The penultimate session--and what a good one! Action, betrayal, prophecy, and farewells. I'm really proud of this one and everyone's excellent role-playing that really showed how well everyone understood his or her character's personality after having played so many sessions.
The session begins with Stefan being suspiciously at ease with the idea of of going with Arresta to pick up Tarn and Master Creen on Haruun Kal. Little does she know that, along the way, he makes a brief stop at Mongui to persuade Jocasta to have a fast shuttle deliver to Haruun Kal an innocuous little crate containing . . . Siege Commander Korg! The party's arrival, and Stefan's ordering "Plan 17" to be carried into motion (the destruction of Creen's spaceship, with Creen supposed to be on it) was a sudden dramatic twist that left some mouths hanging open, as did Creen's rushing out of the jungle with Korunnai and Akk dogs at his behest. It was a great battle between two of the most powerful NPCs in the campaign, and, as always, I start such things without having any idea how they will end because so much depends on luck and the ever-unpredictable PCs.
This is where I think the most surprising thing of the session, and perhaps of the campaign, took place: Daal secretly betraying Arresta's trust and shooting Stefan from behind! I've gotta give props to Daal's player; no one, including me, saw it coming, he chose the perfect time, and the perfect weapon. Yet it was all in character, as Daal had long been "Team Tarn" to Doxen's "Team Stefan." Even better, he lied about it plausibly and planted the idea (completely false) that perhaps Creen modified his mind. Arresta's player had to use her precious red chip in order to save Stefan's life, and not having one in reserve may have influenced her most dramatic decision next session.
The scene at the end of the session was a good one, albeit one of much controversy. Tarn's offer to take Arresta and Allegra into the Anomaly with him, where (if things were the same as the last time inside) they could spend an infinite amount of time together with mere moments passing outside was, to me, both grand, epic SF and absurdly romantic. To The Wife, playing Arresta, it was horrendously impractical and dangerous to take an infant into such a place, and the mere offer displayed Tarn's naivety. Both views are probably true.
A great session, with one more yet to come.
SESSION # 52
It is the end of an era. Within days, the last shot of the Clone Wars will be fired, the last pillar of the Republic will be toppled, and the last of the Jedi will be murdered. And even for a small group who have travelled the galaxy together in the midst of danger and adventure for almost three years, the end is imminent. Yet one last chance remains to shape the nature of that ending before it is too late . . .
On Coruscant, Doxen slowly approaches the rendezvous point in Magra Monad, laden down with all the equipment he and his companions had left at The Elite. Contacting Stefan Cassadine, he arranges to wait for his friends outside the impressive building. The others (Stefan and Arresta Cassadine, along with their daughter, Nanny and bodyguard Xam, as well as the displaced ship’s Captain Jasper Fallon and his Jawa aide Kako) arrive and Jasper fills the others in on the events that led him to seek them out at the hotel. Stefan heads into the apartment complex, along with his daughter, and Arresta arranges to speak with Doxen alone. She tells her Ewok friend that she has confessed all to her husband (his own mistreatment at the hand’s of Master Creen, her journey to rescue Tarn, the Jedi’s meeting with his daughter and her promise to wait thirty days before leaving the Republic). Doxen is surprised that Stefan is handling the news well and is sceptical when Arresta tells him that her husband has agreed to travel to Haruun Kal. There, she hopes to convince Tarn to leave her and Allegra in peace. Still, Doxen agrees to travel with her. She also tells him that Daal is carrying a weapon which could be used to destroy the Accelerated--a powerful device obtained by the Altered and called an “N-bomb.” They decide that Jasper could be useful and head off in search of surveillance equipment to ascertain if the pilot is secreting any listening devices on his person.
Stefan though, is ahead of his wife and has already had his aide Xam recruit Jasper and Kako into his service. Anxious to be off-planet, Jasper hastily agrees to the plan and is delighted when escorted to The Knife’s Edge, now partially disguised. As he examines the luxury craft and places his remaining toy rancor on the command console, he decides he could enjoy this job.
Arresta finds that Stefan’s mood is more jovial than she would have expected and she grows concerned at statements he makes about “resolving this with finality”. She reminds him of his promise (not to kill Tarn) and also voices her concern that they should avoid Master Creen, who she believes is dangerous. Doxen excuses himself to give the couple time to talk and they appear to have settled things by the time he rejoins them.
Once all are aboard The Knife’s Edge, Jasper prepares to take the ship into hyperspace, but sensor sweeps do pick up a shadow at the edge of the field. Jasper consults directly with Stefan and eventually the ship enters hyperspace. During the journey, Doxen avails himself of the ship’s facilities and Jasper enjoys piloting the expensive vessel. Doxen joins the Cassadines for dinner most nights and Jasper is also included on several formal occasions. For her part, Arresta monitors her husband’s mood closely and does her best to reduce any stress. Stefan appears more relaxed than she expected and is attentive to his wife and daughter. They spend time planning for the future of their family.
Stefan arranges for Jasper to bring the ship out of hyperspace around Mongui and swears him to secrecy. Stefan also holds a conversation with Doxen, in which the Ewok agrees to aide him should a confrontation with Creen ensue. However, Doxen turns down the offer of a permanent position with Cassadine Enterprises. After a brief stay in the system, the ship re-enters hyperspace with Arresta none the wiser.
Several nights into the journey though, Arresta is plagued by nightmares. She recalls her father’s betrayal but also sees her worst fears: infidelity from her husband and the loss of her child. Eventually though, the dream turns into something else and she sees the woman she knows as “The Oracle.”
Queen. Time has run its course, and the End of Days have come. If all has transpired as I have foreseen, when first we met it was my ending. When second we met, it was my beginning. And now I am at my prime, and have lived on inside your mind until this day and never again. Soon the knights you disdain will be swept away. Soon your birthplace will be the merest plaything in a madman’s grasp. Soon, the Kings who vie for your hand will have a final reckoning. The heart of your realm will be enflanked, and on the eighth day thereafter the Uncreated shall answer the call of the Empress Uncanny. Every dream of salvation shatters in your hands, but against hope I hope, for only the four prophesied, together, can stem the tide. This I have seen, and no more.
Waking the next morning, Arresta seeks out her husband and finds him doing laps in the ship’s pool. She hesitantly tells him about her nightmare and asks him about his encounter with Sunset Cassandra. Stefan is amused at her possessiveness and reminds his wife that she already broke the girl’s nose, before reassuring her that his affections are firmly fixed where they should be. He dismisses her fears related to the things that the Oracle said and suggests that she rely on fact and logic. He draws her into a kiss and playfully offers to pull her into the pool with him to clear her head.
Elsewhere, at Shey Tepani Expedition Point deep in the steaming jungles of Haruun Kal, Daal finally wakes from a feverish dream in which he had a strange vision.
Stranger. It is time. The End of Days is here. If all has transpired as I have foreseen, when first we met it was my ending. When second we met, it was my beginning. And now I am at my prime, and have lived on inside your mind until this day could come. Soon the armies you helped build will fall. Soon the government of rule by many will fall, replaced by the rule of one, and a new age of darkness will fall. Soon the Knight you befriended will venture forth to his greatest moment, and the woman who loves him will make her most difficult choice. These things you cannot prevent. But even worse lies ahead. On the eighth day after the gleaming planet is besieged, the Corsair will summon the Uncreated. It is a vessel. It is a weapon. And whomsoever wields it will be master of fate. Only the four prophesied, together, can destroy it forever. This I have seen, and no more.
When he comes to himself, he finds he is in care of the medical droid, Scraper. Daal learns that Tarn has headed into the jungle and it is too late to follow him. He learns that Creen remained behind waiting for a coming “darkness” and that the Jedi meditates by day and heads into the jungle by night. Soon, a strange crate is dropped off near the ship and investigation reveals weapons signatures on the inside. Daal offers a warning to Master Creen but the Jedi is uninterested. Unable to secure answers from Creen, Daal trails him into the jungle one night. Although he can hear Creen whispering to someone, he cannot get closer without revealing himself.
Several days pass, until a somewhat altered (but still familiar) ship lands, and Daal comes forward to greet his friends descending from The Knife’s Edge. He tells them that Tarn is still in the jungle but that Creen is here meditating aboard The Flaming Halo as he does every afternoon. Stefan Cassadine hears this and immediately puts “Plan 17” into action via comlink. Arresta is shocked when suddenly, The Knife’s Edge lifts up, hovers over the outpost, and fires on the undefended Flaming Halo. Simultaneously, the sides of the strange crate fall away and Siege Commander Korg is revealed, and unleashes a rocket barrage on the freighter. A series of explosions rock the outpost as The Flaming Halo is reduced to a burning pile of wreckage within seconds. Stefan calmly tells his startled wife that he will be happy to replace her friend’s ship, but that Creen is an obstacle to his family’s happiness that must be removed.
Watching the Flaming Halo literally burn, Stefan’s plan seems to have been a success until someone notices treetops swaying in the jungle to the east. Everyone takes up defensive positions, but are startled to see Master Creen lead a small army of Korunnai and Akk dogs out of the jungle. Before Korg can turn, three of the Akk dogs slam into the massive war droid, whipping him with their thick armoured tails and tearing into his carapace with metal-rending teeth. Although Korg manages to slay one of the beasts, he is soon felled and the invaders turn their attention to Stefan and the others. Arresta and Jasper quickly move to defend him, while Doxen takes up a sniping position in the jungle and Daal manoeuvres to the rear of the group.
The fighting is fast and furious, as Master Creen quickly closes into hand-to-hand combat with Stefan and his protectors. Creen fights like a whirling demon, deflecting blaster bolts at point blank range, calling lightning from the clear skies to strike his foes, and slashing with his lightsaber. Stefan is taken aback by the ferocity of the attack which leaves him bleeding within moments. He signals for The Knife’s Edge to land, intending to provide everyone with an escape route. As it begins to descend, his protectors concentrate all of their fire on Creen. Doxen’s shots begin to slip through the Jedi Master’s defenses, and it appears to be a race to see whether Creen or Stefan will fall first.
However, the tide of the battle suddenly turns when Daal secretly fires on Stefan from behind! Daal’s strange blaster taken from an industrial spy in the Corporate Sector fires bolts which are both invisible and paralyzing, and Stefan suddenly drops to the ground. Seizing the advantage, Creen empathically instructs one of the remaining Akk dogs to drag Stefan aboard the now-landed Knife’s Edge, and the Jedi Master follows. Realizing that her husband and daughter are aboard the ship, Arresta manages to wrench herself free from an Akk dog and scramble up the landing ramp seconds before it closes. Creen seems reluctant to harm his pupil’s greatest love, and responds to Arresta’s tearful pleading by allowing her, Stefan, and the crew of the Knife’s Edge to leave the ship in defeat. Creen tells Arresta that he’s taking the Knife’s Edge as a reminder to Stefan that the price of betrayal is high, and that the next time Stefan crosses him, the price will be the crimelord’s life. The Knife’s Edge, with Creen and his Korunnai allies on board, lifts off and disappears into the upper atmosphere.
After confirming that her husband is still alive, Arresta checks on her friends. She has no proof, but is suspicious that Daal, whose dislike of Stefan is known, was behind her husband when he suddenly collapsed. She consults her friend and is concerned when he claims to have holes in his memory. She tells Doxen she is worried that Creen has done something to the mind of their Duro companion.
Trapped without transport at the jungle outpost, the group sets about treating injuries and making repairs. Arresta arranges for Kako and Jasper to work on the communications equipment, hoping they can summon shuttles from one of the cities elsewhere on the planet. Daal and Doxen work to repair Korg – and to secretly reprogram him. Eventually, all are successful, though Jasper temporarily falls prey to radiation sickness. A shuttle is dispatched from the capital city and the Cassadines, along with Korg, depart. The others stay behind to wait for Tarn, but agree to check in daily. Arresta is nervous to travel with Korg, fearing that Daal may have done something to sabotage him, but they make it to the city unharmed. Korg is placed in storage and the Cassadines find an acceptable hotel, though one below their normal standards. She finds her husband somewhat abashed by the rout they suffered versus Creen and she reminds him that she is supposed to be the reckless one in this family.
Days pass. Arresta focuses on her family. Jasper woos the ladies of the university outpost. Daal tinkers with whatever equipment he can find. Doxen improves the local boot-leg alcohol and indulges himself. On the anniversary of the third full year since the war began, the official Holonet news broadcast explodes first with the news of the Battle of Coruscant and the kidnapping of Chancellor Palpatine, then again hours later with the triumphant reports of his rescue by the heroic Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
At last, a figure comes running out of the jungle. Tarn Tamarand, dirty, sweaty and tired, has arrived. He is shocked at the wreckage, but relieved to see Daal and to tell him that he has been successful in obtaining the thought-spores. Daal explains that the wreckage is the result of the battle between Creen and Stefan. Tarn is startled to learn that Arresta is on planet, but he is anxious to see her and profess his love. He reveals he was worried he would miss the deadline to reach her before thirty days had passed. “I promised her I would come back for her.” He reveals to Daal that Creen will be returning for him and then they will journey to Mongui. There, he intends to use the thought-spores to destroy the Accelerated, as they affect everyone who uses telepathy. “You use telepathy, Tarn!” Daal reminds his friend, but the young Jedi is prepared to sacrifice himself. Daal cautions him then, about what he will say to the Princess, if he plans to embark on a mission he will not return from. Tarn is resolute – and claims to have a plan.
Daal contacts Arresta and she sends the shuttle to pick them up. She decides to wait until the shuttle arrives at the hotel to tell her husband that Tarn is on his way. Meanwhile, Doxen advises Jasper to pack up. The journey on the shuttle is awkward. Jasper, meeting Tarn for the first time, is highly amused that the younger man is “hooked on the first woman to take him bed”. Doxen, still under the effects of the local alcohol, mocks Tarn as well, reminding him that Arresta travelled here with her husband – he thinks that the young Jedi is a fool.
When the shuttle arrives and Arresta cautiously advises Stefan that Tarn’s arrival is imminent, he fixes her with a cool stare and tells her that he already knows – his people informed him, some time ago. She ruefully laughs and says that she should have known better than to try to keep secrets from him. She begs her husband to show his trust in her by allowing her to speak to Tarn privately. Stefan is reluctant, but does agree.
At last the visitors arrive at the suite and Tarn Tamarand, looking very much like a man who has spent two weeks trekking through the jungle, stands in front of the immaculately attired Stefan Cassadine. Giving the younger man the once over, Stefan curtly points Tarn to the balcony where he and Arresta can talk. Arresta, feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on them through the balcony door, is nervous. She tries to tell Tarn that she kept her promise, that he can see Allegra one more time but that she and the baby are better off where they are. Tarn is confidant though that her presence here signals that he is the man she truly loves.
As always, they get off on the wrong foot when Tarn tells her that he will be leaving soon to join Creen. Arresta tells him that Creen is dangerous and that thanks to him, she and Allegra have lost their home. Tarn defends his Master, Arresta defends her husband, and a slip of the tongue reveals Tarn’s plan with the thought-spores. But, the Jedi continues, he has another part to his plan. He believes he can fight off the effects long enough to make it inside the anomaly, where time does not pass as normal. He offers Arresta the chance to join him there, where they could have a lifetime together exploring a new universe, and that whenever she desired she could step outside and it would be as if only seconds had passed.
Arresta is befuddled by this plan. She reminds Tarn that the anomaly was hardly a safe place, and definitely no place for them to take their daughter, besides the fact that the baby would be denied the opportunity to live and grow normally. She also suggests that asking her to abandon her husband “because he wouldn’t even notice the passage of time” is tantamount to asking her to run off and have an affair with him. She tells Tarn she cannot believe he is serious.
They continue to argue as Tarn responds that he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t complete this mission. She tries to tell him that she has a family – responsibilities – and that she can’t live with herself if she keeps finding excuses to run away from them. Finally, with nothing really resolved, they go inside to retrieve the baby and to allow Tarn a moment or two with his daughter. Stefan, having observed what was clearly an argument, appears smugly pleased. Sadly, Tarn holds Allegra in his arms and whispers in her ear. Turning to depart he looks at Arresta. “Good-bye Princess.” He tells Daal to take care of her, and walks out the door.
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