| Mr. Belaborus Gabble
Founder of the Acryn And Affiliated Merchant Venturers' Company
(and Sole Purveyor of the Topical Hat)
seeks Pugnacious Individuals of Strong Constitution
willing to Set Sail forthwith
on an Expedition of some Scholarly Interest
to those Isles that comprise the “Enchanted Archipelago”.
Interested Parties should assemble
at the Crusty Barnacle Tavern
at Noon on the Twelfth Day of the Month.
Payment to be Negotiated.
Our adventurers meet with Belaborus Gabble, who explains to them that he has discovered an archipelago where the flux behaves… oddly. He believes that the area will offer unique trade opportunities. He has chartered a ship (the Dog - the ship's captain, Grenville Ronaldson, is not a man of much imagination) to explore the area and discern more about its peculiarities; he has also recruited an academically-minded wayfinder, Carlotta Winder, who may gain valuable insights into the nature of flux from the expedition.
Hugh takes a quick diversion to the Crimson Mother, telling the crew to follow their progress and wait on the edge of consensus near the archipelago. Then he returns to the others in time to meet Ronaldson at the docks. Ronaldson is a typical surly sea-captain, almost certainly afflicted with a dark past. The ship sets sail. After fighting a group of wannabe pirates, and witnessing their captain discipline the crew for brawling and running betting rings on-board ship, they arrive at one of the outermost islands of the Enchanted Archipelago.
The crew have been entertaining the belief that the island is full of terrifying birds, and sure enough, our heroes are attacked by avian monstrosities with big, broad beaks. They kill all of the birds and make their way back towards the ship, finding a number of the crew cowering between the roots of some mangrove trees. They explain that they saw a girl wandering on the beach and went out to rescue her, only to be attacked by giant birds. Luckily, the birds’ beaks were too broad to peck at them between the mangrove roots where they took shelter.
Our adventurers question the girl, who calls herself Amara. She is flux, and knows it. She explains that she has been abandoned here by her father, who cared for her when she was an infant but came to dislike her when she learnt to speak and act independently. Her father sailed away from the archipelago some time ago. Ronaldson is strongly affected by her story and takes pity on the girl, giving her a berth on the ship.
Knowing of rumours that the flux here doesn’t reset the way it does elsewhere, Hugh and Winder devise a plan to leave the island and return later to see if anything has changed. The crew feel that Amara is an ill omen, and remark, with their luck, they’ll return to find birds with narrow beaks that can peck at you between tree roots….
They return as planned. Just as Winder strides forwards by herself, bemoaning the lack of anything new on the island, a group of monstrous birds with long, thin beaks appear and knock her to the floor. The party beats back the birds and heals Winder, who seems too excited to care about her wounds. She posits that the flux is somehow still responding to changing beliefs in this area, evolving as people’s beliefs change. She plans to write up all of her observations….
But there are other things to worry about right now. Tensions have erupted among the party, most notably between Simon and Adam. Adam insists that he is not a Traitor priest, suffering frequent strikedowns from Hugh for mentioning the Traitor. This comes to a head when a full-on fight breaks out between Simon and Adam. Adam is knocked out and then healed up again by Simon, who seems content to leave things be for now.
Hugh, meanwhile, is openly questioning Ronaldson’s authority, and to express his own belief that he himself would be a more suitable captain. Marian and Adam agree that a mutiny may be necessary, but Simon and Winder seem willing to stand with the captain for now.
The situation isn’t improved when it emerges that the Dog has already hoisted anchor to avoid the monstrous birds. Our party are forced to make their way to the ship in a little rowing boat, together with Ronaldson and Winder. They are assailed by penguins, which try to knock them into the water.
They return to the ship to discover that penguins have gobbled up all of the supplies. They’ll need to restock somehow. A huge argument develops between the party, crew, and captain. It looks like this won’t end well for either Ronaldson or Amara – but the girl suddenly claims she has visited the next island before, and that it is heaving with delicious foodstuffs. Our adventurers realise what she’s trying to do and endorse her story, adding that they’ve heard there may be piles of gold on the island too. Cursed gold, no doubt, the sailors speculate….
The plan seems to work well - stepping out onto the island, our heroes discover an island covered in succulent fruit that resembles a wide diversity of foods. They also come across a shrine with a pile of Valyddi gold next to it. Hugh and Adam each grab gold coins, only to discover that they cannot now put them down or give them away.
They join the crew, who are already eating. Tensions seem to have eased a little, with Ronaldson finally agreeing to leave Amara behind, although the crew now believe that Hugh and Adam are cursed. Simon steals Adam’s daggers. There is some speculation as to what sort of animal might eat all of this delicious food. In the end, they settle on the idea of a humungous tortoise – at least that’s a friendly, vegetarian sort of animal. As they finish their meal, the earth shakes as a tortoise almost as large as the ship heaves itself out of the sea and makes for the ship with what looks distressingly like an amorous expression on its face.
Tortoises are slow. Ronaldson tells the crew to gather as many supplies as possible and get ready to cast off while the party engages the beast. To begin with, they are unable to hurt it through its thick hide, but they send Winder to relay to the crew the suggestion that their weapons are super-effective against tortoises. Soon, they are carving the animal up nicely. Unfortunately, popular maritime rumour holds that giant tortoises are generally full of horrible black lizards. Once the tortoise is down, these pour out of the corpse and attack our heroes.
After a protracted battle, the creatures seem to have been defeated, but Aloysius says he saw two of them flying away from the ship, carrying something between them. Ronaldson bursts out of his cabin, wounded and enraged - he reports that two of the creatures got into his cabin, snatched Amara, sprouted wings, and made off with her. Distraught, he blames the crew, who counter that he lied to them, sheltering the girl instead of leaving her behind as agreed. Hugh and Marian instigate a mutiny, while Adam pointedly refuses to take sides.
Ronaldson and Winder are bundled into a rowing boat; Marian surreptitiously heals them up. The first mate thanks Hugh for his help but tells him they can’t keep him aboard either – he and Adam are cursed and must be set adrift with the rest. Hugh, Adam and Marian join Ronaldson and Winder in the little boat. Simon stays on the Dog, watching the rowing boat get further away. He plans to fetch help once they get back to Acryn. However, it soon emerges that the crew now have no wayfinders among them. Simon dives into the water after the rest of the party, leaving the Dog to its fate.
The rowers make it to the island at the centre of the archipelago, where they find a ships’ graveyard. Simon washes up a little further along the shore. They raid the ships for supplies, finding that most of them are intact… but with no sign of their crews. Suddenly, they are set upon by more lizards, which are now fluctuating between various forms, now armoured like tortoises, now winged like birds. Dispatching the lizards, they search for supplies. Marian, Hugh and Simon find healing potions while Adam, who has prioritised looking for cash, grabs some money from a chest.
Both Simon and Adam have been poisoned by the lizards. Whenever they blink, they each see sudden visions of their worst nightmares. For Simon, this means Penelope reaching towards his heart. Adam, meanwhile, sees the Leader looking disapproving and mouthing “Traitor” at him. Adam is now seriously worried that he might be an accidental Traitor Priest.
They venture towards the centre of the island, and at last come across a large, impressive building. Winder recognises it as the museum she always dreamt of building. At the steps, they are greeted by two guards who congratulate Ronaldson on completing his journey. Baffled, he asks what they mean. They explain that the daughter he lost years ago is in fact alive, that she is Amara. He becomes emotional, saying that he had known it the moment he saw her. Amara steps out of the museum, seeming at first happy… before her expression changes and she archly accuses Ronaldson of leaving her to die when she became ill, and to have failed her again recently by letting her get kidnapped by the lizards. Ronaldson pleads with her to forgive him for his failures as a father, but she turns away and heads into the museum. Everyone chases after her.
Our heroes enter the museum, where they see row after row of glass cases, each one containing a sailor from one of the ships in the cove. The sailors don't seem to be dead or asleep, but they are entirely unresponsive. Marian runs down the central aisle, smashing the cases as she goes. Ronaldson, meanwhile, has frozen just like the other sailors. Amara stands at the back of the museum. She welcomes everyone and explains that she is in fact an entity known as the Mara, and this archipelago belongs to her. The apparent shifts in belief have in fact all been her doing - she has the ability to summon entities that embody people's superstitions. The flux, therefore, behaves no differently in this area than anywhere else. As she monologues, she summons more of her minions to fight for her. They shift between lizard-like, winged, and humanoid shapes as they do so.
She reveals that, a year ago, she had the good fortune of meeting her creator, a merchant who had inadvertently brought her into being at the Upheaval after a rumour he spread got out of hand. He’d been trying to ward other sailors away from the archipelago to prevent them from discovering the stash of money he’d been keeping there to avoid paying his fair share of tax… so he’d made up a tale of a spirit that lived there, capable of giving form to people’s wildest dreams, but always, eventually, their worst nightmares. She indicates Ronaldson, who has lost his daughter again and had his shame revealed to the world.
The Mara tells of the merchant’s return to the island to retrieve his gold. When she attacked him, he pleaded for his life, recognising her as his creation. He promised to send her presents – unwary sailors, lured in by the promise of an area of flux they can control. She just needed to play her part to gain as much prey as she liked. Of course, having just been told that she is a flux creature and what that means, she decided to keep some of the merchant’s own crew – for as long as they remained in the area and alive, she would retain her memories of the encounter without ‘resetting’. She hopes to gather many consensus beings to study – their beliefs are so very interesting, after all. And who knows – maybe she can learn a way to escape from her small area of influence and turn consensus into flux she can control….
She’s also upset about a certain man who appeared some time ago and ruined most of her work when he found out the flux here wasn’t special after all. He was so angry about that. She’s had to rebuild, and it hasn’t been easy. Now, what was his name? Dynes. Frederick Dynes. Our heroes decide to give her a new cause to be upset – they attack her, causing her to disappear and bring the museum down around them.
Rescuing some of the imprisoned sailors, they flee the island, boarding a seaworthy ship from the ships’ graveyard to escape. Ronaldson, they realise, is not present….
When the party reconvenes with the Crimson Mother, Hugh renames their new merchant ship the Crimson Daughter and suggests that they use it to start a mercantile endeavour. While Marian is happy to discuss some sort of arrangement in future, the group eventually decides to sell the ship as soon as they return to Acryn. They do so, each receiving 18R. The cursed gold, they are relieved to discover, has disappeared on their return to consensus.
Winder leaves the party, expressing her disappointment at the unremarkable nature of the flux around the archipelago – they were all duped. Nonetheless, she decides to publish an account of the voyage – perhaps she’ll call it The Dog Delusion….
Next, our heroes take a trip to the offices of the Acryn and Affiliated Merchant Venturers’ Company, where they confront Belaborus Gabble. They threaten to expose him as the merchant who inadvertently created the Mara, and to turn him into the Watch for his part in sending sailors to their doom. Flustered, he tells them to wait while he finds some money in his back office. Simon, Hugh and Marian follow while Adam runs out back. Cornered, Gabble tries to escape out of the window, but is caught by Adam, who shakes him down. Sadly, he doesn’t have much money to hand; most of his cash is presumably locked away in various mercantile endeavours and… suchlike. Still, they each nab 60R before marching him to the nearest Watch House.
Marian, Hugh and Adam make their way to the Leader Church, where Adam is strapped to a chair and questioned while Cease Your Deceptions! is active. Marian attempts to determine whether Adam is a Traitor Priest. He explains that he is loyal to the Leader, not the Traitor, but that he’s not sure whether or not he’s a Traitor Priest – in any case, he doesn’t think the Leader’s very happy with him. He tells the story of his rather too successful infiltration of the Traitor Church, emphasising that he doesn’t think any of the Traitor Priests think he’s one of them any more.
Marian takes down a list of Traitor Priests Adam knows about. Booker is at the top of the list, followed by Simon. Armand makes a tentative appearance (on the basis of the way he talks), only to be crossed out again. Marian decides to consult a Hierarch of the Leader Church about the upsetting images Adam gets whenever he blinks.
Marian also questions Hugh to establish whether he has any links to the Traitor. Hugh talks about his unconventional parentage and explains that he does have the Traitor’s divine favour and has used it, but that he has no love for the Traitor and is happy to use the tools of the enemy against the enemy. While Marian is satisfied with this response, she nonetheless asks Hugh to leave them for their discussion with the Hierarch.
The Hierarch is pleased to receive the list of Traitor Priests and summons the Leader down into his own body to talk to Adam and Marian directly. Adam is somewhat starstruck. The Leader explains that Adam hasn’t gained his disapproval until now, but that he is rather concerned to learn that Adam can’t distinguish his influence from that of other entities. He decides that a good purge is in order, and burns all other influences out of Adam’s head. This is excruciatingly painful, and will leave Adam blinded by the Leader’s light whenever anyone tries to exert control over his mind in future.
Marian shows the Leader the list of Traitor Priests and asks for guidance. The Leader dismissively reminds Marian that he has already made his instructions clear in the past, and suggests that Marian use her initiative. Marian and Adam decide to start work rounding up Traitor Priests….
First, however, Adam’s going to need a new face. Marian uses her connections to find a low-ranking Terrec to do some wounding magic. They donate the money for two mana crystals, Adam paying 30R, Marian 24R. Marian suggests that Adam’s new face should be handsome. The mage ties Adam down and slices around his face in a single, swift motion. This is excruciatingly painful. The mage removes Adam’s face, reshapes it, and restores it. Adam looks in a mirror and promptly faints – he now looks like Marian’s exact male counterpart.
With the help of her valet, Wilkins, Marian convinces the family that Adam is a bastard son of one of her older relatives. Now going by the name Alexander FitzTerrec, he is given a nominal position in Marian’s household. As an extra precaution, Marian decides to check for any traitors among her current serving staff, using Cease Your Deceptions! to question them. She finds no traitors, but several of her better servants hand in their resignations as a result of this treatment.
Simon decides to find Booker to ask if he’s heard of Adam. Booker finds him. Simon is alone in the house when Booker appears with a burst of candle-fire. Booker reveals that he is aware of Adam’s… odd behaviour as a Traitor Priest; he is interested to hear of Adam’s vociferous denial of the Traitor and failure to perform any Traitor miracles. Simon also informs Booker of Marian’s strong anti-Traitor sensibilities. Booker assigns Simon a priest to guide him and give instructions while providing a means for Simon to report back. And with that, Booker opens a window and just vanishes – moments before Emily returns.
Hugh visits Marian to discuss their proposed joint venture. He suggests that it might be mutually profitable for Marian to pass him information about rival shipping routes. Marian promises that she will do what she can.
Every night, Simon has horrible dreams of being murdered by Penelope. This is not conducive to proper sleep.