Dangerous Beauty

Chapter Three: To Grandmother's House We Go
Ussura; early spring

As planned, our heroes made their way to Ussura, electing to go via sea instead of going overland and trying to deal with possibly running into the Montaigne army, because who wants to do that? They arrived in a prosperous port town and immediately courted a diplomatic incident as Ailsa accosted the first person she saw when she disembarked, grabbed him, and dragged him onto the boat so he could be questioned about how one would go about talking to Matushka.

Unfortunately, Ailsa didn’t speak Ussuran and the fellow in question didn’t speak Avalonian or Castillean, so that was awkward. Matters were not helped by Fabiana speaking very loudly and slowly, in the time-honoured fashion of dealing with foreigners. Happily, Accosted Fellow spoke Eisen, and he and Joachim expressed their disapproval of the ladies before getting down to business. The heroes were directed to Gavriil Grigorivich, a local metalworker who was apparently their best bet for talking to Matushka.

Happily for everyone involved, Gavriil spoke Castillean, so there could be mutual communication. After being commissioned to create a necklace to hold Ailsa’s Coin Of Never Going The Heck Away, Gavriil agreed to try to arrange an audience with Matushka. This turned out to be “go down this road and see what happens”, because this is Ussura; of course it couldn’t be simple. They were warned not to hunt and kill anything in the process, for reasons. Unexplained reasons.

What happens down this road: our heroes find a cottage, not too far from a farming village but far enough to have its own damn space, where an old lady had fallen down and broken her hip. Ailsa proceeded to patch her up whilst Fabiana made a surprisingly edible soup (because let’s face it, who thought Fabiana could cook?) and Morgan found the old lady’s stash of gold and proceeded to re-hide it, because stealing from an old lady with a broken hip? Rude.

The old lady turned out to have a grandson in the farming village nearby, so Morgan and Joachim decided to head that way to get him to come help. In the village, they found out that there had been footprints found around the village. Except less footprints and more pawprints, and not of any animal anyone knew. Weird-ass paw-footprints. Pootprints?

There was party dissent about what to in regards to the “beast” that the village was talking about. Reasons for: helping! Reasons against: it’s hunting and we were told not to do that. Awkward. A vote was taken, with closed eyes, because as Ailsa pointed out, she was the only tracker and she didn’t want to do it. Rupert was a turncoat, however, and followed the tracks to a cave nearby, wherein resided a wolfman.

Because Ussura.

It turned out that Wolfman was stuck in a halfway form and needed special water from a holy grove nearby, but couldn’t get it himself because he wasn’t allowed to touch the water himself and had no receptacle for the water. Our heroes retrieved the water for him, and, after bathing in it (out of sight of the ladies), he returned to his human form, and told them where to go to speak to Matushka in person.

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Chapter Two Continued: The Pauper is... the Prince?
Eisen; early spring

Still in the Syrneth ruin, our heroes had a slight… discussion regarding some books that Fabiana wanted to take with her, since they contained Syrneth writing and anatomical diagrams of both Syrneth and humans, proving that at some point in history the two had coexisted. Morgan attempted to free Ailsa of the coin, to no avail. The conclusion was that the ruins didn’t really contain anything that would have sent Karl Thomas Steiner running in terror. Weird, not scary.

With some lucky tracking, Ailsa spotted the signs of someone wearing much better boots than she could afford; lacking further options, they followed the trail. Upon smelling woodsmoke, Joachim and Morgan sneaked ahead and discovered a ramshackle hut in a clearing, inhabited by a man and a creature the size of a large dog. Morgan lured the inhabitant to the window by turning one of his cups into a bird, and identified him as the missing Prince Hans.

They introduced themselves, and discovered that Hans was in possession of a small drachen. Ailsa promptly befriended it and named it Rupert. Further discussion revealed that Hans had been partially merged with the awakening spirit of Eisen when he had been shot outside the ruin by explorers,and had only just begun to reconcile his human mind with the mind of the ruined country. COMPLICATED.

Joachim pulled no emotional punches and convinced him to return to Siegsberg to see his father. Fabiana insisted on some beautifying before they left the clearing, for morale’s sake, and Ailsa butchered a deer to make a disguise for Rupert.

Upon return to the Eisenfurst palace in Siegsberg, Gisela dragged Hans to the throne room to see his father, and Reinhard came out of his catatonia. The heroes left the Eisenfurst and his son to reunite and retired to Gisela’s study, where Rupert revealed an unexpected talent, as it showed them a hidden door behind a bookcase.

When they discovered that Gisela had no knowledge of the hidden door and secret passage, the heroes, drachen, and Gisela proceeded to follow the passage, because with the addition of a cute animal they have turned into the Scooby Gang. The passage led to the treasury and leg out near the guards barracks; Ailsa and Joachim elected to remain in the passage with Rupert to ambush whoever came through, reasoning that that person was probably behind funds going missing from the treasury.

That person turned out to be Gisela’s brother Klaus, who had a name destined for villainy. He was remanded to the dungeons, with Rupert showing extreme dislike.

The next day, Reinhard and Hans spoke to the heroes, offering them reward (gems, weapons, trade treaties) and Hans disguised Rupert so that she could keep traveling with them, reasoning that she would have more fun with them than locked up in a castle. He explained that Eisen waking up was unintended, but was a result of something happening that was going to damage the Veil, and that the other countries would probably be joining him.

Reasoning that she was already awake and thus likely to be less grumpy and confused, the heroes decided that the next step on their journey would be Ussura, to talk to Matushka.

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Chapter Two: That Rabbit's Got a Vicious Streak a Mile Wide
Eisen, early spring

Our heroes sojourned to Eisen, on the theory that it is full of monsters and Ailsa enjoys fighting monsters. Also because a Sidhe lady told them to go there, and there was no compelling reason not to.

Arriving in Breisach, a small port town in Wische, the general opinion is that this place was a dump. The general opinion is not wrong. Whilst drinking in the “most dangerous tavern”, which failed to be particularly dangerous by virtue of none of the locals really wanting to get into it this soon after the war, the subject of a local bounty came up; it appeared that the locals were being terrorised by a great beast that screamed at night and left mutilated “things” in its wake. The bounty wasn’t particularly high, but the heroes went after the beast anyway, because why not.

(Fabiana had plenty of reasons why not.)

Investigating the latest scene of the beast’s attacks, the party discovered a farmhouse that appeared to be suffering from an extended case of rotting, and several cows that also seemed to be rotted rather than eaten. Ailsa tracked the beast to its cave, where Fabiana waited in her carriage and the others ventured in, to discover a giant rabbit, summarily dubbed a rabboceros.

A fight ensued! The rabbit failed to drastically maul anyone, and was slain. Upon returning to Breisach, the heroes described the effects of its bite to the mayor, who seemed extremely distressed by this news, going so far as to offer to have the beast’s pelt and head tanned and taxidermied to the party’s requirements for free if it meant getting them out of town.

From there, our heroes journeyed to Siegsberg, because they had heard of the Eisenfurst’s illness and the disappearance of his youngest son and figured “hey, rescuing a prince, that would be a feather in our cap”. Fabiana managed to get them an audience with Gisela Inselhoffer, the regent for the Eisfenfurst, who accepted their claim that they wanted to be of help, and gave them as much information about the missing prince as was available. To wit: Karl Thomas Steiner, his guardsman, had been travelling with him, and the pair never reached their destination; Steiner sent a letter to the Eisenfurst explaining that they had been attacked by bandits, but never returned to Siegsberg.

The party decided to investigate the road that Steiner claimed they had been attacked on, and encountered a small group of bandits who were extremely startled at the sight of a carriage bearing down on them with Ailsa sitting on the roof calling out for Prince Hans, and were therefore as helpful as possible. They directed the party to a smaller road leading into the nearby forest, saying that there was another group of bandits there who may have waylaid Steiner and the prince, but that they hadn’t, since they tended to try to avoid the notice of the Eisenfurst.

In the forest, the party made a highly conspicuous camp to attract the attention of Hannelore Falkenrath, the leader of the bandit group they had been directed to. She arrived, intrigued, and was persuaded to accept favours from Joachim in return for information. Said information was that there was a ruin further along the road that she and her fellow bandits (who were intimated to be largely women) had seen the pair travelling toward, and that they had seen Steiner leaving at a run, but that they didn’t know precisely what had happened to the prince.

The ruin turned out to be a Syrneth ruin! Creepy doors that opened when a panel of light was touched, with a bing noise; rooms that lit up on their own when entered; that sort of thing. There was an open door leading into a room full of weapons; in that room was also a pouch containing a dozen discs of an unknown metal, inscribed with consecutive numbers, although the 10 was missing. Aisla picked up the 6, and throughout the course of exploring the rest of the ruin discovered that it did not appear to want her to leave it behind.

Further exploration revealed a bedroom with a set of Syrneth armour, a laboratory containing a dozen or so books in Syrneth text with anatomical pictures, and a room full of strange black, flat rectangles and glowing oblong crystals that emitted a phrase in the Syrneth language when jostled.

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Chapter One: Doing Favours for the Sidhe (What Could Possibly Go Wrong?)
Avalon; early spring

During an annual spring festival in Carleon, the four not-yet-heroes seemed to hear a woman calling to them over the course of three days, always saying “come and help me”. On the afternoon of the third day, they found themselves togetger outside a shack proclaiming itself to belong to a “dreamspeaker”. Upon entering, they were greeted by the Sidhe Luna, who asked them to perform a service for her: rescuing her abducted love from a rival.

Luna’s instructions were to enter a particular museum at midnight that night, the night of the new moon. To avoid the question of lockpicking when nobody in the party had such a skill, Morgan paid a visit to the curator and seduced him in return for a loan of the museum key. Meanwhile, Fabiana convinced Ailsa that she should update her wardrobe; accordingly, Ailsa added a terribly gaudy hat with an enormous feather to her ensemble. It did not go.

Joachim picked up an Avalonian girl looking for a bit of adventure in the bar.

At midnight, the heroes assembled at the museum and proceeded to enter. Exploring the rooms, they discovered several interesting items and proceeded to not steal from probably-another-Sidhe, because they’re actually intelligent. The only thing they actually stole was a young man in an enchanted sleep, whose display was labeled “that which is loved by the unloving”.

Upon leaving that room, a fight ensued with three enchanted guards. The heroes reasoned that as two of the guards were men, it was safer to take all of them to Luna, in case one of them was her lover and not the displayed man. Sidhe are tricksy like that.

(During the fight, Ailsa may have defended Morgan with a shout of “don’t touch my cheese witch”.)

When thry returned to Luna, she paid them with a pouch of silver coins and advised them to seek adventure in Eisen, where, she said, things were waking up.

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