Rodrigo Starling invites the great and the good (and through his community outreach scheme a number of individuals of lesser means) to a preview of his new play “The Last Days of Melinda Salic”, an epic saga telling of the final days of the reign of Acryn's first Queen, followed by a drinks reception at the Warrior's Rest. Rumours circulate about Starling's royalist sympathies, especially given the content of the play. Meanwhile on the streets of Acryn dark forces seem to be in motion, as the Watch seems to be kept busy by the number of assaults and murders that have occurred under mysterious circumstances, and astrologers cast their gaze to the heavens in particular to the crack that has recently appeared in the skies.
Krista Salic: And so desperate to reclaim the glory days of her late father, my beloved Melinda embarked on a quest to the House of Andrivana the Untamed.
Melinda: Your time now is at an end. I shall finish the work that my father and his companions began and drive the vile corruption from this land once and for all.
Priest: Fool! Do you not know that even if you strike me down now that the Untamed will not be vanquished? For you are nought but a mere mortal and no mortal can stand before the infinite.
Melinda: Speak not your venomous words. I shall not be turned from this task.
Melinda and the Priest fight theatrically. The Priest is mortally wounded.
Priest: Ah but I am slain! It matters not though, for in time all shall burn in the light of the Immaculate. Heed my words, for your children's children's children shall know suffering. On the day of her return should you look for a sign from the skies above the place that the star has fallen.
The priest dies.
Krista (aside): On that night I noticed that the stars blazed brightly. I witnessed an inauspicious sign as the moon turned to blood and the dragon stars crowned the Salic Raven.
Some time passes, there are several scene changes until the final scene. Melinda lies on her deathbed with Krista by her side.
Melinda: My love, come closer for the night grows cold.
Krista takes Melinda's hand.
Krista: I am here my beloved.
Melinda: Tell me, Krista, did I do right by my people?
Krista: You were the brightest star I have ever known. You were loved by your people and you loved them in return. I have been privileged indeed that of all the men and women you could have had, you chose me. In the centuries to come they will sing songs of you. I have dreamed at time of all the great kings and queens that will come after you and though your line will bring many worthy individuals, I doubt that ever again will Acryn know one as great as you.
Melinda: Thank you, my love. My only wish is that Acryn be left is safe hands. Guide my successor to make the right choices. It is a great comfort to know you will look after them.
Krista (holding back her tears): Love of my life, I do not know what I shall do without you.
Melinda: I know you will be strong and perhaps in some other life we shall meet once more.
Krista: And just like that, the brightest star was extinguished. I watched as my beloved breathed her final breath and then was she no more. To love and feel such insurmountable joy and then such exquisite pain at losing that love. Forever more would my heart remain broken. But I would carry out her dying wish, even though I knew the truth that I could never tell her. One day her own people would turn against her line. I doubt that even had she known, would it have quelled her love for them. That night I sat and gazed at the stars for some time and I remembered how they had looked the night we went to the last House of Andrivana the Untamed. I knew at that time the stars would not take on that shape again for many hundreds of years, by that time the world will have already come undone like a thread coming apart at the seams and the sky above my beloved’s city will have already begun to crack. Take heed to my final warning. To you so many years in the future: that time has come.
Curtain falls and the lights go back up.
At the reception after the play the gathered guests watch the lunar eclipse. Rodrigo Starling, seemingly possessed by Krista Salic warns of the return to the world of an ancient dragonborn, Andrinavana the Untamed. A woman named Lilly turns up, apparently possessed by a soul corrupted by the dragon Tuireann. Richard Twine uses himself as bait to lure out the entity and with the help of Henry Haldrad and Dauntless rescues the possessed woman but not before getting himself poisoned. Lucien Albar is subjected by a ritual by Francesco Graves, which allows him to be possessed by a corrupted soul and to learn more of their nature. Fortunately with a blessing from the Leader he shakes off the possession. News reaches that the People's College has been attacked. Jimmy Hoskins and Samuel Skye, accompanied by Francesco Graves, head over to the college to find that Giulio Runes has been kidnapped and the trail leaves back to the crack in the sky.
Immediately following the evening’s events Jeremy Fitzwilliam heads to report what he knows to the watch. Several more victims of the strangely possessed people are brought in and he remains to offer his medical expertise. Anabel heads to report on what has transpired to Felip Caulson. Councillor Samuel Skye heads to the Temple of the Founders, accompanied by Francesco Graves, where much to the nobleman’s amusement he fails to even budge the sacred hammer. Unit 03 also attempts to lift the hammer. It feels that it now recognises it as a masterwork and the grip feels more comfortable now than it once did. It feels that if it were to try again at a time when it was needed by Acryn, then it may accept it.
Councillor Skye then races Francesco to deliver a letter to Katerina Graves, the nobleman’s mother, and finds he easily beats him there, once more proving the efficiency of the postal service. Julius Ravensfall travels to the Temple of the Founders in the company of a contingent of Circle of the Broken Wing. Lilly is met by her madam, who takes her home and it would appear intends to ensure she is looked after. Lucien’s blessing means that should anything try to possess her again she will have a chance to resist. She is later questioned by the Watch but ultimately they are satisfied that she is simply another victim.
Save Lucien, who had been subjected to a ritual, all the possessed tend to be more weak minded individuals. Putting together Lucien's accounts with other accounts of possession has revealed the start of a pattern. The entities appear were human souls but have been twisted by the power of Tuireann. They are all individuals that died bearing resentment to humanity, often betrayed by their loved ones or abandoned to die, and took up an offer to be aided in their vengeance and a brief reprieve from oblivion if they aided the dragon. Most speculate that they would probably have to be people who died prior to the creation of the afterlife, although this has not been verified. The ghost of Isabella d'Strada appears to be one of the more powerful ones. Individuals who have been subjected to possession seem to be physically unhurt but often psychologically traumatised. Lucien, thanks to the protection of the Leader, is able to remember some of what occurred. He remembers burning with hatred for humanity and his family who betrayed him and an overwhelming desire to see the world burn. Whilst victims of possession are easy to identify by their inky black eyes, it would seem that those who have been in the city anger have gotten better at hiding this using things like contact lenses.
It is not until the next evening that Jimmy Hoskins receives the news that Rodrigo Starling has awoken. When he arrives at the Temple of the Founders, where the playwright is in the company of Julius Ravensfall. From his appearance and the state of his clothes it is apparent that the Shield has not slept in the past 24 hours and as such is relieved to be able to leave his lover in the company of someone he trusts. Starling, whilst scared and confused at having been thrust in to the middle of something so important, seems physically healthy. He explains that while he slept he dreamt of conversing with Krista Salic under a star filled sky, as she described the constellation to him. At the behest of Ravensfall he is now trying to reconstruct the constellations he saw in his dream, as it would seem the Shield has done a pretty good job at persuading him he needs to share anything he finds out. Studying his soul reveals that whilst it is potent but entirely human, or at least unlike the souls of gods or primals that Hoskins has studied before. There is also a spark within it that seems to be not part of it but that seems to be mostly inert.
Samuel Skye organises for an extra credit assignment at the free school in order to encourage research in to the Temples and shrines of Andrinavana the Untamed. There is quite a scramble to take part, as students want not only the academic credit but the accolades that come with solving such an important case, but at first there just doesn’t seem to be that much information in the college archives. From what can be gleaned the dragonborn was worshipped as a wilderness god in Acryn’s prehistory and that the Founders destroyed a number of her shrines but never faced her in person, suggesting that she was already inactive then. The stories detail that Melinda in her later years had her last house raised to the ground. Skye manages to uncover a few vague locations but the problem is many of these are described in terms of a landscape that is no longer there. The breakthrough comes when a plucky young history student, recalling the constellations mentioned in the play, finds some old star charts detailing a lunar eclipse that occurred during the reign of Melinda Salic. The Council is able to cross reference these with the drawings made by Starling and believe that this may give them an approximate location for the Last House of Andrinavana the Untamed.
Julius Ravensfall posts several of his men to look after Rodrigo Starling most of the time and Jimmy Hoskins arranges for several of his own men to be added to the watch. In addition Duke Corlo Graves sends a number of retainers to assist with keeping the playwright safe. All this is just as well as some of the black-eyed individuals make an attempt on his life shortly after the play but are easily turned away by the growing entourage. There is some argument about where Starling would be safest. The Temple of the Founders insist that staying with them is the safest place for him but Julius Ravensfall, backed up by Jimmy Hoskins, suggests he would be better in the care of the Circle. There is a heated argument in the Council, with some accusing Ravensfall’s judgement of being compromised by personal feelings, but eventually it is agreed he will stay at the Circle’s headquarters but that some of the priests from the Temple of the Founders will join in keeping watch over him.
Gidner Waycox researches whether a reagent can be created that would allow him to distinguish a dragonborn’s soul from amongst a number of trees. His reasoning that the soul would be physiologically different and this would react differently seems sound and he has managed to brew a sample. He is aware that to test this it would be useful to be able to properly study a dragonborn. He will also require some means of dispensing it.
Walter Cargan takes Dauntless’s advice and ups his personal security. He decides not to leave the city however.
In order to get the city’s mages out of danger, Jimmy Hoskin’s uses his connections to arrange a Grand conclave in Strossborg. He pulls some strings to have the council pay for the travel and accommodation for anyone who wants to go. Quite a lot of mages do take up the offer, seemingly tempted by the free trip as much as anything else, but a number, especially of the more prominent mages, choose instead to ignore the warning.
Leonello Runes is one of those who elects to remain in the city. He is seen bitterly complaining about the People’s College and their failure to protect their own in spite of the warnings of the College of the Stars, which is not doing much to alleviate intercollegiate conflict. He also complains that the Council has not done enough to protect the mages of the city. Rumour has it that he has stumped up 100 riel of his own money as a reward to any individual or group of individuals who are able to return his brother safely and has offered to assist in any magical research that will further that goal.
The play opens to a full house, having been widely publicised by a very successful leafleting campaign, purporting its authenticity. This seems to bolster pro-Salic sentiment amongst the populace and attracts a number of wealthy investors, chief of whom is Corlo Graves. Few are aware that some of this success is down to the Rosemile family printing press. Anabel in her guise as “Joanna” is offered a retainer by Julius Ravensfall in order to continue to work for Starling. She may buy wealth to represent her stipend. She receives a draft of a manuscript for a new play based on the life events of Richard Salic, purportedly the last “good King”, and clearly Starling has her in mind for the leading lady. The new production appears to being financed by Duke Corlo Graves and a lot of people speculate that the Duke might have sympathies with the Salic line.
Corlo Graves has Jimmy Hoskins handle his legal affairs. He seems to be expecting the lawyer to determine whether Booker and his companions have legal culpability for the death of his niece, Eustacia, but he does not seem to have acted on this. Hoskin's sets about trying to settle Antonio Graves's estates. The will specifies Antonio's son Eduardo, who is currently missing and presumed dead, as sole heir. He sets up a hearing in order that the Duke can be granted legal power over his brother's will, expecting this to be a simple matter and to receive a cut of the estate in payment. It is to everyone's surprise when Walter Cargan turns up to the hearing, accompanied by Eliza Tombs. Eliza reveals herself to be Elizabeth, Antonio's illegitimate daughter. Walter presents Elizabeth's mother, Molly, as a witness. Molly reveals that she was imprisoned by Arcus Blackthorn, who was using her to blackmail Antonio. Elizabeth was sent away to a secluded monastery of the Leader but was later found by the Cargans. Elizabeth, supported by Walter cargan, petitions Corlo Graves to legitimise her so that she might have her birthright. Currently the situation is unresolved, although the Duke seems at least willing to talk with his niece.
Penelope Cargan prays to her god for inspiration. As usual they god does not answer directly but she gets a feeling for what must be done- ensure the playwright is kept safe and do whatever it takes to defeat threats to Acryn.
Rafe White spends an evening drinking and gambling and as he spends his ill-gotten profits.
Jimmy Hoskins proposes to the Council that they should stump up the reward money for a mission to seek out Andrinavana's shrines and ultimately a mission in to the rift. He is met with little opposition and the motion swiftly passes
Henry Haldrad hatches a plan with Gidner Waycox to remove his possession. This will need to be an encounter on a LARP.
Unit 03 uses divine inspiration to design a device that will close the rift. It has the schematics of a device that it believes will work but it will need to find suitable materials. As the rift was created through a fracturing ritual it is very likely that the device will need to be constructed from some antithetical to the nature of fracturing (e.g. binding or unification). The input of a mage would probably help. The main downside of the device- one that Unit 03 can't seem to find a way around- is that someone will need to activate it from inside the rift.
Twine recovers from the effects of his poison but finds it has a lasting effect. He has been poisoned by an entity linked to Tuireann, who abhors civilisation. Until the rift is closed once per adventure (either at GM discretion or at random) he will feel himself become more feral. This will mean that he is subject to his baser instincts- e.g. bloodlust, hunger- and although he will be still be able to use weapons and armour the trappings of civilisation will seem alien to him. Unit 03 tries to research a cure for the poison. Although it can identify its effects, it quickly becomes clear that a cure is beyond its skill level. When Twine awakes he finds three mana have been stolen from him but after the valuable information he provides to the Council they are will to reimburse.
Booker has a blessing on the dagger that struck down the Rampant that will allow him to trap part of the god the next time it is used against him.
Saffron goes to provide entertainment at a party held by Francesco Graves. The party mostly consists of drunken debauchery and magical experimentation. She keeps her boots on, which seems to be interpreted as an odd kink. The only thing of note that happens is Francesco does some sort of ritual with his wine blood, that either goes very wrong or very right as it leads to everyone present getting very drunk. Later she heads over to an address provided by Jimmy Hoskins- sort out between yourselves what happens there. She is able to pick up a little passing trade after the play and makes another 5 riel from an understudy.
Gina Weathers makes preparations to head to the locations of Andrinavana's shrines.
Lucien has been subjected to a ritual that makes him temporarily more vulnerable to possession. Next time he fights a psychic combat he will have two less hits and usual. He will also notice that the symbol Francesco carved in his chest doesn't seem to heal.
Poisoned, effects described above.