The crew awakens to find that they’re just a week’s journey away from Aria. Horludai is at the helm, wearing a hat and speaking with jocular charm. There’s some confusion as to what brought them there.
- Raimondas’ new character Iola accepts that this is Horludai and that their journey to Aria has gone without a hitch.
- Justin’s Marius does too.
- Howard’s Uath recollects that this isn’t Horludai, but rather Uath’s father, returned after 40 years wandering. He remembers that he killed Horludai, who was really Uath’s stepfather, and that enabled his father to return to him at last.
- Jacob’s Sven Green knows the bitter truth: they were taken into elven custody and tortured for information, after which they were reconditioned to believe that their mission to Aria hadn’t been interrupted. The man who calls himself Horludai is an elven agent.
The crew made landing in Aria and there encountered the half-mad god Festival. Festival asked their help in recovering his homeland and in response to a whispered request from Sven Green has agreed at the end to remove the veil from the crew’s eyes, that they may know the truth. The Agent will, of course, do what he can to prevent this eventuality.
After years of spouting the superiority of Elven civilization, Horludai finally shows all his cards. The crew had agreed to take on the challenges of Aria, and had managed to enlist the help of two songpriestesses, Lessa and Iola. D’Aramis seduced Lessa, while Sven managed to bring Iola on board as a hireling.
But, after picking Q Rexis back up in Dragon Spine, the crew encountered an Elven Patrol vessel en route to Aria. And Horludai saw his chance to return to the elven fold. He lay low as the elven vessel pulled abreast, then stood up to demand that the elves “Arrest these men in the name of the Queen.”
By the time the dust had settled, the Unfair Advantage was crippled. The crew surrendered, but not before Uath, enraged, managed to pitch Horludai overboard. He ranted as he fell, “You’ll see now that the elven way is better…..”
The big payday from selling the Orcish War Raft and the Pirate ship led several longstanding crewmembers to retire. Ragniir does so publicly. The real surprise comes later, when the remaining crew wakes up at the end of a week of carousing to discover that both Zmei and Sam have disappeared. Further research suggests foul play in Sam’s case. The heroes trace him to Shadowhaven, and they surmise that Fat Tony has captured him. They stage a raid and recover Sam’s Dragon Pistol. In the course of the raid, Fat Tony dies. The heroes find no trace of Sam, but they encounter a number of identical women with sorcerous spells identical to Sam’s familiar set. Leaving town, they realize that they’ve been had: Sam arranged the whole thing, setting them up to off Tony for them, leaving him to run the mob in the Lower City with the help of his FemBots.
While the crew is exploring the ruins of Star Crater Isle, their ship, the Unfair Advantage, is spotted by a band of roving pirates and mistaken for easy prey. The pirate ship runs aground, crippling the vessel. Seeing this, our explorers lay a trap for the pirates, who send a party in to explore the isle. They manage to overwhelm the pirates and take their ship hostage.
Then, while limping home, the two ships encounter an Orcish War Raft. The Orcs are wily, laying a trap, but our heroes prove to have the greater prowess. So our heroes return to Gateway as wealthy men indeed. This proves a mixed blessing: the big payday threatens to break the group up as several members take their winnings and retire.
Confronted with an archway that reads, “Abandon all hope, Ye that enter,” the party becomes cautious. They want to know who this gate was crafted by and why. Who were the lost people of the Star Crater Isle? A thorough search of the ruined city turns up some crucial clues: Star Crater Isle once was the civilized center of the Skies, a place of great Sorcerer-Kings whose lost magic is unrivaled by the petty tricksters of today. Apparently the Sorcerer-Kings in their final years were dealing with the Devil, and when the Devils got wind that they were being cheated, they brought down the Hammer that turned the Crystalline City into the Star Crater.
Sven Green finds a religious artifact hidden in an altar “To the Unknown God” and is inspired to become a priest of Oceanus.
The crew learns of an “iron citadel” that lies in the ruins of the Star Crater Isle from a drunken man imprisoned for public disorder on Dragon Spine. Sam acquires a new “friend,” a tiny demon that whispers from within his ear. The party joins up with the drunkard Samar, and he leads them to a room which turns out to be the front porch for a gateway into hell. At least that’s Sam’s best guess of where the gateway leads. Much fun and mayhem fighting a hellish iron man with fire for a soul.
A core group within the party saw the Claw of Hurk’Ala a convenient return ticket to Dragon’s Spine and a grudge match with Orcbane. Newer members of the group didn’t have a chance to object: Marius Leveque, hiding out on board the Unfair Advantage, fell sick with fever and didn’t recover until events were well under way. And Sven Green (Jacob’s new character) was wholly absent from events.
The handover was interrupted by Ninjas wearing glowcloaks, but their cowardly invisible attack was fended off by the heroes.
Horludai, Marius and Uath received the Emperor’s blessing.
On their return to Shadowhaven, the crew learned of an opportunity for a heist that would leave everyone rich: an exceedingly precious artifact was to be auctioned at the house of the powerful Marquis d’Albertis. The artifact was an ancient weapon crafted from the claw of a true dragon, long held by the House of Quebo in Dragon’s Spine, but now up for auction after the arrest of Hru Quebo on charges of treason and the concomitant seizure of his lands.
The party learned of this from Misty Bezkin, an elf courtesan who caters to the noble class in the upper city of Shadowhaven. One of her customers just happens to be Monsieur de Treville, the Captain of the King’s Musketeers, and she found in his pocket a note from the Marquis d’Albertis demanding a full guard complement for his mansion in town.
Also joining the party were Marius Leveque and (Jacob’s new character).
The heist went off well, despite skirmishes with both musketeers and ninja sent from Dragon’s Spine. The final showdown with two of the great musketeer heroes, Athos and Porthos, was ably negotiated by Marius: (details?).
Traveling back to Shadowhaven from Dragon’s Spine, the crew of the Unfair Advantage were attacked by a Madness Hulk. They dispatched two Voider priests and a motley crew of pirates, and found a haul of treasure. But in a forward cabin they also found a fragment of the Lightbringer’s consciousness. And they foolishly provoked the god to attack. Sam invoked the god as Oceanus, temporarily restoring the fragment’s sanity, but not before everyone had been damaged by a burst of voidglow. Later on the journey Lotlhmoq went glowmad, attacking Uath and Horludai. Quincy, desperate at the thought of losing her savior and protector, desperately invoked Oceanus/Lightbringer to save his devotee. The God returned in a mixed form and bore the wounded, glowmad Lotlhmoq out into the void.
The heroes rescued the princess Quebo Kan Nuti (“Quincy”) from the grip of the neo-fascist Drakin group headed by Hru Quebo (aka Serpentine). Hru, a traitorous relative of the Emperor, sought to raise Quincy to the throne on the strength of her claim to be Chosen. He was artificially enhancing her transformation with blood transfusions from murdered Drakin.
The night after effecting the rescue the heroes were contacted by Sylvestris Karnog, an Elven Shadow Agent who was in league with Hru and hoped to run the Drakin nation as a puppet regime. Lothmoq went to fetch the rest of the party to effect a quick escape by ship, but while he was gone Horludai appealed to Sam and Ragnir that the safest course of action was to give up the girl.
Zmei, however, made a swift journey back to the ship, and she responded no less swiftly to the presence of Elven Oakthorn Militia on the ship, using Telekinesis to pick up Karnog and dangle him over the side of the ship. She sought in this way to hold the enemy in check, but Horludai responded to this opportunity with three blazing bolts dead on the floating form of Karnog. Fighting broke out and by the end the elves were defeated, most of them dead. Ragniir took the ship out and fled.
The ship was sighted by the Drakin militia enforcing a martial law curfew, and they summoned the great dragon which stands as final defense of the Drakin throne, Jado Kestris. Jado is great-great-great uncle to the emperor, and is the last great dragon in the royal line still living. Jado saw the wisdom of allowing Quincy her freedom: if she proved genuinely Chosen, the throne would be strengthened by the existence of such an heir; if she did not, better that she live secretly elsewhere than that she remain a blot upon the family honor.