Harvest Time is Here Again

I met up with Dalish on my way north. We headed up to Nat’s house together, on a much more peaceful journey that the first time. Dalish, however, is looking like a dead husk, almost as bad as his mummy counterpart. He says he’s nearly finished with his plan. I’m just happy to be out of Atlantic City for a few weeks.

When we arrive, Nat greets us with skull-tattoo-covered arms. She explains that they are for battles she has fought and that she has marks on her back for deaths she has caused by the thousands. She seems both proud and depressed by all of this, and has marked herself in their memory.

We head inside for some dinner, and Dalish strikes up conversation about the mines. They cannot control the undead without Skull Grandpa, so they’ve had to resort to prison labor. Nat’s dad is not happy with this situation, and hopes that between Stephen, Nat, and Dalish, something can be done.

Gerhardt and Klyce arrive the next day. Klyce in the form of an eagle, and in a great big coat when he transforms back. They’ve both seen a lot of battle out west, but Gerhardt seems even more quiet than usual. Remy, Philomena, and Marybeth all ride up together from New Gnosis and they all look quite well. Marybeth has an ease to her that I’ve never seen, and Remy has filled out into his body a bit more naturally.

His eye, however, is glowing a dull orange. He fashioned himself a new eye and wanted to add some magic to it. It seems that some of the power he siphoned of Balor seeped into it. It beats ever so slightly. I warn him against it trying to grow a new god in his head, but he seems unworried.

We all have a conversation about how to keep Rictus from using me, but none of the solutions seem workable. Marybeth wants to put a geas on me, but that doesn’t last long enough, and it’s not my will doing the killing. We have to change the laws to stop him. And that’s going to take a while.

At dinner, conversation returns to the mines and the horrible conditions and resources required to keep prisoners alive an working. Dalish, Stephen, and Nat promise to start work immediately after dinner.

Talk turns to Dalish’s ‘solution’ for his crippling depression, and Remy pleads with him to find another way. Nat and Marybeth chat about Nat’s tattoos and Marybeth’s found peace and happiness. Marybeth found out west that she is fully capable of handling herself and staying alive without others looking after her.

Someone mentions Xin Yue towards the end of the night, and on my way to bed, I send her a message, asking how things are going. She tells me her clan has been destroyed, and there is no stopping the golden horde. This is awful, and lends itself to some pretty horrific nightmares.

The next day, after a morning run with the boys, I fill everyone in on what Xin Yue said. There’s nothing to be done about it from here, but I did offer her a place to stay when our military service is over. Marybeth, Remy, and I go find a seamstress in the village. Marybeth has some beautiful dresses, and I’m still stuck with military wear. With her help, we design a couple new dresses for me to wear to the Harvest Festival.

That night, a storm comes in with dinner. I so badly want to go out and stand in the rain and wind and lightning. The unbridled power of it calls to me. But, I stay at the table and eat and drink with my friends. Until a crash of thunder turns into knocking at the front door. A servant comes to get Nat because her parents have already gone to bed, so she’s in charge.

I follow Nat down to see who it is, and the others trail behind. Two figures are standing in the doorway. A hunched over figure with a hideous face, dripping water all over the floor, and a finely dressed older man who is completely dry.

“Good evening. I am Vlad Tepish, and I am here to see my son.”

Allies, Explosions, and Intestines

We don’t get far in the city before some guards are shouting at us, asking for our papers. Remy tries to talk them around, but it’s clear he is failing, when they suddenly fall unconscious. A teenager dressed in green, with a pointy hat, bids us follow him, and quickly. Having no better plan, we do. He leads us through the streets of the city, avoiding patrols and people , to an old abandoned inn.

Heading inside, we pass through the illusion, to a decently appointed inn, with a gathering of teenagers of all sorts. In short order, we exchange introductions. Hank, a young man in full plate armor with a tree of golden fruit is their leader. He is the chosen of the Green Witch. His companions are: Francis, a burly guy with tight clothes and swords; Wan Kei, an Asian guy with body wraps; Shelly, a hooded girl with daggers; Turner, a black girl working on some small tinkering project, and Locke, the wizard who saved us.

Hank tells us that his patron tasked them to come here and wait for us. They are to accompany us into the tower to destroy the eye of her father-in-law. Hang on, what?

The Royalist mages apparently have the eye of a god or fairy king or something, named Balor (of the evil eye). He was king of the fae realms. The Green Witch married his son, and then killed him. His evil eye popped out and was sent through the planes to ours. We have to stop them from using it or the whole city will be destroyed, maybe even more than that.

Hank wants to either send the eye back to the Green Witch or destroy it. We’re all on board with that, wondering if banishing it will do the trick. They’ve been here, hiding, for weeks waiting or us. There’s a quick discussion about the evils of our various armies, interrupted only when the whole in explodes around us.

Eighteen guards pour in through holes in three of the walls and the fight is on. Locke apparently has non-violent leanings like Klyce, because he dispells the first big spell Gerhardt tries to cast shouting at us not to kill people. But the battle rages on, the eye turns its gaze upon us, and bullets fly. We sleep and knock out as many as we can, but eventually, even Turner agrees with us, and some of the soldiers die. Maribeth ends up chasing their Captain for a bit, but eventually lets him go to avoid a bigger fight.

We run. Hank leads us away from the gaze of the eye and to another safe, empty building. Then he lays hands on us, popping the bullets out and healing us with much more effectiveness than my magic can ever manage. We talk a bit about his abilities, and some of the others, marvelling at his magic. Remy casts non-detection on the room we are in, and Nat uses her arcane eye to look over the nearby sewers. Shelly has to guide her to an entrance, but it goes smoothly from there.

Nat maps out the sewers. Noting that around the central building their are strange fleshy blockages. Pulsing, brown-red flesh surrounds all ways through the sewer to the tower. The flesh shifts and the entire town shakes. While this is happening, the majors fall over unconscious, pulled into a mind-palace with our commanders to report in after sending a short message.

We discuss possible ways through, and where best to go. Deciding to get as close as we can, then reasses the flesh. We’ll probably have to cut through because the army will be on high alert now above ground. When everyone is ready, we head out and down.

It takes half an hour or so to get to the point closest to the tower. Nat uses her clairvoyance to look beyond the wall. The sewers turn into fleshy tunnels beyond five feet of flesh wall. The tunnel is full of liquid – bile, puss, ichor – she’s not sure. Coming back to herself, she casts an augury about going into the tube. It comes up both weal and woe, so we decide that’s the best we’ve got.

Back down the tunnel away from it, into side tunnels as much as possible to avoid the flow. Then start hurling tiny spells at it to burn and freeze away the flesh. It takes a little while to get all the way through, but then the disgusting liquid pours free. Splashing all over several of the group. It takes a short while to finally subside as I levitate above the disgusting mess.

Then we head into the tunnel. It feels like it is breathing. I can feel its heart pounding. The others can hear the heart, too. We get up to another barrier after a while, and having met no resistance so far, burn through this one, as well. This room’s walls are pulsing with the heart beat, and we are not alone.