Friday, June 24, 2016

Realms Toowoomba Recap # 60 [RPG]

[6 Flamerule 1372]

When the adventurers prepare to leave the Thayan Legion fortress outside Escalant, they discover a "guide" from the Guild of Foreign Trade is waiting for them. The woman wears a bright blue cloak and boots with silver buckles, and introduces herself as Pirith. She says it is her pleasure to escort the group to Bezantur and explain the advantages of Thay for trade and commerce. Dolcetto and Mellia reply that the road to Bezantur is easy to follow and that they haven't come to Thay on a trading mission, but Pirith is not dissuaded, and politely insistent. Suspecting that refusing a guide may bring along a more intrusive response from the authorities, the group relents. Because the group's spellcasters have not prepared sufficient travel magicks for another rider, the adventurers decide they will have to rest nearby another night and depart for Bezantur in the morning.

Pirith's presence is helpful in expediting their passage across the border into Thay and she leads the group to an inn in the nation's westernmost port, Murbant. Along the way, Pirith "chats" with every member of the group about their purpose in coming to Thay, their pasts, their abilities, and more. Mellia says the group is on a quest to rescue her daughter, but she is vague as to who has taken her. Dolcetto, in Fargrim's body, spins a tale about the famous orc King Obould Many-Arrows, but does divulge that the group arrived in the Wizard's Reach through a magickal portal from Silverymoon. Pirith is quite intrigued by this as she says she has heard that such magicks are suppressed in the city, and asks several further questions about the portal, Multivar, and more. 

Ralkin and Myst, in each other's bodies, tell Pirith that they are suffering from a magickal affliction and ask her to find them someone capable of healing their ailment. Pirith returns to the inn a short time later with a black-clad priestess of the Maid of Misfortune, Beshaba! The priestess explains that afflictions such as those being suffered by Ralkin and Myst are the will of Beshaba, but that truer devotion to her Mistress would have passed their bad luck on to others. She says that it may be within her power to aid them, but her intrusive questions lead Myst to suspect that she will pass along everything she is told to Pirith, and he refuses to disclose anything about what caused the "affliction". Offended, the priestess leaves in a huff.

That same afternoon, Pirith finds Syd in the inn's stables and asks him several questions about his deity, Sheela Peryroyl, whom Syd explains is the halfings' goddess of nature and weather. Pirith is surprised to hear that Syd is unfamiliar with Umberlee, Goddess of the Sea, and Talos, Lord of Storms. She says he may be in luck, as if they arrive in Bezantur soon they will be in time to experience the end of the Ride of the Furies, a three-day festival honouring the two deities.

That evening, Mellia agrees to a private dinner with Pirith. As a member of Mellia's "retinue," Dolcetto volunteers to serve as table-servant and utilizes the inn's kitchen to cook some strange but delicious foods. During the dinner, Pirith continues pressing for information about Multivar and then moves on to asking several questions about Cain. When asked why the group has travelled so far just to meet with him, Mellia says that Cain is important to her quest and then hints at a romantic interest in the cleric to help satisfy Pirith's curiosity. 

That night, Pirith awakens Mellia claiming that a maidservant alerted her to the fact that Syd is not in his room. Mellia escorts Pirith to the stables and distracts her long enough for Syd to transform back to humanoid form from the animal form he had been resting in. He says that he enjoys sleeping in the straw and hay rather than in a stuffy room, and Pirith seems satisfied with this explanation.

[7 Flamerule 1372]

The group, along with Pirith, depart Murbant and make great speed east. Along the way, they spot a slave caravan on the side of the road with several wagons overturned. A massive, hideous multi-tentacled creature is feasting on the slaves, who are chained to the wagons and unable to escape. The group slows, and Mellia asks Pirith her advice. Pirith says the group should keep going, as the slaves hold value only to their owner and that there may be a risk in harming the creature if it belongs to one of the Red Wizards who hold estates nearby. The group continues on without intervening, although Syd casts a spell as they leave to warp the wood on one of the wagon to free two of the slaves.

Bezantur is close to 200 miles from Murbant, but the group covers the distance in just a few hours thanks to their mystically summoned mounts and Syd's charms that keep the horses from tiring even at a canter. Extensive shanty-towns lay outside the walls of the enormous port-city, and inside the normal weather-wards of Thay have been lifted and replaced with fierce thunderstorms that lash the city with rain and lightning. The adventurers see that sailors, fishermen, and others who make their living by the sea are nearly naked in the streets and prostrating themselves for the Furies' favour in the year to come. Pirith leads the group through the downpour to an inn made out of red stone and the adventurers take up rooms. 

Mellia emerges from her room with a large cloak concealing her clothing and walks with Fargrim, in Dolcetto's body, to the Flaming Brazier, the largest temple to Kossuth in all of Thay. The Flaming Brazier is a massive ziggurat-shaped temple made out of black basalt, set in the center of a large plaza that steams from the heat emanating from its tiles. Great cauldrons of heatless flame are set alongside the perimeter of the plaza to receive the donations of the faithful, while a massive ball of flame known as Kossuth's Gaze hangs suspended over the highest point of the temple. A staircase made of burning coals leads up to the curtain of flame that bars passage to the highest terrace, but Mellia and Fargrim enter through a door on the first terrace for petitioners.

The first terrace is lit by thousands and thousands of candles, casting deep shadows everywhere. It appears to serve primarily as residences for the temple's lower-ranking Tendrils (ecclesiastical priests) and warrior-monks. Mellia and Fargrim walk past a staircase leading upwards that is guarded by two battle-scarred monks and a staircase leading down that is barred by a steel trapdoor. Petitioners and novitiates of all sorts pass through the busy corridors. When the two adventurers ask to speak to someone in charge, they are led to the Tendril known as the Candlemaster. 

In an office covered with hundreds of gold and bronze statuettes, and with a mostly-finished dessert tart on his plate, the Candlemaster is a portly Rashemi with a soft-spoken but saccharine personality. He explains that he doesn't know a priest of Kossuth named Cain. When told that Cain might be under some sort of discipline or punishment, the Candlemaster says that in such a case, only the temple's Eternal Flame, who resides in the holy sanctum in the seventh terrace of the Flaming Brazier, could give permission for outsiders to speak to such a person. However, the Candlemaster continues, only those who have shown dedication to the Flamelord can ascend to higher terraces. Reading between his words, Mellia and Fargrim quickly surmise that the man is asking for a bribe, but only one that can be conveyed through the legitimate channel of donating wealth into one of the temple's heatless cauldrons in the plaza outside. The two hastily exit to make the required "donation" and, after waiting for their devotion to be verified, are allowed to take what the Candlemaster says is the "test of purification" to ascend to the second terrace. Each adventurer is forced to thrust their hand into the flame of a burning candle without flinching to prove themselves pure. Both pass the test, and climb the stairs to the second terrace.

Meanwhile, Myst and Ralkin, having secretly followed the two to the temple, ask a Tendril for assistance in dealing with their "affliction." Myst takes offense at the Tendril's questions about whether the two are sufficiently pure in Kossuth's gaze to be worthy of healing and says something verging on blasphemy before departing with Ralkin. The two decide to head back towards the inn. 

Dolcetto (with Syd's assistance) spends the day pouring over hagiographies of the Zulkirs fetched for them in the rainstorm by a slave in service to the innkeeper.

When Mellia and Fargrim reach the second terrace, they see it is illuminated by hundreds of torches and is almost uncomfortably warm. The head Tendril on this terrace, known as the Mistress of Torches, is a tall woman with a head and face that are so badly-burned it is difficult to look at directly. When asked about Cain, she states affirmatively that he does not exist. In order to gain permission to take the test of purification to ascend to the third terrace, Mellia and Fargrim are asked to "demonstrate that they lack the weakness of mortal flesh." Mellia asks Fargrim to step into the corridor, and when he returns, the Mistress of Torches announces that Mellia has demonstrated her devotion. Fargrim has difficulty determining what sort of words or actions are required to satisfy the Mistress' demands, and his growing confusion as to whether he is really Fargrim or Dolcetto is growing. Eventually, he settles on channelling the arcane energies contained in Dolcetto's body to transform into a small red dragon! The Mistress of Torches is sufficiently impressed. The test of purification (withstanding the flame of a torch) is successfully passed, and the two are allowed to climb the staircase to the third level.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mynock Squadron Recap # 8 [RPG]

The pursuit of the NIF freighter continues. Waric damages the vessel's maneuvering thrusters with a skillful shot, and Stavros comms the freighter to order it to land. It does so, but the comm channel carries mostly static and a faint voice saying it is death to come aboard. With the sandstorm only minutes away, the pilots of Mynock Squadron hurry to land and board the ship. Stavros suggests everyone seal up their flight suits and helmets in case the defenders plan to use gas, a decision that will prove fortuitous, albeit for a different reason.

With Tazo-Rhi patrolling outside, Waric, Stavros, Keth, Kero, and Torga board the vessel. The interior is bathed in dim emergency lights and is quiet as a tomb. While the others stand watch near the closed cockpit blast door, Waric starts the search by moving down a narrow maintenance crawlspace; he discovers the body of an NIF member covered in dark purple striations and blotches. Waric instantly comms the others warning that they might have discovered a plague ship, and Kero rushes over. She examines the body and notes strange, fist-size lumps under each armpit. When she moves in to take blood and tissue samples, one of the lumps bursts, showering her helmet with pus and gore. She seems unfazed, however, but warns the others that, on first look, the disease reminds her of something she once read about in a treatise on ancient diseases from centuries past: the "blue-sickness", its causes and cure lost in antiquity.

The decision is made to secure the cockpit. Waric manages to override the blast door locks, but he's met by a spray of blaster fire in response. Torga tosses a stun grenade into the cockpit, and the powerful blast in such a confined space is enough to knock both of the defenders unconscious. However, none of the three defenders encountered so far match the description of the secret New Republic intelligence agent known as "Kors Tanzent".

Conscious of the need to take special precautions to avoid catching or spreading the disease, the group continues their exploration of the ship. Waric realizes the starboard escape pod is occupied and that, upon seeing him, the occupants have started the launch sequence. Working quickly and efficiently, he cuts the launch circuits and manually rewires the door controls to keep the two locked inside. Meanwhile, exploring the port side of the vessel, Stavros is examining the other escape pod when he is suddenly fired upon by two NIF agents who have popped out of a smuggler's compartment! The blasts shred the back of Stavros' flight suit and burn his skin, but he manages to dive for cover to escape further blasts. Torga and Keth engage the pirates and manage to drop both of them

While Stavros receives first aid from Kero, Keth and Torga continue exploring the freighter's portside aft compartments. From the darkened recesses of a cargo hold, a pirate driven mad by the disease ravaging his body leaps out at Torga with a vibroblade in his hand. His attack smashes the visor on her helmet and knocks her to the floor. He then tries to bite her face with his teeth! With the muzzle of her blaster against the man's ribcage, Torga fires a single fatal shot and rolls the corpse off of her. From the rear of the cargo hold, stepping out of a freezer, the agent known as Kors Tanzent appears. 

Shaking, covered in frost, and somewhat disoriented, Tanzent explains that he's surmised that cold slows down the progression of the disease, even though he knows ultimately it's too late for him. He explains that everything started after the Battle of Endor. Unbeknownst even to the Imperial ruler of Nishr, Governor Kollis, a secret Imperial bioweapons research facility was located in the dense asteroid belt near the planet. After the second Death Star was destroyed and the Emperor slain, the staff of the research facility decided to flee to avoid being arrested someday as war criminals. One of the fleeing scientists, however, fell into the hands of the Nishr Independence Force and they "persuaded" her to give the location of the base. Thinking there could be profit in it, the NIF tracked the base down and began exploring. Tanzent says his rescuers can guess the rest; something was released during their explorations, and the contagion spread through the members of the NIF rapidly. The disease, which has a two-day incubation period, is marked by purple striations, pus-filled lumps under the arms, and a painful, gasping death. Tanzent says he's tried to research the disease and obtain broad-spectrum antibiotics, and was fortunate enough to convince the other members of the group to stay aboard the freighter and allow a droid to load supplies in Drushar, lest the disease be ultimately tracked back to them. Tanzent has difficulty staying on his feet, but manages to convey the coordinates of the secret base and says it has to be destroyed as soon as possible so that the pirates waiting for the freighter's return with medical supplies don't flee all over the galaxy and spread the disease.

The group quickly discuss what to do. The decision is made to send Tanzent and the freighter back to New Republic space so that he can receive treatment and the disease analyzed further. Tazo-Rhi will pilot the shuttle as his escort. Stavros manages to briefly get in contact with the New Dawn, and explain the situation, but the ship is in the middle of a battle and it's unclear whether the support/evac team Stavros asked for will be dispatched. Keth remembers seeing a flickering computer in one of the ship's cabins, and, with some help, is able to discern that a transmission had been made recently on an Imperial channel. The group surmise that one of the NIF pirates could have been an Imperial mole. 

Importantly, someone recalls the fact that one of the freighter's TYE-Wing escorts escaped during the battle. Once the freighter and the shuttle piloted by Tazo-Rhi are safely in space, the pilots of Mynock Squadron work quickly to try to track down the missing Ugly before its pilot spreads the contagion further. Kero is able to use her vessel's sensors to discern from the TYE-Wing's ion trail that it was headed back towards Drushar, but she loses the trail near the city. Fortunately, she's able to contact New Republic sympathizers in the city, and one of them reports having spotted such a vessel landing just minutes ago in the slum-infested outskirts of Drushar. Kero orders everyone to land near the Ugly, but it's clear the vessel is empty. While Kero and Stavros maintain watch, the others fan out to track down the missing pirate.

Torga starts trying to track the Ugly pilot's movements through the muddy landscape of squalid huts, garbage piles, and open cooking fires. In a bid to speed up the search, Waric tries to bribe a nearby slum resident with a blaster pistol in return for information on where the Ugly pilot fled to; seeing this and concerned that the pistol could be covered with plague germs, Kero urgently orders Waric to retract the offer and the pistol. Irritated, Waric turns off his comlink. Before his negotiations can continue, however, a dangerous situation arises: a veritable mob of slum residents begin pelting Waric and Keth with rocks and garbage, shouting that the the NIF are freedom fighters. Stavros intervenes and persuades the crowd that Mynock Squadron is concerned with the fled pilot's safety and only want him to get medical treatment. Somewhat mollified, the crowd ceases active hostility. Stavros even persuades the man Waric was negotiating with to get into the turret of one of the group's Y-Wings, hoping to isolate him if he was in fact infected.

Meanwhile, Torga successfully tracks the NIF pilot's trail to a small hut. She, Waric, and Keth take up positions and storm the hut, only to find that the man is already dead. The decision is made to torch the hut to stop the corpse serving as a source of further infection. Back at the vessels, however, a sensor sweep shows that Imperial troop carriers are approaching the area.

With a seemingly simple mission having turned into a crisis that could kill millions, the newest members of Mynock Squadron have found more than they bargained for on the planet Nishr.
Director's Commentary (June 17, 2016)

Torga was a useful NPC this session!
This was a solid, action-oriented session with the interior of the spaceship serving, in effect, as a small dungeon.  The idea to seal up the flight suits before boarding because of concerns over gas was accidentally brilliant, because it kept the PCs from risking exposure to the black plague-equivalent that everyone aboard was infected with.  The presence of the disease made the combat very exciting, because all it would take was one blaster bolt to a flight suit to risk infection.

I'm not sure how much sense the background story made at the time of the session, but the beauty of the recaps is that they gave me an opportunity to explain things in a logical way so that any players who were a bit lost could have the dots connected.  I did give them a tough mission for their first real (non-training) adventure, but they did a good job with both the space combat last session and the boarding mission this session.

Kero used one of her Rank abilities to get intelligence on where the missing TYE-Ugly had landed, which was a perfect example of how that sort of thing should work.  I think Waric's player really was a bit irritated in character at being ordered around by Kero's player, which was one of the risks of having commanders and subordinates I talked about in a previous commentary.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Final Fantasy III [GAMES]

I have, very, *very* slowly been working my way through the Final Fantasy series: I finished # 1 in May of 2010 and # 2 in August of 2011!.  This past weekend, I finished # 3.  It was a solid entry to the series, though there wasn't anything spectacular about it.  The main difference was the introduction of a "Jobs" system which is a little bit like a class but the characters are encouraged to change back and forth between various jobs depending on need.  Frankly, I found that too much trouble and tended to mostly stick with jobs as long as possible, as it wasn't clear to me how the game's equivalent of "multiclassing" worked.  The premise of the game is that four crystals of Light need to be recovered to undo a terrible darkness that threatens to destroy the land, and blah blah blah, plots so generic can put me to sleep.  The hardest part of the game was the end:  there's a final dungeon that you can't save in and, after a particular point, can't leave, and you have to fight four end bosses and the then the big final bad guy.  A TPK here means making up for a couple of hours of game time, so I had to grind a bit at the end before making a final push.  I probably invested about 45 hours in the game, but at least now I get to move on to something more fun:  Batman Lego!

Official Time:  39:07:01

Tmeris, Level 59  
Dark Knight Job Level: 99 (Freelancer 23, Warrior 35, Knight 14)
HP: 3409

Eli, Level 60  
Sage Job Level 42 (Freelancer 11, Red Mage 26, Scholar 99)
HP 3243

Persi, Level 60
Devout Job Level 47 (Freelancer 12, White Mage 74)

Talos, Level 60
Ninja Job Level 47 (Freelancer 10, Warrior 25, Knight 45, Dragoon 34)
HP: 3461

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Buffy Comic Project: "Viva Las Buffy! Act 2: Full House"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 52 (Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Scott Lobdell (plot), Fabian Nicieza (script), Cliff Richards (pencils), Will Conrad (inks)

Setting:  Between movie and Season 1

T.V./Movie Character Appearances:  Pike, Buffy, Angelus, Quentin Travers, Giles, Gwendolyn Post, Wesley,

Major Original Characters:  Willem Bryardale (Watcher), The Manager (Golden Touch Casino manager)

Summary:  Pike and Buffy have gained employment at the Golden Touch Casino in Las Vegas.  Pike will be working as a valet, while Buffy is a coat-check girl, and together they hope to discover the truth behind the rumor that that there is vampire activity in the area.  Meanwhile, Angelus has been hired by the casino's manager as a personal bodyguard, but the vampire's real mission is to meet the owners of the casino.   Pike witnesses vampire employees of the casino murdering a gambling debt deadbeat, and tries to fight them with little luck until Buffy arrives and stakes them instantly.  Thousands of miles away, in England, Rupert Giles has a run-in with his rival, Willem Bryardale.  Both are being considered for the new role of Watcher for Buffy.  Giles prospects are dimmed, however, by Wesley Wyndham-Price reporting to Quentin Travers that Giles has been researcing forbidden magicks.  Back at the Golden Touch, Pike and Buffy find themselves on the run from several Golden Touch vampires.  Buffy prepares to fight, only to realize that they've already have Pike in their grasp  And as for Angelus: he asks one too many questions and he ends up getting tossed through a doorway . . . and into the past!


I'll start by saying that the interior artwork is gorgeous.  Buffy as a coat-check girl could be a poster.  The idea of getting Buffy and Pike in Las Vegas has been a great one, as it's nice to see some non-Sunnydale, non-Scoobies stories for Buffy.  Pike is characterised as a bit of a weiner here, which I don't remember from previous stories with him.  I also haven't quite figured out Angelus' purpose in the book yet; why he's asking questions, and so forth.  Probably not really needed, especially because the script requires him to narrowly avoid Buffy at every turn.  Some great cameos and callbacks in the Watcher's Council pages:  Gwendolyn Post and Wesley!


*  A note from editor Scott Allie on the letters page talks about how the comic might not always fit within the continuity established by the show, but that should be a secondary consideration to telling a good story.  I'm not sure the fans agree with this commonly expressed editorial statement . . .

*  Chock-full of Buffy product acts:  the role-playing game, Season Three DVDs, a Dark Horse Comics contest, and a ton of cool collectibles.  This was a golden age for Buffy stuff . . .

Next Issue

Friday, June 3, 2016

Realms Toowoomba Recap # 59 [RPG]

[3 Flamerule 1372 continued]

After leading his companions into victory against the gnolls who defiled a sacred site, Syd summons a unicorn to heal them. The group begins to walk back towards their camp. On the way, Mellia asks Myst (still in Ralkin's body) how he is coping with the loss of his friend Gelkar; Myst replies that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances, especially since the cleric did not wish to be returned to the land of the living. Dolcetto (still in Fargrim's body) asks Mellia if she is sure Cain wishes to be rescued. The red-haired diviner replies that Cain said they should hurry, and, regardless, she owes him.

When the group reach their campsite along the river, the small hawk that had telepathically communicated with Syd earlier changes shape, slowly and with some difficulty, into an elderly half-elf. The figure introduces himself as Kithrin Rei, Heirophant and Yuir-Warden. Rei tells the group that although Thay seems to have abandoned its schemes of conquering other lands by force, it has turned to trade and economic might to expand its influence. Thayan merchants sell magickal weapons and other wondrous devices throughout Faerun, and some of the rare alchemical and other ingredients for these devices are "harvested" by raiding parties of gnolls from ancient, holy areas in the Yuirwood! 

Rei says the intrusions of raiding parties sponsored by the Red Wizards are becoming more and more frequent, and that his energies are waning. He says he is looking for a successor, and implies that Syd could learn much under his tutelage while simultaneously showing his determination to protect nature. Syd responds, however, that he has vowed to help his friends on their current mission. The halfling apologizes profusely for starting the fire in the forest. Dolcetto adds that if the group comes across anyone who might help Rei protect the Yuirwood, they will make clear the urgency of the task.

Rei departs, and the group rests for the night.

Thousands of miles away, in Silverymoon, Markus arrives at the Academy for his rematch against El Capitan just in time to hear the dashing swordsman tell his coterie of female friends a story about dashing into a burning building to save an infant. The crowd is definitely in El Capitan's favour as the duel begins. For this bout, the arena has been laced with a wide variety of mechanical and magickal traps, and the winner is the first duelist to land four strikes on his opponent. Darts, javelins, fire, and more threaten the two fighters as they move across the perilous floor, but in seconds both are trapped in the same pit! Markus takes advantage of El Capitan's inabiity to evade his strikes, and wins the day, much to the dismay of El Capitan's devoted followers. The booming voice of the next swordsman on the Academy's leaderboard, a dwarf named MacBronzebottom, can be heard welcoming a match. MacBronzebottom bets Markus 100 gold that the latter won't even hit him once during their match, and Markus accepts.

[4 Flamerule 1372]

Back on the Aglarondan Peninsula, the adventurers prepare for another day of travel and talk about various things. Mellia reveals to Fargrim that her daughter has been turned to glass by the mysterious figure who is forcing her to find the Crown of Horns, and that she plans to return Cain to Startop Mountain before letting him make any important decisions about his future. Soon, Mellia starts to suspect that her companions whose minds have been placed in different bodies are starting to forget who they are. Dolcetto (in Fargrim's body) says that when she served in the army, it was common charge headlong into the enemy. Fargrim (in Dolcetto's body) has difficulty remembering details about Cain, and talks about his "great love of stone." Ralkin (in Myst's body) says he always loved casting spells. Only Myst (in Ralkin's body) seems unaffected, and he says that his anger after Gelkar's death keeps his memories in place. Annoyed, Mellia quips that the group "will be lucky if we don't end up with a bunch of Multivars!"

The group's multiple channelers of arcane energy summon phantom steeds for the day's ride. Before they go, Ralkin (in Myst's body) casts a permanent spell to sharpen the claws of his real body. The group makes quick speed through the countryside, following the Yuir south and then heading east across the narrow strip of land dividing the Yuirwood and the southern swamps of the Wizard's Reach.

Despite their map indicating that they should be passing through relatively level terrain, the adventurers find that the ground ahead seems to be getting steeper and steeper. Soon, a thick grey fog rolls in and the riders find themselves on a high ridge overlooking a valley below. As the fog roils and shifts, the faint outline of a city can be seen in the distance. Remembering Fargrim's tales of Phynys Muir, "The City of Lost Hope", the group quickly decide to ride back down the slope and find another way east towards Thay. Dolcetto and Myst find themselves drawn to the edge of the ridge, however, and stare at the misty city with longing. Dolcetto says she sees a golden statue in the center of the city, while Myst begins whispering as if in conversation! Both try to persuade the group to ride forward. Mellia says she doesn't see any statue and has no interest in what lays ahead, as she has "bigger fish to fry." Myst, however, responds "I too care little for the statute, but there is something I want: power!" Mellia persuades a reluctant Dolcetto and Myst that the group can come back and explore after they rescue Cain. 

The adventurers ride back the way they came and then south into marshland before once again turning east. Soon they pick up a road, cross another river, pay a small toll at a tax station, and reach the outskirts of Escalant. The city is firmly in the hands of Thay and is the last stop before the border. The adventurers find their way to the large fortress that serves as the headquarters for the Thayan Legion. A long line of petitioners are there waiting for a permit, and a clerk inquires about the adventurers' presence. Mellia explains that the group is on a pilgrimage to the Flaming Brazier where they hope to meet up with an old friend who is a cleric of Kossuth. She says that the others are all "part of her retinue." Syd in particular comes into heavy questioning about his deity. At last, the adventurers are told that they can rest in the fortress' courtyard for the night, along with many other petitioners, and expect an audience with the Legion Commander the next day.

[5 Flamerule 1372]

The hours stretch on until finally, late in the afternoon, the adventurers are led the fortress' narrow corridors to the office of Lord Vicnan Chorster, commander of the Legion's western expeditionary force. Chorster is an imposing figure and eats a greasy meal of some indeterminate meat. He interrogates the adventurers about their purpose in seeking to enter Thay, and why they chose the unusual route of travelling across the Wizard's Reach. He seems to already know that they were seen in Laothkund, and the adventurers soon suspect that an invisible figure is lurking nearby, scrutinizing them carefully. Mellia provides a persuasive explanation that adheres closely to the truth, as she proclaims her growing appreciation for Kossuth and her desire to be reunited with an old friend. Somehow, Chorster knows that the adventurers are carrying several magickal items and says the group will need to donate to the cause of Thay's defence in order to receive a permit. The adventurers retreat to a corner of the room to discuss what should be turned over, with Mellia pushing for more valuable items and Dolcetto suggesting restraint. The group decides to turn over two suits of magickal armor, and an hour later the adventurers have a permit in their hands. As the sun is already starting to set, the group decide to camp for another night in the fortress' courtyard and start again upon the morrow.

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