The Wrathbreakers have finished their work in Riak, and now need to return quickly to Estona. They suspect that on the 14th of the month of Thaw something terrible is going to happen in the city, connected to the mysterious Puppet Master and his or her relationship with Anyara, the leader of a Deep Cult cell in the Valley of Gon. They do not know what is planned but suspect it involves a magical trap or something involving a golem. The cast for this session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Ella, spume dwarf scoundrel
  • Xu, human weaponmaster from Ariaka

In Riak the Wrathbreakers investigated rumours of something called a “Seal”, and found a list of five candidate items that were old enough, unique enough and powerful enough to be worth the Deep Cult sending a team to the town. They killed this Deep Cult team and, of course, learnt nothing from them. However, one of the candidate items was listed as being stored in the Reliquary at Estona. Could they investigate this item in more detail after the coming crisis, and learn more about it? They were not sure they could arrive in time, given the forces arrayed against them, and in the interests of security sent their shardhawk ahead, carrying the following message to Kay the Myrmidon:

Suspect violent attack in Estona on 14th Thaw maybe magic related maybe selkie deep folk trouble maybe human keep eye on magical exhibition and reliquary.  Keep quiet do not arouse panic. Our ETA 11th Thaw.

The warning sent, they prepared to set off.

Stars in my pocket like grains of sand

They left the Freeport of Riak the day after their battle with the Deep Cult, still bruised and sore but with no time to rest. They stopped on the evening of the 3rd of Thaw at Ar, staying in comfortable lodgings organized by Elizabeth the 4th, and picked up Sara. From Ar they sailed downriver in grey, cold weather to Gon. They arrived in Gon on the 5th of Thaw and, having an evening to spare, decided to visit an Astronomer on the edge of the city. The Collector had given them the contact information for an Astrologer who knew much about the strange symbol embossed on the calendar that they had found in Anyara’s room, and they thought that perhaps if they spoke to this Astrologer in the one free evening they had in Gon they might learn useful information before it was too late. They traveled to his compound in a rickshaw pulled by a gigantic, dour Wildling who refused to take shelter from Gon’s gently falling snows after they arrived. Leaving him snorting and clapping his hands in the cold outside the residence, they entered yet another Astrologer’s home to learn about ancient lore.

The Astrologer told them that the symbol on the calendar represented a single star from a constellation called The Seven. This constellation was believed to follow a strange pattern of movement across the sky in which every 150 years or so one of the stars would lock into place in the sky and the rest would rotate around it, while preserving the overall geometric form of the constellation. This slow rotation would happen for 150 years until the next star locked into place, and then the others would rotate around it. It was believed that this system followed a fixed orbit in the sky, so that after all seven stars in the constellation had completed this lock cycle the constellation would return to its original position in the sky. This was mere conjecture, though, based on primitive models of the movement of stars, because the celestial path of this system was longer than the history of human observations of the stars. No one knew if Astrologers had been tracking the stars during the Harrowing, because there were no records, and so they only had 700 years or so of records, but the general view was that the complete cycle of The Seven lasted about 1000 years ago, and when a star was in alignment this meant it was locked in a position it had last occupied about 1000 years ago.

This 1000 year period concerned Itzel, so she asked a little more. The Astrologer told her that no one knew anything about the history of that time, but it was rumoured that there were two independent sources of information about the stars at that time:

  • An obscure wildling poem about The Seven, which discussed their relationship to various earthly and atmospheric phenomena, but was not generally considered credible
  • A document recording the delusional opinions of an elven scholar, widely believed to be insane, who had reported his dreams about The Seven. The Astrologer could not remember the name of the scholar, but told them this strange document was rumoured to be sealed up in the elven city of Asboran

They thanked the Astrologer for his time, made their goodbyes, and returned to their apartment in Gon.

Return to Estona

The following morning, the 6th of Thaw, they boarded the longship Excelsior and departed Gon for Estona. The journey was uneventful, though the sea was restless, the sky grey and the weather frigid, and once in the distance they thought they saw the breach of a great sea monster. It did not approach their ship, though, and on the afternoon of the 11th of Thaw they arrived in Estona cold but unharmed. They headed straight to their normal tavern in the town, settled their belongings in, and prepared to investigate the looming threat.

Itzel believed that the threat was likely to occur at a magical exhibition or display, so they first headed to the Academy. Here they separated to pursue two separate tasks. Itzel visited the wizard Eliabak, who she had previously been told might be able to craft a new, magically animated arm to replace the arm that had been ruined in battle some weeks ago. While she conducted this interview, the rest of the Wrathbreakers visited the public gallery of the Academy to see if they could find any advertising for upcoming exhibitions, or information about other pending public events.

Itzel found Eliabak in his chaotically messy office, sitting behind a desk in front of a window overlooking the old quarter of town. A large table in the middle of the office was covered in fragments of metal and wooden equipment, papers and notes, and the walls were lined with bookcases. One wall had a large corkboard, on which were pinned many notes, scrolls, invitations, posters and other miscellanea going back many years. Eliabak himself was a small, thin man with receding hair who greeted Itzel with a slightly snooty voice. He was amenable to her request, and offered a range of different options to repair her arm at various prices. He told her he would need to perform surgery, which meant booking time from a senior Rimewarden, and that he would be free in perhaps a week to do this. Itzel agreed to return when a booking was made, and while he measured and investigated her arm she asked him casually about golems. Eliabak was a master of constructing and animating objects, so she thought he might know. She told him that a woman in Gon had some very old texts on the creation of golems, and wondered how common such texts were or how easy it would be for others to have them? Eliabak showed interest in the books, but no particular knowledge of the topic. Itzel booked her next appointment and left the study to rejoin the others in the public gallery.

Meanwhile downstairs the rest of the Wrathbreakers had made friends with some cheerful young apprentices, and had learnt that there was an exhibition scheduled for the 14th of Thaw, which would feature displays from four prominent Astrologers. The content and nature of the displays was always secret, so no information was available about what would happen there, but they were expecting something big because the exhibition was booked for the main exposition hall, which abutted onto some very large and spacious laboratories. The four presenting wizards were:

  • Selvim, an old woman renowned for healing and tattooing
  • Ingelek, a young man with prodigious talent in producing artillery, ordinance and devices in support of war and violence
  • Eliabak, known for animating objects for art and industry
  • Boric, Eliabak’s main rival, a middle-aged man known for animating objects in support of labour and industry

What a strange coincidence that the Astrologer who would be repairing Itzel’s arm should also be giving a presentation at the exhibition! The Wrathbreakers suspected the most likely candidate for their secret golem-maker was either Eliabak or his rival Boric, and they made an agreement with the apprentices to pay them for their help researching past exhibitions these men had participated in. They agreed to meet the following day at the public archives of the Academy, and set off to return to their hostel to rest.

The Iron Hand Strikes

Unfortunately they were not able to return to their hostel, because within a few minutes of leaving the Academy they were attacked by the Iron Hand. It happened in a narrow, dark street a short distance from their hostel. They realized soon after they entered the street that it was deserted, and soon saw the reason – three members of the Iron Hand standing ahead of them and three standing behind them. Their rival adventurers were fully armed and armoured, and obviously intent on conflict. Though they had little doubt what would happen they made a desultory attempt at negotiation, which fell flat, and then the battle was joined.

It did not last long. As the fight began Itzel dropped a smoke bomb and under the cover of the smoke Ella crept into hiding in a stall, from where she launched a lethal sniper attack at the Iron Hand’s healer, almost killing him on the first strike[1]. At the same time Itzel staggered the wizard, and although at one point it looked like Xu was in danger of his life, the Iron Hand’s healer was so busy keeping himself alive, and their wizard unable to effectively cast spells, that the tide of battle turned. Finally they were all dead bar Stitch and the leader, Garag. Stitch ran but Itzel picked him up with a levitation spell and hurled him against several buildings before dropping him. Seeing Stitch fall Garag did her best, but eventually she too was overpowered, and the Iron Hand ended their career in a vicious, bloody defeat on a back street of their home town.

They interrogated Garag, and she told them all she knew in exchange for her life. The Iron Hand had been hired earlier that day by a non-descript, generic elf, who had offered to pay them a very large amount of money if they would immediately kill the Wrathbreakers. They had agreed, and were due to meet him in an hour in a small park near the Southgate. The Wrathbreakers guessed this was the Puppet master’s aide, and decided immediately to go to ambush him. Garag, badly injured and relieved just to be alive, agreed to leave town immediately and never return.

They were discussing exactly when and how to ambush the Puppet master’s assistant when behind them they heard desperate begging and a horrible gargled scream. They turned and saw Stitch, writhing and screaming on the ground. Sara was standing over him – Sara who had accompanied them to the Academy as an assistant and who they had forgotten after she ran to hide when the battle began. Now she was crouched over Stitch, and he was screaming and crying out in pain, gasping in between desperate pleas. He was obviously badly injured but Sara had roused him from unconsciousness and was crouched over him. They rushed over to see what was happening and as they approached Stitch’s cries fell to whispered, gurgled final curses. Sara stood and turned towards them, holding something in her hand, and a fountain of blood followed her. She took a step forward and held her bloody hand out towards them, Stitch’s testicles and viscera hanging from her clenched fist. “Itzel,” she said in a flushed, eager voice. “I want to be your apprentice!”

So the Iron Hand ended in bloody ignominy, and Itzel gained her first apprentice. But they had little time to celebrate – events were heading towards some kind of chaotic climax, and they needed to rush to the Westgate to find the Puppet Master’s aid, capture him, and hopefully learn who his master really is in time to avert catastrophe two days hence. To the Westgate!

fn1: Ella’s player rolled the overpowered critical, rerolled her attack, rolled the overpowered critical again, and basically did an enormous amount of damage and three crits with one strike. For some reason both Ella’s and Itzel’s players were rolling incredibly pools of successes in this battle, and everything they did was intensely violent, while I couldn’t roll a single success even with upgrades and huge dice pools.