Tjork and Saoirse
Saoirse reiterates that her reason for involving herself is that anyone a site such as the channel will need the guiding hand of a priestess of neyathir. Tjork is still shaken and grunts an affirmative in reply. Saoirse suggests they go to the Wheel and Spoke to get some alcohol and Tjork perks up.
Tjork gets the strongest ale in the largest mug and Saoirse gets a coffee and a whiskey. Tjork mentions for what he is here and how long he, remarking that his captor stripped him of his weapons and “fat loot”. They overhear some people (a dwarf, a gnome, and a half-elf, I believe I have their names down on my other computer) sitting in the tavern talking about a launching device and explosives, Tjork grabs another round and he walks over to them with Saoirse. They make a good impression, and Tjork asks about the launcher, soon realizing they have misunderstood how rockets are supposed to work. The group finishes their drinks and heads back to their workshop, where Saoirse gives them a lesson on rocket propulsion. Tjork gives them a demonstration, making a trick shot with the weapon through a pair of open windows and onto a trash heap. Between the two of them they talk the amateurs out of holding onto this thing and give them a small finder’s fee for it. Tjork puts down some more money to buy a set of armor from them and collects a few “decorations”.
They return to the Wheel and Spoke, where Tjork sends out the word that he’s back in town and is still recruiting. Most of his prospective mercs are still around, and he sways them easily with the tale of his capture and escape. After a few more drinks Tjork’s men get their travel supplies and head out with him and Saoirse up the mountain.
Jurgen is on the warpath to fix his damn arm. He walks with haste through The Crossroads, not giving himself any more time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of being among his people again. On the outskirts of the camp, past the thatched mud-brick structures he comes to Arando’s tent. A voice cackles “It’s alive!”, but moments later is like “ah no jk it’s still dead”. A Hesca couple storms out carrying a hunting hound in their arms and a leathery old elf calls after them to come again if they need help with anything else. Arando notices Jurgen and they talk about his arm. Arando points out that the wound persists because Gorug has not been healed, and Arando knows a thing or two about spirits.
They go inside, where Arando quickly lays out some strange plants and bones in a pattern around them and charges it with magic, taking them to Arando’s pocket dimension on the border between Acran’Delb (the spirit/parallel realm) and Felac’Delb (“our” realm). Gorug appears beside Jurgen, and he too has the infected guacamole arm, which Arando begins treating. Jugen is very confuse and Arando gives him nonsensical circular answers. Arando declares that his work is done; Gorug is healed but Arando believes that Jurgen’s arm is too awesome to undo so it must stay (it is within his power to restore it but he doesn’t want to).
In place of that Arando gives him something he believes will be much more better. They harness themselves to Gorug and Arando guides the great bear through the various realms of the gods to a crack between them into some kind of unoccupied space. They look up to see 9 spheres surrounding a large 10th sphere in the center. Arando walks Jurgen through understanding that these spheres are the realms of the gods, and that the one in the center must be of a similar nature. Where the 9 outer ones touch the center there is crackling and heat, as if some kind of conflict takes place there. Arando gives the big reveal: the nine gods we know and love use the power from worshipers in Felac’Delb to fuel their efforts to contain a 10th deity that would destroy them all. He names this other deity neyathir’s father, a primal creator. Looking closer they can see that Dumat’s sphere is not “fighting” the 10th and neither is the one that belonged to Lamder, which is now controlled by Dumat as well. The second part of the reveal is that Dumat, in anger over his exile to Felac’Delb, refuses to do his part in this celestial conflict, and in fact, threatens to release this primal deity into all realms if he is not allowed to return. The third reveal is that Lamder is well and truly dead and will never return. However, some of her more powerful servants may become worthy of her mantle and take power from Dumat to rule Lamder’s realm. Jurgen is shaken to say the least. Arando returns them to Felac’Delb and bids Jurgen a pleasant day. Jurgen barters his nature magic skills for gear and supplies at the Crossroads then sets out for the channel.
We resume the cliffhanger, where Hierax had just uncovered a murder at the gathering to discuss The Channel. All sorts of soldiers gather around trying to take control of the situation, Hierax tells them what he saw and then slips out of the mob of angry soldiers. Vindilar Ilihei flags him down and asks him what is happen, and Hierax informs him. Vindilar admits that he expected things to fall apart and that, for the record, the lawman who spoke for the Daglur Hierarchy had it right: Hierax is the best person to be in charge of the channel as far as The Empire is concerned. Hierax senses that Vindilar is about to make a shady offer, but he’s cut off by the Ekwan rep, Mandrous Gert. Gert sees that Vindilar was trying to pull a fast one, so he tries to get in on it, saying that the Republic and the Ithras children are in an enemy-of-my-enemy situation and that they had better team up sooner than later. Hierax blows him off and, seeing that things are devolving into a brawl with the soldiers, heads to his horse to make the trip back home.
He turns around one of the tents and feels a knife at his back, slipped into a vulnerable spot in his armor. His assailant indicates that he’s going to take Hierax for ransom and force Roxara to yield the channel to the Republic. Hierax deduces that this is Ulysses the Falcon and lets him move Hierax around, figuring that if he can slip his grapple at some point he’ll be able to outfight him and get away. Before they get too far, they’re set upon by a gang of 6 Daglur thugs who are also looking to kidnap Hierax. Ulysses lets go to grab his other weapon, and Hierax books it, outpacing all of them and saddling him horse.
He blows out of the camp and gets back on the path home but notices that there are riders coming from all directions towards the tents. Their standards are visible, and he sees now that the four nations were ready for this to blow up and had more substantial forces in reserve for this contingency. A dozen of the riders from the various forces split off to chase him down. Hierax uses the terrain to his advantage, bottlenecking the riders and shaking two of them by taking a low road. With a good view of the remaining riders he draws the Durandal Blade and takes out the horse of one who gets too close, causing a pileup which leaves him free and clear to shake them entirely.
Keet undocks from a session in the channel feeling feverish and hungry. He strips off a layer and walks over to the makeshift kitchen area, where one of Roxara’s followers throws together some flatbread with melted cheese and sweet peppers on it. Keet heads outside, where he smells cold salt air through the exit tunnel. When he gets out there the mountain is covered in a dense fog, and the sentries have retreated inside since there’s nothing to see. One of them remarks that the air reminds him of the ocean breeze he grew up with in Amaranth. Keet finishes up his cheesebread in the damp cold and goes back inside to have a look at their captive, Beast. Beast also remarks on the salt air, saying it’s wrong and possibly evil based on the fact that it just shouldn’t be here. His hunch gets Keets wheels spinning and he reaches out to feel for magic in the fog, which he senses. Keet docks into the channel again and reaches out to find the source of the fog. He gets a flashback of an orc wearing a shark-tooth necklace and scale mail performing a ritual with some acolytes on a mountain peak where he has arranged seaweed and piles of offal in a circle. When he charges the circle with his Dumati magic, fog comes billowing forth. Keet undocks, feeling even worse than last time. He is dripping with sweat and feels like he hasn’t slept in days.
Keet recalls that the scout he had bugged mentioned an attack on the mountain, so he goes to work a plot of his own on them. Once he has his things assembled, he docks into the channel and finds his bugged scout, Marko. Once the scout is asleep, Keet sends him a dream where Dumat speaks to him, telling Marko that Gorovengk has no gramba and that he will falter and doom the great purpose of the Obliterators with his incompetence and weak spine. “Dumat” whispers to Marko some of Gorovengk’s sins, taking pity on their captives and sparing women and children during raids. Keet forces the dream and the suggestion so hard through the channel that he touches the minds of a handful of other Obliterators in the barracks/hostel within their camp. He undocks and hopes for the best.
Keet staggers outside to get some more cold air.
After a minute of basking in the chill, the sentry calls out that someone is approaching. Tjork announces himself, Saoirse, and their companions. Keet composes himself and talks with Tjork and Saoirse about what happened with them down the mountain. He freezes up when Tjork mentions that “Van Kaathe” had captured him, but is snapped out of it when Saoirse asks him about using the channel. She can tell he’s been doing it, and based on his condition, has not been maintaining it properly. She explains that it needs a balance of magics to flow through it, otherwise it can “boil over” with unused potential. She docks in it and does some force evocation through it, pushing the fog back a good 50 yards from the tunnel’s opening. She then blocks the “unused potential” from touching Keet’s body with her magic from neyathir, which segues into her explanation that she is here to make sure the channel is used properly.
Saoirse asks Keet who exactly would be attacking them and he keys here in on the Obliterators and his vision. Tjork identifies the shark-tooth guy as Gorovengk, the one who fouled up Jurgen’s arm. While gathering some components, Soairse asks him about their initial interaction with the channel and how Keet knew how to handle it. He clarifies that he is from Ekwa and had heard tales of the channel being a finicky device. She senses the bs and Keet’s unwillingness to share any more detail.
Roxara shows up to greet Saoirse and makes some casually racist comment about halflnigs, setting low-key antagonistic tone of their relationship. Roxara ends the discussion by saying that she’s open to Saoirse’s help but there’s only so much reward to be found here in a makeshift fortress on the top of a mountain that they expect to come under attack at any moment.
Over the next few days Jurgen and Hierax show up, and with the whole crew informed on the state of their position at the channel, Roxara gathers everyone up for a talk. She says that all the powers that be are converging here at their channel. They are all disciplined, trained, and blessed folk, and they will be the eye of the hurricane when their foes show up at their doorstep. Everyone will fight each other and they can hole up and fight the survivors. They hold the channel now and will continue to hold it and prosper by it as long as they choose to. Roxara tells them to hold the line, because the power to make the world a better place is in their hands.