February 24th, 2008

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12th of Autumn

Dalgeard dreams of terrifying portents: ashen destruction, from which squabbling crows take the Seed away to the south. He becomes convinced that holding this apparent magnet of ill fortune is no longer wise; it must be used or destroyed. (Dalgeard's Dreamer trait finally comes into play)

Father Octavius, pulled away from ministering to Gaius by the demands of his temple, assigns the knight-exorcist Victor to his defense. Dalgeard takes to the young man quickly, convinced that this soldier of Hades (who is, after all, closely associated with crows) is somehow relevant to his dream. Victor also proves knowledgeable about demons; when asked, he describes their major attributes and the strange effects that accompany their presence (such as weird omens in cracked glass, clocks running backwards, and wine turning to blood).

In accordance with the agreement made between Alcibiades and the captive troglodyte, the latter is released at the west gate of Quno. Alcibiades brings word to the guard and the Order Arcanis, neither of whom seem particularly interested. Brutus and Elias, however, are quite willing to take matters into their own hands. Elias even goes so far as to suggest a friendly wager, as to whose arrow will kill the trog. In the end, it's uncertain: Brutus' shot hits first, but it may have been Elias' arrow that killed the shaman.

Brutus requests permission to investigate the troglodyte tribe, but is held back by Gaius' strict orders to return at sunrise of the next day.

Viad seeks out the local guide Terim Varanus, whom she had encountered previously. He tells her that he has found a scholar who might assist her, and they arrange a meeting at the party's lodgings for the next day.

13th of Autumn

When Brutus returns from burying the troglodyte body, he is immediately sent out again to retrieve its skull for Victor to investigate. The exorcist attempts to call back its spirit from Hades' domain, seeking to uncover any secrets the shaman may have withheld. Hades, however, reveals nothing; the pagan's spirit has passed beyond his realm. (Ob 5 Faith test, failed)

Terim Varanus brings the scholar of which he spoke, one Solosian, to meet Viad and her companions. Though somewhat full of himself, Solosian is quickly convinced that the party is on to something real - the clincher being the demonic trident which Gaius brings forth for him to examine. He answers some general questions about demons and Pandemonium, and takes the trident away for further examination, on a promise to share whatever he learns with the party. Terim is thanked and tipped, and the two go on their way.

Gaius assigns Elias to follow the pair, to ensure they are not being followed in turn. Terim, however, catches sight of their tail, and intercepts him before they go very far into the city. In his report to Gaius, however, Elias decides to spice things up a bit, spinning a tale of muggers whom he caught and roughly discouraged.

Dalgeard sights a crow looking in his window, a troubling omen in light of his dream.

Brutus again requests permission to investigate the troglodyte village. Gaius grants him two days and nights, on the strict condition that he not engage any of the trogs. Brutus is off like a shot, and no one seems quite convinced that he'll manage to follow orders.

14th-15th of Autumn

Brutus' Reconnaissance

Following the directions extracted from Cthemis, and quick-marching in order to make it there and back in time, Brutus is able to locate the black lake and stealthily enter the subcanopy. He slips by the outer ring of troglodyte patrols, using his knowledge of their ways from the Flarian campaign to avoid commonly used paths (FoRKed Soldiering and Tracking).

He observes a community of 100-200 troglodytes, centered around a crude stone altar and a collection of tents marked with signs that indicate shamans and priests dwell there. In fact, he watches as a fat and crippled trog priest is carried to the altar by acolytes, where it undertakes some incomprehensible ritual. For such a maimed individual to be suffered to live in troglodyte society, he must be terribly important. Brutus finds that he has a clear shot to this troglodyte leader; he weighs his orders against his hatred of trogs, and in the end, hatred prevails.

(Belief conflict! The GM baited this particular hook with a Persona point, which may have helped.)

Brutus' arrow is perfectly delivered, striking the priest in the throat at the peak of the ritual. But it doesn't kill him, and there is no opportunity for a second shot. Brutus attempts to escape before the trogs patrols can move out in force, but is cut off; he goes to ground instead, hiding amongst the mountainous roots of a Great Tree. From there, he observes the wounded priest being carried back to his tent. After a few hours, the furor dies down, and Brutus is able to escape back to the surface.

What Brutus doesn't see is the priest's scheme for revenge. Another ritual is preformed, and a call sent out into the depths of Pandemonium. Something answers that call, and in return for a suitable sacrifice swears to make the would-be assassin's life hell.

The Green's Messenger

Meanwhile, the rest of the party continues to pursue their own investigations. Through a series of messages, Gaius attempts to determine if there has been anyone in the Tarsuli government paying undue attention to his actions. He hears nothing definitive, but does catch hold of a rumor that Xenophon has been the subject of unfriendly scrutiny as a result of his foster son's activities.

(attempt to detect movement in his Circles, failed)

Only two things have kept the party in Quno as long as they have been; the first is Gaius' recent injury, the second the expected response to Dalgeard's message to the Green. The latter, at least, comes at last.

A dark-clad woodsman named Sorex presents himself to Dalgeard, claiming to have come in response to Owl's message on the dwarf's behalf. He is at first doubtful of the Seed's existence, but is quickly convinced by the sight of it. More difficult to overcome is his clear disdain for the party; in Dalgeard's case, as a heretic follower of the Thousand Prophecies, and in the others' case, as representatives of the despised Tarsuli Republic.

Sorex's demands are that he, and he alone, take the seed before the elders of the Green, who are alone capable of determining its true importance. Dalgeard is suddenly reluctant to part with the seed, despite his new resolution to dispose of it, while Gaius insists that all of them accompany Sorex to Shelgaia in order to present their case for alliance between Green and Republic. Sorex, in turn, is unwilling to drag eight foreigners, one of them wounded, on a journey that would take him weeks alone but months with so many companions. In the midst of their discussions, however, Viad bursts in. She questions Sorex's credentials, even suggesting that he may be a demon in disguise, and manages to so infuriate the druid that he leaves in a huff.

Seeing their one hope of finding allies among the Green disappearing, Gaius demands that Viad follow and apologize to their messenger. After a fierce argument, she concedes, but under the condition that the party will not follow him to Shelgaia without knowing more about their prospective guide.

Still seething at Gaius' apparent inability to take her seriously, Viad finds Sorex and begs his forgiveness. He accepts the apology, and the two find that they are in agreement on one point: it is vital that the Seed reach Shelgaia as quickly as possible. She offers to come with him to Shelgaia, to plead her own case before the Circle of Nine.

Unbeknownst to either of them, Dalgeard has since determined that his best course of action is simply to relinquish the seed. He breaks into their discussion as Sorex and Viad are discussing the possibility of stealing the Seed away, and offers a simpler solution: he will give the Seed into Viad's care. As the two dwarves prepare to part ways, possibly forever, Dalgeard unburdens his secret past to Viad. He, too, was once a soldier of the Kains, fighting the hopeless war with Pandemonium; he, too, left to search for a better way, breaking an oath to Viad's own father in the process. But while he searched in vain for nearly two hundred years, in her he sees someone who might find that way.

The last of the Kains no longer, Viad tearfully embraces her rediscovered uncle before disappearing into the jungles of the south. She swears to bring Gaius' request before the Green, and to return to Tarsul once her alliances are secure.

16th of Autumn

Brutus returns to report the success of his mission, with the only wrinkle being some brief pursuit as he left.

Solosian reports what he has learned about the trident; that it belonged to a particular kind of soldier of Pandemonium, a member of something called the Venomous Legion. Such creatures are somewhere between true demons and mortals; though immortal and unnatural, they are creatures of flesh rather than spirit, and vulnerable to mortal weapons.

With nothing more to hold them in Quno, the party begins making preparations to return to the Republic. At least, they think, they will be free from the pursuit of demons now that the Seed has gone another way.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the city, a man spits out his wine as it turns to blood.

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