“A Timely Ghost”

The D'Arbres Chronicles Episode V.

Summer 805

The Party

Braegon: Male Human, Mage of Deep Earth. Party Leader
Chevalier Roke con Sartra: Male Human Enchanter. Military Scientist
Sir Mortimer Graves: Male Halfling Warlock. Scribe
Serendipity, Baroness Godrock; Burgrave of Bergelfen: Female Elven Mage of Utterdark.
Kin-san, Female Erelheine Enchanter and Archer.
Pent: Male Halfling, an Ice Mage.

Part 1: Duesday 1 Meadow 805

As I write these notes it is strange to think that the odd events herein are both but a few weeks in the past and are also ancient history of some thirty millennia.  But I am getting ahead of myself and should sensibly perhaps begin at the beginning.

 It was the afternoon of Duesday the first of Meadow in the year 805, by the Western  reckoning, that we were asked to attend on Dramus, an elf of no little refinement and means, and  learn of the details of work requiring the skills and abilities of experienced adventurers. Hugh D'Amberville, Baron Newcourt, had sent word of supernatural events in the area of the village of D'Arbres, far in the north of his lands. Newourt's vassal Sir Christopher Reynard, himself a member of the Guild, holds the fief that includes D'Arbres within its extent, but as he was inextricably involved with actions against the Dark Circle, Newcourt  desired to have a Guild group investigate in Reynard's stead, and had passed word to this effect to the Guild, by way of Dramus .

The information that Dramus relayed was plain enough; a ghost was haunting D'Arbres, much to the consternation of the locals who desired it stopped. Standard Guild rates were to be paid, along with a bonus provided by one of the several fairy courts that surround the village, calculating to a grand total of 250sp per week. The calibre of the assembled persons seemed perhaps in excess of the requirements, although jokes were made about the Guild sensibly dispatching a Namer and a Necromancer given the nature of the work, but since my companions had no complaints about the arranged fee our considerable experience was no impediment to accepting the mission.

After perfunctory introductions, for each of us has worked with the others on previous occasions, and the satisfaction of Guild requirements by the appointment of Braegon as party leader -- how we look forward to his watch schedules -- Roke as Military leader, and Mortimer, that is to say, myself, as your humble scribe, we considered a brief recap of information about D'Arbres. The area around the village has been well documented by previous scribes, so I will omit unnecessary details here in the pursuit of brevity.  If the reader is interested in further information may I recommend to them the following notes in the Guild library: (Summer 804 WK: The Root of All Evil, or When You Wish Upon A Leprechaun; Summer 803 WK: Wyvern Hunting, or Tails you Lose; Spring 802 WK: Investigation of D'Arbres; ???).

Dramus presently transported us by way of his house to the high mana forest some few miles from the village, and from there we made our way on foot into D'Arbres.  The village itself is a picture of bucolic harmony and plenty, taken somewhat to the edge of the surreal; the peasants are clean of limb, strong of thew, and indeed rosy of cheek.  There we met with Reeve Cohart, Sir Christopher's representative in the village, who gave us details of the their supposedly supernatural visitor.

Cohart reported that the ghost, for such as she has been identified by the superstitious villagers, appeared to be that of a elven woman, tall and dressed in a long white gown.  Rather oddly for a ghost however she was seen in daylight, every few days around noon, and she drifted through the village, following the ley line that bisects it, attempting to communicate with the villagers. A quick trial of languages with Cohart confirmed her speech as Eldarin, that is to say the ancient language of the elves.  All in all the village's ghost seemed rather unusual.

As we had arrived in the afternoon, and since the mysterious figure was not expected again until noon the next day, we considered the ways that we might while away a few hours. D'Arbre's charms seemed few for foreigners so after discussion with Kin regarding her last visit to these parts we decided to investigate the tomb or barrow that lies under the village.  Previous scribes have no doubt described this construction at length, but suffice to say that the sole entrance to the barrow lies some twenty miles to the north and east, and then a tunnel connects back to the village under earth.

We travelled a small way into the forest where Kin tempted forth a brownie named Bunt by use of strong liquor, and we received permission to travel through the forest in return for additional volatile liquid.  From there we flew to the large stone head that guards the entrance to the tunnel; there being no visible entry unless by the will of the stone guardian.  Aura readings showed that the stone is the avatar of "Roche" and that it causes death.

Roke took the simple course of asking aloud if the guardian might "please let us into the tunnel", at which, the the surprise of all, the tunnel opened and stairs lowered into the ground.  We descended into the earth, and after discussion on the safest way to fly the length of the tunnel, we set off.  Arriving without incident at the other end we stood in a chamber that ended in a pair of large golden doors inscribed all over with intricate writings in the ancient draconic script.  Reading an excerpt from the doors Kin was able to state that one Kesrin, a hero of many epithets, was "buried / entombed, waiting to fight the darkness that is to come".

As we examined the doors it became apparent that they were not completely flush; one was slightly ajar.  This was not the case when Kin had last been here so further investigations were done. Magic could not pass the doors, and they were to take an indeterminate time to open, but they would open for the right people.

At this point Roke took the simple-minded course of asking aloud if the doors might "please open", at which, to the considerable shock of all, the doors opened, a wave of sepulchral air washed over us, and all fell to darkness.

Part 2: Date Unknown, Day 1, Morning.

We each awoke, sitting bound in a forest, accompanied by five strange and equally bound elves and watched over by another elven man. It dawned upon us that the five others were indeed our companions, though the bodies were not our own, not even those of the party who are normally elven.  The count of males and females did however appear off, and it transpired that Pent's new body was, in addition to being elven, of the female persuasion.

As the elderly and unbound elf watching over us announced that "it is all my fault" I mistook him initially for Roke, but he announced himself as one Astronia, the Seer for Lord Foras, master of the Leaping Tiger clan. (Given the apparent connections between Foras, the demonic "President and Lord  of Seekers" and the area in which we found ourselves, suspicions were immediately raised that this may be more than a simple linguistic coincidence).

Astronia explained that he was involved in a great project, an enormous construction work that would culminate in the burying of a powerful hero against a great darkness that he had foreseen in the distant future. He had however also foreseen problems and sabotage, and had organized for a "Star of Kohath" -- an order of Inquisitors -- to come and aid him.  Fearing that the Star may be biased, he had ambushed them en route, and having bound them, had summoned our spirits through time, from the opening of the doors, to inhabit the bodies. He also wished that we might assist him. He says that we are bound for our own safety; we smile and nod and make no sudden moves.

Astronia freed us from our bonds, and further questioning revealed that we were still in nearly the same geographical location as we had been, that the area is under a concealment to make it difficult to find or enter, that this is the fourth year of work in this area on the project, and that far away, over the ocean to the West in the lands of Arcadia, the last elven empress, Letheana of clan Noble Sapphire Day has ruled for over a decade, making our current temporal position somewhere very shortly before the War of Tears.

He also told us that "the way home lies through death"; that should we die, and once the bond between body and soul was broken, we would find ourselves back in our original bodies -- though this did not bode well however for our "hosts".  Astronia told us a little of the Order of Kohath; they were clanless and had twelve founders. Their headquarters lies beyond the Gattar Depression, and they were called in to act as investigators, judges and even executioners.

Astronia gave us directions to the camp and then left, so that we might enter the camp separately, allowing his to continue the pretence that this was the original Star arriving.   It was a few hours before dawn, so we took time to check over our new bodies, and make various disparaging remarks about the paucity of equipment.  Mana here is very fresh and free; not high mana exactly, but spell effects seem greater and last longer.

Each of the inquisitors was quite distinct in the equipment they carried, and from some brief experiments, in their abilities and attributes.  A full description of each may be found in the Appendices. Briefly though, the party members and the bodies in which they found themselves were:
In addition to our personal equipment there were also seven horses, six for riding and one bearing a large chest. The chest was magically trapped, and keyed to an individual true name, save for a small separate compartment. We decided that having little information about the chest we would leave it be.

Armed and armoured we made for the camp which was impressive for its size and scope, being effectively two towns and between them immense excavations.

We entered from the main road north, and Seren at once felt a "palpable miasma of death" -- a sense or ability which she does not normally possess.  Few people were in evidence, and of those some hid when they saw us Inquisitors.  We rode to the largest and most ornate building, where our mounts were taken by servants and the sealed chest was whisked away.  The building was organic; a single living tree warped into shape, with plush mossy floors.

We were lead into the presence of the lord of these lands, and master of the project underway, Lord Foras. He appeared as a powerful and young elven man, with a surprising strength of aura and an affinity for illusory magics.  He greeted us, but had little time to spare and we were placed in the care of a servant, one J'Rinth, and shown to a suite of rooms.  There we met Astronia's assistant seer Celon, a young woman tasked with aiding us.

Celon explained that we were in Lord Foras's summer palace.  Some years ago, Astronia the seer foresaw dark times in the far future and convinced Lord Foras to begin a great project to aid against the darkness.  The project has been underway now for fifteen years and is expected to finish by winter.  The project however has not been without problems, and Astronia suspects that some force is attempting to prevent its completion.  A month back there was a serious logging accident that may have been sabotage, and recently Theandria, another of the assistant seers has seen a mass poisoning in the "volunteer camp" -- apparently the larger town to the south.

To orient us Celon takes us to the office of Nydindra, the chief architect of the project, upon whose wall there is a great mural depicting the workings and camps. (see map in the Appendices). The architect tells us that the long tunnel is to channel off the emanations from the "guardian", and that Danras is in charge of the guardian ritual, but does not know how the edifice under construction will be used.  It appears even from our cursory examination that information at the site has been compartmentalised, with each of the specialists knowing little of the overall scheme.  Being cynical and suspicious adventurer types this leads us to wonder and quietly discuss the possibility that the purpose of the project may not be benign.

We are given the chance to witness a small portion of the ritual:
From speaking with Celon we gain the following information:
We follow the unfinished tunnel from the ritual site to the tomb, and there meet Master Hora the shaper.

There are people carving stone in big slabs making the doors of the tomb that bear the rather long winded, and mostly fictional story of Kesrin the Hero. The writing on the doors is the work of paid writers constructing fictional tales of Kesrin (the human hero), translated by some other bored scholars into ancient draconic. Kesrin in the stories is human since the seers believe that in that distant time when the tomb is opened humans will be ascendant and more accepting of the tales on the doors if they appear to be about a human rather than an elf. Screwy elven logic.

The chest that our hosts brought is now open (the ITN lock was keyed to Foras), and full of many minor shaped items. The separate compartment held an inventory of the items. Hora is extracting the shaped magics from the minor items via another item and storing the power in granite blocks. 6 weeks more work and the tomb can be sealed against time, scrying, etc.

Hora tells us that the plan is that when the time is right and the tomb is finally once again opened, then a ghostly army will arise, led by Kesrin, and will defend the the elven nation.  The number of chambers (5) is not a significant number.

In response to our questioning Celon tells us that Foras distrusts elementals (and doesn't wish to use them in defence of the project), that he shuns his father, and that he is not on speaking terms with K'Shal, head of the Praying Mantis clan.

Continuing our tour, Celon takes us to the south town, which consists of huge barracks and some administration buildings.  The barracks house the 10,000 odd volunteers, mostly members of various doomsday cults. Of these some 6,000 are going to be needed for the ritual.

We meet Master Sophias (from whom I gain with Drake's senses a feeling that he is less than trustworthy). He is the estranged son and once heir to the Mantis Clan's Master Casumine. Sophias has working for him a dozen or so staff, along with two guards who have been assigned to look after those volunteers who have changed their minds. We find out later from Celon that Sophias is here against his father's wishes with 1/4 of the clan, and that this is part of the reason for the secrecy around the location of the camp.

We head off to the site of the logging incident. 10 miles to the north west, close to the site of the quarry where blocks are being mined for the walls, and near the site of the mining camp in our own time.  Logs are felled and piled on the hillside, restrained by supports that appear grown for the task. One of these broke and the resulting avalanche killed a hunter and a woodsman.  Kin speaks to a Dryad, who is unconcerned about logging as the "prince has protected her tree". All courts have been consulted about the operation but it "is a big problem" -- which we take to mean is a problem of the big people, rather than the fey.

While Kin scouts we discuss Foras and the big project; who profits, who loses and who would want to sabotage this?  Does this Lord Foras become the demon of the same name? Do the many thousands of deaths cause it? It is caused by an unintended corruption?  We also discuss some of our worries about time travel and the possible consequences of our current actions.

Kin finds a tree that was climbed; a tree that has a view of the "accident" site and a place that someone who caused the accident might have watched from. Braegon has a long and dull conversation with the tree. The climber wore tree that had been changed by elf and tools, (camouflage? wooden armour?), spoke "the tongue" (speak to trees?), then the ground rumbled, and the climber left. Kin finds the climbers tracks and backtracks them towards the valley. The climber had walked backwards in their own tracks for some four miles, and was about average height and weight for a male elf. Kin memorises the unique foot pattern on the climber and from that point carefully observes the shoes and walking pattern of all we meet.

Heading back to camp we ask Celon whether Astronia's time magics would be able to show us the time of the accident, but it appears not. Astronia can predict the far future with some 40% accuracy, Celon has perhaps 70% accuracy for the near future.  Astronia predicted the War of Tears some 1000 years ago.

Returning to our rooms Seren attempts to attune to the death sense she felt upon entering the camp. This seems to be some attribute of Sable's powers that Seren has access to by sharing her body. Meditation reveals that within the magics protecting the camp, some five miles, all deaths are drawn into the centre of the ritual, amplifying and strengthening it.

By now it is early evening and we decide to rest after the exertions of the day.

Part 3: Date Unknown, Day 1, Night.

Big boom awakens all.

Run out and see shimmering blue dome over room where Hora was working. A guard lies on the ground with cracked ribs from when he was thrown back by the dome appearing. One scribe crawls out of the workings; badly injured. Master Hora and the rest of the scribes are inside.  Roke's wizard's eye reveals broken equipment -- the magic sink that Hora was filling is shattered, and a dagger is suspended, glowing in the air.  Seren casts Darkness and then uses her odd ability to slid through dark places to penetrate the "extreme magic" field and get inside.  Magical bubble is drawing power from the dagger and stone. Hora badly injured.  Braegon tunnels to get stretcher bearers to the scribes (outside the bubble but pinned in the excavated area).

Foras arrives, begins to drain bubble and send power into the big ritual. Braegon drains some power and heals and invigorates Hora -- much faster than usual healing.

Seren/Sabine notes that the death magic is gaining power. Is Foras doing this?  The bubble pops and dissipates. Foras leaves. Braegon checks Hora; the shaper is extremely healthy.  Healers deal with the injured.

The granite power sink is broken, the channelling dagger quiet. We discuss the causes. The magic focusing device is damaged, the rock shattered evenly outwards. Investigation shows that the dagger had many layers of magic concealing the nature of the gem, and that the gem was a major mana battery. The gem is shattered now so Mortimer pockets the pieces for latter use.  Master Hora, intent on draining the small items into his sinks had inadvertently overloaded a block with catastrophic results.  The dagger was a booby trap, and it appears to have come from the box we delivered.

Further discussions; are we really inquisitors? Are we just some schmucks that Astronia has abducted and convinced are in the bodies of inquisitors.  When was the dagger switched?  Or was it switched?  Did we bring that booby trap in with us? And do our other selves know about it?  We decide to investigate.  For the meantime the party line is: "How did that get there? It must have been switched after we arrived".

We know that the ritual may take 9 more months, and that the builders are trying to finish before troubles start at home and the Hero feels obligated to head for the wars.

Dinner and back to bed.

Part 4: Date Unknown, Day 1, Late at Night.

A quarter of eleven. Seren and Braegon are on watch when Seren's death sense detects a "bad death", off to the east, in the direction of the volunteer camp.  The party is woken and we head towards the source. Following Seren we enter the woods near the volunteer camp and find a dead body.

Kin tracks: two people walked in carrying extra weight, two people walked out, lighter.  The tracks are both of elves, one about 6'0" and the other about 6'3". The took a circuitous route.

Examine the body: a male elf, stab wound to heart, significant hole in head, most of brain missing. He has been tied with soft material at the wrists, a rougher material at the ankles. He has nondescript but reasonable quality clothes, and ink stains on his fingers.

We decide to leave the body in situ; Braegon uses earth construction to create a cairn.  We don't wish to be seen carrying a dead body back into camp.

Backtracking to the camp, the two sets of prints pass through some bluebells; a possible method of identifying the perpetrators.

Entering the volunteer camp we investigate for people recently returned and get three possible, a volunteer couple, three persons unknown, and two of the project's administrators: Gallalad and Taran.  Since the victim has inky fingers we suspect the paper shufflers and enter the administration block where we speak with the night clerk.  Faint traces of bluebell is found on the floor and we demand to be shown to the administrators' rooms.  We wake Gallalad and Taran, both of whom I feel are somewhat dishonest (an ability that must be coming from my host body). We escort them into separate meeting rooms to interview.  Braegon and Roke search their bedrooms, and examine their boots.  Taran's boots are a possible match for one set of tracks.  Lots of paperwork in their rooms, no direct evidence of murder.

Suddenly Taran dies.  Confusion and shouting in corridor.  We quickly sleep and trollskin Gallalad, he has broken a tooth and a spectacularly insidious alchemical poison is liquefying  his face and internal organs. We neutralise poison.

Seren views Taran's body; his shade appears and then dissipates.  He has died from the same poison that we narrowly saved Gallalad from. Healers arrive and stop all functions on Gallalad and then using invasive techniques (they slice out organs, heal the organs and then replace them), they fix him up. We examine Taran's body (carefully as it's really only skin holding him together now) and find broken teeth and some interesting tattoos: a small rabbit, a dragon, and a praying mantis.  Interested in the tattoos we check Gallalad's sleeping body and find  another a dragon and three rows of thorns.  We decided to keep Gallalad's survival a secret until we know why he tried to kill himself, and who else may be involved.

Night clerk informs us that all assistant administrators are accounted for, but further questioning reveals that one matches our victim in the woods; Tinerel, a member of the volunteer selection committee.  Knocking on his door gets a reply of "Go away, I'm very tired" but it is a bound speech.

Now about 1:30 in the morning, Roke opens Tinerel's door.  The room has a magical silence in effect inside, and is in considerable disarray, appearing to have been searched and fought in.

Braegon and Kin return to the cairn and recover the body. They also find the site of a small fire, and some ash of Elven origin, that has been effected by "soul magic" and is not ressurectable.  They return to the volunteer camp with the body.

In the meantime we search and ask questions to try and find reasons for the killing in the forest and the suicide of Taran. Divination of Gallalad reveals many domestic magics. Pent talks to apprentices, but nothing conclusive arises.

On his return Braegon speaks to the building/tree.  It appears quite mad.  [moan] [cackle] "they broke it they did, they smashed it" [giggle] "little rabbits they were... I mourn the dead trees" [giggle] [gibber] etc..

Examine the five rooms in the corridor. Their occupants (or former occupants) are:

Fithrand Taran Gallalad Tinerel Celandel

We speak with Celandel.  He appears shifty (Drake sense again?).  This was a rest day for him, he works in logistics.  He last saw Taran and Gallalad after dark (8:30-9ish), Tinerel was with them, apparently drunk and being assisted; it wasn't unusual to see the three of them together.

Taran and Gallalad worked as a team on food and logistics. Reported to Isindeer, the head quartermaster, who in turn works for Gallon, the chief administrator.

Celandel claims that he has not been approached by anyone wishing to derail the project. He joined because of a strong friendship with Sophias, and is also Mantis clan. Sophias is the estranged heir of the Mantis clan.

Mortimer begins an ask dead ritual on Taran. Discovers that:
Seren and Kin interview Sophias.  His room is neat and tidy with nice furnishings and many books and scrolls. They discuss the murder and the suicides. They find out some information:
Moving on to interviewing Gallon:
Moving on to interviewing Isindeer:
We take Tinerel's corpse and Gallalad's sleeping form to the palace. Sabine checks her tattoos -- no dragons. Unsure of how to hide Gallalad (and desperately tired) Mortimer curses Gallalad into a pillow and sleeps on him, having odd nightmares as a result.  The next day, leering of spending another nightmare filled night sleeping on him Mortimer transforms Gallalad into a spade.

Part 5: Date Unknown, Day 2, Late Breakfast.

Much worrying and paranoid discussion and then off to see Astronia.
Head off to speak with the Hero:
Back to our rooms. Considerable discussion regarding the ritual, time travel, and the nature and origin of demons.  Braegon heads of to earthwalk around, under the camp and examining around the tunnel area.
Diagram of Bomb
Braegon returns having found an empty space -- appearing to him during an earthwalk as a dark area into which he cannot see.  The area is some 55 feet below the chief Architect's rooms and some 20 feet away from the bound tunnel. Scrying reveals a roughly spherical cyst filled with glowing material, a golden ring, a number of golden wires and some rubies.

Astronia advises us to contact Hora who arrives and views the device via scrying. Hora is in excellent health, though a little paranoid, believing that we attempted to kill him with the booby trapped dagger. He is much more worried however by the device, and scuttles off quickly to study it at a distance. The party discusses Gallalad the pillow and the possible effects of the device.

We return to the forest -- to the site of the first body -- to seek more clues, and are jumped by a half dozen elven assassins with camouflage suits (including trousers that absorb bodily wastes) and flaming daggers.  There is a brief scuffle, and perhaps because our powers are unexpected (they were expecting the powers of a Star of Kohath, not a Guild party), two of the assassins die and the other four teleport away.  Braegon removes magical teeth from the two bodies, and Kin backtracks until she finds evidence of the group teleporting in -- and waiting in the trees for some time.

We head back to camp with assassin's bodies. Examine their gear.   We insert a piece of the shattered gem (from the booby trap dagger into the assassin (as a locate/tracking device), and then Braegon's resurrects him.  He is plain and easily forgettable.  He attempts to use his false teeth, but these have been removed, so he just glares at us. As part of our plan we leave the room, and then Seren returns, slices his bonds and tells him to get away.  He "explodes" as part of the teleport, damaging the room and Seren.  Locates track him heading to the caves at the northern end of the Nixie lake.  We follow, skirting around the side of the lake -- the locate has him in the caves a few feet above the waterline. Suddenly the locate jumps 20 miles south, near to the quarry where the rock for the project is mined.  We follow and prepare to confront him.  There is a sudden boom, trees fall and he jumps away to the north and west of the lake, and then to the east of the lake.  Although we still have him (or more correctly the gem fragment on locate) we decide to feign losing him and return to camp.

Kin speaks briefly to the Quartermaster who confirms that bodies upstream could lead to infection in the camp; the poison detection may not sense this.

We return to the workshop of Master Hora who has been studying the suspicious underground  remotely.  He feels that the nature of the device is to absorb and concentrate mana and then release it explosively to damage rock and even break bound earth.  There is a discussion of possible components: Naga, Sphinx or more likely Manticore blood for its highly corrosive properties; strange metal; warpstone; and that rubies could be protecting against corrosion. We discuss plans for disarming the bomb and decide that it best be done quickly.

Part 6: Date Unknown, Day 2, Evening.

The plan is to tunnel below the device and then tunnel the area of the device causing to fall deeper into the earth and detonate in a cavern, lessening the pressure effects of the explosion and for the over compression to escape along tubes. Braegon carves underground tunnels leading from near the device to the south-west edge of the camp.  Foras is requested via Astronia to gather all of the project team at the volunteers' camp for a morale raising speech.

Once the area is clear, and with Astronia standing by to roll time back a minute of so (in the case of disaster) and scrying through a device belong to Hora. Braegon tunnels the device and we flee.

There is a great rumbling beneath the camp and a moment later a gout of flame flares from the vent tunnel.  The flare rises hundreds of feet into the air and burns for over a minute. The rumbles continue for several more. Finally all goes still.  The area around the vent glows for half an hour. Hora's monocle of scrying is damaged and there is now a major cavern in the earth beneath the camp.

Investigation of the vent area shows an area around the tunnel exit has been poisoned with strange metal.  The area is some 70 feet wide and covers 500 feet to the north of the tunnel, and over a mile downwind to the south,.

We discuss possible saboteur reactions to discovering their plan going awry, and then leave assassin's teeth, clothes, rings, etc with Hora for analysis, and question Astronia further:
We perform an ask dead on the body of the remaining assassin:
Having had a very full day, and insufficient sleep, we decide to call it a night.  Watches are set and the night passes uneventfully.

Part 7: Date Unknown, Day 3, Morning.

Meet with Astronia. He has arranged for us to meet with the Fey at midnight tonight -- an appointment that in the end we fail to keep.

Madren have taken the guards and gone north to "deal with an issue".  We dislike the camp being so undefended and decide to investigate.

Wake two remaining guards. All other guards have gone to the "trap line" as "some kind of mage" has been caught and set off the alarms. A locate shows Madren and guards some 20 miles to the north. Loren and Stahl have gone to investigate.

Boom. Master Hora blows up his workshop (apparently a not uncommon occurrence).  He is unharmed.  It appears that he has discovered that the active ingredient in the poison teeth is "Naga blood, not Manticore".

We fly north, first heading for the caves by the lake.  We discover a latrine, some ashes in a grate, signs of long term habitation, and then the tracker gem fragment in some blood by a bunk.  Things have been dug up recently and the area scuffed and tracks concealed.

We fly on to Madren's position. Madren is an odd chap, only 5'2" (dwarven blood?).  Whatever was in the trap escaped, but was injured, and not something previously detected. Our tagged-and-released assassin is within 5 miles.  We inform Madren and he and the guards head back to camp at speed.

We continue to track the escapee from the trap line, and reach the edge of the area negotiated with the Fey.  Kin tracks for half an hour more and we find an unconscious body: an elf, dressed in brown, carrying a staff, and with a damaged foot.  The staff is very powerful magic and we wonder if this could possible be Zephar, who is known to walk with a limp.  Pent hibernates him and we try to fly him back to camp.  At 5 miles he is ripped from Braegon's grasp; he cannot penetrate the magical barrier surrounding the project area.

Mortimer and Roke head to camp and ask Foras what he wished done. Foras is happy the barrier held, but very unhappy with Roke when it is suggested that Foras might like to deal with the interloper. Foras glares, Mortimer sooths. Foras asks us to get rid of him and we head back to the party.

Return to find party bickering. Pent tries to drown himself/herself. Braegon and Pent appear affected by lust magics. Pent's host body (K'lyn) appears to have also suffered damage to her reproductive system (made infertile).Pent hides in an igloo. Stranger has bogged off. Mission successful after a fashion.   Odd effects tend to confirm Zephar identity -- that demon creates feelings of lust and makes women infertile.  Pent and Roke head into the forest. Pent/K'lyn rather aggressively snogs Roke/Atuni.  Roke sleeps Pent. Braegon recovers (J'anthro appears to be dealing with the effect and is apparently not unhappy with being possessed, so Braegon reports).

Part 8: Date Unknown, Day 3, Afternoon.

We head off to see the dragon, and the people doing the other part of the big ritual.

A hill is being carved away to leave a big rock -- the sentinel stone of our time.  There is a sleeping dragon, a number of mages doing ritual things, and some workers carving.

One of the mages approached us. His name is Tarragon and he talks to us for a few minutes (asking what we are up to, etc) before the lead mage Danras starts berating and kicking him for slacking off on his duties.   Danras tells us that they are only a few days from completion, but that the main rituals will be finished tonight.  The stone being carved, the "keystone", lies at an intersection of ley lines and will anchor the whole ritual in some fashion. Danras grows us a tent to stay the night.

Pent wakes.  K'lyn has somehow absorbed the lust and sleep magics.  K'lyn casts refrigeration through Pent, and then Pent uses K'lyn's powers to create water and turn it into wine.

Party discusses and bickers.  What is the nature of time? What is our employer up to? Will death really return us to our time? What of our hosts?

Mortimer decides to chat with Drake and wanders inside his own mind to find Drake comfortably reading in a library that represents Mortimer's memories and knowledge. We have a most pleasant chat and Mortimer offers him the run of the place; particularly recommending the sections on demonology and the parts of ancient elven history that lie in Drake's future.

Final phase of ritual begins. Suddenly Tarragon draws a dagger and throws it at Danras. Seren yells a warning, and the dragon opens a single  eye and fries both the dagger and most of Tarragon with a leisurely breath.  Danras thinks the ritual is still alright and while they finish up we examine what little is left of Tarragon.  His head has teleport teeth (rather than the poisoned variety), that have been there some six months.

After the ritual finishes Danras tells us that Tarragon had been working badly for the last few weeks and Danras had begun to suspect him of trying to sabotage the ritual.

Party talks to their host selves. Mortimer suggests that Seren talk to her "inner torturer". Sabine is most unhappy and sulky. I apologise. Sabine whines some more and Seren mentally kicks her.

Roke contacts Atuni and becomes wreathed in flames. He finally manages to recover, and is lead by Mortimer into claiming: "I'm not Atuni". {Your scribe apologies to those readers who have absolutely no idea why this is amusing}.

Kin attempts to contact T'manth, but she is shy and hides. Kin's tracking improves however.  Mortimer talks with Drake some more.

Braegon talks with Roche and rather lazy dragon (his lassitude caused perhaps by the ritual). Roche knows that we are not what we appear to be, and will "remember us" in our time should we meet him again.  Braegon tells Roche that we believe that Foras will fall into darkness; Roche is saddened.  Roche claims that he is acting for the good and that the project is much "bigger than Astronia".  Braegon expresses concerns about the the volunteers, but Roche claims that their souls will be freed.  Roche then requires of us a geas before imparting some more information.  The geas will prevent us from repeating what he is about to reveal to any of the elves in this time.

We agree to the geas and then Roche explains: "this has nothing to do with elves; this is my plan".  It was Roche who sent Astronia the visions that lead to the project -- the elves would not follow a dragon's plan.  Roche plans to teach the Hero during their long slumber, and bring forth in our time an army to fight and enemy of darkness and death.  {The dark circle?}

Finally Roche suggests that, given the number of odd items the saboteurs have, that there must be a Shaper in camp intent on disrupting the project.

Sabine speaks with dead Tarragon, and then Mortimer does a speak with dead ritual. Together the information revealed is:
We sleep the night at the ritual site and plan to head back to the main camp first thing in the morning.

Part 9: Date Unknown, Day 4, Morning.

We head back to camp.  The Architect and Master Builders are already underground, and will be free at noon. We decide to be subtle and not arouse suspicions by requesting their presence earlier.  Three of the eight Master Builders fit our rough description from Tarragon so we arrange for these three to come to the Architect's rooms at noon.

Head off to the kitchens in the volunteer camp. Examine the plumbing -- water passes under the kitchen building and is raised in ash buckets before going into the cooking cauldrons. Pent talks to K'lyn regarding water purification.  Roke talks to inner pyromaniac, who creates another fire. It appears that Atuni dislikes Roke and the rest of us.

We have an early lunch and go see Master Hora to ask if he can detect the concentrations of magic in the camp.  He does a very cool trick with a tray of metallic sand, which creates something life a relief map of the camp; peaks indicating magical concentration. Aside from his workshop and the palace a single, very noticeable peak stands out in the area of the Builder's and Mage's quarters.

Just before noon we head to the Architect's rooms. Two of our three suspects turn up. One is slept easily, the other after a scuffle.  One suspect missing: Umerin.

We head to Umerin's quarters. Braegon smacks the door and it explodes. After initial scrying we examine the room.  It is obviously a mage's workshop. We find a cauldron, identical to those used in the kitchens that has poison magics on it, several other odd items, and eight small mannequins attached to a wall.  Two of the eight are blackened, and one is odd.  The puppets seem to be linked life-force / communication devices. We guess the two black ones were connected to Taran and Tarragon; the odd one to Gallalad, who is still a spade.  We DA and otherwise examine the mannequins and get from them a sense of the aura they connect to (sufficient so that a DA of that person could prove the connection) and a distance and direction:
  1. 200 yards, westerly (within the camp!)
  2. 2 miles south
  3. 3 miles north
  4. 3 miles north
  5. 2 miles east (in or near the volunteer camp)
The dolls are connected by wires into the wall. There is also a device attached to another wall that is similar to the big bomb we dealt with earlier, and the walls of the room are filled with some suspicious looking liquid. We decide to get the dolls off the wall as they can be used to find the rest of the saboteurs, but to do it very, very carefully.

With Astronia on standby for time reversal magics Braegon uses his powers to command the the tree that is the building to flatten the wall behind the dolls (a bit at a time) until they can be safely removed.  It's all rather tense for a while but Braegon manages to remove the dolls.

Seren fetches Hora to have a look at the probable bomb.  Hora is very nervous and unhappy about things that go boom.  He charges up a powerful magical shield and returns with Seren to the Builder's quarters.  Hora hooks up the bomb to some other devices and then runs.  A message is sent to Sophias to get 600 volunteers into the tunnel immediately.

In the meantime the party, using doll #1, have followed the diminishing distance between doll and elf to the Seer's quarters where they burst in on, and sleep [???] . They remove his Cockatrice blood poison teeth, and Kin is happy to find the elf whose footprints match those at the dead fall incident.  The sleeping Seer is taken to the Hero's quarter where we ask Loren to put him on ice.

30 minutes have now passed since Hora hooked up the devices and suddenly a great red beam leaps from Umerin's room to Hora's workshop and thence down the tunnel. 600 volunteers are immediately killed, the tunnel walls seal up. Atuni tells Roke that it was chaos magics that have so rapidly advanced the ritual.

The distance and direction on doll #2 changing around to the east and we head off to the volunteer camp and meet Madren and a group of guards coming back from patrol. We engage Madren in a discussion about Zephar while DAing the group to find the aura that matches the doll.  It's Madren!  Two sleeps, a backfired hibernate, and a sap later and Madren is render unconscious.  The guards are all a bit stunned by this turn of events but are not going to argue with Inquisitors.  Madren has teleport teeth, which we remove. We take Madren to the Hero's quarters where we have to convince Loren that Madren needs to be keep under guard.

We head back to the volunteer camp for suspect #5 and the doll leads us back to the Administrator's rooms. Checking with the desk clerk, Celandel and Gallon have disappeared. The doll leads us to Fithrand's room.  We open the door and sleep him. He falls over and there is a silver swirl and then a tremendous screaming noise deafens several of the party.  Mortimer gives Drake control of his body back and Drake heals the deafness. We take Fithrand's sleeping form to Loren.

We head north following the last two dolls and spot Gallon and another elf involved in a ritual. Fire spells rebound, Pent's bolt shatters, but Kin's arrows go through (the two are in some form of shielded area).  Braegon tunnels and they fall.  Gallon scarpers via teleport, and the other elf armours up. A general melee ensues. We throw enough magic at him to slag a small town, and he eventually explodes.  Sabine's death reading on him is that he was Umerin, a mercenary Shaper who was working for Celandel.

Celandel is the one behind the sabotage plans?

We locate Celandel to the south 30-35 miles and Gallon to the north 6 miles.  We head north, sleep Gallon, and return to camp.

Part 10: Date Unknown, Day 4, Late Afternoon.

We present our information and findings to Astronia. He uses various scrying rituals for the next four hours to check.  Eventually he agrees that all of the saboteurs save Celandel have been captured or killed, and that we have fulfilled our mission.  He also confirms that there is an army to the south; where Celandel is headed.

The Hero is to be entombed tonight. The final rituals will be finished within a week.  The several thousand remaining volunteers will be turned into an army to oppose the approaching enemies.

Based on information that Drake has gleaned from Mortimer's mind, and confirmed from other party minds, the Inquisitors have been talking amongst themselves about their future.  Drake, Sabine, J'anthro and T'manth have all decided to be entombed with the Hero and awaken with him in our time. Atuni and K'lyn are staying and Roke and Pent will be expelled home by Astronia after the rest are sent to sleep.

Later than night the Hero is laid on his bier in the tomb and sent to sleep, as are the four Inquisitors who are staying.  Those of us in those four bodies are expelled.

Part 11: Duesday 1 Meadow 805

The gold doors continue to open (it appears that no time has passed from when we first left), and in our minds we hear Roche say "Welcome back".  The doors finish opening and there is a panel of writing -- obviously meant for us -- to tell us what happened:
Some blocks fall away and there are six small golden hourglasses, one for each of us.

We head into the next chamber which is empty and then through ornate doors to the inner chamber where six figures await us: Drake, Sabine, J'anthro, T'manth, Kesrin the Hero, and an avatar of the demon Foras!

Foras tells us that the army of elves is arising, the spirits of the volunteers, reborn in bodies of living stone. The avatar wishes us well and departs.  We discuss things with the Inquisitors and Kesrin, and rest up. Pent claims we are "time lagged".

As we leave the bound earth of the tunnel collapses into dust. The dust swirls and forms shapes in the air like internal organs. These in turn are sheathed in flesh and bones, and skin of stone dust and finally armour and weapons of stone. The stone army is restored.

Kesrin plans to take the stone army to Alfheim. The Inquisitors discuss their course of action and plan to accompany Kesrin for the moment. We fly to Bergelfen where Serendipity arranges passage for 4000 stone elves through to Alfheim, and we then fly on to Alfheim where we arrange introductions for the Hero, Inquisitors, and the army.  The army passes out of the D'Arbres area on its march to Alfheim and we return to complete our mission and tidy up a loose end.

It appears that when Roke, still inhabiting Atuni's body, stayed behind to capture Celandel, he had to make arrangements with the Fey for passage through their area.  They required the nominal payment of a bottle of wine each decade, which considering the time now past had run up a debt of over 3000 bottles, or some 500 gallons.  Not wishing to default on the payment we headed off to the vineyards of western Foxcourt, (near the border with Borderlay) and arranged a couple of carts of wine barrels which we drove back to Newcourt and then to D'Arbres.

In D'Arbres  we let Cohart the Reeve know that the ghost is unlikely to reappear and contacted the Fey.  The Fey were slightly miffed that we had missed our appointment some 30 millennia ago, but were mollified by the wine, though they claimed it was overdue.  The fairies can now speak of the tomb -- that ancient compulsion or gears lifted, but the protect around D'Arbres against summoning appears to hold.

Our mission complete we headed back to the Guild, some two weeks into the quarter and received our payment of 500sp.


Historical research on Foras and Astronia has revealed that both used serious chaos magics during the time of the War of Tears, and that both "fell into darkness".  Foras we know of, but it appears that Astronia too became one of the demons, taking his new name from the title of his office: Seir, the Willing Prince.


1. The Inquisitors

J’athro “The Gibbet” L’Roi
6’7” and 144lbs.
A tall male elf with faintly weathered features and short steel-grey hair wearing plate mail the colour of wet slate.

K’lyn von Todd
6’3” and 108lbs.
A tall female elf with shoulder length brown hair and aquiline features.  She is clad in partial plate which has a subtle greenish iridescence in the metal.  Her shield bears the arms of the High Elven Royal guard and she has rapier with an elaborate basket hilt at her hip. One her shield the symbols for Warrior/Protector and Water have marked on her shield in layer fine, wet sand

A’tuni D’Noso
6’5 and 140lbs.
A handsome and athletic male elf with shock of black hair, attired in sleek reddish scale amour. He wields a broadsword with a large garnet set in the pommel and a shield with a copper coloured face on which the old symbols for Hunter/Guide and Fire are daubed in ochre.

Sabine “Sabi” Sciuto
5’7” and 85lbs.
A young, short, slightly built, and somewhat pale Elven woman dressed in impractical-looking confusion of styles and garments.  Rugged boots peer from beneath a tattered ball-gown and black lace and studded leather compete with fetishes of knotted hair and bones and at least one shrunken head.  The old runes for Inqisitor/Seeker and Dark have draw on her cheeks in charcoal.

T’manth Magi
6’4” and 165lbs.
A young Elven female with a round, somewhat innocent face and a cow-lick, dressed in forest greens and greys.  She has a stout-looking longbow and paired Shortsword and dagger at his side.  On her chest the symbols for Guide/Hunter and Air have been carefully outlined and at her cuffs and throat the glint of a fine mail like a snake’s scales can be seen.

Illya Drake
6’ and 120lbs.
An almost stooped and elderly Elven male with slightly thinning blond hair and care worn features. He is a little shorter than average, and wearing a loose white robe over his travelling gear. He carries a non-descript staff, carved from a dark, close-grained wood and shod with silver at both ends. A fine white paste (crushed shell) has been used to paint the symbols of Inquisitor/Seeker and Light on either side of his face.

2. The Camp

Map of the Project Camp

3. Miscellaneous

A Nightmare

Mortimer's nightmare from sleeping on the Gallalad pillow:

You felt as thought you were running, along a cobbled path, occasionally
slipping on wet leaves as Storm clouds covered the sky above you, you
could feel the moisture on your face. You realise you are naked and
holding a large kitchen knife. You are chasing a giant, he runs and you
chase past a repeating background of a hangmans tree, the noose empty
and swinging wildly in the strong breeze. You run faster and the noose
tree begins to appear more rapidly like a cheaply made cartoon. Soon it
becomes a blur and you lose sight of the Giant ahead, you stop and
consult a map and see a large circle drawn upon it. The realisation
comes upon you that the Giant is behind you and you feel the blade
severing your spine. You look down and feel the noose around your neck
and ......the dream fades away.

When you awake the dream is vivid and you realise that the dream was not
yours but that of your pillow.....