Due to administrative fluctuations this entry will contain two chapters.
Starting exactly where the previous ended, with the Hellghast defeated and Prince Aegil and several of his Enæïd severely wounded.
Since time was short (the Glencaellyn Rifles would have to assault the halfway-fort come daylight, regardless of the actions of the Company), the Enæïd were left to tend to their wounds while the magicians advanced.
They reached the fort about half an hour before sunrise, and established communications with van Zaar, riding with the Rifles. Captain Galan mapped the area through scrying, and together with M'narcel/Drake, he set up a covering possition as close to the walls as they could get without being spotted. The task of breaching the fort fell on Banzel.
While the Company argued the plan, the captain became aware of a party of four humans loading a motorcar in the middle of the Orog garrison. One of the boxes caught his attention, a led chest, some four foot long, and one foot wide and deep. The humans were all dressed in identical clothes, kakhis, and one of them had the telltale mechanical monocle of the cyclops (last time the company encountered on of those was on the Waymar Islands).
Banzel wanted to take them out before they could escape, but this was vetoed by Galan and van Zaar.
After Banzel linked up with the two hundred men of the breaching detail things proceeded quickly. Under cannister-fire from the battery on the walls, and targeted by snipers the two hundred yards up to the gate was a deadly dash. Galan and M'narcel did their best to pick off officers and snipers, and Banzel reached the gate with about hundred men. Here he quickly tore down the gates and the rifles stormed into the courtyard.
The last suprize the defenders had in store were two glass orbs. The captain managed to break one on the ramparts with a precise shot, but the second reached the ground. When the orbs broke, they let out great clouds of pestilence and death, engulfing both the ramparts and the gatehouse - thus cutting Banzel and his men off from inforcements from outside.
Even with the Orogs on the walls trapped in the green gaseous cloud, the two hundred in the courtyard would surely be more than a match for the surviving attackers. This is when M'narcel walked into the Shaderealm. Here he was called out by name by something that shouldn't exist. Still, he pressed on, and found a Windling willing to serve. He led the spirit back to the physical realm and sent it charging through the poison gas, thus dispersing it enough to allow the Glencaellyn Rifles to take the halfway-fort.
A few hour after the fort fell, again accompanied by the Prince, the Company set out after the motorcar, mounted on Windlings.
They passed their prey shortly after midday, and set up an ambush in a grove of palmtrees. Banzel magically prepared a pit of quicksand big enough to make sure the vehicle were stopped, then he dug himself a bunker and went into possition with the Hellghast's rifle. The rest of the party also went to ground, with varying degrees of success.
After a while the motorcar came around the bend. M'narcel, sharpening his scythes, having concealed himself next to a young palmtree by the side of the road, were spotted by the fat cyclops right before the motorcar hit the quicksand. Banzel killed the driver, and the Prince, springing forth from his hiding-place, killed the two in the back.
The Company had decided to take the cyclops alive, but the Prince quickly found that to be easier said than done. As soon as he had managed to get a good hold of the obese man with the mechanical monocle, the cyclop started heave and cough, like something was stuck in his throat - actually, more like he was attempting to disgorge his intestines. When something looking like the man's asophagus, only with a vicious eyeless head, with a mouth crammed with needle-like teeth, came forth from the man's gaping mouth, the Company switched to Plan B. Four magicians and an Exalted poured all their might into the creature that seemed to shed the flesh of its host, killing it before it could come into play.
End chapter/new chapter
After the successful ambush, the Company initiated one of their trademark discussions. For someone who have never witnessed this, it is a little hard to fully explain; van Zaar will usually make a lengthy statement on the real or percieved relevance of the matter at hand in conjunction to some metaphysical theory and/or phenomenon. Galan will listen and attempt to apply this to the situation at hand. Banzel, always with an eye on the practical will propose ways to deal with the situation, often involving guns or explosives. M'narcel typically says little, in stead he waits until he is asked for help (something that typically involves summonig of something*). Aegil seldom speaks during these council-sessions, but he sometime raises questions of a definite important nature. These talks usually lasts until one or more of the Company is too intoxicated (more often than not van Zaar) to continue, or, as in this case, until events interrupt.
This time they were interrupted by the sound of horses. As it happens, it was the enemy; two dozen Blood Legion cavalry were coming up the road from Victoria, and they were close.
At this point in the story, the heroes have become a war-cabal. And now, almost taken by suprize by the forces of darkness, they quickly sprang into action. They rapidly entered into the hive-mind Galan created, and all of them were ready within seconds. Discression is, they say, the better part of valour, and here the Cabal went for retreat.
Banzel was designated as the operator of the transportation-machine captured from the four Outsiders, and while the rest provided covering fire, he managed to negotiate with the engine, enough to make it obey. At great speed, and in a storm of lead, they withdrew, leaving a handful of Blood Legion soldiers dead in the dust.
During the previous council-session, they had decided that since they were now in close proximity to the site where Franko da Cola broke the seal, they would go on a pilgrimage to that place. So now they rode the machine South, through the halfway-fort, and further to Muhwal, the center of the Host of Man. Here they rested for the night.
While here, Banzel managed to create more fuel for the engine, and the rest withdrew to their quarters. Galan was visited by Octavian (a very close relationship seems to be forming between the two magicians), and in the dialogue that followed, the remainding members of the Cabal were roused from their sleep.
Octavian could give some information about the mysterious lead chest, and Galan, reading the journal of the leader of the Outsiders' expedition, Professor Schmitt, could furnish the matter further. The item, reffered to as Artifact Ypsilon 071, or alternately, Deicide, had apparently been hidden by the Inconnu. Why or when, no one could shed more light on.
The following morning (or, more accurately, a little before noon), the Company set out for their goal, located in, or close by, the city of Assari. Incidentally, this city, the next major one South of Muhwal, were set for attack by the Host this day. Travelling southward, they passed recent battlegrounds, and several units moving to join the siege and assault.
Only in the early evening did they reach their destination, and by then, the lines had been drawn up. Ten thousand Erian infantry, Mujahed and Wolf Lords were busy building fortifications and setting up siege possitions. With the city sealed off, the Company had to rely on magic to point the way.
The chronomancer van Zaar searched the streams of time, and found the memory of da Cola's visit, a generation earlier. He saw the first attack of the Orc on the Old Colonies, and the citrus grove da Cola and his compannions headed to when they escaped the Horde. Banzel sought out a trio of ravens who led the Company to the grove.
Here they decided to open the portal. Actually, they decided to let Galan call upon the powers that lay beyond -- something that annoyed M'narcel no end, after all, wasn't such matters his domain? After some negotiation, they opted for a different approach. Armed with the name of the Second Dragon, M'narcel led them through the portal and deep into Argos' Umbra.
Finally they reached the remote and ancient Drachenau, or Dragon's Reach. Three times the worlock called the dragon's name before it came. Faced with such an ancient power, the toungues of the magicians quickly froze, and none of them seemed able to take any action. Not until the Prince of the Enæïdùn stepped forward did the dragon speak; three times he may be called.
And so, with the dragon returned to its watch, the chapter ended.
*Ref. the Scutino-incident, the Drowned Man, as well as a few other, somewhat unfortunate episodes.
Storyteller's note: Before the last session, I had no idea as to what would happen. The players did set their own course, and it took them off the map, as it were. I really enjoy those chapters, all seat of pants gaming, and I believe I might go for one more of those next time. We'll see.
Anyway, now they are somewhat lost in the deeper reaches of the Spirit World. How they are to get out should be interesting, I think ;)