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"Bitterness and Dread" (E3x02) is the second episode of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity. The Ring of Brass deepen their investigation into Vespin's inconceivable ritual while juggling their own profound desires and lofty ambitions...

Synopsis

Announcements

  • By request, Brennan talks a little longer before throwing to Marisha.
  • A Familiar Problem, a new one-page RPG from Darrington Press and Honey Heist designer Grant Howitt where players are stressed-out familiars, will be coming to local stores for Free RPG Day on 25 June 2022. Learn more at darringtonpress.com.
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Previously on Exandria Unlimited: Calamity

Last week we met our wonderful heroes of Avalir in the Ring of Brass, the somewhat under-the-radar council of those who actually do the moving and shaking of the flying city of Avalir. We met the Guildmaster of the Golden Scythe, Nydas Okiro, the Keeper of Scrolls Patia Por'co, First Knight of Avalir, Sir Zerxus Ilerez, Herald of Avalir Loquatius Seelie, Architect Arcane Laerryn Coramar-Seelie, and Senior Sightwarden Cerrit "Pinch" Agrupnin, on the eve of The Replenishment, which is a great holiday. Once every seven years after a long seven-year venture, the city of Avalir, traveling along Exandria's many ley lines, returns back to Cathmoíra, its terrestrial sister city, and re-alights as the peak of the mountain on its ancient base, where once it stood as a full mountain. All of the magic that Avalir has stored up in its Etheric Net, all of the ether that the city has traded for and gathered and bartered for, is released into the continent of Domunas, where it creates a flourishing of crops and newfound magic and all sorts of wonders and replenishes the land.

We are on the eve of such a Replenishment this very day. However, some strange tidings have come to the city as some artifacts, some debris, some things broken, corroded, and dispelled made their way aboard the city from its last port of call: the detritus of the ritual of Vespin Chloras made its way aboard Avalir. Something rotten within the heart of the city has begun to be exposed by our brave heroes. Only time will tell if they have caught it before it is too late.

We return now to a small room off the side of the grand banquet hall in the Palazzo Por'co, where Cerrit Agrupnin crouches in a room with a dis-animated scarecrow soaked with champagne, a mutilated dead body covered in carved runes and blood, and a cracked mirror in which you now only see your own reflection.

Part I

Fan art of Cerrit and son, by Melissa Hahn.[art 1]

Deeply shocked, Cerrit realizes the face in the mirror was Vespin Chloras, and that the body before him has most of the skin of his face peeled off. However, he first turns back to complete his investigation of the lifeless hodmedod in the room, learning that it is lacking an animating mechanism of any kind. The inside of the dead body's throat is riddled with odd growths. Just then, Cerrit's sending stone vibrates with a call from his son Kir, reporting that his sister is breaking curfew by sneaking out while their mother is away. After telling his son he loves him, Cerrit re-enters the main ballroom.

Outside, after having just spoken to Purvan Suul, Loquatius and Zerxus realize that the words Betrayer Gods never left his lips, and that his crypticness sprang from lack of knowledge rather than attempting to hide something. Zerxus summons his griffon Tempus and goes in search of Nydas, who has reached the Golden Scythe and Alessander Kyrus, his chief bookkeeper. Nydas asks for four automatons but none are available except some experimental prototypes, the "taxmen", which he takes and vanishes into the Meridian Labyrinth. Meanwhile, Loquatius rejoins Patia, and Cerrit tells them what has happened and that Vespin warned him they would never reach the Wildmother's embrace in time, which Cerrit interprets as meaning they will not reach landfall. Loquatius counsels keeping silent about all the ill omens and warnings to maintain calm.

Meanwhile, Laerryn is in the depths of the Meridian Labyrinth, at a crystal engine that she has built. She looks at a locket, a gift from Zerxus's husband Evandrin. She remembers him becoming translucent and incorporeal before fading completely, and she feels guilt for potentially having caused it. Nydas arrives with his four experimental automata. Laerryn thinks that she now has everything she needs for her machine, the Astral Leywright. An automaton inserts the golden bow fragment into the engine and it whirs to life. The automata begin to fuse into one another as the readings rise. One of the three normally-invisible leylines that converge on Cathmoíra suddenly glows and pulses in synchrony with the machine, and the Ley-Rudder, a miniature machine in Laerryn's hand, also glows into life. The miniature in her hand lifts off, moving first with the city and then diagonally, fading from the Prime Material Plane, but the Astral Leywright tracks its safe arrival elsewhere. The experiment is a success, and Laerryn plans to share this information publicly after the month-long Replenishment.

Suddenly, Laerryn realizes the experiment has sucked a significant portion of the city's magical energy into the Arboreal Calix, a machine which stores ether to be returned to the druids of Cathmoíra. It was updated 119 years ago, at the first Replenishment following the ascension of the Raven Queen.

Zerxus arrives in search of Nydas and joins them, and the three return to Patia's ongoing party where Cerrit has sensed the disturbance in the magical force. Laerryn tells the entire group that she has mastered the ability to allow Avalir to travel to another plane of existence, and Cerrit shares what Vespin Chloras told him. They are all aware that they are not the only ones seeking to utilize the power of the apogee solstice, and that they are therefore under threat by both mortals and gods.

They go to the body of the dead cultist, and looking into his orange eyes, Zerxus hears a voice speaking Infernal and the words, "Ghor Dranas". The body is riddled with tumorous growths from the Infernal runes carved into his flesh during a ritual about two weeks ago, when he apparently became a cleric of a Betrayer God who used him as a puppet to quickly seek power from worship upon his return to this plane. Loquatius realizes that the cultist came to the Palace to do something, to complete a task necessary to complete whatever has been set in motion.

Checking her divining stones, Patia sees that earlier this evening, a hodmedod porter with a gift from Dean Lacrytia Hollow put the gift down, entered this room, and never left. It was the cultist in disguise, waiting for the right moment to do something, but he instead had his throat slit by Cerrit. Lacrytia is no longer at the party. Laerryn recasts Rary's Telepathic Bond so the group can communicate with each other, and Patia remembers that another hodmedod, one of Nydas's, disanimated earlier for yet-unknown reasons.

The party decides to find both Lacrytia and her gift, as well as visit the Hall of Prophecies. Outside, the celebratory fireworks begin.

Break

Part II

Lacrytia's gift proves to be a non-magical vial of poison, with the note, "When the time comes, this will be the easier way out. All things end: Lives, stories, even ages." Laerryn shatters the vial on the floor. Patia and Laerryn question Madara Glyph as to Lacrytia's whereabouts, and are told Lacrytia wished to apologize to Purvan Suul. Suspicious, Patia casts Detect Thoughts on Madara and learns she had her memory modified by Micah Cormorant while an invisible Lacrytia pursued Purvan meaning to kill him. Loquatius and Zerxus interrupted by arriving to talk to him first and likely saved his life. Cormorant then left abruptly.

Patia and Laerryn decide to visit Cormorant at his office. Nydas and Zerxus are going to the Hall of Prophecy to learn about their recent visions, while Loquatius and Cerrit are going to Loquatius's office at the Herald's Tome to check his records about Vespin Chloras.

Loquatius and Cerrit find an eight-year-old recorded interview of someone else with Vespin in the background. He is talking with Lacrytia Hollow and Loras of the Weaver's Mask, and Cerrit can read Vespin's lips. They are talking about the pact with the Gau Drashari and why that has made re-creating the Raven Queen's Ritual of Seeding so difficult. But, Vespin says, Avalir bears the Tree of Names, which the Arboreal Calix was built over and around 120 years ago. Over the telepathic link, Zerxus reminds the party that there was a tree in his dream, in the palm of the Betrayer God. The petals fell on Evandrin, and that's what made him sick. Cerrit notices missing records concerning Evandrin in the reporter Elena Tuvaris's file, and questions Loquatius, but Loquatius denies knowing where she is now.

Fan art of the Fireball, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 2]

Patia and Laerryn arrive at the Magisterium and find the locked office of Micah Cormorant. Laerryn casts Summon Construct, animating a massive stone statue of a spell knight that knocks the door off its hinges. As they enter, Patia illuminates the room and they hear something within. Patia uses Detect Magic and tells Laerryn where in the room a ping is coming from. Laerryn casts Fireball there, and a badly singed Cormorant staggers, losing his Invisibility. The construct then finishes him off with its fist.

They search the office and find tampered-with Teleportation Circles with an Infernal rune Cormorant was using to secretly invite people in. They find many records about the Arboreal Calix and the nature of the Pact with the Drashari. They also find an ancient letter written on birch bark around the time the Calix was created, signed by the Head Druid of the Gau Drashari of the Temple of Toramunda. It suggests the Drashari distrust enchantment and the motives of the wizards of Avalir, and can therefore not share "the tree's purpose". Patia and Laerryn have the construct hide the body.

At the Hall of Prophecy, Nydas and Zerxus are met by Sofyra, one of the oracles, who has been crying a lot. Nydas deceives Sofyra into believing Loras sent them and she shares that Volucia, the apprentice of Eldamir the Wise who was alleged to be retiring, has broken her staff, renounced magic forever, and left Avalir. About two weeks ago, oracles started going mad, as did those who tried to heal them. Sofyra is the last one left. She takes Zerxus to see one of them who is now doing better, named Karwen, who appears to be a young, healthy woman, asleep. Zerxus casts Divine Sense and in a reflective sheet of water pouring down one wall, sees that the figure in the bed is actually a grievously wounded Asmodeus, whom he had seen previously in his dream, but the sense of the fiendish is coming incredibly strongly from the wall of water. Putting up one hand, he walks through it and into another time, another realm.

Fan art of Asmodeus and Zerxus, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 3]

The wounded fiend is in a bed there, talking with difficulty. Zerxus casts Cure Wounds on him, keeping him from dying, and notices that he is beautiful, resembling Evandrin, but the fiend explains his appearance changes with the beholder. As Zerxus cares for his wounds, Asmodeus tells him that long ago, someone explosively broke all the Betrayers out of their prison. They came to Exandria when it was a world of raw energy, and shaped it, but it belonged to the Primordials first. The gods offered their creations, and by the time it was his turn, the virtues of truth, love, honor, courage, and mortal beings and choices had been created already. Asmodeus offered their counterparts, such as betrayal and viciousness, thinking it would make the earlier gifts matter more. But he was called evil and wicked, and cursed. The Primordials eventually revolted against the overreach of their gifts by the Prime Deities when the deities sought to give magic to mortals, fought them, and eventually were defeated by them.

Zerxus urges Asmodeus not to forget that mortals are also capable of kindness, and that the Betrayers had turned on mortals and hurt them, as well. He begs him not to take his pain out on mortals, and pledges to help him against those who did this to him. Asmodeus swears not to forget him, and tells him that he is being lied to, and not by a god. When Zerxus looks back into the room he left, he sees his body on the ground next to the bed, unconscious in religious ecstasy, and realizes he is having a vision. He has to go back. Asmodeus asks what became of Evandrin, and Zerxus does not know. It was an illness beyond his reach, but the dream showed him walking toward a tree. Asmodeus tells him there are some less than kind workings of magic on some trees of old and that there is a poison in the city that Zerxus knows the shape of. Asmodeus casts Protection from Good and Evil on him, and tells him he has work still to do. Zerxus walks back through the wall and returns to his body.

Meanwhile, Nydas has asked Sofyra to show him the first false prophecy Karwen gave: "The stars are leaving us. Our hands cannot reach the limbs of the tree, can no longer scribe the name of our deliverance. We will soon be as broken as our promises. Avalir shall fall. All shall fall. And from our folly will the hands that forge the world banish themselves from the broken things they have made." Nydas reassures Sofyra that this prophecy is false.

It is now about 1:00 am. Laerryn gets a ping from the Helmswoman, telling her that the city is in position over Cathmoíra at the intersection of all three ley lines, and they are descending. Suddenly, there is a choking noise and the communication line falls silent. Laerryn tells Patia they have to go to the helm, now, and also sends it through the telepathic bond to the other party members. They all sprint towards the helm in Dawnsledge, convening before it. As they approach, a voice speaks: "Ah, the Ring of Brass." Lacrytia Hollow turns to look at them. They look at the rooftops around them. Roll initiative!

Featured characters

Player Characters

Returning

New

  • Karwen, an oracle
  • Kir, child of Cerrit
  • Scrabbles, Laerryn's newly summoned construct
  • Sofyra, Zerxus's friend and an oracle

Mentioned

Quotations

  • Laerryn: (to Nydas, when her Astral Leywright works) We're going to go somewhere new now. All of us.
  • Laerryn: The promise of Avalir was of exploration and knowledge-gathering and growth, and I have dedicated my life-- I have sacrificed so much-- others have sacrificed so much, so that we could do more and learn more.
    Zerxus: What do you expect to find if we were to go there?
    Patia: (whispering) Knowledge.
  • Laerryn: I don't pay attention to people dumber than me.
    Patia: That is incredibly fair.
  • Patia: (about Micah) He wasn't worthy enough.
    Laerryn: Yeah. He wasn't.
    Patia: But we are. [...] Those who are privileged, those who are given everything, do not know how to fight.
  • Zerxus: What's happened to you?
    Asmodeus: You came in before the Dawnfather could destroy me.
    Zerxus: So that was real?
    Asmodeus: It's all been real. It's all been real.
    Zerxus: You know me. Then who are you?
    Asmodeus: Betrayer, sinner, most unclean. I am the Lord of the Hells.
  • Asmodeus: Our promises were to the Primordials. And we were called Betrayers!
  • Asmodeus: I don't give my word lightly. You have my word on this, Zerxus Ilerez. Not for all the ages of the world will I forget you. You are not... I see faults in people. I know what they have done wrong. Do you want to know your fault, Zerxus? You are very trusting. You say that I am being used. You, my friend, are being used.
    Zerxus: By you?
    Asmodeus: (shakes his head) I am the father of lies. You are being lied to, and not by any god.

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes

Trivia

References

Art:

  1. Fan art of Cerrit and son, by Melissa Hahn (source). Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of the Fireball, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Asmodeus and Zerxus, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
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