In a not particularly dramatic turnaround, the group decided to continue debating the wisdom of visiting the oracle and tracking down the pixies. The journey to the Lake itself was surprisingly dangerous despite the short distance involved, and they didn’t want to risk the skyship which seemed the only way to get there using their own forms of transportation. Then they debated why they even cared to talk to the Oracle as they all seemed more intent on that than any aspect of Prey Chaser’s mission. Moon Circle was very insistent on having a chance to kill pygmies, with a secondary vote for the southern necromancers. When shown the location on a map, however, he was less interested in visiting the home of the Storm Lord—a mere two-day journey from the attack sites–but still wanted to fight the pygmies. Spoon, with her nautical expertise preferred the aquatic dragon spawn and didn’t particularly care to deal with the undead. Leaf had spoken his piece, stating an interest in the pixies and the oracle, then walked off to practice. Winter didn’t care as long as she got to fight someone. There was a bit of a side discussion behnd Moon Circle’s back about bringing him to visit The Lake on board Nova by knocking him out and having Cloudy keep him asleep for the whole journey and feeding him subliminal messages that convince him Prey Chaser sent them through The Dark when he wakes up. Snow, couldn’t make up her mind.
Prey Chaser realized they were all trying to think their way through the process, instead of feel their way through, so she stopped them and re-described the options only talking about the relationships between each group and the dragons and her. Starting at the beginning, she reminded them that the plots she was concerned with were launched by the dragons of mankiller and directed against her, personally. One was primarily playing out near the fortress of Sombrus and she had asked the Voice of Light to figure that one out and defuse it. One was very simple and direct: She and Godslayer are going to have a battle at some point in the future. The third is very subtle and confusing. It involves the dragons, the fey, Nightmare’s End, Locked Door, and some unknown force of evil. The party was asked to handle this one. They were linked by karma and fate to the dragons (and thus Locked Door) via Jek. They were linked to Nightmare’s End by their battles with pygmies and now the presence of Moon Circle. They were linked to the forces of evil by their battles with demons and the presence of angels. She gave them a link to the fey with their battle against the silver knights. Then she asked them again to use their hearts and intuition to decide which rumor, if any, feels most like it is a weapon wielded by a dragon and aimed at Prey Chaser.
The dragon spawn in the ocean are of a type not known before a few years ago. They came up from the far south and attacked all along the coast in force. Water fey from the north told the Coral Kingdom that a dragon was leading the attacks from below the water, remaining hidden. They helped the kingdom set a trap that badly injured the dragon and drove it off. Without direct leadership, the spawn were disorganized and almost insane. Their army was worn down by attrition. They had not been seen for over a year since those attacks, except as the primary occupants of Mankiller itself. Now, groups have been seen scouting out coastal villages (something they never did before) and there was one battle where they sunk a merchant ship right within swimming distance of the shore. The spawn look a little like fish men with gangly arms and large eyes.
The pixies are the nearest fey neighbors of the Coral Kingdom. The lords of the realm are winged seelie fey, air aspected, known as the Alven. They are pranksters, chaotic, dangerous, and not at all fond of humans. Their champions and the largest group in their army are tiny malicious twisted unseelie named powries. Powries are as hard to kill as a large riding raptor, able to fly faster than a human can run, and they have venomous bites. They are so intensely anti-human that it is rarely possible to negotiate with them. Usually the best you can hope for is to be beaten near to the point of death, tortured, and left with all your possessions ruined and yourself lost in the woods. But usually they will kill you. Moon Circle and Snow might have a better chance of survival depending on whether or not the powries consider them human. Prey Chaser’s druidic neighbors told her that the plants told them a contingent of Alven and Powries traveled from Psyk to The Lake to meet with the oracle. It was not yet known what they met about, nor whether or not the Lady was willing to speak to them. But the druids thought she should know about it. In general, the Alven are too proud to ask the Lady for help, and the Powries are too spiteful and vile to consider her help worth having, so this was an unusual act.
The tribe of nomadic humans to the south of Nightmare’s End live out on the steppe land. Now all the ancient and native lore says that no human has ever been down there, so where do they come from? Also, the five dragons of Mankiller all came up from the steppes as well. The dragons brought new types of dragon spawn, never seen before, and these human nomads are not only new, but necromancers and wielders of alchemy. It appears their alchemy may have been gained in trade with the pygmies, but if so that is an amazing accomplishment. The pygmies don’t trade, they take. How did these nomads get the pygmy goods? Or are they simply alchemists of a similar flavor to the pygmies?
The pygmy tribe lives in the mountains very close to the Storm Lord’s ancestral home. His home is currently occupied by what appear to be the descendents of his family who used magic to transform themselves into giants. They are insular and think everyone should be their slaves and servants. When the locals asked them for help, they offered to make room in their city for the natives to move in and be protected. This offer was refused. The pygmies are raiding in a fairly wide area and are accompanied by undead. They are not in any way affiliated with the tribes from Pile of Skulls, and it is not known how they command their undead. They are known to have particularly powerful alchemical weapons. What got the Storm Lord to tell Prey Chaser about the attacks, however, is that they are not behaving in their usual depraved manner. They only take a small amount of food and slaves when they attack villages. Instead, the raids seem aimed at gathering metal. They are taking all kinds of metal, from nails to bars, even ripping barrels and wheels apart to get at small pieces of metal. Then they use giant beetles and undead to haul the loot off into the mountains. Thus far, no one has found where they operate out of.
After the review, the party debated a little more. Most people restated the same preferences. Leaf continued to practice out behind Prey Chaser’s home and ignored the whole scene. Moon Circle said that he preferred the pygmies. Winter said she was fine with the pygmies. Spoon preferred the fishy dragon spawn and didn’t like the undead. Snow continued to hesitate and waffle. Eventually, after a few hours of being undecided, Snow finally decided to investigate the pygmies. The final vote was two for the pygmies and one each for the oracle and the fishy dragon spawn, so they were off to Nightmare’s End. Prey Chaser mentioned that they had several methods of transportation. The Queen had two advisors from the realm of the fey. One was originally a native of the territory known as Serpent Shrine, on the edge of the Dragon Spawn Mountains. She could send them through The Dark all the way to Serpent Shrine and have an ally send them across the mountains the same way. This would have them arrive in the general area of the pygmy raids in one day of travel. The next was to teleport back to Rising Sun. The Storm Lord was currently in town, but preparing to return to his province and would be there in a few days, they could travel with him. They could also teleport directly to the giant’s city where he maintained an embassy to negotiate with them, but in that case, they might have to deal with the giants without an intermediary. The party also had the option of Nova, which would need a bit under a week to sail to Nightmare’s End depending on the weather in the mountains.
The party decided that they didn’t like being in the debt of the Storm Lord who most of them were predisposed against over the whole abandonment of the Redeemed issue. So they decided to be teleported to the city and deal with the locals themselves.
While Prey Chaser sent for the Topaz Knight Sir Clam, the party bathed and gathered their gear. Prey Chaser’s estate turned out to be equipped with a very decadent public bath. Two large cauldrons, enchanted to produce and infinite supply of water were constantly being heated up on the second floor and poured down a tube. The water fell down into the tunnels below over rocks where it made a waterfall used like a shower (two areas separated by sex) with the water enchanted to glow with a silvery light. Many of the rocks in the waterfall were made of tinted glass and held magical lights inside to provide light. The water flowed around a bend and merged with the water from the other sex’s section before dropping down a short mosaic tiled ramp into the public bath. This was 60-feet wide by 100-feet long and had a small vortex at the far end to drain off the water. More magically illuminated rocks provided light in the bath itself, and the water’s surface had a false flame that moved across it like oil or serpents.
Snow did Spoon and Winter’s hair while in the shower, and analyzed the curse Winter still bore from the fight with the silver knights. The two of them went off to find help getting it removed while Spoon lay down and let the waterfall’s runoff float her out into the pool. There, she found the servant assigned to her to be rather attractive and proceeded to seduce him. When he got tired, she let him rest and moved on to a very well-muscled miner. Leaf was quite practical and after his practice cleaned himself, took his cleaned and repaired clothes and returned upstairs. Moon Circle was assigned a lovely young female servant, but he indulged in a very nice relaxing soak in the area near the vortex. After a while, his servant realized that there was no reason to stand on formality and she happily floated nearby herself. Once he was well-pruned she presented his clothes (no longer smelling of graves), and he learned that the faerie fire on the pool dried him off when he left and gave him a faint scent of lilac. Then he too went upstairs to get his things.
Snow and Winter tracked down Prey Chaser’s acting magus, the Solar Knight Flare. After examining the curse and agreeing with Snow that it was not a particularly friendly one, he lead them through a simple ritual pulling the curse out of Winter piecemeal. It manifested as a pair of green serpents which he would pacify, then hand off to Snow who banished them. Winter definitely recognized when the curse was gone and was in quite a good mood afterward.
The group met back at the teleport platform in the still incomplete room beneath the storage shed. Sir Clam and Leaf were talking about the fey and his own battles when he and two other knights engaged in a rescue mission for a fisherman who had been taken by the sirens of Thundering Cliffs. Then he sent everyone over to Nightmare’s End.
The room where they arrived was clearly built to be defended. It had no windows or furniture. Two guards in the livery of the Storm Lord were standing adjacent to a metal door covered in spikes with no visible method of opening it, nor even hinges. The guards were blue brigandine with gray breeches, and dark gray boots. A light gray cloak with storm clouds across the shoulders and lightning bolts all down the back completed the uniform. Each held a halberd that only Moon Circle recognized. It was made of a purple crystal that faded to green at the blade. He knew this crystal was only made by the giants and that it allowed its wielder to channel magical energy into increased damage. Many of the Redeemed wielded weapons made of this crystal. The guards watched them materialize and asked everyone their names. After introductions they asked if Moon Circle was in charge, when he said no, they looked a little disappointed. But they banged (carefully) on the door. A window faded to invisibility and eyes looked in. One of the guards moved the tip of his halberd in a specific pattern, the eyes nodded and the window became opaque again. Then the door faded out of existence. The guard on the other side rang a bell and a younger, leather-clad servant of the Storm Lord ran down a death-trap of a hallway to lead the party out into the city of Storm Hold.
They were taken through a large half-circle of a room with an amazing view of most of Storm Hold. The city was clearly built, ruined, rebuilt, and re-ruined several times. Some buildings were intended for occupants as much as 20-feet tall. Others for humans. Just outside the entrance to this room was a market and a small guard station. The officer in charge looked the party over while pretending to read a book. Snow was examining him and smiled to let him know that she realized he was alert. She caught him becoming impressed with the group and interpreted it as him being impressed that she saw what he was doing. In truth, just behind her, Leaf had slipped into his warrior’s strut showing off his grace and strength. A merchant had setup a stall specifically to nose in on whomever used the gate to appear in town and was watching them closely. Leaf glared him down, causing him to accidentally agree to his customer’s price without finishing the haggling. The party moved on with only Leaf knowing what really happened. Their guide took them past a stall where a 13-foot tall blue-skinned man with huge muscles and gray hair (not from age) was haggling over they didn’t know what. They went into a hall clearly made for people up to 20-feet tall and past a room where an alchemist’s assistant was on fire (but being put out). An 8-foot tall guard with barely blued skin (clearly a halfbreed or runt) stood by a door into a library. He waved the group in and they were before the Storm Lord’s seneschal.
This older man was engrossed in something atop his enormous desk. They had chairs on stilts so that people could see him face-to-face. Leaf walked up the legs of his chair, Spoon vaulted into hers, Moon Circle raised his then climbed up and so on. The seneschal ignored them all busy writing with chalk onto a large map and occasionally checking something in the mass of notes, crystals, balls, and permanent illusions covering the desk. At some point, still without looking up or pausing in his work he asked what he could do for them. Moon Circle stated they were there for Prey Chaser who heard there were some pygmy necromancers she was worried about. Leaf and Snow weren’t happy with him phrasing it that way, but didn’t correct him. The seneschal looked at Moon Circle, asked if he was local. Moon Circle said no. The seneschal sighed and returned to his work. He said that he was glad they had come and tossed them a scroll with details of all the attacks and offered resources if they wanted anything. Leaf asked for a guide, he assured them one would be provided. He also gave them a crystal and said that should they need help, or were they unwilling to completely exterminate the entire tribe, break it. Snow asked him why they hadn’t done anything about the pygmies and he replied that “apparently we are too busy”. Leaf was very angered by this and accused him “Then perhaps you should rethink where your loyalties lie” and stormed out. The big guard gave him the stink eye and leaf stared him down. He just white-knuckled his own halberd and growled. Their young guard was obviously impressed with this and started ignoring Moon Circle and Snow and only talking to Leaf. Leaf again asked for a guide and the guard smiled and said, “I kno just the one”.
He took them down a hallway and through a warehouse to a door leading outside the city walls. A trail took them to a medium-sized village after a very short journey and in the town he went straight to a huntsman’s lodge. He banged very loudly on the door and a grumpy voice shouted “What the hell do you want?”
“We need a guide” the young guard replied.
“Fuck off!” the grumpy voice shouted back.
And that’s where we finished.