Toward The Edge Of The World

Conspiracy Detected
They tried to kill me?

The next day Milo, Mery, Tomas, and Kell head off to corner the Royal Artificer (Pez Makvar Dejorm) at his favorite hangout. They present the Gnomish complicated diagrams to him. He reports that the Queen would be interested in doing business with them, and that there are some clearly key components missing. Mery mentions the “dragon” encounters we heard, and the Artificer expresses some interest.

After the dinner with the Queen, I mentioned to Lamont that should the Queen need an alternate escort to Mery’s upcoming engagement party that perhaps maybe I could assist in such a manner.

Garrick spends time refitting and chatting with other scouts. Confirms more sightings of the “dragon”, and a likely origin of Prussia from the apparent path of explosions. Another scout suggests some of the wagon/caravans sighted near Anapold were related to the Russians. Later, an Officer named Justinian bought Garrick lunch and asked a lot of probing questions about the last battles of the War.

Captain Justinian also chases down Tomas, who infers a deeper motive at play, and later Milo at his Church. Milo caucuses with Porter and Garrick to pool information about Justinian. Justinian’s questions seem to focus on three specific units’ location during the battle. He seems to be chasing after something. Later Lamont reports that Justinian had lost two brothers in the Great Battle.

Mery spends her week as a busy socialite.

I head out to visit the parents and sibs. Need to remember to do that just often enough to enjoy it, not long enough to get annoyed. On my return, have notes from a Captain Justinian, requesting my time, fro Milo suggesting we meet, and one from Lamont telling me he had told Milo I was out of time.

Lunch with Sebastian, always pleasant. Sebastian is trying to finesse his relationship with Mery. Not sure if he is kidding about trying to get the wedding moved up.

Then to Justinian, who I chased down at his formal office in the Provost’s area. Fielded his questions and finally saw the whole set of battles laid out in a comprehensive way. For the first time, I realized that my unit had been set up to be expendable, and was one of the first units to be encountered a big push right through our entire defensive layout and into our an uncontrolled breach along our rear. Only through the sacrifice of so many did we partially stymie that push. Equally clearly, this was not the act of a single commander. Olver Vyse, a Lieutenant in my unit, is one name Justinian is trying to account for. Smart, well educated, no a tactical genius. Missing, presumed dead.

I catch up with most everyone except Mery, who is being pinned into a dress. We share information about Justinian’s inquiries. Later, at our group dinner (now including Mery and Lamont), we learn more Lamont has been checking on Justinian’s charter from the Provost Marshal, and it largely checks out. However, Lamont also learned that an assassination attempt on then-Princess Cate had been thwarted at the very time of the big push that defined the Great Battle, and resulted in the majority of the Royal Family being killed.

Mery points a finger at Duke Synarco, on principles of general slimy-ness. He had pulled strings to get his son made ineligible for combat service not long prior to the battle. Tomas does confirm Synarco might have enough “pull” with other families to support a push for a vacant Throne.

I insist the Queen needs to be informed quickly, and Lamont gives us a ride to the palace. The Queen arrives quickly, escorted by two of her Royal Guardsmen. I recognize one of them from our mish-mashed unit pulled together from the ashes of the Great Battle. Good man.

I start briefing the Queen, and introduce the attempt on her life relatively early in the conversation. She interrupts me and summons her Spymaster, who is instructed to cooperate with us fully or face the Queen’s wrath, involving us killing him. Fortunately for the furnishings, this does not become necessary. Two men took knives from the kitchen and went after the Princess. They were intercepted. They had been attempting to impersonate two missing staff, later found dead. They had been magically changed in appearance, and shielded from post-death magic discovery. I lay out the battle plan, and discover the Queen is not unversed in ground tactics. Albion asks a few question and wheels start churning in his head. Not resolving much more in that conversation, Albion is dismissed.

Mery indicates worry over Cate’s protection, so Cate summons her Royal Guard. Her entire Royal Guard. I perform a quick inspection, distracting from Mery and Milo more magical investigations. We don’t find anything, and the Royal Guard is dismissed to return to posts. We adjourn as a group to the kitchen to share Pie and Cake with the Queen. Polarion, who along with Garrick joined us for the Royal Guard review, reveals that she had been the one to stop the assassination of Cate. Polarion is doing this as part of the Spanish (Elven) debt to the Royal House of Montenegro. The Queen waffles a bit on whether to be comfortable with the fact that she has an Elven Assassin in her retinue.

Another Completed Expedition
Entertaining the Queen

Back in Expeditious Retreat, the Gnome Lady is happy to see us, and expressed a lot of gratitude on behalf of the Swiss Government. At Garrick’s insistence, we gave the horses a break and stayed a few day before finishing up our resupply, and begin escorting Namfoodle to Montenegro. The Swiss Gnomes and their charge Lady Lisadine accompany us as far as Podgorica.

(upon further study, Milo realizes Travis’ Helm has expended all of its energies, and was likely the source of the massive crater at the Temple)

During our journey, Namfoodle and Lady Lisadine nattered on incessantly about science and magic, with Mery pulled in willingly. The Lady ducked and diverted any speculation about the Swiss stockpiling or consuming large quantities of Platinum, and of dragons or (Mery’s latest idea), flying ships. Somehow, likely with inhuman effort, Mery manages not to let anything slip about the Siege. Along the way, I arrange with Mery and the rest on a minimum stay “back home”, which at Mery’s suggestion we set at a week. Later, I suggest to Milo that the Queen should know how long we’d be in town.

When we hit the capital, we’re met by riders with orders for us to wait for a messenger. The messenger turns out to be Porter, arriving in a nice carriage. He greets Namfoodle in Gnomish (I guess), allegedly a greeting and welcome to the city (and pending employment). A Lieutenant shows up shortly later, to escort Namfoodle off to his temporary quarters and help him get settled. Porter relays an invitation for us to join Her Ladyship for a late dinner. In various levels of urgency, we part with plans to meet at the Palace.

Milo reports to his temple and boss, to turn in Travis’ bones. He ends up keeping the Journal on-hand.

Mery cleans up and gets to the Palace early, arriving during the wrapup of formal court. Lady Lisadine presents herself and publicly thanks the Queen for our assistance in recovering her countrymen. Unusually, the Warmark is present. Along a small bevy of suitors. Sir Robert Barringer, British Explorer’s Society, presents himself to the Court. He demonstrates some new method for long-distance communications involving glass hammers and bells, or so I understood from Mery.

Dinner with the Queen, this time including both Porter and Sebastian. Tomas ensures we brief the Queen about the Overlords and the “types” of goblins. The Queen talks about the English invention, the Lightning Graph (glass jar with a lightning elemental inside), used for long-distance communication. The Allies, including the Romanians, are starting to contemplate an offensive in the next season. Apparently, the Austrians have been experimenting with a flying machine, which may explain Mery’s flying dragon ship theory. Cate notes that since we’ll be in town for a week, there is plenty of time to schedule and have Sebastian and Mery’s engagement party — in five days. Mery immediately attempts to change our schedule, to no avail.

Return to the Scaly Cult Temple
Why is everyone running into the flaming tent?

We left Expeditious Retreat with the intent to head directly to where we had run across the Gnomes. Unfortunately, we ran across just enough patrols that wanted to check us over that we were somewhat slowed down.

On the sixth night out, as we’re working our way behind a ridge around an large goblin encampment, a bunch of loud explosions and bright flashes break up the monotony. After taking a peek, Garrick ushers us urgently into cover. Some rhythmic flapping? noise was heard, eventually passing away from our line of travel.

By around the 10th day, we rediscover where we had originally met the Gnome diggers. Garrick does his sniffing the trees and licking rocks trick, and tell us some horsemen had been there since our last visit. Mery whips out the Wayfinder, and after I have no success, manages to convince it to point us in a particular direction.

On our new track, we run across a small group of Varisian gypsy horsemen, who angle to intercept us. After a brief and tense standoff, two of them yell at each other for a bit. One stays and the rest ride off at high speed. The remaining one introduces himself as Jarvik, and asks for our help. A bunch of goblins are causing some problems, and have previously captured other Varisians. This group has been capturing travelers, such as our missing Gnomes, and trading them for local citizens. The ~30 goblins are led by a man in black, whom the Varisian spellweaver thinks is evil, and searching for something in the area. Questioned by Tomas, Jarvik indicates, based on reports from returned locals, that the goblins are digging in an old temple. No care for artifacts, possibly seeking a book. From some of the details, the temple may relate to a snake or reptile cult, known for a Sarinae Paladin (Travis) that died taking on the temple.

We make a preliminary plan, head over to the camp, scout, and start our assault just after dawn the next day. Our Allied Gnomes and Varisians initiate some distractions and pull off a patrol our two. Garrick gets a good spot for arrow overwatch. I lead the rest of us in a narrow wedge straight for the apparent leader’s tent. Tomas is first into the tent to engage the leader, just as Mery engulfs it in fire. I slice through the side and between us, Tomas and I keep the leader engaged. Kell threads an arrow between us into the leader. He in pirouettes and vanishes in a brief flutter of swinging cloth. Garrick keeps the goblins from swarming Mery and the rest of us. Shortly after the leader runs away, the fight is over, with all goblins down or running.

Tomas and Milo search through the remants of the tent. They discover some letter addressed to “Your Excellency” and signed “Fos”, which we take to the leader’s name. He is reportig that he feels close to discovering “the Journal.” Jarvik heads down into the pit and encourages the prisoners to calm down and come on back out to new-found freedom and relative safety. Milo thinks the journal is a reference to Travis’ journal, considered a Holy Text of Sarinae. Our Swiss Guard finds their missing Gnomes, who appear to be in for some amount of trouble when they get back.

At Milo’s insistence, we head into the temple excavation to find the Journal. The prisoners had been working with primitive tools, digging up a good amount of dirt, toppling over tombs and kicking out bones. We look around a bit more strategically, and Milo and I come across an unusual skeleton — a kneeled, mailed, humanoid (probably human) with a satchel. Mery and Milo realize some of his equipment (Scimitar +3 Flameburst → Milo, Chainmail +3 → Tomas, Helmet of brilliance(?), Satchel/Handy Haversak, and the Journal) appear magical. A nigh-unrecognizable tabard, and holding a holy symbol of Sarinae. Ah, Jarvis, we meet for the first time. No, no, don’t get up. Milo gently packages up the body with appropriate revernce. The satchel has a journal, writing pens, dried-up ink, and a few random trinkets.

We head out the next day. Jarvik leads their folks home, and some of his riders escort us to the edge of their area. We escort the Gnomes back to Expeditious Retreat, making a brief stop in Pensa. Along the way, we hear another round of explosions and light flashes. We detour to investigate the aftermath of the explosions, and find obvious evidence of panicked flight. Lots of craters, bodies, and lots of bits of barrels.

Gnomes Aplenty
::knock knock:: Milo ::knock knock:: Milo ::knock knock:: Milo

In all, we spend a good week “recuperating” in Expeditious Retreat. Garrick spends time on long scouting roams. Mery pesters Devane about the gnomish activities and eligible Syndracor royalty. Liam recruits Milo to start an infirmary, and Jared helps out as an orderly. I spend some time tending to our gear and make a quick day-visit to the Seer.

We’re in the Retreat when a Caravan from the South arrives, mostly European drivers and merchants, though the supplies/goods were from much further away. Apparently clearing out the pirate leader from Anapole did some good.

Another unusual event was when a Lady Gnome (Lizadene), escorted by 12 well-armored escorts, arrived and checks into Devane’s hotel. They are apparently here to talk to Namfoodle. My impression is corrected when the Lady asks to speak with us. We meet with her to learn that she is looking for the gnomes we encountered digging up the quartz pyramids. The diggers had been reporting in (magically), and shortly after we left them, stopped reporting. The Lady was dispatched to investigate, and now asks for our help as scouts/guards to find the missing diggers. After some internal discussion with her Guard, the Lady sends four of them with us while she remained in the Retreat. Tomas indicates that she is rather well-placed within the Swiss government.

Meeting More Lanterns
Practicing French with Gaston

The journey back to Expeditious Retreat is marked by an unusual encounter with some goblins. Garrick doesn’t guide us into an ambush, and ends up talking with the apparent leader. This goblin, Razak, is the only warrior of the group, and speaks better Elvish than I. The other ~40 goblins are various ages, appearing to be non-combatants. Razak indicate he is trying to escort the refugees elsewhere — lacks a word in goblin, using an elven word approximating a refuge. They are escaping one of the Russian cities overrun in the main war, and Razak is their sole escort. Garrick thinks we can help. The escapees are “not of the way.” We agree to camp to discuss things further.

Razak reveals the goblins follow two paths. Way of the Monster and Path of the Culture. The Monster are more hunters/warriors. The Culture emulate other cultures and live in peace. The Culture are not of use to the Overlords. When asked how he came to be escorting the group, he shows off a tatoo of a Lantern. Milo tends to the wounded (to the awe of the Goblins), and feeds them a secret stash of turnovers. Mery claimed the last one before I could get one.

Razak was indoctrinated as a Lantern by his swordmaster, an Elf. Being a Lantern gave Razak the strength to resist the Way, and he expects to be judged in the afterlife. After turnovers, Razak gets talkative. “The War is not our fault.”

The Overlords obtained the service of the goblins in a deal. The Overlords used a birthstone (fertile man and fertile woman touch it at the same time, woman becomes pregnant, gives full birth to males that mature to full adults in a matter of a few [4-5] weeks) to populate the Goblins for the War. These males have a “hollowness” to them, and are intensely loyal to the Overlords. Rumor suggests the birthstone is in a Castle, and is moved around (to be used regularly). Some are called overlords, however are only the lieutenants of what may be one Overlord. The junior overlords wear a symbol (wings around an hourglass or lantern). Milo thinks the symbol somewhat resembles a symbol of a Lich of some kind. Tomas knows he has seen someone in Montenegro wearing the symbol.

Against Tomas’ better judgement, we escort the goblins to their destination, adding about three days to our journey. Tomas and Razak arrange a couple of seasonal rendezvous spots in case we find a reason for needing to further share information.

Along the way to the retreat, we take a shortcut, and run across a group of gnomes and humans digging up some quartz pyramids (about three fit to a side). Mery approaches, with the rest of us escorting, and initiates some conversation. They report that this area used to be part of Syndracore (the humans are former denizens). The pyramids are part of some project they had been working on before the war. They decline to be more specific than “its not a weapon.” Then they learn we’re (mostly) from Montenegro from Milo, when he offers to help them connect with our Chief Artificer. They provide Milo with a bunch of complicated diagrams for couriering to the Artificer. They’ll be working for a few more days before heading back to the coast.

Back in Expeditious Retreat, not much has changed. Tomas learns from his new Lantern lady-friend-from-the-Gem that Marcus Devane (proprietor of the pop-up hotel) is the former artificer of Syndracore. Kell visits Namfoodle, who may have figured out how to make the blaster-staff’s side plates, and was negotiating with a group from Montengro offering to set him up in a lab. Mery camps at the Gem, waiting for Gaston, who is currently occupied elsewhere in the Gem. I spend my time at the BottleTop, chatting with Tess. Lynn, Milo’s barge-ship captain friend, is also passing through, and Milo eventually notices and whisks her away. Mery spends time flirting with Gaston, and sets up a longer discussion with us as a group. Apparently Mery missed the chance to practice her French with Gaston.

We meet with Gaston in a secluded back area to have a longer discussion. He still has a Lantern ring, rather similar to the one Tomas is wearing. Gaston gives us condolences for becoming Lanterns. The symbol of the Goblin Overlord is an older Lantern symbol. The one with which we’re familiar is a more contemporary version. Some stories suggest a King/Queen created the Lanterns, another the Druids, and yet another about someone that started as a lantern and eventually became a King or something.

At one point, Gaston’s job was to keep the King of France alive. Gaston knows how to use the Rings (we have to go through three) to get to the Pit, and shares the information with us. We’ll need four people and the thing we want to leave. One witness, two to throw, and one to bear the mark. The mark can be used to get the thing back from the Pit. Gaston claims the Elves will claim the Birthstone is not theirs, however it really is. There is an Elven Lantern that can tell us more, a fellow by the name of Sha Zara — probably Razak’s instructor. Tomas is wearing the ring of Gaston’s Lantern sponsor, long dead (Paulanis Di’Avignone, called himself the King of Paris). A Jeweler in Paris (name and address provided) can provide the rest of us with rings. There are Lanterns, and friends of Lanterns. According to Gaston, living to the ideal of the Lantern is enough to become a Lantern. The responsibility drives all Lanterns to fall at some point.

He tells us to look for Circles in un-traveled spaces for the most part. One is in Paris, another in Pensa. He doesn’t know of any that are outside. One is in the basement of an Inn in Prussia. The “route” to the Pit will work from any Circle. He believes that a Circle might be in/near the Starstone in the Montenegro capital.

As an off-hand comment, Gaston theorizes that the Everwar is between two Lanterns, the sources of the factions. Other rumors suggest that various Crowns are now rathe nervous with the change in International affairs with the lifting of the Romanian Dark. Another rumor reports a fire elemental spawning in Switzerland until the Swiss Guard intervened.

The Flooding of a Mine
Fun with Water

Tomas and I chat about acquiring Namfoodle’s knowledge and talents for the blaster staff. Tomas seems to think this thing could be quite significant, and argues for taking it or Namfoodle back to Montenegro. We agree to send back a request for someone to come out and negotiate.

The next day we “officially” visit the Dwarven liquor merchant and view the available wares. He is doing some decent business, and we make quick arrangements for a lengthier meeting that evening.

Then we head out to deliver some turnovers to Sabrina the Troll Seeress. Following my new philosophy of keeping seers in the “not pissed off at me” column. After a nice visit and lunch, we return back to the Retreat.

Back at the Retreat and after dinner, we met with Glavin to compare information and plan our next journey phase. Our destination is a town about 25 miles to the NW of Moscow. The mine has five main tiers, and we’ll need to use a dwarven elevator between at least a few of the tiers. He gives us enough information to orient around and near the mine, and use some of the equipment. We’ll be meeting another Dwarf, Robart, on the bank of the Vistula River to serve as our guide inside the mine, should we need to enter, and help determine what we may have to do while onsite. Denying further access to the Ore, and estimating how much has been removed, are the desired goals of our trip. Later someone will need to figure out where the removed Ore has gone and how it is being used. Glavin passes along a sealed scroll tube with our written authorization from the Dwarven Government to conduct a survey of the mine. Glavin tells us the mine used to be a good supplier of Gold and Copper, and the Russians have been highly interested in Gold and Silver.

The next morning, we set out overland up the Vistula into Poland and a bit beyond, ending up in our meeting-spot of a village. Robart is not hard for us to find, and we quickly adjourn to the local version of a pub.

The next morning, we’re back on the road. We take a shortcut across a part of Russia, and note that the old saw of “I put my army on the borders” may not be a figure of speach for them. So many armed Russians! As we get closer to Moscow, we have to spend more time avoiding larger goblin-and-friends units (bigger than company size). Eventually we punch through the mobilization areas and get close to our target town. Not many troops wandering around overland. Pretty well maintained roads and a very well fortified town, with large open fields of fire surrounding it.

We spend some time watching the mine. Goblins are working continuously, using three shifts that bring up ore and ship it back to and through the village and ultimately off to the South without any apparent local processing. At least one mine cart per trip is handled specially, guarded, and loaded on a different set of wagons.

Robart tells us about the slit shaft that will serve as our secret entrance into the mine’s second tier. The shaft goes in at a steep angle for about a mile, and should avoid all of the outer guards. Robart sets up a water-lubricated slope for us to “surf” down the shaft. Other than bouncing a few dozen times off of the ceiling and walls, I made it through, pretty much paving the way for the rest of our group. Fortunately, Milo was quick with some healing.

We made our way deeper in. Garrick hears some shuffling ahead. After some scouting, we determine the light noise is coming from a hole blocking our passageway. At the bottom, about 30 shuffling zombie-likes: one goblin, the rest dwarves. Milo offers to dispose of them, and we briefly discuss contingency plans. We briefly split up, leaving Robart, Jarred, and Kell a bit back, while the rest of us escorted Milo up to the hole. A quick prayer later, the cluster of zombies is so much dust. Garrick notices some twinkling from the passage walls reminiscent of the sparkling from the Romanian mist that Milo routinely triggered. Milo keeps us at the pit to watch the dust. Just when I’m ready to leave, Milo indicates the dust is moving. And slowly the dust starts reforming back into zombies. While we’re playing with the dust, Robart find a piece of the Dark Ore we’re trying to understand.

Robart doesn’t recognize the Dark Ore, other than that he has never seen it before. Figuring the mine has been active by the goblins for three years, and the ore quality ranging from rare to uncommon to common, he projects between a couple hundred pounds, 300-500 pounds, or a ton. Milo reports the ore is quite evil. We briefly discuss what we can do about it — we certainly don’t want to add to the zombie population if we can avoid it. Flooding is an option, perhaps to force the goblins out. Kell reveals she has, in effect, a stink bomb that is pretty powerful. We quickly plan to drop that down a shaft, wait for the goblins to leave, check out what they were up to, then flood the whole mine while we make our way out. Simple, really.

Kell drops her package, and the Dwarven gong-warning starts sounding. After some confusion amongst the goblins, their Ogre Magi and Ogre overseers order them out of the mine. Robart takes us down a few levels to investigate their work and Milo grabs some samples. Back up to the second tier, Robart excavates an escape route, and uses more water magic devices to make some of the water fill the escape shaft at high velocity. We are gushered out as the mine begins to fill. Success for now!

From a convenient overwatch position, we watch the area tremble and the goblin response. A pale human of some kind emerges from a nearby building to take charge of the goblins and their response. The human orders the Ogre Magi, who send a squad a goblins in to the mine (only a few return), and soon after mobilize the garrison to prepare for a perceived attack from the mine. When such an attack doesn’t manifest (we’re not fools). The human does some spinning trick and disappears. We watch long enough to see he doesn’t come back right away, and that a few escaping snakes and zombies get chewed up by the awaiting goblin forces.

On the Road Again

After cornering the Queen, Milo, Mery, and Tomas chase down Porter. Porter reveals that he bought the ring from a drunken guy in a local bar near the harbor, after spending about a year trying to chase one down. Mery tries to get a description of the guy (Gaston). Porter indicates he looks a lot like someone in a painting at the art gallery. The painting depicts the King of France and a hunting party, with Gaston in the background.

Kell and I spend some quality time to Blay’loc’s ale. Garick does whatever he does at night. Maybe I’m imagining things, but he seems a bit more relaxed lately.

The next morning we gather for our first regular breakfast and catch up on summaries of the night’s events. Garrick doesn’t show up.

At the Gallery, we found the painting with Gaston. The primary view is of the French King, center portrait. Gaston is off to one side, background, looking at something over the viewer’s right shoulder. On a hunch, Mery badgers a nearby art student to make her a sketch copy. Tomas asks the local Docent about portraits from a similar timeframe. Turns out there are two in the basement that we get to view. One of the French Queen and party, the other of one of the Royal Children.

Tomas spends his remaining time in the City researching, both in bugging people and reading dusty tomes, trying to chase down more information about the Lanterns. Reinhart Nobles, a Prussian officer, is a resulting name from Tomas’ prior personal experience.

We start our latest trek to Expeditious Retreat with a new ritual: Mery vaulting into the saddle. She succeeded on the first try! Late Spring, roads muddy, more patrols and military units staging and starting to range. The Retreat is bigger than ever in our experience, with an actual hotel. Tess welcomes us warmly and we catch up for a bit. Apparently the hotel is operated by “a creepy guy in a top-hat”, and apparently the hotel sprang up from a doorknow and a key used by the guy.

Milo checks in at the Gem, and checks out the girls again. Hears a story about a raucous (yet fake) Russian that rode out of town on a “heckuva horse.”

The rest of us head to Namfoodle. Several goons are guarding ’foodle’s place for some reason. Inside, some kind of magical staff weapon that can make a pretty impressive blast. Nam’ doesn’t think he has all the best parts. The blaster is powered by a crystal receptacle at the base of the staff. Holds two charges, recharged by some alchemical liquid (takes a while). Nam’ indiates that his business partner had mentioned the receptacle could also be charged by pouring magic into it. Mery gives it a shot, and I get the privilege of the first shot. Tomas and I trade, getting about ten shots out of the “charge.” Apparently the Russians have made something like this. Milo catches up to us while we’re testing. This blaster staff is a good fit for the Russian magocracy to safely equip its massive manpower reserves for war.

I take a few moments to ask Nam’ about the Swiss walls of cotton candy and acquisition of shipwrights. He doesn’t have any useful information, though does seem fairly puzzled by it.

After wrapping up with Nam’, we tromp over to the new hotel. The proprietor (Marcus Devane) is definitely creepy. Hotel seems fairly standard, fairly upscale ammenity-wise for a place like Expeditious Retreat. Four floors, hot and cold running water. The hotel is apparently the result of his artifice, his master work.

At the Gem for the night, Tomas had an interesting encounter with one of the girls. One of the relatively older ones. She noticed Tomas’ ring and offered to let Gaston know to visit Expeditious Retreat, which Tomas accepts. Tomas also manages to learn how to use the Circles (using sounds linked to the runic groups around the outside, and a measure of salt). She impliictly acknowledges she is one of the “good” Lanterns, and that the schism is rooted in philosopy of how to effect the ends.

By pure coincidence, a Dwarven (Glavin Perch) liquor merchant has also recently arrived.

An Urgent Letter to the Queen
And the reason for Russia's trading for gold and copper becomes clear

Your Most Royal Highness:

We have discovered that Russia has developed a weapon usable by any person that fires a ray capable of injuring or killing an unarmored person at range, and possibly hurting an armored one. The weapon, which looks like a staff with copper and gold disks, can be easily aimed and can be fired several times before it must be taken to an artificer or wizard for recharging. It appears that a relatively small amount of gold and copper is needed to make this fairly sophisticated device. It is possible that the Russians have made or are making the devices in significant numbers, as it seems to be easily manufactured by artificers with a fair amount of capability and resources. One such device has made its way to Expeditious Retreat, where the gnome usually in residence has had some success in copying it.

How the Romanian Heroes Rest
Have you hugged a Lantern, today?

Lunch at the Palace, casually. A fairly pleasant lunch, mostly focused around our activities in Romania, interspersed with “friendly” commentary from around the table.

English, Elves, and Dwarves (as well as Montenegro) are jointly supporting Romania, and even Russia has officially acknowledged their improved status and some notion of support. Prussia and the other germanic states have abstained from formal support, though certainly welcome Romania’s military support on the front.

Some of the Queen’s officers have noted that Prussia is buying all of the platinum they can find. Russians are buying copper and gold. The Queen’s advisors best theory is “something related to magic.”

Without solid information on how to permanently dispose of the Siege, or what do do about the Prussians or Russians, our only path of inquiry is into the Dwarven mines (the one where dark ore was discovered that kept trapped Dwarves from being fully dead).

On the way out, we each received a hug from the Queen!! The smell of her hair was exquisite.

Sent off a note to (Dwarven) Ambassador Blay’Loc asking to call upon him socially after dinner. This way Kell and I could catch up on our drinking, set up our trip to the mine, and avoid undue scrutiny.

Sebastian responded to my note arranging for a lunch the next day at a downtown cafe in a convenient location.

I shop for furnishings. Something more than a mess kit and travel backpack. Maybe a cheap table.

Tomas researches magical uses for fine ores, Milo wanders off to his churchly duties with a mix of research, and Merry returns to Court to keep the Queen entertained during all the politicking and Court shenanigans. Garrick disappears to spend time with Pellerion.

Milo’s acolyte researcher, Corbin, has uncovered a bunch of information generally linking probable Lantern activities with various disappearances of powerful magical artifacts or solving of a significant problem. Milo notices that many of the examples match scenes on the frescoes in Pensa. One fact Corbin has dug up of immediate relevance, is that artifacts can be disposed of in “the Pit”. Not necessarily a destruction, but something hard to get things out of or something. Unfortunately, no maps or travel descriptions. From the Royal Archives, Milo learns a bit more about the pit, leading him to believe it to be more of a disposal site managed by a Caretaker. Possibly more information from the Royal Academy of Mages. Later research into pure metals and magic led to a reference to the last use of the Pit including an Ascension of a new Caretaker.

Milo sends out what I should not have interpreted to be an urgent request for a breakfast meeting (an hour after dawn).

Our social visit with Blay’Loc is well lubricated, and lasts until dawn. Our one bit of business was to arrange a Dwarven guide to meet us in Expeditious Retreat and take us to the mine in a few weeks.

The morning’s meeting goes decently well, at least as much as I recalled through my hangover. Turns out this wasn’t urgent, rather a new ritual he wants us to start — a daily brief and planning session. Good idea, wish we’d coordinated more. I suggest our next meeting be in the meeting area that Porter has arranged for me. Milo and Tomas brief us on their research. Milo asks Mery to get an informal discussion with the Royal Artificer to followup on a research thread. We make initial plans to head back out to Expeditious Retreat in a few days — pushed in part by Mery’s desire to be gone from the city fast.

Mery scurries off to visit her magical tutor to arrange a casual meetup with the Royal Artificer. An accidental visit at a local establishment is quickly arranged to permit Mery and Milo to buy the Artificer a drink and have a quiet conversation.

Lunch with Sebastian at an outdoor cafe not far from the barracks near the harbor. I share a lot of our experience in Romania, and observations about the Goblin (civilized) we saw along the way. Exchanged notes about the Russian and Prussian activities, and our plans to visit the Dwarven mine. The nearby city is probably to be avoided. The Swiss Gnomes have engaged a very large number of Greek seamen, and shipwrights. Why would they be building so many ships? Apparently in history the Gnomes have also attempted to build a large (around their country-sized) wall of cotton candy. We talk briefly about Sebastian and Mery’s engagement party, which apparently is going to be a very complicated thing. I almost think they’re not in a hurry to be wed.

The Artificer’s establishment of choice turns out to be a discrete or private men’s club. Mery and Tomas watched while Milo made the initial approach, which led to an adjournment into a private room. Apparently, seeking to dispose of the Siege (not directly referenced) and seeking the Pit, has put us in the middle of a Lantern vs Lantern dispute. And Milo (and Tomas and Mery) doesn’t recognize a code phrase of the Lanterns. The Artificer points out that Tomas’ ring (Lantern’s ring) should be “investigated fully.” And that becoming a Lantern, and a force for good, was a Choice. And not many “real Lanterns” (forces for good) are left. We need the Circles to get to the Pit. They are some form of transportation device, made simply and easy to use. The former owner of the Lantern Ring (worn by Tomas) was owned by a distasteful Frenchman, known as Gaston. The apparatus (the Siege) cannot be destroyed by any known means, leaving the Pit the only apparent viable option. The description of the Circles matches the enscribed brass ring we saw in Pensa.

Milo and Mery corner the Queen to ask for details on the Lantern Ring. She had previously tasked Porter to “find me a Lantern signet ring”, and he found one…

A Business Opportunity

Dearest brother:

I’m sending you this dispatch by the fastest means possible, but I’ve no doubt that word has already reached you that the eternal mist covering Romania and Transylvania has lifted. And it was indeed a mist that covered the entire landscape. A mist that has taken its toll on agriculture. And poor growing seasons has led to increased reliance on livestock for food, starving livestock. And now, with only surpluses of wood, wine, and soldiers, much is needed as the weather becomes colder. In particular, all manner of foods capable of wintering, and oat fodder to rebuild the strength of the milk herds.

Your most respectful and fond brother


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