Cast: Aegir of the Enæidùn, Mandan Bansl, Gryff Galan, Percival O'Conner, Velimir Tito, Yolander van Zaar, and Toadface. Many NPC's also played a part.
The following takes place between 6 and 21 Undecium, YE 1022.
After the Pius Cabal returned from the Void, having killed Dr. Mörbius, they came to realize that unless the schemes of the Queen of Stars were stopped, all they had done would be for naught. No amount of lesser victories would stem the tide. Evil would triumph, and the fate of mankind would be sealed. But how do you go up against an ancient goddess?
The cabal had long debated the possibilities of killing Caracalla, the Dark Prince, demigod and son of the Queen. The most visible problem here was that he was guarded by the dreaded Arch-nefandus known only as the Painted Man. Other factors in need of consideration were that the Prince was surrounded by other guards, both mundane and highly magical, and on Cora, a fortress island recently conquered by his forces. Lastly, the Queen of Stars' powers of seeing the future made any move against her or her son a dangerous proposition at best.
Making matters more complicated was the fact that as soon as Caracalla's forces left Cora, the invasion of Eria would be on, regardless of whether the leader was dead or not. Many of the horrors that would be let loose would need no liege to tear the Corinthian countryside apart, leaving only terror and death in their wakes.
Setting out to find a way to stop the fall of man, the Pius Cabal set course for the Dark Continent, in hope of mustering a force able to kill Caracalla. The allies they sought to enrol in their mission were the Fire People, a line of mythic humanoids, as much kin to fire as the Wolf Lords are kin to the wolfs. Taking the Pius up, into the highest reaches of the troposphere, the cabal sailed above the unnatural storm that blocked the Straits of Ahriman, and thus managed to reach the camp of the Fire People without harm. Here, instead of finding an army ready to strike, they found one of the few groups still left, after more than 25 years of occupation. Still, Nefreti of the Nera'a received them well, and promised his support.
While camped overnight in the Crimson Desert, two men brought an artifact before the Masters. These two had recently captured a massive bronze cauldron in a raid upon an enemy caravan. Now they wanted someone with more knowledge in matters arcane to take the thing off their hands, before they and their people was found by the agents of the enemy.
That same night, van Zaar led Galan, Bansl, and Prince Aegir on a dream-quest. He hoped to reach the Great Library of Dreams, and there to find the True-name of the Painted Man. The journey was hazardous, and not even van Zaar's Letter of Morfeus bore any weight in the tortured nightmares of those ruled by the Court of Stars. After having crossed the deep ocean in a slave-ship, the party reached the library, but did not manage to find the Name. Instead they discovered an old dream, practically giving them the path to the Painted Man's lair.
The following morning the Queen of Stars struck. As the sun rose above the desert, the heroes sensed a disturbance in reality, and only managed to sound the alarm as the enemy came upon them. Rising out of the sand came Forge-demon after Forge-demon. They tore through the camp, killing the Fire People in droves, and only in front of Nefreti's tent, where the cabal made their stand, were they halted. Van Zaar and Galan attempted to reason with the demon inside the cauldron, but as the battle outside turned in favour of the enemy, they realized that the demon was not of the reasonable sort. To make matters worse, two arch-demons had now joined the assault. The battle was lost.
In their retreat, the cabal managed to save only a handful of the Fire People. Nefreti, one of the last great Lords of the Nera'a, fell with the last of his warriors.
Now the heroes decided to anchor in a shade-realm they had found on their first visit to the Dark Continent. Here they licked their wounds and plotted the next move. The dream-map they had found would take them to Gerem Faït, that much was certain, but that great danger awaited them there was also certain. After lengthy deliberation, it was decided that the magicians would all cast powerful spells on Prince Aegir the Exalted, and he would then sneak into the lair of the nefandus, find the child in which his heart was hidden, and kill it. If nothing else, this would lure the Painted Man away from Caracalla's side long enough for the cabal to strike.
The plan, as it emerged, called for destroying enough of the Dark Prince's forces to make an invasion impossible at this stage, then the Masters would confront him, and reveal two parts of his True-name to him. One of these names were given him by his father, Morfeus, and the other by the Bodhisattva of Time. This, the heroes hoped, would cause Caracalla to turn his anger upon his mother, and if they played it just right, perhaps he would even kill her.
Several other forces stood ready to aid in the attack, and now the cabal committed to to field. First the Battlefleet Hermetica sailed out of the Erian Gap, hoping to draw the Black Ships out, so that a fleet of two thousand ships from Draccia and the Hannuman Caliphate could attack Cora directly. To lead the assault, the heroes turned to Master Lucius Septimus Arachnidus of the Ordo Hermetica. With him as their general, they took their place at the head of the assault fleet.
As they came upon the storm, they could scry the Armada of Forlorn Hope leaving Cora to meet them. They also sensed the dreaded Kraken moving towards them, beneath the storm-whipped waves. Now the blasted cauldron became useful, as they rolled it overboard, breaking the bonds upon the demon, the Warlock O'Conner ordered it to kill Kraken. Then the Pius took to the skies. Below a fierce battle erupted beneath the waves, and the two armadas moved towards each other.
A while ago, Bansl had managed to stop the OUT from detonating an atom-crusher in the Hannuman city of Petra. This bomb was now on board the Pius. The plan had been to ram the ship into the city of Borgen on Cora, thus setting off the OUT bomb. Commander Hawkins, First Mate on the ship, had managed to get the Masters to relent, and he had been given permission to try to save the Pius.
When the island came into view, the magicians all went below decks, and Hawkins took the helm. The Bansl Apparatus that had been providing propulsion and energy until now was taken out, and as the ship started falling towards ground, the magicians teleported to Cora. The last thing Bansl did before leaving ship was to increase it's speed, so that it hurtled towards it's doom with fires licking it's hull.
The original plan had called for Bansl, Tito, and Rupertus to be teleported into the central node inside Castel Vigilus. As soon as the chamber was scryed it was discovered that the node was guarded by five guldamoths. It was decided that they should deploy in force instead, and led by Master Septimus, the war-cabal – the Masters of the Pius, as well as twelve Hermetic war-mages, plus Proxima – teleported into the node-chamber. The Hermetics set up a firewall to shield the cabal, while the rest let loose a storm of arcane fire. Within moments, the demons had been scorched out of reality, and the node captured. Adeptus Rupertus now set about rigging the Bansl Apparatus to feed off the node's considerable Mana-flow, firing it up, and removing the safety-valves. In minutes, it would blow, and hopefully destroy the entire castle.
The Nightmare-demon N'garthl was now let off his leash, and the war-cabal advanced behind the mayhem and confusion left in it's wake. Their goal was Caracalla, and now that they were inside the castle, Galan had no problems scrying out his location.
The Prince of Ashes was on a patio, surrounded by courtiers and body-guards, watching the spectacle of the Pius, surrounded by fire, hurtling towards the city from the heavens. As they watched, he was informed that the Pius Cabal had taken the node, and were fighting their way up from the cellars. Cursed with indecision by his father, the Lord of Nightmares, swift action never came natural to the demigod, yet now he screamed for someone to kill the magicians. Two of his demons immediately took off, as did a large number of courtiers who obviously felt their skill-set was better utilized elsewhere. The heroes chose this moment to confront their target.
When the full war-cabal appeared, all hell broke loose. Toadface turned himself to a giant, then he pierced his tongue with the stinger of a bee soaked in the blood of Bolgen, the god of black rage. The company of Blood Legion was unable to mount any significant resistance, and was violently scattered, the other guards fared no better. As the outcome became clear, Caracalla made a run for it. He did not get far before Bansl bore him down. Defeated, captured, surrounded by a cabal of Masters, the Prince wanted only one thing: his mother. Van Zaar saw this narrow window of opportunity, and urged Galan to seize it. They had a way to reach the Queen of Stars.
When the cabal teleported to Her chambers, the first thing Bansl did was to cut the head of Caracalla, and throw it before the Queen's feet. Toadface, still trapped in Bolgen's rage, managed to stave off the guards, while the rest faced the ten thousand years old, fallen elven queen. Percival was the first to feel her power, as she called him by his name – the same he had foolishly given her over a year ago. As he felt himself drowning in love and desire, he fought back with all he had. It all looked like it would end badly, so Tito again sought to become one with his Lynx-totem. He knew that he needed to be close to death for his soul to become part of the ancient spirit; now he turned his sword around, and fell on it's blade.
The Queen then turned to van Zaar, the handsomest of the heroes. Unable to resist, the clever old spy turned to his years of experience in womanising. This took the Succubus by surprise, and bought Percival and Bansl enough time to fall upon Her with their knives.
Here the Pius Chronicles ended.
Storyteller's note: The moment I think many of us has been dreading came to pass, and I think everyone felt that although we could have wished for more time, the end was one we can live with. I know my feelings are mixed. Regret, relief, denial, you name it. I've even been through a period of rationalisation as well. But it is done.
A few words on the last chapter. First off, this is actually three sessions, wrapped up in one chapter. I think the two previous sessions were important for us as a group to reach some common ground, and to accept the inevitable. Some of my thoughts on that process has been dealt with here under separate posts. In the last sessions, we more or less discarded the Rulebook, and focussed on spinning an end to the tale. Then we got shit-faced drunk.
There are quite a few loose ends left, and some I will deal with in due time. Others will be left alone.
[Picture source: Andy Jones]