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This campaign summary has been written from the point of view of an unnamed, invisible spectator following alongside the party, documenting their travels as an admirer of theirs. This character has never actually been used, referenced, or even confirmed to exist in the campaign itself - it is just a framing device used to summarize the story from a single perspective. For information about the campaign itself, please see the campaign overview.
- 1 The Championship of Champions
- 2 The Mysterious Lab
- 3 Alphabet Soup
- 4 Strassburg
- 5 War with the Gnomes
- 6 Traveling to the Giant Kingdom
- 7 The Kingdom of Durm
- 8 Joining the Order of Cigam
- 9 Business and Pleasure in the Capital
- 10 A Dwarven Conspiracy
- 11 Back to the Championship
- 12 The Jack of all Trades
- 13 A Much Larger Conspiracy
- 14 The Plan
The Championship of Champions
The Tournament - It Begins
Today I witnessed something incredible; not because anything exceptionally unusual happened, but because for the first time in what feels like a millennia, I truly witnessed something. I have wandered aimlessly since my incident, non-existent to even the world's greatest mystic powers, with a fog over my thoughts. Today that fog finally lifted, and while I still remain a ghost to the world, I can think again. And it all started when I neared them; a group of adventurers who don't realize just how important they truly are. I find myself now an uninvited guest in their company, whether they know it or not. I've started recording their deeds so that should my curse ever be lifted, their story can be remembered.
But a story must have a beginning, and this is theirs. Through the fog of my memory I can recall that this country, the Emorian Empire, annually puts on an event, the "Championship of Champions"; a test of art, creativity, will, might, and so on and so forth. Hundreds of contestants seem to have come from far and wide to partake, and yet somehow these individuals wound up together. But I keep referring to them so cryptically, I should probably elaborate on who these mysterious heroes of our story are.
The first of them I witnessed was a Human man named Ivo Arend, an outwardly confident man uncertain in his own truth who wowed the massive crowd with a stunning piece of music in the first competition. He was followed by an elf, Vylqwyn, whose performance outshined Ivo's, sure, but that was certainly due to experience, not necessarily innate skill. A show of strength followed, and a pair of commandant's stood out: Sam Colt III, a man far too young for his rank, and David Evans, a man who looks too old for this.
It was the trials of accuracy that brought the rest of them to my attention. First among them was a woman, Ilyui Omilya, though she prefers the moniker "Illy", fearless in her actions even in the face of crippling consequences. Though she bore the face of a Human her magic did little to fool my cursed eyes; she is an Elf, hiding her true identity beneath a cloak of deception. Javid Divaj was another, and I'm not sure if any of the others looked - or acted - more out of place. He has a fierce determination and an aura of dire urgency about him, though it can be difficult to see beneath the fumbling of a man who so clearly doesn't understand the way this new world works. And finally was Ms. Kallie, a merchant woman hiding an incredible amount of power behind a calm and rational face.
But these tests of basic skills were not what the crowds came to see: no, that was the trials of combat, which began soon after. All of them - Ivo, Illy, Javid, Kallie, Colt, Evans, and even Vylqwyn - were somehow brought together, on one team. They were additionally joined by a seedy man named François, and together they valiantly faced off against a wave of ent-like monsters, and later wolves. Some of their ranks decided to sit out the next fight against a pair of baby dragons, but once again they came out victorious. Finally, though, the main event began and every challenger who'd made it this far was given the choice to face off against the Champion himself: Enoch. The goal was to be standing at the end of a minute, in a fight that was effectively fifty against one.
They lost. I don't want there to be any illusions about these adventurers, they didn't stand a chance against Enoch. Only three of them actually partook in this challenge: Ivo, Javid, and Evans, to be precise, and while they were the last three left standing, they were simply outmatched. But something unusual happened: the scrappy one, Ivo, managed to use some magic rod to prop himself upright just before being knocked unconscious, and then the clock ran out. Technically he was still standing, the first to ever "technically" win. The Championship came to an end, everyone was magically healed and given their prize money, and Ivo, specifically, was given two "Praetorian Coins", which are apparently some valuable "free favor" currency that were extremely hard to come by.
Their shared experience in the combat trials formed a bond between most of them, and the group - sans Vylqwyn and François - reunited after the Championship came to a close, and traveled together into the Town of Loot, ready to spend their winnings. For the most part, their purchases weren't too extravagant: Ivo got a new crossbow and some magic pouches, Colt a new shield, Javid an inactive magic battlestaff. Ultimately they all settled down in a bar and got to know each other... right before they were inundated with job requests and offers for various "quests" to be completed. Honestly, they got so many offers so quickly I had trouble keeping up, but ultimately the party agreed to take a job investigating an incident at a mysterious lab a way south, near a town called Torrig. About half the party set off the next morning on behalf of Vylqwyn, who'd given them the quest, with the other half vowing to catch up later.
The Mysterious Lab
The trip to the lab was mostly uneventful... well, except for that one moment where they got robbed on their way out of town, but that's beside the point. The first group, consisting of Ivo, Colt, Javid, and Ms. Kallie arrived at the base after several hours of walking and met up with a man named Akio, Vylqwyn's contact. Even he didn't really seem to know much about what had happened and left soon after the group entered and started investigating. I can really only tell you what I myself witnessed: it looked like the aftermath of a slaughter. Blood, claw marks, but no bodies; the whole place looked like it had seen war, but was also abandoned.
Ultimately I followed the group as they found a staircase to an underground section of the base, and we - they - came face to face with a group of... humanoid-looking dragon monsters. What were they? Why were they here? HOW did they get here? Those were all questions on everyone's mind as the adventurers rather effortlessly tore their way through the angry beasts, who were no doubt responsible for the carnage above, and explored this mysterious laboratory. Some of the rooms had become nests for these beasts, others were just... empty. One of them was marked as an office for some "General", who was also referenced in some scattered paperwork they found strewn about.
It didn't take long for Evans, Illy, and "The Wolf", who joined the group during the Championship afterparty, to show up behind them, though they had accepted the same contract from a different source: The Third Hand, a criminal organization... whose members just happened to be the same ones who robbed the first group. Whoops. After another fight with a larger group of the man-dragon monsters, in which the team was almost defeated, Ivo put up a bit of a fuss about the whole Third Hand thing and had a bit of a fight about trust or whatnot with Illy and The Wolf. It was all rather dramatic, and the rest seemed to ignore it as they continued clearing out rooms and killing more of the beasts.
Eventually we - they - found their way through a door marked "DO NOT ENTER" after an... ill-advised trial and error method of opening the lock. On the other side was something surprising, even for me. Scientists, seemingly still alive, went about their work, but when the group questioned them they lost their minds and ran out of the room... only for things to suddenly "reset" and repeat. Somehow, the scientists had managed to trap themselves in some sort of "time loop" and they weren't even aware of it. Eventually the party managed to pry some information out of them: they had been experimenting on two captured dragons, and found a way to transform Humans into the dragon monsters the party had just slaughtered, whoops. An accident had caused most of the labs staff to be transformed, and they then attacked those on the base above.
Finding the dragons wasn't hard, they were only one room over, and Ms. Kallie was even able to communicate with them - they were not hostile, and were ever able to communicate with, and calm down, the man-dragons. Unfortunately, freeing the dragons from their cages broke the spell over the scientists, and they instantly became hostile. With help from their new dragon friends the party killed those ethics-apathetic butchers and finally got a chance to rest. The dragons helped guide the party to two important magical artifacts that were being stored nearby: a mysterious golden rod, gifted to Ms. Kallie, and a healing potion that automatically refilled itself once per day, which Illy took.
Those magical pouches that Ivo bought after the Championship? Apparently, he received ten of them, and they all connected to the same storage "space" within a certain distance. He gave one of them to Vylqwyn back in Loot, and he used it to send Vylqwyn a letter as everyone made their way back outside. Vylqwyn didn't take too long to get back to them and, intrigued with what they found, instructed them to meet him in the regional capital, Strassburg, within the next few days. Back in Loot, when the party was getting inundated with quest-requests, they received a job offer to help a young woman from Berwin deal with some "ruffians" that were harassing her and her business. She was also incredibly flirtatious with Ivo so he largely protested to the idea, but was outvoted.
They arrived in Berwin after a day or two - I've really lost my sense of time in this state - after camping out and dealing with only a couple of wild animals. After a night's rest in the fancy merchants' suite, courtest of Ms. Kallie's Merchant Guild membership, some of the party set off to try and help out the poor girl. Now I witnessed what happened next, and even I don't fully grasp it, but I'll try to unravel the knot that was the... "alphabet soup" fiasco. Here it goes:
The party met up with the woman, Miss Tress, at her bar "The X Tavern" which turned out to be a bar filled with scantily-clad, incredibly fit men - much to the party's dismay. Miss Tress claimed that "Miss Ter" of "The Y Tavern" was harassing her and her employees, and even went as far as trashing her establishment. The party went to see Miss Ter at The Y Tavern, but not before stopping to eat there. Illy had alcohol with her lunch and became insanely drunk, and Ivo ended up doing almost all of the talking. Miss Ter claimed that she had no bad blood with Miss Tress, and believes that Miss Tress and her employees were actually being harassed by Miss Es, owner of "The W Tavern" on the outskirts of town. That tavern was more of a fight club, and in order to get an audience with Miss Es Ivo and The Wolf had to participate in a few of the fights, their notoriety from the Championship drawing a lot of attention. Miss Es revealed that Miss Ter and Miss Tress were little more than bickering sisters, and their third sister - Miss Tee, owner of the Z Tavern - was working with both of them and the local guard to force The W Tavern out of business. The party spent the night at the Z Tavern before confronting Miss Tee who claimed that yes, Miss Tress and Miss Tee's feud was just sisterly squabble, and she wanted to merge The W Tavern business with the family business. The party agreed to be neutral hosts to a business meeting between Miss Es and Miss Tee, Miss Tress, Miss Tee, and Miss See, the mayor and fourth sister in the family.
All the mess of "Miss"es and letters aside, a deal was ultimately struck and The W Tavern joined forces with the others, but on the condition that members of the party owned some stake in the business - a deal which Illy and The Wolf took. It was a significant investment, but one with promised huge returns. With the chaos of that whole situation behind them, the party spent one more night in Berwin before heading off to Strassburg. Unfortunately, though, Commandant Colt did not join them, opting to part ways.
The party found their way to Strassburg and their rendevous point with Vylqwyn a short while later. It was an inn, The Three Little Pigs, where everyone was required to surrender their weapons at the door. That didn't stop a couple of ruffians from attacking the group while they waited for Vylqwyn though, but even without their weapons the party easily overpowered them. Vylqwyn did arrive shortly after, and they all made their way to a private room - which Vylqwyn magically sealed - to discuss the artifact they found.
It quickly became apparent that the artifact was insanely powerful, as when Vylqwyn touched it at the same time as another, he was instantly able to learn all of their memories, and even impart some of his own knowledge directly into their minds. Vylqwyn called it an artifact of the Gods, which... caused him a great amount of unrest, based on his pacing around the room. Either it confirmed or severely challenged a part of his world view, the only thing that was certain was how severely dangerous it was. He urged them to tell no one about it, which prompted Javid to refer to it as an "Elephant"... as in, elephant in the room. Whatever an elephant is.
After talking about the staff, and not really figuring too much out about it, Vylqwyn took the party across town to meet the local leader, a man named Luman. This was a man who was... very large, and clearly very powerful, and after the meeting was over Vylqwyn emphasized that Luman was in possession of multiple items that were also, likely, God artifacts. Which, I think his point was to emphasize their rarity, but also that they do exist and are known about by some. Anyway, after speaking with Luman w- they all made their way back to the private room where they decided on their next move. Setting the God Artefact to the side for the moment, the party decided to take the "fight" to The Third Hand, whose local headquarters - they learned - was right beneath their feet, within the Three Little Pigs.
The Third Hand
Earlier, after the group was attacked by those ruffians in the bar, they were confronted by the Inn's owner, a man named "Mr. Atello". Turns out Mr. Atello was also a local Third Hand boss, and Illy was able to use her knowledge of thieves, and past support of the Third Hand (which, I should not, is only a means to an end - the Third Hand stole something extremely valuable to her and she intends to get it back), to get him to agree to let them join the local chapter. Only after they completed a task for him, though: retrieve a book from the local prison. Sounds easy enough... until the party (dis)agreed on getting themselves arrested, grabbing it, and waiting out a brief sentence.
Despite Ivo's protesting they all did get arrested after intentionally causing a public disruption... though The Wolf got both himself and Ivo arrested for "starting a fight" (when really The Wolf just assaulted Ivo). The plan would have worked pretty flawlessly... except some talk from the guards made it seem like The Wolf's punishment for such a violent public disruption was going to be incredibly more severe than it needed to be, so all of the sudden waiting out their sentence out wasn't an option - they'd have to break out.
And break out they did. Finding the book, which seemed to be a soup recipe of some kind, was relatively easy. They also met a nice convict named Jack Daniels, a Human male pirate who was going to tag along with the group in their escape one way or another. And, unfortunately, "another" ended up being the option. The party is not exactly the most stealthy - Illy is, sure, but the others... not so much, and so they were forced to more or less fight their way out. I say "more or less" because the second they saw daylight they just ran straight past all the guards. They did get away though, and they delivered the book back to Mr. Atello and got entry to the Third Hand's secret underground base. Oh yeah, and Jack Daniels decided to stick around for awhile, too!
With their entry into the local Third Hand secured, the party turned their attention back to that pesky God Artefact. Vylqwyn urged them all to visit the local Cigam Tower and gain access to its archives in order to research more about it, or devices like it. Vylqwyn wouldn't go with them himself, though - he insisted that it'd be better if they went without him. Cryptic, that Vylqwyn. So they did, they went to the Cigam Tower and found the highest-ranking Cigam member they could... well, really, they just asked around until they found someone that actually had the authority to help.
Before the Cigam would give any of us access to the archives, though, they required we go through a few tests. If we're being honest, this part is fuzzy for me - I'm certain I've been able to catch a ride on the wizard's teleports before, but this time I was left behind, and the fog over my mind quickly returned. I don't know how much time passed before they came back, but when they did they were told they'd be allowed into the archives. I was able to gather from their conversations after the fact that the tests they faced took place in some other realm - another realm! Just like that! These wizards' magic is insanely powerful! - and were all designed to teach the party teamwork, emphasizing that if they were to search for information of this type, about the Gods, then they would have to be unified, or face destruction.
It's all very dramatic, and since I wasn't there it's hard to really know what the party went through, but whatever they did they succeeded. Just like I knew they would. And so down they went into the underground archives of the Strassburgian Cigam, and... wow. Not only were they huge, but they were also largely unorganized - I think the phrase is searching for a hair in a smokestack? I'm pretty sure that's right. Either way, we wandered around for a while, partly just to figure out the teleporters the Cigam used to get around down there, and fighting some angry spiders and magic books. Illy and The Wolf kept running ahead, too, which really split us up when it came time to fight.
After looking around for a while we, sorry, they sought the help of a friendly Elven librarian woman, Panufnik, who helped guide them towards the back of the archives where they found... a cave-in. The specific books that would be helpful to them had been stolen by someone who had dug their way into the archives, and so the party and Panufnik had little choice but to follow this mysterious tunnel. After a few puzzles I've already forgotten the solutions to, they came upon some skeletons, and an entryway into an even larger chamber... where they were suddenly attacked by an ENORMOUS spider!
After a brief battle, I think it was Ivo who called out to the spider in a language I don't speak... and then everything became peaceful. I only speak common, but from what I could gather the spider hates our language, and became instantly more friendly - intrigued, even - when they spoke other languages. From what I was able to pick up after the fact, this spider's name was Telam, and was a "sister" of Naurel. Telam had already recovered the stolen books, and was guarding them while she waited for Luman to come to recover them. Eventually, the party managed to convince Telam to let us take one of the books, but apparently it was imbued with some insanely powerful magic - it had to be carried by three of them at once, or they'd risk death.
They got it upstairs uneventfully, only to be greeted by none other than Vylqwyn himself... whose presence visibly made many of the Cigam members uneasy. It was here we learned that Vylqwyn was a member of Cigam himself; in fact, he was such a high rank in the Cigam Order that he was worried his being in our company would prevent us from learning how to do stuff, like those trials, the right way because no one in there would ever say no to him. Who would have guessed? Anyway, he escorted us back to our private room in the Three Little Pigs, where the book was opened... and turned out to be something of a God Artifact itself. I don't know what happened exactly, but everyone who touched the book was able to ask it questions and be given answers by some greater power, all in their heads.
I assume most of these questions had something to do with their own personal goals, which I haven't really talked much about. Ivo wants to learn the truth about his family and his magical powers, Illy wants to find an Amulet of Naurel that was stolen from her, Javid wants to find a source of water for his people, Evans wants to find someone important to him, Kallie has business with the Merchants Guild, and The Wolf... well, it was around this point that The Wolf departed from the group, and so his story in this party comes to an end. Each of them received answers that didn't satisfy their questions, but at least gave them somewhere to look next - and for most of them, that meant finding an individual named Cane.
With that, Vylqwyn's business in town had come to an end. He was willing to let the party hold onto the golden rod God artifact but offered to give each of them a personalized reward in exchange for it. For Illy: A tiara that would grant her several deceptive abilities. For Ivo: Vylqwyn's personal robe, which make Ivo's spells more powerful. For Jack: A portable boat that he could collapse and expand at will. For Evans: A set of boots that let him walk on water, among other things. For Kallie: a magic item that let her cast darkness, and see inside of it. For Javid: a set of kinetic robes that offered him greater defense, and retribution. And for everyone: black Cigam amulets, and an invitation to join the Order of Cigam.
With that Vylqwyn took his leave, God Artifact in hand, and the party was left to figure out what to do next.
Finishing up in Strassburg
Before leaving, Vylqwyn recommended the party check in with Luman before they left the city. With that in mind, the party promptly... went downstairs to deal with The Third Hand. See, the ones who'd been robbed were still itching for a little bit of revenge, and local officials the party had talked to had expressed interest in ridding the town of their Third Hand problem. So, the party went downstairs to deal with it. They marched right into the hidden base - which they were allowed in at this point, mind you - and into the leaders chamber. Everything was more or less fine for a few moments, until suddenly one of the guards attacked the party out of the blue. It was a close fight, but ultimately the party came out on top - and to the victor goes the spoils.
After searching around for a few minutes the party found the Third Hand's treasury, and after a lengthy and totally necessary argument about the magical physics of the magical pouches, they gathered up all the gold and just walked out the front door. So to speak. But would the party just take their newfound riches and skip town? No of course not, they'd go into town and go on a shopping spree! After picking up a few less-than interesting tools - mostly magic-imbued arrows - they made their way back to Luman.
They found Luman at the end of a meeting with a Gnomish official, who stormed out fairly angrily. Luman was fairly open about what was going on - a war between Humans and Gnomes had begun, and, well, since we were there he asked if we - they, dammit - could help out. He promptly promoted Evans to the rank of General, and conscripted the lot of them to go south and make sure one of the border towns was secure. The party was to set out the next morning, as early as possible. Oh yeah, and Luman also cornered Ivo on his possession of two of Enoch's Praetorian coins - and traded him one of his own for one.
Everyone mostly split up to go take care of any final business before heading out. Jack Daniels, not eager to get involved in a war, took his leave from the party, and Ivo and Ms. Kallie accepted a job to rescue a womans kid who'd been taken by wolves, just outside the city. They fought their way through a cave network before being joined by Illy and found the woman's kid... as in, the baby goat type of "kid". It had been killed by the Wolves, and so the party brought its corpse with them so the woman could bury it, but not before discovering a vein of adamantium hiding down there. They were able to mine some of it, and when they reached the surface they encountered a literal unicorn! Even I thought they were just a fairytale, but there it was... and it wanted to eat their adamantine. Illy gave it a little bit, and as thanks it magically resurrected the kid. Wild. The woman was thrilled, the party was confused... and then they went to bed.
Oh, I forgot two other things that are probably going to be really important. Since day 1, basically, people have been bugging the party for their "company name" - a band of adventurer's should have an identity, afterall. It was here, in Strassburg, that they finally came up with something... "The Stampede". We'll see if it sticks! The other, as we finished up in town, a ranger by the name of Amyro Elodi joined the group. He claimed that The Wolf had been his mentor, and urged him and his war owl, Sylvanas, to take his place in The Stampede.
War with the Gnomes
What happened in the last few days has largely been a blur; a mess of death and anxiety, I'll try to recall it as best I can. The Stampede left Strassburg and made their way south towards the city of Venycl, which stood on the Human-Gnomish border, and would be under threat pretty soon. This was our mission from Lord Luman, but I can say this: we never arrived. We make it to the city of Furklend fairly quickly, we were able to rent a boat down there, but the city was... all but abandoned. A few military personnel, but otherwise there was nothing. The city had been evacuated due to the war.
We didn't spend much time in Furklend, the mission being to help protect Venycl, so we continued on. They continued on. A curious thing happened along the way, though - the sounds of a man whistling caught everyone's attention, and upon investigating we met a strange man digging graves. There was barely any time for conversation before a small band of Gnomes attacked, and with the help of this strange man they were driven off. The strange man - Tafo Skavo, as we soon found out - then began to bury the fallen, forbidding the party from looting or disrespecting their corpses in any way. Even still, Tafo opted to travel with us, mostly because we were going a... similar direction.
This is where things became a little sketchier. While traveling towards Venycl, we suddenly became aware of a hoard of people - civilians, by the looks of it - running for their lives in an open field not far from The Stampede. Upon investigation they found a small band of Emorian soldiers hastily setting up a defensive line to hold off an approaching army of Gnomish soldiers hunting down the escaped civilians. Straight up fighting on the front lines wasn't part of the mission, but that's what happened next. The Stampede hit them hard from the side, catching them off guard, and with the help of the Emorian army they were successfully driven off. Once again Tafo made sure to bury their corpses, but this time he exhibited the magic of his shovel, which instantly summoned countless more, dug the graves, and buried the dead all in a matter of minutes. It was wild. What was even wilder was how many of them he, personally, killed! The man is insane, and immeasurably powerful.
After Evans had a chat with the soldiers - who he significantly outranked as a General - it became known to The Stampede that there were even more civilians evacuating further to the west; survivors from the siege on Venycl, meaning The Stampede was already too late. They opted to try and help those civilians instead, and made their way west in a hurry. This time they found two larger armies about to clash and, betting on their successes in their last battle, rushed through the surrounding forest to get behind them undetected. Unfortunately it quickly became clear that the army they'd fought before was small and underequipped, this army was much more formiddable, and had something The Stampede just couldn't counter: a sizeable cavalry.
Within seconds mounted Gnomes were flooding the battlefield, and forcing The Stampede to retreat alongside the civlians and all the rest. Through some hastey magic The Stampede was mostly able to outrun them, though, and escaped into the forests in the north. I say mostly because the Gnomes got a real clear look at General Evans, and immediately marked him as a high priority target. The cavalry swarmed towards him, and despite the party's best efforts to convince him otherwise, Evans was convinced the only way he could ensure everyone elses safety was if he surrendered himself. He gave Ivo his sword for safekeeping, and kneeled. Tafo likewise kneeled alongside him, while a very much torn Ivo made the difficult decision to get away.
The POW Camp
Defeated, dejected, and having lost a member of their party, The Stampede returned to Furklend to regroup, and once again spoke with the few military officers stationed there - though they were even more bare than they had been before. After talking and sharing information, the party determined that Evans would be more valuable as a prisoner than dead, and so he was probably taken to a nearby prison camp, and according to the local garrison, the most likely location would be a camp just outside the city of Naykan, north-west of Venycl.
And so off they went, back into the field - though this time skirting around any Gnomish they came across - towards the city of Naykan. Following the river they were able to make record time, and soon found themselves on the outskirts of the Gnomish prisoner-of-war camp. Only now did The Stampede start actually trying to come up with a decent plan on how to liberate Evans, if he was even in there... and what they ultimately came up with was to literally just walk to the front door and knock. Okay maybe not quite literally, but that's basically what it ammounted to. Their decision making process can be weird at time.
Realistically, they intended to leverage their Cigam amulets - proving their membership in the organization - in order to broker a "truce" of some sort, and fight their way out once inside if necessary. Unfortunately the whole place was crawling with Gnomes, far too many to fight, and The Stampede found themselves escorted to a tent and completely surrounded. A few important Gnomes came and went, questioning the party on their intentions, why they wanted Evans, what they'd give in exchange for him, etc. The most surprising part of it all was that Tafo, who had also been captured, was just... freely walking around the camp! He was still a prisoner, but everyone there was so afraid of him and his reputation as the "Gravedigger" that they couldn't really do anything to restrain him. Wild.
Ultimately, with the help of Tafo, Ivo convinced the leading Gnome to release Evans in exchange for one of his two Praetorian coins, though the decision was a difficult one for Ivo - not because he didn't want to do it, but because he feared he'd lose the coin and then he'd be betrayed. Ultimately his fears were misplaced and the Gnomes upheld their end of the bargain: Evans and Tafo were released, and they, along with the rest of The Stampede, were blindfolded and marched outside of the camp, where they were promptly released.
They made their way back to Furklend one more time, only time find it completely empty this time. At least that's how it looked at a glance, because soon after walking through the city gates they were dragged into various buildings by occupying Emorian soldiers, who shushed them as they laid in ambush. They waited... and waited... and waited... until, finally, a column of marching Gnomes just waltzed into the city, completely unaware that their spoil of war was a trap. The ensuing battle didn't last long: the Gnomes was routed, and Furklend was secure. Of course, Tafo being Tafo, he immediately proceeded to bury all of the bodies, though this time it caught the attention of a few Cigam enforcers who tried to crack down on his use of a magic artifact like his shovel, but they were ultimately dissuaded.
At was at this point that the party decided they no longer had any interest in participating in this war that wasn't theirs... except for Evans. His new rank, compounded with his years of service and personal goals, forced him to make the difficult decision to leave The Stampede, and focus on the war effort. They bid their farewells, and the party went on, one member smaller.
Traveling to the Giant Kingdom
With their role in the Human-Gnomish war ended, The Stampede needed to decide what to do next. Illy had heard stories of a powerful dagger being held in the town of Kansley, and Ivo - after his conversations with The Book - wanted to return to his hometown, Little Rock, to try and find answers about himself. The party agreed to head towards Little Rock, and stop in Kansley along the way, by route of cutting directly across to Kansley from Furklend.
And so they set off, with Tafo still accompanying them. Along the way they met up with a nice Human ranger woman named Adra. She decided to tag along, looking for adventure and companionship. After about a day or two of travelling, though, something unexpected happened: we came across a large tomb-like structure, one which didn't seem to be marked on any maps, and was noticeably out of place in the region. In fact, I'm not even sure it had been on the horizon the night before - it was huge! It was also protected by a magical shield and, of course, the party just couldn't let the mystery of it pass by. It took some trial and error, some elemental spellcasting, and a blood sacrifice or two, but eventually the party managed to get inside.
What they found was... boring. At least at first; there was nothing inside, it was just an empty ruins. There was, however, a hole in the ground that was fairly small, but still large enough to allow individuals to fit down into it. And after shining a light over it, it was clear that this hole led into a dungeon. So they tied off a rope and descended into this weird, random crypt. Well, Tafo stayed outside, at least for a while. He caught up with us eventually, anyway.
The crypt was winding and long abandoned, and crawling with undead. Some of the ensuing battles were close, but they bashed and smashed their way through those walking bones and made their way through the quasi-maze that was the crypt until they came upon a literal wall of fire blocking their way. And they could speak to it. I couldn't hear how they were conversing, it was all telepathic, but ultimately everyone got through without any damage. Though that quickly turned into a curse rather than a blessing when we were attacked by a literal floating skull, and the fire door no longer let us leave. It did a lot more damage to The Stampede that it seemed like it could, but once again they were victorious in the end. But now they only had one room left to search, the main room... and boy was that an experience.
By this point Tafo had caught up, and with the team all gathered they found themselves face to face with the apparent boss of these caves. The fight was close, some party members were even knocked out, but in the end it was a close victory... and then the damn thing just stood right back up! Fortunately, after "dying" and reincarnating it was no longer hostile, and instead motioned for the party to come to its side. Long story short this creature they fought was actually Groth, an immensely important ancient figure, involved with lots of stuff about the Gods, father of Cane, "master" of Tafo, apparently; he's important, and way more powerful than The Stampede could ever actually take. Still, their strength and prowess impressed Groth, and so he rewarded them each a magical ring imbued with power.
For Ivo: a ring that granted him proficiency with weapons and armor, and offered him a significant amount of strength during acts of bravery. For Illy: a magical boost to charisma when she was telling the whole truth. For Kallie: the knowledge and skill to create any non-magical weapon or item, but only when it is not for profit. For Javid: when truly selfless, he can aid others in their concentration, and grant them health. For Amyro: the ability to communicate with plants, but only when at peace. So, basically, all skills opposite to their normal personalities, more or less. Adra also received a ring, but seeing as how she departed from the party pretty much as soon as we left the tomb, it's not worth talking about.
With their rewards in hand the party made their way back to the surface... only to find themselves surrounded by a small army of Cigam members. They had no idea how the party had found or gained entry into the tomb, but were ultimately impressed, not mad. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your stance) little else could be done, because the entire structure just... vanished, right before everyone's eyes. Apparently those wizards have been tracking it for a long, long time, and had never gained entry. Wild. The Wizards all left, as did Adra (as I previously mentioned). This is also where Tafo parted ways with the party. A shame, I'll miss that odd fellow.
A Robbery in Kansley
The rest of the journey to Kansley was fairly uneventful, and when they finally did arrive in the city they found it to be surrounded by Dwarven and Giant armies - reinforcements on their way to assist the Emorian soldiers against the Gnomes, if for no other reason to secure their own borders. Missing the company of Giants Ivo actually went ahead and visited the Giant camp, bringing the party with him, where they all had a pleasant conversation with the camps leader. They made their way back into town to stay the night, and then it was off to the races for Illy in terms of finding that dagger. Well, not quite - as they got into town, a man caught up to them and introduced himself as Devlin Brien, an associate of David Evans' who'd come to replace him on the team. Welcome aboard, I guess!
Finding it wasn't actually that hard, it was being kept in the local museum. She was ready to just busy in and take it, but Ivo urged trying to buy it rather than ruining some poor museum curators business. So the two of them, as well as Ms. Kallie, made their way to the curators house - the museum itself was closed on account of the war - where they had to wait an extraordinarily long time to see him, only to find out that he was... less than pleasant. That disgusting man barely gave The Stampede the time of day, and revealed that he'd actually shut down the museum because he was keeping numerous Dwarven artifacts in there, but he hated Dwarves and didn't actually want any of the nearby soldiers anywhere close to them. Real piece of work, Ivo didn't really protest stealing the dagger after that.
The three of them silently made their way back to the museum and broke in... pretty easily. The tougher part was actually navigating through the museum, which had a... puzzle-like security system. No magic actually alerted anyone, but they had to spend a good amount of time figuring out how to get the door mechanisms to work to actually get to the dagger. And when they did get to it, and picked it up, they were attacked by the statue displays! All the statues lining the halls suddenly came to life and became hostile! We all raced back outside pretty effectively, dodging them along the way, dagger in hand. Success!
Of course we weren't going to stay in town very long after a heist like that, and so the party skipped town and kept on their way towards Little Rock. After a few run-ins with wild animals, and avoiding a fight with what I swear looked like a wild dragon, the party arrived at the outskirts of Little Rock!
The Kingdom of Durm
Ivo's Mysterious Life
OK, so, our main reason for visiting Little Rock was always for Ivo to try and find out more about himself. He's slowly been learning, throughout the parties journey, that the stories he was told growing up were false. He was adopted, he was not from a small village in the Empire that emigrated to the giant kingdom due to a war, he's not a regular Human, etc. He began asking around town looking for answers, ultimately winding up at the local library and gaining the assistance of the librarian - a process that took two days of research! Ultimately, though, all he really managed to discover was that the house that he grew up in had previously been owned by none other than Vylqwyn. Which meant that Vylqwyn probably knew more than he was letting on...
Illy, meanwhile, wanted to see this old house and went off to visit it, and ultimately her independant investigation led her to a safety deposit box that, when opened, revealed a letter that began to magically write upon itself. It was Vylqwyn! She'd brought it to Ivo, and he began responding to Vylqwyn on the page, demanding answers. Vylqwyn had none to give at that point, but he directed Ivo to travel north to the Giant capital city, Durmstrong, where he could find Cane, who would be able to help him more. Seeing as how finding Cane was in many party members interests, the plan was made: they were going to Durmstrong.
The Road to Cane
Rather than travel through the mountains, The Stampede opted to use the Dwarven tunnel network running underneath them. Starting from the nearby Giant town of Big Rock, The Stampede made their way underground with three dwarves accompanying them, the most notable of which was a member of the Dwarven royalty: Sun Daye. Even though it was faster than going through the mountains, it was still going to take more than a week of walking to get there; fortunately Cane wasn't expected until a day or two after they'd arrive, according to Vylqwyn, so they had time. Things were fairly uneventful, except for... they weren't. Most days went by peacefully but The Stampede and their Dwarven friends were attacked on several occasions, mostly by monsters, including some goo beasts that they had to run away from, and giant purple wyrms! Those they actually had to fight to pass, and boy did they beat them something fierce! Ivo even literally pinned one of them to the ground at one point!
In the end one of the Dwarves didn't make it, unfortunately, but all of the rest survived and made it to the underground segment of Durmstrong. They parted ways with the Dwarves, and chose to spend the night underground before looking for Cane the next day. The next morning they all decided that they deserved a nice warm breakfast, and made their way to the restaurant in the inn they were staying in to do so. Shockingly, there was another Elf (you know, besides Amyro and Illy) eating there, and Illy excitedly introduced herself. They had a nice conversation for a few minutes before the elf had to depart, and all was well. Except no, because moments later Illy suddenly fell to the ground, unconscious, as the elf's invisibility collapsed and he ran off. In his hands was the dagger Illy had stolen from Kansley!
The rest of the party jumped to her rescue, and very quickly subdued the thief (thief of thieves?) and he, ultimately, was hauled off. After tending to Illy's wounds the group decided to pay a visit to the local chapter of The Third Hand - which they'd determined he was a member of - to get some answers. The answer the got made Illy more pale than I've ever seen before: there was a bounty on her head, worth 10,000,000 gold. That's ten MILLION gold! Even I'd be tempted by that! Fortunately no one actually knows who stole the dagger explicitly, the thief had just seen the dagger on her and knew what it was. The Stampede managed to convince the rest of the local Third Hand they didn't know anything, and got the hell out of there. Ultimately they had to escape to the upper part of the city though because they started to notice others following them - but they couldn't follow into Giant territory.
They then spent the next few hours looking around town for some way to identify Cane. They checked with border patrol, communicated with Groth through his ring (they can do that by the way, and also Cane's his son and all), and they even met with the Giant King! Ultimately they wound up waiting in another inn until, suddenly, they were summoned by Cane's people.
The Stampede was led to a house - fairly small, all things considered - where they were promptly... prompted to complete a puzzle or two, before finding themselves in a room with two of Cane's Praetorian Guards. That's right, Cane has his own Praetorians. Wild. Anyway the two Praetorians let The Stampede position themselves however they wanted, but no matter what if they wanted to meet Cane they had to pass a trial of combat. And, lo and behold, they actually won! Right on the other side of the doors, they finally met him: Cane, in all his glory, or something like that.
And so they spoke with Cane. He answered questions they had about their personal goals, but ultimately there was very little he could tell them because their fundamental understanding of the "physics" or "laws" of magic was... next to none. He did agree to help Javid find a source of water for his people, and then he dropped a bombshell on the group: they were, in all likelihood, Slayers. Slayers, according to Cane, were unique and incredibly rare individuals, often instinctively attracted to each other, with the ability to "remove" magic from a source - be it an item, a location, or even a person. This ability is extremely powerful, but none of them could really control it yet. Also it's worth noting that Cane figured this out about them through some... pretty brutal testing processes. I'll spare the details but I will say there was literal dismemberment and magical healing involved. It was wild.
In the end, Cane echoed Vylqwyn back in Strassburg: they needed to go through Cigam training. He created a forged initiate amulet for Amyro - seeing as how he wasn't there to receive the one from Vylqwyn, and Devlin was a member of the Cigam before meeting the party - and instructed them to go through Cigam training, if for no other reason than to learn about magic and how it works, so they could apply it to their being Slayers. But, he insisted, under absolutely no circumstances should they EVER tell anyone in Cigam about their status as Slayers, or they'd certainly be hunted and destroyed. It's all very dramatic stuff, but the party agreed and parted ways with Cane. They made their way to the local Cigam office, stated their intent, and we were all teleported off to the Cigam Headquarters where they'd face their toughest challenge yet...
Joining the Order of Cigam
Oh boy, the Order of Cigam. We all arrived in their main teleportation room where we met a man mopping the floors, Nel. He got the party started on their journey - but first, he required that they all leave all of their gear in provided personal chests, except for their Cigam amulets. Then came the tour... and housing... and first lessons on the fundamental laws and schools of magic... and some free time where a few of the group went off and sparred with other Cigam members, and others went and listened to some music. In other words they got comfortable - they were going to be here for a long time. Oh yeah, they were also paired up with another recruit with no real group, an elf named Temp Eyst. He's a tough one to read, as he really doesn't speak all that much.
Just Another Day Inside a Dragon
Alright, so after... some amount of time doing general "learning" stuff, The Stampede had their first real test. One of the Cigam professor people has a baby dragon, and in order for the group to proceed to the next "rank" in the Cigam Order they had to be shrunk down, injected INSIDE the dragon, and find a pouch with a journal or something belonging to the professor. Oh and he also asked them to find out what happened to the last group he sent in there, who never returned. Simple, right? ...Well, honestly, I don't actually have any idea - once again I was unable to accompany them on this particular quest, because no one knew to include me.
From what I've been able to piece together, though, The Stampede was injected, as intended, and proceeded to make their way through the Dragons... innards, fighting off the Dragons internal defense systems and other hostile entities such as bacteria and stuff, and slowly they started to find the extremely exhausted members of the previous party. Or, at least, those of them that were still alive - apparently they'd become separated, and some were ultimately killed by cells, or digested. At some point they even made their way up to the mouth and collected some of the dragons very valuable saliva, before making their way down to... one of the organs where they found their goal. They then came out through... the bad end, and were returned to their normal size.
After filling in the professor he himself went into the dragon, and after a few moments returned with the fallen members of the other party... only, he'd resurrected them! These Cigam bigwigs have an insane amount of power, it's wild. Anyway they failed their test so apparently that means they're gonna have their minds wiped of their time at Cigam and sent on their way, but The Stampede passed and got their promotion! Hoorah!
More time passed... more learning stuffs... and then they got their next test, and after being cooped up for quite a while, this one was finally sending them out into the world. Another one of the professors wanted The Stampede to go visit his old house on an island outside the city of Plout and retrieve his favorite tea cup. The catch here was that he, through magic, had maintained a constant watch on this house, but recently he had inexplicably lost contact with it - and so being a busy man, he sent The Stampede to investigate. Easy enough - they even got all of their normal gear back for the mission! Oh yeah, one other catch - something else strange was going on in the town, likely related to the house disappearing, and the locals were blaming the Cigam Order, and an angry mob was pretty much keeping them boarded up inside.
Easy enough, The Stampede teleported in just outside the town and made their way in as any ordinary adventurers, and proceeded to try and find someone willing to sail them out to where the islands had been, which was fairly difficult as the port had been shut down due to the mysterious ongoings. With the mayor missing - and his secratary accidentally causing a panic by pretending he wasn't - The Stampede was forced to turn to the ports shadier elements, and paid off a couple of rough looking sailors to get them out there at night. When eventually they arrived, they found that the islands hadn't disappeared... they'd sunk. The tops of the trees and some buildings could still be seen from the surface, and so it was diving time.
They got inside relatively uneventfully, and after fighting their way through some angry fish they found their way to an air pocket. Then they went further... and further... until they discovered a literal damn turtle dragon roosting in one of the rooms! It cockily intimidated the party away, not opting to fight them immediately, but after recollecting themselves, The Stampede knew they couldn't go back empty handed. They argued for... I won't lie, too long, they made their way back to the dragon with the intent to move it and, wow. Wild dragons are extraordinarily rare, and extremely dangerous, and The Stampede killed it in a matter of seconds. Seconds! They found the tea pot in the room behind it - which was clearly another "elephant" artefact - and the cut the dragons head off as a trophy. It's a little sick, but hey... they needed proof I guess.
They returned to town as the sailors who escorted them looked at the dragons head in utter shock - they were so impressed and terrified they even gave them all their money back. Then they marched through town with the head straight to the Cigam office, which still had an angry mob outside, and everyone just stepped aside. It was such an amazing sight: the first time The Stampede were truly seen as heroes in the eyes of the public around them. They were let into Cigam and met up with the only Cigam member still there, who also happened to be the mayors son: Antonio Ak'va. Ultimately, though, The Stampede's work was only mostly done - they'd secured the item they were sent out to retrieve, but there was still mystery shrouding the sinking of the islands, though this they couldn't really solve. What they could do was relieve the local Cigam by helping figure out what happened to Plout's mayor, who could hopefully restore some sense of order. With Antonio by their side they went back out to sea, to one of the other sunken islands, to search.
And find the Mayor they did, standed - along with the senior Cigam officer - in an outcropping behind a bunch of angry sharks! They had to fight their way through, as they usually do, but ultimately saving the two stranded city leaders wasn't too difficult. They returned to town, restored order, and then made their way back to Cigam via the actual teleportation circle, Dragon head in hand, and were once again promoted within the Order!
Oh yeah and they also discovered that Cigam was controlled by dragons, who made up much of its upper ranks. Absolutely wild.
The Ballad of Frederick von Moonshine
The Stampede's next test was an... unusual one. Not because any of us had any reason to believe it was, but because the Cigam outright said that it was unorthodox. The test was to conduct "official Cigam business" in a pair of small towns, so small they weren't even on the map - Paulinvale and Hommlet, south-west of the marked city of Mumbal. There was only one local Cigam officier in the town who had stopped reporting in after submitting a strange request for help. There was suspicion that there may have been illegal magic item trafficking going on in or around the towns, potentially by a wanted felon by the name of Frederick von Moonshine, and so Cigam representatives needed to go and investigate. And that just so happened to end up being a group of recruits, our Stampede.
So they made their way to Mumbal and walked their way down to the towns because they were so small they didn't even have a teleportation circle. They got into town and, wel... I might as well not even exist, nothing can touch me, but even I was unnerved by the townsfolks "greeting". They just whistled this tune, all of them. It was completely creepy, and it all culminated in meeting the local sheriff, who had been listed as a potential contact by the Cigam to get started with the investigation. He led them from Paulinvale, the northernmost town, down into neighboring town Hommlet, which was only about 20 minutes of walking away. It was there that the Stampede was set up for the night, though they were suspiciously prevented from leaving the inn until morning. Suspicious indeed.
Well, that wasn't going to stop the Stampede! Or, well, most of them. Illy, Javid, and Devlin slipped out through one of the inn's windows while Ivo, Amyro, Temp, and Ms. Kallie stayed behind to cover for them. The three made their way to the local Cigam representative's home, only to find it sealed tight. When they tried to access it through magical means they accidentally triggered one of its defense mechanisms and it cast a fireball, singeing the nearby grass and sending the three into a frenzy to get away - they'd caused quite the stir! They did, ultimately, manage to make it back to the inn though.
They returned to the house the following morning, playing dumb as to what had happened, and spent some time figuring out how to get inside without, you know, blowing it all up. It took some effort, and a fair bit of arguing, but they actually managed to get inside and found... not much. The Cigam guy wasn't there, and it honestly looked like he just disappeared. They did find some evidence about what he was investigating, references to an extremely illegal white fruit, and clues that ultimately led to the party going to investigate a mansion on a nearby hill. The mansion was empty, the hill otherwise uninteresting, but the Cigam dude seemed to think something important was here. So Illy had the idea to mystically allow herself to see invisibility.
If you were curious: no, she didn't see me, but she did see a bunch of ghouls that instantly became visible for everyone and were very, very hostile. That fight was among the more tense the Stampede has had, but they came out on top just like I knew they would. Ultimately they didn't find much at the mansion, except that some magical field that was consuming it fell, causing them all to become extremely weakened. Another night in town fixed that right up. With little other evidence to go off of, the Stampede was left with a mystery and no clues. Except, well, they did. Their original mission was to find out about illegal magical sales, right? Well, the morning after the whole mansion ordeal they witnessed a transaction between some of Hommlet's denizens that was shady at best.
When they followed the townsfolk they found that they just... walked right into the river, and didn't even come back up for air! The plot thickens! So they followed them down into the river and quickly found that they made their way into a secret cave network that looked magically dug. It also looked like they were looking for something, as some tunnels would be shored up to prevent the river from flooding the place. After making their way through the tunnels they finally caught up with the suspicious townsfolks who, after a short fight, killed each other. Whatever they were doing down here, they didn't want anyone to know about it, nor did they want to face the consequences of it. And the particular tunnel they were in? Well, that led right up to a brick wall that, when broken through, led into a cellar. That cellar had a hatch that opened up to... well, dirt at first, but after the dirt had cleared they learned that it was buried in the Cigam dude's lawn! They were obviously trying to tunnel their way into his house, looking for something.
Clearly something was going on in these towns. They went and brought the Sheriff back to investigate his dead townsfolk, and also the tunnels in general, and he seemed just as surprised as the rest of us. The only thing the Stampede had to go off of? The owner of the inn, who was the one that originally handed off the suspicious package in the first place. They took him back up to Paulinvale, but he was entirely uncooperative. Clearly he was lying, the party determined, but he absolutely refused to say anything to implicate himself or anyone else. It hardly mattered though, as when the Stampede reached the town square they were attacked. By who, you might ask? Well, to say everyone would be an overstatement, but only slightly. The townsfolk literally descended upon the Stampede with makeshift weapons and a clear intent to kill. The Sheriff, for his part, fled pretty much immediately.
Not even a whole town full of baddies could stand up to the Stampede, but suspiciously the Sheriff was nowhere to be found. This is when they finally got some information about what was actually going on. One of the townsfolk they'd captured spilled the beans: the Sheriff was actually the wanted criminal Frederick von Moonshine, and had basically forced both towns into working for him, "or else". They would literally rather die than face whatever consequences either he or the Order of Cigam could give them. The townsfolk said that Moonshine was regrouping at an altar west of the town, and would be fleeing into the wilderness soon. With no other choice than to trust the horrified citizen, the Stampede marched on.
The intel was good, Frederick von Moonshine was there completing some ritual. Actually, I shouldn't downplay that; the mysterious white fruit I mentioned earlier? It's an insanely powerful, rare, and magical fruit that can grant anyone who eats it insane levels of resistance to damage. Its growth and consumption is extremely illegal by Cigam law, and Moonshine had been growing it in broad daylight. Oh and its growth was also fueled by death, so the Stampede had really done him a favor by fighting off almost the entire town of Paulinvale. Whoops.
It didn't matter too much though, because while Moonshine was a fierce and extremely dangerous druid, capable of shifting into multiple incredibly dangerous beasts to do battle, the Stampede was ultimately victorious, bringing him to his knees. With his dying breath he tried to bribe the party with the white fruit, but they chose to treat him like the major threat he was, and ensured that he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else ever again. Questionable ethics? Perhaps, but when you're dealing with true evil, and all that. Anyway, they ultimately determined that the Cigam guy had been sacrificed for the sake of this fruit, so they destroyed the altar and returned to town, only to find both of them completely abandoned. Even the bodies from the previous battle were gone, with absolutely no trace.
They never found more answers, unfortunately. There was too much unanswered, and no way of tracking those missing villagers, so they just took one last rest, and made their way back to Cigam to report what they'd found. For their efforts they were promoted for the final time, reaching the "green" rank of Cigam - pretty good, by Cigam standards! Not really because the next promotion would have taken them years to achieve, but still, good for them.
I won't lie, I've glossed over pretty much their entire time at Cigam. How could I not, they were there for the better part of a year. You read that right: a year! Everything leading up to their joining Cigam took place over the course of weeks, maybe months, but they ended up spending a considerable amount of time at the Cigam school. They all got to know each other real well. Most of that time was studying, or writing their thesis, which is all just boring, so I've glossed over it. I've written about all of the exciting stuff, so to anyone who might read this one day: you didn't miss much.
With all that out of the way, they finally graduated Cigam and made their way back into the world, ready to begin working towards the goals Cane had set for them. Some mysterious war was coming, according to Cane, and no one had any real idea how long they had until it came - they needed to be prepared. So, where would the Stampede go next? On a quasi-vacation, of course!!
Business and Pleasure in the Capital
It's been a while since I've written anything, so much has been happening with The Stampede and sometimes it's hard to process it all... I do not write it as it happens, but rather I catch up when the party settles down for a few days and I can actually focus, so some of the events of the last couple months are a little hazy. In any case, I said that the Stampede was going on a quasi-vacation, and I did not lie: to the capital city of Emor itself they went!
Off to Emor
OK, it wasn't really a vacation so much as a trip to the capital city to continue with their plans from before Cigam training with a mix of actually doing some things for themselves. They got into town using the Cigam teleportation service that they now had cheap access to and we all found ourselves in the great old city of Emor. Where to go first? Well, that's the question isn't it. After walking around town for a while, and passing through some of the shadier parts of it, they wound up at a fancy hotel and secured themselves a few nights stay in the merchants suite thanks to Ms. Kallie and her merchant guild benefits. It didn't take long after that first night for the invitations to start rolling in.
Invitations, you might ask? Well, several - and I do mean several - Praetorians immediately got word that The Stampede was in town and reached out to meet them for one reason or another. Of the ones that were memorable - and The Stampede actually went to visit - the first was to Furari Domin, the very man Illy had stolen her dagger from. Could he have known, she pondered? Well the answer to that is still unclear even as I'm writing this, as Furari was incredibly kind and hostly to The Stampede, a farcry from what any of them expected from one of the most notorious criminal bosses in the world. He showed off the sister dagger to the one Illy had stolen, and then offered The Stampede a quest to go and "rescue" one of his associates from an elven prison, a quest that The Stampede accepted. Ivo didn't actually attend this meeting, and would later complain that the party accepted it at all, but what do you do? As part of his generosity Furari even set us up on the 199th floor of the Citadel of Naurel, which was basically as luxurious an experience as one could ever hope for.
After that, during the next day I believe, the group headed off to meet the head of the banks, Pecun Lamna. This man was known for his utter disdain of Furari Domin, and even tried to offer The Stampede a contract to kill him... it's a good thing they turned it down, because it was actually a test to see if The Stampede would actually take it. They passed, and as a reward Lamna gave them literally tens of thousands of gold in the form of precious gems. He also agreed to help Illy look into her missing amulet, so that was nice. At some point around this time the party received word from a Dwarven emissary, I believe either a representative of Thurs Daye or Thurs Daye himself - reached out to the party and enlisted their help in dealing with a sensitive matter in the Dwarven capital Varland. They agreed, but only after they'd finished their immediate business.
After that the party realized that they really needed to respond to the most... interesting invitation: Enoch's. They had to go through some weird process of acquiring a ring to gain access to the part of the city Enoch wanted to meet in, but only one was available. Ultimately Ivo took it and decided he would be the one to see Enoch, since he was the one that was invited anyway (and, you know, had direct experience with the man). He did manage to take Illy with him as a guest, but the rest of The Stampede stayed behind. I chose to accompany these two rather than stay with the rest of the party because I was really, really curious to see how severely Ivo would wet his pants around Enoch.
They stayed and chatted with Enoch for a little while, and ultimately determined that Enoch had come into possession of Luman's own Amulet of Naurel, and willingly gave it to Ivo... in exchange for his last remaining Praetorian coin, bearing Luman's insignia. Reluctantly Ivo gave in and handed it over, only to immediately hand the amulet to Illy. They talked for a little while, I think Illy tried to get some information out of him about Furari and his intentions, but alas he wasn't much help there. He did, however, give Illy and Ivo upgraded rings that let them freely enter the royal distrct, and invited them and the rest of the party to the operahouse the following night.
And so with that nerveracking (for Ivo) meeting over with, the two headed back to their hotel, only to find the rest of the party busy partying it up with none other than Vylqwyn. Ivo, of course, had to confront him about his identity but once again Vylqwyn didn't have a whole lot to say. He sort've just acknowledged every accusation Ivo threw at him, most prominently the ownership of his childhood home, and Ivo was left with just more questions to answer: who were his real parents? Why did they give him up? It seemed likely that Ivo was born in Strassburg, according to Vylqwyn, so that was as good a place as any to start looking. Before departing, Vylqwyn agreed to use his status as part of the steward family of the Elven kingdom to clear Illy's name and allow her back into Elven territory, so that was really good for her! Still not much help with her amulet, though.
I can't remember if it was that night or the next, but the Stampede's last night in Emor they ended up attending the opera Enoch had invited them too and wound up meeting Tim - another Praetorian who is small but regarded to be one of the most deadly people in the world - and the emperor Vagren himself. The Stampede had become so famous that they were capable of meeting even the emperor, perhaps the most powerful political figure in the world! Heroes. Truly, heroes.
The Furari Job
...OK, they're heroes most of the time. After finishing up with all the socializing they decided to hop onto Furari Domin's quest in order to not get on his bad side. Really, though, taking a job from a known criminal mastermind isn't... quite the most heroic thing to do. But I guess one can make exceptions when Illy, who was once the most fearless and gung-ho of the party, was completely and utterly terrified of the man who'd put such a massive bounty on her head. Oh well. Speaking of Illy, there was still the little problem of her being banished from the Elven kingdom, so heading off to Madrel - a major Elven city and location of Furari's agent he wanted rescued - was a little complicated. Fortunately she's still an excellent thief and master of stealth, so the party opted to walk into the city, crossing from a nearby border town in the Gnomish kingdom.
The Stampede didn't spend too much time in Madrel, opting instead to get Furari's quest over with as quickly as possible. They met up with one of his agents, I don't even remember their name anymore, who told us all that the captured agent - Sam - was being held in a prison complex within the city. The job was simple: break in, liberate Sam, get out. Not the most honorable or glamorous of jobs, but hey if it kept Furari off their backs, they'd do what they had to do. I guess. It wasn't their proudest moment, but at the very least sensible voices in the party argued firmly against killing any of the guards as they made their way up to the roof and down the stairs, searching every cell for Furari's wayward agent.
Unfortunately what they found was not Sam, but a man much more intimidating. Moreso even than Furari, perhaps! Illy was doing her thing, stealthing on through the tower, when she came upon members of the Cigam order on one of the floors... including one with a white robe. A member of the Cigam Council of White, the literal top of the Cigam food chain. So powerful that even though Illy was invisible, he immediately looked her in the eye and called her out (much to the surprise of the guards accompnaying the man). The party quickly joined Illy, knowing that they were busted, and came to discover that the Order of White Cigam dude was named Xander Zulu, the leader of The Hunters. The Hunters are... if the Cigam are the lawmakers on magic, The Hunters are the enforcers. If The Hunters turn their attention to you then you know you're in trouble. Instead of wiping The Stampede out on the spot, though, he challenged them, telling his guards to attack.
Fortunately The Stampede are complete badasses and managed to defeat Xander's guards without too much trouble, though I can only imagine the tragedy that might have occurred if Xander had gotten involved. Xander stopped the fight and willingly talked to the party about why they were there, and we came to discover that Sam was in deep trouble. He, on behalf of Furari Domin, had been caught smuggling artifact-grade magical items, which is... bad. I'm not entirely sure why Xander didn't end up punishing the party for the break-in or attempts to help Furari, but what I do know is that he wasn't actually aware of Furari's connection to Sam until The Stampede told him. I guess he wanted to fry bigger fish, because he agreed to accompany the party back to Emor to have a "chat" with the crime boss. A fight worth paying for, if you ask me! Sam was sent off to Cigam for punishment, and Xander helped stage a "breakout" from the prison so that he and The Stampede could get out of Madrel without raising the suspicions of any other of Furari's agents.
Returning to Cigam, Furari gifted each member of the party a magical item to assist in the coming confrontation, and the group made their way back to Emor together... but instead of walking to Furari's like normal people, they all decided to fly (or float) from the top of the Citadel of Naurel right to his front door, as to avoid raising any suspicions. It worked like a charm, but after being let into Furari's home they discovered that he was not there. His assistant, Tibi Cantor, was there though, and demanded Illy return the dagger she had stolen. Upon refusal a fight broke out, resulting in the death of Cantor and several guards... that is, until several more elite members of Furari's guard arrived. They were geared up and looking for a fight... but curiously, not with The Stampede. They said they would not intervene in the fight so long as they could leave the house and attend to other business, and so they did. And thus the fight ended.
An odd quest, to be sure. They set out to help Furari and ended up trying to bring him to justice at the side of the leader of The Hunters. Furari himself never showed up (and as a spoiler, later newspaper articles would imply something nefarious to happen to him, and as of this writing The Stampede has not had any other encounters with him), but he did seem to leave a gift to none other than Illy in the form of the second dagger of Naurel. Well, it wasn't specifically addressed to Illy, but the circumstances certainly led her to take it anyway.