It is morning on the airship. Sieffre is up, shaved, looking like a high-schooler before prom, nervous, pacing. Rand arranges to meet with him and Elin later this afternoon after they have their reunion. In the meantime, the group assembles to go and meet the orc camped in front of the town. Rand asks Bjaritte to gather the town guard just in case.
After a few minutes of walking, they reach a tent in a clearing. An ornate, red & gold striped pavilion, flag atop, white, with a red crossbow bolt insignia. Sounds of soft lute music, smells of roasted meat. A squat muscular humanoid shape is seen at the tent flaps, an old male orc, white hair, handlebar mustache, looks well-groomed. He wears no armor, but noble garb, hands up, makes a slow move to toss the dagger from his belt to the ground. He introduces himself as Smar, “It appears you have freed my people from their enslavement. I come bearing gifts and thanks.” He invites the group in to meet his tribe, gesturing to the tent, where a young adolescent half-orc opens the flap. Inside the tent, there is Smar, the adolescent half-orc with pointy ears, an elven woman dressed in finery playing a loot, and a teenage half-orc girl holding a baby with greenish skin. Carpeting is laid out, braziers afire, chickens roasting on spits, a table is set, nice wooden chairs, enough for everyone. In the corner a pile of wooden crates, bedding, comfortable tent furs. Smar offers a gift of a crossbow (“with this I have slain many giants”). He reports that orc and giant alike, have gone back to their pre-Thoko state of squabbling amongst each other and that the white dragon has not returned, some saw him fly away.
He asks to join the town of Griffton, leaving his people behind. 70 years ago he was struck by a beam of light. An invader was attacking his tribe on this very mote. This invader called himself a palladin, and single-handedly committed mass genocide. “It took dozens of our best warriors to bring him down. When he died, this light left him and struck me in my chest. I became better, more able, more skillful.”
The discussion proceeds toward talk of the Thoko. His Torc is inhabited by part of the soul of a giant deity and can infallibly control Kostchtchie and enslaves a single draconic thrall of the wearer’s choice. Smar mentions the artifacts from Thoko’s throne room, artifacts that were perhaps gathered over centuries by the white dragon and his predecessors. He had kept hidden, something too dangerous for the Thoko to know about. He reveals something small and flat, wrapped in cloth. Two copper plates, etched with writing. “I made these; two pages from a book that I found in the treasure chamber.” The content involves the opening of portals. The illustration on top, an oval shape, depicts two figures holding half-spheres beaming open the rift. It takes a powerful force to hold portals open. A powerful being has to remain alive to keep it open. To open, need both halves of a magical key, on each side of the portal. Upon closing, “assorted dangerous magical effects may occur”. Lastly, Smar mentions aerum, which is horded in a storeroom in the city. This was mined in an attempt to build an airship to leave the mote, but it has yet been unclear on how to refine it.
Fraas and Deagha stick around to finish off some wine, while everyone else heads back to town with Smar and his family to see about him joining the community. Durri & the Beck seem okay with idea. Timmy looks less happy about it. Rand asks him to bring Bjarrite to discuss this. Bjaritte, “you can never trust an orc”; Zinn grunts disapprovingly. Eventually everyone agrees to welcome Smar into the town.
Rand calls together a committee of notables to discuss how to close the portal. Given what they have learned from the plates, the larger the rift, more powerful the anchor, and they must remain close.
Fraas and Deagha rejoin the group and conversation moves to a discussion of the use of the Torc, given a potential dragon threat from Draugarland or something even more formidable from the portal. It is eventually decided they will journey to Jack’s tower to have Fraas try on the Torc.
Upon reaching the tower, as a precaution Korrak flits up to the top of the tower. The rest gather around Fraas as he places the Torc around his neck.
In an instant, a flurry of hurricane force, everyone is flung away from Fraas. Zinn, Shah and Rand are tossed 50 ft backward, tumbling like a leaves in a storm.
Sentinel & Deagha manage to set their feet. Funnel clouds form and descend. The tower crumbles around Korrak who quickly casts feather fall, but still is swiftly flung sideways by the winds. The sky goes dark, tower is hit by lightning, rocks explode everywhere. Uprooted trees are flying everywhere.
In the distance, a fearsome sight, as the mountains appear to crumble and fall off the mote. Deagha senses the mote is suddenly falling faster into the void.
The winds around the adventurers suddenly subside, as if they are in the eye of a storm. At the center is Fraas, who appears changed. All of his tattoos are flung off and hit the party members, burning and wrapping their skin. Fraas appears as his much younger self, about 6 years of age, but as naked as the day he was born, a sun symbol exactly like Rand’s marking his chest. In an youthfully pitched voice Fraas speaks, “I will see you soon my friends”.
He teleports away and the hurricane winds fills in the eye. The gale force winds are still present, but no longer emanating from where Fraas was. The group collects themselves and they teleport to the center of Griffton. Funnel clouds are approaching nearby on the outskirts of town. Townsfolk are flying through the air. Nearby, Bjaritte is holding on to the ground with one hand, hanging desperately to Timmy with the other. Dead bodies slammed into things, boards in torsos.
Inside the barely still standing tavern, the Beck is corralling people into the storeroom and into the tunnels. Deagha casts a druid spell to quell some of the winds around him within the town walls. Zinn is scooping up people and carrying people to the dock. Korrak comes out of the bar carrying an unconscious Archibald, shouting for people to head to the docks. Shah helps corralling. Sentinel searches through rubble pulling people out and getting people to safety. Rand runs to his home, sees his father carrying Bas. When Rand shouts “Where’s mother!?”, his father just shakes his head and tries to pull Rand with him toward the dock. Rand summons Qas and heads to his home, but finds his mother’s limp body — her neck has been gruesomely twisted. He picks her up, and as he makes his way out, behind his house, in a refuse barrel, little Zinn is cowering inside. He pulls her to his side and rides his griffin toward the docks. Deagha is dispersing control wind spells repeatedly to cover the entire town with a safe window to move about. Every time one of the adventurers tries to use mythic abilities, Fraas’ tattoos burn into their bodies and make it harder to do so. Everyone is scurrying to carry, usher, drag people toward the docks.
After quickly scouting beyond the town wall for stragglers, Sentinel comes running back toward the docks shouting, “GO GO it’s coming this way!” The pace becomes frantic, everyone is trying to get people safe on the ships. Smar is hauling Durri. There is no sign of Jackmerius; Rand and Deagha go back looking for him. All they see is a rapidly approach chasm, splitting in pieces. They can see the cross sections of the tunnels and dungeons revealed, kobolds and subterranean creatures falling off ledges into the void below. Water is draining out of the bay. The cliffs of the bay shatter; one of the boats is crushed, and those aboard fall into the void. All creatures capable of flight within sight take to the air. Deagha casts eagle aerie to save as many fallen people as possible.
Korrak goes to look for ‘Cats in Hats’ in the guarded saferoom, but instead finds one guard with a broken jaw, another unconscious and flung down the hallway. The room is in a state of disarray. She finds everything, but that particular book. Rand finds Sieffre below decks tending to the wounded to ask him to help Zinn pilot the ship.
When they return above deck to see if there are any signs of floating outcrops, remaining rifts, or the heart; all that can be seen is empty space and void.
Only 120 townsfolk have surived. Archibald, Beck, and Zidane have all survived. Durri is fine. Arwellan had to have her legs amputated. Her mother didn’t make, nor did the son. Quinnla did not make it. The spice merchant from Belheim was blown off the side of the mote. The baby who was born during the night of legendary music survived, but its parents did not. Balin and Bas are safe. Rose, the smith is not, but her body is aboard. Beck’s uncle was the first person on the boat. The old crone that Shah knew, had died of natural causes the prior day.
It is two weeks sailing to the nearest mote. Rand heals his mother, Rose, and he and Deagha make rounds curing wounds.
After much discussion of what to do next, they are unable to locate the spyglass within range, and decide against scrying Fraas. Instead they make plans to head to Zinn’s home mote. They scry Zinn’s mother using the book to help enable the spell and make way to the Ash cliff motes. After ransacking Fraas’ chambers the only things missing are vials of orborus’ tears missing.
Elin gives Rand her holy sword. Rand tingles. Rand says this is too generous, “may I trade you instead?” Sieffre is helping teach Zinn how to navigate by the stars. After nine days of sailing, see a large flotilla of ships sailing north toward them, the caravan that would be sailing to Scimitar Rock. After a few days, the Fraas’ tattoos burnt into the adventurer’s flesh fade and dissolve into scar tissues.
A few days more reach the Ash Cliff Motes. Smoke-fires, stone houses, a rustic community. Rand tries to bully the party to spend their money to help the refugees. Korrak and him argue (hilariously). Korrak physically halting Rands progress, eventually he relents and says, fine I’ll spend my share, to which the others state he already spent all his share and beyond on gear. Disgruntled, Rand goes to look for a tavern to help feed the refugees.
Zinn reaches her parent’s home. “How fortuitous, you father is gravely ill.” She makes note to have Rand and Deagha have a look at him later.
Lamps are strung up, sounds of merriment, a garden party. A butler with a tuxedo answers the door, “The mayor is busy please come back tomorrow”. Shah offers a fancy bottle of wine and uses his charismatic way to enter the foyer. Cork pop, squeak, scurrying. Shah invisibly sneaks to see the butler get told to not bother “him”, the mayor. Though, the mayor is eventually persuaded to come out and chat about the recently sunk mote and Rand asks for a place for the refugees to stay.
A sonorous drunk wealthy person overhears and heads toward the dock, “oh ~refugeeeees~”.
There is a definite contrast in moods between these rich folk — who are competitive to see who gets to ‘save’ the most refugees’ — and the haggard survivors of Scimitar Rock. “Oh you got dwarves, I don’t have any dwarves. You!” a fashionable woman pointing at Rand’s family.
Wandering the streets, there are evident signs of poverty. Farming and forestry are the key exports of this mote. This region is aristocratic, stratified, like a company town. There is a frontier aspect to the separate group of motes. They hear tales of orcs “over there” where a tower has been under construction for about a decade. Many years ago when they first tried to connect the motes together, they built a big bridge “over there”, but soon found out what orcs were like and then tore down the bridge.