures, muttering unwitting truths – Astrid revealing her true heritage, and Hudson revealing a murder in his past – but none of the dialogists survived our heroes’ wrath, aided also by Anthony Arkwright, and their secrets faded into the dark with them.

When the moment had passed, Anthony revealed what he knew of the rumors: that these horrors prowled the streets at the behest of the priests, seeking those of deviant mind. Anthony had not believed the rumors until now, but our heroes felt compelled to assign truth to legend after what they had encountered.

Wasting no more time, the party stormed the Illmarsh Town Hall but found themselves having to wait in line. The foreman, Larmuk, was already giving Mayor Fineas a piece of his mind, insisting he would work no more with the mayor. Attempting to leave, clearly afraid for his life, he was quick to tell our heroes his purpose to obtain his freedom. Mayor Fineas, it seemed, once put into power by the monopolistic Obadiah & Sons shipping company, was now robbing from his would-be sponsors with the help of the foreman. Unwilling to put his life on the line, and fearing Obadiah & Sons would grow more vengeful after Orin’s threat to the town, Larmuk had every intention of skipping town and leaving FIneas to his fate.

Our heroes allowed him to go and do just that, leaving them alone with Fineas. Confronted with his crime, his own life threatened, Fineas confessed to Larmuk’s accusation. He was quick to follow it with his own: it was Obadiah that controlled the dialogists, and although Fineas had seen the gillmen when they came to town, he was certain Obadiah had put his hands on them, in the end.

Unwilling to allow the mayor to leave town for this confession, our heroes accosted the hapless Fineas and marched him – making a quick stop to bring Anthony Arkwright along – to the docks, where Obadiah & Sons ran their business. Despite the late hour, they had decided to force a confrontation in any case.

They found the office building almost entirely vacant – not unsurprising, given the time of day – but not totally. Obadiah waited for them in the warehouse, and he had his sons with him – or perhaps they were “sons”, for they were monstrous creatures, fish-like in aspect, and nearly four times the size of a normal man.

As for Obadiah, he was no mere man himself, but in fact a gillman. Orin was surprised to find his kin here, fighting him, but even more so to discover that he knew Obadiah – if by another name: Hagen. Hagen was a gillman of Tzim’chevaghol, and one of the council members who had voted to exile Orin after his rejection by the aboleth.

Orin’s vengeance was swift, and with his friends at his side, Hagen and his sons fell swiftly. Hagen made his own last stand against the gillman, but Orin focused his rage and power into a single, mythic fireball – and Hagen was left as little more than ash.

Quickly recovering, our heroes assessed the warehouse. They discovered trace amounts of diamond dust and powdered quartz – likely material components for a spell – scattered amidst the otherwise mundane shipments scattered about the shop. Yet their final discovery was more tragic: they found the gillmen at last, but too late. Hagen had slain them, while they yet remained his prisoner, and the blood revealed a recent execution at that. Just a little too late.

Orin knew his next destination: the Seaside Chapel, where Father Gharol conducted his flock, and the source of this madness originated.

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Season 3: The Other Gods - Episode 12
The Shadow Over Illmarsh, Part I

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The Arcanamirium’s Response and the Landing

Our heroes raced aboard the Titanis to the distant Ustalavan city of Illmarsh, where Orin’s fellow gillmen had disappeared. Through use of the Frozen Heart of Orphys, Orin had come to believe that the skum tribe besieging his hopeful triton allies were protected by a magical barrier whose origins lay within this mysterious town. Now he hoped to determine the exact nature of what protected the vile skum, and with any luck, find what happened to his own people who had traveled there. He had a single clue, a single word sent magically by the gillmen before they disappeared: “Fineas”.

The Titanis plotted a non-direct route, hoping to skirt the border of Numeria, where the Technic League ruled. Daily stops were needed to resupply and rest, and it was on one of these stops that Orin was confronted with an interesting sight. A blue-feathered raven stopped in his path as he returned to the ship from a river bath, clutching a missive in its talons. Retrieving the letter from the recalcitrant bird, Orin opened it eagerly, expecting as he was a note from the Arcanamirium, where he hoped to attend for a semester to hone his wizardry.

The letter was indeed from the Arcanamirium, and Orin was not surprised to learn that he had been accepted. To his chagrin, however, the school’s high demand had placed him on an admission list 5 years hence. Unperturbed, Orin determined to find another way to gain entry, or else learn somewhere else, when his next task was finished.

The Titanis arrived at the outskirts of Illmarsh ten days after they departed Brevoy. It was a simple matter to locate a hiding place among the woods outside the town. Before departing, our heroes discussed their plan of entry and attack. Orin, at first, was fully prepared to enter the town with a bang and a flash, tired as he was by now with surface dwellers who insisted on aiding his enemy. The others, however, talked him down. They had no notion how corrupt the town was, and who was innocent or not, and preferred to take a more subtle approach until they could come to understand the extent of the town’s evil. Orin accepted this plan, albeit begrudgingly.

Disguising themselves as a small troupe of fishmen looking for work, our heroes departed the Titanis and headed for Illmarsh’s gates.​

The Merchant and the Foreman

Illmarsh had no gates, they soon discovered, and only a sign for the town once known was Baytown to greet them – and that in disrepair.

Even disguised as rabble, their unknown faces drew immediate attention from the withdrawn populace. Unaccosted, they made their way into the town and were soon hailed by a merchant eager for their outsider coin. Stepping into his shop, they were promptly introduced to Glishmad Hashilane, the town’s premiere merchant – or so he claimed. Indeed, his shop was filled with items both magical and mundane, though to keep their disguise they feigned little interest in the former. Of note also was Glishmad’s own delivery service, knick knacks and supplies being packaged up and prepared for delivery around the town.

They learned little from Glishmad that they did not already know, but for one piece of information: the mayor of the city was named Beolain Fineas.

After receiving directions from the merchant to the fishing docks, our heroes took their leave.

The docks were in little better shape than the rest of the village, and they were soon directed by other workers to Foreman Larmuk. Larmuk informed them that anyone doing work in the town did that work on behalf of Obadiah & Sons. Fooled by their disguises, Larmuk took our heroes for just tha – prospective employees. After a short interview, he instructed them to appear just before the dawn the next morning, where they would be put to work.

With little else to do for the day, our heroes decided to check into the local inn and get their bearings in a more private place.​

Meet Anthony Arkwright

At the Hoary Fish Inn, the blind innkeeper Cornyllis was more than happy to pass over a few keys for rooms for the rare sight of travelers from out of town. Yet our heroes were surprised to find that they were not alone in the inn. A gentleman had already taken up residence and was aspying them from his reading chair near the inn’s hearth. Taking the more straightforward approach, our heroes approached the man directly, and were introduced to Anthony William Percival Arkwright III, Esq.

To their dismay, Anthony saw through their disguises straight-away but promised to keep their secret a secret. He pressed them for more details about their arrival here, and they answered in vague terms, dubious of Anthony’s motivations. Anthony admitted he was a cleric and a scholar from Absalom, at the Arcanamirium, on sabbatical to study strange cults. Unable to trust this stranger, our heroes took their leave and retired to their room to consider their options. However, their talk with Anthony did reveal one clue: the gillmen had stayed in this very inn during their time in Illmarsh.

Finding the door to their old room locked, Orin use his dimension door spell to carry Thorgur and him into the room. They found the room at odds – it was clean and empty, yet the bed sheets were mis-made. Further investigation yielded more clues: an arcane mark in the chest of drawers, a heavily-used bathtub, and a recently replaced window that appeared to have been torn from the outside-in. The pair returned to the party’s room and shared what they had learned.

It was then time to poke into another room – Anthony’s. Yet Orin quickly discovered that the room was protected by a spell – a spell of forbiddance, which would prevent his teleportation spells as well as harm anyone who attempted to gain entry whose alignment did not match the cleric’s. After a pitiable trick on Hudson, whose chaotic neutral nature saw him suffer harm from the door when Orin tricked him into attempting entry, Orin attempted it himself – and was pleased to find that, although he could not unlock the door, nor was he injured. The cleric and Orin, it seemed, shared their alignment.​

Night Worship

Our heroes entered into palaver with Anthony once more, now closer to believing Anthony’s claims that they shared a purpose. Anthony revealed more of his: that he was on a forced sabbatical when the Arcanamirium came to despise his research into the Black Truth and its adherents. Deciding to help our heroes, Anthony introduced Astrid to the Baytown Library and Archives, and the two set off there to research together. Hudson and Thorgur, in the meantime, decided to head to the tavern, the Old Man and the Sea, to see what local color they could find. Orin stayed in the inn to prepare for what lay ahead – and take a long-needed bath.

In the library, Astrid and Anthony discovered two interesting facts about the town: the mayor, Beolain Fineas, had won an election in a startling upset nearly 12 years past, after which the town council was shortly abolished. Following that, the same year the derelict chapel on the cliffs at the edge of town was torn down and rebuilt into the Seaside Chapel.

While the studious duo pondered their newly gained knowledge, Thorgur and Hudson were meeting with cold stares at the Old Man and the Sea. They found only one man willing to speak with them – a priest named Oreon, who drank unusually heavily in a dank corner of the bar. Oreon revealed that the town was led by the Church of Azlant and worshipped “the gods of Azlant” every night at dusk, but his bitter aspect made him a poor speaking partner. They soon left.

Our heroes reconvened to pool their discoveries just as the town’s evening bells rung. Anthony retired to his chamber, citing concerns about being out at night, but our heroes decided to take this opportunity to see what the townsfolk were really getting up to. They found a great procession heading towards the Seaside Chapel. Orin flew overhead, invisible, while the rest mingled in the crowds.

And they gathered at the foot of the chapel, listening to the orations of the priests as the waves crashed upon the nearby cliffs. And Orin’s heart fell when he heard that familiar refrain echo from the mouth of the lead priest: the admonition to Obey, that great call to worship he would remember all his life – for it was the call of the Aboleth.​

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Season 3: The Other Gods - Episode 11
Under the Mountain Where Dawn Never Came, Epilogue

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Secrets and Lies

Our heroes stood with Choral Rogarvia, returned founder of Brevoy, before the home of Wilcyn Dane, traitor to the Crown of Brevoy and adherent to a dark cult. It was time to confront their enemy and uncover the truth.

Hudson Graves assumed the disguise of a city guard with his magical quickchange cloak. They would feign to be agents working on behalf of King Surtova, investigating rumors of criminal activity. The magus Orin magicked himself to the roof of the building to keep an eye out for any interruptions. The rest prepared themselves to play a role.

Hudson knocked on the door. Their target soon answered, and they were ushered inside. Soon enough, however, their ruse was up – they claimed to be working on behalf of the king, but Dane disbelieved, having evidently intimate knowledge of the king’s payrolls and knew such an inquisition was not on it. But Dane was now at their mercy, unable to escape their interrogations.

The cultist, unafraid of death, was unwilling to speak, revealing only that she was acting on orders of the old lich, Nochen Valmugen. Dane balked at saying anything more, until she learned that her ally, the vampire Alhred, was dead, as was Nochen himself. Yet the final straw came when Choral Rogarvia revealed that the Rogarvians had not vanished at all, and would soon hold the throne again. She confessed to her conspiracy, but her confession held a bitter truth – Poul Orlovsky had conspired to murder King Surtova after all. It was only the cultists who had turned him in, to foster unrest in Brevoy. Dane turned letters over to Astrid, correspondence between Poul and Alhred, proof held against the slight chance Poul’s trial would turn in his favor. Astrid received the news with a heavy heart.

Their interrogations concluded, Choral took Dane into his custody, and left our heroes their evening, to meet with him at dawn when he would reveal himself to King Surtova. Yet before the night concluded, Choral returned to speak with Astrid, and compel her to consider Poul’s fate. Though he was spurned by seditious cultists, Poul was nevertheless a traitor who had plotted regicide against a lawful ruler. By law, his fate should be death, and yet his motives were sympathetic, and his death seemed hollow justice, when it was the desire of Brevoy’s enemies in the first place. Astrid also worried for Poul’s son, and her friend, Isaak, for how should he receive such news?

Later, in his chambers, Orin attempted to reach out with the Frozen Heart of Orphys to ensure that Nochen Valmugen remained dead, as the destruction of his phylactery promised, or else reveal his whereabouts. The heart showed Orin nothing, but before Orin could end the spell, he was overcome with indescribable visions and left with a great sense of unease.

Choral’s Ascension

The next morning, our heroes came to the great gates of the Ruby Fortress, and watched as Choral Rogarvia landed before it, astride the great red dragon Aszrogal. The significance of a red dragon rider was not lost on the guards, and they granted him passage to the throne room. Our heroes followed.

Inside, Choral came at last to face King Surtova. Calling the king to account, Choral quickly determined Surtova’s loyalties – and revealed his true identity using his signet ring, a unique ring only Choral the Conqueror had worn. Surtova, shocked but believing, abdicated the throne before the eyes of those gathered, and anointed Choral as King.

Choral then revealed Brevoy’s enemy, the aboleth, and his intention to wage war against that enemy and avenge the Vanishing. Unity had, at last, come to Brevoy.

The Orlovsky Affair

Yet one difficult matter remained. Astrid found Isaak Orlovsky, who now belatedly realized who Astrid must really be. Enraptured and embarrassed, Isaak quickly promised to keep Astrid’s secret.

At last they came to speak to the fallen lord, Poul Orlovskky. When Astrid revealed that she knew of Poul’s connection to Alhred, Poul dropped the pretenses at innocence. Shattered, Isaak retreated.

In the halls outside Poul’s cell, Astrid turned over the damning letters and inquired what Isaak would do next, should Poul receive the sentence of execution. Hurt by the turn to practical matters, Isaak retreated again, this time from Astrid.

She pursued him, however, and soon found him in his chambers. Realizing her mistake, she slipped an apology through the door. Isaak opened the door. Wordless, they embraced, and the son wept.

The Initiative and the Oath

Though Choral had revealed himself, he had also made himself a target, and Brevoy’s enemies might yet strike out again – and Astrid would be his backup against that plan. He summoned the warrior and her allies to the evening’s feast and celebrations, and afterwards they met in conference with Noleski Surtova.

Noleski revealed his own efforts to uncover the Vanishing and Brevoy’s enemies, and the truth of his “weak” rule. He had felt that a strong leader would soon be a dead one, and a dead king would only throw Brevoy further into disarray. He kept his cards close to his chest, feigning ignorance and immaturity, yet all the while he hunted. Now his enemy was revealed: an aboleth, a terrible and ancient creature of immense and disturbing power and influence. To combat this threat, Brevoy would need allies.

Noleski proposed establishing an initiative within Brevoy, a state-sponsored special operations group who could operate outside the king’s endorsement, taking the fight to their enemies with the explicit purpose of defeating the aboleth. He nominated our heroes for this task, and they accepted.

At this, Orin revealed their next target. The hopeful allies, the triton city beneath Lake Encarthan, were oppressed by a tribe of skum, and that tribe was protected by a ritual whose origin could be traced to the old Ustalavan city of Illmarsh. Already he had sent gillmen scouts to investigate, and soon they would have cause to go themselves.

And indeed Orin was correct, for before the meeting could end, Shalako contacted him through a spell of sending. The gillmen scouts had disappeared in Illmarsh.

Not wanting to waste a single moment, Orin gathered his allies – Astrid taking a brief moment to share an emotional goodbye with Isaak – and they departed aboard the Titanis for Illmarsh.

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Season 3: The Other Gods - Episode 10
Under the Mountain Where Dawn Never Came, Part VI

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The way to the Great Forge at last open to them, our heroes descended into the heart of the Golushkin Mountains. Along the way, they encountered a strange idol to a dark god, the sight of which filled Astrid and Hudson with visions of them at the head of conquering nations, laying waste to enemies – enemies which Hudson felt were entirely innocent.

[This is also the part where Shivaun said, “Enemies have townsfolk too.”]

Pressing on, Orin cast invisibility on Thorgur to allow the dwarf to explore the Great Forge and see what might await them there. And in the forge he found seven dwarves, worshipping at the anvil and forge – but in communion with which god, Thorgur did not know. Their chanting filled his ears, however, and when he relayed this to the party, Orin in particular was disturbed to hear the words once sung by his people in worship of the aboleth, Chevaghol.

Putting together a quick plan, our heroes quickly delved in the Forge and began their assault on the Council of Golka. A bitter struggle ensued, but one by one the corrupt dwarves fell, until at last Orin disposed of the last – a skeletal dwarf – with a well-placed scorching ray.

As the dust from the battle settled, our heroes found Thorgur on the brink of death. And yet as the eldritch chanting faded, and the corruption seeped within the mountain began to fade away, the Sword of On clutched in Thorgur’s hands began to burn with fury. And as the flames overtook his form, Thorgur rose, eyes filled with rage, and he ascended as Orin and Hudson had done before him.

Our heroes destroyed the Great Forge, pushing it into the cooling waters surrounding the altar, then returned to the surface. There they found Grayhaven no longer oppressed by dark clouds. And Astrid held clutched in her hands a letter from the adopted dwarf, Toval Golka, implicating him in the foul cult that stirred within Golushkin. Finding Lord Howlan Garess somewhat recovered, our heroes turned their evidence over to him – and he executed the traitorous dwarf on the spot.

Our heroes soon left Grayhaven, at last shining in the sun, for New Stetven, where Poul Orlovsky awaited trial for supposedly conspiracy to murder King Noleski Surtova.

In New Stetven, Astrid was again reunited with Isaak Orlovsky and – to her surprise – Choral Rogarvia. Choral told Astrid that the throne of Brevoy was in fact hers, as the sole surviving member of the Rogarvian royal family, and that while Choral intended to reveal his identity to King Surtova soon, and claim the throne, he would soon accede it to the young woman.

Astrid was uncertain about this proposal, but agreed to help Choral get to the bottom of the accusations leveled against Poul Orlovsky.

Astrid spoke with the imprisoned noble but learned little. She decided to pursue another lead, and our heroes worked together to spy on Wilcyn Dane, Mistress of Coin in New Stetven and a co-conspirator of the vampire, Alhred.

Their misadventure found them evidence they needed – a black charm like those used by the vampires – but left them in a bind. Their use of magic in their spying had put the palace on alert, and the mess they left in Mrs. Dane’s office would surely arouse suspicion. And so, at Choral’s urging, they came to Mrs. Dane’s home to confront her, before she would have a chance to act….

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