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Part 3: On the Town

Previously (Pt. 2) Home Next (Pt. 4)

Exploring the World Outside.

Our heroes have finally made it out of the ghost world and have successfully navigated the home of three women without dying.  It is finally time for them to see the world waiting outside…


Leveling Up!

Your characters have spent time working together, battling monsters, and (most importantly) learning important things about the world around them.  They are now level 2, with all the benefits that come with that.

Players present: Weyland, Wert, and Rina. Slim Jim and Patrick’s players were unable to attend, so they were simply assumed to be present with the party, even if inactive.


Real Date: October 27, 2013

Game Date: 2nd of November, a.r. 231 (Day 2, continued)

Chapter 9: The Shadow Kitchen (cont.)

As a result of their recent experiences, each of the party felt stronger and more capable.  They took a breather to take stock of the shadow kitchen.

On the counter-top, Weyland found some slices of meat undergoing curing treatment.

Curing meat

Though he was not a chef or butcher, Weyland remembered that the main active ingredient used in meat preparation was salt.  Sure enough, nearby were eight small glass bottles filled with white grains and the words “Meat Cure” printed on the side.

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Rina the dwarf put the bottles in her small drawstring bag, and Weyland found a woven basket with shoulder straps to place the meat and other belongings in.

Searching another counter top, Wert found a sling with ten marbles.  Without consulting the others, he fashioned a small bag from a dishtowel to carry the ammunition with, and then slung them both from his belt.  There was nothing the others had he was interested in trading for, and he did not yet trust them enough to simply be giving things away.

In Rina’s search, a flash of light from a silverware drawer caught her eye. Apparently, one of the kitchen knives inside lined up perfectly with a corresponding knife on the physical realm, but only when the drawer was half-closed.  She and Weyland went through the portal together while the others hung back for a spell, finishing up their search of the area.

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The real kitchen was arrayed with a substantial number of brass fittings, including an over-sized water holding tank and a gas-powered stove.  While it appeared the building was fitted with both an incoming gas line and outgoing sewer pipes, there was no such thing as running water, and new water had to be carried in by hand.

Curiosity soon got the better of Rina and Weyland, and they tried pushing down on the top of the water in the tank as hard as they could.  Their hands merely slid across its surface, confirming a suspicion of theirs–as ghosts, liquids were just as solid as other objects, albeit a bit more slippery.  This bit of knowledge could definitely be useful later.  The two returned to the shadow realm to relay their findings.

Now all assembled on the physical realm, the five adventurers reassessed the house of the three women.  For one, it was a lot quieter than when they’d been here before; there were no fervent and whispered prayers or admonitions.  A quick inspection confirmed their suspicions: the women had left the house, leaving the doors closed and locked behind them. However, a door to a water closet was now ajar in the physical kitchen, giving them access to a space they could not reach before.

From inside the water closet, a window afforded their first view of the city, apparently one or two hours before sunset.  Tall, straight-sided buildings filled the view to a close horizon, where a thin line of ocean could be seen.

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Although there was a vanity mirror present on the wall, it did not shine darkly and provided no entrance to the shadow realm.  Weyland quickly identified two other unconventional means of exit from the water closet.

First, the window was cracked ajar far enough that each of them could pass through it in turn, though the four-story drop to the cobblestones below unsettled him.  It had not seemed that if he or his friends could fly in their ghostly forms, and he had no idea what sort of injury that fall would cause.

Second, the sewer pipes were clear when not being hand-flushed with water, and the spirits should be able to end up somewhere below at or near street level. However, it was unknown if there was anything living in the sewers, or if it could harm the party.

Some discussion showed the group favored the open window approach.  Taking the lead, Wert heedlessly thrust his ghostly fingers into the open window space until he felt his body being pulled through.  In a few moments, his ethereal form reformed on the other side of the glass, and then dropped suddenly from view.

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Gritting his teeth, Weyland quickly followed suit, as did Rina the dwarf and the others.  Five misty forms plummeted through the air like drops of ink in a glass of water.

The city below awaited them.


Chapter 10: Welcome to the City

When the spirits had reformed their shapes on the cobblestones, they found themselves disorientated but unharmed.  Though they could not fly as ghosts, they were also unharmed by mundane physical objects.

The five now stood on a broad street in waning daylight.  Tall, flat-walled buildings lined cobblestone roads, and gas lampposts were evenly spaced every twenty feet or so.

image_1366547589 The Upper Commons, dusk

The technology of Iqador was roughly equivalent to that of the Victorian period, had our adventurers been familiar with Earth.  They seemed to be near the border of the middle-class and lower-class sections of the town, with the sparkling domes of the royal district poking over the rooftops to the northeast.  Most of the city residents were on foot–some closing up their shops for the night, others returning to their homes.  Only a few (obviously the wealthy) traveled in coaches, either horse or human-drawn.

Bits and pieces of their former memories slowly returned to their minds, like bubbles rising from deep water.  This was “Lux Æterna,” they recalled, the capital de facto of a large and spanning empire.  There was more to be remembered, they knew, but it would more time and exploration to jog their memories.

At first, the spirits expected to be seen any instant.  But it was not until a street vendor walked directly by them, pushing his food stall cart obliviously, that the five realized they sported a natural camouflage.  Vaporous forms to the naked eye, they seemed like little more than the wisps of steam issuing from nearby sewer grates.

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Direct sunlight also served to obscure them, blurring their smoke-like outlines with its harsh glow.  Ironically, the ghosts could hide more easily out in the open than in shadow, where their natural luminescence gave them away. This was another strange and interesting fact they would save for later.

Since they were not in immediate danger of discovery, the party surveyed the crowds around.  Three people in particular drew their attention.

First, an eccentric elderly man dressed in scarlets and golds sold brass trinkets from a cart up the street.  He appeared to be some form of tinkerer, hand-crafting mechanisms and gadgets and selling them as novelties.

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His cart, dressed in the most garish colors the heroes had seen yet, was the only self-powered vehicle in view.  Steam issued from pipes, and the cart shook and whistled periodically–all a part of the tinkerer’s panache, they guessed.

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In the other direction, towards the poorer and sootier side of town, a group of street urchins played in the shadowy alleys.  Among them, one stood out in particular–a small elfin girl of perhaps ten years old.  Unlike the others, she sat off to the side and gazed with stern, serious eyes…eyes holding wisdom and perhaps cunning far beyond her years.  Though her friends were content to play with kick-balls made from bladders and soiled rags, she simply and cooly watched.

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Finally, directly across the street and just in the shade created by the buildings, a peculiar store sported a hand-carved wooden sign: “MADAME GUERRE — Consultations”.  Along the dusty windows and around the door frame, mystical icons announced the residency of one trained in the spiritual arts.

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The totems, sewn dolls, and ivory statuettes were at stark contrast with the rest of the city’s decor.  The heroes couldn’t help but notice that Madame Guerre’s shop was not a shop well-traveled, or even accepted.  Few passerbies even deigned to glance at her wares.

After a quick huddle, the party decided to pay the “Madame” a visit.  Of all the interesting people they had seen thus far, she appeared the most likely to have some knowledge of their predicament and perhaps ways to address it.

Weyland and Wert timed their movements well, and both managed to dash across the street, into the shop, and underneath a table without being seen.  Inside, a woman decorated with beaded jewelry huddled over a mortar and pestle, attending to some form of alchemy.

As Rina was about to take her turn, however, a loud commotion began up the street.

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Four armed men walked down the street from the direction of the wealthier districts, pushing people aside as they went.  Though their shields sported the emblems of the City Watch, their armor was barely polished, and their faces seemed no older than perhaps eighteen or twenty.

Rina recalled another distant fact: that the City Watch was a militia-like police force for the Upper and Lower Common districts, open to anyone without a blatant criminal record, and offering steady pay and a token of authority.  While it gave some opportunity to better themselves, others often abused the system for their own personal interests.  Watching this group of enlisted ruffians make its way towards her, Rina remembered a phrase she’d heard somewhere long ago: “thugs with badges.”

This group of City Watch certainly lived up to the name.  One of the guards swept a few of the tinkerer’s trinkets roughly to the street, while the others laughed.  They jeered and told the old man to take his “junk” elsewhere. Then they threw stones at the street urchins until the children had scattered out of sight.

Finally, they stopped in front of Madame Guerre’s shop.  The armed youths laughed at the depictions of forgotten gods, then began tossing whatever was handy out onto the stones.  As the wares clattered across the street, the ruffians ridiculed the lady inside, telling her to “move back to the Squalor,” where people still believed her “load of lies.”

In response, Madame Guerre merely paused in her work.  Under a nearby table, Weyland and Wert could hear her simply sigh to herself, before she resumed her task.

Luckily, it was only a few minutes before the City Watch tired and continued on into the Lower Commons.  Seizing the opportunity, the rest of the adventuring party scurried across the street into the empty shop.


Chapter 11: Meeting With the Madame

Inside, Madame Guerre continued seemed in no rush to straighten her storefront. Instead, she continued to apply herself to grinding the leaves in her mortar.  The group couldn’t help but notice that her skin had a very deep hue to it, and that her bottom canines were faintly visible between her teeth as two bright points.  Having recently spent time with Jerome (still trapped somewhere in the Shadow Realm), they could correctly identify her as half-orc.  They idly wondered what ostracized her more–her beliefs, or her lineage.

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Madame Guerre

Apparently sensing a new presence within her store, the Madame began speaking to Rina without turning around.

Madame Guerre:  Madame Guerre knows why you have come.  You come seeking answers that this “enlightened” age of reason cannot grant you…answers to questions burning inside of you, answers that only I can help you find.

At this point, Madame Guerre finally lifted her head to see her newest customer.

Madame Guerre:  Oh, crap, not more of you.  Why is it that you ghosts always come to me?

Rina the dwarf:  Well, apparently because you’re the only one who’d actually bother to talk to us.  Everyone one just runs and screams.

(At this point, the Madame quickly beckoned Rina to be silent, hastily checked the street outside, and then fastened the shutters on her windows and locked the door.)

Madame Guerre:  We mustn’t be too careful.  Ghosts are a growing problem in this city, and not one those in authority would like to admit.  Ghosts are…bad for public image.

Weyland (standing up from behind the table):  There are other ghosts, then? You have met them?

(Now aware that there were not just one, but two ghosts hiding within her shop, the Madame glared briefly before continuing.)

Madame Guerre:  How much do you remember of your past lives?  Next to nothing, I assume?  Fear not, that is common among restless spirits.  Others have come to me, yes. They seem to think I can help them in some fashion. And, after a time, they leave again.

Wert (also standing up): Just where do these other ghosts go?

(At this point, the Madame would not continue before all five ghosts had properly presented and introduced themselves. Once the formalities were out of the way…)

Madame Guerre:  They all find different places to go.  (I will not lie and say I was sorry to see them depart; it’s difficult enough to keep this sort of business open in this part of the city without the added stigma of ghosts.)  Some travel on and find another haunt to frequent.  Some, I trust, resolve whatever was tying them to this mortal plane and truly pass on.  And others…well, others run afoul of those in power.

The Party:  What happens to them?

Madame Guerre:  I cannot say, and perhaps it’s better if I don’t know.  Suffice to tell, if be mindful of who sees you in this city.  There are those that can simply make you disappear, even as ghosts.

The Party:  Then where do we go now?  What can we do?

Madame Guerre:  I will tell you what I have told all the others.  You must first find yourself a “haunt.”  You must first find yourself some place where you can rest, and where no one will look for you…or, that no one will think strangely if they do find you.

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The ghostly heroes nodded silently at this wisdom.  Until now, they’d done little more than meander aimlessly, avoiding danger as it came.  A place to call “home” seemed just what they needed most.

The Party:  But where would we find such a thing?

Madame Guerre:  I know of a place or two that…well, first things first. I find myself in need of aid that maybe you can offer. Perhaps, if you’d be willing to do a small favor for me, I should help you in return?

The five spirits soon agreed.  They had few other leads or avenues, and this woman seemed at least marginally interested in aiding them.

Madame Guerre:  There was a young man by the name of Warrick who helped me from time to time, in gathering supplies I needed for my shop.  Some of the ingredients I need are either not for sale in the city…or not for sale to me.  Warrick would go out and “collect” these items for me, and in return I’d give him some extra food and a warm place to spend the night.

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Madame Guerre:  Warrick even helped old “Mad” Mosley–the tinkerer whose cart perhaps you’ve seen up the street.  I recall once Warrick found a vial of pure mercury for the man–very hard for someone like us to find, I’m sure you can understand–and Mosley was so grateful that he replaced some of Warrick’s rotten teeth with silver ones.  (So if you ever see a street lad with dirty clothes and a shiny smile, that’d be our lad Warrick.)

I sent Warrick out two nights ago to fetch some…well, bones.  Uncommon bones, if you catch my meaning.  He simply did not return the next morning.  I visited a few of his common haunts yesterday, and even checked the hospitals and morgues of the area to see if tragedy had befallen him, but without success.

The Party:  But how would we be able to help? We’re just ghosts.

Here, Madame Guerre tapped her fingernails uncomfortably against the tabletop.

Madame Guerre:  There is one more place Warrick might be, a place I am unable to visit.  It is called “Wayward Prison.”  Wayward Prison is a hovel for debtors, drunkards, and the mad.  It is a place for those society simply wishes to forget. Those who go in rarely return.

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Madame Guerre:  Originally, Wayward Prison was “Fort Wayward,” in the first days of colonization.  It was built into a cliff face on the southeastern-most part of the island.  Eventually, as Iqador was settled, it became a garrison, and finally the prison it is today.  There is still, however, only one guarded doorway in, and it is on the outside cliff edge.

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Madame Guerre:  Perhaps Warrick is now in a cell there; perhaps he is now in their morgue.  But I cannot even go near their doors, much less inquire about him. However, as spirits, you have your own special sets of skills for getting into and out of places.  If you help me in this one thing, and bring me news of Warrick’s fate, I shall help you find your haunt.  Understood?


Chapter 12: Furtive Travels

The five ghosts spent the last hour until dusk readying for the task ahead, including readying soulmelds that had not yet been formed.  (For example, Rina prepared her newest skill, the Threefold Mask of the Chimera.)  Finally, the last lip of the sun passed under the artificial horizon, and the streets were set for their arrival.

Following the Madame’s lead, the five waited for her signal before racing to the other side of the street and sinking through the nearest sewer grate.  The streets were nearly empty, save for a lamplighter or two busy with their tasks of brightening the night.

upper commons streetUpper Commons, Night

Once inside the chest-high sewer pipe, the five began traveling as directly as possible towards their target. According to Madame Guerre’s instructions, the entrance to Wayward Prison was isolated along the eastern/south-eastern coastal cliff of the Lux island. Although it was not a maximum-security prison, it was still a prison, and entrance might prove to be tricky.  Fortunately, the sewers seemed to collect and empty towards the east, and the party was making good progress.

That changed, however, when the pipe they were hunching through suddenly ended over a deep, water-filled ravine.  Perhaps forty feet ahead in the gloom, the other end of the broken pipe could be seen.  The space was far too wide to jump, and it was too dark to see what awaited at the bottom.

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Directly above the fracture on the far side, however, a gaping hole had been rent in a large and featureless building.  While the five contemplated their predicament, voices began nearby.  The party moved underneath the nearest sewer grating to hear them more clearly.

Male Voice #1: I’m not sayin’ I don’t believe you, mate.  I’m just sayin’ I wish I’d seen it fer myself, is all.

Male Voice #2: I’m tellin’ you, ‘at thing just walked right out through the wall over ‘ere, fell through the pipe, an’ landed in the river!

Male Voice #1: Like I said, I’m not disbelievin’ you.  I knew ‘at factory was up to some mighty odd business.  But I never knew they was making anything that could walk.

Male Voice #2: The water’s done washed it away now, I reckon, or them factory men have drugged it off.  But if it wasn’t the strangest ‘ing I ever did saw!

The five couldn’t help but be reminded of their first few hours in the ghost world, when a large mechanical monstrosity had followed them onto an aqueduct, which had then collapsed under its weight.  That would imply, however, that the ghost world and the real world were at times very closely connected, with identical events in both.  How or why this was was still unanswered, and fanciful theories began circulating through their heads.

The question soon turned of how the group would reconnect with the sewers (or, continue to travel east in a stealthy manner).  After debate, the party retreated another twenty feet from the talking men, rose through a sewer grate in an unlit side street, and prepared to dash across a nearby bridge over the ravine.

Unfortunately, they happened to emerge directly in front of an elderly man out for his evening constitutional [nat. 1 on Hide].

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Having just seen a troop of ghosts burst from the ground in front of him, the old man sat heavily back on his rump and made a surprised choking sound.  He seemed to be trying to call for help, though it would be some moments before he found his voice.

Pretending to be merely steam seemed now out of the question, and Wert dashed ahead of the others towards the well-lit bridge.  The others quickly followed.

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Along the stretch of the bridge, a lamplighter was busily igniting each of the gas lanterns in turn.  One in particular caught the party’s eye: though it had just been lit, it still remained dark.  The glass of the lantern instead only reflected a string of stark white lights in a blank inky expanse.  The lamplighter, however, seemed not to notice and finished up his business with the light.

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“Portal,” Weyland called to the party and raced for the lamppost.  A quick leap and a climb later, and he had been pulled in through the glass.  Rina quickly followed, despite her small dwarven frame.

Wert proved to have more difficulty with the task.  His first leap fell short, and he landed (softly) in front of rather-surprised lamplighter.  He made sure to send an obligatory “Boo!” at the city worker before trying again.

In response, the lamplighter merely blinked his eyes, sighed to himself, and laced his fingers in front of him to help Wert step up.  Though Wert was surprised at the reaction, he didn’t complain; and soon the entire party had reconnected on the far side of the lamp’s gate.  (In retrospect, Wert realized that as a night worker, the man had probably already witnessed his share of ghosts.)

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On the other side, a long string of lampposts awaited in a straight line across a cobblestoned expanse.  They continued on, following the monochromatic lights, until another unlit and reflective lantern alerted them to a passage back.  They emerged on a city cul-de-sac, at the edge of the cliff above the ocean.

From here, it was a relatively easy matter to make their way to the entrance road to Wayward Prison, where a narrow and well-lit road along the cliff side led to the guarded front doors.

beautiful night view of the street in Prague

Entrance would prove to be no easy task.  Weyland and Rina managed to creep along the edge of the street far enough to see the front entrance, a featureless iron double door.  The doors were locked from the inside, and two guards outside could speak through a shuttered window whenever they needed entrance.

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Along with the two guards at the entrance, another made regular circuits up and down the entrance street.

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While Weyland and Rina had found clever places to hide, Wert was (again) not so fortunate.  There was no direct sunlight now, and the gas lanterns only drew attention to his flowing outline.  The roaming guard quickly caught sight of him and, unsure exactly what to make of the strange mist, returned to the other guards at the entrance.

Weyland and Rina soon overheard plans to investigate the suspicious new “smoke.” The party needed to move, and fast.  They did so in the only direction left to them–over the edge of the steep embankment.

Although Wert lost his footing [another nat. 1] and fell to the water’s surface, he soon regained his composure and floated across the liquid like a watery apparition.

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Eventually, the party made their way to the one other possible entrance into Wayward Prison–a narrow sewage pipe that jutted out from the rocks high overhead and traveled down the cliff face to the water.

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Although fitting into the foot-wide pipe was not an issue for the ghosts, actually making their way up its slippery, mucky insides was.  There was nothing for their ghostly fingers to find purchase on, and they found themselves sliding out as soon as they’d started up.

Luckily, one of them noticed the puddles created on their cliff shelf with each passing swell.  Although most reflected clouds and starlight, one was completely black and void.

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They’d found passage to the shadow world.  And, possibly, to a way into the prison.


Chapter 13: Shadow Sewage

As before, the mirror surface showed an accurate image of what awaited them.  In other words, passing downwards into water on one side meant breaching from the water on the other.

It was unfortunate for all, however, that the surface they breached was of filthy, fetid sewage stretching as far as they could see in the Shadowy fog.  A haze of stench floated over the surface of the water, making it difficult to breathe.

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Now in their solid forms, the travelers were physically drenched with the filth, soaking all their belongings and ruining any food not inside closed containers.  Upon realization of what had just gotten in his mouth, Wert found himself able to do little more than gag and retch uncontrollably.

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The rest of the party faired little better, and for each moment they lingered, they found themselves fighting to keep their stomach contents down.

Like on the real world, there was a cliff face in front of them.  However, instead of a black sewer pipe, here a slimy rope made from human hair stretched up into the shadows.

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Anxious to be free of the mire, Wert first tugged on the rope to make certain it was secure.  Then, sensing things were not all as they seemed, he drew his longsword to test if the rope would react to it.

Danger, however, come not from the rope.  From nearly the exact spot Wert had once stood, a muck-covered skeleton rose from the grimy depths.  The party had little time to ponder its significance before it lunged at them with grasping fingers, its non-existent tongue hissing only one accusation:

“you”

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The battle between the party and the skeleton took far longer than any might have expected.  The skeleton’s slimy fingers clumsy slipped off their armor with each swing.  In return, their own weapons found little purchase on its emaciated form. (That is, when they were not too busy retching to fight.)

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The battle seemed to turn against them when Wert’s fingers slipped on his longsword, cutting a gash open on his leg [nat. 1…yes, again].  The skeleton took this opportunity to clutch Wert in a bony embrace and begin pulling him beneath the surface of the muck.  Under the filth, the skeleton could dismember its prey at leisure.

Luckily, a last-minute ounce of strength and terror helped Wert break free from the deathly embrace.  As the skeleton moved to regain its grip, Rina lunged forward. Each of the three heads of her chimera mask sank its teeth into a different bone of the skeleton body, and together they ripped the enemy asunder.

Finally free of the lethal distraction, the party began to slowly climb the rope.  They couldn’t help but notice, however, that the cliff face beneath their feet became less and less like a mossy rock face and more like veiny tissue with a faintly noticeable pulse.

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There was no other direction to go but up.  The five steeled themselves for whatever new monstrosities awaited them at the top.


As a result of this session, the following sourcebooks and info pages were unlocked or updated:

New:
Lux Æterna – The City of “Brass and Glass”

Updated:
Campaign Setting
Ghosts in Iqador (full)

 

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