The Cabin Sessions

Sessions Index

Interlude in Ume

In which the party awaits further action. These events took place via email. There are some gaps in the action where various party members took their leave of the group to pursue individual courses of action.

Quaso 31 (early morning)

Since it seems several people are going to be going out into the city, I wanted to insure everyone has the information they need. What follows would be generally known by those familiar with the Empire, and passed on to those who are not (Zeb and Nyota) by the others or various people during the meeting last night.

Like most cities of the Empire, everyone within Ume must be able to show papers of citizenship, or a traveler's visa with appropriate entry stamps. The Militia can and will stop people and ask for their papers. Anyone that cannot show papers is subject to arrest.

Bo and Zippy are citizens of the Empire and have appropriate papers. Benik, Fasheen, Nasir, and Thyme have extended travel visas, which require entry stamps to be valid within the walls of Ume. Because of your entry to the city, yours aren't stamped. Migan mentioned you could get them stamped by talking to the guards stationed outside. Zeb and Nyota have no papers, but Migan mentioned they were being arranged. Should you venture forth be sure and get them first.

The sounds of stirring people in the corridors outside your rooms awakens the party. Nyota, ever an early riser opens the door and finds a small group of Legionnaires wandering back from the kitchen area. The aroma of baking bread wafts into the room as Nyota closes the door. Bo is the next up and he gazes out the narrow windows, taking in the narrow sea view offered.

One by one the rest of the group stirs and together you head to the kitchen. There is a large serving table covered with fresh bread, cheese, fish, and mulled wine available, and you quickly avail yourselves of it, though everyone is still remarkably satiated after last night's meal. Come to think of it, you feel pretty good. In fact, you feel perfectly rested and healthy.

Aside from the two cooks and a trio of Legionnaires who obviously just got off duty you have the dining hall to yourselves. You eat quickly, and as you begin to wonder where you're going to get your various papers stamped and authorized, a Legionnaire approaches, a Vichese of average height, with black hair and dark eyes. From his insignia you would guess he is a sergeant in Kesmin's company. He carries a heavy leather case under one arm.

"I am sergeant Benza. I been ordered to take care of your entry papers. If you have them bring them here, and let's get them taken care of. If you don't have them, we'll take care of those last." He tosses the case onto the table and opens it, revealing a portable writing desk, complete with quill, ink, parchment, and assorted seals and documents.

In short order those of you with papers are properly stamped and visa'd. Those of you without papers take a bit longer, but what sergeant Benza lacks in conversational skill he makes up in efficiency. Within an hour you are all taken care of. The sergeant reminds you to carry your papers wherever you go in the city and to check in and out with the watch on the main entrance of the tower when you leave or arrive.

The sergeant packs up and takes off, and you all make your way back to your rooms. Benik, Zippy, Bo and Nyota pause only long enough to gather a few things from their packs, then head out to greet the day. Thyme settles in to do some drawing, while the others hang around, marking time.

Near lunch time, various contingents return from their wanderings.

Back at the tower, Thyme (who remained there), Bo, Benik, Fasheen, Nasir, and Zeb meet back up. The others note Bo is carrying a stringer of hefty groupers, and that he smells a bit like fish.

You're all getting hungry, so you make your way to the kitchens. Bo offers up the grouper to the cooks (more than you could eat, that's for sure), who accept them gladly. You gather at your accustomed table and everyone tells their tale of the morning.

Bo mentions in an aside to Nasir that one of his flock was wounded by a great shark and asks if Nasir is willing to help the man. Nasir agrees and the pair decide to go out after lunch, inviting anyone else along that may wish to come.

After the initial conversation dies down, the cook brings over a large platter of fried fish, bread and cheese. You all dig in with gusto (the fish is very fresh and delicious). Bo mentions he helped the fisherman unload the cargo this morning. There is some good natured ribbing about the fishy smell rising from Bo, but he takes it in stride.

Lunch draws to a close, and you all rise from the table, ready to face the rest of the day...

After you all finish your meal you go your seperate ways:

Benik elects to stay in your quarters in the tower and catch a nap. He mentions he will be having dinner with his father this evening.

Thyme elects to stay at the tower and await any news from the elders, Nyota, or Zippy.

Bo, Fasheen, Nasir, and Zeb head out to visit Bo's wounded fisherman friend.

[Following the larger group's actions]

The four of you (Bo, Fasheen, Nasir and Zeb) head out of the tower and through the wall to the northern section of town. Just past the wall you are stopped by the sight of a large area of burned structure. With a start you realize this burned wreckage was once the Inn of the Thrice Humped Camel -- the very inn Zippy's mother worked in. You study the wreckage for a moment and realize it has been a while since the fire -- at least a couple of weeks. There's no sign of Zippy so you decide to carry on.

You make your way northward into the section of the city that provides housing for many of the laborers and fishermen that inhabit the city. It takes Bo a few minutes to regain his bearings, but eventually you find his friend's house. As you enter you are greeted by a stocky Vichese Bo introduces as Geo. The man quickly leads you into the back room of the house and introduces his brother Giulin, who is laying in one of the two beds in the back room. Nasir pulls back the rough dressings on the leg and you are all taken aback by the smell that rises. Clearly the wound has festered.

Bo and Nasir study the bone-deep rips and after a brief consultation, Nasir casts a potent healing spell. Miraculously the wound closes up and the putrid oozings vanish. Both Bo and Nasir cast follow on spells, and after the third such casting the wounds are fully closed and healed, though there is some heavy scarring left due to the age of the wounds.

Giulin is still weak and tired after his long ordeal, but he manages to rise and take a few staggering steps. He tells Nasir and Bo that his leg feels a bit stiff, but fine otherwise. He and Geo both thank the pair of healers profusely and tell the pair that if they ever need anything they have but to ask.

Feeling satisfied, the group takes their leave and decides to do some wandering and shopping. You spend several hours wandering the streets, haggling with local vendors, buying a few drinks from the ale vendors, and in general relaxing and having a good time.

[Any general supplies you'd like to buy are likely available. We can detail out purchases next session.]

As the afternoon fades towards evening Bo indicates he's headed back to the tower for a bath. He claims he has plans for the evening. The rest of the group is feeling rather hot and dusty by now, so you all agree to return to the tower.

Quaso 31 (early evening)

Back at the tower...

Everyone except Zippy is back in your quarters at the tower. Benik and Bo have plans for the evening and are planning on heading out soon, Benik to have dinner with his father and Bo to meet a 'friend' (wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean?).

You're all surprised to see Nyota has shaved his scraggly beard and his entire scalp. He looks a bit worn when he arrives from the baths.

As evening descends upon Ume most of those at the tower settle in to await the dinner hour. Bo and Benik pay a visit to the baths, and depart shortly thereafter, Benik headed to his father's place, Bo to visit with a lady friend.

A bit later the rest of the group troops down to the dining hall for a meal, save Nyota who mutters something about a fast and retires to watch the fire in your rooms.. Thyme seems a bit irritable, particularly when the group tells how much fun it was to wander the streets and relax this afternoon.

Returning to your chambers various members of the group occupy their time cleaning up their gear, sharpening weapons, and generally squaring away loose ends. Thyme offers to teach Nyota how to play backgammon (he discovered a board and stones on the shelves). Nyota declines and makes his way to an early bed, but Zeb is interested and eventually everyone tries their hand. Thyme proves to be a difficult opponent, though Nasir gives him a run for his money.

Eventually everyone gets tired, and makes their way to bed. The night passes uneventfully, and you awaken the next morning to a blare of trumpets...

Quaso 32 (dawn)

As the ringing trumpets fade away to silence you leap to your feet and rush to the nearest window. Again the trumpets blast. You're sure they're sounding from the keep, and as you strain to see, the trumpets sound a third time. You look up to the crest of the keep and you realize the flags are changing. Previously the imperial flag was being flown normally while the Prince's flag was flying at half-mast. You watch as a group of soldiers raises the Prince's flag to full mast and the trumpets sound a final time. In the distance a faint roar or chant begin. It seems to come from all across the city. As it grows in volume, you realize it is the citizens of the city chanting the Prince's name.

Argen! Argen! Argen!

As the group gets up and running...

Thyme, Nasir, Fasheen and Zeb gather in the tower chamber and debate what may have happened to Zippy, and what, if anything the four of you should do about it. Somehow Nyota has slipped out in the bustle of everyone getting up. Thyme is just saying "I don't know, but with his Mom's Inn burned to the ground..." when Zippy strolls into the room, bag of sweets in hand. Thyme cries out "There he is!"

At this point various people split up and go their own ways. The action picks up...

Quaso 32 (evening)

As the group gathers in the common room, the dinner discussion continues [share what you like about your activities over the last couple days]. The group splits off into various subgroups and then reforms as conversation ebbs and flows. Fasheen and Zippy ask Bo about Lendo, and he fills in a few details [as previously written]. In all you spend a quiet evening of conversation and share the last of the ancient brandy recovered from the temple [thththats all folks].

Info recalled about Lendo (ill-fated party member from a while back):

He was a Vichese. He was sneaky. He used magic. His sword was pretty cool.

From the group's knowledge, Lendo was originally from the heart of the Empire (Bo could probably catch the subtle remains of a south-western accent). He had been in the Ume area for about a dozen years. He mentioned working his way here as a sailor on a merchant vessel. He never really talked much about his family, though he mentioned the city of Tunlos (*) more than once, so that may be where he's from. His family name was Fatala and from what he said, you believe his family owned farmland or worked on a farm.

(*) Tunlos lies about 2000 miles SW as the crow flies. It is a port city south of the Imperial capital. Bo has been there and recalls that it was a fairly boring place, but a major grain port.

Some info shared by Father Bo:

Not sure what bearing this has on the group, if any, but I wanted to share my learning's of the past two days. There is much unrest in Ume, and rumors abound. I've heard chatter that the Tower of Four is somehow responsible for the attack on the Prince. I think we can dismiss the notion as nothing more than gossip. Two things that we should not dismiss are relatively reliable reports of a dark, man-shaped figure seen creeping the streets at night in the North Quarter. I have spoken to my friend who claims to have seen the creature, and he describes it as "shadowy, like a void". Is this our shape-shifter?

Also noteworthy are the recent sightings of flagless ships to the North. Unfortunately I have no other details on this matter.

Thyme's thoughts:

This may not be as far off as you might think. If there is a shapeshifter (or Eria Forbid multiple shapeshifters) in the tower, one may have posed as a tower member in order to effect the attack on the prince. (Also explains how someone could poison the prince, since he is likely to have food tasters, etc.) Anyway, if this were true, it is unlikely that the "Elders" would make this info public, so as to prevent general panic in the streets (AKA: My mother-in-law is a shapeshifter, stone her!) and to prevent the shapeshifter from running, allowing it to be captured.

So, if a servant or somesuch actually saw a member of the tower just prior to the attack on the prince, that is how the rumor could have begun. Which is likely just what the shapeshifter wanted, to create contention between the tower and the local government. And if the shapeshifter is bold enough to try and enter the armory (which I didn't even know of.) then it is likely that they were going to try and further turn the populace against the Tower of the Four, which would leave them magically defenseless when the army we dreamed of arrived.

Time passes...

It is full dark out when Thyme (who was whipping up on Fasheen in a game of backgammon) suddenly stiffens, then stands bolt upright. He points towards the fireplace, and you all turn to see a ghostly sphere of light begin to take shape. Gradually it assumes solidity, and you realize it is not a sphere but the face of Sumais (the ancient fire witch). She seems to stare at you (curious trick that, staring at everyone at once), then speaks, apparently to Thyme. "Tianama, you are required at the Tower now. Come the the great meeting hall and sit in the back section. Bring your friends if they desire to come."

As silently as it appeared the face fades away, leaving nothing behind but a slightly stupid stare on everyone's face.

The group organizes themselves and departs for the Tower of the Four en masse.

Quaso 32 (night)

You quickly get yourselves organized and set off into the night, Thyme near the front of the group, providing direction. You wind through the now quiet streets, eventually turning into a more prosperous section of town. You round a last corner, and before you stands The Tower.

A 15' wall of stone surrounds the Tower compound. A small gatehouse guarding the only obvious entrance. With the courtyard a constant cloud of fog hangs in the air, obscuring the base of the structure.

The Tower itself rises a full 100 feet into the air, soaring above most of the structures in the city. Its twisting spires of red, green, blue and ochre stand like some demented sculptor's vision of a fairy castle made of colored glass and silver. It seems impossible that anything so thin and fragile looking could be so tall without collapsing, but there it stands.

You move towards the gate, and the two guards on duty greet Thyme with a respectful nod. They open the gate and you all step through into a fog filled courtyard. Thyme makes an odd gesture and speaks a few quiet words. A streamer of pale blue light flickers into being in the depths of the fog. Thyme says "This will lead us to the Tower proper. Follow it closely and do not stray from the path, no matter what you may see and hear. Stray too far and you will not find your way back." With that he sets off, striding into the dense gray fog.

Single-file you make your way along the streamer of light. Fasheen at the rear notices the blue pathway fades behind him as he passes. After a few minutes walking you realize you should have reached the Tower, but all you see is the dense fog. Peering into the gloom, Bo sees a flicker of movement and light. Two red eyes loom out of the darkness, gazing directly at him. Wisely he chooses to continue on his way, and the eyes fade away.

There are other things in the fog. Strange stirrings and sounds stir the soup-like gray mist, but you ignore them. Eventually you reach a black staircase, and mount it to a wide oaken door. You step through to a large hall, where Thyme is already speaking with the two guards within. As you look around, you realize the massive serpent statue that graces the far end of the hall isn't really a statue at all, but a living creature, its status given away by the occasional flicker of its eyes as it watches each of you in turn.

With a final word to the guards, Thyme turns and points down a side passage. "This is the way. Try not to get separated." He leads you all down a series of stairs and winding passages, past any number of closed doors and side passages. The halls are well lit and clean, and empty. Aside from the guards at the entry, you have not seen another soul within, nor heard a sound aside from your own footsteps.

Finally Thyme turns into a wide passage, and leads you past a pair of ornate double doors. You realize you must now be well below the city, as you've descended at least 100 feet from where you entered the Tower. For the first time you hear something, the sound of many people talking quietly. Beyond the large doors stands a smaller but no less ornate door. Thyme says "Gentlemen, our seats are within." He opens the door with a flourish and leads you all into a large hall that resembles a theatre more than anything else. You are standing upon a sort of raised platform at the rear of the room that looks down over the main seating area. At the front a low stage seemingly carved from the bedrock stretches across the room. Along the far wall a few private boxes hang suspended on the wall.

Nearly every seat is taken in the lower area, filled with an assortment of men and women in a variety of dress. Some are obviously members of the Tower, as they are well dressed, while others are obviously kitchen staff or guards. There are over 80 people seated below.

You spot the familiar figure of Sumais, seated in one of four ornate wooded chairs spaced along the back of the stage. Next to her is the bulky figure of Lurgan, and next to him is an unfamiliar visage (Thyme says he is Sindal, his own teacher). The fourth seat is empty.

You seat yourselves in the chairs provided and wait. The crowd rustles and mutters to itself, as time passes. You notice Lurgan is studying something in his hand. Finally the main doors to your right open, admitting a small group of guards escorting a few stragglers into the auditorium. Their leader approaches the stage and nods to the trio seated there, then finds a seat with his men. Lurgan studies the thing in his hand for a few more moments, then puts it away, rises and moves to the front of the stage. He gazes around the room, and as his pink eyes fall on your group, you hear a faint whisper in your mind 'Be ready...'

Finally he speaks. "As you all know, there was an attempt made to break into the armory several days ago. Tonight we carry out a test to see if the perpetrator is here." He turns to one side and gestures off stage. From behind the wall a Manarian man wheels a low table out onto the stage, then steps back respectfully. There is a large box on the table. Sumais rises and moves forward to stand next to Lurgan as he opens the box and removes a silver sphere the size of a fist. Sumais reachs into the box and pulls out a darker object about the same size. Even at this distance you can see it is the Eye of Setal.

As the two position themselves and mutter a few words back and forth, you eye the crowd. For the most part they are watching the pair onstage intently, though there are a number of people watching the crowd as you are. With a start you recognize Migan Kesmin's face in one of the hanging boxes on the far side of the hall. You also note Sindal is frowning at the proceedings, obviously unhappy about something.

The pair on stage now seem satisified, and Lurgan faces the crowd once again. He raises the silvery sphere into the air, and releases it to hang in front of his face. He begins to chant in a low voice, and you notice a familiar fading of your surroundings.

As he continues to chant, Lurgan extends a hand, and Sumais reaches out and holds the Eye within his reach. The two of them touch the artifact, and with a sigh, Sindal rises and moves forward to touch it as well. As Lurgan continues to chant, there is a flicker of light within the depths of the Eye, something you've never seen before.

Lurgan's chanting reaches a more fevered pitch, and the world fades further. As he speaks the final words 'Min So Kesh', he gestures at the silvery ball. It falls to the stone stage and strikes with a resonant GONG. As it hits, the familiar wave of light washes outward, and the trio on the stage collapse.

As you squint into the light a sudden wordless howl of fury bursts from the floor of the room. The light washes past you and you can see clearly that some one or some thing capers within a swirling column of light. A wave of panic ripples across the crowd, and several of those you had identified as servants begin to rush the doors. On the stage the Manar man who brought the table out for Lurgan pulls something from his sleeve and points it at the trapped being. Chairs and people between the man and the thing are throw aside as a wave of force pushes across the chamber. It reaches the light and extinguishes it, then touches the thing within. There is a tremendous WHUMP of imploding air and the creature is thrown through the air head over heels. It strikes the back wall next to and below your seats with resounding force then slumps to the ground. There is silence for a moment, then the thing twitches. From the stage you hear the man cry out "We need it alive!"

Round 1

The various servant types in the crowd flee towards the front doors of the hall, while the guards in the audience form up to defend the stage and advance on the creature. On the stage you see Lurgan stagger to his feet while the other two mages remain down. The Manar assistant is obviously preparing another spell.

Zippy, Zeb, and Benik vault the rail and land near the creature as Nasir, Bo, and Thyme all begin spellcasting from the platform, Nyota goes blurry, and Fasheen unlimbers his bow. As the trio lands the creature stirs and begins to rise.

From around the room various incantations and spell effects are going off. Most seem to be illumination or defensive spells. There seem to be many more people in the audience than before, and quite a few of them are surrounded by various blurry, shiny, or colorful effects.

From the private boxes across the hall Migan leaps to the floor and lands with a clatter of armor, sword drawn. Another figure vaults from the same box into the next one over, vanishing momentarily before appearing on the far side of the second box and leaping quietly to the ground. In the original box another figure takes up position at the front of the box, bow in hand.

Almost simultaneously all the group's spells go off. The creature continues to move, so it is obvious the hold didn't work, and Thyme curses under his breath, so you believe his levitate probably failed too. Nasir continues to observe the situation as his spell is cast with no perceivable result.

On the stage a glowing globe surrounds the group on the stage, though Lurgan steps forward out of the effect.

Round 2

On the platform, Nyota, Nasir, and Fasheen watch the crowd, while Bo vaults the rail to the ground floor.

The trio on the ground floor close with the creature and slam into it as one, hammering it into the wall. The creature appears staggered, but then lashes out at Zeb with clawed hands and fangs! It connects with both a claw and a bite, and Zeb takes 8 points of damage, then staggers as a wave of blackness washes over him.

The general audience continues its shuffling, running and casting as Migan begins to charge through the intervening crowd. The other figure that leapt from the box suddenly blurs into motion and Matrix-like, runs UP the back wall to the balcony over the main rear doors, disappearing over the railing there (You didn't notice the balcony as it was well above and behind you).

On stage Lurgan appears to have recovered and is staring at the action in the back. You see Sindal stagger out of the side of the globe and struggle to stand straight. There is no sign of the assistant or Sumais.

Round 3

As Zeb staggers backwards, stunned by the creature's attack, and Benik suddenly becomes much larger, the trio on the floor gets tangled up with each other for a moment. It is enough. The creature whirls and simply runs THROUGH the wall!

Migan charges past the group and slams into the double doors shoulder first. They burst open (that woman is strong!) and she charges through crying "With me!"

Some of the guards in the audience begin to move forward (slowly), but Zippy, Bo and the massive Benik follow the Legionnaire through the doorway. Zeb remains stunned, leaning against a row of seats, and Nasir moves to assist him. A dark figure leaps down lightly from the balcony -- you now recognize Mutai.

Fasheen heads for the back door of the balcony, switching to scimitar as he goes, followed by Thyme and Nyota.

In the distance, very faintly you hear the sound of horns blowing.

A bit about the creature:

The thing is humanoid and human sized, almost slender from what you can see. It has grayish skin and pointed features. Each hand is equipped with talon-like claws, while the oversized jaw is lined with needle-like fangs. The eyes are solid, dead black, as is what little hair the creature has. It has small, pointed ears. The creature is naked and obviously male.

Some of you have the nagging feeling you've something like this before. Somewhere.

Round 4

In the hall the party can hear some order being restored to the chaos. From the sounds of it, the guards are nearing the door, and the rest of the audience is either departing towards the front of the hall or standing where they are. Nasir tends to Zeb, and casts a quick cure to close his wounds (heal 4). Zeb remains unresponsive, though he also remains standing.

As Bo skirts behind Migan, Thyme begins to cast levitate. Benik sees an opening and leaps forward, attempting to overbear the creature. It desperately tries to dodge, but is hampered by Migan, who deftly slashes at its lower leg. Benik lands with his full weight on the creature and the two of them crash thunderously to the floor, Benik on top (owww).

Fasheen spies an opening and whacks the thing with a two-handed blow to the head with the flat of his scimitar. It howls in pain, but continues to wriggle under Benik's mass, clawing at the knight with its free hand (miss, miss).

Zippy takes up a position further down the hall.

At the doorway, Mutai turns back to the room, and appears to be watching something inside.

In the back of the group, Thyme curses again as his levitate spell fizzles.

Round 5

The creature continues to struggle beneath Benik, clawing again (miss, hit 4 pts). Luckily Benik has a firm hold on the creature's chest, and it cannot reach him with its needle-like teeth, though it takes all his energy to keep the creature pinned.

As Fasheen deals the creature another two-handed shot to the head, Migan calmly hacks off the creature's near hand. Bo watches as the hand begins to crawl away on its own power, then skewers the severed extremity on his sword point and looks around for a means to destroy it.

Zippy continues to hold his position as Mutai steps into the hall, followed by a pair of guards who take up positions near Zippy and watch the struggles on the ground, weapons draw (there is obviously no room for anyone else to get involved). Bo yells at them "Fire! We need a fire!" The pair stare at him for a moment, then one's eyes widen as he spots the writhing hand. The guard bolts down the hall and around the corner to the north.

Back in the room, Nasir administers a neutralize poison on Zeb, who remains unresponsive. The crowd parts as Lurgan moves down the aisle towards the back doors, followed by Sindal. On stage, the glowing orb of light continues, and there is no sign of the other two mages.

Round 6

The creature makes a last desperate attempt to break free of Benik, It flails him with its stump and claws with its other hand (doh!). As Migan impales the creature's stump with her bastard sword, pinning it to the floor, Fasheen delivers another head shot, and the thing goes limp. Benik heaves the creature up by the neck and slams it back to the floor for good measure, but it remains limp.

Bo continues to hold the wriggling hand away from everyone on the end of his sword. Nyota watches in fascination as the hand attempts to remove itself from the blade.

Thyme gives up on spell casting and looks around for some sort of brazier or fire source to burn the hand with. No luck.

The others maintain their position. Down the hall Zippy hears a door crash open in the distance.

Inside Nasir continues to assist Zeb, who appears to be coming around (slowly).

In the far distance you still hear horns blowing.

Round 7

Zeb comes around, and shakes off Nasir. He looks around and says "Where did it go?" Nasir points towards the open door, and Zeb moves towards it, stepping into the hall behind Lurgan and Sindal, who arrive on the scene as Benik stands up. The creature remains motionless on the ground. Bo continues to keep the hand away from everyone.

Benik is about to say something when the blood staining his garb and the floor suddenly writhes to life! The pool on the floor gathers itself into a mass of oozing tentacles while the blood on Benik becomes a serpent scaled with droplets of red liquid. It slithers up Benik's body and wraps itself around his neck!

Round 8

Fasheen and Migan move foward to attack the two things, but Sindal calls out "Stand back!" You look towards the pair and realize that Lurgan is holding another of those odd stone spheres. He incants something as he raises it, then gestures towards the things. The now familiar wash of light flows from the stone, striking the two blood creatures, the hand, and the now-still creature. As it rolls over Benik the serpent-thing around his neck disintigrates, as does the tentacle-creature on the floor. The hand suddenly stops moving, then bursts into flame, as does the creature itself.

As the three pieces of the creature vanish, Lurgan steps forward and observes the burning corpse. With a gesture the flames go out. He pulls out a tiny rod with a crystalline point and holds it over the thing. The crystal flickers to iridescent life. "Still alive," he mutters, "difficult to contain." He gazes at the crystal, lost in thought.

The rest of you gather around the corpse, eyes peeled. In the distance, the horns continue to sound. Migan says "Master Lurgan, Master Sindal. Duty calls. Do you need any more of these things alive?" Lurgan waves a hand over his shoulder and Sindal says "I think this will be sufficient Captain. Be sure you burn any remains completely. As you have seen, even the smallest part may pose a threat." He smiles. "Good luck."

Migan nods, and after a brief bow in the general direction of the group turns and strides down the hall. A guard detaches himself from the group loitering near the door and takes up a guide position for the Legionnaire.

Final summary:

The entire party is in the hallway with Lurgan and Sindal nearby. A group of guards is also in the area. There are scant sounds coming from the great hall, though obviously there are still people inside. The two mages are studying the remains, and Lurgan is obviously lost in thought. Thyme ends the enlarge spell on Benik so there is a bit more room in the hall.

Before Captain Migan is out of earshot Fasheen will yell, "Are our services required or requested Captain?" Zippy will vocally relay the message is needed.

Migan turns and looks over the group, then nods. "Indeed, if you're willing, any help would be well received. My men await outside the Tower. They are good lads, but this" she points at the still smouldering corpse "is beyond their usual duties."

The group all begin to assemble, and Migan turns to the guard and waves him on. At the back of the group, Thyme asks Sindal if he should stay. Sindal looks to Lurgan than turns back to Thyme and shrugs. "I think we can clean up the rest of this mess. Go with your friends. They will need your help."

As Thyme turns away, Sindal grasps him by the arm and calls out "Captain! Bide a moment." As the group stops and turns towards Sindal, he begins to mutter an incantation beneath his breath. As he completes the spell and gestures, a twist luminous blue light swirls forth from his hand and wraps itself around each of you, then slowly sinks into your clothing and skin. "That may provide some protection. Be careful, all of you."

Migan bows "Our thanks Master Sindal." and the rest of the party mutter similar thanks. Then as a group you turn and follow Migan and the guard through the passages of the Tower and back to the main gate. Curiously on the way out the dense fog of the courtyard is gone, and the path to the gate is short and clear.

Once outside the Tower you hear the horns more clearly. Those familiar with the city easily recognize the sound of the Militia alarm. A troop of 100 Legionnaires awaits without, and Migan quickly issues orders to them. They divide up into squads of 20 and head off in various directions.

Migan returns to the group and says "So far three of the creatures have been spotted around the city. One has broken out of the main gate and headed across the desert. A Militia company is in pursuit. Another was seen near the keep, and I'm headed there now. The third was seen near the docks." She looks at Fasheen "There are Miltia and Legion companies in the area, but perhaps you could head that way and see if you can assist there." She looks you all over then says, "You've done well tonight. Good luck!" She whirls and begins trotting in the direction of the keep. As you watch a shadowy figure detaches from the walls around the Tower and falls in beside her.

Fasheen is about to speak when you hear a loud whistle from the direction Migan went. Fasheen turns and at the corner Migan throws something to him. "Make sure I get that back," she yells, then continues around the corner. Fasheen is now holding a Legion captain's medallion.

Fasheen is about to speak (again) when you hear a loud grinding from well above you. You look around and finally notice movement near the highest spire of the Tower. One of the lacy points of the structure is slowly rotating to one side, revealing a small balcony. The grinding ceases and someone steps out onto the tiny, railless platform. You can't see the person's face, the the flaming staff they bear is quite familiar.

You watch for a moment, and nothing seems to happen, then you notice the staff is growing brighter. And brighter. You squint to protect your eyes, but still the light grows. Abruptly the light flares, then splits. Three brilliant arrows of fire lance into the heavens above the city, then burst into orbs of brilliant orange light, brighter than daylight. You look around and realize the entire city is illuminated. When you look back to the Tower, the balcony is empty.

After a brief debate you decide to head for the dock area on foot. You start trotting towards the barbican that marks the head of the road down to the docks. Initially Fasheen takes the lead, but Zeb, Nyota and Zippy quickly pass him and form a vanguard (see running skill IS useful). Fasheen, Benik, Nasir, and Bo form the middle group, while Thyme brings up the rear.

The streets are empty, though as you pass you see eyes peering from behind shuttered windows and darkened doorways. Even the tavern you pass is quiet. In the distance the Militia horns still sound, echoing between the towers of the city walls.

You trot on for a good 5 minutes, then round the last bend in the road leading to the dock barbican. Those in front stop about 200 yards from the gate and the rest of the group catches up. There is a large group of Militia at the gate, which is closed and barred. Fasheen takes the initiative and leads you towards the Militiamen, who spot you almost at once. A sergeant steps forward backed by a squad, and calls out "Halt! The streets are closed! Return to your homes at once or be arrested!"

Fasheen raises the Legion medallion and calls out "We are here on official business on the order of Captain Kesmin! We need to pass to the docks."

The two groups close and the sergeant eyes the medallion, the speaks "Where are your orders? How do I know you didn't just steal that?"

Benik steps forward, drops a hand to his sword and quietly says "Do you accuse a Knight of Trian of theft?"

The sergeant eyes Benik, his shield and tabard, and the rest of the group. He is about to speak when a female voice calls from near the gate. "Let them pass sergeant. I know them." The party looks towards the source of the voice and some recognize captain Nonala of the Militia. She nods to the group and says "Pass them through the postern gate."

The sergeant shrugs and points the way, then leads you through a narrow door to one side of the barbican. You follow him through a series of locked doors and twisted passages, and on the other side of the tower he waves you through. There is another squad on duty outside the gate, and the sergeant calls out "Captain Nonala passes these on her authority." The sergeant on the other side nods and waves you on. You move forward and find yourselves standing at the top of The Stair, the great roadway that winds up the cliff from Seshai to Ume. At the lower end of The Stair you see a cluster of torches moving through the warehouse district that backs the docks.

You begin to move down the roadway, eyes peeled. Again everything appears to be locked up tight. There's even less signs of life out here. As you approach the base of the roadway and near the point you saw the torches, sounds of conflict erupt from the far side of a warehouse. As one you move towards the disturbance.

[Time note: About 30 minutes have passed since Lurgan cast his spell]

As you turn the corner the noise grows, and a sudden howl cuts the air. Ahead of you a semi-circle of uniformed men surround something backed against the warehouse wall. As you move forward, several turn towards you, weapons drawn, but turn back to the action when they see the Legion medallion Fasheen raises.

As a group you push foward through the crowd, which reluctantly parts before you. Within the semi-circle you find four pikemen struggling to keep a creature pinned against the warehouse wall. Three swordsmen are slowly (reluctantly) advancing towards the shapeshifter, who appears to be pretty feisty despite having four pikes stuck through various body parts.

Fasheen spots the Miltia captain (getting good at spotting those uniforms), and calls to him "Captain, if you're men can hold that creature perhaps we should slay it." The captain turns and stares at Fasheen, the medallion, and the rest of the group, then nods. "Ilano! Marede! Luigior! Back off. The rest of you hold it!"

As Thyme and Nyota begin spellcasting on Zeb and Benik, Fasheen and Zippy line themselves up for bowshots. Bo decides bowshots wouldn't be a bad idea and unlimbers his bow as well. Fasheen decides that firing his once-a-day shot in a crowd is probably unwise (lightning tends to bounce), and each of the trio takes a shot.

Fasheen and Zippy's shots are both wide, but Bo's strikes the creature in the arm.

Fasheen turns to Zippy and says "I guess Bo wins that round..." when there is a sudden SSSSSSSSSSSSSS THWOK! followed by a hideous yowl of pain from the creature. You turn in amazement and look at the creature, and more importantly, the silvery arrow that has suddenly sprouted from its left eye. As you stare, the arrow suddenly bursts into white flame and the creature begins to claw at its own head, mewling in pain.

Abruptly a clear voice cuts through the murmurs of the party and the Militia men, "It would be wise to insure your opponent's demise before you joke."

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS THWOK! A second arrow sprouts from the creature's mouth, then, like its twin, bursts into white flame.

"Especially when your foes are these creatures." You all turn towards the voice. Standing back about 50 yards from the group you spy a lone figure, lowering a massive bow. There is a muttering among the Militia men, and you all stare for a moment. For the first time you see the mysterious bowman's face. She, for clearly she is a she, is not human. The pure golden hair, pointed ears, pale skin, and luminous gray eyes could only belong to an Elf!

A loud yowl from the creature draws your attention back to the matter at hand. You realize one of the pikemen has dropped his weapon, and the creature, despite the white flames billowing around its head, is about to break free. "With me!" cries Zeb, and as one he and Benik charge the thing. Zeb's longer weapon allows him the first blow, and it's a solid one. He drives the point of Kai-Tekma deep into the creature's chest. Benik is close behind. He strikes a terrible blow to the creature's neck, nearly decapitating the thing.

Rallied by the pair's attack, the third pikeman picks up his weapon and drives it back into the creature with a satisfying thunk.

The creature, now firmly pinned, is an easy target. Zeb and Benik continue to hack at it, and eventually it stops moving. As the creature's last twitchings stop, the flames dancing around its head slowly die down.

Thyme turns to the Militia captain and says "We need to burn these remains, and anything tainted with the blood of the creature. Hurry!" The captain stares at Thyme, then as a pool of blood near the creature slowly begins to gather itself, curses under his breath. "Drop the pikes boys!" he cries.

All the while Nyota has been muttering near the edge of the circle of Militiamen. Anticipating what might happen next, Bo calls out "Everyone back!" The Militiamen, Benik and Zeb all scramble backwards (strangely neither Zeb's spear or Benik's sword has a spot of blood on it). As Benik reaches the circle of onlookers, Nyota gestures with his curious two-headed spear, then strikes the ground at his feet. Abruptly a slithering mass of magma boils up from the base of his staff and creeps foward in a widening arc towards the creature. As it touches the bloody weapons they ignite with a sickly hissing sound. The pikes catch fire, as does the creature's corpse. The magma melts back into the ground as quickly as it appeared, and you are left with a trio of smouldering pikes, a well-cooked corpse, and a warehouse wall that is a little worse for wear. Nyota steps forward, mutters a phrase under his breath, then examines the remains. Finally he straightens. "I think it's dead."

There is a burst of relieved conversation from the Miltia, which dies as the captain barks an order to form up. He approaches the group and says "Well, make no mistake that was more action than I'd like to see, ever. Thanks for you're assistance." He turns and looks to where the Elf was standing, and jerks his head in that direction. "Who was that?"

Fasheen answers "My future wife... I hope."

You realize now that the alarm horns seem to have stopped for the most part. You haven't heard the 'all clear' sounded yet, but that's probably because all the active patrols have not yet checked in.

As the main part of the party gathers and discusses their course of action, Zippy wanders up the road a ways to see if he can see where the Elf went, and Nyota continues to examine the remains of the toasted shapeshifter.

The Militia captain begins issuing orders to his men, forming most of them up, but ordering one group of four to bag up the remains and take them to the guard post at the barbican for disposal.

Fasheen talks with the sergeant and discovers this was the only creature seen in the docks area. When Fasheen asks how sure he is about that he says his group will be continuing their sweep, but they were almost done when they came upon this creature, and another patrol is out in the area as well.

For those that don't know the dock area is fairly extensive, but it's mostly open docks and walkways, and warehouses well above the high tide line. The tide is near 'normal' full right now, so many of the docks and ship cradles are underwater. All the shipping afloat is isolated from the shore -- you would need a small boat to get to any ship.

For the most part the docks are shut down at night. There may be a few people working in warehouses packing or unpacking goods for shipping, but that's about it.

The trio of bowmen look around for their arrows and discover they've all been either burned or shattered against the stone wall behind the creatures.

Bo tells the sergeant he may want to be sure the remains of the creature are thoroughly burned before they're buried or dumped.

Seeing as there is little else going on in the docks, the party heads back up the road to the barbican and returns to the central part of the city. Since Migan said she was headed towards the keep (the location of the last known shapeshifter), the party decides to circle up through the north quarter and see if anything is happening there. With a brief discussion at the gate, the party crosses over into the north quarter and circles the area. All seems quiet, and every building seems secure. You return to the old quarter and circle it as well, passing two Militia patrols along the way. Each stops you, but Migan's badge of office clears the way.

Finally you reach the gate leading into the section of the city containing the keep. Here the guards are Legionnaires, and when you approach the gate, you are turned away by a stern-faced sergeant you don't recognize. Not even Migan's badge seems to impress him, so you decide to return to your quarters and see if any news awaits.

Just before you reach the tower, you hear the Militia horns sound the all clear signal. You expect a rush to the streets, but then you realize it's very late and that most people will probably not come out for a while. You return to the tower, climb the stairs, and collapse into various chairs around the common room.

[Note that Thyme asked the Militia captain about the remains of the creature but was refused. The captain had strict orders to bring the remains back to headquarters. To Fasheen's query as to whether or not the creature you killed in the street was a shapeshifter, it appeared identical to the one you captured in the Tower, and Nyota will state that it had the same aura -- whatever the hell that means.]

Quaso 33 (dawn)

After the excitement of the evening, everyone finds it easy to fall asleep, the occasional clink of armor from the guards in the hall provides a reassuring backdrop as you doze off.

You awaken the next morning refreshed but hungry. You make your way down to the mess hall and consume the typical breakfast offering of bread, cheese, oat porridge, except Nyota, who only drinks water. Fasheen is about to make inquiries as to where Captain Kesmin might be, when Nyota says "First, come back to the rooms, I must show you something."

Curious, the group troops back up the stairs and back into your rooms, where Nyota pulls out a cloth-wrapped object from his personal belongings. He lays it on the table and carefully unwraps it, revealing two very long, very wickedly barbed arrows. Nyota says "I pulled these from the remains of the creature last night. They were not burned at all. Last night they appeared to be magical, but no longer."

Nasir mutters a spell, as does Bo, and both agree there is only the faintest hint of magic coming from the arrows. Nasir declares there is no aura of evil around them either. Fasheen studies one carefully, then jerks his hand back in pain as he tests the edge of the point and it neatly slices open his fingertip "That's incredibly sharp!" he exclaims.

After the party is done examining them, Nyota wraps them once again [you can let me know if you want to bring them along]. As a group you head downstairs to find Migan. You reach the first floor and are about to ask the sergeant on duty where the captain might be when she walks out of her office and greets you all with the closest to a smile you've ever seen. "Good morning, please, come in," she waves towards her office, "we have much to discuss."

You follow her into a large office dominated by a large table placed in the center of the room. Various maps are spread upon it, a map of Ume, a map of the area around Ume, and a map that looks to be of the roads between Ume and Crossing Way are the most obvious. To one side a scribe sits at a small table, scribbling something into a large logbook. Migan moves toward the main table and spreads the map of Ume a bit wider. Fasheen takes the opportunity to weigh down one corner with the Captain's medallion. Migan chuckles and nods to Fasheen. "I received a report from the Militia this morning that they slew one of the creatures near the docks with the assistance of several citizens and an Elf of all things." She looks at each of you in turn "Lendra says you did well, once you decided to act. Hopefully one of you retrieved her arrows?" When Fasheen nods Migan continues "Good. It wouldn't do for those to fall into the wrong hands."

Seeing the puzzled expressions on various party memeber's faces. She sighs. "Yes, I know it's silly to be so secretive, but there are enough rumors and stories flying around the city as it is. After last night it will only get worse. The last thing we need is a mob rampaging through the streets looking for 'creatures'. An Elf in the city would be just one more log on the fire."

"Hopefully we are finished with these things for the present." She picks up a pointer from the edge of the table "The one you killed was here," she points to the area of the docks where you slew the creature. "A second was spotted near the gates but managed to break free into the desert. The company that went after it hasn't returned yet. The one in the Tower of the Four is secured, and the last was here." She points to an outer buildng in the keep area of the city. "We cornered it in the storehouse here, and eventually drove it into this courtyard, where two-dozen archers took it down. We burned the remains to dust."

Fasheen asks "Do you believe there are any more of these creatures about?"

"Once the Militia runs down the last one out in the desert that should be all of them. Sumais claims the spell should have revealed all the creatures within several miles. My only worry is that one may have holed up somewhere and not been found. By now it will have recovered its abilities and could be long gone. Or not." Migan frowns "It seems obvious they can get through the gates undetected. We'll have to find out some means of detecting them and stopping them. The real question is why they're here and what they want." She stares at the map, lost in thought.

Thyme speaks up "Captain, can you tell us what became of the remains of the one we killed? I tried to have them taken to the Tower of the Four for study, but the Militia captain refused."

Migan answers "They'll end up there later today. I ordered all the remains brought here first to insure they were really dead."

She continues "Well, all in all a good night's work. I hope you got your rest last night. Wouldn't do to nod off with your audience this afternoon." She pauses for a moment, enjoying your puzzled expressions, then continues "Oh, I guess I didn't mention that you have an audience with the Prince at the afternoon bell today. Be at the keep gate about half an hour before then, and some one will be there to escort you in." She looks over your garb and says "You may want to clean up a bit first."

There is a knock at the door, and a Legion sergeat sticks his head in "Captain, you asked me to remind you of your meeting."

Migan nods "Very well sergeant, I'll be out shortly." She turns back to the table, picks up her medallion and loops it around her neck. "Before I go, two things. First I can let you have the rooms above for another night, but you'll have to find lodgings elsewhere after that, there are visitors coming in. And should you wish to return Lendra's arrows, she is staying at the Tower of the Four." With a curt nod the captain strides from the room.

You all take a last look around before leaving. You notice the scribe in the corner is still scribbling away. As you climb the stairs and enter your rooms you realize you're going to miss the place, it was one of the most comfortable places you've been in a long time.

Zeb has a dream which he relays to the party:

You find yourself wandering down a dark passage of dark, almost black stone. The dusty air seems to clog your throat as you creep forward towards the dim, flickering light ahead.

As you creep around the bend you see a tiny flame flicking in the center of a small chamber. On the far side a shadow lurks in the darkness. Slowly you move forward, studying the shape on the far side of the fire. Finally you make out a face, a face with empty sockets where there should be eyes, a rotted stump of a nose, and cruel scars on either cheek. It speaks:

"I have seen the world laid to waste. I have seen the horrors to come. Is it a sin to wish for death?"

You wake with a start, almost leaping from your bed. In the next bunk Thyme turns and mutters something in his sleep you can't quite catch.

Quaso 33 (morning)

[Overview of activity. I'll have side messages going out this morning.]

Quaso 33 (early afternoon)

As the last stragglers return to the tower prior to setting off towards your rendevous with the Prince, Thyme calls everyone over. "Friends, while I was at the Tower of the Four this morning with Fasheen, I stopped by Master Sindal's office. This was waiting for me there." He pulls a foot square, four inch thick, cloth-wrapped package from beneath his robes. "Sindal's assistant said it was from Lurgan. Something for all of us to see.

He places the package on the table in the center of the room. You can clearly see the large wax seal holding the cloth wrapping in place. Without further ado, Thyme reaches down and breaks the seal then pulls the enveloping cloth free, revealing a small gray silk bag tied with a black cord. Nyota leans forward and studies it, narrowing his eyes. "Hmmm. Magic," he mutters.

Thyme smiles "Of course it's magic, it's from the Tower of the Four! Let's see what we have here. He loosens the cord and reaches into the bag. "Hmmm. Let's see... OW!" He jerks his hand out, revealing a deep gash in one finger. "Something sharp in there."

"Obviously." says Bo as he casts a cure on Thyme's hand.

Fasheen steps forward, and opens the bag wide. His eyes widen a bit as he peers inside, then reaches down and pulls out sheaf of twelve twelve arrows, including one with a bloody point. As Fasheen stares at the arrows, Zippy reaches for the bag and gently upends it over the nest of cloth it was wrapped in. With a 'tink, clink, tink', six vials roll out of the bag, each about six inches long and two inches in diameter, each bearing a tiny piece of parchment with something scribbled on in. Zippy frowns, then gives the bag a final shake, at last a plain band of red gold falls from the bag and plonks to the paper next to the vials.

Zippy drops the bag and begins to examine the vials and ring as the rest gather round. Meanwhile Benik examines the sack. Suddenly he calls to the others "Hey! Look at this!" You turn and see Benik has his entire arm up to the shoulder stuck in the sack. "Pretty neat huh?"

The group chuckles at Benik, then turns back to examine the vials and ring. Thyme picks up one of the vials and studies the parchment label. "Rrmm. Ancient Vichese. And written in a poor hand as well. Let's see... 'Strength of Ice'. Wonder what that means?"

Eventually Thyme deciphers all the labels:

There is no marking upon the ring, but it feels warm to the touch (warmer than it should even given the surroundings).

Fasheen reports the arrows are of the finest quality, and will likely fit any of the group's longbows. He points out that the points glow faintly in the dark.

The group falls to discussing the items, but Bo points to the sun -- "We need to go lads. Let's pack this stuff away for now. Plenty of time to talk about it later."

You pack the items back into the bag, then stow it with the rest of your gear in the back room (which you can lock), then together, you make your way down the stairs and out into the blazing heat of a Burning afternoon.

"To the Prince" cries Zippy as you set out.

Final tally:

You set out along the Promenade towards the the Old Gate that leads to the city keep. As you cross the Grand Plaza things are fairly quiet -- most people avoid moving around outside in the afternoon. A pall of dust hangs in the air and Zippy mutters "So much for the clean clothes."

The Promenade continues on the far side of the Plaza, and eventually you reach the old gate. A squad of Legionnaires are on duty, and one approaches you as you arrive at the gate and asks your business. Fasheen steps forward and says "I am Fasheen Fa'ladn, and these are my companions. We have an appointment with the Prince at the afternoon bell.

The guard says "Wait here," turns, and walks over to a cluster of people gathered in the shade of the wall. After a few moments conversation, one of the men detaches himself from the crowd and comes over. "I am Administrator Treva. You are expected." He turns to the group of lads seated in the shade and calls one over. "This is Erne, he will lead you to Keep Gate."

The youth beckons and you all follow, looking for the first time upon the true military heart of Ume. As you walk along the road, you are impressed by the multitude of barracks and stables you pass. On the left a large fortification juts from the wall, the banners of the Empire, Prince and Legion hanging over the gatehouse stairs. You continue past this structure, and skirt a broad practice yard, dusty but empty. On the far side you come to another massive arched gate in the wall guarded by another Legion squad. Erne says "This is the Keep Gate. Someone else will take you on. G'day sirs," then bows and trots back the way you came.

You receive much the same treatment at this gate as the last, though this time you are passed through a postern door rather than the main gate, which remains closed.

The space beyond is dominated by the massive keep it contains. The structure is a full eight stories high, and easily spans 200 feet east-west and north-south. Two large square towers jut from its front walls, while a steep stair leads up to the main entrance. You move towards the keep, this time accompanied by five Legionnaires. They take you in through the main entrance, then turn down a side passage and up a flight of stairs. At the top they instruct you to remove all your weapons and place them in the closet their leader unlocks. Nyota resists at first, not wanting to give up his two-pointed spear, but eventually he gives in. You are each patted down and then the closet is locked and the guards lead you on.

Beyond the closet they lead you down a hallway, then into a large, well appointed chamber. Once they see you inside the group's leader tells you the Prince will arrive shortly, then they take up guard positions outside the door you came in and the door across the chamber.

The room itself is about forty feet long and twenty wide. It is obviously an audience chamber for there is a low platform with an ornate chair at one end and a few other seats scattered along the edges of the room. The walls are hung with some very nice tapestries depicting country scenes from the south. You note there are no windows in the room, and look up to find the lights, which take the form of four glowing orbs suspended from the ceiling.

You are just growing restless when the doorway across the chamber opens and officious looking older Vichese marches in. "Herald" mutters Benik under his breath. You see several other people in the hall behind him, and unconciously straighten your posture.

The man looks to the Legion sergeant, who nods, then at each of you in turn. Finally he speaks. "Presenting, his Royal Highness, Defender of the Northern Passage, Lord of the Desert, and Crown Prince of Ume, Nalish Argen."

The group in the hall sweeps into the room. First there are another five Legionnaires, who take up guard positions around the room. The Prince arrives next, with an elderly woman upon his arm. He leads her to a chair near the wall and seats her as the rest of the group comes in. There is a stern looking Vichese who resembles the Prince, a younger Vichese with a pudgy face, and finally four pages bearing a box-like object covered with a cloth, which they set down near the raised chair at the end of the room.

The Prince walks up to the chair and sits. The herald looks around and sees that everyone is settled, then calls out "Be it known on this day that the Prince of Ume has called before him the following men. Let them stand forth!"

"Benik Kasashi"

"Fasheen Fa'ladn"

"Nasir Fa'ladn"

"Boridan Etmoss"

"Zipilan Feriday"

"Tianama Kishawa"

"Nyota Mtoto"

"Zebulon Bairn"

(You are surprised that the herald gets all the names correct, right down to Nyota's weird little last name).

As each of your names is called, he gestures for you to step forward. You each walk up and stand before the seated Prince, forming a loose line in front of him. Once you have all been called, he rises and smiles. "Men, you have done this city a great service. By your actions have the streets been clensed of the taint of evil. Aside from that were it not for you, I would in all likelyhood now be dead. Would that the events involved could be made public I would be honoring you in a public ceremony in the great hall instead of here in this small and private way." he pauses for a moment, then smiles a sad smile. "Alas that is not to be, so I must resort to this. Firstly, I want to tell each and every one of you that you have my thanks, both for saving my life and for your aid in the recent events that by now we all know too much about. Should you have need, know that you have a friend in the city of Ume." There is a stirring behind you as the herald clears his throat. The Prince smiles once again and says "Yes Vetoni, I know we are late. But I will not hurry this." Behind you the herald sighs and bows his head.

"I suppose he is right. I wish that I had more time to hear of your journey and your hardships, but time presses." he turns and walks to the object the pages brought in and sweeps the cloth to one side, revealing a low table with two boxes on top. The herald scurries forward and picks up the first box, then the two of them move to stand before Benik.

The herald opens the box and the Prince reaches in, pulling out a broad chain of silver. He turns to Benik and speaks "Sir Benik Kasahsi, Knight of Trian, as the Prince of Ume and in the glorious name of the Emperor Nokimos, the third of that name, I do hearby bestow upon you the honor of Friend of the Empire." he pauses and places the chain around Benik's neck. "We honor you as you have honored us with your service."

One by one he makes his way down the line, bestowing the same honor upon each of you. As he finishes the herald returns the box to its original position and the Prince moves back to the front of the room. He turns and faces you. He smiles again, this time a bit of a sly look comes to his eye. "Of course man does not live by honors alone. Vetoni!" The herald reaches over and opens the second box. Even from where you stand you can see the glitter of gold from within.

"A small token of appreciation. Don't spend it all in one place." He smiles a final time, then glances at the herald, who is nerviously tapping his fingers upon his thigh. "And now my friends, I must take my leave. Duty does press, and I have much to catch up on." He moves forward and clasps each of you by the hand. "My thanks to you all, and if you have need, you know where to come."

He turns and sweeps from the room, entourage in tow.

The guards that brought you in move forward and close the chest, then make room for Benik and Zeb to pick it up. You retrace your steps out of the keep and down the stairs, gathering your weapons along the way. One beyond the Keep and Old Gates, you fall into your familiar marching pattern, Benik and Zeb in the middle of the group, muttering to each other about the weight of the chest.

You reach the Inner Gate tower and your rooms without incident, and Zeb and Benik spill the chest out on the table in the common room. There's a lot of gold here.

Zippy starts counting, and after starting over once the group gets a scale and measures the rest of the gold. The tally comes out to around 6000 coins, all freshly minted imperial royals.

This is the end of this chapter. The next chapter will be added as events unfold.

Administrative interlude:

This is meta-discussion of the future. Ignore as you like.

So we've got a F2F game coming up in a couple months. I'm starting to think about where to go with it and I'd like to hear from you guys on the subject. Maybe I need to feed some more threads to the group to give you more choices too.

I'm not talking about short-term or single-character goals (though hearing about those is good too), I'm talking more about major goals and ideas the party might have for what they'd like to pursue next. Here are some of the areas that you may want to think about. I'm sure some of you can add more.

  1. The Elders (Migan et al) seem to be focused on retrieving Oslan from its resting place. What can the group do to support this? Should they support this?
  2. So far your group has run into several different sets of bad guys. There were Orcs and Sandlings in the first adventure, Drow and nasty undead in the second, Yuan-ti in the third, and now Shapeshifters. Where are all these bad guys coming from? What are they doing? Who is allied with whom? Do they have a larger purpose?
  3. What was the deal with that vision of Ume besieged? What about those glowing pillars? Who was the mage that recharged it, and who was the giant that called down the storm?
  4. What's going on with the ships spotted off the coast? Who are they and what are they doing?
  5. Who is/was behind the assassination attempts against the Prince and why?
  6. The fall trade caravans are going to be reaching Ume soon. Will they reach Gap safely?
  7. Sandworms and wyverns. Just random attacks, or a sign of something larger afoot?
  8. What was the meaning of Tara D'fey's reading of the bones?
  9. What of Nyota's vision?
  10. Lendo's blade, should it be returned?
  11. Tunnels beneath Ume. Do they exist? Should they be investigated?
  12. What is going to be the final disposition of the Eye?
  13. What other things are going on in Ume that might be a sign of something interesting?
  14. Should we go somewhere else?
  15. Did we level yet?