Valais walks up to the stand and takes a seat. She smiles politely at the jurors, many of whom smile back, then waits for Xanderghul to begin questioning her.
”Jorsal… I mean… Arastrax, captured me and kept me in a dungeon for.. a month, I think? I don’t remember much of that time, thankfully, I was unconscious for most of it. What I do remember was the most horrific, excruciating pain that I had ever experienced. All I wanted was to die, because I didn’t think anyone was ever going to come for me, to save me.”
”Yes, I could feel the demons’ minds within my own once I awoke from the final procedure. We were all very confused at first, but once I regained my senses it felt like a constant struggle for control. Sometimes the demons would choose words for me. They never seized control of my body, not truly, but their awful urges were a constant presence in my mind.”
”Yes, shortly after I was rescued by the Crusades, I started having disturbing dreams. I believe they were images of the things these demons, Ammoch and Laktharis, were doing after escaping from Arastrax’s dungeon. I didn’t know at the time but I in my dreams I could see him return to a long lost temple, which ultimately lead me to him. I also had glimpses into his memories… he had enslaved and subjugated an entire tribe of people long ago by posing as a false god. The horrific things he made them do, or made them do to each other…” She shudders. ”It is good he is gone, now.”
”I don’t know. I do know once Laktharis was destroyed, the kalavakus demon grafts immediately vanished from my skin, and I was left with only Ammoch’s presence inside my mind, for a time. I suppose it would have been possible to try and hunt Ammoch back at Nerosyan but… I have never really been a great fighter. I was a book keeper… before all this happened, I mean. Kitarlo really came and helped me at a moment that I needed it most.”
”It’s amazing! I mean, my body has changed, it feels… different,” she says, twisting a finger in her white-blonde hair. ”But, I am no longer in pain. I no longer feel the demon’s voices in my mind. My body is my own once again. I am so very happy.”
”I think Kitarlo is the best person that I have ever known, and I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life,” Valais says, her eyes welling up with tears. She smiles at the azata as she returns to her seat, who flashes her a smile right back.
The jury seems very receptive to Valais, and are very touched by her story. They also seemed to be surprised at the news that Valais would have died without swift intervention.
”Right, then, if the opposing counsel has no further questions, please call forth your final witness,” says Andoletta.
”Yes, Grandmother Crow,” says Altha the Scrivener. ”I would like to call Hinagiku to the stand, to gain further eyewitness testimony to the events surrounding Kitarlo’s illegal use of magic.”
”Hinagiku, please briefly introduce yourself to the jury,” says Altha. Like all Archons, he speaks Truespeech, rather than Common, making it easy for Hinagiku to understand his questions beyond their language barrier. ”Your name, your occupation, and what has brought you into Heaven, please.”
”I believe we received an adequate account of the capturing of Ammoch from the Archdruid. Hinagiku, please describe how you found Laktharis.”
”It seems fortunate that Oneol was present to assist with the capturing of Laktharis. Based on your observations in the Unbent Forest, what do you believe would have happened if Oneol was not present to restrain him?”
”Based on your own observations, did Kitarlo cause physical harm to the residents of Heaven? What about property damage?”
”What is your opinion of Kitarlo’s character?”
Altha is attempting to re-establish focus on the illegal and negative outcomes of the ritual. Pointing out the positives that came of Laktharis’ capture will help the jury take the crimes less seriously.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 26 - 2 + 2 ⇒ (19) + 26 - 2 + 2 = 45
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 26 - 2 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 26 - 2 + 2 = 43
"Good work," Isilme whispers to Xanderghul as he sits back down, placing a hand on his shoulder. She nods and repeats the sentiment to Valais as she returns to her seat, offering her a smile.
For a moment Isilme is surpised at the fact Altha chooses to call Hinagiku, but quickly realizes he means to exploit her lawful nature, as he had attempted with Ary. Isilme listens closely to Altha's questions for her companion, working out his strategy from their tone and focus.
His deviation back to the rote law was exactly as Isilme had cautioned the jury in the beginning. Here was an archon forced to argue the rule of law while ignoring its spirit, clearly solely out of a bias against Azatas. His question regarding Oneol was especially hypocritical in Isilme's eyes, given he and the archons in the jury wanted to hear nothing of hypotheticals regarding the damage that would have occurred had Kitarlo been free to aid in defeating Ammoch and Laktharis.
Unfortunately there was nothing to be done about that. Pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of their actions. Clearly highlighting the good that came of it would be the best way to proceed in closing. While calling Oneol himself would clearly have been useful at this point, Isilme was confident they could make the point successfully with Hinagiku's testimony in regards to their humiliation of Laktharis.
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Hinagiku walks up to the stand and, before taking it, she bows to Altha before bowing deeply in Andoletta’s direction. Standing straight, the monk raises a hand to her holy symbol to make her pledge.
”May the Master of masters be my witness, I will speak only the truth.” she then proceeds to sit down to answer the questions.
”My name is Hinagiku. I am a follower of the Master of masters. In the last year, my path has led me a personal quest to fight against the demons of the worldwound, in Avistan. I am also a monk at Drezen’s monastery to the Master of masters. As lord-commander Bishop said earlier, we were given a favor to come and research information on how to ... hummm... manipulate the flow of energy between the world and the heavens in order to help purify some objects.“
”Yes, of course. My companions and I followed the lead of Zepha to the Garden of Laughter in Erastar. There we found a play waggon operated by Oneol. He had emprisonned within it the demon Laktharis by transforming him into a puppet or something similar. It seemed that his power was enough to prevent the soul of the demon from affecting the heavens.”
Hinagiku’s brow furrows ever so slightly as Altha begins with the next question. It was not fortuitous at all that Oneol had captured Laktharis... it was the very purpose of angels. Shaking off the continuous feeling of misunderstanding, Hinagiku then answers to the second part of the question.
”Mr. Ehren already mentioned the strange soul leeching oozes that Ammoch might have created in his defense. But, his presence also created a sort of bubble. Inside trees had been damaged, strange cysts and wounds... I am not sure what could have happened to Erastar though. Zepha-sama told us that a single demon would be unlikely to inflict much harm there. I am not sure why, but he seemed quite knowledgeable, so I think the city might react differently to the presence of a demon.”
”hummm, no, Kitarlo-sama did not cause any arm, he was not present where the demonic souls escaped since he was being detained. And, he is a good azata, he would not harm souls in even. He did draw a circle in the ground by the library in order to prepare the ritual.” she responds without malice. ”But you know that... so I don’t really understand the question... the escaped souls did cause some harm, but that is what demons do. And from what I understand, it was an unexpected effect of the ritual.”
Hinagiku shuffles uncomfortably at the last question. After all, Kitarlo was in the same room, and she would rather not have to criticize the azata here and there. Still, she had made a serment and could not avoid answering the question.
”Well, I believe he is a good hearted celestial. He did sacrifice his own freedom to keep Laktharis emprisoned and dedicated time to help Mrs. Valais. But, ... humm, I do not fully understand him. But this is the same of the other higher beings I have met, such as angels. ” she nods in direction of the angels and Andolettar. ”You are all much more powerfull and intelligent than I am afterall.” she pauses, having trouble getting deeper at the heart of things.
”If you want to have my impression as a mortal, well, it seems to me that the nature of the heavens is having an impact on him... he is not in his element.” Hinagiku moves again in discomfort. ” He is different from the angels and elects, but he is from Elysium, so that should be expected. Other than that... well, it seems to me that he the kind of person to focus on the big picture... if he did not worry about the possible negative effect of the ritual, it might be becauses he knew that it would not pose any threat to the heavens...” Hinagiku continues, becoming apologetic and humbler.
sense motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
sense motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15
diplomacy(honey): 1d20 + 15 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 15 + 2 = 31
Isilme stands and straightens her suit, walking over to Hinagiku. "Hinagiku, would you please describe the fate of Laktharis to the jury, in detail? Would you say that his capture by Oneol and subsequent defeat was not only not harmful, but a net positive for all the elect involved, young and old?" she says, looking from the Iroran to the jury.
Hinagiku gives a nod of respect as Isilme walks toward her and, before answering, she gives an affirmative hum.
”In the play wagon, the demon Laktharis was a puppet, the Kind of Strings. He was made to rule over other puppets. My companions and I were asked to be a part of the show and weaken the demon. As asked by Oneal, we humiliated him, made him smaller with the goal to teach the young elect children of heaven a lesson about the fate of demons. They all seemed to enjoy the show. In the end, the demon was made himself again and we were given the choice to select its fate. To keep violence to a minimum we decided to banish the demon back to the abyss.”
The jury seems to think very positively of Hinagiku, likely because she is polite and respectful to Heaven in response to all questions.
Altha the Scrivener nods. "Thank you, Hinagiku. That will be all."
The shield archon seems to be feeling self-doubt.
"Please move on to the final statements," Andoletta says from her rocking chair on the porch. She never needs to speak too loudly.
Altha approaches the jury first, "Archons and Elect of the Jury," he says, arms spread wide. "Do not allow the opposing counsel to distract you from our purpose today. I ask you, is Kitarlo guilty, or not guilty? I believe that we have overwhelming evidence to assert that the defendant, Kitarlo, practiced illegal, forbidden magic within our private grounds. Furthermore, we have shown that Kitarlo did this with full knowledge of its illegal nature. Because this was done after refusing escort off of the Heavenly plane, and further violating the terms of his probational visa, we request that he be given at least the minimum sentence of thirty standard Celestial years, with a chance for parole within Heaven's Shore for good behavior."
Altha Diplomacy: 1d20 + 24 + 4 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (4) + 24 + 4 + 2 - 2 = 32
30 standard Celestial years = 300 Golarion years.
While the jury currently feels great empathy for Kitarlo and his plight, they also believe the prosecution's terms to be agreeable when placed at the minimum sentence.
"Very well. The Defense may rise," Andoletta says.
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Sense Motive #1: 1d20 + 26 - 2 ⇒ (2) + 26 - 2 = 26
Sense Motive #2: 1d20 + 26 - 2 ⇒ (8) + 26 - 2 = 32
Sense Motive #3: 1d20 + 26 - 2 ⇒ (2) + 26 - 2 = 26
Diplomacy(Order Sucks, Planar Infusion, Aid Anothers): 1d20 + 26 - 2 + 2 + 16 ⇒ (2) + 26 - 2 + 2 + 16 = 44
Perform(Oratory): 1d20 + 26 - 2 ⇒ (2) + 26 - 2 = 26
"Elect and Archons of the jury, as the prosecution points out, you must not be distracted from your purpose today. That purpose is not merely to determine guilt, as he would have you believe, however. You are here to see that justice is served," Isilme begins, walking over towards the elect and archons.
Standing directly before the jury, she continues. "What is justice then? Justice requires a determination of the presence or absence of guilt, that is certainly true. But that is not sufficient in weighing your judgement. As would a doctor in determining a treatment, so to must you balance your scales with both the woe and the weal that have been presented today."
"Did my client use experimental magic?" she says, pausing momentarily.
"Yes, for what choice had he to save not just the life, but the very soul of Valais! Even still her soul still bears the scars of an atrocity so horrifying that its like had never been seen before, and for which no recorded cure or treatment was available--as you heard earlier. Despite the seeming impossibility, Kitarlo nevertheless devoted his every moment to saving Valais and seeing that justice was served! It was through his tireless pursuit of what was good and right that she will have a life to live free of the abyssal taint imposed upon her." Isilme pauses for a moment, looking at each elect and archon in turn, letting her message sink in.
"Was some damage done in the process? Yes, we do not contest that. The injury to the Elect of the Unbent Forest was a consequence no one, not Kitarlo, nor any of those who participated in the ritual, desired. However none of those Elect were permanently harmed and much was done to minimize the damage and to tend to their injuries in the aftermath. On the other hand, many elect--both young and old--in Erestar were treated to a spectacle that included the shaming and defeat of the Horned Demon Laktharis. A humiliation so thorough he begged to be sent home. The angel Oneol was thus able to teach them a valuable lesson as a result, and to entertain them as well."
"Taking all of this into account then, you must ask yourselves this: Is justice served by imprisoning Kitarlo? Keep in mind that what the prosecutor suggests is not simple imprisonment. While it may seem a small price to you, the most minor of sentences, loss of freedom is anathema to an Azata. He has done no lasting harm here and has saved someone from a fate not a single one of you would wish upon any mortal. Does this merit taking the thing he values most from him? Can you honestly say to yourselves that justice would be served by such a cruel punishment?"
"We do not argue that he should pay no penalty, as the prosecutor might have you believe. He did violate a law in his quest to save an innocent. Instead we suggest banishment from Heaven for an amount of time that the jury believes befits the harm done in violation of those laws. In so doing you can be certain that justice will continue to be served. Look at how Kitarlo has struggled to save one person. Would not we all be better served having him free in the world to continue to aid those in need, rather than having him locked behind bars? Yes, say I. Heaven will be free from his presence, and should the day come when his banishment ends, he will think long and hard before risking violating any further laws within the plane."
"In so doing, we believe justice will be properly served. And when the day comes--and I say when because it will come--that Arastrax commits such an atrocity again, Heaven will already have the basis for saving the souls tainted by the abomination. A benefit which would not have happened had Kitarlo not taken a risk in pursuing this magic to save Valais."
"Thank you," she says to the jury. Turning to Andoletta, she adds "The defense rests its case," then heads back to sit at her table with Kitarlo and Yanqua.
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"Very well. The Jury will re-convene in an hour after they have finished deliberating your case. They may come sit in my living room. Come along, dears," says the tiny Grandmother Crow, ushering them into her cozy cottage. "I have tea ready."
Kitarlo slumps into his chair like a rapidly deflating balloon. "What a terrible end to an otherwise fantastic day. What do you all think are my chances? Sorry you're all roped into this. Archons just suck so bad. ...Er, no offense, my lady hound," he gives her a sideways glance, which is met with a steely glare.
Valais gives him a hug. "I think your chances are good! And look, with so many great people helping us, how can we fail?"
"Hmmm... yes!" Kitarlo is inclined to agree, after a moment of thought. "Yes, you have all come a long way from a band of soldiers," he says, optimistically, smiling. "Top-notch a band of mortals as I've ever met!" he says with a thumbs up, while he glances across to the opposing table. Altha has vanished from the court entirely during the intermission.
"I think it will work out for the best," Isilme says with a hand on both Kitarlo's and Valais' shoulders.
"We certainly have come a long way since we last met," Isilme says, looking over the group and reminiscing momentarily about their exploits. "I doubt any of us would have expected to be here in Heaven a year ago," she says with a laugh.
"Good work everyone," Isilme says to the group, smiling. "You should all be proud of yourselves, even Xanderghul," she says, finishing with a teasing wink to the shabti.
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Xanderghul stands, stretches, and joins the others in conversation. "I'll say one thing: if this were a mortal court, there would be no way we could ever exonerate Kitarlo. Mortal courts are built on prejudice and bias, not justice. And in either case, I would be ready to make a fast escape."
Lann crosses his arms. The elven side of his face winces at Xanderghul's comment. "I don't know, I think the jury will see the appeal of Isilme's counter-offer. Also, I don't think a mortal court could hold Kitarlo, so the point is moot..." he says with a laugh, which Kitarlo shares. Lann is simply wearing his military uniform to the trial. He doesn't actually own any nicer clothes than that.
Xanderghul shrugs. "A court being able to hold someone or not does not remove all of the consequences of being convicted. If we stage a breakout from a court or a prison, we probably can't return to that kingdom, after all."
Ary had simply continued to wear her armor, though Faith had shrunken down to present itself as less of a threat, into its small silver holy symbol buckler form.
"I don't know. I think your arguments were good." Ary says as she approaches with the others. "There is the precedent that you all utterly forgot to mention, in which it was stated that law for law's sake is lacking in value, and I think all of us agrees that Good was served despite Law." she says, chewing her lip. "I'd think that's how most of Heaven's laws get adjusted and created in the first place; when they locate a blind spot. Heaven isn't cruel. It doesn't seek to punish a good deed... it only seeks to protect." she says toying with the spikes on her buckler.
"I think that it was absolutely unfortunate that there were unforeseen circumstances. But there is little we could do for that besides amending them. And I do think the greater good was served, regardless." Ary says splaying her fingers on her sword hand. Radiance had been tied off with a weapon cord - probably the only place in the planes Ary would do so at this point.
"I'm hopeful that things improve, that someone takes up the magic, studies it, and turns it into something greatly usable. It's... interesting to think that perhaps what we did was also a form of Soul Surgery." she says, pausing, "Though with far less cruelty and malice. Ironic then, that Arastrax's devices would lead to a solution to a problem that didn't exist... and a new field of research for healing." she leans back slightly.
"I wonder if it can be made safe enough to give folks a choice about how their very soul presents itself. Imagine, someday, the process being used to help Tieflings not feel the urge to sin for the first time. Or maybe - someday - the ritual even being used to help free Demons themselves from their painful cycle." she smiles wistfully for a moment.
She does her best to ignore Xanderghul's cynical argument but does eventually bite. "To assume that all courts are biased is to assume that all people are biased. Golarion's laws... tend to be more black and gray than Heaven's, but that does not preclude them from serving necessary good. Though... I do worry about how often law supports the strong, for no other sake than that they 'deserve' it. Have you considered working to change the system?" Ary says, eyeing Xanderghul, "Could probably help save some innocents from some horrible lives by exonerating them, rather than simply giving them an umbrella program that helps them rebuild their life after they've had all those consequences levied against them. You know, give them the true freedom of going home, like we're trying to give to Kitarlo."
She turns her attention back to Kitarlo, "Regardless of how the court rules... you did a good thing today. Maybe next time, we can take a few days to minimize the consequences, yeah?"
Kitarlo grins at Ary. "Sure...or, at least, be more careful in front of archons!"
After awhile the court reconvenes. A lantern archon announces the jury's findings - "Guilty, to both accounts. Sentenced to banishment from Heaven for a period of 300 Celestial years." while Andoletta shuffles amongst both the prosecution and the defense, offering slices of freshly baked bread.
Afterwards, Altha moves across the aisle to shake Isilme's hand. "It was an honor. I would like to be forthcoming that I did not have the full picture of the events that you have so artfully transcribed. I can see now that Valais is a marvelously resilient mortal, and I concede that Kitarlo's actions were pure enough, even if things did go awry with the ritual. I am glad that we were able to come to agreeable terms."
"Here in Havenhearth I know the names and faces of every one of my people," Andoletta says, while passing him a piece of bread. "And whenever I see one of them come to harm, I react fiercely. Such is the feeling of a shepherd, or of a mother. A natural way of things." She smiles at both Altha and Isilme, then slowly makes her way back to her cottage. Altha simply vanishes, returning to his station at the library.
"I guess we were too late for the trial," says Külə, who was just now coming up the hill.
"No, I would say we have arrived just in time," Zepha says with a kindly smile.
"Excellent!" says Kitarlo, leaping to his feet. "Valais and I will be getting out of Heaven immediately, court's orders!" he says with a wink. "Does anyone else want to come with me?"
Külə nods to Kitarlo. "Thank you, Zepha." The unicorn carries himself differently. His head is held high instead of low and near the ground.
"Of course," says the preceptor archon, giving the unicorn an affectionate scratch behind the ears. "And that extends to all of you!" he gestures to the heroes with his walking stick. "If any of you would like to stay in Heaven longer, I would be happy to play host. Perhaps you need a short rest from your mortal concerns to reflect upon your life's experiences in peace. Or... perhaps you would like to engage me in some spirited debate!" he says with a laugh. "In any case I am simply delighted to see that you have restored Valais. I am sorry that the situation ended up being so complicated."
"Regardless, I would be happy to see your return to Drezen when you are ready," he concludes.
Would you prefer to go back to Drezen asap with Kitarlo or does anyone want to take up Zepha on his offer instead?
Characters who choose to stay with Zepha may change their alignment to lawful good, or change their deity to any lawful good deity. If they do so, they do not have to pay any costs associated with retraining the character out of features that no longer function due to the redemption. Alternatively, they can gain a one-time boon to add 1d6 to the results of any Knowledge Religion roll, a piece of trivia learned from engaging the archon in philosophical or theological debate.
In any case, I want to move forwards with a time skip, 3 months or so forwards. Please let me know if there is anything that needs to be finalized before the time skip. Once everyone checks in I can give writing prompts.
Adding to Annabelle:
"I don't think you do." Ary says to Annabelle. "Assuming you don't want to. We could check into it if you're being serious. We'd miss you around Drezen... but Heaven was always meant to be your final reward after death, yeah?" she says as she pauses with Annabelle, unwilling to let the woman's one-off line be left as just a joke. She says, reinforcing what the Archon had said. "You deserve happiness, too."
She flags Altha before he is able to simply vanish, "Could you see to it that the ritual is properly investigated... I really do think that Kitarlo's work here can be a force for good if the proper people are willing to study what went wrong... and ensure it is safer." and if he spares the time, she'll tell him the same thing she had told the group about her vision for how it could be used.
Annabelle sits up straight. "Oooh, I hadn't thought about it before," she says, distantly. "But, no, I can't leave Aron hanging back at home. He'd be dead and in a ditch if it wasn't for me!"
Altha nods. "Winlas is a lord of ritual and a keeper of knowledge. I am certainly intrigued by the re-emergence of a Black Bishop, so rest assured, I will be conducting my own investigation."
With the court reconvening, Isilme listens intently as the Jury files in and the lantern archon chosen as the lead juror reads off the verdict. While the sentence had been increased in time substantially, there could be no doubt that it was a victory for Kitarlo. She herself would have traded 300 years of exile for 30 years behind bars as a Raelis, and probably even now as... whatever it was she was now.
Isilme gives Kitarlo a hug at the results, and then to Valais as well, who was no doubt immensely relieved to not have Kitarlo bear a punishment for her sake.
Altha's approach gives Isilme a moment of pause, but her tension quickly disappears as he commends her for arguing the case to a fair conclusion. "The honor is mine, Altha. It is not often one gets an opportunity to argue a case in heaven, and before such esteemed celestials." She nods and smiles at Andoletta and Altha. "While I know as a former Raelis myself that we do not always see eye to eye with Archons, I am glad my words were able to move both you and the jury to see things from our perspective. And I believe that all of us here, myself and Kitarlo included, have developed a profound respect for the lengths to which you go to protect your elect and other peoples who make their homes here. It is quite different from Elysium, and prior to today I must admit I had not seen the 'why' of this place. Know that you wear your duty well, and that your staunch defense of your charges does you great credit." With that she returns his handshake firmly before taking a piece of bread from Andoletta.
"A sentiment we all can sympathize with, Grandmother Crow. Thank you for taking the time to preside over this trial," she says with a short bow.
With both Andoletta and Altha gone, Isilme turns her attention to the return of Zepha and Külə. The change in the unicorn's posture is immediately noticable, and Isilme cannot help but smile at seeing a measure of pride in his bearing, something she had not seen since they had rescued him from his enslavement.
"Külə, your time seems to have been well spent! We will have to exchange stories of what happened," she says to her equine friend with a wink. "Thank you for your aid Zepha. I do not believe we would have succeeded at any of our goals here had you not taken time aside for us. I also would have gone without what arguably was the most fantastic meal--in every sense--of all time!" She gives the archon a hug. "Should you ever need anything--and I feel I speak for all of us here--do not hesitate to call on me."
"As for staying here, I appreciate the offer, but like Külə, this visit has changed me as well, and I need time alone to sort through what that means. Have no doubt I will come and pay a visit some day in the future, however, so I will take a rain-check on the spirited philosophical debate."
Turning to the Raelis, she steps close and takes him aside for a moment. "I would ask a favor of you, Kitarlo, though I know it will have to wait until we have returned to Drezen. If you would be so inclined, I would like to be ferried along with one or two others to Elysium. I have lost part of myself in the ritual, and I cannot think of a better and more fitting place to find myself again than home," she asks quietly and directly. "And perhaps you could take the opportunity to allow Valais to experience it as well," she adds with a smile.
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Missed the K(Planes) earlier!
K(Planes): 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (14) + 18 = 32
"Thank you, Altha. I can't help but think of what good could be done as a result of this, and not just limited to the victims of Arastrax. There's no telling how many souls could be saved in other ways if only there are those there to support and lift them." Ary says with a smile.
While Ary does take the time to accept some of Andoletta's bread, wondering how divine it was while she stood and listened for a bit, lofting a brow at Kule's change in demeanor. Maybe they could ask Zepha to visit with Nurah.
"Agreed... an excellent job shepherding, even if we did stray from the garden path a few times." she says, with a wink to the Archon. "Though... I don't believe I should stay. Given our track history, Drezen is under siege as we speak... so it wouldn't do to delay. I've... had a lovely vacation. Thank you for guiding us." she says, pausing for a moment to undo the tie on Radiance as Faith blossoms to full size.
"Mmm... I've been dreading this part." she says, taking a small moment once more, taking a slow deep breath. "but..." she reaches into her belt pouch to pull out a scroll of vellum and hold it out to the Archon. "I... know it's not your job, but I figure it's tertiary to your role. If..." she pauses for a moment, chewing her lip, "If my father has made it to Heaven, could you see to it that this finds its way to him?" and then pauses once more, digging out a crusader cross, "And see to it that Lucas and his Mother Elizabeth Bishop receive this?" she says, before turning away from the others to munch on her bread.
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Xanderghul inclines his head when Ary speaks to him. "Perhaps you are right. The courts' injustice is a worthy thing to fight against, and those who have been wronged by the law are a worthwhile target for recruitment."
When the time comes to discuss leaving, Xanderghul walks to Kitarlo's side. He was eager to leave Heaven behind and get back to his work, which was too important to leave for very long at a time. "I will be returning with Kitarlo," he says. "I want to return to my work. Besides, every day we remain in Heaven is a day that the demons can strike against us while we're not around. Isn't that the same tactic that we used to take the city in the first place?"
"Heaven has been an... interesting experience, but I think that I'm with Kitarlo on this one. I don't think I'll should stick around and the air doesn't quite... agree with me, for lack of a better term." It was probably a much simpler term than dwelling on the metaphysical nature of the plane and her own less than lawful nature anyway. "Indeed, we put a lot of effort into saving that city. I'll be dead before I let the demons have it back."
Ehren sighs with relief when Kitarlo's sentence is announced. Three hundred years of exile sounded harsh, but to an immortal outsider who likely had no desire to return to Heaven anyway, it was at worst an inconvenience.
The druid gingerly accepts a slice of bread when Grandmother Crow offers it, offering her his thanks. He has had the honor of meeting many a wise elder in his short lifetime, but Andoletta was in a league of her own.
"Thank you for your guidance, Zepha. We are fortunate that the Queen was able to put us into contact with one so wise and kind," Ehren says to the preceptor archon earnestly, bowing his head. Obviously, they would never have made it past Heaven's gates without his sponsorship. "Your offer of hospitality honors me. Heaven is a truly wondrous place - Requius, especially. Those souls that have earned their place here seem happier and more at peace than anyone I have ever seen. But my people need me back home. I do not belong here, in any case. Still, should the opportunity arise, I would love to visit again."
Just waiting on Hinagiku at this point!
Kitarlo taps his finger against his hip, waiting for everyone to say their goodbyes to the kindly archon.
"Oh, okay!" says the raelis in a low voice, with a smile. "Going home sounds like the perfect cure to my headache."
"Between you and me, lets not bring Valais. Okay?" he adds, conspiratorially.
"Thank you very much for your help, kind Zepha," says Valais, hugging the outsider. "I hope that one day we see you again!"
Once he is free of Valais' hug, Zepha turns to Ary. "Of course. Your family name is known here, it will be no trouble. In exchange, please pass this along to the Queen for me." He gives to Ary a small leather bound book, bound tightly in twine so that it cannot be opened. The leather is embossed with a family sigil. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Ary Bishop."
The Abranci coat of arms.
It is a journal, written by a woman at boot camp. It is addressed to Velthur Abranci. Some of the details are very intimate.
Isilme nods at Kitarlo, knowing his reasons for not taking Valais were his own. Not many followed the path she had, after all.
When Zepha hands Ary a book destined for the queen, Isilme can't help but peek at it, reaching out to browse through the contents. Private writings were always fascinating, and she, of course, had always been discrete about such things unless wrongs or injustices were documented. Satisfied, she looks to the rest of the group.
"Anything left to do before we leave? We do not want Kitarlo to overstay his welcome here, after all."
K. Planes (Erastar Portal): 1d20 + 19 - 4 ⇒ (18) + 19 - 4 = 33
Xanderghul frowns for a moment. He's just recalled hearing about a portal between Absalom and Erastar, which opened a new line of thinking. Options and changes in plan come easily to Xanderghul, so as soon as he contemplated the new choice, it led to a line of mental inquiry.
If he left through Erastar's portal... he could travel through several additional countries on the way back from the Isle of Kortos. He could spread his word even farther. If he needed to go through that portal, he could stay with Zepha for a time and debate him. He liked very few things more than he liked debating. This presented a chance to challenge Zepha's very notion of planar existence.
"I plan to travel overland to do some recruiting when we get back, and I've just recalled that there exists a way between Heaven and Absalom." He turns to Zepha. "I will stay with you as I prepare for the journey. I would like your help locating appropriate vendors, if possible."
He turns to Ary. "I would also like to borrow one of the bags of holding, if possible. I'll return it."
Xanderghul will debate Zepha. He will use the opportunity to demonstrate his personal willpower and ability to defy reality and become Lawful Good. The only major change that makes is his domains and his aura.
Zepha nods at Xanderghul. "Naturally, you're welcome to stay with me for as long as you need." he says.
Lann seems surprised that Xanderghul is volunteering to stay. He had been complaining about the plane and its inhabitants rather vocally for awhile, after all. He shrugs, and stands next to Ehren.
"Likewise, I feel ready to return home to Drezen," says Lann. "You know, Ehren, this trip has reminded me of a friend. Javyn was his name, he was the son of Chief Sull. I wonder if he is doing well."
Intent on returning to Drezen, Ehren raises a brow when Xanderghul announces his attention to stay for a while longer. Considering his own discomfort, he could only imagine how uncomfortable the wizard must be in Heaven.
"So you are taking the scenic route back to Drezen," he says with a slight smirk. "Do take care - a flying wizard is bound to draw more attention than say, a bird. Unless being seen is your intention, of course."
He then turns to Lann, equally surprised by his remark, if not tinged as much by incredulity. Ehren thinks far back to the day that the two of them first met, in the caverns deep below Kenabres.
"When you first brought us to Neathholm, Chief Sull mentioned that his eldest son left the village after they had some kind of disagreement. I... never pried into the matter any further," Ehren admits with a hint of embarrassment. At the time he suspected that the dispute was over the matter of Hosila, but if that had been the case, why hadn't he thrown his lot in with Wenduag and the other defectors? "Do you know where he might be right now? Quite some has passed since then."
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The verdict and punition both come at a surprise to Hinagiku. She had no idea where the jury would stand, but most of all no idea that they would not even demand reparation from Kitarlo. After all, mortals who did wrong were usually ask to repair what they had done and there were still elects to be healed.
While pondering such things, Hinagiku accepts the bread from Grandmother Crow with a smile and a deep respectful bow. She is taken away from her reverie when she sees Külə still scarred? approach them with a more confident gait.
”Zepha-sama. Mr. Külə. I am glad to see you walking with your head high. How are you feeling?” she asks, daring to look into the unicorn’s eyes.
Removing the demonic nature of demons with a ritual
Uncharacteristically sharply, Hinagiku responds to Ary’s suggestion:
”There would be nothing left. An oni devoid of its evil nature is nothing. ”
Just like her Ehren-kun and Lann, Hinagiku cannot help but be surprised by Xanderghul’s decision... even worried, for him, mostly. And so, when the opportunity presents itself to speak with the wizard out of the others range, she whispers.
”Mr. Xanderghul, I thought you... felt out of place here. Humm. I hope you find what you are looking for while you are here. And, you have the power to send messages across great distances do you not? So, feel free to contact me if the pressure here becomes unpleasant. Or if you simply feel like talking about what it is you discover.” the monk smiles gently at the wizard. ”Oh, also. Please let me know how your return trip to Drezen goes. A long trip without people to speak to can sometimes be longer than it need be.”
The desire to stay and acquire more knowledge tugs at Hinagiku’s mind. Still, her duties to the world and its inhabitants, her personal quest against the wound, forces her back into focus. Straying from her own path of perfection to help others achieve it was the most worthwhil goal after all. And, despite the wonder of the heavens, being always watched by the forces of order was something she was ready to leave behind.
Before leaving the monk approaches Zepha and thanks him for being their guide, and then, turning toward their Azata companion, she says:
”Kitarlo-sama, I am also ready to go. Thank you for bringing us all back.”
And, since the ritual to return home requires to hold hands, Hinagiku extends one toward Ehren-kun and one to Annabelle to whom she whispers: ”Aaron will be glad to see you, and even more so to hear your tale and see what art the sight of the heavens inspires you to create.”
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15
perception: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (14) + 19 = 33
The return to Drezen is not only harsh but demanding. Hinagiku does her best to help Ary get abreast with everything that has been going on in the city and spend some alone time with Ehren. So, it is only after a few days that she finally finds herself alone, in the monastary’s courtyard, staring at the stars.The night is silent, as even Joran has decided to take some rest. And so, finally, Hinagiku takes out the puppet she had been given by Oneol. She holds it up agains the night sky and examines it, playfully pulling string to se the head retract back into the ball, or the nine tails come out and move about at the slightest touch of the strings. And, somewhere deep, her kitsune soul rejoices.
One evening, after spending a pleasant afternoon with her Ehren-kun, Hinagiku (in human form) invites her loved one to watch the sunset from the Menhir outside of Drezen. As they make their way to Grumtarr’s home, Hinagiku gently reminds her partner about their discussion by the cliff of the worlwound, the story of life and death and cycles, and how today’s dusk seem so similar and beautiful.
”... so much time has passed since then...” she begins, sitting on a stone with a beautiful viewpoint on the scenery. ”...from traveling companions we have become friends and more. Our relationship has flowered. I have grown fond of you Ehren-kun. Much more than I have with other before. And so far we have kept this mostly between the two of us. But a couple is more than two people, it is about those around then, family.” realizing Ehren might expect her to talk about having children, Hinagiku quickly continues. ”Not children, but siblings, parents, grand-parents, and all those people we hold dear. You have become so close to me that I wish you could meet my mother back in Minkai. But since she is so far, I was thinking we could write a letter to her together.”
And finally, before Ehren can reply, Hinagiku adds the question she really wanted to ask. ”And, could I officially meet with your family?”
Thinking of retraining to take 1 point to linguistic(Hallit). Not sure what from though... maybe perception
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
perception: 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (19) + 19 = 38
Perception: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (5) + 16 = 21
K(Nobility): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14 The world may never know.
"Mmf." Ary responds through her mouth full of bread. "'Freally goob breb." she adds, not turning back to the others, but instead taking a moment to swallow before intoning, "I will shine in her Legion." and turning back to Zepha. Her eyes are still watery, as she takes the small package. "Of course." she says with a sniff. "I'll deliver it myself at the first chance I get." she says, before taking a slow deep breath in and out once more, and taking the book, careful not to disturb the string.
She rolls a shoulder, tilting her head as she recalls Hinagiku's sudden snippiness in regards to Ary's hope that maybe even demons could be purified. "Maybe... but maybe not. We know that angels can fall to darkness. We know that even devils can be returned to grace. So... while I don't believe it likely, I think that this ritual may be the first step towards seeing to it that no soul is lost forever. Though..." she shrugs. "I'm not sure it would be wise to stick our neck out to try it without a captive audience." she pauses for a moment longer, brow furrowing.
"Mmm... Daisy, you do know that Demons, while despicable and evil are slaves to their nature, right?" she asks, realizing how little Hinagiku knew of demons... and of Oni, for that matter.
"Oh, um... sure." Ary says absently to Xanderghul, digging out the smaller of the two bags and beginning to maneuver things from it to clear room for whatever Xanderghul needs it for, by replacing them into the larger bag.
She leaves the Cure Light Wounds potions and the wand of Entangle, to ensure he isn't left without a few more options.
16 Arodus 4715
It has been two years since that fateful Armasse put all these fateful events into motion. Drezen has come a long way in the past year, and this is the first real festival that city has thrown since it was reclaimed from the demons. While the heroes’ fates are still inter-twined, their individual day jobs and goals often cause them to spend long periods of time apart, and that was the case the three months after the heroes returned from Heaven to the Material Plane. Today, only Ary, Hinagiku, and Ehren were in Drezen during the Armasse festivities.
You need to finalize your chosen spells and rebuild within the next 24 hours. Then we can bring your character into the present :p
After returning the heroes to Drezen, Kitarlo approached Isilme the next day, asking if she was ready to head to Elysium. Bringing only Kule and Aravashnial, Kitarlo pulled Isilme through space back into the endless fields of Elysium. He hadn’t chosen a specific place to go. Such an effort was generally futile, in Elysium, anyway.
Kitarlo lets Isilme lead the way, but the group cannot split up too far. It was very easy to get lost in Elysium due to the fact that the plain is so mutable and ever-changing, and therefore, a person could possibly get stranded. The plane is tranquil, beautiful, and wild. They don’t come across another sentient being, outsider or petitioner or otherwise, for the first full week. The Elysian wilds are however filled with celestial wildlife and flora, creating a serene, if alien, world to get lost in.
On the third day in Elysium, Aravashnial sits with Isilme in a cave, listening to a storm pour down outside. They have a fire going for warmth, and Kitarlo and Kule are sleeping peacefully by them. Appreciating the moment of privacy, the pair had been discussing what Isilme had done in Heaven, and what she should do next.
”If your heart is truly on abandoning our search to restore your raelis body, then know that I will support you completely and without hesitation, Isilme. But I do think it needs to be said. We need to find a way to allow Li’an’s body to come to rest. It just seems to be the right thing to do, for her sake, and for Elan’s sake. Do you have any ideas on how to go about this?”
Ary can roll 12 weeks worth of Profession checks if she wants to.
Ary had returned to her work in Drezen with determination. Most of her time was spent managing the particulars of creating an entirely new school…. mostly alone, rather than amongst the other heroes. Xanderghul and Valaria had been gone the entire time, though they were responsive to sendings sent after them during their little road trip. Isilme and Aravashnial had returned two months ago, different after her time in Elysium. Aravashnial was able to help considerably with the educational project, while Isilme focused on catching up on her duties as spymaster, notably in regards to hunting the Drifter. In any case things were progressing nicely, and she hoped to have the first classes begin next month, with enrollment offered at Armasse. She had even learned a few new tricks from interviewing potential new teachers about their skills and classes.
But, of course, Armasse in Drezen would never compare to the festivities of Armasse in Kenabres. But it was still an important time for the city. Notably, many young tiefling recruits, rescued from the horrors of Mantarin, were ready to swear their lives to the Crusades in front of the rest of the army.
Now, Ary was standing at a podium in front of what was nearly the entire population of the Crusader city of Drezen. She remembers back to two years ago, standing in the crowd at Kenabres, waiting for Hulrun Shappock to give a speech that he was doomed to never finish. What does she say to her people now, to usher in a new Armasse?
Ary - please describe the sorts of things she was up to during the timeskip. Then… speech!
Meanwhile, Hinagiku stands at a booth with Hua Xing, getting things ready for an informational fair. She can see and hear Ary at a distance commencing the beginning of the festival. Hua Xing had accepted the opportunity to teach a class of recruits techniques in the martial arts. Armasse was the first day of enrollment into these classes, and he and Hinagiku were asked to stand at the enrollment booth and answer questions about his offered class to potential students. She knows that Ehren is busy mediating Kellid matters, but had promised to come see her at the festival once that was all done.
Xanderghul spent a cozy two weeks in Heaven with Zepha in his cozy home within Heaven’s Shore. Zepha is a fantastic host, generous with gifts of food and drink, and a good conversationalist. He is not a evangelistic archon, rather, he asks leading questions to get Xanderghul to open up about his own philosophy and way of thinking, then gently nudges him to challenge his own notions and beliefs. Zepha mostly argues that Xanderghul should embrace a life of selfless acts of good, not because of fear of what happens to him during an afterlife, like so many mortals do, but because he is uniquely positioned to impact so many people on the mortal planes positively. He also challenges Xanderghul’s thoughts on rugged self-sufficiency, suggesting that institutional problems in modern civilization are the ultimate cause of such people struggling to get by, and that rather than focusing on helping individuals perhaps he could try to fundamentally help larger populations through establishing better social service organizations or through his budding cult. Zepha is polite and patient, never succumbs to anger or petty argument, and does not press too hard on any sensitive subjects, however he is quick to employ mindscape (with consent, of course) to help illustrate his points.
You might want to write about the moment Xanderghul became LG (and therefore accepted by the plane of Heaven), so here is a writing prompt for you to do so. Note that while Xanderghul can instantly switch to LG by a adjusting his own frame of thinking, he must continue to function as Lawful Good to stay at that alignment in the future. In short, LG characters are interested in doing good unto others, and desire to operate within the confines of law. Naturally, once he has Beyond Morality this does not apply to him as he will no longer possess an alignment. At the minimum, I am interested to see how Xanderghul reacts to Zepha's attempts to make him a better person.
Did Valaria hang out in Heaven, also? If so, she can take the boon for engaging Zepha in friendly debate.
Valaria and Xanderghul basically took a trip from Absalom to Mendev together after Xanderghul became LG. I imagine this as a sort of an episodic tv show where the pair find lots of individuals in need of help, helped them find their way, and then move on to the next place. Along the way Xanderghul would try to find people to add to his cult of personality, and Valaria would find promising contacts for her own network of road wardens.
I would like you two to work together on Discord and each come up with one short anecdotal story about your trip together. One of you has to write a story in which things go well, the other has to write a story in which things don’t go their way due to circumstances and other challenges (or perhaps they just butt heads). The main point of this is to create stories together that you can reference later, or at least to ensure that both of you have an idea of the sorts of things you were up to during your sidetrip.
I think this is a good opportunity to showcase how Xanderghul has changed, becoming LG. I am also specifically setting things up so that only Valaria is really aware of how much Xanderghul has changed, so that there can be amusing encounters later with the party once everyone is reunited.
Ehren - please describe the sorts of things Ehren was up to during the timeskip.
It is a sunny, warm, Arodus day, perfect for Armasse. But Ehren was away from the festival grounds. Instead, he was standing at Mother Heartwood, standing next to Houna, the leader of the Heartwood cult.
”Rydych chi’n gweld, maen nhw’n dod i adael clwyfau yn y fam Heartwood. Ni allaf gadw at hyn. Os gwelwch yn dda, rhaid i chi wneud rhywbeth,” she says, gesturing at a portion of the trunk. Large, surgical gouges were present in the bark, where someone had come along and taken many samples of her bark and trunk.
Hallit: ”You see, they come and leave wounds in mother Heartwood. I cannot abide by this. Please, you must do something.”
Houna had come to Ehren to speak of an altercation she had between herself and Xanderghul’s students. Apparently, Xanderghul had authorized a study on Mother Heartwood from afar (he had not been seen since the heroes’ trip to Heaven, so all of his contributions of late have been via sending). His students had come to the tree to take samples, but were caught by Houna while she was making her patrols in the area. Largely due to Houna's poor grasp on Taldane, there was a small fight. Since no Crusaders were involved, and considering the sensitive subject matter of the Sarkorian’s focus point of worship, Warden Jorsal had elected to have Ehren judge how to best handle the situation first. So, what does Ehren do?
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Ehren will definitely continue his discussion with Lann when he gets the chance. ;P
Indeed, the relationship between them has been private, if not secret. Even if he wanted to, he would never be able to keep such a thing hidden from anyone, least of all Isilme and Valaria. Under even the most innocent line of questioning, his stony facade would crumble like mica. No, it was much better to be open about it, but that also means bringing the right people into the fold.
”I would love to meet your mother one day,” Ehren agrees with a smile, recalling their talks about Hinagiku’s homeland. Obviously, traveling there on foot, or even as the crow flies, was out of the question - they would have to go so far north that they would go south again. But there were other, unseen roads they could take, if they only knew where to find them. ”I would much rather make a first impression in person, but a nicely worded letter will work as well.”
”As for my family… you are right. It is long past time for proper introductions to be made,” Ehren concedes with a grimace, his cheeks still tinged pink. Her initial meeting with his father and sisters had happened under less than ideal circumstances, and that aside, they had not been together back then. ”I am sorry for putting it off for so long. I… have not exactly been doing a very good job of staying in contact with my clan. Much has happened, but I have yet to hold a proper discussion with my mother and father. About this,” He gestures at the crown on his head, before adding sheepishly, ”And, well, us.”
After the disaster in Nerosyan and the subsequent trip to Heaven, Ehren is glad for the return to relative calm that the next three months bring. Treating his responsibilities with the utmost seriousness, most of his time is spent in Drezen proper, though on more than one occasion he visits Sesker’s Gully and Silvershore, just to see how they are coming along. Even with the bounty brought on by Mother Heartwood’s power, the city would not survive on its own. They needed stronger ties to the south, as well to any burgeoning communities in the surrounding environs.
Speaking of the god-tree… soon after returning from Heaven, Ehren vacates the small home he had made for himself underneath her roots, wanting to avoid any misunderstandings with Houna and the rest of her clan. All he can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Rather than simply filling in the empty space, he leaves it open as a shrine to those who wish to pay their respects to the tree, and as a place where those who wish to benefit from her restorative powers can rest.
I still need to work out the details of Ehren’s new abode, wherever it ends up being. ;P
Still setting his sights on planting some of Mother Heartwood’s saplings, Ehren discusses the matter with Crocris, aware of the obstacles that stood in their way. For one, the saplings will not grow under their mother’s power alone; they require a rare, herb-infused fertilizer that could not be recreated easily - or inexpensively. Secondly, cultivating a magical plant would require special techniques that neither of them possessed. One way or the other, Ehren would likely need funding from the Crusade itself… which only complicated matters further. The druid still did not approve of the idea of using saplings as theoretical wardstone proxies, but it was an application that might be more appealing to the military-minded Crusades.
Of course, Ehren does not neglect Ledsa, whose training has progressed rather nicely. There was only so much that he could teach her without properly initiating her; even as archdruid, it was a step he was uncomfortable with taking without consulting the one who had taught him. Nonetheless, he cannot help but to be proud of her progress. Proud enough perhaps to consider taking on more students one day. The Green Faith would be sure to thrive, then. Naturally, Ehren keeps an eye on Yulin as well, especially while Isilme is away. The affection he shows her is genuine, though in the back of his mind he continues to fear for her.
And now, once again it is Armasse.
Unfortunately, what might have otherwise been a pleasant day is quickly spoiled not by a demonic incursion, but by a deceptively urgent political matter. Standing with Houna, Ehren looks upon Mother Heartwood’s wounds with a deep, disapproving frown. One does not simply carve off the flesh of a living being, much less a sentient one. While Xanderghul and his students might have meant well, there must have been means other than blatant butchery to accomplish their goals.
The druid reaches out and runs his fingers along the recess, attempting to gauge the extent of the damage. Mother Heartwood had survived far graver injuries, and is much stronger now than she was back then - he had little doubt that she could recover from such damage easily enough. Even so, he has to be certain.
”An bhfuil tú ceart go leor, Máthair Croí-adhmad?” he murmurs. ”Cad a tharla duit?”
Druidic: ”Are you alright, Mother Heartwood? What happened to you?”
After a short while, Ehren moves his hand from her bark and turns back to Houna. Convincing her not to harbor any resentment towards those responsible might be a difficult prospect… but first he had to make sure this would not happen again. Things would get ugly if it became something more than a mere misunderstanding. For now, he just needed her and her clan to remain calm. He wanted to leave the crusaders out of this, if at all possible.
”Heddwch, Houna,” Ehren says resolutely. ”Byddaf yn gweld iddo nad yw hyn yn digwydd eto. Cadwch lygad arni yn y cyfamser ... ond ni welaf unrhyw sied waed ar ei gwreiddiau, nac yn ei henw.”
Hallit: ”Peace, Houna. I will see to it that this does not happen again. Keep an eye on her in the meantime... but I will see no blood shed on her roots, or in her name.”
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (20) + 10 = 30
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Profession (Soldier): 12d20 + 168 ⇒ (11, 17, 17, 18, 12, 2, 20, 14, 12, 12, 9, 15) + 168 = 327 Using 1 MP per week for 272 gp to funding the school. She holds back 55 GP to buy a set of Masterwork Artisan’s Tools (Painting) for Annabelle.
Anevia Appraise v. Candy Crusader (Surge): 1d20 + 11 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 11 + (3) = 22
The first day that Ary had returned, she requested Ehren to help to take her to Nerosyan. Assuming he was busy, she'd arrange a time for him to return to take her back to Drezen, but otherwise, she opted to make good on her promise to Zepha immediately, seeking an audience with the Queen for something as minor as delivering the journal - it was clear that the token was not minor if it were meant to travel to such a person. She also takes a moment to see if Ser Jorsal's spot as a Venture-Captain had been filled, and if not... suggests Valais as a possible stand-in if the Society would have it, and if she were interested.
The first weekend after Ary had returned home, she found herself babysitting Sana once more - or more accurately, reading her more stories about the various gods. After having visited heaven, Ary had discovered that there was a significant gap in her knowledge in regards to the planes - ironically, the celestial planes and their Empyreal Lords. She doesn't limit her stories to simply the archons of heaven and their lesser gods but includes stories of all of the Empyreal Lords that she is able to learn of.
As Sana plays with Ary's puppet, she asks questions as is normal for the girl - she's exceedingly inquisitive about everything and even tends to ask questions that Ary doesn't have answers for. Is the Candy Crusader an Empyreal Lord? Do all paladins really go to Heaven? If some good people go to Heaven, and others don't, how do they see each other?
Ary does her best to address the questions, though the last one was more difficult for her to answer directly. "Well... celestials can always visit Heaven if they can find someone to take them there. I'm not sure about the other planes, though I'd presume it'd be significantly easier to visit in Heaven since you're always precisely where you're meant to be in Heaven." she says with a few moments thought. "I'll have to ask Isilme about Elysium... and maybe still someone else about Nirvana." she pauses for a moment as Anevia shows up, ready to pick Sana back up after their date night had ended, Anevia carefully eyeing the puppet as Sana hands it back over to Ary, who returns it to the corner of her desk, beside the little library token.
After saying their goodbyes, Ary returns to her note reading and taking for the remainder of the night, continuing her use of Keep Watch, Ant Haul, and Protection from Energy - the latter in case of any sudden storms (and typically even then on someone else). Even if the storms had grown significantly less frequent, better safe than sorry. As she works, she can't help but feel the daunting weight of irony as it settles in that she didn't know any particularly powerful clerics in Mendev to call upon that didn't already have exceedingly important duties - and as such, creating a theological department was very far from her own grasp without the help of the Queen.
Her morning meditation is as fruitful as it had become with time - picking a problem, picking it apart, and writing down possible solutions to try, followed immediately by physical activity to reinvigorate her restful body. Training in her little dark room had become significantly easier with the goggles... though she took them off from time to time, still, to try to hone her skills, to little effect.
Over time, she grows steadily more accustomed to the weight of her armor, and not just her sword. As it adjusts, as Joran had said it would, it makes itself more comfortable for regular wear and use. Eventually, through constant wear, it becomes like a second skin to Ary.
While Ary heads down to see Nurah frequently, any time that something of interest has happened, she prioritizes a visit. Usually, things that are related to work wait a few days or a week before she visits with her, ensuring that plans can’t possibly leak - it felt like a necessity… even though Ary had grown to trust Nurah once more.
She begins by telling her all about the beginning of Hrut’s ceremony, before going into deeper details of the fighting. The glabrezu, the babau, the wrecker demons, the son of perdition, sneaking past the Nabasu and Vrocks, Isilme fooling still more demons below, the former prisoners (and their ends), the swarming chatterers, the fiend-fused and the chaos knight. There are times that she pauses, but then continues the story, including the things that would likely be kept secret from everyone else, with the exception of not sharing - and explicitly saying that it was upon request - the way that they had made it into the keep itself. She doesn’t shy away from sharing how they had entered the Sanctum of Scrolls, or even the location of the Demonscope. She lingers for a time on how Hrut had been manipulated to destabilize the artifact and talk about his sentencing. Finally, she pauses when they reach the inner sanctum, asking Nurah if she knew what the Demonscope was, what it did, and why it was so powerful. If Ehren was right, Nurah had been involved… presumably the final result of her spywork. But if he wasn’t, then Nurah knowing these things meant little, given that the Crusades was already reworking security.
* * *
While in Nerosyan delivering Zepha’s book, Ary stops by a small art shop and procures some - in her mind - needlessly expensive art supplies, finding herself assured by the shopkeeper that the quality of the brushes and other tools would last a lifetime if carefully maintained… and as a result, on the second night back from Heaven, Ary goes to visit with Annabelle bringing her the collection of tools wrapped in a delicate bundle. She’d never seen where Annabelle stayed - did she live with Markus? - though she assumed it would be easy enough to find her home. And so, rather than sitting at home, working, she takes a night off to spend with a friend who could likely use one...
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Diplomacy SPEECH (Surge): 1d20 + 5 + 1d6 ⇒ (13) + 5 + (1) = 19 Nuuuuuuuuuu
Though the previous year’s Armasse had flown by with little in the way of pomp or circumstance - at least in Drezen - the city had seen much more restoration since then. Even with far fewer civilians than any other Crusader city, Drezen had seen growth. Perhaps it would have seen more if Ary had continued trying to secure the city’s financial security rather than shifting her attention to the school… but the city itself was something that she and Irabeth could tackle together, Horgus could work on the books quite well, and so… eventually, she left it primarily in their care, turning her attention to the future of Mendev. The works that Ary did would last a lifetime, certainly… but changing the very fabric of the nation would require extensive work from the ground up. Simply working on the reformation of criminals was certainly one thing to strive for… but expanding that to ensuring that everyone had access to hopes beyond their station was a dream worth actively fighting for.
And so, as she had worked to prepare the school, speeding it along as best she could through constant effort - mental, physical, and social - she had seen it grow and blossom. She was… exhausted. But then, when wasn’t the half-drow Crusader?
Things had not gone as well as she had hoped, given the gaps left by her friends having been busy in the four corners of the world, but Ary had made due with what she had. Aravashnial had been a godsend when the time came to really get things done on the arcane side of things - though, likely, a new school was a dream he could easily get behind given the loss of the one he had in Kenabres.
The city bustled as much as it could bustle, as she made her way to the city center, stomach alive with butterflies as it always was when speeches were involved. Two feelings combating adamantly against one another - hope and fear - suffused her. Two years ago, during an Armasse their lives had changed forever, the Fifth Crusade had begun not by mortal choice but by mortal necessity. Her mind lingers for a moment on the chaos, destruction, the fall… but then she pushes through to focus on the climb out and the way forward. It was easy to get locked in dark memories, even on good days. Good days with festival bread. There would be bread after he speech… focus on that.
Finally, standing at the podium… words become difficult. She pauses, and grins for a moment. ”Words are hard.” she shares. ”It’s easy to just kind of speak a train of thought and have people listen. A lot less embarassing that way, than standing in front of them awkwardly.” she says, pausing, hoping that the honesty had broken the ice better than she could with a sudden leap into dramatics as someone else likely would.
”Today is a special day, in all of Golarion, but particularly in Mendev. Armasse is a day where we choose our future, giving of ourselves to lift others. To hold the line and defend, to seek out justice, right wrongs, and fight nobly.” she says.
”And while the focus of Armasse is typically to find new recruits to join the war effort… I think I speak for everyone here when I say that you are the war effort. You don’t need to be a soldier in order to make a difference in a war. You can be a shopkeeper, a farmer, a tanner, a researcher, a doctor…” she pauses for a moment.
”And while I’m not belittling the sacrifice of our soldiers, and not at all asking you to consider a different choice if you are looking to join up… I wanted to point out that the Fifth Crusade is a lot more than people like me. They say a kingdom falls for lack of a horseshoe nail in an old Taldan proverb, yeah?” she says taking just a moment and realizing that she’s rambling. She should have rehearsed. Maybe written poetry.
”This Armasse, we celebrate everyone and welcome the newest soldiers that Mendev has to offer. Each with unique abilities and talents that need nurturing. We all grow stronger together… and as a result, we’ve been working on something special. I have the pleasure to announce that we have finished the preliminary constructions on a new school within the walls of Mendev, dedicated to your growth and hopefully with curriculums tailored to your own talents and desires. As the years progress, I want us to grow to be more than we can be on our own. I’m hopeful that we can enable a stronger future for Drezen, Mendev, and even Golarion through diversity.”
Ary pauses for just a moment before continuing. ”Throughout the city, instructors have set up areas dedicated to sharing with you what they intend to teach in the first few months. While you’re moving amongst the city, enjoying the festivities and treats, please do take the time to see what each has to offer you. Only time will tell what the future holds… but with any luck, Drezen holds the future.”
After her speech is over, she gathers with her students in particular, beginning another smaller ceremony where she welcomes each of them to the Crusades, and asks about their aspirations, asking them to share with the others something that they feel that they’re good at, before helping to guide them towards instructors she had personally selected as a good fit - and adjusting ad hoc if she discovered that she had had a bad read. Only after she had finished shepherding her students does she finally allow her spinning mind to unwind for a moment… and go to seek out some much needed festival bread. Her delicious, warm, sweet, buttery reward.
Mother Heartwood's response is soothing. "Tha mi gu math, Archdruid. Cha b ’e a’ chiad leanabh daonna a shnaigh comharra a-steach don choille agam. Cha bhi e mu dheireadh."
Tongue of the Land: I am fine, Archdruid. He wasn't the first human child to carve a mark into my wood. He won't be the last.
Houna crosses her arms and scowls while Ehren checks on the tree's form. She softens in response to Ehren's urgings. "Ie, Archesdrwyyd. Bydd fy clan a minnau yn aros yma."
Hallit: "Yes, Archdruid. My clan and I will remain here."
She seems pleased that Ehren is taking the matter so seriously. As Archdruid, he has her full faith and trust. But Ehren is too wise to ever take that trust for granted.
Plane shift miles: 5d100 ⇒ (2, 96, 11, 32, 99) = 240
Those who went with Kitarlo to immediately leave Heaven found themselves appear in northern Mendev, along the Sea of Mists and Veils. By foot, it would be about a week to Drezen, through the northern forests. But Ehren simply uses his supernatural sense of the ley to simply follow it along to the closest ley node, from which he could walk the lines. (Creating a new ley node by pulling on the leystream itself has a significant longterm impact on local ecosystems.) A week's journey turns into a four hour hike through picturesque, natural scenery.
"Javyn struck out on his own," Lann explains, while on this hike. "He thought Chief Sull too sentimental on the old ways...we could try moving deeper underground, to escape the earthquakes, and in doing so abandon our roots to Kenabres above. ...Perhaps he died in the tremors after the wardstone field exploded..."
He shrugs and smiles. "I guess it occurred to me that it does not matter if he died, perhaps there is still a way to see him again either way?"
The Queen seems happy to see Ary, receiving her immediately in an official capacity in her planning room. She asks for her to give a report on what happened on Heaven. ”Well, it seems you were able to get what you needed, at least,” the Queen says. She seems unsurprised at Ary’s story. ”Maneuvering in Heaven can require some political finesse, it is true,” she says. "But these inconveniences are part and parcel of the realities of running a military campaign. No different from any other diplomatic entanglement."
Ary finds that the Pathfinder Society has completely moved out of Nerosyan. The only Lodge Mendev hosts is in Drezen, run by Xanderghul. But Ary doesn’t need to worry about Valais, who after a week, simply took her job back as administrative assistant at the lodge in Drezen.
Xanderghul certainly was not there to tell her otherwise.
When Ary to speaks to Nurah, she finds she is forthcoming that she was aware of its location and its purpose. Prior to her re-assignment to Ary’s squadron, Nurah was working on getting information about its location, the schedules of the guards, that sort of thing. She is aware of its basic history - an artifact, created by Saint Clydwell - but seems unaware of the other, deeper secrets Ary bore witness to due to Hrut’s mistakes. She finds Nurah less interested in those events than she is in those related to Drezen's current growth as a city.
”Wish I could see Drezen’s first Armasse,” she says, dourly.
Ary finds that Annabelle lives with Markus, in an old gothic styled home next to Drezen’s largest infirmary. It was the simplest arrangement available due to her dietary restrictions. Annabelle spends most of her time out and about in Drezen during daylight hours by way of magical protection, despite Markus’ cautionings that she is an easy target for an assassination when she does so. She wears her soldier’s garb, but her life is closer to that of a civilian one, given the administrative role she was assigned. But that is fine, as she was ruled to be too much of a liability to participate in military missions, and she wasn’t really keen on going out as a scout, either. In any case, she’s happy and excited to see Ary, and flattered she thought of her when buying the art supplies.
Joran isn’t all too impressed by the puppet - he isn’t a fan of clockwork engineering, as it turns out. He’s not terribly talkative, outside of ranting on tangents about golem-smiths, but he seems to be doing well living with Hinagiku. He works more than he drinks now, at least.
While Ary and Horgus interacted on a daily basis due to administrative tasks, he is still surprised to see her at the door of his Drezen estate. He invites her inside for a drink by his fireplace, and is happy to catch up with her. For some reason he seems to take credit for how well Ary turned out, but in any case, he is exceedingly proud of her. Now that she is governor, he views her as a social equal, and in a rare moment of vulnerability reveals that as a child he watched his parents be heinously murdered by babaus, while hiding in a closet just three feet away. So, despite growing up in eastern Mendev, where the demonic threat is less visible, Horgus had always wanted to do something to get back at the awful beasts. He thanks her for the opportunity to do so at Drezen.
The people cheer and applaud Lord-Commander Bishop as she finishes her address. It had been several months since a major demonic attack within the city, and things were feeling very safe. About twenty feet away from Hinagiku and Hua Xing's stand is a large gaggle of newly sworn Crusaders, mostly tieflings. Ary is going through them one by one, asking them to introduce themselves and talk about their futures. They are all genuinely excited for Ary to be taking the time to speak to them. It is clear that they regard her as a hero.
Ary then leaves, nearly out of earshot, intent on grabbing a slice of festival bread. "Nice speech, boss-lady," Anevia says from beside of her, just as she sinks her teeth into the warm loaf. She was sneaky like that.
Now the students are dispersing out into the streets to buy food, play games, or speak to potential instructors. "Hi! Excuse me, I'm Brytha," says a young freckled woman. "So the way you fight, it is with no weapons, correct? How can this harm demons, without cold iron?" she asks.
"Well, with enough training and focus one's strikes can be focused in a way that will harm even Onis," Hua Xing begins his explanation.
Meanwhile, another pair of students are headed towards Hinagiku's tent. These two are tieflings, wearing Crusader tabards over their initiate leather armor. They are stopped by a scruffy youth of their age, barking in Abyssal, "Iee, Ricio! Buzg arz ashum, bush nazg i gluk lu kúshag bushi?"
Abyssal: "Ey, Ricio! Blood and ashes, when did you get so f+#+ing square?"
"Leave me alone, Zack," the tiefling says, curtly.
"Leave me alone, Zack!" says Kari in a high-pitched, mocking manner, sidling up next to her boyfriend. "Bok ai thrúm. Krosh'k dushdukhi i'bi bim al skik ish thrab buh," she slurs.
Abyssal: "What a wuss. Can't believe you've thrown your lot in with them. "
Ricio growls and moves towards Kari in anger, but Zack intercepts the two of them. He is larger, and taller than Ricio, and he cracks his knuckles menacingly. "Shi, shom um sna glam."
Abyssal: "Hey, hands off my girl."
Kari and Zack both appear to be intoxicated. They are not allowed alcohol (a term of their rehabilitation).
Kari and Zack are both tieflings found in Mantarin who were enrolled into Ary's rehabilitation program. They started dating when they banded together during the gang wars that consumed the cultist encampment after the Crusaders left. Both have proven to be problems after being brought to Drezen. They resist all outreach attempts, often getting thrown out of events. They have floated from foster home to foster home, as they have such a problem with authority that no family is willing to host them for very long. They show no interest in education. You have last heard that they're both staying at a Caydenite facility, a last chance bunkhouse for young delinquents.
Ricio is also a tiefling who came from Mantarin. In contrast, he is a promising young man who has thrown himself into schoolwork, and consistently marks at the top of his class. He is a bit mild-mannered. He walks with his friend, Will.
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Returning to Drezen from heaven was an immediate relief for Isilme, making clear in an instant how much the plane had grated on her. While she had been sincere in suggesting she might visit Zepha in the future, she was certainly in no rush.
The evening they arrive she takes time to track down Ai'sintar to explain what had happened in heaven and suggest he come along with her to Elysium. With things remaining relatively quiet from the updates she'd recieved from Duke, now was likely the only chance she would get to have the privacy needed to find herself, and, honestly to spend some time with Aravashnial away from the concerns of Drezen and the war.
After finishing the discussion with him, she heads out to find Kule, who had seemed changed by his visit to Heaven and chat with Zepha. While she doesn't press for details immediately, she also suggests that he come along with her to Elysium, hoping he might feel at home there and that it might further help salve the trauma he had suffered. Seeing him return with Zepha with his head held high gave Isilme great hope that she would be able to convince him to see that the future held possibilities greater than mere vengenace, and Elysium seemed like a perfect place to impart a sense of wonder and hope to him again.
The next morning, Isilme heads to say her goodbyes, visiting each of the group in turn briefly to check up on them. With Valaria having stayed behind in Heaven, she leaves the Tome of the Loremaster she had retrieved from the library in the care of Ary, suggesting that Nurah might find it enjoyable to puruse until Valaria needed it.
She also checks in with Ehren, bringing up the subject of Ledsa's training and asking if he would keep a closer eye on Yulin in her absence. The young girl was growing remarkably quickly, and given that Ehren had taken to her, it seemed only natural to ask him. She of course is not surprised to find him in the company of Hinagiku, the two had obviously taken to each other, and made a rather cute couple.
Walking down the street on her way back, she has an epiphany that introducing Yulin to Annabelle might be beneficial for the girl. Annabelle, after all, epitomized someone who had an evil fate befall her and struggled with it every day, but still managed to rise above it.
Finally she checks in with her feline co-conspirator, ensuring that he has everything he needs to continue monitoring the situation within the city. He had chosen a subordinate to serve as his 'face': Elina , a half-elf ex-diplomat from Taldane stationed in Nerosyan. She had since joined the crusades, and after being properly vetted, served as the public face of the intelligence and scouting operations within the city.
And so the next morning she found herself in the wilds of Elysium with Aravashnial, Kule and Kitarlo. The arrival to the plane had been suitably spectacular, the skies above a swirl of multi-hued clouds exchanging spectacular bolts of lightning in just as wide an array of colors.
The wind had been blowing fiercely at that point, so the group had made for the cover of a nearby copse of trees so densely intertwined that they seemed more like a shelter prepared by someone than a natural phenomenon. Ensconsced safely within, they had taken the time to gather some firewood from within, and to make a comfortable home out of it.
Later that day, when the storm had cleared the group took some time on their own, wandering in the area near to the copse to find berries or other things to eat before heading back as dusk came and went. The next day they set out, first throwing a stick in the air and allowing its landing to determine their course.
On the third day, having found shelter in a cave, she finally had a moment to speak with Aravashnial in relative privacy.
"If I had any doubts, they would be moot at this point," Isilme begins, "I knew in the moment that it was the right choice, and I am glad to have your support, Ai'sintar." Sitting close to him, she leans up against his shoulder, guiding his arm around her waist. "While I may have chosen to become something other than what I was, I have not given up on restoring Li'an's body, and if she wishes it, her life. I suspect at this point I likely need more than to be merely freed from her body, though I cannot be sure. To be honest, I am not certain what, exactly, I did when I threw Night's End into the portal. In some ways we need the reverse of what Xanderghul's creator did. A false body instead of a false soul. Perhaps that is the best place to begin researching how to create a new form for me."
The rest of the evening is spent alternately in discussions about the metaphysical implications of throwing away part of one's soul and less grandiose discussions about the school and children and what they wanted to do to further it together.
The next month went by rather quickly for Isilme. Each day they travelled for about a third to half of the day, usually choosing to stop when they found a rather scenic place or natural shelter to camp within. She would take a portion of the remainder of the day to work on her understanding of arcane magic with Aravashnial. In the evenings, after the stars came out, she would spend time praying to Desna, trying to better understand the blessing of divine magic she had been given.
And so over that month she changed, much as her Lady Starsong had planned. In retrospect it made sense. Isilme's metamorphosis would only be complete when she embraced it, and until the ritual, she had been actively seeking to return to the path she had once walked. Now there was no longer a path to follow, and so she would have to forge a new path instead.
The Song of Spheres had already taught her the beginnings of a new magic through her dreams. One which she had called upon a few times prior to coming to Elysium. But here, freed from concerns or cares, she had the time to make it her own. Quickly she learned how to draw upon ever greater feats of divine magic alongside her own arcane magic, her powers growing rapidly enough to elicit surprise from all three of her travelling companions.
Accompanying the growth, however came a loss of the memories of what she had been. Though she clearly remembered her time with Elan, and some events preceding that, she ceased having dreams of her earlier days as a Raelis. Furthermore she found herself no longer able to draw upon those experiences either indirectly or directly, instead being constrained to what she had learned in the past couple of centuries.
On the day she was able to cast sending to reach out to Ary, she knew her time in Elysium was done. That day she took Kitarlo aside to speak to him.
"شكرا لك على كل ما قمت به ، كيتارلو. لست متأكدًا من أنني أستطيع سداد الوقت الذي أعطيته لي هنا في الجنة. أود منك أن يكون هذا." she says in her melodic celestial, digging out the journal which Kitarlo had originally returned to her and holding it out to him. "إنه ... كان جزءًا مني. آمل أن تملأ صفحاتها بدورياتك ، وربما تشاركها معي في يوم ما."
[b]"It is... was part of me. I hope you will fill its pages with your journies, and perhaps some day share them with me. "
Later that day, having spent one final sunset on a cliff above a seemingly infinite ocean, they returned to Golarion, and within a few days found themselves at the gates of Drezen again.
One of the days, Isilme takes time to go on a walk with Külə, finally taking the time to dig into his experience in heaven and how he was enjoying Elysium.
"How are you doing?" she asks as they walk through a meadow atop the hills that bordered the valley they had chosen to spend the night in. "You seem to have been affected by your time in heaven, especially with Zepha. If you do not mind, I would be interested to hear how things went for you while we dealt with Laktharis and the subsequent trial."
In response to Isilme's discussion about a body, Aravashnial adds, "Something you may not have considered is that you have likely accepted mortality," he says, gently. Looking out into the rain, he says, "Mortal souls eventually reject all bodies, even artificial ones...But, of course, if dying just means you get to come here, then that is not so bad." he muses. Aravashnial himself was getting older, even for an elf.
On their last day in Elysium, Kitarlo is happy to give Isilme a one-armed hug. At some point during the trip she had shifted into a female form. "Thanks again, for helping me get out of Heaven. That place is such a drag." She gives Isilme a small parcel with some jewels and gold in it. "Can you give that to Valais? Wages that we earned in Heaven. I don't really need wealth. But, I hope she does okay!" she says, earnestly.
She drifts around in midair dreamily. "It's nice to be home in Elysium. And, I have some leads for some ideas on how to regrow my arm back! So, I'm very excited about where I am going next."
"I'm sure I'll see you again, Isilme," says Kitarlo, before vanishing once more.
Külə is rather evasive about what he and Zepha talked about. He mostly talks about the scenery that Zepha lead him through. Külə thought it was all movingly beautiful, and even more so Elysium. He changes the topic of conversation to Yulin. He admits to Isilme that he was wrong to have wanted her dead after she was born. He asks how she is doing now.
Külə is now CG
Overall, Külə is a much less abrasive unicorn to speak to after his time in Heaven. He still prefers silence. He believes humanoids talk too much.
After returning to Drezen, Duke brings Isilme abreast of all known intel in Drezen and its environs. The Drezen supply chain involves wagons moving through long swathes of Abyssal wilderness. While there are no local demonic strongholds or fortifications, the wilderness is a fertile place for criminal activity to grow. Local criminal activity bolstered by a sudden emergence of firearms has become a real problem in the Crusader border forts. And at the center of it all, a figure known as the Drifter, too strong willed for scrying attempts to prove useful.
Isilme knew she had to take this into her own hands. She goes undercover in the lawless Worldwound town of Gundrun, where she starts probing for information about the mysterious shapeshifting criminal. Why was a woman going around giving out firearms for free? Isilme knew her best bet would be to try and capture the woman to find out. Just trying to figure out more about her, her resources or her goals would be helpful, even if the Drifter herself proves too elusive to catch.
Isilme, once you post your new character sheet, I want you to come up with a plan as to how you want to try and catch the Drifter, based on the information you have. For instance you could disguise yourself as a criminal and try to obtain firearms from her. Use that plan to write a small introductory scene of her about to execute on it. You have access to full resources of Drezen, but the other PCs are all busy with their own things.