Dangerous Beauty

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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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 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 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 Four: Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?
Eisen, early spring

Our heroes, having passed a weird test that thankfully involved no essay-writing, ventured further into Ussura to talk to Matushka. She was close-lipped about the exact nature of what was going on, reasoning that tiny little mortal brains weren’t really suited for the truth of the universe, but she did inform them that the Veil between the world and the Beyond was weakening, and that that was the reason behind Eisen waking up – and that other countries would be following.

This was agreed to be a bad thing.

She was, however, able to give them some pointers. a) The culprit was someone in the world and probably a sorcerer, and b) it wasn’t so much a matter of stopping the countries waking and more stopping the person doing whatever it was that was causing them to wake in the first place. Everyone agreed that it was probably someone from Montaigne, because the Montaigne are the worst.

Matushka also pointed out that the Living Runes were probably being destabilised, and dealing with that would help stave off the collapse of the Veil. Reasoning that Runes were likely to be in places of great upheaval, the plan was to head to Eisen and deal with the Verschlingen in the hopes that there was a Living Rune there.

Not before they gave Matushka gifts, though, which included Ussuran wine from Fabiana, a regimental eating knife from Joachim, a lock of Morgan’s hair, and a hug from Ailsa. Because Ailsa is the cutest.

Heading to Eisen, Morgan contacted some musketmen and Joachim got in touch with Hannelore Falkenreath’s band of not-merry not-maidens to provide backup, and the party headed to the Undying Swamp.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to ambush a large snake. Fortunately, almost everybody had ranged weapons, and Morgan used some fancy foot- and ropework to tie the Verschlingen’s tail down so it couldn’t smack people around. Between having a group of musketmen shooting (not well), a band of archers shooting (much better), Fabiana shooting, Morgan riding the snake, and Ailsa and Joachim bashing the heck out of it with their ludicrously large swords, they brought the Verschlingen down.

And then they had a bunch of snakeskin to make awesome things out of.

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Interlude
Eisen, early spring

At the advice of Matushka, who had requested that the heroes try to find the Living Runes and “put them back into balance”, our heroes pursued the hermit of the Undying Swamp further into said Undying Swamp until they found the ruined town he was living in. Upon affirming that he was, in fact, Herje, that he wasn’t angry about them killing the Verschlingen (quite the opposite, in fact), and that he was sufficiently attractive, Morgan chose to interpret that instruction as “have sex with the Living Runes”.

Why not.

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Chapter Five: Have You Tried Not Being In Debt To The Fae?
Montaigne; spring

Our heroes reasoned that the sorcerer causing damage to the Veil and risking the incursion of Legion was probably a Montaigne, since that’s generally how Porte works. They travelled to Lierie, the largest port in Montaigne, and more importantly the most foreigner-friendly port in Montaigne, since this was not likely to be as welcoming a visit as their sojourns in Eisen and Ussura.

Upon arrival in Lierie, Fabiana pointed out that just marching up to Charouse and asking L’Empereur to have the bad guy stop doing what he was doing was probably not going to work, and the party split to do some reconnaissance. They discovered that Montaigne was on the verge of famine due to shortsightedness by the Flaubert du Dore family converting all their farmland into grazing land in order to be able to sell more expensive beef instead of less expensive food crops; that the peasants were deeply unhappy about the state of the Church in Montaigne, and that there was a play about to open by noted Avalonian-Montaigne playwright Guillaime Marlowe, entitled “The Story of the Fox”.

Fabiana may also have sworn to retrieve her aunt Rosa’s body for proper burial. Her aunt Rosa being L’Empereur’s second wife, who died some twenty-two years ago. Awkward.

Upon returning to the classy inn where she and Isabella had taken rooms, Fabiana found a letter from The Gilded Lily, Lierie’s premiere theatre house, inviting her and her friends to the play’s grand opening that night, with six tickets enclosed. She proceeded to invite Morgan and Ailsa and attempt to not invite Joachim in an attempt to avoid social scandal, because a noble hobnobbing at a classy event with an Eisen mercenary is not done. After promising to exchange one of the high-class tickets for two lower-class ones, Joachim returned to the less-classy inn he had taken a room at and invited the tavern girl who’d taken a liking to him and almost certainly had a name.

At the grand opening, accompanied by Fabiana’s cousin Cerise Bellamy, the party watched a surprisingly good play about the plight of the common folk, labouring under a master who constantly demanded more from them only to spend it trying to please a yet higher master. Renardine, the wily fox, and his companions, Tybalt the cat-prince, Hirsine the clever wolf, Bruin the steadfast bear, and Baldwin the forthright ass, showed them that they had greater force of numbers than their masters, and the play ended with the promise of uprising.

Joachim seemed to approve, although whether of the message or the dick jokes, it was uncertain.

In the mingling afterwards, several things of note happened.

Fabiana went to speak to Guillaime Marlowe and his muse, a lady named Luigsech, who proceeded to be entirely too creepy for words. When attention was called to her creepiness and the fact that she was eyeing Morgan, whose hands had begun tingling, Morgan realised that oh, shit; she’s Fae. (It’s like Oh Shit She’s Hot but much, much less awesome.) When Morgan finally approached her, she acknowledged Morgan as in her debt and that Morgan’s debt was, in fact, three years past due; she eventually agreed to give Morgan another year if Morgan would bring her a “special person”, identifying Morgan, Ailsa, and Brie as “special”, and offering to release Morgan’s potential offspring from the debt in exchange for more than one person.

Ailsa recognised Brie Michel du Gloyure, the wife of Duke Jourdain Michel de Gloyure; the Duke was also a friend of Cerise’s husband, so Fabiana and Morgan were talking with them (and being irritated at the Duke’s habit of shushing his wife) when Ailsa walked up and hugged Brie. This did not go down well with the Duke, who proceeded to insult Ailsa in true noble fashion. Also in true noble fashion, Fabiana retaliated. After a brief physical altercation with Morgan and Joachim, the Duke left, hauling his wife after him, and Ailsa stalked them into the street in time to see an argument culminate in Jourdain shaking Brie, at which point she punched him in the face.

Things did not improve from there, and ended with Brie knocking her husband out with Glamour magic, Ailsa agreeing to come steal a blooded item from Jourdain’s townhouse so Brie could run away with her, and Joachim spotting Ailsa retrieving her weapon from the cloakroom and joining them. The official story was kidnapping. Sexy kidnapping.

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Chapter Six: A Plan That Did Not Survive Contact
Montaigne, Spring; Castille, Spring

Upon returning to the ship, Morgan locked Brie and Ailsa in the captain’s cabin, ostensibly to prevent the rest of the crew from realising that there was a Montaigne noblewoman on board who had not been on board previously, and sneaked through the city to the inn where Fabiana was staying. She climbed through the window and woke Fabiana from a dream wherein Fabiana was a cat, waiting to meet somebody important, and explained the situation.

Fabiana was not happy about it, and made that unhappiness known very vocally. She and Morgan decided that the course of action least likely to lead to disaster would be to kidnap Duke Jourdain, reasoning that at least that way he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone that his wife had been abducted, and realised that Fabiana could probably sell him to her relatives, what with Montaigne and Castille being at war and everything.

When everybody was back at the ship, Brie revealed that Jourdain was going to forget about her, and so was everyone who had encountered her in Montaigne, because she was half-Sidhe. This did not sit well with Fabiana. Also not sitting well, but with Ailsa: the notion of selling the Duke, because you can’t sell people. Civilisation is weird, yo.

With Fabiana and Ailsa not speaking to each other (largely because Fabiana refused to come out of her cabin) during the trip to Castille, things were understandably tense, especially when it was discovered that the Duke wasn’t waking up due to Brie’s influence, which unsettled people even more. Upon arrival in Cadiz, Fabiana went to meet her great-uncle, Don Alejandro Sandoval de Soldano del Castillo, and offered to trade him an inconvenient piece of Montaigne cargo that had unfortunately ended up in her ship, somehow. Don Alejandro agreed to a trade (lots of money. Lots of it) and sent a courier to the ship to take the inconvenient cargo off their hands.

Ailsa, unfortunately, complicated matters, informing the courier that if Fabby wanted to sell the Duke, she’d have to come and talk to Ailsa.

On her way back to the ship, Fabiana (and Isabella and Rupert) were waylaid, and Fabiana was carried off by Mysterious People. Joachim, Ailsa, and Morgan were alerted by a highly distressed Rupert dragging Isabella back to the ship, and set off to track down their missing friend, with Brie joining them.

Meanwhile, Fabiana woke in a cellar, tied to an admittedly quite comfy chair, faced with the Vodaccan Prince Giovanni Villanova, whose Fate Witches had, apparently, detected particularly strong and interesting Fate strands coming from Fabiana and the others; Villanova evidently wanted to transfer those Fate strands to himself. This process did not appear to be a survivable one.

The others burst in at this point, and a fight ensued. Villanova was hit with a drachen to keep him out of the way, and when one of the Fate Witches did something to Fabiana that made her feel as though something was being torn out of her chest, Brie stepped in the way, which caused the Fate Witch to scream “It’s too much” and collapse. Because trying to steal the Fate of a half-Sidhe is a fool’s game.

Unfortunately, this also made Brie collapse, and Ailsa appeared to reach the end of her rope; with the Fate Witches unconscious and Villanova likewise, she dispatched everyone still breathing until they were no longer doing that, for reasons. Angry reasons.

And then they burned the place down because being seen as the people who killed Giovanni Villanova is probably not something anybody wants.

Back at the ship, Ailsa appeared to have leveled up in Existential Angst: Civilisation Sucks Edition, and Brie appeared to have lost her Sidhe abilities. Ailsa allowed the Don’s people to take the Duke, and they left a significant amount of money in return.

In summary: lots of money! Also some interesting occult artefacts from Villanova’s Cadiz lair, and the address of his occult library back in Vodacce. And a Secret, because killing a Vodaccan Prince; what could possibly go wrong?

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Chapter Seven: Kidnapping is Always a Great Idea
Montaigne; spring

Our heroes, upon disposing of their inconvenient Duke-shaped package in the hold, returned to Montaigne on the trail of Guillaime Marlowe, figuring that if anyone could point them in the right direction with the whole “stopping the end of the world” thing, it might be the guy writing plays about a revolution whose muse was a Sidhe.

The plan involved kidnapping, because of course it did. The rationate was that getting Guillaime away from Lady Luiseach was probably for the best, given that she was the taking-parts-of-your-body sort of Sidhe.

The heroes investigated Crieux, where Guillaime’s play was due to open next, and discovered where he was staying. Fabiana proceeded to get a room there. The rest of the plan was apparently to wait until opening night.

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