Dead and Gone

One more tree to go. I’m running near empty. Klyce looks deathly pale, but he’s still going. Dalish tries to heal the bullet out of him with no luck. We don’t have enough mana left to Circle and Banish at the last tree. Does Remy have worm in his ear? Oh, Dawnmother, what are we going to do???

We have to find the tree. We have to get up above ground and search quickly. We head back up to the rooftops. Natty casts a locate and we search the areas we haven’t been, yet. Nothing. She gets no indication of a tree. We did note three crowded areas. Two apartment buildings and an old Royalist library. Each one has hundreads of people outside, all of them with a weapon at their own head or throat. Oh gods, how many worms are there? Is it really just one last tree? So many people outside, but no movement in or out now.

There’s a lot of arguing about which makes the most sense. Which is most likely a trap. How we’re even going to get inside any of them. We end up sending Heyhey up to circle above the smaller apartment building and Ceres down into the sewer below it. Natty says the roof is the same as the ground. Ceres reports an assassin in the sewers, and we decide that’s our best option.

We head down and somehow manage to make quick work of the assassin. It was the one who ran from us the night before. We get near the building and send Ceres up a waste pipe to look around for the tree. He sees a collapse first floor and cleared away foundations. He also see Aranea, who buries him in earth and kills him.

There’s a quick arguement about chasing her down, but we don’t have time for that. We head for the library, through the sewers. Nat finds us a secret entrance in, and after another secret door, we find ourselves in the basement archives. We search around by find nothing. Upstairs, we find a pit dug deep into the gallery floor, filled with earth, but no tree. As we are considering this, a fireball lands on our heads.

We start fighting with two mages on the edge of the gallery, but they seem frightened. Klyce eventually indimidates them into stopping by saying we’re not wormed and we’re here to stop the worms. Steven and Berald, they tell us, had worms, but after a really painful episode, the worms were gone and they had control again. We ask what they know, but it isn’t much. They were from the hotel tree, and when they checked in with Pyrus, he said they should stay here and guard the hole. Nat says they haven’t got worms, but that Remy does have. When she tries to probe deeper, she passes out.

When we manage to revive her, she says she saw a land cloaked in eternal winter and a tree covered in snow. Well, it’s summer here, so that tells us nothing useful. We leave the two de-wormed mages behind and head for the other apartment building. Time is running short. Gerhardt sends his snake up the drain this tiem, but once again there’s no tree.

Frustrated, we decide it’s a shell game. The tree has to be in one of these buildings, it’s just hiding where we haven’t looked. We head up and find everyone dead. Oh Dawnmother! Oh No! we push on into the buliding and search the pit more thoroughly. Nothing. We head upstairs. We find more nothing until we get to the fourth floor. There we run smack into Aranea.

Remy stops her and asks what’s going on. She grabs him and sticks her ‘tongue’ down his ear, pulling out his worm on a tiny sliver of a spear. Once it’s dead, she’s willing to talk to us again. She hasn’t found the tree either. Nothing in the walls or the roof, Remy and Klyce break open a wall just to be sure. She tells us the snowy landscape is where the worms originated, back in the fae world.

We head back to the first apartment complex, where everyone is also dead, and search. Still no tree, so we run back to the library and those two de-wormed mages. Remy and Dalish slide down into the pit and uncover the illusion hiding yet another tunnel. We all go down, convincing the two other two to come with us. When we get to the end of the tunnel, fireballs erupt again, and I fall.

By the time I wake up again, the tree is gone and the enemies are dead. We head up and out of the library to streets filled with death. We search around the bodies and the streets as we walk back towards the barrier. I reach up to gingerly touch my burned hair and feel it crumble away, I can tell the earth magic’s granted bounty has faded, as well. I grit my teeth in frustration. This has all gone wrong, so wrong. But somehow, we’ve all survived.

Gerhardt sends a message to the Major to tell him we have succeeded. And then he collapses. When he wakes up again, he says they pulled him into a spell to report. Rictus will clear the dead, and the barrier will come down. As we reach the edge, it does just that. Nat goes off with a medic to see about her thumb. Klyce is taken to hospital and I head straight for the church of the Dawnmother. I do Not want to see what Rictus does with the dead. A few days later, when we debrief, they tell us that 51,208 people died, much better, they say, than if they had unleashed the battlemages on the entire burrough. I spend quite a lot of time with Fathers Kevin and Carmine over the next while, and when I’m not with them, I’m with Xin Yue, trying to renew my pact with the earth.

No Sleep Til Brooklyn

What have I done? We’ve stopped and everyone is talking about Klyce and taking watches and sleeping. Sleeping??? I can’t sleep. Oh Dawnmother! What have I done? Suddenly there is a lot of blood around Klyce. I only curl up further into the corner. So much blood on the ground and on our hands.

They set watches, but I only pretend to sleep when it’s not my turn. I’m on second shift with Gerhardt, but there’s nothing to see. And then there is a sharp pain in my back and darkness. When I wake up again, they’re all talking about the Zoo and the Refinery. Wait what? Apparently assassins came after us. The next tree is in the zoo, and everyone thinks the foundry is the only safe place to sleep.

We carefully sneak through town, just like we did all those times in the bubble, and make it down below the mana refinery. The disembodied head is still trapped in the bubble, thank the Dawnmother. We try for watches and sleep again. I still can’t, I keep seeing rocks blasting through skulls every time I close my eyes.

When everyone else has rested, we head up and out to the zoo. There are marching footsteps on the streets, so we keep to the sewers. This can’t be good for Klyce, but there’s nothing else we can do. The footsteps get louder the nearer we get to the zoo. When we get there, we try pulling out one of the massive sewer blocks to see if we can tunnel under the zoo. It’s too packed and heavy for our measly magics, we’ll have to go above ground.

Remy sends his lizard up to look around. People are packed into the nearby parks like cattle. Three people come out of the zoo, crawling with worms. They infect a crowd and head back inside. They’re trying to infect the entire borrough before we kill all the trees! We have to go now!

We pop up out of the sewer and make a run for the zoo wall. There’s no gate near us, so we scramble and scrape and jump and hoist until we all make it over. Klyce and I get shot as we’re the last two over the wall. If Klyce survives this, it’s going to be a Dawnmother Miracle.

Once we’re all over, we notice we’ve landed in an enclosure for something. A panther, it turns out, as it pounces. We beat it down in the normal fashion, getting some scrapes and bites for our trouble and then Klyce breaks open the door into the keeper rooms. Nat says the tree is in the center, and as we carefully approach, we see it’s the elephant enclosure. The tree is behind four elephants and beneath three levitating wizards.

One of them shouts for us to come out while the other two summon a whole mess of flying snakes. I cast fly on Maribeth and Remy, allowing him to go zoom face-first into the pile of snakes. The others fireball to kill them, but Remy is unconscious by then. I sneak forward, intent on the wizards, while Klyce starts wrestling elephants to death. When a wizard heads for Remy’s floating body, I start throwing rocks again, but I can’t managed to hit him. Eventually, Klyce finishes off the elephants and we finish off two of the wizards and the tree with lots of fire.

The third one is the one Klyce kept sensing at other fights, and he departs, saying he’ll see us at the last tree. Maribeth gets Remy down and we wake him up. He’s got a bit of goo in his ear, but he seems alright. We head back to the panther’s enclosure to rest, and when we finally leave the zoo, there are hundreds of dead outside in the parks. I just close my eyes and grab Nat’s elbow, like she used to do with me.

Trees, Worms, and Murder

Turns out the Major is a divination mage. That’s a bit less worrying then. Between him and Nat, we find our first tree, first of five they say. I go with everyone, but stay well away from the fighting. Klyce has changed his mind about killing in this case. They are infected, and already going to die, if we don’t kill a few people, everyone in the burrough will die a much worse death. I… can’t. I won’t. So, I stay back, ready with a levitate or fly if we need it.

With Nat’s location spells, we have already found the second tree within range of the first, so we head onward. It’s in a hotel basement nearby. We circle the building from nearby roofs, and see a loading dock to the lower level. It is guarded by 8 men, with more around the other sides of the building. What if we go our old route, through the sewers? We’ve gotten pretty used to them by now. So we head down.

Nat leads us back to the hotel, and the closest pipe is choked with brambles. Klyce turns to mist and floats his way through. When he comes back, he stays mist and we have a bit of a game of pantomime. Until he gets through to me to message him. The tunnel opens up into the basement, and the foundations are nearly destroyed. We decide to cast silence and burn our way through. Gerhardt casts a circle of protection and Klyce floats back through again. He will keep an eye out and we commence.

I keep messaging him, and soon he says that people are gathering at the far end of the tunnel. He also says a wizard has arrived, but he’s not sure where. Once we get line of sight on them, the others begin firebombing them. When the people are gone, they start firebombing the tree. But worms start dropping and burrowing into the earth. I cast fly on Maribeth and Nat, but stay in the circle myself. I have nothing to attack a tree with.

They keep burning it down, but the wizard does not appear. Dalish comes charging back my way and into the circle. He grabs his ear as he enters and I see green goo oozing out. I tighten my grip on the staff, but he says it’s gone now. Gerhardt comes running, too, but he bounces off the circle. Dalish and I try to push and pull him through, but nothing. Nat comes flying and full speed and barrels him through. Green ooze trickles out of his ear, and I nearly take a swing.

They succeed in ending the tree, and Klyce has me come in for some controlled mop up. I do my best to save the hotel, but there is so much fire and damage already, I’m not sure it did any good. We all take a moment to rest and plan, before we get moving again. We head back up to the rooftops to avoid the crowds, searching for the next tree.

Everyone is tired, though, and not as careful. It isn’t long before gunshots ring out from other rooves. Everyone gets shot and we jump off the roof, featherfalling to the ground, and head for the sewers again. Nat moves the earth we bled on to lead them away and we find a building on the outskirts to rest in. While Klyce and Nat, who didn’t get shot, head out to find the next tree, Remy tends to our wounds. He manages to remove my and Maribeth’s bullets before passing out himself. Dalish does some magic which pops Remy’s bullet right out of him, and Gerhardt finishes patching us all up.

Maribeth messages me. To save the necklace if the worms take her. Of course, I think my levitate will work for that. I tell her that I’ll try to keep her flying so they can’t get her. She calls me sister. I… sister… My ears buzz and I cannot think.

The others return and report. The next tree is inside a jail. We debate for a moment, this one last tree and then we rest. We only have one more day, better to do three today and two tomorrow, just in case they take more time because of our attacks today. We can do one more, we have to. We head back into the sewers and towards the jail.

There is a thick iron grate blocking passage in and out of the jail. Makes sense, no one in or out. Klyce studies it for a bit, and decides to shape the rock it is built into instead of messing with the iron itself. We slip through and eventually come to a very large door. Klyce gaseous forms his way through. He come back fairly quickly because he cannot see. Dalish gives him darkvision and he returns. It takes some time, and some vague answers to my messages, but eventually, he finds a key and lets us in.

There is a pile of mangled bodies here, outside one of the cells. It is pretty horrific, and I’m glad we haven’t managed to have lunch today. We pass them by and eventually, start seeing the tips of roots down through the walls and ceiling. The tree must be up in the courtyard. We sneak up into the main building until we find a vantage on the yard.

There is a frenzy of activity here. Fifty or sixty people milling about the tree. We’re too far away for Gerhardt’s banishment spell. We can’t go out there, we have to sneak around to another window. Carefully, carefully, we make our way. It seems like everyone is out there rather than inside the building. Gerhardt will cast, and if it works, we will run. We must protect him for the minute the spell takes to finish.

He casts, the tree disappears, and everyone in the courtyard goes mad! We Run! We run back down to the basement, to the cells. But then we met men with six men holding guns. Nonononono! Nat casts stinking cloud over them and I cast fly on Gerhardt so he can go wherever he needs to go to be safe until his spell finishes. Bullets fly out of the fog. I throw myself in front of Nat, while Klyce and Remy go charging in. There is shooting and spell flinging and I can hear Remy’s sword clanging. The fog isn’t stopping them, so Nat drops it.

Nonononono! Too many bullets, my friends are getting hurt. Maribeth is shot again. Klyce is hurt bad! I look around and see some rocks on the ground. I pick one up and take aim. It’s just a key, it’s just Sanctum. I send it flying with magic and one of the gunmen drops. I pick up another rock. Another gunman falls. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes. We run. There are more dead down by the door, but we don’t have time to care. We run. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes. They are talking, but I don’t hear. Whatever it takes…

Gods, Assassination, and Riots

Nat says she wants to go to the temple, so Dalish and I take her to speak to Fathers Carmine and Kevin. She asks to speak to the Dawnmother, so we have our prayers. Nat is disappointed when she doesn’t receive an answer. I could have told her that, so I mention that the only time we’ve spoken directly was that once, outside time. She says she needs to talk to Her, and the other gods as well. She thinks her vision of the six points of light are the gods, and they are the only solution to the current mess.

A few days later, word comes that Prime Jor was assassinated. The council is blaming the Black Knight. Jor had been hunting them, and they caught him instead. Other rumors said that another Prime did him in. Jor had no party to protect him. There is to be a deliberative to elect his replacement. There are three main candidates for his seat. A Utopian, a Conservative, and a member of Klyce’s party, the PPP.

It begins with a moment of silence. We are then asked to give our report on the situation with the Xingese. Klein confirms everything we have said, and accepts responsibility for his inaction. Hellicon, the conservative candidate speaks up, grandstanding on the “Xingese issue” and their operatives on our soil. Klyce mouths off to her about the kidnapping, and she says they should have gone through proper channels to get her back. Klyce objects on the grounds of torture and lack of oversight on the experiment in the first place. Remy throws in, and I even speak up to mention it was just one family, not the nation. She then wants to know what family, so they can be directly targeted for retribution. Klyce turns it around, that we should be more concerned with operatives here, rather than halfway around the world. A vote is taken to form another investigative body to find foreign operatives and retaliate for the murders.

UGH! Adults are so stupid!

The candidates all speak then, about why they should each be Prime. I barely listen. I hate all of this.

News spreads and riots begin. Remy goes to find out why and gets many stories. People are mad they have no voice in choosing the next Prime, or mad about the weirdos from the Bubble, or mad about the mana restrictions. The riots get worse. We ponder sending a message to the Black Knight, fairly sure he’s being set up. We send him a message, asking to meet at the church, to find the truth. He replies that he will kill us all and everyone we love if we contact him again. Well, that could have gone better.

Maribeth and Remy go into the office, but they come home again fairly soon. Seems we’ve been tasked with ending the riots before Rictus and his men go in and kill everyone. They are giving us four days to calm over 30,000 people. We hope it’s fae, or else we’ve got a lot of persuading to do. Maribeth and Gerhardt go see if James will help us with the calming. Remy talks to Aranea about what fae could do this, and if she could help us find them. Nat, Klyce, and I go for walkabout, to talk to the people and sniff out any fae.

Nat uses her magic to skim surface thoughts in a park with a large crowd. She gets a few pings of strong singular emotions. Digging deeper, she says there is compression and constraint, too much in one skull, and then an image of a fat green worm. Five people turn as one and shout that we three are mages, and everyone turns on us. I cast fly on Nat and myself and confirm their suspicions by pulling us both up in the air. Klyce gets big and tries to go grab one of the five. Nat tries to put people around him asleep so he can get through, but the mob just tramples right over them. Klyce tries to help, but in doing so, loses the one he was after. He turns to mist and flies up to join us and we make our escape.

Back at camp, Aranea says it’s a Yerak, and that they must be destroyed. They have a hive mind, but no one controlling it. She is able to see a bruised aura around the infected. We go talk to the Major in charge of containment. We tell him that we know the problem and we need three days. We explain that something is influencing them, and we need to root it out. He says we have two, if it’s an infection, he will erect barriers, but we need to wipe it out, or he will.

We go to the briefing of the troops, and scan them to see if any have been infected. Thankfully, not, though Nat is concerned that she cannot sense the Major’s mind. He tells them of the quarentine, and to prepare for heavier action should we fail. Nat explains the mobs in the park, and how they turned on us. Maribeth talks to the mages about what they may need to do.

We gather up, leaving James behind, as his calming spell isn’t actually what is needed here. We head in, carefully avoiding the crowds, back down the path we tread so many times in the bubble. Down into the bowels of the infirmary. The bubbled head of the beast is still there, but the Sheriff’s bubble is not. Just a headless corpse. Aranea confirms it is a Yerak. They mature, the brain and head burst open and then they go and make a new tree to reproduce and spread. There is no tree, here, though, where could it be?