6 January 2012
(This begins Chapter III)
(We are missing Kriv’s player tonight)
We arrive in Vostir, the Imperial capital, in a coaster merchant boat, having hitched a ride for us and our troops once we reached the southern sea. The city and surroundings is crawling with activity. We have it from the boatmen that the Emperor is putting together a huge army that he intends to lead.
Kleft, Bonkk, Kriv, and Listar go to the Port Admiral’s office to report the party’s arrival and the urgent need to pass on news, our report, and certain artifacts to the high command. The rest find a space big enough to hold them, keep mouths controlled enough to suppress what we saw at the Fall of Brsic and certain other demoralizing bits of information.
Admiral Straton sees us almost at once, once we get to his office and encounter his guards. We hand over the first copy of our report, and show the Hand to the admiral and his arcane experts; the latter blanch visibly. We report reversing the enemy siege train, and running into the talkative Turathoi. The admiral is visibly discomfited at being told the enemy are summoning demons. He directs us to find lodgings and that we will go to the Palace the next day, ordering us to appear at the admiral’s office at dawn.
The troops near the docks are plied hard for news, and while we suppress some uncomfortable bits, there is some boasting about the victories we did win: Mik spins a great yarn. There is some open revulsion at the nonhumans (Lann the githzerai, Cruhorn the razorclaw shifter, and Mik the half-orc). We get news ourselves: the invasion is massive, and from many directions: south, southwest, north, and over the south sea.
The next morning we get everyone up, march to the Port Admiral’s, and report our presence to the admiral. En route and while waiting outside there is again clear displays of racial bigotry from the locals, though dragonborn are notably omitted from the sneers. Cruhorn and Lann return the contempt with their own impressive demonstration.
The admiral comes out promptly and we march to the Imperial Palace. We go to the Purple Gate. We are admitted to a lobby space, and given food & drink while we wait.
Listar is asked for a personal interview by a richly dressed dragonborn. This is Lord Zatik, the Chief Emissary from Arkhosia, the de facto ambassador! Listar is offered the rank of Huntsman under the Master of the Hunt (who is in effect both the head of spies and the minister of state in the dragonborn state), and is offered a retainer fee; he would in effect be an agent for Arkhosia, is given a badge, and 800 gp worth of gems. He is given a sealed scroll and asked to present it personally to the Emperor. The Emissary is clearly very pleased that his offer was accepted.
The whole party then are subjected to a cleaning-up and protocol-coaching frenzy. The functionaries try to persuade the four racial undesireables to skip the audience, which is adamantly refused, and then urged to stay silent and presumably unobtrusive. In the end, it is made clear that they will be presented in the same way as the rest.
The beginning of the audience is a fatiguing quasi-religious ritual, which we survive with boredom. But there is a lot of magical energy around, and to our surprise, some of it is malign. Cruhorn the Seeker crits on sniffing it and recognizing it: there are minions of Dagon, from the Abyss in the Underdark, somewhere on the Palace grounds! We gesture over an aide, who admits that yes, this is known, and is apologetic about it.
The ritual part concludes and we move on to the actual audience. We are asked for a display of prowess, and we put together an interactive demonstration of a battle against the siege train. We just totally rock, and all our rolls for social interactions end up totalling no less than 30. We have seriously impressed lots of important folk.
THe formal part of the audience is over. We are allowed to sit, and refreshments are brought. Emperor Ignatius is quite pleased; he is young, in his mid-20s, and has been Emperor for a couple of years. He is eager to ride to war at the head of an army, but his advisors are holding him back. He is impressed by deeds in battle, and has chosen as his own surname “the Bold”, though no one outside of Court uses it. He presents us with jewelry, 1200 gp worth each of loot. We are to be given magical items also, and in the next day or so we will be escorted to the Vault for selection.
The Emperor singles out the half-Orcs for inclusive praise, recalling how the half-orcs of the Peterotychos Brigade about 250 years ago stood against the usurpers until slain to the last main. Listar takes the opporunity to present the Emissary’s scroll to the Emperor, who
reads it and comments on the unusual nature of its contents (Zatik wants to be installed in the Ambassadors Palace, though technically he is not an ambassador), but he accepts the petition and will deal with it later.
The Emperor shares news and views on the war. “The war in general is going badly.” Evik and Gard Proset are being attacked. The Hand of Vecna is taken out of our care and it goes off to being guarded and studied at the Temple of Ioun. There is an anomaly in the Emperor’s description: he omits any mention of goblins in the forces attacking Evik, yet we saw (and avoided) an army of those en route. We report that, and it causes a stir.
We brief the Emperor and his court on what we saw through our experience. We make the point of mentioning the 18th Legion commander by name, who was the person who tossed us the Hand of Vecna before he was trampled by war mammoths on the Bridge at Brsic. This triggers a comment: the 18th Legion is destroyed, and its eagle lost in the capture of the city. Legally it is not a legion any more, which means our own affiliation is up in the air as far as tradition is concerned. Kleft suggests making us a “special ops” unit, and that seems to be quite acceptable to the Emperor, and we are given the designation the Emperor’s Hand.
Our first mission will be to participate in winning back the teleportation circle here in the Palace Grounds. All the ’port circles in the Empire have been diabolically corrupted. We mention our detection of the influence of Dagon — there is a collective gasp in the chamber — and those two things are one and the same here: minions of Dagon are in place, occupying the circle and its building. They seem content so far simply to occupy the building and not attack out of it.
The Emperor says he has champions who will attack the entity corrupting the circle directly, but our part is to open the way, and then ensure that the champions are not interfered with by other forces. This is to happen in three days.
Cruhorn subsequently visits with other shifters in the town and in that community it is clear that there is something disquieting going on in the marshes outside of Evik. There is a significant population of Fey creatures there, who have long had good relations with the Empire; that is taken as perhaps the single most important reason why Evik has never in its history been taken by an enemy army. The unsettling news out of Evik and surroundings is ominous.
That wrapped up action. We each have 1200gp from this session plus 170gp each of combined loot accumulated during our earlier adventures, plus a few have other chunks of treasure on individual bases. We have a couple of days to shop, and we have the free item from the Vault to come also.
And then we fight demons.