Skystorm

Fog of War

Advance scouts warned us of the approach of the yellow smoke shrouded Craggen fleet. We had previously bargained with the twisted, but at least mostly human, Shadar Kai for advanced defensive technologies. These allowed us to enclose our own ships in obscuring fog while retaining the ability to do basic targeting as guided by their artificial minds which could perceive all objects out beyond the end of the obscuring fog. These, combined with new long range rocket enhanced ship killing missiles, allowed us to start the battle at a significant advantage of achieving a round of unanswered first strikes.

Many smaller attack craft were launched by the falling Craggen ships. For though they could not easily target in the fog, they chose to attempt battle rather than simply fall with their ships. Our ship soon came under attack by a team of jet boot and float harness equipped Craggen commandos and a rocket powered steam tank. These caused us some grief, largely due to their tendency to assault the lower ranking oathsworn who manned our ship weapons.

Sadly, at the end of the fight the steam tank slid off the ship, carrying Emperor Marcus off the ship. Fortunately he possessed enchantments which prevented him from falling to his death, but he was still lost to us when the next wave of attackers arrived.

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Implacable Advance

Our efforts to free a dwarven prisoner from the torture cage were interrupted by the arrival of a phalanx of Craggen and a tech priest. Battle was joined and we soon found them reinforced by hordes of screaming goblins. After a long bloody melee a few flaming goblins fled the field rather than be shocked, stabbed, bludgeoned, or burned by us.

Hearing a large warforged power up in the north, and an odd beast roaring in the east, we proceeded to the warforged. It was some sort of iron guardian that spewed toxic vapors which was soon joined by a Tech Priest. Balin, Terhali, Noname, and Raiden engaged it while I and Kong Meng held the hallway against the beast and a few Craggen snipers. The creature was a peculiar large tentacled catlike thing which the others referred to as a Displacer Beast. After Kong Meng halved the number of snipers I made fairly short work of the beast, its peculiar ability to not be where it seemed was insufficient against many swift cuts. The remaining snipers had been so ineffective against me that they simply fled after I cut down the beast. The others had already cut down the toxic iron guardian when I came to assist them in finally cutting down the tech priest. His chains and mind control powers were insufficient, though they had caused some grief, and in the end he chose to drop arms and surrender. We had not asked for his surrender and so I did not accept it. I executed him immediately.

Pondering our knowledge of the layout, and in consultation with Ella, we determined to head towards the throne complex in the south east to destroy our ultimate quarry, Gerichscht.

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Screaming Vengeance

We landed on a bridge which crossed over a section of the Craggen Caldera dedicated to massive forges. A few sentries engaged us, and we began taking fire from a ballista team on top of the tower. Then a dragon like creature made out of magma flew up onto the bridge and clawed ineffectively at Kong Meng. Kong Meng then signalled us all to strike it at once and it was immediately slain. Truly this team is rife with destructive power.

The tower defenses soon fell to our combined might and we proceeded inside. Therein we found prisoners trapped in some warped version of a crows cage which left them in constant torment. Each time we came upon one it screamed endlessly. We wrenched the cages open and knocked them out in turn, finding goblins, an elven woman, and a dwarf. None of them were coherent. As we worked to free the dwarf another phalanx of Craggen marched up, followed by one of their bizarrely warforged technology enhanced tech priests. At last we had a proper subject for the rage which had been building up in us as we recovered each of these poor creatures who had been tormented beyond all capacity for reason.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Into the fire

Emperor Marcus and the others planned to intercept Red Spear’s force and defend Vergence. The Oathsworn acceded to my request to join the mission to destroy Gerichsht. I journeyed to Vergence and met up with what remains of Alpha team. I say what remains, for Kong Meng, a bizarrely transmogrified Kodanian, appears to be its only consistent member. We were joined by dwarven priest of Moradin {name missing from my notes -E}, which rounded our group out to Kong Meng, Noname (an immense warforged), Raiden the exarch of Kord, Thaiel Two Swords, and myself. An unusual, but I think effective team for the infiltration of the Crag.

Our partnership had a somewhat rocky start as Thaiel challenged me to a duel before uttering her second sentence. We agreed to settle things after the mission.

We discussed entry possibilities with Ella over a map that she had prepared. Our best possibility turned out to be an air drop onto a back entrance to the Torog compound. We engaged in some training while we waited. Then I took a few days break to visit with my family in Castica and to visit with the Baroness to help make sure everything was in good shape there after the end of the Vastian hostilities.

The signal of fleet movement at the Crag finally came, so we mobilized on the Stormcrow (a very unusual ship) and dropped into the heart of the Crag from several miles up.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Terhali's Journal: The Red Scales or the Silver Eyes?

I have pondered the notion of reviving the Red Scales. My old guild stood for a removal of excess power of any kind. It was a noble goal, for a different time. I have realized that that time is over. The path of the Red Scales is no more, and the vision of the Fire-Eyed Man has passed with him when the knives of betrayal cut deep, and he died in a pool of his own blood. Instead, it seems time to do what I intended when I returned to the World from Gloomwraught: Rededicate myself to the path of the Goddess. This priesthood of Torog is an abomination on the World, and the Goddess has always fought for freedom from slavery. The ultimate consequence is a denial of the natural order of things.

I must pray on the consequences of this…. 

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A Momentary Respite

Emperor Marcus took over the baronial palace as a temporary headquarters while overseeing the reintegration of Vastia into the Avernian Empire. The Vastian nobles portrayed themselves as having been forced to go along with Smyrgway the Third’s schemes. As far as they knew, Argus seemed like the real Imperial heir and the capitulation to the Craggen was difficult to resist with both Argus and Smyrgway supporting it. Given the generally opportunistic and craven nature of Vastian nobility they were eventually allowed to swear fealty and resume their rank in the empire.

Commander Keffin was seen all over the city in the week after its fall. In his wake, disagreements swiftly vanished and chaos was restored to order with rather unusual precision and alacrity.

Baroness Frangelica Castica and her son Esteban arrived by ship from Neveria bearing the prisoner Smyrgway IV, and the sad news that Baroness Homily Neveria had passed away shortly after learning of Marcus’ victory.

There were a few notable exceptions to that Vastian’s “just following orders” narrative.

Smyrgway the 3rd’s second son, something of a blacksheep of the family, name TBD1 (not in my notes) had been banished for not going along with the typical Smyrgway dishonorable behavior. Novius advised that he be recalled to the city of Vastia and evaluated as a candidate for taking over the barony.

The lesser noble TBD2 had bought into Smyrgway’s schemes hook line and sinker. He didn’t even attempt to deny anything is is awaiting trial for high treason.

Smyrgway the 3rd’s first son, Smyrgway the 4th, had been previously captured while operating against Castica along the Castican/Vastian border. He too played up the story that he had simply been going along with this father’s orders. Novius was having none of it having recalled his role in the near capture of Marcus and Baroness Castica in Bella Locale, as well as Smyrgway the 4th’s surly and viperous words which falsely prophesied that they would all beg for his father’s mercy when Marcus’ false imperial regime was at last cast down. Smyrgway the 4th will be held over for trial. Terhali kindly offered to kill him for us, but the emperor wisely refused as that is not how things are done in the empire. As neutralizing troublesome southern nobility had been a large part of his career, Novius subtly indicated that Smyrgway IV was doomed regardless.

Ella the shapechanger continued to try to press her case with Emperor Marcus. The Emperor asked Novius to handle the situation. A long and somewhat rambling interview followed. It rambled because Terhali insisted on advancing her own agenda to reestablish the guild of the Red Leaves and desired Ella’s expertise in several matters. Terhali relented on her recruitment effort and kindly offered to help Ella find peace of mind regarding her past crimes.

Ella expressed her desired to have no further part in violence and to never see another Craggen again. She also expressed regret, without specifically saying so, for having murdered the original Ella to take her form. She preferred to keep looking like Ella (an attractive northern farm girl) due to positive emotional resonance with it. Ella had been born in Craggen captivity and had known no others of her kind other than her mother. The Craggen had killed her mother for disobedience, so Ella had no people left. The Craggen had identified her people as being one of a race constructed by one of the warring factions during the arcana wars. Having no people, and not really known any life other than slavery, Ella was rather directionless. Novius offered to grant her limited freedom within the Empire as long as she followed its laws and provided information about the Craggen, and agreed not to call upon Marcus. Ella accepted, then went off with Terhali to a shrine of the Raven Queen where she received some welcome counseling from its priest.

The Vastian nobles arranged a feast to celebrate Emperor Marcus’ victory. Esteban’s gift of a lovely blue dress to Oli arrived while she was being visited by Gareth and Terhali. Terhali’s dressing assistance did not go over particularly well and ultimately Oli decided to forgo the dress in favor of her usual armor. Terhali and Gareth also explained that Esteban was in fact playing court to her. Based on the fact that Esteban had been widowed within the week, Oli took offense to his not observing a proper mourning period. Oli made no allowances for the rather political and arranged nature of the marriage.

At the ball itself, the Vastian nobles made their oaths of fealty to Marcus. The companions of the Emperor were each honored for their contributions to his victory. Commander Keffin was thanked for his invaluable service in this matter, but no details regarding those services were made public. Esteban sought a dance from Oli and she confronted him with his improper behavior as a widower. Esteban made several reasonable counter pleas, but was unable to significantly defrost Oli’s icy dwarven sense of propriety. Terhali danced the Tarantella with Esteban, but made sure that he was aware of her quite serious threat to take vengeance upon him if he hurt Oli through his romantic overtures.

Terhali’s refreshing brusqueness also broke through Commander Keffin’s customary diffidence and he was actually seen to be enjoying himself at the party, in her company. They had shown up to the ball together wearing matching tuxedos in the very latest style, but Terhali later changed into a more appropriate gown for dancing. Keffin was actually seen happily at ease for the first time in anyone’s memory. He seemed greatly satisfied with himself, but never revealed why.

Deacon Novius and Baroness Frangelica shared several dances, after she persuaded him to forgo his wary guardianship over the proceedings. Their years long custom of flirtation took a more serious turn as the night progressed.

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The Pride of Vastia

Crixus’ years of battle in the coliseum had honed his skills to a remarkable degree. He withstood our concerted efforts for quite some time before finally falling with Terhali’s dagger in his eye. We had initially feared that she had slain him, thereby consigning him to an eternity of torture in Torog’s demense. Fortunately his innate toughness allowed him to survive even that apparently fatal blow.

The battle above the city proceeded throughout, and long after, our conflict with Crixus. We strove to communicate the end of Vastian rebel leadership through various means, but some of Smerdway’s forces gave their all in his cause. Most notably, the rebel capital ship, it was only after The Pride of Vastia, was destroyed by one of the Dwarven flying mountains, over our heads, that the lesser ships of the fleet struck their colors.

Other battles in the city went more smoothly. Apparently a large warehouse fire on the docks had drawn most of the rebel Vastian forces out of position. Miraculously the fire had only destroyed some empty unoccupied structures, but the distraction was sufficient to render our taking of the city fairly swift. Other Vastian forces had somehow been suborned or rendered useless by methods which were not disclosed to us, but which we attributed to the enigmatic Commander Keffin.

Ultimately, Vastia II, now a doddering old man, was located in the castle to formally sign over unconditional surrender to Emperor Marcus.

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Leaving on a jet plane

Command wasn’t able to send through much more in the way of support staff for tearing down Toymaker station, so we brute forced big stuff onto the prototype ship and towed it out of Bonegrinder Alley. Kong Meng portaled back to Vergence to attend to some political matters between his people and the Oathsworn, taking Thaiel along as she was rather unsuited to shipborne life. This left me with Raiden and Noname. The former’s lack of discipline infected the latter which diminished his contribution to my work on the new engine. Never take a long voyage with a Kord worshipper. They don’t have the temperament for it.

Regardless, upon reviewing the designs, the prototype, and the theory books we’d recovered from the station I had identified the flaws in the prototype in a few days and upgraded it into a fully functional jet propeller engine. It was too large to fit on the portable circle, so I consulted with command through the speaking stone and created a temporary circle around the engine to ship it through to Vergence. I took along Noname and Raiden so they wouldn’t be a nuisance to the ship’s crew. I left a speaking stone with the captain along with instructions to be sure to provide as many minutes of warning as possible if backup was required.

After our debriefing I found that command was entirely preoccupied with an incipient operation in Vastia. One for which we were not to be deployed, but to instead hold station in Vergence in case were were needed to reinforce. Numerous discussions were held with Kong Meng and Commodore Shale, both together and separately, in an effort develop a more formal working relationship between the Kodanians and the Oathsworn. Kong Meng has expressed a strong reluctance to formally join the Oathsworn, or to recommend that his people do so. His people have followed his lack of leadership in this matter by similarly not joining the Oathsworn. Kong Meng continues to hold a grudge due to some inferior decisions made by Commander Reale and some others immediately after the fall of Vigil. Kong Meng seems to occupy some idealized uncompromising mental world in which mistakes are never made and one never needs to make due with the men and materials one has at hand. Frankly I do not understand how he reconciles this view with his learned knowledge of history.

In the end I think we made some progress in evolving Kong Meng’s views, but nothing conclusive had been arrived at by the time the other team left on Commander Keffin’s mysterious evening errand in Vastia. I did manage to formally recruit Thaiel as a consultant to our team, so the membership of Alpha team is stabilizing slightly in advance of a hoped for imminent mission of destruction against the Craggen.

- Oathsworn Captain Hibernius Lapidus

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Treachery, Deceit, and Possession: an evening out in Vastia

The warforged held on to the last and required extreme force to shut them down. Not sure what it’ll take to put them back together again, but I don’t think they were designed to be disassembled by extreme assault. In the aftermath we found that Oli had put a bolt clear through Smerdway’s head, so he is quite dead barring extreme intervention.

After the warforged fell I applied basic medical treatment to Ludus and Argus. Then I retrieved the Rod of Suppression and applied it to Argus as he woke up. The brand flashed and was discharged, with a great deal of heat being absorbed by the rod, leaving a wound on the back of Argus’ neck. I asked him who he is, and while apologizing to the Emperor, Argus transformed through some sort of shifter/doppelganger form, to complete the change in the form of an attractive woman who the Emperor addressed as Emma. Emma had been captured by the Craggen long ago and was deployed as an infiltrator. She had apparently run into Marcus during their journey and had given away his position in the baronies. She had also been forced to observe the captive Argus being put to the question so that she could take on his form and manner. The real Argus had been murdered by Gericht’s inquisition. She had been under compulsion during her treachery, which mitigates her crimes to a certain degree. She (it?) continued to exploit whatever remnants of affection Marcus may still have for her. Compelled or no, I regard Emma as extremely dangerous and a being of questionable loyalties.

As battle had concluded in the town square, a considerable crowd assembled and was somewhat restless regarding the death of Smerdway. This interrupted our conversation with Emma sufficiently that we determined it was best if the Emperor officially address the crowd regarding the current situation. The Emperor’s speech was going reasonably well in swaying the crowd to our just and right perspective when he was interrupted by Crixus’ accusations of murder.

Crixus regarded Smerdway as something of a personal savior for guiding him through his gladiatorial career from an ignominious life of poverty. He felt compelled to take some sort of vengeance, and so I endeavored to talk him out of this goal, with the help of Gareth and Emma. My assertions regarding the high treason of Smerdway and his unconscionable collaboration with mind control wielding Torog priests, was backed up by Emma’s personal witnessing, and revealing her own disabled Brand of Torog. In the end I think this argument persuaded Crixus, for he went to his knees and wept. As he revealed his own Brand of Torog, it flashed into activation. Crixus’ voice changed as Gericht took control over him to taunt us before initiating hostilities. I responded to put him on notice that his toys and puppets would not prevent us from destroying him.

- Deacon Novius Carnifex Vergilius

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Serpentine Sendoff

After applying the solvent we found our way barred multiple times by additional applications of the black webbing. The third one opened the way for a large undeadish Yuan-ti to charge at us. It was soon joined by a slender tall woman who blasted us with debilitating vapors that infected our lungs. The two of them put up a formidable fight, but after he exploded she began threatening us with her return from defeat due to some inherent immortality and something to the effect of just wanting to return to her sacred rest. As we’d already gotten that story from the Yuan-ti we slaughtered, I told her that were planning to inter their remains in their weird sarcophagus-ship thing anyway.

She stopped fighting us and after some negotiation we agreed that we would put them in their ship with their funeral goods and kick them back into the sky in return for her removing the weird curse that we were under. Turns out she’s supposed to come back to rule the empire of her people after the next world shattering cataclysm. Dunno how that’ll work out for her, but as the deal would get her out of our way for the forseeable future, while undercutting any motivation that her people have for interfering with my mission, it seemed like a decent bargain to me. She meticulously set every single gewgaw in it proper place, drew the hideous black vapors from within us, and then resealed her ship by conjuring all the rubble to rejoin into the original configuration. We then wrote a bunch of warnings on the outside of the thing and booted it out the door. It then shot off into bonegrinder alley.

I sent two of the speaking stones through to command to confer with them regarding the situation. Commodore Shale indicated that command was not interested in reoccupying Toymaker station. So we stripped the place of anything remotely useful and either portalled it out, or put it on the prototype vessel to get it towed back to command. The most noteworthy object being these new not quite production ready rocket-propeller engine prototypes.

- Captain Hibernius Lapidus

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