Shepherds of Fate

Chapter Four: Jefferson's Airship
The party takes an airship from a pirate

The party posing as the Central Mining Authority was able to secure passage on an airship north, where they would be able to find out more about the unusual icewalker authority. Their journey took them past many of the Hastlanti league’s cities. Every city had the same story, they were working their best to prepare for the long winter but a pirate had stolen one of the league’s airships and had was raiding the farming communities. He was kidnapping most of the townsfolk and stealing all the topsoil he could get his hands on. The cities of the north referred to these fertile regions as Emeralds and their topsoil carried an old enchantment that kept them (relatively) warm and capable of bearing crops.

After a several stops and several days the airship left for its final stop, the remote outpost city of Crystal the last refuge bordering on the great barren expanse that is the northern glacier. This peaceful journey was interrupted as lookout shouted that the pirate had been spotted. The dread ship Sacrifice was speeding in the direction the party had just come from. On a course that was bringing directly towards the Haven, a small farming community. With a bit of bravado from Andolin and pleases for compassion from Ishtar a spark of courage was ignited in the heart of the cowardly captain of their ship. He took them on a course following the pirate and as the pirate ship descended on its prey the captain loaned the party his emergency glider to make their landing.

As this was not the party’s first time in a glider they easily piloted it into a hidden alleyway near the town square. From there they had a perfect view of the pirate crew running into houses to capture the townsfolk. Leaping into battle they easily took out the ruffians. They only noticed that all the pirates carried the mark of demon-taint moments before demon spiders leapt down from the ship to aid their human vassals. While the human combatants went down easily the spiders proved much tricker to pin down. They would strike, poisoning the heroes and knocking them prone, then would leap to the safety of the rooftops. Gilgamesh had no problems chasing them, jumping up on boxes and carts to reach the roofs. Andolin teleported across the entire town square to reach his quarry. Ishtar pinned one against a wall where it couldn’t escape. Esprit, was actually quite happy that they all decided to leave him alone. As soon as the spider demons died the ship began to cast off its ropes and attempted to make its escape. Esprit used his telekinetic powers to lift the party to the ship and they hid in the hold while they gathered their energies to take the deck.

Minutes later they burst through the doors of the deck deck. Taking out swaths of pirates on their way to the command deck. At the wheel of the ship stood Captain Gyrfalcon, a man with a dashing red pirate outfit and a sickly green circle burning on his forehead. This circle resembled that of a Solar but glowed with the green fire of Malfeas. Cackling he engaged the party in combat. He moved like the wind, his pistol shooting gouts of fire, his rapier leaving burning trails. Any time the party thought they had him pinned he would vanish and reappear in several places. The ship soon became a chaotic mess of light and sounds and colors as Animas flared. The captain’s green spider being surrounded by a mountaintop flag, a sea of blue light, a tiger and dragon, and a storm of crystals. The thunderous noise and flashes of light could be seen and heard for miles. Despite his awesome speed and strength the corrupted solar could not withstand the party and was knocked out.

When he awoke he was quite difficult to interrogate. He spoke to himself several times as if seeking council, or arguing with the answers he just gave. All they learned is that he wished their deaths, that he was the greatest captain ever, and that he was working for someone else further north. Giving up on getting any information out of him past that they decided to break his neck. Sadly the bonds restraining him were too loose and he threw himself off the side of the vessel before they could finish him off. It is unknown if he could survive the fall from a mile up into icy cold waters. The party then turned to the crew. The healing knowledge of Ishtar and the arcane training of Espirt was enough to revert some of the crew back into their former selves. These now freed men gladly informed the party of the icewalker barbarian who was gathering the tribes and was organizing the raids the former Captain Gyrfalcon was leading. Indebted to the party they agreed to take them to the far away outpost of Diamond Hearth, a tiny speck hidden in the expanse of the northern glacier.

It took them a week to get there and from the air it was clear that someone had made serious alterations to the city. The city rested in a hollow in the ice and excavation teams were breaking away huge blocks of the glacier in order to expand the fields around the city. Giant mounds of topsoil stolen from Emeralds waited to be spread across the newly cleared ground. Also the center of the city had been razed, the town hall and center square destroyed. In its place was a tent village. This required investigation so they landed the ship and instructed the crew to keep it safe.

Venturing into town they soon got the measure of Diamond Hearth. It was a mining town, most of the people who lived there were bachelor miners, out to make their fortune in the diamond and jewel mines out on the ice. Now there was a new order, the barbarian Icewalkers had come in one day and sacked the town. The civilian populace was left untouched but the leaders were killed and the barbarians took control. Now they demanded that the miners farm food for them with stolen topsoil. Anyone who dissented soon met with the icewalker witch, Samera. After this meeting they were complete subservient to her and the icewalkers and this sudden lack of free will made the rest either fall in line or stay silent. Deciding they needed to meet this Samera for themselves Gilgamesh and Andolin went from tavern to tavern, touting their reluctance to Samera’s control in hopes one of her converts would hear and report them. This plan bore fruit quickly as it took less than 2 hours for Samera to appear and interrogate the PCs. She hit the entire party with a form of Solar social attack, her caste mark appearing on her forehead as she spoke. Only Esprit was hit by the effect but it inflicted him with the desire to perform any task she or the barbarian warlord, Yurgen Kaneko, requested of him. Upon learning that they were with the airship and the previous captain was not there she brought them straight to the camp in the center of town.

In the grand central tent they met the warlord behind it all, the solar Yurgen Kaneko. He asked the party where the captain of the ship was and they claimed he was dead. Struck down by the Hastlanti navy, the ship and crew fled for their lives unable to take any topsoil with them. They were also mysteriously freed from the demon possession by his death somehow. Dissapointed to hear this Yurgen appointed one of his other dragonblooded lieutenant to take command of the ship. He said the party could stay in the tents tonight but in the morning they must take the lieutenant out on a raiding mission to the south. For winter was coming and the grand campaign was about to begin….

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Chapter Two : Escape from Thorns

Outside the sky darkened and screams filled the streets. The party stood over a slowly recovering noble as they absorbed the news from Nazri. The Jade Prison had been shattered, the Empress is nowhere to be found, and worse the celestial gateway in Thorns had been sealed. They were trapped in the city as undead flooded in. The party pooled their knowledge to determine the best way to escape this newly damned metropolis.

Luckily they were well versed in both the modern day streets and the historical tunnels and were able to determine several key locations and how to get to them. Both above and below ground. They determined that the thing to do was to save as many of the cities nobles as possible while arming themselves with whatever the city had to offer. Thus the plotted an underground shortcut to the city ’s armory across town. They took the wounded noble and his lone surviving son with them as they made their move.

Inside the sewers they were confronted with strange voices. Those they had known in their mortal lives and had died returned as ghosts attempting to lead them astray. The party easily ignored these apparations but the noble and his son did not have the same mental fortitude. Luckily the party easily subdued them before they could wander off into the labyrinthine catacombs. They arrived at their destination with only a small delay.

At the Armory they found the doors smashed off their hinges and ghouls of all kinds inside. Those who wandered near the entrance were weak and easily dispatched. Once they ventured inside though they find a more serious foe. The undead in the warstrider and essence weapons garage where using some form of necrotech to merge with the artifacts inside. The party rushed in and engaged them to stop their appropriation of these powerful weapons. The Andolin quickly reached the twenty foot tall warstrider first and had a scaffolding knocked on top of him for his efforts. Ishtar rushed in to aid him but ventured too close to some explosive barrels which the artillery zombies took quick advantage of blowing them up in her face. In the end it only took them a minute to demolish the warstrider and dismember the artillery zombies. Unfortunately this left them with little to collect in the way of weapons. They did retrieve three essence cannons and crystals for powering each of them. They also found a floating platform and a jade battering ram.

Moving onward they began their task of retrieving nobles. To the parties dismay the nobles were not so easily convinced to come along. One group refused to leave their mansion, insisting that it was their duty to defend it. Another group had suffered the effects of a noxious gas and had to be rescued from the fumes. One mansion had collapsed and the survivors had to be pulled from the wreckage. Shepherding these nobles between each destination was no mean feat either. They were assaulted by zombie hoards, cut off from their intended route by a street fire, and assaulted by a psychic attack which filled them with the desire to give up and die.

Despite the odds they made it to the palace and snuck in through an underground entrance. They unlocked the gates, bypassed the traps, and convinced the guards to take them to the central chamber where the remaining survivors waited forming their next plan. Through a judicious use of diplomacy they convinced everyone to come with them to the main gate where they intended to push through and allow the nobles to escape.

They lead the mass of men, women, and children to the street that lead to the main gate and were preparing to make the final push when a light appeared in the city. Sunlight burst out from the city center and a giant golden falcon rose an a plume of fire. Esprit was instantly able to identify this as a Solar’s anima banner. The team struggled with the decision to investigate this matter but in the end decided that the nobles were more important and insisted on helping them escape.

The main gate was eeriely quiet, shattered skeletons and dead guards lay everywhere but there was no undead to be seen. They found what had killed the guards as soon as they approached the gatehouse. An enormous centipede made of human skeletons crawled over the gate to attack. It battered the party with dozens of attacks and grasped them with its claws. Gilgamesh found quite quickly that shattering the spine did not stop the beast. It only separated it into independent sections who were hardly slowed down by the act of violence. Piece by piece the party broke it apart and round by round the creature tore at the party. Gilgamesh, Ishtar, and Andolin were all knocked out at one point or another by the ferocity of the attacks. Yet the parties endurance proved the victor as the final piece was broken by Ishtar’s blade and Gilgamesh’s whirling fists and legs crushed the remaining segments that crawled about.

Bloodied and exhausted the party saw the Solar’s anima fading and with the witching hour approaching decided that they simply did not have time to rescue him as well as their charges. They released those nobles who survived thus far and went back for one final house. Inside the found a summoned demon doing more to terrorize the family who summoned it than protect them. The party tricked the bone-eater demon with tales of the centipede the just fought enabling the monk to destroy the summoning circle causing it to fade away. With this last group rescued the party left the city behind. They could do no more for now and hoped what they had done was enough.

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Chapter Three: Journey to the North
The party chooses to aid the Convention on Air

Behind the party lay a curtain of darkness. Thorns had fallen, swallowed by a shadowland in a tragedy that Creation had not seen in centuries. The line of refugees was depressingly sparse as few escaped the onslaught. If it were not for the party’s efforts even these would not have made it out of the city alive.

Ahead of the defeated procession were two figures. One appeared to be interviewing and consoling the survivors while the other surreptitiously tied prayer strips to them while they were distracted. They recognized the party on sight and berated them for their inability to prevent this disaster. Exclaiming their fatigue at having to hastily prepare alternate destinies for those who had been detached from fate by the event. The party was informed that they must immediately depart for the nearest heavenly gate and report back to Nazri. Thus the tone for their return to the Bureau of Destiny was foreshadowed.

Nazri grilled the party relentlessly upon their return. Demanding detailed reports on every minor essence expenditure and reprimanding the party for not doing more to confirm the status of the suspected solar appearance. He bruskly told the party they must to a better job in the future of preventing these events before they happen and to keep a better record of their activities when out on mission. He also informed them that due to these new circumstances they were removed from the Convention of Wood and were to form a new convention, the Convention on Deathlords. Their new task was to find out everything they could about the creature who had commanded the sacking of Thorns and those like him. To aid them he assigned the Green Lady to chair the convention, her knowledge of the Underworld was unparalleled in the Bureau and she could guide the party to destinations that would be of interest to the convention. At this point the Convention of Wood vice-chair burst in, demanding to know why he was losing staff at this critical juncture. After learning the party were now free agents and would be choosing which convention to aid while pursuing their assignment the vice-chair told the party that he expected them to come to his office immediately to resume their duties and stormed out. Nazri then dismissed the party and told them it was time for them to decide on their next move. Despite their failure to prevent the disaster their abilities under fire did gain them approval and each member of the party was given an artifact as a reward. Gilgamesh got a chunk of starmetal forged into a speartip. Ishtar was given a tattoo of power. Espirt received modifications to his construct body. Andolin was given a slab of jade which was worked into shield.

The party then interviewed the chairs from each of the directional conventions to determine where they should go.

The Chair of the Convention of Water Righteous Tsunami was a striking figure with eyepatch and mohawk. He informed the party that the West was very poorly manned, it is currently the smallest of all the directional conventions. With not enough manpower to provide oversight on agents they were on their own with making tactical decisions. Affiliation didn’t matter to him and as long as the party could pull their own weight they were welcome to join. Their current sets of problems were the constant scourge of pirates, a strange new ancestor worshiping religion that popped out of nowhere, and capricious gods and fey threatening the stability of the few islands that held against the sea.

The Chair of the Convention of Air was an elderly man, close to the end of this very long life. He chattered on at the party about the righteousness of the Usurpation and the troublesome nature of Solars. He went on at length about the cultures of the North and the ways of their people, especially their tendency to believe in the prophetic nature of dreams. When pressed he admitted that the Icewalker barbarians were acting suspiciously and that someone might be uniting them, that there was a strange dark religion sweeping the north, and that he needed help getting the Syndicates of Whitewall to behave.

The Vice-Chair of the Convention of Wood was extremely annoyed at the time it took for the party to see him. He complained at how that despite having the second largest number of agents they still didn’t have enough men as they were also burdened with the duty of tracking all essence users in the region. He complained about beastmen and other jungle barbarians causing trouble, the fall of Thorns, and the brewing wars within the many kingdoms that dotted the East.

The Chair of the Convention of Fire was Nazri and he was straight forward with what help he needed. The city of Gem was in a weird destiny flux and the convention had to decide if it was to be saved or allowed to self-destruct. There are several gods in the South about to go to war over overlapping purviews and something had to be done to stop them. Finally there were reports of numerous demon infestations popping up in the desert.

After hearing all of the options the final decision made was to head to the North. The party gathered their belongings, along with a polyglot gem that allowed them to speak the tongues of the region, and took the celestial gate to the headquarters of the Convention of Air in Icehome. This was the launching point for the majority of sidereal missions in the north.

The party decided to head even further north to investigate the Icewalker activity. Unforunately their was a lockdown on air travel for official business only. To avoid the hassle and attracting attention they gathered winter gear and headed east by foot. The journey only took a day or two before they found themselves in Iron Fall. Their eagle eyed perception spotted a floating island a short ways off the coast and they headed to investigate. At the cliffs closest to the island they found a team of surveyors wondering what happened to the team they sent there to secure the earthmote. The party volunteered to retrieve the team and the earthmote for the surveyors if they could provide them with airship passes. With that agreement the party was given an hot air balloon with an attached glider to get to the mote. The plan was to ride the balloon upwards and then detach the glider allowing easy passage to the floating isle. It took the party all their strength and skill to do so but they managed to crash land on an outcropping without injury. Unfortunately for them immediately upon arrival they were ambushed by trollish creatures made of ice and a icy fey being. They made short work of them and then headed into a nearby cave to search for the missing team.

The ice cave lead upwards until they found themselves in the hold of a ship made entirely of ice. They headed topside and once they reached the deck they found soul drained surveyors acting as crewmen for a mad fey playing at pirate. The battle raged as they were assaulted by parrots made of ice and the enchanted crewmen. They were almost defeated several times by the power of the creatures of the northern Wyld. They stood their ground and soon had the pirate fey at their mercy. The fey are capricious creatures and Ishtar was easily able to convince this one to give up his game for a different one and give them this earthmote. He did so gladly and went off to enjoy the life of a ferryman leaving the party to pilot yet another crash landing, this time of an entire floating island! They did manage to not destroy the city of Ironfell and the surveyors held up their side of the bargain. The party now had the appreciate of the steel industry in Ironfell and four passes that would allow them to travel on the airships of the Hastlanti league.

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Chapter One: Thorns and Roses
A few easy missions in Thorns reveal a deeper threat

Prologue: Chejop Kejak (leader of the Bronze faction) and Ayesha Ura (leader of the Gold faction) left on a mysterious mission leaving Nazri (the head Independent) in charge. Nazri instructed the circle to head to Thorns, a prosperous city in the East, in order to resolve some minor fate tangles.

Scene 1: Aisle of Secrets, rating XX (actual rating XXXX)

The first mission the circle took on was a missing library book, Toben’s Spirit Guide. It was necessary for a certain girl named Ruffled Blossom to read this book in order to become a great exorcist one day. Upon going to the library and talking their way past a suspicious head librarian, they discovered that the section on the occult was vandalized, with several books destroyed and others stolen. The party tracked down a frequent visitor of that section named Karzan Stevens to his house, which was abandoned and full of tawdry novels about romances between mortals and ghosts. Finding out about the man’s dead wife, they followed that lead to her mausoleum only to find cultists attempting to open a portal to the underworld.

It was a difficult battle, but after slowly tearing through an ablative layer of skeletons and cultists they were left with three void imbued casters. The cult leader continually blasted the party with immobilizing cold, which forced the monk to release his Anima Banner in an awesome display of power using masterful spiral. After killing a great many of them, they destroyed the portal and interrogated the survivors. Posing as monks from the Central Library Authority they convinced Karzan to leave and atone for his sins against libraries. He left on a pilgrimage and said he would head to the city of Nexus next. The other cultists were convinced to seek out the Cult of the Illuminated or face utter dissolution. Bob the Cultist is headed to an unknown destination to find out more about this mysterious cult that probably doesn’t have raging librarians after it.

In the end, a ‘mysterious stranger’ brought the book to Ruffled Blossom and with a wink she took it to study immediately. Fate was completed and the scroll transmuted into a Cloak of Eyes +2. The psion then cast Arcane Fate in order to muddle the memories of those they met to ensure their identities remained secret.

(Reward: 500 xp per character)

Scene 2: “Are you Chicken?”, rating XXX

The party then sought out the heir of house Mikflay, a hotheaded fire aspect named Mair-Ti. He needed to learn humility or he surely would pick a fight he couldn’t win and would be killed before he could sire an heir. After discussing the possibility of finding a woman for him the party decided on the direct route: humbling him by kicking his ass. After challenging his honor at a local outdoor cafe, they used fate and mind-bending tricks to continually make him strike his little brother with his twin waraxes. Finally Mair-Ti had enough and released his own anima banner in the form of an inferno that burnt anyone who got near. The battlemind fell from the heat but Mair-Ti fell just moments later. The party then unceremoniously dumped him into a nearby manure cart, fully humiliating him. The reward was an Elusive Action Ki Focus +2.

(Reward: 300 xp per character)

Scene 3: “Two Houses Divided”, rating XX

Two young nobles are supposed to fall in love, but since their families get along they just aren’t interested in each other. Astrology predicted that if their families hated each other then their love would blossom. The party started by spreading rumors about backbiting comments the families made about each other at the market, and continued by sending flowers to rival houses under false names in order to cast suspicion on the heads of the two houses. Finally they staged a robbery attempt in order to frame the Montegues of theft. This lead the two houses to have a banquet in order to resolve their growing tensions. After sneaking in the party spiked the drinks with laxatives and narcotics making the hosts abandon the party and the guests listless. Both families left the party feeling insulted and relationships between the houses were predicted to deteriorate from there and now there was fertile ground for forbidden love to grow. Cementing this fate earned the party a Staff of Ruin +2.

(Reward: 200 xp per character)

Scene 4: “Missing From Fate”, rating XXXX

Mysterious deaths were occurring around Thorns, changing fate as people were dying years ahead of time. Some hand outside of fate must have been behind these deaths. One house leader who was strongly tied to the others was still predicted to live for another twenty years but due to his strongly tied fate to the others he was a likely target. Upon arriving at his house at night the party heard unearthly wails from inside. Rushing to the rescue they encountered skeletons and ghouls as well as a hungry ghost. Drained from all the earlier fighting they struggled to overcome these foes. The monk was assaulted by the hungry ghost as it ate his very essence and dazed him only overcoming it with an amazing comeback by focusing his energies. The battlemind did his best to defend the others but spent of resources from the earlier battles he fell unconscious under the brutal psychic assault of the head ghoul. The ghoul fell beneath the blows of the others and they rescued the dying Earth-aspected Dragonblood upstairs.

(Reward: 500 xp per character)

Epilogue: With his breath recovered the Dragonblood noble warned he knew of a plot by the Mask of Winters, a powerful ghost, to invade Thorns by breaching the barriers to the underworld. This information came too late though, as undead were already pouring into the city. More bad news arrived as Nazri contacted the party remotely to inform them that Chejop and Ayesha have disappeared during their mission. They only managed to send a message that the Jade Prison, the artifact that kept the Solars from reincarnating, was shattered. When the party informed Nazri that Thorns was being opened to the Underworld he replied that he had no choice but to lock off the celestial gateway trapping the party in the city. What will the party do now that they are abandoned in the face of the largest underworld incursion ever witnessed?

(Reward: 500 xp per character for Major Quest completion: Thorns and Roses)

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