The Cabin Sessions

Sessions Index

At the Gates of Ume

This is a summary of action taken via email by various characters and the party in general after they reach the gates of Ume. This is ongoing action.

Rolanesh 29th (sunset)

Five miles away the walls of Ume tower over the desert basin. In the fading light of the setting sun, the banners of the army sitting before the walls hang limp in the still air. A few fires already burn in the encampment, and the sharp-eyed Zeb can see a few patrols wandering around the perimeter.

Fasheen turns and gestures for the party to move back beyond the crest of the hill. He knows too well how easy it is to see someone backlit by the setting sun across the open desert. You move back about 200 yards, and hold a brief discussion. It is too late to ascertain more about the potentially hostile force surrounding Ume now, so you decide to move back and set up camp off the roadway.

You retreat, with Fasheen and Zeb as rearguard, clearing the tracks of your passage as best they can. About a mile beyond the hill, Nasir gestures down a slight gully leading between two rocky slopes (hill would be too strong a word for these small mounds). You follow his lead, and beyond the hills find a somewhat protected niche in the sands. Your camp is a quiet one that night, and the last of the century-old brandy is shared among the group as you discuss your plans for the morrow. The half-dark face of Mios hangs overhead, darkening your thoughts.

To refresh your memory about Ume, the city is basically C shaped, with the open side of the C facing the ocean. Ume stands atop a huge cliff, with massive stone walls surrounding it on all sides. Only a narrow road leads from the docks at the base of the cliff up to the city proper, and siegeworks and fortifications overlook this road at every turn.

On the landward side, the terrain is mostly flat and barren for a good 3-4 miles out. Beyond that the land is a mix of low rocky hills and sandy desert typical of this part of the Burning. There are two gates into Ume on the landward side, one facing directly west (likely the way you would have entered), and one to the SSW. There are few buildings outside the walls of the city, but there are open camps used by the various caravans and tribes that pass through Ume.

Militarily Ume is a tough nut to crack. There are two Imperial Legions plus two legions of Imperial Militia garrisoned in the city (roughly 12,000 men). There are also several civilian groups in the city that add impressively to the city's defensive capabilities - the Tower of the Four and a chapterhouse of the Knights of Trian to name two. The city can be reprovisioned by sea, and the walls are both high and strong.

Typically this time of year there is a lull in trade action. To the south the great grain wains are beginning the long journey northward (the autumn equinox arrives on the 34th), and in a month or so the place will be a hive of activity. Most of the folk associated with the caravans are also south, looking for work.

Quaso 29th (late night) / Quaso 30th (early morning)

Mios is just beginning to set when Benik and Bo are disturbed by something while on guard duty. At first they can't quite place what it is, but then they realize it is the faint flickering of light upon the eastern horizon. They watch for a while, wondering. As they stand silently in the night, a faint *whump* sounds across desert. A pause, then the sound repeats. It almost seems as if the sound is in time with the flickering on the horizon.

Benik and Bo decide that something bad is probably happening near Ume, but that there's not much they can do about it. They maintain an uneasy watch and pass the word to the next shift when they go off duty.

Quaso 30th (first light)

As Bo rises early to cast reflecting pool, he stops short, realizing he won't be able to use that particular spell. There aren't too many naturally occuring pools in the Burning. Doh.

The group is correct in their assumption about Se'la. The hawk generally keeps within a mile or so, and beyond that contact fades. Flying at great altitude the beast can just see the walls of Ume to the east and the tents nearby. Nasir settles for keeping Se'la airborne near the party, as usual.

The party decides to be cautious, especially after the strange lights and sounds of last night. Zippy and Fasheen stake out the likely approaches to camp while Thyme flies off towards Ume. It is just after dawn, and Thyme says "I'll be right back." as he flies off, his passage marked by a swirl of sand. You think it will take Thyme about 2 hours of flying to reach the walls, circle and return.

Thyme's Story

Apparently Thyme is lucky and makes it back:

Upon landing, he makes himself visible, and walks up to Benik and Fasheen who are arguing over eating horseflesh.

"Gentlemen, I am back, but before I relay my report I want you both to do something for me. The next time I even suggest flying off or otherwise going off by myself, hit me!" He looks at Benik, "Not too hard mind you..."

Thyme then asks about Bo's scrying (as per previous email) and suggests that they might try scrying from the sea. As he sees Benik getting ready to strike him, he says, "I said go off by myself! Not hit me whenever you feel like it." Benik smiles and lowers his fist. "Just reminding you."

Thyme then asks if there is any food cooked, and for some water. He sits near the fire (Or firepit, if the fire is out.) and as the group gathers around him, he begins his tale:

"I went and scouted about Ume. First I went in towards the army, then the city, then back around the army."

"As I approached the city, it was clear to me that the force outside was hostile. There are markings of a battle on the walls of Ume, and other such signs." He hunkers down and traces an outline in the sand (and it's good, since he has drawing as a skill. (See attached map, thoughtfully provided by Mark, master of the Universe, Thomas.

"All along the primeter of the city and the encircled camp are strange pylons." (He looks at Zeb) "Big Pillars of stone set upright in the sand. Atop each is a weird object that I didn't get close enough to determine what it was. These Pylons are clearly magical wards of some type. They appear, based upon their proximity to each other and the city, and upon my own manner of testing, to have a sensing range of approxomately 400 yards. When triggered, there is a buildup of magical energies which also triggers the next pylon in the series and so on, but only for a limited distance. I think about 4 or so in line to either side of the pylon I set off... errr... tested."

"When the pylons are set off, they release a discharge of Blue and purple lightning, which goes off in all directions. Clearly not an aimed attack, this discharge is designed to cover an area of effect and prevent mass charges or spys from gaining ground on the camp without warning, or damage. The range of the lightning seems to be similar to that of the sensing magic, although I was busy flying away to state that with confidence. Umm... I mean, I would need further testing to verify the accuracy of that last statement."

(Thyme raises a finger) "ONE MORE THING... Though the discharge did seem to be electrical in nature, it was clearly levels beyond what my own lightning bolts are capable of. I suspect that had I been hit with a bolt, I would not have been able to return. And I fear that protections against electricity may prove less than fully effective against this magic."

"Ume itself seems to have some excellent magical wards. The Lightning that shot out towards the wall, was dissapated, and the pylons themselves have been raised at a similar distance from the walls of Ume, so I suspect that Ume has similar destructive barriers also purple in magical radiance. I wonder if the nature of magic lends itself to the color purple, or if perhaps the color itelf has an intrinsic effect on permenant magics. Perhaps it is simply out eyes that interpret the color, and there really is no purple at all. I must say that the overall aspect of this is fascinating... One wonders how the army was able to raise the pylons around Ume without suffering the wrath of the inhabitants... I mean I suppose they could have ug their way underneat, or teleported them there, but the..."

Fasheen Nudges Thyme... "What about the Army?"

"Oh yes, the Army. Well now that's an interesting facet in itself. It appears that our friends the Orcs have risen from their holes. There are a large number of orcs. I would guess (Mark please help me out here.). There are the usual accompanying lesser races of Trolls and Giants, but it is clear that the majority of the forces are orcs."

Zippy sighs.

Thyme nods at him. "My thoughts exactly Zippy. Sure orcs can muster an army and possibly even put themselves together enough to allow for an assault of this magnitude, but where do they get the magic. Of course I am not expert in Orc lore, but I do recall the great sage Zerenphys once writing that Orc magic tends towards a more shamanic bent. The worship of their dark dieties rather than the development of personal power. (Zeb pokes Thyme with his spear.)"

"Ouch! hey..." (Thyme looks around.) "I was off topic again wasn't I? Sorry. Anyway, there is clearly another group leading the orcs. Now what I actually saw was one section of the camp contained tents of a different style, low, conical tents made of what appears to be silk. There were only a few Orc guards in this section, and almost no activity. During my testing of the Pylons, I saw a solitary figure step out of one of those conical silk tents. It appeared to be humans sized, and is swathed from head to foot in dark robes."

"Now, my supposition is that this is a dark elf. When it emerged from the tent it obtained a silvery staff, which it appeared to use to "recharge" the pylons I had discharged."

"Ume itself is surrounded by these pylons, and the Army. On the waterside, there are no ships entering or leaving port, which is unusual."

Thyme sits back and waits for questions, eating a little bread and having some water.

What really happened

What really happened to Thyme on his city scouting flight...

OK, you circle the city at about half a mile, studying the walls. Even at this distance it is obvious the forces outside the walls are hostile. You can see scorch marks on the walls and a couple of spots where the stones have been struck a heavy blow. You also note a series of strange pylons spaced around the city walls at a distance of 400 yards or so. Each appears to be a stone pillar or shaft surmounted by an object you can't really make out. You also note a series of silvery seals on the walls of Ume, one on each tower (20 or so), and two or three on each section of wall (another 40 or 50). Each seal glows with a lambent purple sheen. Funny you never noticed them before.

Atop the walls you see figures walking behind the merlons and the arms of a catapult or two jut over the larger towers.

When you reach a point opposite the encampment, your heart sinks. You can clearly see the visible inhabitants are not humans. For the most part they appear to be Orcs, with a troll or giant scattered in the mix here and there. There is little activity in camp, and most of the creatures are under broad, low open-sided tents, no doubt to reduce their exposure to the merciless sun.

The camp stretches for nearly a half mile along the southern roadway, coming within about 500 yards of the wall at it's nearest point. You note with interest the line of pylons circles the entire edge of the camp, at a distance of about 400 yards, enclosing both the city and the camp. You maintain a distance of about 400 yards from the pylons. As you circle, you note with interest that one section of the camp contains tents of a different style, low, conical tents made of what appears to be silk. There is little movement in this section of the camp, only a few Orc guards on patrol.

You continue your circuit, and head out towards the ocean. The line of pylons ends at the top of the cliff, and you see no sign of hostile shipping in the waters below. In fact you see no ships at all, a very unusual state for Ume.

As you turn the corner to fly up along the coastal side of the city you realize you have strayed a bit close to the walls and the last pylon in the line. Just as you turn away you hear a low crackling sound begin. You fly directly away in a straight line, as behind you the crackling builds. You realize you don't know much about wards and permanent enchantments at all, and hope you reach a safe distance before whatever it is that's about to happen happens.

As you fly away from the now glowing pylon, you feel the energies building up in the air all around you. You see the next pylon in line is also sparking and beginning to glow. Abruptly a mass of blue and purple lightnings discharge from the nearest pillar, spreading in all directions, including straight for you!

You can feel the hair standing up on your arms, and your clothing actually seems to crackle with energy, but the glowing bolts of energy fall short, the last one discharging with a massive CRACK! about 50 yards behind you. As you watch the fireworks, you notice the bolts that discharged towards the walls all seemed to stop short of the walls, and that the plaques on the walls nearby are glowing more brightly than the rest.

Meanwhile back at the enemy camp, several alarms are sounding and a group of thirty or so orcs is forming up at the near edge of the camp. You also see a solitary figure step out of one of those conical silk tents. It appears to be humans sized, and is swathed from head to foot in dark robes. It moves off towards a second, smaller tent and enters. You are just about to leave and head back to make your report when the same (?) figure exits the small tent and moves towards the line of pylons near the camp. You note it is carrying a silvery staff. It moves to within 50 yards of the nearest pylon and stops, planting the staff in front of it. You can't really see what it is doing, but the nearby pylon begins to glow, this time with a greenish light. The light slowly builds, forming a glowing green globule above the pylon. With an abrupt gesture the figure raises the staff and points it along the line towards the pylon you discharged. The green globule swirls in place for a moment, then shoots along the line to the next pylon. From there it hops to the next, and so on. It reaches the discharged pylon and seems to settle into the object on top, slowly fading as it sinks into the object.

The figure watches, then, apparently satisfied, makes its way back to the small tent. It exits a short time later, no staff, then heads off towards its original tent.

The group of orcs is now making its way along the line of pylons towards the one that discharged. Oddly enough they don't seem to concerned. They pass within 50 yards of the pillars. You move back as they approach, and watch as they sweep the area near the pylon, obviously looking for signs of passage. They are much more diligent outside the line than in, and are careful to stay outside a 350 yard perimeter of the walls.

Satisfied, they head back to their camp, as do you.

The party spends the rest of the day in debate. In passing they ask about various nearby sources of help and get some information on Crossing Way (a free city far to the WSW), and South End, the northernmost city of the Eastern Kingdoms that lies almost directly south of Ume. They also hear...

Certainly Zippy, Fasheen and Nasir have been to Crossing Way. Thyme probably passed through South End on his way to Ume. Both are small cities with but minor fortifications. Crossing Way is a primary gathering point for caravans from the Empire headed north to the Compact. It is very likely there are large numbers of Sobar in that area now, including most of Fasheen's/Nasir's tribe.

South End is more of a seaport, and trade goods flowing out of the Eastern Kingdoms (lots of timber and farm products) start their trip northward to the Compact or westward into the Empire from here. Ships that make the great crossing to the eastern continent and back end their circuit here, as the great western current reaches the coast, then turns north here. Like most Eastern Kingdom cities, South End is a seperate city state, ruled by local nobility.

Ume was founded in 497 YOE. It was built over the ruins of an ancient coastal fortress that guarded the way up the Great Stair. The fortress was originally built by the Southern Realms (as the Human kingdoms were known back then), but changed hands several times during the Second Age, at times forces of the Night King, the Dwarves, and the Humans all held it. No mention of secret tunnels or passages in your history lessons.

The party also asks about auguries and tries to discover if a hostile mage could detect the source of an augury. Thyme quickly confirms this, and Nasir silently says "D'oh" when he realizes his earlier Commune with Nature may have been detected.

Several party members asked for a refresher on the whole reason for getting the Eye. This is what they heard:

The Eye was going to be used with a piece of the original material used to forge Oslan, the sword Shantu used to slay the Night King. Legend says Oslan was forged from a piece of Somai's blade, Yeoril. Yeoril broke when Somai fought and defeated Mios for control of the daylight skies. The shards fell to Eria and caused great burning wounds. Somai saw the damage done and fashioned the hilts of Yeoril into four figures. These he gave life and set to work repairing the harm to Eria. They became the first Dwarves and Gnomes.

Using the Eye and the shard, the Tower mages believe they can discover the location of Oslan.

Bo and Thyme ask about tides and time and hear:

To clarify some background info: Certainly the tides are huge. Certainly they cover, even submerge the base of the cliff, but they also retreat over a mile from the cliffs when low. Anyone who's been to Ume (or any coastal region for that matter) will know there are tidal pools to be found all over, in fact in Ume there are parties of people that go out to scour the flats for trapped seafood and scavenge for interesting items washed up by the sea.

Being a priest of Seshai, Bo would certainly have a working knowledge of the tides and be able to predict, with reasonable certainty, when a low tide will occur. Tide durations are much more variable than Earth's 2 high 2 low cycle due to multiple moons, but they're still predictable.

About this time the party notices the skies to the west are darkening, as if a storm is approaching. Though not unknown, storms in the Burning are both rare and violent, involving large amounts of wind and sand. The party realizes they need to take cover. Fast.

Quaso 30 (afternoon)

Fasheen, Zippy and Nasir agree that the party's current location is the best they can think of within an hour's ride. It's not bad, with sheltering ravine walls NE and SW. Thyme casts protective shelters, and the party moves themselves and the animals within.

Meanwhile, to the west, the sky grows darker. Much darker. The longer you watch the more the desert-wise among you are puzzled. Usually sandstorms come in low and fast, obscuring everything in sight. This one seems to be almost hovering on the horizon, waiting for something. Distant rumbles are evident to all now, and even an occasional flash of lightning can be seen.

The group estimates they have a couple hours still before the storm hits. Curiosity gets the better of Thyme and Zeb, and they decide to take a look at the enemy one last time. They fly off, and as they reach the ridge that gives the first view of the camp, Zeb prepares his hawk-vision.

What he sees chills him. In the center of the Orcish section of the camp, one of the tents has been removed, and a great diagram has been inscribed upon the sand within a 30 foot wide circle. Four Orcish shamen stand at the north, south, east and west points of the circle, while at the center stands a massive Troll-like creature, leaning on a huge gnarled staff topped with the skull of some foul beast. As the pair watch, the troll-thing raises the staff on high, then brings it down forcefully against the ground. The four Orcish shamen emulate his behavior, and a few seconds later, a distant rumble of thunder rolls over the pair.

Thyme says "Oh shit."

The pair fly back as quickly as possible, informing the group of what they've seen. As they reach the camp, the storm front closes in, and they have barely enough time to dive into the shelter before the winds begin to howl around the walls.

Quickly the storm mounts in intensity. The wind swirls in through the closed shutters and the camels complain loudly in the next hut. The group can almost hear the sand eating away at the walls of the hut. Suddenly a deafening CRACK sounds directly overhead, and a spray of debris crashes down the chimney of the hut. Another CRACK and and the sound of falling stone comes from the animal's hut. The camels go wild as sand begins to spray into their hut through a gaping hole in the roof. Benik, Zippy and Fasheen rush over to try and calm things down, while Nasir and Nyota try and cover the hole with a tent.

CRACK! A bolt breaks through the roof of the party's hut, and more dust and sand swirls into the room. You are coughing now, and can barely see through the clouds of dust. Desperately you try and close the holes forming in your once secure shelter, but to no avail. CRACK! Most of the southern wall collapses into ruin. The animals begin to scatter, and a huge bolt, CRACK, cuts down a camel as it staggers down the ravine's floor. It falls motionless, and a faint wiff of roasted meat reaches you.

The walls of the shelter visibly melt beneath the force of the wind and sand, and as one the party realizes they need to forget the animals and worry about themselves. They gather beneath the lee of the nearest ravine wall, behind the remains of the last standing hut wall. They huddle together beneath the ragged remains of a tent, the only thing not torn away by the wind.


There is a blinding flash of brilliant blue-white light...

[to be continued]

Quaso 29th (first light)

The party rises early, preparing for a long day's journey. Fasheen thinks you will reach the walls of Ume by nightfall if you push hard today. You set off quickly, and the entire group seems on edge, but it's not until Nasir mentions having an odd dream about an attack on Ume that you realize why.

As you ride you compare notes and quickly discover everyone had the same dream, right down to it's uncomfortable conclusion. You resolve to reach Ume today at all costs, but to approach cautiously in case the dream is more than just a dream.

About midday Nasir calls out to Fasheen and points off to the side of the path, then rides off in the same direction. He stops about 75 yards from the blazed trail and dismounts. Fasheen follows him over, and the group follows. They arrive to find Nasir kneeling before a tiny pine tree, no more than a foot high.

"It is Segala's Tree," says Nasir "a good sign." He glances at Fasheen and says "We must follow the rites." Fasheen nods and turns to his camel, pulling out his full water bottle while Nasir pulls out some of the dried camel dung you usually use for firewood. The pair kneel before the tree and Nasir begins to chant softly in his native tongue as he carefully buries the dung around the tree's base. Fasheen unstoppers the water bottle and slowly pours it around the tree's roots. Nasir continues to chant for a moment, then falls silent. The pair pause for a moment in silent reflection, then rise and slap each other on the back cheerfully, smiling. It's probably the happiest anyone has seen the normally stoic pair in days.

They return to the group and after everyone grabs a quick bite to eat, the party continues on their way. As you ride, Nasir tells the group that Segala's Tree is a great sign of good luck, and seeing one foretells the end of the Burning and the return of the natural order of things.

Cheered, though still on edge, the party rides on, it is late evening when they reach the last rise that will give the group their first sight of Ume. The group dismounts and Fasheen, Zeb, and Zippy move forward to the crest. They peer over the ridge and see the walls of Ume in the distance, red in the light of the setting sun.

No army. No glowing pylons. No destruction on the walls.

The only sign of activity around the city is a small group moving around the road that circles the city walls, likely a Militia patrol. There is a small encampment near the south-west gate, about where the Sobar tribes generally settle when passing by Ume.

Quaso 29th (nightfall)

The party realizes they won't reach Ume before full night falls and the gates are locked. They decide to pull off the road a ways and camp. As the rest of the group makes camp and checks on the Eye (still there), Zeb keeps watch while Bo casts an augury:

Will entering Ume at this time and place be for the good of our party and our people?

The response:

The powers that be await your arrival.

You settle in for a night's rest, puzzled (as usual) by the portents. Bo and Thyme spend a fair amount of time observing the stars and moons as they wheel across the sky, trading off the watches so they can get a good night's observations.

Quaso 30th (first light)

You awaken to a bright-hot morning. As the sun rises, Bo and Thyme complete their discussion and conclude it is, in fact the 30th of Quaso. You eat a light meal and Thyme prepares himself for the flight to Ume. After breakfast the rest of the party settles in to wait while Thyme flies off...

GM note: The following is the result of Thyme's adventure relayed to the party after they all got back together. It actually comprised several messages, thus the odd breaks in the action.

You fly towards Ume, invisible and as you get close, with protection from normal missiles on. As you reach the road the rings the city, you can see signs of life in the (now obviously) Sobar camp near the south-west gate. A uniformed Militia patrol is making its way around the ring road, and both near gates are open. In fact there is a small group headed out of the south-west gate and down the southern road as you watch.

Of the pylons, orcish camp, or wards on the walls, there is no sign. No damage to the walls is evident, and there is no sign of trouble within as you soar high over the city...

You've been flying for about an hour and 20 minutes now.

You land outside the gates and off the roadway, no problems. As you recast your spell you note the guards on duty are in the typical Militia tabards and are paying a typical level of attention, that is to say only marginal. You cast your wizard eye and send it towards the gates, but as it approaches you notice a sudden glitter above the gate entrance -- just a shimmer of pale purple light. Funny you never noticed that plaque there. You withdraw the eye and the plaque fades away to obscurity, covered with dust and grime.

You back your wizard eye off, and as you do, the plaque and light fade to nothing. No sign of the ward remains.

You ponder for a moment, them fly a distance away, out of sight of the gate, and become visible. You feel things are relatively safe, so you approach the gate. You are stopped by a pair of guardsmen. The taller of the pair asks to see your papers. Not being a citizen of the Empire, you have none, so they call to their leader, who approaches and first tells you the entry fee is 5 silver for non-citizens, which you pay, then begins asking you questions about your business. He's just gotten past the who are you, where have you come from phase, when a voice calls out from the pavillion erected at the base of the gate tower. "Captain, I believe that will be enough." A slender figure seems to coalese out of the shadows, and moves towards you soundlessly.

The captain turns and stares for a moment, then frowns and shrugs. "As you will, take him." With a wave of his hand, he turns back to the pavillion and the desk there, while the two guardsmen turn back to the gate and the cart slowly making it's way out.

You frown for a moment, puzzled, then abruptly you realize who this is. The woman who attended your group's departure meeting and provided the map! She gestures for you to follow and begins walking into the city proper...

Thyme bows and says "My thanks, m'lady for your timely rescue from the perils of beauracracy." The woman nods, then immediately turns and heads off down the crowded street.

As you quickly step up beside her and you make your way down the street, you ask "Where exactly are we going?" She glances up at you (she is rather small and petite), and says "I assume you wish to reach the Tower of the Four. This is a shortcut." Silently she turns down an alleyway, then lithely drops down into a low arched stairway. She opens the door, steps half-way through, then gazes up at you, one eyebrow raised...

"Ah, Dear lady..." Thyme looks about for the thieves hidden all about him. (Seriously) "whilst I am most appreciative of your efforts to guide me on an expeditious route to the tower, I am distressed that you would deny me the pleasure of your company and conversation for the short time it takes to walk through the streets to the tower. It being right over there..." Thyme waves a hand at the tower. (I assume it is one of if not the tallest structure, and can be seen throughtout the city.)

She sighs, then closes the door and leaps lightly back up to the street. "I suppose if we must..."

There is a lull as you make your way back onto a more major roadway. You make some small talk, and manage to discover the woman's name is Mutai. As you turn the corner to a small market, she quietly asks "So where are the rest of you, waiting outside somewhere?" She glances up at you, and continues "Probably wise, I can only hope you achieved your goal. Things are getting... interesting." Abruptly she turns to the street stall on your right and gestures at a pile of pastries behind the counter, raising 3 fingers. The stallkeeper turns to retrieve them, and as he does the woman hisses in your ear "Beware what you say at the Tower. There is a traitor in their midst. We do not yet know who, but we are sure it is someone of rank. Seek Kesmin's Inn when you are free."

She pays for the pastries and offers you one. They are in the Mondarian style, and delicious after so many days of trail food. As you take your second bite, a hand falls on your shoulder, you hear a voice from behind you. "Tianama, I see you have finally decided to return. I hope your trip went well?" You turn and face Master Sindal, standing behind you with a half-smile playing about his lips.

"mmm..Master Sindal," Thyme splutters trying to finish his patry and get out a proper greeting at the same time. He takes the opportunity to bow, using the time to swallow, and notice that his lady friend has wandered off. Why do they keep doing that?

"Magister, I am returned from our mission, I regret the delay, but we decided to take some time to more effectively equip ourselves at Seaside before the journey south. I hope our delay has not inconvenienced you or the others."

"I was just on my way to the tower, sir." He blushes and wipes off the frosting from the pastry from his lips. "I have many things to discuss with you and the others, some of greater import than others. But my fellow await my return to say that all is well. Perhaps we should dispatch a guard to welcome them home?"

He looks at you for a moment, a bit foggily, then waves a hand. "Of course we will. Once we get to the Tower, we'll straighten all that out. Now, come! Let's get moving if you're quite done." You realize you're still holding a half-eaten pastry in one hand. Hastily you rewrap it and drop it into your pouch (it was very good), then trot to catch up to master Sindal.

You begin to say something, but he waves you to silence. "Later, when we are safe from prying eyes and ears."

As you walk along, you grow a bit puzzled. It seems Sindal is taking a rather winding path to the Tower. You are no expert on the city, but you think he is taking quite possibly the longest route possible. You are about to speak, when you think the better of it. You wonder if perhaps you should have followed Mutai's shortcut instead of this winding path.

You round the last corner and there before you stands the Tower, cloaked in shadow and fog as always. As you approach the gate, you hear the clank of iron from across the square, and notice a platoon of imperial Legionnaires entering the gate, lead by a mounted officer, and another mounted figure in the familiar garb of a Knight of Trian. Just before you reach the gate, the familiar, harsh voice of Captain Migan Kesmin cries out "Tianama Kishawa! By order of the Price of Ume I place you under arrest!"

You stop, stunned, as the troopers march towards you.

As the guards cautiously circle you and the two riders move forward, you realized you don't recognize the Knight of Trian, but it is clearly Kesmin. At your side Sindal splutters for a moment, then says "Captain! This man is a student of the Tower and but recently arrived in the city! I will personally vouch for his presence here." To you, "Come Thyme," and he gestures towards the gate.

With amazing speed Kesmin slithers from her horse, dropping to the ground in front of Sindal. "Master Sindal, I understand your concern, but I have my orders. This man is wanted on a warrant from the Prince himself." Her right hand drops the the hilts of her sword sheathed at her side, dripping greenish light as always. "I respect your position and the Tower, but I will" she raises her left hand slightly, and from all around you hear hands strike hilts, "take this man into custody."

As the pair face off, you're not quite sure who looks more dangerous. Sindal is obviously very upset, but Migan is just staring at him with her icy green eyes. You never noticed before that her eyes match the greenish light flowing from her blade. Damn she's muscular.

As you look at the guardsmen encircling your group you realize they're a nasty looking lot. Certainly several cuts above the average Militia guard. They each wear the uniform of the Imperial legion, but you note the sigil of the Prince himself on their uniforms as well. None of them has so much as moved since Kesmin raised her hand.

The silence continues and you feel the tension grow. Just as the silence grows intolerable, the mounted knight speaks. "Master Sindal." Sindal blinks and turns towards the knight.

"Master Sindal, you know who I am, do you not?"

Sindal nods "Of course."

The knight continues "I give you my word that I will watch over this man until this matter is resolved. He will not be harmed, and I will see that he is well treated. Is that sufficient to lay your fears to rest?"

Sindal frowns for a moment, then sighs. "I suppose so Sir Nomin." He turns to you. "Tianama, I'm not sure what this is about, but rest assured, I will give it my" he glares for a moment at Kesmin, "and the Tower's full attention."

Seeing Sindal give in you elect to go along with the arrest. The guardsmen search you and remove your dagger, though they do not bind your hands or take your pastry. You are then marched off in a loose formation. Though you have plenty of space to walk, you don't see any way you could take off, on foot at least.

As you turn the corner away from the square, you glance back and see Sindal watching. He sees your look and raises his hand, then turns and enters the Tower. As your lose sight of the Tower the troops around you let out a collective sigh. One of the men, a sergeant by his uniform turns to Kesmin, who is walking her horse now, and says "Captain, next time you say you need to make a quiet arrest, mayhap you should warn us before you have us draw down on a Tower mage." he laughs a shaky laugh. "Still, guess the show was worth the price, eh lads?" There is a murmur of agreement from the men around you, though you note not a few with sweat on their brow, and not from the heat either.

The group makes it's way to the Inner Gate Tower, and you are led into an inner chamber with a stout door. Along the way most of the guards drop off at the barracks, and when you reach the room, only you, Kesmin the knight of Trian and two guards remain. You all enter the room and the two guards take up station outside. Kesmin closes the door, then turns and glares at you. You nearly leap out of your skin when a voice speaks from behind you "The next time someone provides you with a shortcut, perhaps you should take it."

You spin about and Mutai is sitting in the corner on a low chair. You look from her, back to the glaring Migan, then to the knight, who gazes at you impassively. Finally Kesmin mutters something beneath her breath and waves her hand in dismissal. "Well, he's here now, and after that show, everyone in the Tower knows it too. Nothing to do for it now." Turning to you she continues. "Where are the rest of your group? Maybe we can arrange to get them here a bit more quietly."

Thyme begins, "Madame, had I realized you desired my presence this badly, I certainly would have brought flowers and cleaned up." (At some point can we talk about cantrips, it would be great to get a couple little effects that I could use here and there.)

Thyme holds up a hand to forestall the angry glares and comments that seem to be the natural reaction to his attempts at wit. He stands up and assumes a serious demeanor.

"I apologize. (Nodding specifically to Mutai.) My party and I have been though a number of harrowing experiences lately, not the least of which resulted in my own untimely demise and the wrenching of my soul back into this plane of existence. It has left me... a bit out of sorts. I assume from these most recent turn of events that the Tower is compromised by the shapeshifters. (If he gets looks of "What shapeshifters?" he will do a Spock eyebrow and say, "Oh, so we DON'T know everything! Well, then perhaps I can be forgiven for my ignorance at the gate.") If not, moving on:

"My companions await us at (describe location). We have the eye and await instructions for bringing it back to the city. We recently had a group premonition/dream about a siege and destruction of Ume, which I will go into detail later. We have determined the existence of shapeshifters, and nearly lost the eye in the process. We also were required to banish a Mithos during our return trip here. I will be happy to elaborate on any of these topics, but as you have pointed out, I have made our return here public, and have tipped our hand a bit. So it may be best to gather my companions first."

Kesmin nods and speaks. "That should be our first order of business." She turns to Mutai, "Mutai, perhaps you could find Ne-fu and An-mai and find the rest of the strays and bring them here?" she glances at you, "Hopefully without creating a stir." Next she turns to the Knight Nomin. "As to your oath concerning protecting Tianama while he is under arrest," she pulls a parchment from her belt and tosses it into the low-burning fireplace "well, he is no longer under arrest. Apparently this has all been some sort of misunderstanding."

Nomin nods and says "In that case, I have duties to attend. You know where to find me should you need me. Shall we meet here at dusk?" Kesmin nods, and after a few words of parting, Nomin leaves. Mutai is also gone, though damned if you can figure out how she left.

Kesmin turns to you and says "This wing of the tower is manned by my men. There is a kitchen and baths down there stairs at the end of the corridor. Make yourself comfortable. We will meet again at dusk. I have duties to attend to as well."

You bathe and wash, then make your way into the kitchen. You're surprised to find a pair of cooks on duty, just setting out a large meal (it is just after noon). Several guardsmen are going in and out of the kitchen, grabbing sandwiches and such. Obviously the duty watch grabbing their ration for the day. You decide to fix a plate and return to the lounge (conference room? waiting room? holding room?) you first met the others in. You're left alone for the most part, the guards give you a nod or a greeting as they pass.

GM note: Meanwhile, back at camp...

Quaso 30 (early afternoon)

Thyme has been gone for about 5 hours now, and you're growing concerned about his whereabouts. After a light meal at noon you begin to discuss your options. You are about to decide what to do, when you realize there's someone standing about 20 feet from your group, leaning against the ravine wall.

As one you all leap to your feet, and pull weapons. Benik, Zippy and Bo face the woman (a slight Vichese), while the rest of the group scans the rest of the area. Fasheen's jaw drops when he spots two more figures standing at the far end of the ravine, by all appearances a Sobar couple.

As the woman speaks Zippy gets the distinct impression he's seen her before. She says "Well, it only took you five minutes to realize you were being watched. Better than last time." She eyes the group and their weaponry then continues "If you're not going to use those then perhaps we can return to Ume now? It's been a long walk out here, and we need to get back before the gates are closed. I hope you've brought my map back." She glances at Zeb and Nyota, then looks at Fasheen. "Where are the other two, the Dwarf and the Gnome?"

GM note: Fasheen and Nasir both recognized the two Sobar, explaining, perhaps Fasheen's more friendly response.

Fasheen turns to the two Sobar and holds out his hands, palms up, in greating. "Hail Et'lal Ne-fu L'hova. Hail An-mai L'hova."

Fasheen then turns to the group and says, "Come, let us tarry here no more but seek shelter and peace within the walls of Ume."

The woman answers, "Fasheen Faladin, it is good to see you are well," she nods to Nasir "and you as well Nasir. I spoke with your mother's cousin Na-la'an but two days ago, and she mentioned your family was worried about the both of you." She looks over the rest of the party, "And to the rest of you greetings. You have been gone a long while and must be weary from your journey. I see you have suffered loss, but have gained new friends. Be at peace." She gazes at [Nasir or Bo, whoever has the Eye at present] and says "I see you have found that which you sought. The Prince will be pleased."

The man picks up as the woman stops speaking "We must get you into the city as quietly as possible. If you will take only what you need..." he raises a hand to his lips and gives a clear, trilling whistle [those familiar with the desert recognize the call of the sand darter, a small bird native to the region] "my men will bring your mounts to my camp outside the gates and then into the city a few at a time." As he finishes speaking several Sobar warriors round the ravine bend behind him.

Much paranoid debate on the part of the party followed, but eventually...

[Bo speaking] And now to the couple, but mostly to the woman, he says, "We are weary from our travels and long for the comforts within Ume. Alas, we must await the return of our comrade. We will not leave him behind. Please return to us tomorrow, at the mid-day, and we will come with you then."

From behind you, the slender Vichese woman gives a sigh of disgust. "Enough! Your friend is already in the city, safely tucked away under Legion protection, despite his foolish best efforts to give himself over to our foes." She stares at Bo, and continues, "If you choose to wait out here and be found by the enemy, then the Gods help you, and us. Already they will be seeking you, and with the Eye, you won't be all that hard to find, now will you? It burns like a beacon for any to find."

Ne'fu (the Sobar man) continues. "What Mutai says is true Boridan. It is only by my sister's skill that you have not been found." An-mai nods and speaks, "Already three attempts have been made to find you. The first may have been successful, but I managed to divert the other two. Soon however, those that are looking will find what they seek.

The woman called Mutai continues. "If that is not enough to convince you," she pulls a scroll from her belt and tosses it to Benik who catches it easily. "That should settle any doubts. Read it!" She crosses her arms and stares at Benik.

Benik examines the scroll as Bo is speaking, paying not attention. He breaks the seal and opens it, and reads. After he finishes he looks up, then hands the scroll to Bo, says "We go!" and bends to pack his gear.

Bo uncurls the scroll (written on fine parchment). The remains of the seal appear to be that of the Order of Trian. Within the scroll reads:

Quaso 30 YOE 1347

Sir Benik,

I send you greetings. Time presses so I shall be brief. Use all your influence with your friends to hurry their safe entrance to the city. The bearers of this scroll, Mutai, An-mai, and Ne-fu, can be trusted, but no one else save myself or Migan Kesmin of the Legion, or Sumais Abehde of the Tower until we meet this eve. Beware of all you trust, the danger is greater than you know.

In haste,


Nomin Sholis First Knight, Order of Trian, Ume

As the group gathers up their belongings and prepares to leave, the Sobar warriors move off to tend the animals and finish loading their packs. An-mai and Ne-fu confer with Mutai. When it is obvious the group is ready, Mutai looks around and nods. To Ne-fu she says "I'll go ahead and prepare the way." She moves off at a brisk pace down the ravine towards the more open terrain and the road beyond.

Zippy mutters something about taking point to Fasheen and Bo, and moves to follow. He stops and stares as Mutai simply fades from sight as she slides into the shadow of the ravine wall. Behind him Ne-fu says "We should stay together. An-mai can provide us with some protection against prying eyes as we move."

The group moves out in close formation, leaving the mounts in the hands of Ne-fu's men. You fall into their usual marching order with An-mai taking Thyme's usual spot, and Ne-fu next to Fasheen. As you walk you notice no sign of your passage behind you.

It is a good two hours walk to reach the gate. As you draw near the sun is moving towards the horizon, and the shadows grow long. As you cross the ring road and turn towards the gate itself, a shadow detaches itself from the gateway and moves towards you. As it draws near you see that it is Mutai. "The area inside the gate is clear. Trevan is on duty, so there should be no problems with the guard. Nevertheless we must be quick. Once inside, follow me as quickly and quietly as you can." She turns and moves off towards the gate. You continue and pass under the great arch of the wall. As those of you that live here expect, a pair of guards moves to stop you, but as they approach Mutai waves to the leader then holds up something. The captain nods to Mutai, then says "Let them pass lads, they're expected."

You pass beyond the gateway, and Mutai leads you down the main street, then turns down a narrow alley. Your group moves into the narrow, shadowed way and stops as Mutai drops lightly to the bottom of a shallow staircase leading to a basement doorway within a low arch. She twists the handle and pulls the door open, then steps through, waving for you to follow as she does.

Somewhat reluctantly you follow, filing down the stairs and through the doorway. Once you are all inside you pause for a moment to let your eyes adjust to the darkness, lit only by the faint glowing of Zeb's spear. Behind you the door clicks shut and a tiny light flickers into being. You find yourselves in a large, stone-lined room. Mutai stands near the door holding quite possibly the smallest lantern you've ever seen. She looks at Zippy and points across the way to a trapdoor in the floor. "Open that and start down. At the bottom take the middle of the three tunnels. I will catch up. I want to be sure we are not followed.

Zippy nods and pulls open the trap door, then slides noiselessly down the revealed ladder. Bo pulls out a light source, and the rest of you follow Zippy's lead, then set off down the route Mutai indicated. You travel for about 50 yards when the passage ends in a large, square chamber. There are several exits, and you stop to wait for your guide, who appears, ghostlike, about 10 minutes later. "No sign of anyone following." she moves to a heavy grate, fiddles with the lock for a moment, then opens it. She nods to Zippy, then slides into the shadows once again.

You continue your journey in this fashion for some time. You realize that some of the passages you are moving through are sewers, while others are part of the defensive works of the city. Most of the passages are locked and barred by heavy grates, but that does not seem to be much of a deterent, at least to your guide.

Eventually you end up at a heavy, iron door, with no handle or lock. As you wait, Zippy notices the row of narrow holes overhead and mutters "murder holes". Even Ne-fu and An-mai appear a bit nervious until Mutai appears once again. She moves to the door and raps out a staccato pattern on the heavy iron.


"It may take a few minutes for someone to get down here. There is a long stair on the other side."

Silence again. As you wait, you notice that while everyone else is looking around, fidgeting with their weapons, tapping fingers or otherwise betraying their impatience Mutai is standing perfectly still. Curious you watch for a minute and realize you can't even hear her breathing.

Finally, after a good 10 minutes An-mai raises her head. "They're coming." Mutai nods. "Nomin and two guardsmen by the sound of it." Funny, you can't hear a thing. Finally Fasheen hears the sound of footsteps, followed by the rattle of a lock and chain. Slowly the door swings wide. Beyond stand two guardsmen on either side of a man in the garb of a Knight of Trian, obviously Nomin. They have their weapons drawn, but when they see you, they relax and sheath them. Benik moves forward and exchanges greetings with Nomin, as the rest of the group moves through the door.

As the two guardsmen secure the passage behind the group, you make your way up a long, winding stair. Eventually it disgorges into a wide hallway, and some of you realize you have been here before. You turn down a side passage and are led into a large waiting room, the very same room you met Kesmin and the others in so long ago. As you all move into the chamber there is a stirring at the far end, and Thyme rises from a large chair, glass in hand.

You all greet Thyme and remove your dusty packs. As the initial noise fades you discover only An-mai remains. She turns to Thyme and says. "Your friends are tired and dusty from their long hike. I'm sure you can show them the baths and get them some refreshment from kitchen. We will be meeting the others in about two hours, and a full meal will be served then. Remember, do not stray out of this wing of the building." She nods to you then takes her leave, returning the way you came in.

Later in the day, Nyota relates this:

Nyota nearly drowned while taking his usual, ordinary and ubiquitous bath today. It happened because whilst bathing, he had a vision, which he would like the group to ponder the meaning of (and to keep to themselves).

It went like this:

A great red sun sinks slowly over a sea of broken stone. In the distance three peaks rise above the broken hills. A glimmer of white shines forth, spearing Nyota in its light. Brighter, brighter, blinding now. Nyota jerks away and covers his eyes...

That's when he woke up spluttering. Zippy was in the tub next to Nyota's. The event disturbed him into abandoning his bath and searching the room for unseen observers. Nyota tried to detect magic and spirit craft but found nothing.

The 3 peaks kind of sounds familiar but Nyota can't quite put his finger on it. Furthermore, he is disturbed that this vision seemed an ill omen. Somai isn't red. Nyota wonders if the red sun and/or the white light might not somehow tie into the Eye of Setal or the reason it has been brought by the group to Ume.

Thyme's thoughts on the vision:

I believe there is a comet currently in the sky. Is this still accurate? If so, I suggest that the red sun may be a metaphorical representation of the comet. Implying that the time is nearing an end for us to prepare for whatever is coming.

Regardless of the comet analogy, Thyme does believe that the setting sun indicates the ending of our time to prepare.

Thyme also believes that the broken stone represents the Burning.

The three peaks may represent three actual mountains, I don't remember reading any background stuff about that, but maybe someone else does. (Or Maybe I'm just missing it. Help me out a bit Mark if Thyme would know of three peaks. Or anything else in the vision for that matter.)

Alternatively, the three peaks, may represent the three races aligned against us: The Dark Elves, The Orcs, and the Sandling Serpent People. They may have massed their strength by now and be preparing to move.

I suspect that the Glimmer means they have or are near to finding a way to return Zulos to the mortal plane.

If they do, I think our shared vision is likely to come true. Ume is a great tactical position to prevent the Empire and the Compact from being able to communicate and/or work together effectively. By eliminating Ume, The Compact can be cut off, and likely crushed, leaving no enemy at their back as they move south onto the empire.

The party spends the next couple hours getting cleaned up, picking up a snack from the kitchen, and in general relaxing. Almost. Like a group of warriors recently from the battlefield you find it hard to relax totally. You talk amongst yourselves about what you will say and do at the meeting tonight, theorize as to who will be there, and dream of getting a good night's sleep in a real bed.

The hour draws nigh, and outside the narrow windows of this place you see night is falling. The appointed hour approaches. You move your gear to one end of the room and put the furniture in some semblance of order. Just as Fasheen begins to pace the floor near the fireplace once again, you hear the sounds of an approaching group. The guard stationed in the hall makes some sort of greeting, the door opens and the others file in. You all watch warily as they enter:

Migan Kesmin is first in. As usual she is wearing a Legion tabard, along with her green-dripping blade. She moves towards the head of the table, expressionless.

Ne-fu and An-mai follow Migan through the door. The pair move towards the center of the table opposite the door. They nod to those they pass, and An-mai has a smile as well.

Next in is an ancient Vichese woman, leaning on a burning staff. Though many of you have never met her, this could only be Sumais Abehde of the Tower of the Four. She pauses just inside the door, awaiting someone.

Behind Sumais comes Nomin Sholis, the Knight of Trian. Benik moves forward and offers him a greeting as he makes his way around the table.

Next in is an exceedingly tall and slender figure in a long hooded cloak. He/she moves to the end of the room near Kesmin and takes a seat along the wall. You recognize the bow he/she carries. This could only be the silent bowman from your last meeting.

Sumais closes the door, and holds up a hand for your attention. "Bide a moment." She faces the open space next to her and pulls something from the sleeve of her robe. As she raises it you see that it is a sparkling white crystal shot through with orange and red. Sumais stares at the crystal, and says "Master Lurgan [1], we are here." Thyme edges forward to get a better view, but a glare from Sumais freezes him in his tracks.

Abruptly the air in front of Sumais shimmers, and a figure coaleses out of nothingness. You can't help but stare at the man before you. He is tall, taller even than Zeb. His pale skin has obviously never seen the light of Somai, and his pinkish eyes send a chill down your spine as he surveys each of you in turn. Apparently he finds nothing of interest, as he turns to Sumais and bows politely. "Mistress Sumais. Are you ready?"

Sumais nods, and Lurgan turns to face the group. He kneels down and, using a handful of grayish powder he pulls from a pouch, inscribes a small circular design on the floor. He stands, draws a curiously carved dagger from a well used sheath, then slices open the palm of his left hand, allowing several drops of blood to flow into the circle on the floor. As the drops spatter to the floor, the lines of gray powder begin to glow. Slowly Lurgan chants something beneath his breath, drawing forth a dead-black sphere of stone with his left hand as he does so. Still chanting he kneels and places the stone within the circle, or rather in the air over the circle. It seems to hover a foot above the floor. As Lurgan's chanting continues, you notice the light begin to fade. You glance at the person standing next to you and realize *everything* is fading. You feel as if you should do something, but wonder exactly what that something should be.

As the chanting reaches a crescendo, a wave of pure, colorless light rolls forth from the sphere. It spreads across the entire room, passing over everyone. As it touches each person, they glow briefly with a colorless sheen [2]. As the wave strikes the walls, it vanishes. Slowly the black sphere drops to the floor, coming to rest in the center of the now darkened circle. Carefully Lurgan picks it up and stows it away, then sheathes the dagger. He stands and turns to Sumais. "This place is safe."

Sumais nods and says "My thanks as always Master Lurgan."

Lurgan nods in return, then turns and gazes at each of you once again. Abruptly he raises the hood of his robe, crosses his hands in front of him, then fades away.

After he vanishes, Sumais gestures, mutters an arcane phrase, then strikes the floor with her staff. Slivers of fire snake forth, each heading for a door, window or chimney. As each reaches its goal it circles the opening, then fades from sight.

An-mai sighs and looks at Sumais. "We are safe now?" Sumais nods and An-mai continues. "Then our first order of business should be a meal." She looks down the table and smiles, almost sadly, "I see many here who are still tired and worn from the journey. The least we can do is provide for their needs." She raises her eyes heavenward, her hands over her head, then chants something in her native tongue. As she chants a cloud of golden energies takes form above her hands.

With a gesture she directs it to the table, where it spreads, covering the entire surface. As the glow fades, you are amazed to see a great feast spread before you. A roast boar dominates the center of the table, surrounded by four ewers of a pale, golden liquid. Bowls of fruit, plates of cheese, and loaves of bread still warm from the oven nearly overflow onto the floor.

An-mai smiles once again. "Come. Be seated. Eat. There is nothing to fear here."

With that the others settle around the table and begin to eat. After a moment's hesitation the rest of you do so as well. Never have you tasted such a meal. The food is delicious and the golden liquid is some sort of mead or wine that is both refreshing and heartening. The others seem happy enough to eat, so you do too, and there is little talk. Only the bowman remains aloof, rising only to gather a piece of fruit and a glass of wine before returning to his place.

Finally the meal is done. You don't think you could eat another bite, and the others apparently agree. Rested and refreshed you begin to wonder when the action will start. Apparently about now. With a gesture from An-mai the remains of the meal vanish, and Migan leans forward. "Now that we've eaten and everyone is feeling better, let's get to business."

The others sigh, but nod in agreement. Sumais begins. "First, please tell us, did you retrieve the Eye of Setal?" Nasir looks to his brother, nods, then pulls forth the fist-sized gem, glowing with its reddish inner light. There are various gasps and smiles around the room, then Sumais extends her hand. Reluctantly Nasir hands her the Eye. Sumais studies it carefully, then incants a brief spell. She studies it once again, then says "You have done it! Oh well done!"

You glance around the room, and see that even Migan is smiling for once. The others seem to have relaxed a bit. Sumais carefully stows the Eye in an elaborately woven belt pouch, then continues. "Tell us your tale. How did you accomplish the deed?"

Fasheen begins the story, starting with the attack of the weird creature at the far end of the gateway into the jungle. As he speaks, the others, particularly Migan and Nomin, begin asking questions. Detailed questions. Others of your group begin to chime in with answers, though Fasheen continues the main narrative. Outside the skies grow dark, and somewhere, the moons are rising...

[I'll break here to give you all a chance to discuss your position and what, if any changes you want to make to your telling of the tale.]

Quaso 30 (late evening)

The story continues to unfold, with Fasheen as the chief narrator. The stories of the journey up the river, the first sight of the temple, the attacks, the exploration of the tombs, the fall of Thrag and Zmar are all told in turn. When Thyme asks about Thrag's uncles, Sumais tells the group that the pair stayed in the Compact to fulfill an obligation there.

On the stories wind, through the final battle and the recovery of the Eye, the flight through the jungle, the battle with the fungal ghouls, and at last, the arrival at the village. As Fasheen grows tired of speaking Thyme slowly takes over the telling, describing the battles at the village, the return of Thrag and Zmar, and their fall, and the trip by ship to Seaway. He glosses over the whoring and trouble there, but describes the deal struck for the mithril.

The others are most interested in this, and eventually Nasir, Benik and Zeb show their weapons around. There are many appreciative comments all around, and no hint of anger at your delay in Seaway.

Thyme also comments on his disasterous attempt at tattooing, and Sumais shows some interest but waves him on with a 'We'll discuss this later.' look. Briefly he recounts the start of the journey, the wounded woman, the fight with the Orcs, the Bear, and the loss of the Eye.

Here the others question you all closely about the guards, Culia and Micon, obviously trying to see if there was anything about them that was odd or unusual. They seem disappointed when their questions uncover nothing. Sumais is particularly interested when Nasir's condition is discussed, and as the story moves foward, seems lost in thought.

Fasheen retakes the narrative, and covers the tracking of the Eye, Bo's divination attempts (again there is interest in his fleeting contact with whatever was holding the Eye, but little result), Nasir's recovery, and the initial exploration of the temple. As the story moves on to the final battle and the fall of the demonic creature, Nomin and An-mai both begin to ask many questions about the tomb itself, specifically asking about sigils, containers, unusual magical objects, and so on. It is obvious they think something was probably there, and Fasheen eventually reveals the story of the black amulet.

Nomin sighs, and under his breath you here him mutter "Would that I were there." but then he raises his head and smiles. "You did as well as you could. Hopefully the thing will be lost forever. There are few who have the power to break such a thing, and carrying it would have been most dangerous."

You take a brief respite from the story to walk about a bit and gather a couple of bottles of wine from near the hearth. Fortified, Fasheen continues the narrative, telling the tail of the fight with the serpent men, the trip to Gap, the journey across the Burning, and the odd dream-or-vision the party shared. He brings the story to a close and stops, waiting for some response.

The others look back and forth, then Sumais speaks "You have done very well to come so far through so much hardship. Now I see why you were so distrustful of those who went out to bring you in. Sadly I cannot tell you you are safe now. It is time for you to hear our story, and hear that which has happened while you were gone." she nods to An-mai, who takes a sip of wine and begins.

"Our task was, perhaps simpler in some respects than yours. We knew where the tomb of Kergan was, and we knew what we sought. We set out by ship up the coast, the very ship that brought Kzak and Dushar here. The trip north was uneventful, save for a storm along the way. We made landfall near Deephome, and with Kzak and Dushar along, had little trouble gaining access to the order that guards the tomb of Kergan."

"There we met with difficulty. The priests were rabidly opposed to anyone setting foot in Kergan's tomb, and even Kzak's influence was not enough to change their minds. We spent days arguing and debating, then weeks. Kzak called in favors from all those he knew, and we debated amongst ourselves the wisdom of taking the shard without the priest's knowledge."

"Finally, the eldest of the priests agreed to our request, provided Kzak and Duras stayed until the shard was returned. The pair agreed, and Duras and Nomin went into the tomb with the high priest of Agim-Zul."

"The next day we said our goodbyes and began the long journey home. We took the land route back, and though there were hazards on the crossing, they were no worse than usual for the Burning. We arrived back here no more than 15 days ago. But when we returned we discovered trouble brewing."

Sumais speaks up "As you know, there were two attempts on the Prince's life before you left on your journey. While we were gone, another attempt was made, and even now the Prince lies ill. Not even An-mai has been able to thwart the poison coursing through his veins."

"When I returned to the Tower, I found the place in an uproar. Someone had attempted to break into the armory, and nearly succeeded. The final wards stopped them, but the perpetrator was never discovered. That someone could get that far past the Tower's defenses, then slip away unseen can only mean they know the Tower. From what you have told us tonight, I fear we have another of these shapeshifters in our midst. We have some ability to detect these creatures (she glances to the burned spot on the floor near the entry), but it is difficult magic at best."

"Now, we must decide upon our next steps. There is much to do, and danger at hand."

[I'll leave it to you all to raise any questions or interject anything you like]

Thyme's questions:

Does Thyme know what is in the Armory that anyone would want? (Other than LOTS OF MAGIC ITEMS, that much I get.) Is there like a staff of the Magi or relics or somesuch that have a specific bearing on the current issues?

Thyme has never seen the Armory, nor heard much about it. It is in a forbidden part of the Tower, open only to the highest journeymen and masters of the Tower.

To the elders: Was the prince poisoned in a manner similar to Nasir?

No. It is some mundane poison combined with a magical working.

To the elders: Is it possible for An-mai to use the eye to stop the poison in the prince?

Possibly. Once the Eye has been studied a bit.

Can we get any details about the attack on the prince?

A known assassin attacked the Prince while he was travelling across the city to review some wall reconstruction being done. The man had magical aids and managed to fire a dart at the Prince before being taken (unfortunately he died immediately thereafter).

To Sumais: "With all respect, great one, It is clear that you are trusted as is Master Lurgan. It is also clear to me that Master Sindal is not. Is there a way to prove Master Sindal's loyalties one way or the other? And if so how may I aid thee? He was kind to a boy who was alone in the world, and a good Master to me. I would repay him now if there is a way.

Sumais answers "We are even now working on the details of a means of determining who the infiltrator is. Within a day or two we will be ready. It is unlikely it is Sindal, I personally suspect an advanced journeyman, but we won't know until Lurgan completes his working."

When I was doing my research on supernatural creatures, was there any mention of the shapeshifting powers of certain mithos?

There are certainly stories of Mithos with shapeshifting abilities. None really stands out except a passing reference to 'The Shadows of All Form' in a musty scroll that recounted a theoretical tally of those Mithos loyal to Mios.

Would the great library have any research on these shapechangers?

Sumais says "We've not yet found any mention of the shapeshifters in our researches. Of course there are many volumes in the library, including many that are now unreadable due to age or damage."

Did we tell them about the destruction of the tainted altar to Umekai? (Umm.. What did they say about that?)

Yes. They did not seem particularly concerned about it (but then again, THEY didn't desecrate an altar of the God of Death either).

If they had gotten back, and everything had been hunky dorey, what would we have done next? Use the shard and the eye to create a new sword or something if I am thinking straight.

Use the Eye and the shard to determine the resting place of Oslan.

What do they know of the evil that is rising from the ruins of the ancient fort that Ume was built on?

What the hell are you babbling about? :)

Fasheen looks around at the gathering and says, "We have tried to do what we thought wise and best. In the travelling we only had ourselves to consult and ponder on our own course. It is most troubling to come home find rather than the reassurance one expects, the uncertainty and unease that all is not well. I speak only for myself, but I do not feel that my part in all of this is done. I long to share peaceful tidings with my family, but if that is not to be then it is not to be so. Keep me and my bow in mind as the winds of reason blow. I'll not be unreachable."

And he slowly walks over to a wall to lean against and slide down to a resting position on his heals ... and drifts off in thought.

Following all of the story telling and questions and answers, during which time Bo has been mostly motionless and completely silent, and when there is one of those nearly uncomfortable moments of silence Bo speaks up.

"Now that you have the Eye and the Shard you believe that you might locate the resting place of Oslan, to what greater good of Eria or safety for its peoples is unclear to me yet, but I sense that you will not do so until this infiltrator has been routed. I pray you will forgive the directness of my next question. What evidence do you have that would prove the loyalties of those who stand here now?"

Nomin answers Bo: "You are correct Boridan, the immediate problem must be dealt with before we can continue. As to why we would seek Oslan, with the darkness stirring, Dark Bane in hand would be a powerful weapon, and an inspiration to those that must face the darkness."

He falls silent and Sumais continues "As to the loyalty of those here, Lurgan's working attests to that. Not only did it prove all here were as they seem, but it served as a test for the working that will be used to identify the intruder in the Tower. Sadly the working there will be much more challenging."

Quaso 30 (later that night)

As the questions wind down and the lateness of the hour begins to show, An-mai finally stands and stretches. "I think we have accomplished what we can here this evening."

Sumais nods "Indeed, we all have much to think about." Turning to the group she continues "I think it would be wise for you all to remain here for the next two days. We cannot force you to do so of course, but I believe we will have found the traitor in the Tower by then. Migan has agreed to make this place available to you for the next three days at least. Should you choose to leave, be cautious. Speak not of the Eye or what we suspect. One never knows who might be listening." She pauses and sighs. "So much to do, and so little time. I will take my leave now. Lurgan will need my assistance, and I have tarried here too long. One of our number is generally around this place at all hours. If something urgent happens, you can get a message to Migan via any of the Legionnaires here."

With that she stands and moves towards the door. As she reaches for the handles there is a brief flare from her staff, and the faint red lines around the doors and windows fade away. Nomin moves forward and offers her his arm. She takes it, and the pair leave, followed closely by the ever-silent bowman. The others stand and there is a general shuffling of people as everyone rises and stretches. Clearly the others will be leaving soon, and you are all feeling very tired after the long bout of storytelling.

[If anyone wants to have a side conversation with any of the remaining people, now's the time.]

Gradually the others filter out, and Bo closes the door behind An-mai, the last to leave. Nyota moves towards the fire and tosses a piece of wood onto the coals. Fasheen moves off to a side couch and stretches out, while Nasir and Thyme reflect on the night's discussion. Zeb wanders towards the windows and studies the lights and buildings of the city outside the pane, Benik and Zippy sit at the table lost in thought.

As you review the night's discussion, you can't help but wonder what will come next. With the Eye safely delivered you begin to feel the strain of the journey. Though the horrors you have faced fade with time, you realize that more work lies ahead. You can only guess at what will happen, but you know one things for certain, your part is not yet complete.


[1] Two notes. Master/Mistress are typical titles uses for high ranking guild members, master craftsmen and the like. Lord/Lady are titles of nobility. Apparently the Tower operates along the lines of a guild. Also some of you may recognize Lurgan as the man that opened the gateway oh so long ago when you first ventured to the Temple of Setal.

[2] Exceptions to the colorless sheen. The glow around Nomin and the bowman was tinted with a faint hint of white. An-mai was tinted with a faint hint of pale blue. Lurgan was completely unaffected.