In the darker corners of Acryn, word begins to spread through hushed whispers and subtly-delivered letters of an employment opportunity. A well-paying individual has a few odd jobs to be done, and those capable of discretion and willing to operate outside of the law who would take up an opportunity to earn potentially as much as 150 Riel per head are invited to come to the warehouse district on the Western edge of the Merchant District four hours after the sun sets, on the first Saturday of the month.
Various people arrive at the warehouses at the specified time, and are directed by a bouncer to one of several other warehouses to wait behind. Those inclined to notice such things make note of the figures stationed on the roofs with what appear to be bows. The members of the party all happen to be directed to the same warehouse, among their number Darius, who is in disguise, though not before the bouncer has a private word with Hugh, revealing themself to be one of the many guises of the Chairman of the Adventurer's Guild.
Whilst the groups sent to the other warehouses are all sent off on other less interesting jobs, the party meet with their employer, a mysterious man calling himself “Grey”, who tells them that he expects satisfactory completion of each task with no questions asked, and that they can stand to gain up to 150 Riel if all are completed as requested. He gives them a 9 Riel advance and their first job: to break into another warehouse in the docklands, steal a crate marked with a particular symbol, and bring it to him at a provided address the following day.
The party head to the docks, getting only slightly caught up in a street brawl on the way, and break into the warehouse, sneakily at first and with some of them disguising themselves as guards but resorting to more violent means once spotted. Karlos sets about eating all of the evidence of their break-in as the others head further in to find the crate. Hugh thinks with portals and places a couple of additional crates in the warehouse in Triskelion for “safe keeping”, whilst Not-Glassinger (going by the name Carl) finds and makes off with the box they want. Pig opens a faintly humming box, which turns out to be full of bees. Once the party have fought off the swarms of bees, they continue examining boxes until one which seems to be pulsing with mana is opened, spewing forth a cloud of dust in the shape of a Symbol of Calamity and exploding violently on everybody. This is enough to break open another box which contained some experimental Gleam, which break out and proceed to cause the party some difficulties. They flee the warehouse, Hugh and Karlos escaping to a pub somewhere nearby to hide out, whilst the others struggle to deal with the remaining gelatinous beasts. Havoc and destruction are abound as they roam the streets dissolving all they touch, including all of Vincent's clothes and possessions.
Finding themselves suddenly bleeding and in a lot of pain whilst chilling in a pub, Hugh and Karlos realise that they are still subject to the Divine Aura of the Splintered Man, which Karlos attempts to rectify by performing a full 5 mana Wounding ritual to sever their ties to the god. This leaves them safe for the time being, but Hugh begins to feel as though something is very strange about his connection to his father, and feels as though use of his miracles could be… interesting.
Meanwhile, Batts has eaten some Gleam as a way of getting rid of them having been troubled by this particular strain's apparent ability to regenerate, and is rapidly coming to regret this decision as his Fortified Consumption begins to wear off. He performs a ritual to attempt to contain the creature, attempting to use what knowledge he can gleam of the nature of the thing he has consumed. Determining that it could be contained with the right sort of structure, he attempts to recreate such a thing within himself, effectively creating a sort of organic glass jar stomach within his skeletal body. He finds that this is sufficient to keep the creature contained for now.
The party regroup on Hugh's ship, the Crimson Mother, sailing out into Flux where they recuperate and Hugh shapes some equipment to replace that which was dissolved. The crate they need in hand and a couple of others they're hesitant to open in case they explode, they then go to meet their employer. One of his associates claims that the box seems to be as it should be, and Grey congratulates them on a job well done. He gives them their next task - to break into a jeweller in the Merchant Quarter and obtain some rare Rockwell Rubies, a rare form of ruby with a golden streak running through it (a description which may sound suspiciously familiar).
Investigating and discovering that the jeweller is a mage who attended the College of the Stars, they deduce that the place must have some magical defences and send in Batts. Once he enters, however, the door magically seals shut with Binding magic, as paper golems created with Scribing come to life. Carl uses his anti-binding affinity to force the door open, and they pull Batts out and attempt to reason with the mindless golems, whilst Pig takes the form of one of them to sew some confusion.
Eventually settling for the “just spam fire breath until everything dies” approach, the party clear out the golems, leaving the one human guard dead. Jemiker and Darius then grab some of the jewellery that hasn't been melted by all of the fire, managing to get 9 Riel worth each and finding a hidden safe containing a book. Karlos identifies it as a Tome of Removal, a ritually-created book of Scribing that can store objects within it in the form of pictures. However, whilst it should normally be possible with such an item to just pull items out of it, this one feels somehow different, and the party are hesitant to do so in case it is trapped.
They take it to their employer who tells them that he expects the rubies and that extracting them is their problem, so Carl attempts to remove them. In doing so, the book seems to pull back, and whilst the rubies do fall to the floor before he knows it he's in the middle of the book, scribbles forming around him to mock him. Carl laughs at them, and exerts the full extent of his unbindable nature, the book exploding in a shower of paper. The rubies successfully extracted, Grey thanks them for their work and provides them with their next mission. He provides them with a sealed letter and tells them to head to Leafhaven, a village South of Margush, give the letter to a priest there by the name of Luce, carry out whatever task they request of them and return with them.
Taking the Crimson Mother to the village, they find the priest, who it seems worships the Dreaming Ocean, and deliver the letter. He asks for their help in freeing some people nearby, who seem to have been trapped by creatures of the Flux in some cursed state in which they cannot dream. Meanwhile Millicent, Hugh's apprentice, manages to get herself apprenticed to a spice merchant who is in the area, and attempts to learn the ways of pickpocketing, whilst some drug dealers attempt to peddle the local narcotic “fairy dust” and a cheap knock-off. One of the merchants here is left with one of the boxes Hugh took from the warehouse earlier.
The party go into the woods and after clearing out some large fire-breathing bears find Flux fairies flying around and harassing some very tired-looking people. Darius, whilst sneaking ahead, has a golem of flesh suddenly burst from his body. He decides it is more convenient to let it run off back to Ghita Darrish, since she already knows who he is and what he's up to, but others in the party notice and chase it down. Batts attempts to eat its remains, but Darius stabs him and destroys them before he gets the chance. Though not before Hugh has already made away with some of them. He eventually manages to taste these, and gets an image of somebody putting on a disguise to appear as Darius now does. Suspicions and arguments fly, with the Tuireann cult once more being accused of a lot of things they didn't actually have anything to do with such as Pig's absconding, but eventually the party decide to get on with the job they set out to do.
The fairies are toying with their poor victims and stopping them from sleeping such that they'll always having something to play with and to keep them in existence. The party try to distract them by playing Pass the Parcel with the remaining crate from the warehouse that Hugh has, but the fairies get annoyed when it only seems to have some sort of flower inside, so the party eliminate them all and free the people. One of them runs off into the Flux during the fight, so Vincent uses the power of the Beacon to guide them home, back to the village, meeting up with the others there. Luce calls upon the Dreaming Ocean to allow the hapless villages to sleep once more and agrees to accompany the party back to Grey, who again offers thanks and agrees to discuss business with the priest in private. Darius listens in on this conversation, whilst what is being discussed is somewhat cryptic and alludes to something written in the sealed letter, he overhears a few details; it seems that in exchange for guiding the party to him and their assistance in solving his troubles, he is going to do Grey a favour and call upon the power of the Dreaming Ocean to achieve something.
For their satisfactory work thusfar, Grey gives the party another 36 Riel each and their final task for the remainder of the pay: to break into a secure facility at the provided location within the Flux, to free a particular individual (the picture of whom Batts recognises as the Monster Prince) and kidnap a particular guard who works there, bringing them to him, alive. Knowing the facility to be controlled by the Wayfinder's Guild, three of the party take on the identity of Xavier whilst Hugh distracts him.
Heading out of the city and dealing with some Flux clawfiends on the way, the party reach the facility and Hugh shapes a way in for them. The guards and members of the Guild within express some mix of surprise and suspicion, claiming that the sudden outbreak of mysterious activity within the Flux some distance away must have been a trick to lure away their more skilled Wayfinders, and that clearly this is all Xavier's doing and he's enacting some sort of coup. They attempt to fight off the party but are knocked out, leaving them to ignore occasional flashes of a sensation of being watched which Hugh finds awfully familiar, and continue to a corridor full of intricate and deadly traps shaped from the Flux. The work of a highly skilled Master Shaper, the traps even remain somewhat functioning when Carl utters a Syllable of Ruin and everything around him breaks. This upsets the timing of the traps somewhat which in places only makes the going harder, but they eventually all make it across.
Reaching the heart of the facility, the party find the Shaper waiting for them with a summoned Flux monstrosity and some guards, the leader of whom matches the description of the one they were looking for. The ensuing battle is tough, and in the process Hugh makes a mis-judged teleport into a group of foes he can't hold up against and is cut down. Whilst the others incapacitate the guard and the Wayfinder, no longer under the aegis of his father's aura, Hugh bleeds out. As he feels his life fading he enacts the last defence of the Wayfinder, the art of Flux Resurrection.
A short distance away, Hugh Marsh finds himself spacing out. He gets a hold of himself, and reminds himself of what he's doing. Yes, that's right, he's Captain Hugh Marsh, a Wayfinder from Margush, who has spent most of his life trying to fill the empty void that he's felt within him. Hugh Marsh, born with a strange birthmark that gave him crimson red skin across most of his body. Hugh Marsh, member of the Wayfinder's Guild of Acryn. Hugh Marsh, whose group was mostly wiped out by an Anomaly, who only survived when he called upon reserves of strength he didn't even know he had in desperation, and in doing so caught the attention of the Abnegator, the Anomaly who promised to help him find his purpose, what makes him really him, and fill that void within him. Hugh Marsh remembers that he is travelling with the Abnegator and one of his companions, the Rider. Apparently some bard, a foe from the Abnegator's past, has been in this area, and they've been investigating.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party find Hugh Branch's body, and promptly loot it, right down to the intestines, which Pig wears around her neck. Not-Glassinger attempts to rip apart the body to Steal the Scarred Soul in an attempt to recover knowledge of how to gain access to Triskelion have interesting consequences, as Hugh Branch's migrating soul is caught and absorbed into him… and without the ability to hold on to his own identity suddenly he finds himself Hugh Branch, with a job to finish and slightly confused about the fact that he can no longer affect the Flux but seemingly is able to use magic.
The party head into the back of the facility and find three beings contained there. The Monster Prince is in one cell, but in others are the Changeling of Weftwell and a young man calling himself Dirk Nightblade. The others attempt to persuade the party to free them, and some of them consider it, but ultimately opt to only do the job they set out to do, not knowing how dangerous the others could be. Darius attempts to free Dirk, passing him the location of the Evil Eye, in the hopes that he'll come and visit. Jemiker's suspicions are raised, and she attempts to keep him locked in, though isn't willing to enter the cell to check on the restraints on him. The party head outside with the Prince.
There they are met with the sight of what looks to be Hugh Branch, a woman on a horse, and the Abnegator wielding a black sword, currently impaled through the heart of a man wearing the sash of one of the higher-ups in the Wayfinder's Guild. The body slumps to the floor to join several others and the group turn and see the party. The Abnegator sees the party with the Prince, quickly comes to the realisation of what is happening and tells Hugh Marsh that on this occasion, the bard's goals appear to line up with his own, and so they should leave them to go about their business. The party however don't seem to notice this and are too busy expressing surprise and confusion about Hugh being there, and with the Abnegator.
Pig, wanting to get the Monster Prince to safety and being somewhat suspicious of their employer takes the Prince away into the Flux whilst the rest of the party try to convince Hugh Marsh to come with them, and Hugh Marsh suggests that the party should be taken for questioning. There is some confusion which culminates in the party knocking Hugh Marsh unconscious and turning on the Abnegator, though they find that as their weapons as swung into a black barrier that forms around the Anomaly, they seem to crumble apart, only to reform on the other side, and that their blows are ineffective against him. The Abnegator calls on the horsewoman to provide them an out and jumps up onto the back of the horse, which rears up, neighs loudly, and then with a flash and sudden strong gust of wind is gone. The party are left there, outside the facility, Hugh Marsh no longer with them.
And so our heroes find themselves lost in Flux without a reliable Wayfinder. Unit-01 has absconded with the Prince - deep, deep into the Flux. The rest of the party debate precisely how to return home. Eventually, it is decided upon that Karlos will use a Manipulation ritual to convince their captive Wayfinder that they are a Guild taskforce, and that it is urgent they are brought back to the city in order to make their report. Upon arrival, said captive Wayfinder is summarily killed and eaten.
Meanwhile, whilst searching for a reflective surface to gain access to the Shattered Places, Pig encounters a mysterious figure in the Flux. She introduces herself as Mina Hatcher. She asks for the Prince's help in ensuring that news of what the Wayfinders' Guild did to him is made public. At first he is hesitant, but when she claims that she understands his feelings and somehow causes a multitude of coloured flowers of kinds never before seen to grow around her feet, he gives his assent and she agrees to take the Prince back home in the Wildeaves first - and once again, they set off through the Flux, with the woman stopping off in Acryn for a brief while in passing before joining Pig and the Prince on their way.
Hugh Marsh wakes up in a cave. Here, the Abnegator sits by the fire. He tells Marsh that he is an irregularity, and they discuss the circumstances of Hugh Branch's seeming resurrection. Marsh maintains that all this Branch business must be coincidence; the Abnegator informs him that certainly one of them must have been resurrected. He asks if he has been in any danger recently, and Hugh replies that he doesn't think so. The Abnegator points out that both he and Branch have exactly the same claim to existence. He also sends the Eye of the Shadows to find out where precisely Hugh Branch left his boat.
Meanwhile, the main party go back to speak with their employer and collect their payment. Despite not having the Monster Prince, Grey seems content that everything has been carried out satisfactorily and that the matter is in hand, giving them their full pay and taking them up to 150R in pocket. Darius and Paradai then leave. Karlos, Batts and Not Glassinger hit one of Acryn's taverns to celebrate. Meanwhile, Jemiker reports back to Jimmy Hoskins, providing him with the notes she stole from the facility.
Pig and the Prince return to the Wildeaves, and the Prince reunites with all his friends at the castle - who, naturally, like all Flux creatures, have reverted to their original state, with no memories of previous events. Pig asks Mina if she can help with this, and she replies that she will look into what can be done. She also gives Pig her remaining pay along with an extra 9R, on top of the 150R that it has received total.
The Eye having located Branch's boat in the harbour, the Rider takes Hugh Marsh and the Abnegator to a patch of Flux close by at considerable speed, where the Anomalies drop him off. The pirates aren't too keen on this other Hugh turning up, but with the combined force of the Wayfinder's Guild and a small chunk of the Watch, he manages to clear the boat of all pirates - including Millicent the Apprentice and a couple of pirates who seem to have formed a fan club, who take their lives in their hands and opt to swim away. The rest of the crew put up markedly more of a fight, but eventually the ship falls to Marsh's control.
Back at the tavern, Karlos and Batts use Sleep of Death on Not Glassinger, and loot his possessions. Karlos takes hold of the Carleon Orb - which seems to seize hold of Bats when he peers into it.
There is a rumbling. He hears a voice observing that he isn't its servant. Or… is he?
The voice of Carleon confirms that Batts is one of his creations - and Batts suggests that maybe they… can talk?
That's not how it works, says the voice. Submit.
Batts thinks, for a fraction of a second. Then: “I'm Batts Marbeq, and I only submit to people willingly! You can't change that! Dominate - leave me alone!”
There is a pause. Then, the voice replies: I can't change that, did you say…?
Batts is released.
Karlos and Batts have a rather frantic discussion about what to do with the orb - which Karlos has correctly identified as being draconic. After significant debate, they conclude that the best possible hiding place is probably in a hole in the wall in Karlos' room at the People's College.
Karlos then does a Wounding ritual to cut Hugh's personality out of Not Glassinger. Hugh's personality is subsequently placed in a smallish lump of meat.
Meanwhile, once the sun sets, Batts discovers that the starlight surrounding him no longer takes a form quite so pleasing to his vanity. Instead, he appears to be wearing starlit manacles. Sampling these via Taste of Knowledge proves to be… painful.
More shenanigans ensue - eventually resulting in Not Glassinger gaining hold of Hugh's meat-personality.
Paradai reports back to the True Council, putting word out that Hugh Branch is dead and that Pig has the body. This more or less makes up or the fact that he didn't find the information they were actually after, and the information he has managed to obtain at least puts them a step closer towards trying to piece together just what has been going on here.
Darius goes on a Tuireann recruitment drive - which proves to be oddly successful at the point where he stumbles upon a waterlogged Millicent the Apprentice and a couple of the pirates, who are looking for a place to stay. Whilst Selphina appreciates having more friends around the place, this does not seem to particularly please Tuireann, as the non-mages he has brought are not of so much use to it. Darius finds his body starting to fall under the strain of the dragon's curse.
Karlos Sleep-of-Deaths Batts, but Not Glassinger manages to prevent him from cutting the fae out of him - leaving Batts dumped in a sewer somewhere with an explanatory note.
Karlos tastes Not Glassinger's blood. The vision he receives is not… wholly reassuring.
Pig takes Hugh's corpse to the Tender Church. They are predictably unable to resurrect him. It also analyses the fairy dust from the villagers in order to replicate it.
Marsh reports back to the Wayfinders' Guild, who are surprised to see him after so long but welcome him back.
Meanwhile, the Prince tells his story to Acryn. A week later, everyone across the city shares a common dream. They dream that they are a guard in a secure facility, and see the brutal torture and vivisection perpetrated against creatures of Flux. Officials within the city begin publicly condemning the Guild, as the Prince goes public with his experiences. The outrage this provokes is amplified by a sudden burst of printed pamphlets crying out against the Guild's cruelty - author unknown. More or less.
Public opinion is well and truly against the Guild. In light of this, the Council begins to debate the possible implementation of the Cargan-Graves-Everett Bill of Rights, which would limit the Wayfinders' Guild's sovereignity over Wayfinders and Flux creatures. Jimmy Hoskins provides the documents stolen from the facility, providing stronger evidence of the Guild's doings, but does all he can to stall this process, whilst Armand Cargan-Graves works with equal assiduity to campaign for it to be passed into law.
It goes without saying that all four Cargan Councillors support the bill. But perhaps more surprising is that four of the more mercantile representatives and the representatives of each of the churches are completely unswerving in their support. Perhaps this may relate to the fact that as of late a couple of the merchants have been seen showing off their latest jewellery, inlaid with the beautiful glint of rare Rockwell rubies, or that rumour tells that recently a sizeable cache of holy relics of the Founders, believed stolen, was recovered and returned to the churches. Or perhaps that was all just coincidence and convenient timing.
It becomes clear that whilst these 12 provide unwavering support, thanks to what influence and bribery the Wayfinder's Guild can still muster 6 are equally unwavering in their opposition. But others still remain undecided, and results of the debate are as yet inconclusive. Nonetheless, support for the Bill is substantially stronger than it was before.
In the wake of all this, more anonymous graffiti is showing up in favour of clockwork golem rights…
Meanwhile, Xavier finds members of the Wayfinder's Guild keeping something of a closer eye on him than they used to. How odd. It must just be because he's so important.
And in the weeks that follow, their reputation being as affected as it has been, the Guild do not report that in addition to the Monster Prince, Dirk Nightblade, a known dangerous and violent Anomaly has escaped their custody. Those in the upper echelons of the Guild begin to make plans, and there are undoubtedly ways this fact could be leveraged in their favour, but for now it doesn't need to be public knowledge…
Through Consumption you have gained something of the properties of the acidic gelatinous creatures known as Gleam. This alters your use of the spell “Dissolution of the Form” in the following ways:
You have been severed from the identities and wills of the Splintered Man, and are no longer subject to his influence. The has the following effects:
If you attempt to use the miracles of the Splintered Man, you feel the sensation of your brain being wrenched and pulled out of your head via your eye sockets. For any encounter in which you have used a miracle of the Splintered Man, pick one of the targets of the miracles used. You permanently gain one of the beliefs that that target had, chosen at GM discretion. These beliefs may be contradictory.