Cast: Aegir of the Enæidùn, Gryff Galan, and Velimir Tito. Also, numerous NPC's.
The following takes place between 3 and 6 Undecium, YE 1022.
With the Pius at anchor in Göteshaven, the heroes seek out their allies in the fight against the Deep, they visit kings and great magicians and learn many things about the state of affairs; they also make sure the moon is not forgotten, then they do battle on the Western Isles.
When day broke after their first night back on Argos, Galan, Tito and Aegir left the Pius, and headed north to the Tower of Septimus. Bansl, somewhat under the weather after his recent trials and tribulations, remained in his workshop, while Toadface stayed behind to keep an eye on him. Toadface's apprentice, young Thorne, was also in need of a little guidance – as, one suspects, was the wench in the Valhall Inn.
Master Septimus Arachnidus was, as always, the perfect host. He was also very interested in the cabal's latest heroics. They talked for a while, and the Hermetic answered many questions. Of particular importance was whether the Ordo Hermetica would send forces to the front. Here the Master had to disappoint; the Ordo would not join in in this war amongst men, but rather hold their resources until the Dark Enemy struck – this would, they all agreed, happen soon, as with the fall of Cora the road now lay open. The dark conspiracies within the Temple of Man Supreme was the next topic to be addressed.
A while back, the cabal informed Septimus about the zaprophytes that somehow controlled important members of the Temple. Now he was asked to shed more light on the subject, and confessed he could not. The problem was that infiltrating the conspiracy was exeedingly difficult, as getting deep enough to see the strings, let alone the hand that pulled them, required the agent to become a zaprophytic host himself. This, of course, was not something the Ordo wanted, as it was bound to expose their secrets at least as much as the enemy's, if not moreso.
While they talked, Prince Aegir asked the Hermetic Master some uestions about magical theory. Specifically about Ars Abyssal. He was explained that the Ten Arcana were in perfect balance, and all a part of Creation. The Eleventh, the Forbidden Arcanum, was not of Creation, rather it was of Uncreation, and that by it's nature it unbalanced the whole. This was where Aegir saw fit to bring up Bansl's recent forrays into that particular field of study. While the Gryff and Velimir managed to quell this discussion before too much was said, it was clear that Septimus had made a note about it.
After having spent most of the day in the Seventh Tower, the cabal departed. Before they left, they made Septimus a gift of a rock taken from the Saragasso asteroid-field. This piece of a dead world was well received, as was the promise of a ride on the marvellous flying whale the Pius Cabal had brought back from The Void.
Now the heroes looked to the moon. The 316 men they had sent as slaves to infiltrate the OUT base had rebelled while the cabal struck at Dr. Mörbius. They had realized that if they waited much longer, they would be too few to be able to succeed, and so they had acted. In the battle that had followed, about half their number had fallen, but more had joined them. Now 753 , calling themselves the Heroes of Creation, lay in hiding in a network of caves deep in the lunar wild. They were offerd extraction, but refused, saying that they had come too far to leave now. They were in desperate need of supplies though, as the moon offerd poor forrage. The cabal promised to see to this as soon as possible.
Next to be blessed with the presence of the heroes was Master Octavian. Galan teleported himself and Aegir to the Hermetic Flagsip in the Erian Gap. Master Tito did not join them, rather he decided to commune with his king, Radan the Wise of Draccia.
Aboard the Katedral, Octavian too was impressed by the daring raid of the OUT mother-ship, and while he had heard the story through Master Ludenius, he wanted it told by the heroes themselves. This time, nothing was mentioned about Bansl's research. Again the conversation turned to the Temple, and the Dark Enemy waiting in the South. Septimus had not been able to shed much light on the inner workings of Corinth and Aragorn. On the latter, he had when asked, conveyed the rumours about the Hooded One said to be the Queen's closest advicer – he was a mighty Nefandus, a powerful cultist, or perhaps even the Drowned Man himself.
Octavian could not do much better. The Royal Court of Aragorn, he told them, was a dark place of power, intrigue and mistrust, full of conspiracies and secret cults, where a life was the cheapest comodity of all. As his colleague in the North, he too felt that this was not something the Ordo sould concern itself with overmuch. He himself worried more about keeping the Inner Ocean and the White Sea safe from the Deep.
A Black Ship had been seen in the Outer Sea thrice the last week, he could tell. He was not much concerned about a mortal enemy, as his fleet now counted more than sixty ships-of-the-line, and with Aragorn's navy sunk, there was no mundane force on Argos that could break through the Gap. If the Black Fleet should try, however, he further said, he would need all the help he could get.
Back in Göteshaven, Tito used the fetish he had been given, and made contact with his king. Radan was mightily impressed by the theurge's tale, and more than anything, he was awed by Tito having achieved unity with his totem-spirit. This, the King said, had not happened since the high days of the Second Age. They also discussed Bansl in depth, as well as the lunar problem. King Radan promised to send a hunting-pack to reinforce the Heroes of Creation, as well as support troops to man the supply-route Tito planned to set up via the Moon-bridge in the Redlands. Before they parted, Tito received the privilege of calling the King his friend.
Onkel Smit was the next to receive the heroes. The conversation was rather short and to the point – the Onkel was a busy man – but touched on many of the major issues of the day. As the cabal was in need of a considerable amount of supplies for the men on the moon, this topic received some attention. They agreed that Wezell would send the victuals, as long as Tito secured the necessary permission from the Raven King, as the wagons would have to pass through the Redlands. This brought the conversation around to eyes. Human eyes. Some 764 of them, to be precise. To his credit, Smit managed to keep a straight face when this was brought up. He even said he was able to supply these if it was important for the final victory. The reason for this macabre need was that the cabal had promised the Raven King 2,000 eyes before the Battle of the Blight, and now they were in debt to the Spirit Lord. In the end, Smit promised to have the physicians of Rederhafen harvest the eyes of those who died. These, some fifty or sixty a day, would be packed in ice and sent with the supply train to Geistwald.
Next the Captain and the Prince went to pay a visit to Lady Thorne, their former enemy turned ally, in Fort Plage. The town was well under siege, and they conversed to the slow rhythm of Aragonian artillery. Lady Thorne was confident about her current situation. The walls were solid, the town well prepared, and the wards would hold as long as the besieged could stop the enemy from breaching. The hinge of this battle, she informed them, was whether the enemy's new army could be committed before Magnus Emil's Army of the Black God reached Corillia. If the Pius Cabal wanted to lend a hand, she suggested they delivered Death From Above on the besiegers. Apart from that, she dismissed any offer of help.
While the other two parleyed with the Lady, Tito set out to secure the Raven King's leave to bring the supplies to the Moon-bridge. On his way, he made a short stopover in his own Shadow-realm, the forest of Geistwald. Here he nearly caused his chamberlain, Sir Malkemus, to dis-incorporate when he suggested bringing the wagons through the barony's court. He did however come to his senses, and the arrangements were made before he set out to seek an audience with his neighbour in the east.
The Court of the Raven King was perhaps even larger now than it had been the last time the cabal visited. The winter-bare forests around the standing stones of Alte Ring seemed to have grown, and ravens by the thousands perched in the trees. The King himself sat on the altar-stone that served as his throne, resplendent in the cold light of the moon. Tito knelt before the Spirit Lord, and the two neighbours greeted each other. When the spirit asked what errand brought the magician to his court, Tito deflected the question by bringing up the small matter of his debt. The raven seemed surprised – he had, he confessed, forgotten all about that small sum – but did not object to the topic. When he was told that he would be payed in small instalments, and that the eyes would not be fresh, he agreed to a full month's harvest. Though this would be considerably more than the outstanding amount, Tito agreed, and the deal was sealed. Now the Draccian theurge put his real errand before the King. Magnanimously, the spirit agreed. And with this, the lunar insurgency was provided with a life-line.
Having covered this much ground, but still being without a clear target, the cabal now looked west. The Ordo Ultima Thule established hegemony over the Waymar Islands close to a year ago, and the heroes knew of only one who still resisted the OUT occupation, Analea Castillaverde, known as The Widow. Being careful to the extreme, the resistance-leader had made sure that there was only one in Eria who could reach her directly. Fortunately, Admiral Colomb was a friend of the Pius Cabal, and he gladly set up the connection. When the cabal met Analea, she readily agreed to join forces in a raid on the enemy. In fact, she already had a target in mind, Hospital 13.
This was, she told them, a newly operational research installation, where the OUT scientists turned people into zombie-soldiers. It was located on a small island just outside the coast of the main island, and she intended to raid it with a force of sixty of her best fighters. Galan now set out to scry the enemy base, so as to plan the operation better. Analea or her magicians had not been able to penetrate the area with their spells, as the installation was warded with one of the high-powered transmitter-towers the Thulists use on their important bases. The Master of Space was no stranger to this abyssal technology, and he managed to get an overview of the island.
The plan was to strike at night, and for Aegir and Analea, with ten of her men, to approach the island in a small boat from the east. Master Galan would create a portal for the main force into the laboratory-wing of the zombie-factory. Then Analea would destroy the two Reavers based on the island, while the Prince knocked out the ward-tower. The force inside the laboratory would fight their way to the basement, and place forty kilos of stolen OUT-explosives. Then they would retreat.
In the boat, the Prince got to see some of Analea's secrets when an angel emerged from her soul to hide the craft from hostile eyes. This got them close enough to the small pier they would land on. Here the Enæid swam ashore and took out the gunners in the bunker guarding the road to the top of the island. The remaining sentry managed to set off the alarm before he too was killed. With sirens wailing and search-lights ripping the dark the landing-party made their way to the top.
As the alarm went off, Galan opened the portal, and led by Master Tito, the resistance-fighters stormed the factory. Initially the resistance was light, but Galan's earlier scrying had revealed a small number of Hellghasts on the premises. Tito now extended his senses – he had discovered that he could not become one with his totem while alive, but he could borrow it's eyes – and found that there were two on the roof of the laboratory. With Analea's warriors fighting their way downwards, the magician turned upwards.
On the eastern edge of the island's plateau, the group there found their progress blocked by a heavily armed guard tower. Again Analea's angel was sent forth, and shortly after, the tower went dark amidst the screams of the Falangists who manned it. The Prince now summoned his super-human strength and sprinted across the landing field towards his target. Bullets flew around him, but his speed was such that the gunners could not draw a bead on him. Reaching the ward-tower, he had to stop to place explosives on it's steel door. Despite only taking seconds to finish the task, he had to weather a lead-whipping. More seriously was the Hellghast sniper who hit him with a Shardakeem round. Still, the Prince managed to get himself to cover before he was killed, and before the explosion shook the ground.
Not knowing much about demolitions, he had decided to err on the side of overkill, and when he sprinted through the dust, he found that the door could easily be ripped off it's hinges. He entered the tower, and was safe from the many hateful eyes that tried to get him in their sights. The technicians inside were dazed and bloodied from the blast, and were easy to dispatch. Scanning the room, he felt the unholy hum of the goethic reactor that powered the tower. He forced open the door to the basement and found himself before an imprisoned and tortured demon, wired into the reactor. Again he decided to play it safe, and so he packed his remaining explosives in and around the machine, set the timer, and called for teleportation.
Tito had by now reached the roof, and easily spotted the two Hellghasts, lying in over-watch on a platform. He summoned his totem as a distraction, and while the half-demons fired at Gaupa, he charged their position. Knowing that he would only get one chance, he jumped, and by the skin of his teeth he managed to reach the platform. He pulled himself up, drew Grauengammer, yelled an intelligible war-cry, and struck one of his foes. The Hellghast's armour took most of the blow, and both of them dropped their rifles and drew their daggers. Within seconds they had cut the theurge down.
As Tito fell into the cold embrace of near-death, he again sent his soul out to join Gaupa, and the ancient totem-spirit fell upon the Hellghasts, tearing them asunder.
With one of the cabal's Masters dying on the roof, and with the Prince needing to get out before he was blown apart, Galan teleported the latter to the former. Aegir picked up the lifeless magician, and both were teleported to the rally-point back on the main island. Here Analea had placed a healer, and Tito's wounds were seen to.
The rest of the attack went relatively smoothly. The group in the laboratory-wing managed to place the explosives and get back to where Galan held the portal, all without too severe losses. Analea, having destroyed one of the Reavers and killed the Falangists guarding them, now climbed into the remaining Reaver, and took off with her survivors.
Storyteller's note: By the gods of the dice, this was a bear of post to write. Perhaps not too strange, as we set a new record at the table. We convened at 18.00, and left around 04.00. Damn.
If you think I've forgotten anything, go suck an egg.
[Picture source: 1 unknown; 2 National Geographic]
[Picture source: 1 unknown; 2 National Geographic]