Recent reports from Acryn's assets in the Serradic Empire have indicate that a group of scholars from the Grand Academy in Batra have recently recruited an assortment of mercenaries from the Fighting Schools of Tovis. According to the intelligence gathered so far, the group appears to be headed to a recently discovered archaeological site in the Great Desert some distance north of Junnes.
The People's College, with the support of the Council, has determined that a small expedition should be funded to investigate this site and prevent any important discoveries from falling into the hands of the Empire. There is also a hope that amongst the influential members of the Imperial party there may be those sympathetic to our values; their recruitment could be of great advantage to Acryn's long term relations with the west.
The party travel into the desert and after a violent run in with a Serradic patrol and a group of Dragon cultists they eventually make their way to the dig site. They diplome with the mercenary guards and Gidner is able to meet with a junior academic from the team but they are unable to negotiate a place with the expedition and are politely sent back out into the desert. There Howard worldshapes a tunnel back towards the digsite and they are able to quietly infiltrate the ancient subterranean complex. After surviving an encounter with some archaic but still deadly traps, Colin warns of a sudden surge of mana and moments later the group feels the floor drop out from under them sending them tumbling through a draconic space. They emerge from the utter darkness only to splash into the warm waters of a red river. Though they feel themselves lulled into a sense of tranquility they still manage to notice something being taken from them and fight against it as best they can.
Crawling onto the banks they find themselves bereft of all but a few memories and surrounded by people in a similar condition. They explore their surroundings and then shape a comfortable house from the flux in which to spend the night. One of the men is able to identify the coins of many of the amnesiacs as belonging to 'The Empire' whilst the party seem to be carrying the coinage of a place called 'Acryn'. Gidner is able to analyse the river waters and finds that it appears to be some sort of alchemical solution that dissolves the soul, precipitating the memories as small crystals. Booker calls upon the Traitor to lead him back to those memories (and only those memories) that are essential to his Service- at this his dagger leaps into the river and vanishes off into the distance, leaving a vaguely metallic trail that only he can see. In the meantime Howard has Miraculously convinced a Priest of the Jubilant Mask that he is his god and bids him make a mask of Colin's face. Despite some concerns over the strange appearances and behaviour of their companions, the group as a whole decides that they are best off if they stick together whilst they seek their memories.
Following the river inland they come to the enormous wall that Howard had scouted the night before. Refusing to leave the edge of the river to journey to the distant gate, they instead try to force their way through the wall. Howard finds his shaping blocked by some powerful flux entity that bellows its rage at his manipulation of its home. However with the assistance of a large barrel of explosive depapered by Colin they manage to blow a hole large enough for the party to run through before it reseals. This does separate the adventurers from the other amnesiacs but there seems no easy way to get back to them, so instead they proceed onward finding themselves inside a huge twisting labyrinth.
After fighting a large group of flux draconic entities the party hastens towards a patch of consensus, only to find themselves hurled into the Lost Spaces as they attempt to cross the threshold. Seeing their party members vanish, Booker and Colin work together to bless a rope to lead them true and attach it to an arrow which is loosed into the river. Stepping into the Lost Place they find the rest of the party beset by giant magpies, however the severed portion of rope attached to Booker's wrist remains taut, pulling back towards where they came.
As they wander across improbably merged landscapes the group is met by the Watcher who explains that he saw them vanish from his sight and then reappear here. They explain their situation and with the aid of blessed rope the Watcher's wayfinder is able to cast them back out of the lost space and back into the labyrinth. When they attempt this the consensus fights back against them and they are faced with a group of doppelgangers. Howard promptly swaps identities with his, which causes a great deal of trouble for the party as they are repeatedly agonised by the doppelgangers' attempts to destroy the vile Scion of the Flux. Once the defenders of the consensus have been defeated, Colin resolves the Branch situation by merging the two. This results in Howard appearing to be split right down the middle, with both sides clearly being him, but also clearly different.
Venturing on through the darkness they come across a cluster of ghosts, apparently trapped here for centuries if not millenia by the twisting passages and the beast that stalks them. They have lost most of their useful memories to the river, but one amongst them is an ancient mage who apparently knew of the magics of the Upheaval a thousand years before Dine's destruction of the world. Colin creates a paper vessel for the mage and Howard agrees to play host to the other ghosts as they attempt to make their way out of the maze. They are finally confronted by the bestial anomaly that has tried to trap them here, and between them are easily able to put down the creature. With his nemesis defeated Howard promptly levels the entire section of the labyrinth they are standing in and Makes History to keep it gone.
They proceed on towards the river and scout out a group of flux 'memory poachers' one of whom promptly recovers Booker's knife. They are quickly put to the sword and Booker stabs himself with the blade, recovering all the memories that the Traitor judged vital. The rest of the party is forced to dash across the stones of the river rapids, grabbing up memory crystals as the fight off the alchemical spirits produced by the waters. Thanks to Mar's creation of a golem to wade directly through the dissolving waters, they are able to recover almost all their major memories and fighting through the pain of their past are mostly able to reintegrate them. Booker feels no need to absorb his 'inessential' memories and Howard, having restablished his identity chooses not to integrate the crystals belonging to his past life, Leaf.
Wandering upriver in the hopes of tracking down their remaining memories the party encounters a group of crimson skinned people gathering clay from the riverbank. They speak of the party as being 'trueborn' and ask for donations of flesh that they might combine it with the clay to create new children from by the miracles of the Mother Crimson. Howard cuts off a finger and as the priest shapes the clay into life he drops in Leaf's memories. This causes considerable consternation but the miracle is done and a squalling crimson babe lies on the earth. Eventually persuaded to leave the child with a loving set of parents the party moves on, coming across a none-too-bright band of rebels who are conspiring to overcome the tyranny of the Citadel and use the contents of the vault to dominate the world above. The party are dismissive of their potential to pose a threat to anyone but support their efforts to overthrow the regime that maintains the great river and forces a tithe of memories upon their people. The rebels promise to call up other like minded bands and head for citadel.
After dealing with some troublesome lionlizards on a pit-trap strewn savannah, the group encounters another band of revolutionaries, these composed of exiles from the citadel banned for advocating radical changes in the Rule. They explain how the tithe system has forced their society into stagnation and decline, and how the memories are used to power a Weaver that somehow obscures the existence of this land both from the bordering dragons and the outside world. Colin exchanges a message tome with one of the mages, and they too promise to secure the assistance of other exiles in effecting an overthrow of the authorities sending a guide along with the party to 'hand them over' to the enforcers of citadel.
Moving on the party encounters a young man wandering lost and frightened through the wilderness, apparently incapable of incoherent speech. Their guide identifies the boy as soulless, a condition that apparently occurs when some incompatibility arises between the artificial bodies and reincarnated souls of the Skirans. The party take him back to the nearest where the distraught locals explain that they just can't afford to look after the animalistic youth anymore. Howard, Booker and Colin take the boy aside and grant him a new will and the blessing of the Traitor. Colin pretends to unify Booker's old memories with the boy whilst discretely pocketing them for later. Howard gives the youth the name Hugh and claims him as a son, asking him to join the party on their travels. Hugh agrees and they head on. They soon are met by the Serradic party who have also managed to regain most of their memories; after some quick negotiation it is agreed that there is nothing to be gained by fighting in this strange land. At this point Fabi, the priest of Zosimos the Curious admits that their drop into this realm was due to his use of a miracle in the dig site to get the ancient structure to show him what it did. Meanwhile Branch submits to having his own face removed by the man he has assumed was his priest, as the devotee thought it still possible he might be the Jubilant Mask beneath another guise.
As they near the consensus farmlands around Citadel they are discovered by a group of Enforcers who are shocked to find a group of Trueborn wandering the wilderness and extremely frustrated as the party refuse to surrender all the sharp objects they're carrying. It is clear that the enforcers don't think much of the trueborn and the irritated members of the party give them a hard time of it as they are escorted towards the fortress-city. Outside the gates however they find a besieging force including one of the idiot rebels who met them earlier. The adventurers run ahead of their minders towards the rebels, inciting them into a panic; one of the rebels from the first group immediately blows their cover in front of the enforcers and the group end up in a brief running battle as they dash for the gate. Eventually they leave the escort fighting a desperate delaying battle against the besiegers and are confronted by a group of guard who have mustered in front of the gate; these soldiers request that the party take a Sleep of Death and give themselves into custody, however the adventurers refuse and by the miracles of the Traitor simply walk through the gate. Unfortunately they find this simply leads to another gate and an archer flanked kill zone. Gidner blasts through the second gate with an impassioned shout carrying the force of the Liaran people, however a third barrier prevents their escape. A desparate battle breaks out as the group buys time for Booker's miracle to get them all out of the gateway, but as the rest of the group breakaway, Colin is brought down by the Skiran's assault. Booker, Gidner and Howard flee into the city but Mar is unwilling to leave anyone behind and starts building golems to smash down the inner most gate. After slaughtering dozens of guards the thick city gate is shattered but by the time she clambers through Colin is already gone, lifted back up to the walls and taken prisoner.
Hunted and easily identifiable by their uncommon appearance, the four free party members accept a miracle from Howard that replaces their identies with that of a group of locals. Now suitably inconspicious they try to find what has become of Colin, eventually leaving an alchemical smoke signal in the sky with a coded message stating they are heading to the place the rivers meet. Meanwhile Colin manages to escape from a pair of idiot guard who are over eager to placate their trueborn prisoner; after opening a breach in a poorly defended part of the wall with a couple of depapered barrels of powder, he sneaks up to the Weaver's compound and watches those coming and going, but is unable to recognise his party in their new identities. The others decide not to risk wrecking the Weaver of the Veil in order to recover their missing minor memories and leave, Branch noticing Colin skulking the rooftops and managing to bring the group back together. Meeting in a cafe, with Colin heavily bandaged in the manner of several inhabitants they have met, they plan what to do next. Eventually they decide they need more information to find a way to the vault, and via Colin's scribing book are able to contact the rebels and get a location where they can meet with some sympathetic members of the citadel.
They meet with many members of Citadel's society who are concerned about the future of Skira, learning about the erratic operation of the city's heavily modified Dragongate, the loss of dozens of Truthseekers due to the effects of the upheaval and the fact that there are only now a few dozen incredibly inbred Trueborn left in the city. Howard becomes suspicious about a bandaged citizen who appears to be suspiciously well informed, particularly since most of the individuals present have massive gaps in their knowledge due to the tithe. After the individual flees their interrogation, Booker hits him with the Traitor's Cloak, and he reveals himself to be a high official in the government who wants the party to go into the vault and persuade some of the ghost Sentinels to leave that they might give their centuries of memories to the river.
During the night, Colin creeps to a meditating Booker and performs a rite to unify his child's family memories back onto his soul. However Booker, empowered by his earlier miracle, fights back against the unwanted memories and manages to break the power of the ritual, destroying the memories completely and leaving only a lingering sense of loss in their wake. An angry confrontation follows as Booker completely rejects Colin and storms off leaving the distraught archer to be comforted by his bleary-eyed comrades.
Armed with a vague location from the vault provided by the Warden's office, the party are able to find a warehouse where the entrance is hidden and manage to bluff the guards long enough to close the distance and rush past, hurling themselves down the trapdoor into the vault. They fall down a long chute that deposits them in a strange armoury formed from the Primal Keeper's body and will. They feel divine eyes upon them as they fight past automata and an extremely sophisticated array of traps, they capabilities apparently being tested before they confront the vault's human guardians. Eventually a ghostly group of Sentinels confronts them, but the party is able to persuade them of their pure intentions and they are taken to meet with the God within the vault, the Second Sentinel.
As they pass through one of the rooms containing the deadly artefacts of the Vault, Gidner lingers overlong before an apparently empty case. Moments later he begins to feel unwell as an ancient disease afflicts him and then proceeds to spread to his companions sparing only Booker. Calling upon his awesome intellectual powers the Battle Magister is able to determine that he has contracted the First Plague and that all those of primal descent are subject to the ravages of the sickness. This appears confirmed when Booker muses allowed that he should be of such descent as a human created him; immediately after making the statement he feels the bite of the plague. The party are brought before the Second Sentinel even as Gidner starts to succumb to the plague, his primal nature making him the first victim. Mar is also sickening, the primal brick she carries within her body only empowering the sickness. However calling upon the power of the stone and the gifts of the Lord of the Rock she reshapes her flesh into clay, burning away her human vulnerabilities in a wave of divine and primal power. Reaching the same conclusion that they must abandon their primal heritage to survive, the others accept a miracle from Howard that recreates their identities- rejecting the human parts of their souls that they might instead by new beings born of the upheaval. Its hosts no longer targets of interest, the plague evaporates from their bodies and the party find themselves fully recovered. With his pre-upheaval life reduced to a lie, and his humanity gone Colin remarks in despair that he has now lost everything that defined him.
The group manages to persuade the Second Sentinel of the need to save the city from its plunge into destruction by sending some of his entourage back out of the vault. A dozen ghostly wardens are selected and accompany the party as they make the way to confront the final guardian of the vault, the will of the Keeper himself. Grabbing hold of the vault door the adventurers pit themselves against the determination of the the ancient primal and with some small aid from the god they are able to force their way through, pushing out of the vault and back into the city. However as Mar carries Colin's comatose body over the threshold, the weakened Keeper tries one last time to hold him within. It would be the simplest thing to brush past, but with a will utterly broken by his losses, Colin cannot muster the motivation to resist and his soul is pulled loose to join the Keeper in the Vault forever.
Having emerged from the Vault the adventures find that their companion has regressed to an animalistic state that they recognise as a sign of the Soulless. As Mar and Gidner hold the frightened man still, the Splintered Man reaches out to the consensus and draws forth a new Will to inhabit the body of their former comrade. As the new will settles into place it brushes against the dissolving remnants of Colin's thoughts and declares “I am Nobody.” They try to comfort and reassure this new person, and Howard claims himself as his father, giving him the name Blake. 'Blake' agrees to come with them and the group head to the river with their guard of Sentinels, watching from the bank as the ancient ghosts plunge themselves into the waters and vanish into a twinkling cloud of memory crystals.
The group then returns to speak with the Warden, who thanks them for their great service to the city and is enthusiastic about the prospect of the Truthseekers having allies on the Outside. They also meet with the Serradic representative who confirms that his party are being treated well, and that the Empire too shares the view that the Skiran's for all their reliance on magic, are nonetheless doing the world a service and should be granted reasonable aid in their endeavours.
Before departing the group try to track down Hugh and with the Warden's blessing he is turned over to their care. As he is reunited with his family a fleshy draconic beast bursts forth from his chest and burrows deep into Howard's torso, to the consternation of everyone. Gidner offers alchemical assistance and prepares a treatment regime to lure the creature into slumber only to awaken when Branch's own life is ebbing away.
Wanting to repair the damage of their entrance to the inner realm, Howard leads the group back to the gates where once a labyrinth stood and worldshapes the twisted passageways back into being. Hopefully a sufficient protection against draconic remnants even with the local guardian dead. With that task done the he drags the party into the lost places and they trace a route through that broken landscape back to the world outside. On the threshold they once again face the protectors of the consensus but this time they are able to prevail without internal conflict.
The party step out of the Lost Places back onto the borders of the dig site. As the mercenary guards shout in alarm from the walls of their palisade, the group blithely wave their letter of passage and head off back to Acryn. Speaking with their employers at the People's College the party explains that the Serradics had unearthed an ancient dragon gate site, but that the gate itself was shattered beyond use and the Imperial party were abandoning the place as without interest. The professors are obviously disappointed but have no reason to doubt the party and pay them for their risky journey into enemy territory.
FURTHER DEBRIEF TO COME ONCE ALL PLAYERS HAVE MAILED ME OR CONFIRMED THEY DON'T WANT TO DO ANYTHING
You have become a being of clay, built of your own labours. Your base stats become like those of a clay golem, however each encounter you may also choose to bake your flesh in the fires of productivity- if you do so your form becomes more solid: you lose access to the DISARM calls and IMMUNE STRIKEDOWN, however you are no longer WEAKENED and may be STRENGTHENED. At the end of the encounter the sweat of your efforts will soften you back to normal.
You are not of the line of the Primals, but rather born from the sea of pure potential brought about by the Upheaval. Whilst you may appear physically human, in fact you represent an entirely different form that ensouled life might have taken.
We're Not So Different
You know yourself to be fundamentally different from those born of primal lineage, but this has merely driven you to reach out and try to understand how the experiences of others relate to your own.
Gain connections with one group as per the Contacts skill
Once per Encounter you can gain insight into the thought processes of something that is otherwise unable to communicate with you. Once you have picked an Affinity this ability extends to instances of that too.
What Could you Imagine we Have in Common?
You know yourself to be fundamentally different from those born of primal lineage, and see little reason to embrace the mindset of so alien a people.
You may call IMMUNE to social calls such as “Just Hear me Out!” and “Look Behind You!” or any effect that relies on an empathy with humanity.
Additionally you may now choose to treat a FEAR call as an ENRAGE or vice versa.
The difference between you and those born of the Primals is becoming more evident. Choose an element of the natural world: trees, snow, shadows, oceans, reptiles, stone etc. You have developed an affinity with this substance and unless directly influenced by another Will it will never impede your passage or bring you harm. When surrounded by examples of your affinity you count as STRENGTHENED.
For example with a Snow affinity you could walk through a bliizzard, unaffected by the cold and with unimpeded vision. You would be immune to the attacks of flux creatures or magical constructs formed of snow.
With an ocean affinity you could breath seawater as easily as air, sink or rise through the depths at will, and brush off a tidal wave.
Your affinity causes slight changes in your appearance that you may define.
You have learned how to utilise your affinity in a combat situation, drawing forth the substance from the world around you or from your very soul.
You may pick any standard call appropriate to your substance and call it at Range once per Encounter. I.e. A fire affinity could burn someone for a REND, whilst a wood affinity could SHATTER many weapons.
Alternatively you may form a weapon of the element. This can take any form and counts as superior (unless you have a crafting skill that would allow you to produce mastercrafted items)
Out of combat you can use this to produce minor amounts of the element such as snapping your fingers to create a spark or making enough wood to keep a campfire burning all night.
The awakening of your true nature is complete.
Once per encounter you may merge with the substance of your affinity completely discorporating. When you chose to manifest once more you do so refreshed and revitalised. Mechanically you may call disappearing and then if you wish move to any other instance of your element in view, appearing at your leisure, taking a HEAL 5 when you reappear.
Additionally, once per adventure you may unite yourself briefly but more completely with an example of your substance. You can briefly be considered to act as one with the bit of reality you have unified with, controlling it in whatever fashion you wish . For example with a Wind affinity you might turn a breeze into a hurricane or carry your party across the skies. With a wood affinity you could grow a tree up into the clouds, or have a warship tear itself apart.
You can use this purely to augment your capabilities in combat, in which case you are immediately STRENGTHENED, gain 2 extra uses of your Manifestation call and become IMMUNE to two calls as appropriate to your element. The effect lasts till the end of encounter.
Finally you may use this ability to retire your character. Doing so permanently fuses your soul to a place where your chosen substance is plentiful and establishes you as a spirit watching over the region.