Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 7)
Chaff (Vivimancer 7), with familiar Pretty Bird, and riding dog, Puppy Whuppy
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 7), with familiar Hermes
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 7)
The ship was barely at the dock before Lynessa assembled the crew, distributed their pay, and released them to the taverns of the Fogbound Quays for a few days of drunken debauchery. She then turned to the business of repair and resupply, while the party likewise fanned out across Xin in pursuit of their own needs and desires over the next number of weeks.
- Chaff and Kwinsea both tracked down their previous magical mentors (Lady Volana and Xerious the Free, respectively) hoping to add to their spell-casting repertoire. After making suitable payment and performing the requested services, the two settled down to spend the next month in study. Chaff walked away with Chimera I and Blood into Rope, while Kwinsea learned Swarm Transformation and Winter's Wail;
- In the meantime, Awg visited the calmonari villages and recruited a pair of his/her kin to replace their lost crewmen;
- Once done with spell research, Chaff went shopping for guns from Opher the Gunsmith. She had a new wheel-lock to offer [750gp] which the vivimnacer snapped up. She also showed Chaff her latest invention; a pair of massive bombards. Hideously expensive (10000gp each; 500gp of powder per shot), big (6' long, 3000lbs), destructive (4d6 ship HP damage and chance of fire damage; fires as per catapult in terms of ROF and crew), and likely unreliable. But Chaff's eyes glittered at the thought of having these big boom-boom's on the boat, so after clearing the expense with the rest of the party, he bought them both. And hired a couple of new musketeer gun crews to operate them;
- Chaff also went shopping for a new ride, getting a small raptor dinosaur at a bargain basement price from Vadaris, Predominant Lord Chamberlain of the Satyric Chamber. Dinosaurs are so yesterday among the elite; the latest fad is arctic creatures from the Cold Nar;
- The party also chipped in to get Wilhelm and Lynessa gifts in appreciation of their cheerful service. A fine cutlass for the captain and a bejeweled cuirass for the sergeant;
- On the magic item front, the party made rounds of the temples to look for potions of healing. Unfortunately, the party is now persona non-grata at most of the temples in town due to their connection with the destruction of the Temple of the Three Virtues and the fire-balling of the Temple of Brall. But the main temple of Garu Dar was willing to deal; they were too stoned to notice what's going on. Six (6) were purchased;
- Likewise, a sage [Palova] was hired to identify the crystal fruit. They learned that crystal fruit allows the individual who eats one to access a higher intelligence (as per the spell Contact Other Plane.) She offered no advice on how one would go about eating one of the fruit without dental disaster;
- Kwinsea also hired a different sage [Lancarious] to learn more about the liquid lighting the party had liberated from Iomnogoren's lair. She learned that it was essentially the essence of lightning in solid (well, liquid) form. Rich in elemental magic, it could probably be used for lots of magical things. But in an immediate sense, he directed Kwinsea an alchemist who could use it to make lightning related potions. In the end they used they had to make 3 lightning thermite grenades [2d6 damage in 10' radius, save for half].
Last but not least, the party retained the services of yet another sage to research possible 'god-level magic' that would allow them to follow through on their plan to mask the mists. At the end of their busy month, the party returned to get their information. The sage Gervis described to them a substance known as "The Null". It was the primordial stuff from which magic was formed at the beginning of the universes. It is known for it's ability, among other thing, to overwhelm and mask magical emanations. Gervis did have information on the location of a sample of this "Null", in an old tower to the far south that supposedly dated from before the Godswar that set the planet back to the stone ages millennia ago. The only problem is the party would need something in which to collect the Null; it just can't be stuffed in a sack. The good news was Gervis knew where to find such a thing, an containment device known as a stasis cube. The bad news is it was hidden somewhere in the sprawling mass of the Palace of the Faceless Inquisitor. So the party now faced having to do a little break and entry into the home of the mentally unstable and horrifically powerful ruler of Xin.
After a few moments hesitation, the party decided they had no choice if they wished to go ahead with their plan. They knew a little about the Palace; as the centre of government for the city, it was actually considered public space for the most part and wandering around inside would not be difficult as long as the party didn't act too suspicious. However, the Palace was known to be an indecipherable maze made up of dozens of structures and gardens, and miles of un-mapped and un-mappable passages. Regardless, their first choice was to reconnoiter on foot, so next morning they found themselves arriving in the main courtyard of the Palace, along with the public officers, petitioners and prisoners. Choosing a stairway and door at random, they plunged in.
They entered into a reception chamber; in one corner stood a stone fountain overflowing with a sticky mauve goo. They choose to ignore this, and exited through a second door into a gallery or museum. The walls consisted of one massive painting depicting a bacchanalian feast. While well done, it was most notable for the eerie feeling that the figures were moving about in one's peripheral vision. Also of note was the cluster of table in the centre of the room, at which sat an old man transcribing text from a massive tome. Chaff went over the engage the gentleman, Tiberian by name, in conversation. The exasperated scribe explained he was scribing a copy of the Legal Codex of Xin in green ink. When asked why, he explained it was at the orders of the Faceless Inquisitor. And if you could please go away; he had much to do and had no desire to arose the wrath of his mercurial sovereign. Chaff apologized, then surreptitiously cast mind slave on the man to make him more cooperative. From his new best friend, Chaff learned that travel and searching in the Palace was not going to be easy. It had some means of sowing confusion on those who roamed it's halls. It was never clear how to get to where, or even where 'where' was at any given time. If you were supposed to be 'there', the Palace would allow your destination to be easily found. Otherwise, good luck. Tiberian illustrated that point as he tired to give directions to the party, and hopelessly fumbled the attempt.
Not sure what to make of Tiberian and his confusion, the party pushed on through another door. This led them along a covered gallery with windows overlooking some unknown courtyard, then down a few flights of stairs to a solid oak door. Once more barging in, they found themselves in what was obviously a torture chamber. Racks and chains and burning braziers abounded. Curiously, none were in use, although the room was occupied. In the center sat a man tied to a chair, moaning in agony as second man read doggerel verse to him. The 'torturer' turned on the party and demanded to know what they wanted. Apologizing, they stated they had gotten lost. But what, pray tell, was going on? The torturer explained the man in the chair was a poet, convicted of writing salacious and seditious verse about the Faceless Inquisitor. And his punishment was to spend 101 days listening to the worst poetry that could be found. With that, he turned back to reading to the moaning man, and the party decided leaving would be a good idea. Back up the stairs, they found the gallery oddly changed and unfamiliar; wasn't there a door over there before? Convinced now that Tiberian was right, they fumbled and stumbled around for awhile before finding their way back to the scribe, and then quickly made their way back outside. They would have to find another way besides brute exploratory force to find the stasis cube.
Sitting down in a tavern to discuss, the party floated to idea of an aerial survey. But that was shot down as it didn't help them find the location of the cube. What they needed was to find someone with extensive knowledge and 'free passage' of the Palace, to pump them for information. What about the maintenance crew or cleaners? They might know. More inquires directed them to the west side of the Palace. Most of the cleaners and labourers lived in the adjacent Blackmilk district, and they would arrive and depart from that side of the Palace. The party set up shop there one morning to watch the process. Boatloads of people would arrive at one of several courtyards, to be met by overseers who would hand out their assignments for the day. The workers would then disappear into the mass of the Palace and re-appear at day's end to collect their pay and head home. They certainly seemed to have no trouble getting around and returning to their start point. The party decided to head into Blackmilk, find a tavern, and ask some questions. Doing so, they struct up a conversation with an old labourer by the name of Ricktor. His story of how they were able to operate in the Palace matched up with that of Tiberian the scribe; the Palace knew where they were supposed to be and would put up no obstacles in the way of their work. Given a description of the stasis cube, Ricktor seemed to recall seeing such a thing in his younger days, on display in one of the quaint little gardens of the Palace. He had no idea where that garden was; it hadn't been in his area of responsibility for 30 years. But he called over a young custodian named Jord, who knew exactly the garden under discussion. It was now old and overgrown. And apparently dangerous, as he'd been warned not to enter it. He wasn't sure why. But he was able to give a brief description and point out the general location on a rough sketch map of the Palace.
With that information in hand, Chaff and the ebony fly got invisible and performed a scan of the Palace from the air, locating the garden with relative ease. The vivmancer then returned to pick up the rest of the crew, Kwinsea riding the fly with him, while Rodrigo and Awg rode in the bag of holding. He landed them in the least overgrown space, a well-manicured lawn dotted with flowerbeds. Kwinsea then used the stole of the sacred to cast a locate object spell, which directed her to an adjacent structure which appeared to be a thickly overgrown octagonal greenhouse. There were several doors, but before any one could get too close, a weird voice came from one of the flower beds: "I wouldn't touch the doors. Dangerous, too dangerous". Looking for the source, the party was shocked to find it came from a 15' foot long pink worm with the face of a man. Questioning the odd creature (Germander by name) , they learned first of all that he was responsible for the lovely garden they'd landed in. The worm also explained the reason for his warning; the doors were covered in a spongy fungus which will explode with an astounding blast if disturbed. Unlikely to cause harm, be definitely will attract the attention of someone or something awful. They party didn't question the 'awful' part much, but instead turned to figure out the doors. In the end, Kwinsea braved the stole once more and cast silence 15' radius on one door. Rodrigo then bravely (and silently) opened the portal, revealing a vine chocked interior. The vines started to move, and in moments some of the tendrils had assumed the form of a woman's face. It came close to the swashbuckler, and seemed to pucker up for a kiss. Assuming it was his turn to take one of the team, Rodrigo complied. The experience left him with the faint taste of dandelion in his mouth, but the vine-lady then dispersed. This opened up the centre of the greenhouse, where Rodrigo immediately spied the stasis cube sitting on a fluted column. He scooped this up, and then with a final farewell to Germander, the party alighted on the fly once more and headed for the "No Man's Sea. Once aboard, they instructed Lynessa to put to sea immediately, she having been pre-warned to have everything ready to go on a moments notice.
Following the directions provided by Gervis. the "No Man's sea sailed south for an unevertful week and a half, finding themselves amidst the truly tropical Isles of Endless Smoke. Finding the isle in question was easy, and they were soon circumnavigating the small jungle island. Apart from the thick growth, the outstanding feature was the great grey monolithic tower which stood on a series of bare hills at the north-east end of the island. Here, they hoped, they would find "The Null".