Pre-Game Events: Winter Games 2016
So before we set the scene and plan for the epic finale, I ask that you at least go through the order laid out here. I wrote the episode summaries to remind us roughly where we have come from. Then we will set the scene. Then we can gather info and plan what we can.
Following their arrival at the Tower, the Azrai decide to execute Operation: Occupy Barovia, an inspired plan to disrupt the Lawshredder Ritual at its theorized weakest point, when Pheodora was attempting to remove Aram from the ritual.
- The Ritual is not successful as intended. Pheodora disappeared, likely through the “same” Fourth Door portal that caused her disappearance initially.
- Although it was not confirmed where Pheodora went, these tell-tale flashes caused most Azrai to assume that she may have been in Arendur.
- Although the ritual did not work as intended, it has led to an interesting consequence of certain tell-tale flashes to be imprinted with additional POV information (including the TTF referenced above)
- It has been theorized that both times the Azrai have “interfered” with the ritual in this manner, that Aram has been brought into “Ascension”. In other other words, Aram has once again risen as the driving force of the “Chain of Vengeance.”
Following their return from Operation: Occupy Barovia, the Azrai decide to plot another path through the Tower, this time culminating in their arrival in "present day" Sigil. Once in Sigil, Kavi reveals he is the chess construct, or he at least contains the cyclical predictor algorithms, though he lacks all the necessary data to make many "necessary" predictions. The best place to get this data is the [[HUB], which is unfortunately controlled by the Eschaton and access is limited. After some debate, the Azrai ascertain one of the few ways to access the HUB is through Noshteroth’s private traincar, though infiltrating his temple could be difficult. Luckily, Autochon the Bellringer can "smuggle" them in during the hectic Wildnight Festival. After posing as "actors", the Azrai infiltrate the HUB, access the inner vaults, and learn the Eschaton plan to complete the Ritual of Reconciliation
- The Azrai intercepted and decoded previously lost memories from Trolan. Afterwards they conducted a “double-blind” experiment that yielded the following results:
"To save the Keeper, Descartes must use the Dream Machine.", signed by Atticus, Greylord, Jason, Darius, and Descartes.
- During the chaos of the performance, Autochon attempted vengeance on Noshteroth for Noxana. Autochon actually killed Cadmus, who was apparently restrained in Nosh’s luxury box. *This, along with other supporting evidence, points that Nosh was not only aware of the attempt, but may have even used this as a way of “gathering data” during the attack.
- With the new wealth of data to process, Kavi was able to determine the Eschaton planned to complete the Ritual soon.
An episode in which initial intelligence was gathered and some preliminary battle-lines were drawn. The Azrai mostly played catch-up.
- Based on the results of the double-blind, Otto, Atticus, and Descartes “created” a Dream Machine within the Archives of Arendur in order to contact the Keeper. The results were dubious at best and seemed to result in something “infusing” the Descartes. Perhaps even the Keeper.
- Balthazar arrived at the Zactar Cathedral claiming he was hired to find the keeper. Raine wiped his mind and Kaleb took his place (and shapechange ring) forming the basis for future intel gathers.
- There was another SWD on Phe. The answers were familiar but jumbled.
- The Azrai determined the Eschaton are moving through SHARD stations and attack, destroy, and loot one.
- The Azrai begin to look into Chrysallis Black, determine he is the Turk, and found he is in several locations.
- The Azrai assault the Temple of the Abyss, rescue Vryce III, and disintegrate Helios.
- The Azrai steal the contents of a wildnight float and find silverweed fireworks and a coffin with a waxy Pheodora.
After learning that the Eschaton were manipulating the Midnight Mirror to cause a massive Nexus-breach, the Azrai decided to investigate at least one of the likely sources - the campus of the CoAA. Once within the perimeter of the mist-shrouded campus, the Azrai realized they were once again in Barovia.
- The Azrai discovered the midnight mirror and confirmed that is was used to cause a breach between the Nexus and Sigil. Powered by a dream machine (the maggot tree), It was currently co-located with the Shattered Temple, CoAA, Golemworks, and was attempting to establish a connection to the Gatehouse.
- While in Barovia, Atticus used the staff of Aoskar to access ancient hidden vaults in which he secreted small armies of warforged. In one such vault, he activated hundreds and sent them, at least temporarily, to aid the armies of Faerun.
- The Azrai met up with Cyric, who advised the Azrai against entering the reality actualizer (dream machine) at the maggot tree because Strahd/the Beast would hold all the power.
- The Azrai mostly completed their last objective - sabotaging the Eschaton from collocating Nexus with the Gatehouse. After determining Vryce 2 was completing a ritual to speed this merge, the Azrai traveled to the immense, mobile clockwork fortress for an all out assault. Once on board, they dispatched Vryce 2 and defeated a Chrysalis “simulacrum”.
- They escaped a coalescing Strahd and nearly collapsing mobile fortress and made it back to Sigil, but not before realizing Nexus and the Eschaton had marshalled their forces for an assault.
As the Eschaton marshaled their forces, the Zactar, Azrai, and allies, fortified their forces, particularly at the Gatehouse. The Azrai decided on several plans that included “reassembling” Pheodora, finishing the mobile dreamwalker (dream machine), and ghost-bustering Chrysallis Black (i.e. attacking and collecting his soul into the soul cage).
- Cyric and a few Azrai re-locate Pheodora’s body and necessary components to the Archives - to “Grundelthum’s Lab” in particular in order to complete the “assembly”.
- Many of the Azrai’s further plans were disrupted by an all out assault of Eschaton and Nexus allied forces complete with rolling mist, Havero sightings, colossal walking beasts, Proxies of Malar, and flying clockwork dragons.
- Back at the Archives, Cyric, Atticus, Rogue, and others fought their own battles against collapsing and mutable ethereal realities. Several of the chambers in the Archives resembled, or actually were (?) important moments from the past to which the Azrai had traveled - These included the Gatehouse courtyard prior to the famous inmate escape, The Chapel Perilous during Pheodora’s sacrifice, and the Lighthouse of Freeport.
- While battling what was likely a physical and mental incursion by Vrinn/Chrysallis, Atticus assembled a device that funneled energy into Strahd’s tower in the Nexus.
- Likely because of the device, a TTF was triggered, reality shifted, and the Azrai awoke in Freeport, just before the cataclysm.
- It is uncertain what kind of reality the Azrai traveled to (i.e., same, alternate, constructed, fictional, etc.), but when they arrived, they eventually travelled to Freeport prior to the cataclysm of Ranais.
- The Azrai stormed the Freeport Lighthouse, fought some old enemies along the way, and wandered into a trap at the top since it was discovered the lighthouse was co-located with the Tower.
- Despite the trap, the Azrai were able to awaken Atticus, prevent Vrinn from claiming him as a vessel, and Atticus again assembled his device and fired into the encroaching mist-shrouded darkness - triggering another TTF.
The Azrai are in the all too familiar situation of being in bodies that are not their own. Their host’s memories fade as they awaken. Arendur is prepping for the upcoming Ritual of Reconciliation but not all is as it seems in the Golden Age and turmoil is commonplace if not as easy to find as in Sigil. The Azrai spend much of their time getting their bearings.
- There is a conflict between the Winter Council of Myth Drannor and the Empire. Flaar Trueblood and his retinue may have been sent to assassinate Tolumvire. Although Flaar (Greylord) manages to deescalate, this leads to him being held “hostage” and Empire airships forming a barricade around the “island” of Myth Drannor.
- After saving Darius from an unbound (demon) infused cultist, Vartus (Jason) is placed under arrest for treason. Though he initially cooperates, Jason gets in a brutal conflict with a high ranking Slayer Commander, Willamont the Black. Jason eventually puts him down and goes on the run.
- Vrinn’s notes make a reappearance.
- The Azrai learn Fel, the prophet, has not been seen. The Azrai rescue him from a cultist group. They chase down several other leads from these and other groups in the lower portions of the city.
- The Azrai fight and survive a trap laid by Vrinn in a cathedral that would become the Zactar. Vrinn is captured, but not before the Azra learn that Zactar herself was killed in this church, likely only a few days earlier by “Ambassador Savosk”.
- The Azrai receive more notes and odd invitations.
- The Azrai end up back in Sigil
Set the Scene
If you were lazy and only read the episode summaries, read the last episode, Episode: Time Passes Differently For Those Who Make It So, at this point. Do not read any further.
The Azrai have been dragged/rescued by the Zactar allies following this bizarre Tell-tale Flash analogue. After a moments rest and recovery, the Azrai are able to get their bearings and gather some information. You are all exhausted, in pain, and a bit out of sorts, but otherwise ready to go.
These will be continuously updated
- The Azrai are safely in the Zactar Cathedral, they confirm they are back in Sigil, they believe about a day or so has passed since they were last in this city.
- Gaibriel is currently a bit of a distance from everyone else and is under guard. He is not imprisoned - just watched.
- All of you feel anxious. As if there is an approaching, inexorable pull towards...something. Some of you have briefly felt this before when you took a small side trip using the Tower. This feels similar to that, but as if you are being drawn towards something out of your control. You feel as where you are and maybe even who you are is at the same time right and VERY, very wrong.
- Fighting in Sigil has been insanely intense since the Azrai disappeared. Most of it has been concentrated at or around the Gatehouse. Despite the intensity, there are sections of Sigil untouched by this level of fighting.
- If not for the awakened construct army stored by Atticus, the Gatehouse would surely have fallen. Apparently these were awakened by Rogue.
- Rogue apparently contacted and subverted a battalion from the Modron March, convincing them that they owed Atticus further favors.
- The allied armies JUST recently had a sudden reprieve from the attacks. There are not yet many explanations offered.
- Fighting throughout the planes has also been predictably intense. In the last few days the battles around Safehaven and the Standing Stone have been non-stop and only the power of the stone has kept the seemingly endless forces of the Infernus and Nexus somewhat at bay. Since it has been obvious that many of the enemy forces are focusing their attacks on the stone, the allies have shifted forces around, reinforce this location despite the overwhelming odds.
- Remarkably, the forces in Faerun, similar to Sigil, have also reportedly experienced a recent respite that corresponds with your return from Arendur. Most expect this is only temporary as the enemy waits in near countless numbers just beyond the mists in the forests of Myth Drannor.
- Nexus breaches are all too-common throughout the city. Entire sections of the city have changed, been swallowed by mists, or worse (e.g. the Havero).
- There are several reported places where Nexus breaches have become permanent: the CoAA, Temple of the Abyss, Hall of Speakers.
- Many periodic and reoccurring breaches have also caused sporadic problems throughout the wards.
- Although twisted reality has been extremely common of late within Sigil, the effects within the ethereal chambers of the Archives of Arendur were especially unpredictable (see Episode:_War_of_Revelation#Back_in_the_Archives.
- Shortly after you were in them last, Rogue had to shut down or purge nearly all of the ethereal chambers because they were either corrupted or unstable.
- Two episodes ago, Cyric took the necessary components and attempted a resurrection of Pheodora (see Episode:_War_of_Revelation#Things_Have_Changed). You were not around to see the result. Unfortunately no one was and there is no trace of Cyric, Pheodora, or the components.
- Rogue salvaged the Dreamwalker (i.e. the mobile dream machine designed by Atticus).
- The Zactar are concerned because they have not had contact with Kavi for over 24 hours. He disappeared at the same time as Cyric and the body of Pheodora.
- When the Archives were still accessible, Fanning, a resolute Azrai ally since his conversion, lead a research team within the mysterious ethereal chamber, the Ruins of the Unknown. He would be seen at the Zactar Cathedral often, discussing research with Toknar, Blackburn or other converted Braintrust Eschaton technicians. The purpose of this team was to understand and potentially circumvent the both the newest SHARD tech gateways being used and gather necessary data points to slow or even seal Nexus breaches.
- During one artificial rift opening, Fanning was found in a research chamber within the Ruins of the Unknown, the sole survivor of his team, gibbering quietly to himself. Now, as long as he’s treated regularly with a synthetic analogue to Crimsonweed, he’s fine. A few hours after he misses his daily dose, he immediately breaks down, and begins ranting in a style and fashion seemingly identical to Garmundi.
- On instructions from Atticus, the outside of the Gatehouse is now crawling with Modrons and engineers from Mechanist's Guild. They are constructing scaffolding and mounting strange equipment around the building.
- You still have the bizarre invitations you received in Arendur. Opening any of them, it appears they are from Noshteroth. They are invitations to his private, masquerade Wildnight party at the Temple of the Abyss where he claims he will be auctioning off the identity and location of the Lady of Pain.
- Word on the street is Noshteroth is continuing his charitable side by sponsoring a massive outdoor Wildnight party in Bloodgem Park open to the public at the same time he hosts his private masquerade party inside.
- Early intelligence suggests you are far from the only famous or important people at least rumored to be invited to his party. Though you have yet to 100% confirm any of this, the lists of guests invited likely includes every Factol, Factor, important dignitary, or other high-up in the city. Gathering information on or around the temple premises is complicated by the fact the a semi-permanent Nexus breach is on the grounds.
- Several days ago Balthazar Thames mysteriously came knocking on the door of the Zactar looking for the Keeper, Kaleb has been impersonating with the use of Jason's powerful shape-changing ring. While the Eschaton have followed close behind, Kaleb has leveraged this disguise to get nearly unrestricted access to enemy targets.
- While investigating the Hall of Speakers and the Sign of One Kaleb has confirmed that the Illithid sorcerer Urgeshek has indeed risen to power. Although ZInt has made him him and his rising cult a priority, there intense secrecy has meant that Kaleb still serves as your primary potential source of information. Once he is able to be safely extracted, you hope to have a wealth of information.
- Meanwhile, the real Balthazar remains somewhat confused, but otherwise well treated in the Zactar basement.
- Fel was found, butchered, at the hands of Hoacher the Foul. No one was more surprised by this then Fel, who is still alive, and under ZedInt protection at all hours. Fel’s corpse certainly appears to be him, and he even suggested that maybe he’s dead and doesn’t know it. Toknar’s input is that perhaps a bio-thaumaturgical clone of Fel was created for ritualistic purposes.
- Hoacher the Foul, avatar of Malar, was found literally feasting on the corpse of Fel. Which sort of turned out to not be Fel. Anyway, Hoacher was grievously wounded and incapacitated in the streets by Jarus, finally, after butchering a number of ZedInt agents and their allies.
- Studies of him have been somewhat inconclusive so far, which is all the more mysterious given that he was assumed dead at the hands of the Azrai. However, the creature, which may or may not be Hoacher, appears to be Nexus born and does seem to become sedated with synthetic crimson weed. However, there is not an endless supply of Pheodora's blood to allow this to go on forever.
- Rumors keep surfacing that the much maligned Cult of the Lady has returned. None have actually been seen to confirm this rumor.
- Ask any berk on the street and they believe that rumors of cults, all the mists, people disappearing, and chaos in the streets is next to proof that Her Serenity is either about to return or that she already has. Ask another, and they'll say this is all her doing, or that she's been dead all along.
Letter from the Keeper
A Zactar courier comes forth with an old letter that has a delivery date, specifically, of the afternoon that you appear in the cathedral.
So somebody thought it was amateur hour and set a really nasty trap for me, and I saved the Planes, again, by catching it at the last possible moment. This makes it time number six hundred something that I've saved like literally everyone; you're welcome.
BUT technically I haven't actually stopped it and saved the day yet. So I'm in the time stream hunting down Vrinn, or whomever; I'll be back at literally the perfect time. Oh, and you'll know if I fail because you'll end up dead. Actually if I fail all of space-time is doomed, so just another day, really. Anyway keep dinner warm and save me a seat at the big game.
A second letter from the Keeper
An increasingly-confused Zactar courier comes forth with a second old letter that has a delivery date and time, specifically, just after the previous letter has been delivered.
Actually save me two seats, I'll need an extra one for Vrinn's corpse once I get done with him. You know it's totally going to be Vrinn.
- Zactar Intelligence information gathering see Talk Page
- A lot of the info gathering has predictably focused on Noshteroth's auction/masquerade party. I do NOT intend to detail a giant list of what has been learned. This would take way too long. However, what has been highlighted as information gathering targets on the talk page sets up a foundation for what could be drawn upon in game for specific questions or specific actions.
- For example, you could, in game ask something like: "according to Zactar Intelligence, is anyone from Urgeshek's cult on the guest list" or "Could I get an additional invitation forged". The more sepcific the questions, the more likely a positive result.
Otto has petitioned his deity for the following information. As is typical with divinations, answers can be short phrases, cryptic rhymes, or omens. Questions that are answered pre-game either do not require much preparation or must wait until "game-time" to be rolled because of the potential danger.
- What is Noshteroth's Plan for the auction tonight
- To strike a bargain
- What does Noshteroth actually know about the identity and location of the Lady.
- Noshteroth believes he knows the identity. He's been provided a location.
- Reveal to me the location of Pheodora
- NOTE: This divination both takes preparation and represents risk. Otto will perform during the game.
Atticus's Number Book
- How many invitations did Noshteroth send? (Greylord's question)
- Incalculable (NOTE: the book has ONLY ever said this when the number was likely very, very, large. Atticus is not sure why it is incalculable.)
Primary Action Items
- Gaibe will use his considerable affinity with the Lady and supernatural ability to "track" to attempt to find her. This may negate the need to negotiate with Noshteroth.
- Attend the Noshteroth's auction of the identity and location of the Lady.
- Atticus will prepare and complete the Ritual of Reconciliation.
Supplemental Action Items
- Have Ambar examine Fanning, with/without treatment. With Garmundi his madness was related to the key. So what's going on w this berk?
- Atticus, what is going on at the Gatehouse?
- The invite list for Noshteroth's party could influence how we want to approach that event
- Do we need to extract Kaleb from deep cover, or meet with him, or something, to find out more about whatever is going down with the Sign of One?
- Have Raine pick Hoacher's brain to find any clues as to how/why he even exists. Maybe it doesn't matter and he's just some horrible embodiment of Nexus energy or something.
- It would be great if we had some psychotic scientist to examine this weird fake corpse of Fel, but since our Pheodora is missing, any ideas on what to do with this creepy thing?