The Pakthryxl Proxy 2

The Obelisks of Fortune Part I
Phew, it's been a while...

Weyland takes a moment to inspect his work. A steel collar now holds the alchemical engine to the center mast of the cargo deck. Gran had advised against placing it in the bilge – too much moisture. No fewer than a dozen heavy chains are suspended from the engine collar, through the decking and into brackets on the keel below. If the old witch can ever work out the complex fluids and gases found inside the device, this configuration might theoretically bare the immense weight of the Maelstrom.

With his task complete, the android decides to catch up with the scouting party. Perhaps with help from the captain and Alcades, they might do so more quickly.

Brig: “Sorry Weyland, captain’s duty. I have to see this done,” says Vitran. He bats the cage of the mortified Astral Whaler. It was decided that leviathans would decide the shulsaga’s fate, and a pod of the creatures was on its way. Weyland feels no sympathy.

Alcades’ cabin: “Not now, Weyland!” says Alcades with an uneasy voice. "Oh, fine. Come in. It’s not like you’ll care.” The door opens and the captain’s monkey escapes in terror.

Alcades looks more like his undine self in a loose sweat-stained robe. His recent half-dragon features have withdrawn into an horrific growth at his side. Like a fish gulping at the air in futility, Elliot convulses listlessly there.

“Fascinating,” remarks Weyland.

“Shut up,” grumps Alcades. The two are conjoined at the abdomen. “It seems Apsu is undoing Dahak’s transformation. Very slowly, I might add. However, I can at least travel now. Let’s sneak away so no one sees me like this.”

Weyland responds, "Very well. The leviathan bull that helped subdue the Astral Whaler witnessed State. It teleported the scouting chariot as thanks for rescuing the mother and calf. Perhaps she can transport us to her mate in a similar fashion.

Earlier…

The bull releases Araris and Scandrannon who tow Akane and Papa on the chariot. Instead of laying eyes on SIate, they see a two-mile globe of elemental flux hovering in the vicinity. Presumably, the Obelisks of Fortune hide within.

“What do you make of it?” asks Araris. "Even at astral speeds, traveling though all that looks dangerous.”

“She say’in dee flux be a protectah. It got dee fiyah. It got dee rock. It got dee watah an wind. But, where dee darkness?” asks Papa. While scanning for traces of elemental shadow, his haunted one has a clever idea and Papa’s own chains proceed to constrict and choke him to death.

“What the hells, Papa!” exclaims Akane. (Papa is using his shadowbound chains on himself to manifest a shade of his haunted one. It requires bringing a victim below consciousness without killing them. The funny thing is, Papa can remain conscious below 0 hp!)

Without releasing the stranglehold, Papa’s hand somehow manages to react and catch the chariot rail before his black and blue body collapses. An inky effeminate nimbus slowly manifests in the chariot. In shadow form, Gash goes on to explain, “It would seem this flux is created from elemental guardians. Perhaps the primal dragons are already asleep. Please take my hands and be quick about it.”

Everyone does as instructed. Immediately the astral environs dim and the energetic flux shrinks significantly. For the moment, Gash appears as a normal ostiarius kyton. Her lovely make-up is a mix of body-length tattoos and dyed scarification. Her lavish jewelry connects with an imaginative circuit of body piercings. It’s difficult to distinguish between her taught skin and lacquered leather gown.

“As I expected, the obelisks contain a dimension of shadow,” says Gash, “but why is there no elemental shadow in the flux? Dearest Araris, please make good use of this shadow walk spell. It’s back to the mindscape for me if he wants to mend.” The half-orc and kyton regard each other for a moment before Papa cracks open a fresh healing wand and Gash fades into his consciousness.

The scouting party dives into a shade of the elemental flux. Fire, earth, water and wind effects assault them, but they break through it in a fraction of the time with only superficial harm and Akane dangling from a rope.

The spell ends and everyone is primed for action. As Scandrannon banks around the pentagonal landmass, charcoal dust is seen piled around the bases of four peripheral obelisks. Between three sleeping primal dragons, Slate takes rubbings of names carved on a fifth. Unfortunately for Slate, his work on the obelisk of shadow is destroyed by a fiery arrow courtesy of Araris. The next arrow he knocks is pregnant with justice.

Slate immediately bounds toward the central obelisk’s apex as Scandrannon closes ground. During the relative eternity Slate flies through the air, Papa’s sends in his chains and Araris takes careful aim, but Akane responds with superior alacrity. With a great leap after running weightlessly across the half-orc’s own line of attack, she knicks Slate’s shiny tail with her blade.

Then, he disappears.

(To be continued…)

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Nexus of Caravans Part 2
No game this week, but you can get your recap on!

The mercane call him Fistoclese. He’s the gargantuan boss of the Nexus Caravan, though you haven’t heard him utter a single order. These cosmic merchants are adept planar travelers that use the astral realm as a base of operations. Dozens of wondrous flying vehicles buy and sell magic wares that rival any major metropolis. For the benefit of their new guests, the procession has slowed to a mundane ten-knot cruising speed oriented directly above the soulstream. Life energy paints the entire caravan with golden light. It all feels quite fitting.

Aided by astral flight, it only takes a few hours for the Maelstrom to catch up with the scouting party. By Crane’s account, you have traveled over 1,000 miles in a single day. (Wouldn’t that have been nice when sailing to Azlant!) Papa waves the ship into position beside a certain opulent trade vessel. Kaledith holds eagerly to the rail with a look of reverent awe. On the opposite deck stands her family business partner in the un-summoned flesh. Zylith Hoclya steeples his long ringed fingers, closes his many eyes and bows deeply.

“I need a drink,” says Akane still visibly shaken by her experience with the astral bakekujira. She disappears below decks.

“Is it day now?” yawns Boniva. “Papa, you’re up.” He disappears into his cabin while rubbing at awkward saddle sores. “Damn griffon,” he mumbles.

Papa asks, “You seen dee warlock?” He shoves a few large rolls of damp hide into Weyland’s arms. (I forget Papa has a Jamaican/Haitian accent sometimes. Just think of Sebastian from Little Mermaid while reading.)

“He’s studying and asks not to be disturbed for anything less than stimulating,” responds Weyland. The android’s eyebrow raises in response to the cargo he now holds. “Fascinating,” he says.

After pleasantries, you settle into matters at hand with Zylith.

“Slate has most certainly not traveled up this passage. The boss would have intercepted. I remember him from your earlier travels. Slate may have the Grayscale’s playbook, but he is a simpleton after all. Now, what is this about platinum armor?” Zylith’s curiosity proves boundless. He can smell a good artifact.

“Yah mon, dats how he turned inta dee wyrm,” says Papa. “How ‘bout we give ya dee rights fo’ first offah aftah Slate hand eet ovah.”

“Priceless!” responds the mercane. “Let me ask you this: With this pakthryxl problem, the Grayscale is accumulating a vast amount of draconic hoard-wealth. Are you going to pursue it?” It surprises some that Grayscale is common knowledge to Zylith.

“We are exploring all possibilities in holy triplicate,” says Araris.

“Indeed.” Zylith gestures towards Araris’ rainments precisely where his talisman might be. “And as servants of Apsu, Abadar and – perhaps others – you are well-resourced to do so. However, I cannot be the first to wonder, and I will not be the last.”

“Zylith!” exclaims Kaledith.

“Oh goodness no, my Lady Sevardomos, um… Lady Laertes?” He glances at Weyland. “We mercane would never extort a client. We manage. Better to say, a partnership with the Nexus Caravan will yield the greatest profit for all involved.”

“An’ what we get outta dee deal?” asks Papa.

Simultaneously, Araris explains, “The firm of Razvimharroc, Septimus and Sevardomos can provide all the…”

“Time.”

Zylith answers and interrupts all at once. “We can give you time. How will this help, you ask? Consider this: What is Apsu’s interest in this displaced hoard-wealth? What of Abadar’s? How about your factions’? I wager several of them are drawing up plans for it even now. It’s an irresistible prize that will gather many in the end, especially if not managed well. Perhaps this has been the Grayscale’s goal all along – an illustrious planar audience! You see, it’s all a matter of time.”

“Zylith, I believe we were speaking of Slate’s whereabouts,” Araris solemnly reminds those gathered. “Do you know how to find either him or the Obelisks of Fortune?”

Everyone watches to see if Zylith feigns ignorance.

“My apologies.” Zylith bows. “Slate is a simple matter. Ask an astral leviathan. It’s whaling season after all. Pods of mothers and their calves will be flying upstream. One is bound to have seen a dimwit like Slate if platinum dragons are as spectacular as you describe. Just steer clear of the Astral Whaler. Nasty poacher, that Astral Whaler…”

Everyone shares knowing looks.

“As for the obelisks, the dragon’s pay us well to manage their secrets. However, as business partners it would be our rightful duty to aid the servants of Apsu in locating them.”

Since the captain is off-duty, Papa gathers the attending officers to discuss options. “She (Gash) tellin’ me dat dee whales can ‘port anywhere dey already been, an dat dey can ‘port to any bein’ dey already seen. Maybe we wake up dee dead one an ask eet ‘bout mistah Slate?”

“Papa, don’t be gross.” Kaledith wrinkles her face. “You said the Astral Whaler is hunting the soulstream opposite this one. Slate must have flown that way. Let’s just ask the leviathans there. We should also partner with Zylith. Weyland agrees. Don’t you dear?”

Papa and Araris share conspiratorial glances of alarm and lost brotherhood. Confused by their eye movements, Weyland says, “Something tells me we already have.”

Araris adds, “This game will never end with the mercane, but better to play it with them than against. Kaledith, would you mind drawing up first papers with Zylith?” She smiles, tugs at her heavy skirts and skitters back to her mentor.

“This is absolutely splendid news Kaledith!” says Zylith with informal candor. “You know, I never did find you a wedding present. Will this suffice? It should make their scouting work a great deal more comfortable.” Beside a hogtied pile of splinters that was the last griffon-tethered dingy rests an elaborately carved chariot. It features pods of astral leviathans following diverging arcs of golden filigree. After a few more provisions are acquired and allocated, the second scouting mission begins.

The caravan and the Maelstrom can no longer be seen in the distance as the scouting party flies down the soulstream toward its last point of convergence. There they will follow the opposite tributary in search of astral leviathans, perchance they have spotted Slate in passing.

Araris has his saddle to himself again – all the better for these high velocity maneuvers. He looks back at the new chariot. Weyland is stoic as usual, but Papa keeps hooting and hollering. These exhilarating speeds (over 200 mph) are seldom experienced so casually.

As predicted, a levithan is soon spotted. It’s game time. Five shulsaga rangers and their astral sharks menace a sow. She is obviously exhausted, wounded and incapable of dimensional travel. Weyland spots a sinister vessel moving further away upstream. They quickly decide Scandrannon will fly into the hunting party at top-speed after Papa and Weyland disembark to slow down and magically enhance.

“Like we discussed,” asserts Araris while the griffon approaches the first ranger with at least some trepidation. “Remember, claws can grow back.” In one moment, the target is a spot in the distance. The next, they are upon it. Razor sharp talons fall across the shulsaga’s neck faster than arrows fly. The force of it snips off his head in surprisingly silent fashion. They bank hard for Araris to fire his shots, but his arrows are dulled by undead flesh. More juju zombies, the lot of them!

Papa decides to decelerate with transferred force rather than astral dancing. His first chain makes a fine mist of another ranger. The tension riddles his arms with tiny bone fractures and strained muscles. It is the first of many legendary and rage-filled exertions he will accomplish in scarcely a minute! He brutally tethers two astral sharks before coming to a full stop. Suspended in a web of chain and corpses, he presents two nearby rangers with an open target. Fully twenty arrows are fired into a mess of displacement and grizzly determination!

Weyland decelerates because it is the rational thing to do. By the time he arrives and rends another shulsaga, the mother leviathan is well on her way in pursuit of the ship. Scandrannon and Papa are covered in bloodless shark gore, and two rangers remain. Araris flies a vector that protects him and his mount from most arrows, though a few find their marks. The very worst is warded off by the Hellknight’s strange talisman. Once everyone is present, the immediate threat is over in seconds. Now for the Astral Whaler.

“MMMyyy chiiiLLLddd!!! I WWWiiilll cruuuSSSHHH yyyoooUUU AAAaaaLLL!!!” she cries out in one telepathical explosion. The mother leviathan cannot catch up to the Astral Whaler, but she still tries. Araris has picked up Papa and Weyland in the chariot. As the team comes near her, dozens of overprotective eyes look their way. She is ready to charge.

How fortunate. She’s as cunning as Scandrannon, thinks Araris. He slows and assumes nonthreatening posture – similar to approaching another rider without causing the horse to bolt (a remarkable trick considering a griffon’s appetite for horse meat). With soothing drawn-out tones, Araris broadcasts, “LLLeeettt UUUsss paaaSSS tttOOO fffiiiGHT theee whaaaLLLEEERRR!”

Surprised and inspired by such eloquent psychic whale-song, she responds with a titanic reverberation off her baleen. It sounds like every octave of a colossal pipe organ’s bass chords all at once. The musical Doppler effect is pronounced as Scandrannon passes reassuringly close to to her. You are now gaining on the Astral Whaler at the griffon’s full speed.

You inspect the ship from a distance while hiding in it’s likely blind spots. Papa and Weyland confer and agree the vessel is made of steel, maybe three decks worth! Such a boat would never float in the water, and no external means of propulsion are evident. The chemical scent of exhaust alerts Weyland to the possibility of an alchemical dragon. If so, it is beyond even material legend, operating with all the advantages of the astral plane.

“Dee rune’s ol’ hut eez always dee ansah fo’ deez kinda tings!” Papa holds Vaghol’s former prison, an adamantine cannonball suspended from his spiked chains. “Boom! Jus’ like dee real ting! Wha’cha tink?”

“An opening surprise hit low on the aft hull,” suggests Weyland. “They will react with the port or starboard harpoon banks.”

Araris adds, “We stagger our speeds. Papa first, then Weyland. Scandrannon and I will hide in the mother leviathan’s silhouette in case the whaler turns in time.”

Everyone is surprised with the alacrity of the plan’s formation, then they realize that everyone present is lawful and un-chaotic for a pleasant change of pace (meta, but hilarious).

Enhanced and loosed from the chariot with speed far greater than terminal velocity, Samdi shoots toward the Astral Whaler. Oh yah, dees gonna hurt, he thinks. His stinging eyes squint against the swell. His cheeks flap rapidly like a bulldog’s jowls.

In stark contrast to the pandemonium of falling, Papa has the strong impression of Gash floating effortlessly beside him. Inside an illusion of sensual calm, she leans in close enough for hot breath to caress his pierced ear. “I’m counting on it,” she sighs.

Woosh – GOOOoooNNNnnnGGGggg! (…The vibration continues for rounds)

The concentrated point of the magic adamantine ball contacts a steel panel of the Astral Whaler, and it bends inward like soft gold. Papa feels a flash of brilliant warmth as his weight compresses into the fresh divot. Rivets pop clear like bullets and welds fail. Time freezes into split seconds of anticipation… Then, a bloody arm raises clear of the impact crater holding the same sturdy siege ammunition. With mythic will, Papa strikes again. He and the panel fall aside.

In response, the Astral Whaler manages a 45-degree turn starboard. Weyland and Araris can see the siege ports opening.

In light of Papa’s success, Weyland is suddenly faced with the need for orderly deceleration. He slows as much as possible with magical flight, but it isn’t enough. He has to use his scythe to hook the new aperture. For the most part, it works. He careens into an interior cabin. Two narrow halls and two mechanical side doors lead into the room. Weyland smells refined oils and carrion. He hears metal-clad marching and rhythmic foundry processes beyond the bulkheads.

The Astral Whaler completes its turn ready to fire upon an enemy craft. The perceptive pilot surveys for a target and grows nervous. All he can see is the distant mother leviathan against the soulstream. And here he had spent critical time readying ten explosive siege harpoons for these intruders. They are already on board! he worries. Araris notices a figure rushing out of an observation deck.

As seen from that very deck, the mother leviathan appears to be sprouting feathers. Then, Scandrannon unfurls his black wings and leaves her shadowy outline. They silently bank for the ship’s brand new entrance before the Astral Whaler abruptly rolls! The world goes sideways for those inside.

Papa and Weyland fly mostly clear, but the turn is disorienting. Neither bothers to correct the astral anomaly as alchemical golems spill through the halls and doorways as if the shift never occurred. Ampules fire into the cabin and break open, bombarding the two with copious amounts of negative energy. Papa grits his teeth. Weyland seems somewhat more comfortable with the life-stealing substances.

Scandrannon rolls to align with the portal as Araris glimpses the melee. The golems in the cramped hallways did not fare well, so his crew-mates now cover the doorways. He dismounts upright into the rear cabin and crosses it in search of the pilot.

Papa is a full-body bruised color beneath a honeycomb of shrapnel, and that was before the negative energy. He tugs a shard of bone in his forearm and wonders if it’s his. There are no more golems behind his door, so he disappears down an empty corridor. “Oh, yah mon! Papa Samdi found dee whale!” he hoots.

Weyland is not so lucky. (Or is he?) At least five alchemical golems had “manned” the harpoons outside his door. Now they’re pushing through like some conga line of death! To make matters worse, they begin arming themselves with the blasted siege works! Weyland determines the best angle for cover, steps into position and begins.

A negative energy bomb is thrown, not launched, at Weyland from the opposite hallway. The pilot! thinks Araris. He sneaks a glance, but the way seems clear. He imbues his vision to see the unseen and proceeds with caution. He soon finds a complicated metal door with no handle or lock of any kind. It leads into the deck’s central room. Araris smiles. He’s getting to use all kinds of neat tricks today.

While cutting the leviathan calf from from its tethers, Samdi recognizes that several sedatives have been used. He thinks as much as sings to the newborn, “Hush baby whale-y don’cha cry, Papa gonna sing ya a lullaby…” Outside, you can hear the mother calling. Once the final tether is cut, the calf reacts and accidentally slams Papa into a huge grate on the floor. He shakes off the black spots in his vision, grins and starts pounding away at the metal.

The negative energy is starting to take its toll, but Weyland swings again. He has the golems positioned in the doorway to risk more of his attacks if they want a two-on-one advantage. He knows it’s difficult for the constructs to decide. It’s certainly a challenge for him to determine or “feel” when the use of Apsu’s power is appropriate. Like now, for instance: Weyland imagines Papa urging him, “Come on Way-land, go all dee fuckin’ way fo’ dee Way-bringah!” He surges, and his scythe cleaves through the glass and iron entirely.

Seen from inside the central compartment, the arc of a magic sword glides through steel. Araris Septimus steps through the broken doorway with a look of impending doom. The invisible pilot is shulsaga, and not a zombie this time. Three out of four mechanical contraptions whirl away as he tends to discolored jets of fire issuing from a fourth. Though panicked, the pilot’s concentration is focused. He quickly abandons his work to use a lifting platform that moves him a deck higher.

BHHHOOOOOOM! The bulkheads begin screaming and howling after something rams the Astral Whaler. Everyone inside takes a rough tumble. Up and down get confusing, but Weyland and Papa resume slaying their respective golems and docking bays. Araris notices that two of the four devices now billow multi-color plumes of smoke! Magic light sources dim and pulse red. A lever allows Araris to use the lifting platform. He now stands across from the pilot on the Astral Whaler’s observation deck.

“Get off my ship, or I will blow us all to the nine hells!” he threatens loudly. His hand squeezes an exotic looking control on the forward console. Golden light from the soulstream shines softly through every portal.

To be continued…

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Nexus of Caravans Part 1
Navigating the astral seas in search of Slate...

Apsu gives you leave of the prismatic anvil, so you make your exit. Outside, two large chests have been delivered to the Maelstrom. One is from Apsu himself. It contains 25,000 gp worth of treasure. For your hoards, it reads. The other chest is attended by a familiar half-copper dragon follower of Master Araris. The firm of Septimus, Sevardomos and Rasvimharroc opened their doors months ago to manage the wealth of chaotic petitioners of Apsu’s Immortal Ambulatory. This is the first chance they’ve had to deliver a payment, which totals another 19,500 gp.

Precious little time is afforded to plan before Apsu hurls the ship through a planar rift. You will enter the astral realm in hot pursuit of the Brightscale, better known as Slate. Atz Crane asks permission to use every dingy stored on the Maelstrom to triangulate expectedly vast distances with a ship-location spell. The captain grants it. Papa conveys information about indigenous lifeforms and theorizes what astral travel will be like.

You expect the ship will immediately fall, hopefully in a controlled manner bound by astrally subjective gravity. Fortunately, the Maelstrom’s elemental spirit hales from the Plane of Air where conditions are similar. This close to an outer plane known as the Boneyard, a convergence of soul-streams flow directly out of the astral realm to form the River Styx. Psychopomps are expected to be a common sight.

Without ceremony, Apsu arrives and assumes a much larger size. He hoists and lobs the Maelstrom into the air. Instead of careening through the sky, you find yourself surrounded by cosmic twilight. The astral soul-stream now quietly rages below the dwarfed hull like a mighty rain-forest river spilling into the delta. Far up the channel, the first vast tributaries are spotted.

Scandrannon’s uncanny speed proves miraculous in the plane’s gravity supported motion, so a smaller party is formed to scout well ahead of the ship. At most, Scandrannon can manage four: two on griffon-back and two in a dingy towed along for Crane’s spell navigation. Boniva commands a spot lashed to Araris’ military saddle. Papa helms supernatural control of the dingy’s cleverly-smithed chain tether. Akane wins a draw for the final seat.

Left or right? An Ember Weaver Psychopomp near the first tributary points the way after Araris describes Slate’s new platinum form. The being also warns of migrating astral leviathans and dangerous shulsaga poachers. Hours later, when the soul-stream diverges yet again, you find out why.

The group matches course with the drifting corpse of an astral leviathan and approaches for a closer look at the alien beast’s impossible crown of jaws and eyes. Amidst a cloud of scavengers, you see the body of a dead shulsaga and astral shark. Boniva and Papa determine that ten evenly-spaced wounds along the whale’s side are the extraction marks of large harpoons, likely from some vessel’s row of gun-ports. Finally, Araris notes that the flesh around the wounds has been harmed by negative energy.

As Papa and Akane’s dingy passes by the corpse’s head, several gigantic eyes abruptly snap open and all hell breaks loose. A ballad of horrible whale-song reverberates off its rotten baleen. Then, the undead hulk impulsively surges forward, smashing the boat and its occupants. It has become a Bakekujira! Stink and vicious parasites engulf the scouting party as the dead ranger and his former companion reanimate. Arrows fly and the captain is bitten by a shark in the astral plane. (There’s a first time for everything!)

Undeterred, Papa tightens his chains, but loses his breakfast. Nearby, Akane can’t help but scream in terror as she wills herself to fall away from the monster. Araris surgically dispatches the ranger while Scandrannon swoops in to snatch the smashed dingy. Last-but-not-least, the captain successfully retrieves Samdi by his chains as they fall-fly towards Ikeda. (This really displeases Papa since he really wanted to retrieve the thing’s tackle for his buddy Weyland. Opportunities like these are few.)

Outclassed in terms of speed, the leviathan closes as much ground as possible before opening its vortex-like maw. Unbelievable supernatural currents threaten to draw everyone in. Let’s switch to slow-motion…

…Akane grabs hold of the tether and it immediately goes taught. Her failing grip descends inch by inch.

…Fastened to the saddle, Boniva strains to hold onto Papa’s chains. His hands begin to burn.

…Scandrannon’s wings beat furiously against the added weight. With legendary effort, Araris pushes the griffon further than ever before.

…Papa falls free. He is crushed in the maw and swallowed. Moments later, terrible chains begin dislodging cadaverous chunks of blubber!

…Akane lets go of the tether, but she reflexively catches the creature’s teeth and hangs on.

…The griffon riders break free. Araris re-kills the astral shark.

… Why not? she thinks. Akane stabs the leviathan, and just like that it the malevolent animating spirit departs.

While everyone is healing, Papa shakes, shimmies and takes on more demure posture. He caresses his cheek with the back of his hand across blood, gastric juices and fetid whale oils. It triggers a wave of shivers, smiles and deep sighs. The awkwardness is unparalleled. Then, from somewhere on “her” person, Papa brandishes a large flaying knife and departs for the leviathan’s nether regions… (The rest is censored for younger readers.)

Araris, Boniva and Akane make it their life’s mission to repair the dingy and NOT acknowledge what Papa is doing. They make respectable progress before he returns with several yards of the most luxurious hide leather known in all the world. No! … in all the planes.

Patched up and ready to go, you proceed down the tributary leading away from further signs of astral poachers. Perhaps this was Slate’s decision as well. Hours pass before another figure is spotted in the distance – a humanoid this time.

He seemed closer at first glance, but that was due to his gargantuan size. Now, the blue-skinned monk flies fists-first toward the scouting party! Neither he nor Araris slow down their collision course. As the game of chicken plays out, Papa tries to recall how Kaledith’s mercane friend usually greeted him.

In the very last moment, Scandrannon and his riders maneuver through the monk’s titanic grasp with an unbelievably sharp upward bank. However, the ramshackle dingy swings too close. The monk catches Papa with a complex body-lock. Immediately, Araris frees the first mate by magically summoning him beside his soaring griffon.

While gesturing ceremonious salutations throughout his neck-breaking trajectory, Papa discovers a half-dozen oversize throwing stars deeply embedded along his back. Looking behind, the monk has vanished. Looking ahead, Scandrannon and the crew have banked again. Why?

A hand fully his own height, encases Papa’s head, arms and torso as he slams into the hold. This monk apparently takes abundant steps. “Hrmmmph, HRMMMMPH!” screams Papa through the muffled grasp. Curious, the giant mercane relaxes.

“Greetings most noble merchant, um… pray thee!” Papa improvises. “Dust thou know-est our really good buddy Zylith? May your abacus, uh… sound like, eh… a woodpecker! You know, ’cuz you use it so much making money all the time…”

(End scene)

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God of the End Part 2
Embellished for greater clarity

Buoyed by Apsu’s Wing, the Maelstrom hovers a safe distance beside a subterranean ruin of the Opalescent Cathedral. You all disembark along with the ominous memitim who has silently observed your actions near the spire. She flutters over to a magic circle, and upon touching down, she vanishes.

“So, did anyone bother to ask her name?” complains Akane “Really? No one? Come on guys!”

Without hesitating, the hellknight and griffon retrieve their petrified companion and leap onto the symbol. “Well, I guess we’ll sort out the details later,” exclaims Papa. He chain-climbs over to the magical gateway and the rest follow.

You find yourselves inside a great hall, vaulted high for the likes of dragons. Like an orderly grove of trees, great columns obscure your view of two great wyrms that cautiously circle an immense prismatic anvil wreathed with crackling energy. This coruscating object is the only source of illumination in the room, causing all shadows to dance. Dust and debris fall in scattered rivulets between aftershocks. The dragons roar, and more is said between them than any comprehend.

With little to no apprehension, Araris and Weyland approach their patron deity. The others hang back to speak with the memitim and to keep their Alcades statue from toppling over.

“That one’s not a dragon is it?” blurts Papa. “He’s that Ballsack… shit… Barzhak the Passage everyone’s talking about.” Samdi winces, half expecting to be smote.

The memitim solemnly answers, “You are correct. Fortunately for you, he is an impartial enforcer for our Lady of Graves and a powerful yamaraj psychopomp. Observe how he keeps Apsu away from his forge. This is truly Pharasma’s domain. The Waybringer will not have his way in her absence.” She points her scythe towards the anvil.

Apsu’s awesome predatory prowl freezes as his servitors approach. Directly across the anvil, Barzahk yawns and rests on his feathered haunches. “Greetings Grulios and Laertes, legends of my own making, sworn to end the Pakthryxl unleashed on mortal dragonkind by the Sept of Grayscale,” says Apsu in noble draconic. “Why are you conspiring over a cursed orb of dragonkind? Must my own champions join Abadar, Pharasma and the growing pantheon who dare to manage a dragon’s struggle without my consent?

“Don’t forget Nethys. We have confirmed his involvement as well.” adds Weyland. Apsu seethes.

Araris intercepts, “First, in response to your greeting and the question you should have asked, we are here in pursuit of Deevdrukifel, also known as Slate.”

Apsu’s great eyes widen. Giant cat-like pupils dilate and fiery retinas draw taught in god-like concentration and rapid awareness. “The River of Souls!” he growls.

“You mean, the Styx?” asks Weyland.

“In part,” replies Apsu. “Souls are mysterious things. (Apsu looks the android up and down.) They are forged, destroyed and conveyed not by gods, but for some greater purpose. Like tributaries, they feed greater bodies across the planes when loosed from mortal status. These are known by many names across the inner spheres – lakes of fire, grand wells, endless seas and rivers of wind. They are the great migratory routes of astral leviathans, and here in the outer worlds, they are the many branches of the River Styx.”

“And these rivers are beyond your senses,” Weyland computes. “That is why Slate, and perhaps the entire gray sept travels them.” Apsu boils.

Araris quickly interrupts again, “To answer your actual questions, we do so conspire with Abadar for the larger goal of ending the Pakthryxl. Your charge remains. We believe that by quelling the draconic quarrel democratically, the grays may be satisfied to end the Pakthryxl.”

“There is no way Apsu will let Ternockifel off the hook that easy,” says Papa. “Right Alcades? Oh, uh… Anyway, there’s only one solution for this kind of thing.” He tightens his chains for a knuckle-cracking effect. “Slate has got to go one way or another.”

“Yeah, well the grays got screwed as I see it,” Akane defends. “They deserve a fair shot after one whole eon of a raw deal. Besides, I have just the right map for this kind of venture. What do you think captain?”

Boniva picks at his teeth and tips his fancy hat towards Apsu. “That the apocalypse is nigh,” he says.

“THE GRAYS WILL FACE JUSTICE!” roars Apsu.

“PHARASMA WILL FREE THE SOULS LOST TO TERNOCKIFEL’S PAKTHRYXL, OR I MUST BEGIN THE FINAL FLIGHT OF DRAGONS! THAT IS WHY I AM HERENOT ONLY AS THE GOD OF DRAGONKIND, BUT AS A GOD OF THE END TIMES. FORGIVE ME GROTEUS.”

“BARZAHK THE PASSAGE, REMOVE YOUR SANCTIONS. ARARIS GRULIOS, RETRIEVE THE ORB AND PLACE IT ON THE ANVIL.”

Akane, Boniva and Papa are suddenly sheltering Alcades’ form as the room shakes and begins to crumble. A portion of wall falls away to reveal the looming face of Groteus. The moon’s orbit actively decays. Barzahk lies down for a nap.

“What in the nine hells!” yells Papa. “So much for stopping the Pakthryxl if the world ends in some dragon war!”

“NO WYRM BURIED IN DRAGONFALL WILL SLEEP DURING THE FINAL FLIGHT! DO NOT IGNORE THE CRIMES OF THE GRAY SEPT. TO ELECT THEIR FATE INVITES THE RAGE OF MY SON. THIS IS THE MADNESS OF THE ORB!”

Dahak is the offspring of Apsu. All gray dragons are the offspring of Daariv’Ux (last platinum mother). Dartakithquent (hatred of the gods) is the offspring of Ternockifel (gray scale) and Annyodask’Kifel (last grey mother)… thinks Weyland as the cosmos begin to unfurl.

The memitim enshrouds Alcades’ protectors with her wings. She says, “As mortals, I presume this is your first apocalypse. Allow me to explain. You see, many gods are gathering in anticipation of the cosmic consequences of Grayscale’s pakthryxl, one of which may become the continuation of a truly ancient feud that has burned entire worlds. Though tragic, Dahak’s curse upon platinum-kind has kept this feud at bay during their stay on Golarion.”

“WHY DO YOU HESITATE?”

“What if this is exactly what Grayscale wants?” asks Weyland.

“Apsu, no one wishes new ignore injustice.” says Araris. “How can all creation ignore what is happening? That is why the gods hold counsel. Don’t expect…”

Weyland unexpectedly interjects, “Apsu, we have reason to believe that Grayscale is terminally aged. Can you divine his fate.” Araris raises a brow.

Distracted by the subject, Apsu reads into Weyland’s question. He says, “Grayscale has evaded me since the Age of Destiny. He grows old the same way he remains captured. That is to say, he doesn’t.”

“Then what about his mate, the last gray mother?”

“Of what interest is it to you starborn?”

Weyland responds, “I can count all of living gray-kind with my hands. You will make these very dragon’s answer for the entire sept’s crimes throughout history. A thorough accounting is in order.” A certain Hellknight nods proud approval.

Following a moment’s reflection across boundaries of the mortal plane, Apsu states,” Grayscale will mourn that she has died after prolonged twilight in the Scar of the Spider. She leaves behind an clutch of cold gray eggs in the care of her surviving daughter.”

Papa approaches. “Hi guys. Not to break the mood or anything, but can somebody fix Alcades? He’s gonna be real pissed that he missed everything.”

“I am really pissed that I missed everything,” grumps Alcades. “Hey, a giant prismatic anvil!” He jumps on it. The yamaraj was really asleep now, so the magical barrier had already subsided.

Apsu breaks a short silence to say, “Very well, carry Abadar’s dragon orb of consent. At least these gray wyrmlings are innocent, if alive. However, if Deevdrukifel (Slate) has indeed passed over the Styx in Pharasma’s Cathedral, he will have entered the astral realm in search of the Obelisks of Fortune. Votes and the orb will not stop him from cursing the primal septs. Go now and stop him once and for all.”

Apsu bites the anvil he would have used to destroy the orb, which causes Alcades to jump out of the way. He leaves behind six teeth as parting gifts. With these, the party may obtain a third mythic rank. The Waybringer also reminds the crew that there is knowledge and power in the obelisks. (There is literally money in the banana stand!)

Everyone recalls their experience with the Obelisks of Destiny. The other obelisks should have similar records. Finding a great wyrm from every sept would be much easier with that kind of information. Also, would writing your names on each obelisk grant further draconic power? Hwuaahhhh?

Then, Apsu opens a rift in the ambulatory to physically throw the Maelstrom (ship) into the Astral Plane.

The end.

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God of the End Part 1
More-or-less what happened...

Planar travelers say Groteus is a god of the end times, that if the grotesque moon were ever to touch the surface of the Boneyard, it would beget apocalyptic cataclysms of cosmic scale. The crew of the Maelstrom has been watching its descent for a week, and Groteus was almost there.

Before mooring in the Axian harbor, the crew saw Apsu’s Immortal Ambulatory floating between Groteus and Pharasma’s towering realm. What were the dragon god’s intentions? Would the moon stop its approach for the Waybringer?

Thunderous collisions, like that of cracking icebergs can be heard far ahead or high above depending on one’s orientation. On the side of Pharasma’s Spire, gravity is subjective to the River Styx which flows naturally instead of cascading like a waterfall. Araris and Scandrannon immediately notice the effect’s ceiling while flying. To those on deck, Axis looms like an impossibly large wall opposite the floating land masses of the ambulatory that spiral like a galaxy silhouetted in the menacing albedo of Groteus.

“The Brightscale approaches,” says an attending psychopomp woman. She is a memitim according to Alcades.

The active crew readies for yet another song-and-dance with Slate, a.k.a. Deevdrukifel, a.k.a. Brightscale, a.k.a. whatever he calls himself these days. It’s obvious Slate has grown. His scales are now so resplendent they are difficult to look upon without squinting. Flying in front of him are five mysterious riders.

“Never heard of anything like them before,” says Alcades, “but the mounts could be dragonkin.” He covers himself with protective magic against fire. Papa hastes whoever is close enough, then he and Akane climb the center mast in preparation.

“Creature, where is your soul?” asks the memitim. “Is it here?” She reaches her scythe point behind Weyland’s neck. He doesn’t interrupt. A well-hidden node reveals an object that causes all of his recent concerns to subside when removed.

Slate’s smiles as his contingent aligns with the Maelstrom. “Why am I not surprised?” he asks rhetorically.

(Normally, all of the truly important questions go unasked during these altercations to maintain a comfortably tenuous relationship. Then, someone inevitably starts the contest anew by overstepping this boundary with an overt challenge meant to test everyone’s veracity. Eventually, Slate departs for the next obelisks, leaving the crew to more pressing matters…)

Alcades lies, “Give me a ride and I’ll come with you this time.”

Slate laughs. Apparently, their old friend had come to love these encounters. With a single flap of his wings he moves far ahead, leaving the riders behind as a distraction. Lanced charges, glaives and gouts of fire are answered with chains, lunges, ripostes and rivers of wind.

True-to-form, the captain keeps an eye on the horizon. Massive debris from Groteus’ planetary collision with the ambulatory now plummets towards the channel. A collision with the ship is inevitable. Boniva watches as Slate maneuvers to avoid the first meteoric rocks. He thinks, ‘If only the ship could fly!”

“Use Apsus Wing!” Araris shouts back, blowing Scandrannon’s cover in Slate’s blindspot.

“Of course!” says the captain. It had been too long since they last visited the ambulatory. He wills it through the ship’s elemental spirit, and magic from the golden placard carries the Maelstrom aloft.

Having leapt bareback onto a flying dragonkin, Akane retracts her final sword-stroke from the slain as the Maelstrom begins hovering over the Styx. Meanwhile, Alcades entertains his whimsy by teleporting in front of Slate along with an unseated rider.

Boniva grips the wheel while commanding the Maelstrom to draw sails. Papa sends his chains to assist. Weyland’s feet begin to slide, but he catches the rail as the ship’s bow points skyward. They are no longer oriented to the Styx.

With an eye on Slate’s trajectory, Boniva struggles to match a proven course through the debris. Then, following a near miss, a boulder breaches the starboard side! “Thank Besmara it didn’t destroy the gliding wing!” exclaims the captain… “THE GLIDING WINGS! UNFURL THE GLIDING WINGS!”

As the Maelstrom ascends with greater control, Akane drinks a flight potion only to realize she can’t catch up. The best she can do is orient below the ship and trust the captain’s navigation to avoid being smashed.

Topside, Alcades drops the teleported rider onto Slate. Obviously exhilarated, Slate breaths awesome prismatic light on both of them. Acid, lightning, and insanity riddle their bodies and minds before they turn to stone.

The next landmass is easily avoided thanks to the gliding wings, but greater control is necessary. A dragon or griffon, this ship is not! Then, a stone the size of a country bluff slams the forward keel, dislodging everyone but Weyland who is absorbed in calculation. Papa falls and fails to grab every rope and rail along the way, but Boniva fairs better dangling off the rear castle. He catches Samdi’s chains, saving the half-orc by his own body piercings. It stings like a dirty stirge. Gash is delighted!

Araris leaves Slate’s air column so Scandrannon can pounce their new witch sculpture. A little bored, Akane notices a beacon of light shining from the ambulatory. Weyland states, “The sails are all wrong for this.”

Boniva, Papa and the Maelstrom work fast reshaping the canvas, trusting the engineer’s unusual direction. First they dodge a lonely plateau, followed by a clod of swampland. It’s working. Suddenly, Slate and Araris vear hard to port, and the captain follows their queue. The last of it looks to be the entire western half of a small island jungle, but the ship can’t get clear!

From below decks, the clarion call of Atz Crane can be heard, “RAZVIMHARROC!”

No, we need Apsu himself, thinks Weyland… “Apsu,” he says with a calm inside voice. The memitim’s cold glare betrays her suspicion.

Far below the action, Akane watches as the beacon of light emits a torrential halo that illuminates the entire sky. For a moment, the captain can see every last piece of the debris field. There is a path, if one dares to tread. He surges forward with Apsu’s power.

To be continued…

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Bounty of the Second Vault Part 2
Hope these help as refreshers...

Captain Boniva arranged docking passes in the Axian naval yards, and at some point he gained an audience with petitioner Vestin of the old Waybringer Crew. (Ed, you have no memory of this.) After seeing to many of the Maelstrom officers’ needs, Captain Modron escorted them to Second Vault 17E where they were to meet the Axiomite and receive a letter from Abadar himself!

Amendment: As it turns out, griffons are one of Abadar’s favorite beasts, and Scandrannon hasn’t been properly advanced and geared up as a cohort this whole time! So, this provided the perfect opportunity. Araris and Scandrannon were approached by a griffon rider and her own cohort – Zilvra the Axiomite and Wuyondra the celestial griffon. Long story short, Scandrannon and Wuyondra agreed to pair bond, charging both Araris and Zilvra with hatchlings to watch over in the near future. Scandrannon came out of the deal decked out in the best Axis has to offer and looking more virile than ever!

Back at Second Vault 17E, Tebrilith Peril disguised herself as Ikeda Akane – an uncharacteristic act of cooperation between the two. Few were aware of the plan’s specifics. With a magic map from the Pirate Queen, the kitsune managed to sneak into the lower holdings with a knock-off tiara. Meanwhile, the rest were introduced to Lorenz Vestin, former servant of Apsu in life and Abadar in death. He answered questions freely:

Lorenz once traveled with Aerodus Pavo, Lini Tacmet and Theodric Camrad on board the Waybringer – a sailing vessel named for their patron, Apsu. They accepted Apsu’s charge at the end of a treasure-hunting expedition that turned out to be a journey to the Obelisks of Fate. In pursuit of Grayscale to end the first Pakthryxl, they were ambushed and defeated by Ezgar in the Spellscar Desert. However, Vestin survived by offering his considerable mercantile talents in the Church of Abadar to establish the new Dread and Infernal Lines with the Grayscale Sept.

A man called old Hoary first tipped Lorenz and company towards treasure and adventure. He was also there when the Church of Abadar discovered Vestin’s crimes months later. The Osprey Piling of the Irespan Bridge of Magnimar contains a secret prison of the church. There, Lorenz was thrown in a cell next to Hoary’s (Lorenz didn’t realize it was Hoary at first). The Pakthryxl came to an end shortly after. The world outside was still shaking from the death of Aroden.

Lorenz grew old and demented from captivity, though he loved staring out his tiny porthole at the ocean and hearing the crashing waves. He vaguely remembers hearing Hoary being brought back to his cell several times, but he never recalls him leaving in the first place.

Everyone’s attention snapped back to the Second Vault as Lorenz produced a sealed letter from Abadar. A synopsis of the letter was…

That the irreconcilable differences between Apsu’s dragonkind and the remaining Grayscale Sept are once again causing major havoc to the planar economy with vast amounts of unexpected hoard wealth. It is forcing Abadar especially, and many other deities besides, to hold council and consider taking direct actions. Before that happens, Abadar would like the present crew to use their audience with the enraged god of dragons to consider a certain orb of dragonkind…

Though the orbs of dragonkind are fiercely hated by all dragons (none more than Apsu!), this orb in particular was designed by Abadar to harbor a contributed portion of will from every draconic sept. The resulting entity, the combined will of dragonkind, could then decree final justice for the grays. Of course, Apsu and a great wyrm from every sept would have to breath on the orb as an act of consent for it to work.

Other details in the letter spell out that a servant of Abadar must attend the orb at all times and that the orb must be contained in a “Third Vault” between breaths of consent.

“Why not simply destroy the grays?” someone asked. The question has been asked many times since Dahak cursed the resplendent platinums long before history was first recorded. Their prolonged misery is like none a species has ever known. It has prompted a creature like Grayscale’s desperate cunning. Even Vestin and Abadar suspect their own involvement was anticipated. Few can claim otherwise.

After Lorenz read the letter out loud a couple more times, Araris invited Vestin aside to talk privately. They discussed his possible station with the church and suitable upgrades to the Maelstrom (ship) and crew equipment for such a task.

In the basement level, Akane avoided magic detection by sliding THE PIRATE QUEEN’S CROWN from its holding with her inanimate balancing pole. Upon deftly sliding its replica back in place the tiara teetered with the slightest jingle. It was enough to alert the inevitables outside. She leaped over and beyond them with uncanny ease only to encounter a locked door. Fortunately, the constructs were no match for her flurry of swashbuckling swordplay.

The entire vault’s ambient light pulsed in alarm. Akane quickly ascended the steps and encountered Captains Modron and Boniva on their way upstairs. Where has the captain been all this time? Largely ignoring the vault alarms, Boniva announced that Slate had been sighted flying up the River Styx!

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Bounty of the Second Vault Part 1
Trying to build back to Brandon's old logs...

Watching Weyland deal with his new emotions helped them pass the time while waiting on Besmara and Akane. Watching Kaledith acknowledge her existing emotions was even better. The two logically concluded that a dance was certainly customary given the situation. Afterwards, she gave him a gift and skirted away with a well-hidden blush. The lacquered box contained an authentic Drumish blackjacket. The guys nudged and winked for Weyland to “reciprocate,” so he made a Knowledge (engineering) check.

Alcades was poking around with the musical conch shell when Akane finally came out of Kaledith’s quarters. The resulting shanty sang, “Leave her, Johnny, leave her.” Akane reported immediately to Captain Samdi in his bilge cabin. Confused, Alcades looked inside Kaledith’s quarters per chance to speak with Besmara, but she was already gone. Instead, there stood a horse-sized bundle wrapped in paper. Alcades opened it without much forethought and uncovered a priceless jade dragon carving!

Kaledith welcomed the distraction and, together with Araris, they froze at the sight of it. Kaledith nearly fainted before yelling for Weyland to secure it immediately! A piece of jade this big doesn’t exist. The workmanship is exquisite. Nations would go to war over something like this. These were her thoughts. When Akane strolled into the room with Papa and saw a contingent of Hellknights and Sailors preparing to move it under Weyland’s command, she lost her six-tailed mind.

Once her voice grew hoarse and she could find no other vocabulary to vent her lifetime of familial rage, Akane listened to Captain Samdi. He agreed that the jade dragon was given to Akane by Besmara to clear her debts with the church of Abadar and the city nation of Goka, Tien Xia. It was off the table as venture capital and stowed safely in the bilge. However, Araris entered it on the ship’s papers. Kaledith felt the statue was worth far more than Akane’s debts and still has a hard time accepting the loss of profit. Of course, there was far more to Akane’s private meeting with Besmara than the jade dragon…

In more than a day’s travel, the Maelstrom (ship) sighted the Axian Line – Ships of the Line providing a border defense for the city plane of Axis. Eager to speak with the Axian naval captains and return the bottled Halcyon, Araris, Atz and Scandrannon flew peacefully to the line’s flagship. He was invited on board to privately debrief with Captain Linear, discussing recent activities near Ssilla’Meshnik’s lighthouse. Suitably impressed by the crew, Captain Linear eventually learned about the lighthouse beacon installed on the Maelstrom (ship). He agreed to summon an Axiomite mage to perfect the beacon and restore the Halcyon post haste.

Papa and the others had little time to plan their next move. Araris would fly back any minute! According to Akane, they failed to truly eliminate the false pirate queen, and Besmara presented her with an opportunity to make good. All they needed to do was swap a special crown in Second Vault 17-E in the city of Axis with a look-alike and one day bring it to Besmara. Akane produced both a special map of the location and the crown’s replica to prove it. The task would be dangerous and illegal in part because of the plane, and in part because of their resident paladin! They tossed out ideas like distracting Araris while exploring a thief-god’s secret passages!

Araris returned to the Maelstrom shortly before a powerful Axiomite mage teleported over to work on the beacon. Together with Alcades and Atz, they fully repaired it and restored the Halcyon. After a long glowing handshake with the mage, Captain Modron of the Halcyon was fully updated on his crew’s hundred year absence while inside the bottle. He even had new orders, the first of which was to escort the Maelstrom (ship) to port. Captain Boniva had somehow already arranged docking passes in Axis. Second, Modron invited the officers to Second Vault 17-E where a member of the Waybringer’s crew would give them a letter from Lord Abadar himself! Third, Captain Modron was ordered to take leave and restore his station.

To be continued…

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Pirate Queen's Parlay
This was a super session...

Some may have noticed the captain thoughtfully scanning the horizon all night after defeating Ssilla’Meshnik. His abrupt absence came as no surprise when everyone woke from rest. Over the course of a few days, the Maelstrom (ship), the Salty Gear and even Quartermaster Septimus were restored to their original forms using the beacon of Ssilla’s lighthouse. It took great ingenuity on the part of Alcades and a new ally, the gnome mage Serucest of the Salty Gear. Despite intense discussion, Captain Boniva’s last standing order to keep the remaining bottled ships stored was honored by First Mate Samdi who stepped up as acting captain.

A week’s passage of strange ecological shifts and lesser protean threats kept the crews on their toes as the Maelstrom (ship) and Salty Gear sailed deeper into the Cerulean Void, Here, Serucest could finally continue her planar pilgrimage. Their friendly escort parted ways near the magically explosive domain of Nethys. A feminine being known as the Arcanothein welcomed her, informing both crews that Nethys was away, attending a divine council on the current state of dragonkind. Alcades turned down the flighty being’s invitation to study in the archives of Nethys and was given a copy of the god’s holy book instead. For their trouble, Serucest bestowed the crew with two pristine wood golems.

Another week in the heart of the Deep Maelstrom saw more quasi-real changes in the environment. The starless skies glimmered with magic ambiance that one could scarcely distinguish from the wind and waves. What appeared to be a distant moon was identified as Groteus, god of the end times.

Then, Redbeard abruptly teleported on board. He tried to hide his surprise over the crew’s success with the lighthouse and asked if it was time to bait the hook for the Pirate Queen’s herald. In the days that followed, the Sideburn joined with the Maelstrom (ship). In what had become a common occurrence, the Inscrutable Destiny was also spotted on the horizon. Finally, the Kelpie’s Wrath appeared. All hung flags of parley.

Araris flew ahead to great the Kelpie’s Wrath and found a familiar face – Captain Balta, now a petitioner in Besmara’s service. Captain Papa positioned the Maelstrom (ship) between the Sideburn and Kelpie’s Wrath, ready to use the diving pearl should the parlay turn violent. Unfortunately, a froth of air bubbles rose from below. Besmara’s sea serpent was here to back up Balta’s bravado. Unexpectedly, Captain Cahol of the Inscrutable Destiny silently appeared on deck. At this point, small tidal waves began rolling in.

Any good graces between crews were lost as threats were made and true intentions were revealed. The parley only seemed to postpone the inevitable, so Cahol recommended a game of Pirate’s Dice to settle matters. If Redbeard won, the Kelpie’s Wrath would turn over it’s plunder. If Balta won, Redbeard would willingly sail away. If Cahol won, he gained the service of a crew member from each ship. And if Samdi won, everyone was free to murder each other AFTER he finished his business with Besmara and AFTER the Maelstrom (ship) and her crew had sailed away. Around this time, soft snow began to fall.

The captains gathered with their cups on the Maelstrom (ship). Having won Kaledith in the last game, Redbeard was confident. With a goddess of luck on his side, Balta was smug. With inscrutable destiny watching over him, Cahol was unconcerned. With Alcades hexing his cup, Papa was… well, still a little nervous! As the waves peaked around 200 feet, keeping the dice from rolling over on the table became a challenge, but not for Papa. Whether calling or called a liar, the final count was often in his favor. With a knowing wink, Cahol conceded that Captain Samdi was clearly the superior dicer. The snow became like a blizzard and slush collected on the water’s surface.

All ships began to descend a new wave of even larger proportion. At it’s crest surmounted a Tien treasure ship, Chelish naval frigate, orc raiding galley, undine nautilus, cruising star hulk or anything else those gathered witnessed to be Besmara’s legendary Seawraith. Balanced on the crow’s nest, a garish woman’s silhouette raised a musket in the shallow albedo of Groteus. The bullet fired like a comet and froze the waves into disintegrating mountains of hollow ice.

Three ships began to slide. Redbeard leaped over the Sideburn’s prow to keep the bulky ship from leaning and rolling into the avalanche. His beard quivered and blossomed into steal tendrils of crab-walking pitons while his own huge stature strained to brace the forward keel. Like Redbeard’s crew, the Maelstrom’s (ship) sailors threw their anchors to port. Weyland hoped their drag would prevent a starboard fall. Likewise, Papa commanded every chain at his disposal. The Maelstrom (ship) risked unfurling her seldom-used gliding wings for the unavoidable plummet. Fairing far worse, the Kelpie’s Wrath immediately toppled towards the Maelstrom (ship). She gouged a sideways roll and her masts swung hard into the new landscape. The long sigh of bending timbers and a buckling explosion of heavy splinters kicked her into energetic bouncing barrel rolls, all of this just below the Maelstrom’s airborne keel!

Alcades was already flying towards the Seawraith, arriving just in time to land before the colossal nautilus shell he saw flew deftly beyond the ice formation. If this was indeed the Pirate Queen, she was tailing the Maelstrom’s descent. The undine inquired what in the nine hells was going on, and she promptly handed him a huge conch shell along with a dastardly knowing smile. Believe it or not, he was silent and waited.

Crazy devil gunners had opened several hatches and dropped all pretenses, opening fire on the now derelict Kelpie’s Wrath. However, that was behind them. The Maelstrom (ship) banked into a great valley formed by a trough in the frozen waves. A few thousand feet and she would clear the ice with room to spare.

Meanwhile, Besmara silently dove the Seawraithe as a shipbreaker seaserpent with eyes the size of wagon wheels silently approached beside them. The Pirate Queen spared Alcades only a moment’s glance while taking a very athletic posture and leaping from the submersed magical habitat of her ship. Recently blessed with a lack of good sense, he joined her. Recently blessed with dragon’s might, he was able to withstand 300 ft. of current! He watched as the beast’s head broke the water’s surface and Besmara climbed to stand atop it. Then, after taking a moment to look presentable, she casually stepped from snout to the aft castle of the gliding Maelstrom (ship) as it touched down.

Most were shocked or dumbfounded by the presence of the sultry goddess. Behind them, ice formations cracked and fell apart like thunderous summer icebergs. So, the Queen gestured at Alcades. He activated the conch shell, bringing forth a sudden sea shanty that few could resist singing and dancing to. Even Besmara took to the jig, exchanging dance partners and sharing private conversations with the officers. This included one flirtatious dance, in which Besmara simultaneously evoked jealously in Kaledith and caused Weyland to burn with new feelings! Once the ice had broken, so-to-speak, and her distractions were all in place, the queen asked Papa for Vaghol (living rune). She bit her lip as he pulled the rune out of his armpit tattoo!

Vaghol whirled around the adamantine cannon ball furiously as Besmara held it in mid air above her palm. She then invited Akane into Kaledith’s extravagant quarters. No one protested or eavesdropped. Few even noticed. She handed Akane a leather map and told her to clear a table. Akane obeyed with a wince and rolled out the parcel, upon which Besmara slammed the cannon ball. Unseen force and divine concentration darkened the room. Vaghol pushed against it, but slowly slid onto the map, becoming a mark of fluttering ink joined with countless others. “There now, go and play with your friends,” she smiled.

Not amused, Akane was sent for cups and rum. As she poured for the goddess, Besmara enticed her, “Thank you Akane. Now, I’m ready to grant your wish…”

END SCENE

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Scenario 3 - The Lethe
Notes from the Infernal Line Arc...

Sessions: A Meloncholic Charter, The Sorrowmaker’s Summons

To leverage Ashen as “ransom” and continue their pursuit of Slate, the crew used the talisman to sail to Dis. Murk provides a suggested map across the Deep Maelstrom that could possibly put them ahead of Slate.

Made friends with Captain Hulihee of the Muttonchop and a contact of Captain Souvarov of the Chinstrap. They are the “Whiskers” of Captain Redbeard’s small fleet.

Preparations were made for the voyage and they used the talisman to sail to the Bolgian shore. There they worked with Souvarov to make it past a naval checkpoint. Redbeard’s devils were not in favor with Hell’s elite.

Suddenly, the officers disappeared and the junior crew is left fending for themselves as events turn sour. They handled themselves well as the chinstrap created an opening.

Meanwhile, the officers found themselves in a cave made of draconic viscera. Occasionally, gore would try assembling into larger forms as they journey through the maze-like galleries. Enough was enough and they smashed through walls to encounter a visage of Dahak himself.

It was discovered that the Ambulatory is in town and Dahak granted favors or curses depending on behavior. He was pleased that the grays were killing dragons and that dragons hated the grays. He could only encourage such behaviors on either side!

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Scenario 2 - Miratanza
Notes from the Infernal Line Arc...

Sessions: Investigating the Regicona, The Binding of House Grulios

Immediately pursued the Emerald Arrow and encountered the Sarglagon, not long after setting sail from Absalom in favorable wind.

Danced around with Captain Marcellano and got the vibe that they were both protecting and preying on the Emerald Arrow.

Dove the ship to investigate further and encountered a real drowning devil. Noticed a great summoning circle on the hull. The crew’s devil’s talisman responded in strange ways.

Several days later the ship was suddenly slammed without warning. Cannons were rolled out, but they fell apart! While dealing with a colossal sea serpent, the crew realized that the ships supplies had been scrambled by gremlins, and their strange bottle of sea serpent bait has been on the menu for days! Distracting the beast was their only chance.

The crew arrived in Westcrown ahead of the Sarglagon and the Emerald Arrow and gained access to the Regicona, a walled island within the city still run by powerful houses. Here they found House Grulios, the Miratanza and the Grulios family warehouses in search of Murk.

Stuck in canals after dark, the crew was forced to fight a pack of Shadowbeasts. The devil’s talisman activated for the first time transporting the wielder to Dis in Hell. It provided an early opportunity to speak with Murk.

Discovered that the Emerald Arrow had somehow arrived ahead of schedule with Captain Marcellano. He is brushed aside while the crew confronted Grohen Grulios and Murk as they awakened the Green Dragon Achiusk of the Emerald Arrow through devil binding.

The Emerald Arrow’s slight crew was destroyed, the binding succeeded, and Achiusk took his rage against the crew to sea. Ashen was kidnapped, which put an end to Murk’s amusement.

A tricksy sea battle against the green dragon and his magic ship ended underwater.

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