Zeitgeist

Chapter 3 - Digging for Lies

The PCs’ immediate boss Assistant chief Inspector Stover Delft orders them to provide extra security for the Kaybeau Arms and Technology Exposition. The PCs are present when strange monsters unknown to modern scholarship appear and attack fair-goers. After killing the monsters, the party learns that the creatures were summoned by an ancient magic staff made of solid gold, which a fair-goer had purchased on the black market.

Only a day into their investigation, the party learns that lord Viscount Inspector Nigel Price-Hill, national director of the RHC, is coming to Flint to oversee an audit of the local branch. PCs who have been cutting corners, breaking the law, or failing to hand over evidence so they could keep it for themselves will have to scramble to avoid punishment.

Through a string of contacts, the party tracks the sale of the staff to Kaja Stewart, who stole the relic and several others from Macbannin’s manor. If arrested, she dies soon thereafter, the victim of a fake suicide in jail. Crime boss Lorcan Kell pursues the PCs for harassing his business partner, and various minor threats from the expo keep them busy, but eventually the party connects the relics to Pardwight University.

Hans Weber, the curator of Pardwight’s natural history museum, is planning a gala of artifacts of the Ancients, and he can put the PCs in contact with Dr. Xambria Meredith.

Xambria recalls finding the staff at the site of her last expedition, but she claims she was away when disaster struck and all of her cohorts were killed. She suggests the party find Caius Bergeron, who sponsored her dig, then vanished after the disaster. When Caius claims to be a harmless philanthropist, however, the PCs have few options left other than to head to the dig site and scour it for clues.

At the ancient ziggurat, the party must avoid dangerous traps and battle strange creatures from another world. They find the bodies of Xambria’s expedition, as well as a group of specialists who had been sent by Caius Bergeron. The golden seal is missing, and a map in the ziggurat points to another possible dig site.

Their presence draws the interest of a long-slumbering fey titan, the serpentine Voice of rot, who believes the lands around the ziggurat are his domain. He tells the party that an interloper from another world escaped the ziggurat, and that he will punish the mortals in his realm if they do not deal with the intruder for him. The party can use magic to track the foreign planar energy trail left by the creature, which leads them back to Flint.

The trail of planar energy criss-crosses itself and leads to several red herrings, but also goes to Xambria’s home, where there are signs of a struggle, but no sign of the woman. The trail also points to Caius’s inn, where the PCs find that he has been murdered, and his brain has been devoured. While searching his room for evidence, they learn that Caius sent an expedition to the dig site marked on the map in the ziggurat, off the coast of Ber, several hundred miles away.

Chasing the second expedition, the PCs reach Ber and find three ships in a stand-off. One is owned by Caius, and it tries to protect a group working to open the seal, which is underwater. The second is a Beran archaeology vessel, while the third is a boat Xambria chartered. She claims she was attacked back in Flint, and that she headed for this site, hoping to stop Caius’s team before they unleashed more monsters.
The energy trail points to Xambria, though she can explain this away because she has been wearing the golden icon of Apet, which she recovered at the first dig site. She plays the frightened innocent, but in truth she has fallen under control of Sijhen. After the party defeats Caius’s team, Sijhen bides its time, then distracts the party by summoning monsters. During the disturbance, Sijhen devours the brains of any prisoners, steals the ritual book they used to open the seal, and flees via teleportation.

When the PCs get back to Flint, Pardwight curator Hans Weber asks them to protect the Ancients gala. Xambria attacks the event with a host of monsters, and she tries to steal relics from the ziggurat of Apet. Even if she obtains them, however, she lets the PCs defeat her and quickly surrenders.

This is part of Sijhen’s gambit. To get home, it hopes to open a portal to Gidim. But to properly aim that portal, it needs an Ancient star map. Lady Saxby just happened to confiscate one after the downfall of Macbannin, and she keeps it locked up in her office in the RHC headquarters.

Xambria stages her own capture so she’ll be brought to the headquarters, and so Saxby will be present. Before her capture, Xambria sends word to the Obscurati that Saxby is planning to turn on them, and so the Ob sends assassins to silence the Chief Inspectress.

Sijhen wants to consume Saxby’s brain, as well as those of the assassins, since it plans to return to this world eventually, and wants more knowledge about the Obscurati. It isn’t afraid of the mere mortals who stand in its way, but it doesn’t realize that the Axis Seal will utterly thwart its attempts to go home.

Shortly after the PCs lock up Xambria in an RHC jail cell, she springs her trap. Using a makeshift portal, monsters and reality-warping energies from Apet pour into the building, letting Xambria escape. She heads for Saxby’s office as assassins make their move, all while the other staff of the headquarters are driven mad and turn on each other.

The party must rush to avert several catastrophes, and when they confront Xambria at her portal, a mishap unleashes a massive warbeast, long ago bred by the Gidim and trapped on Apet. To kill it or drive it back, the PCs might have to form a temporarily alliance with Sijhen itself, or else they’ll all be killed.

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Chapter 2 - The Dying Skyseer

The PCs get called in to investigate the death of Nilasa Hume, who perished while trying to steal from the Danoran consulate. Her manner of death suggests a connection to the fey terrorist Gale, but the Danoran security Chief Julian leBrix is under orders to cover up what actually happened, and tries to make it look like just a normal botched robbery.

In truth, Nilasa accidentally stumbled upon a cache of documents that could reveal Macbannin’s criminal activities, and she was killed by Mayor Macbannin’s aid, Cillian Creed, who was at the consulate for other business. Unfortunately for Macbannin and Creed, just before Nilasa died she handed off the stolen documents to a man who fled the scene.

This man, Dr. Wolfgang von Recklinghausen, has no connection to any of the major players in the adventure, and was just an innocent bystander who panicked and ran. Once he discovered what he’d been handed he hid in The Nettles, hoping to shake pursuit and arrange for passage out of the country.

The PCs set out to find the doctor and figure out what Nilasa was up to. By tracing Nilasa’s connections they learn of a smuggling operation bringing in magic items to arm Gale’s allies. Clues from various sources lead to a confrontation with wand smugglers in Flint’s harbor. After a battle that fields barely-controlled magic wand blasts, the party captures a few Family toughs. Soon thereafter they are contacted by Morgan Cippiano, who offers to help the party out with their larger investigation in exchange for letting off his people.

Another thread of Nilasa’s activities leads them to Heward Sechim, a man who runs a factory producing alchemical acid, and who was friends with Nilasa. Sechim, who despite owning a factory is opposed to Danoran presence in Risur, defends Nilasa as a good young woman.

Heward can get the party in touch with nevard sechim, Heward’s sickly old uncle and a once-renowned skyseer. Nevard is highly respected by Gale, and if the party is willing to help him, he can get them a meeting with her. Nevard wants to climb above the smog cloaking the city to see the stars again; he hopes a vision will help soothe the unrest in the streets. But the only place to get a clear view within the city is the top of Cauldron Hill, said to be haunted and thus prohibited, except by permission of the mayor of The Nettles, Reed Macbannin.

When the party goes to Macbannin, he agrees to let Nevard up the mountain, and encourages them to go with him as defense against the evil spirits. In truth he hopes to arrange for their deaths and thus end their investigation; simultaneously he sends his lizardfolk arsonists to destroy Heward Sechim’s factory so he won’t be able to point any other constables this way. When the party survives Macbannin’s ploy, Nevard receives several visions, one of which guides them to thwart the arson just in time. Macbannin, of course, pretends to be pleased they survived the dangers of the mountain, while secretly planning another way to thwart them.

Nevard arranges for Gale to meet with the PCs on safe ground. She claims they have a common enemy, and shares her hunches and limited knowledge of a secret group operating in the Bleak Gate, which she think has ties to the Danorans. If the party doesn’t try to arrest her, she gives them a spell that will let them track the trace “scent” of a person who has traveled into the Bleak Gate. She says she used the spell at the Danoran consulate the night after Nilasa’s death, and sensed traces of dark energy. Though the range is limited, it can point the party toward possible suspects.
The final thread is Dr. von Recklinghausen. Various avenues give the party a chance to track down the good doctor, who has hired some of Lorcan Kell’s own thugs as protection. When the party finds him, he has to be convinced he can trust them, and he eventually points them to an abandoned Clergy church in The Nettles, where he hid the documents Nilasa gave him. The doctor says that he read the documents and found references to a substance he recognized as “witchoil.” The documents, he says, were written by the Danoran security chief Julian LeBrix.

LeBrix reveals that months ago he was investigating strange goings-on in Danoran-funded factories. He thought they might have been caused by sabotage by Gale, but instead he stumbled upon strange vials of witchoil, stashed in dozens of factories. He wanted to find out what they were, but was told by his superiors to end his investigation. The party realizes that someone is using the deaths of factory workers as a way to gather energy for some nefarious purpose. LeBrix thinks that with the information he got as a starting point, it might be possible to figure out who’s behind it.

When the party goes to recover the documents, though, Cillian Creed leads a strike team to kill the party, recover the material, and kidnap the doctor. Creed arranges a trap for the party, burying them alive, but clever thinking can save them.
With evidence of larger goings-on, but no clear idea of who is responsible, the party gets guidance from Nevard the skyseer, who says he will present his visions and interpretations of what they mean at a large rally. Dockers, factory workers, and thousands of townsfolk attend, making security nearly impossible, but the party gets clues in advance that the same group who killed Nilasa and tried to recover the documents will target Nevard. Magically-altered great cats, infused with shadow energy, attack and create a panic, and it’s up to the PCs to save the skyseer, or to listen to the revelations on his dying breaths.

Ultimately, with a combination of evidence and aid from Nevard, Gale, Morgan Cippiano, the documents Nilasa stole, and interrogating the arson brothers, the party is able to link Reed Macbannin to the whole plot. When they go to take him into custody, however, the strange tremors that have been shaking the city for weeks finally erupt into a massive earthquake, releasing huge torrents of witchoil that Macbannin was collecting and refining. As the mountain starts to break apart around them, the witchoil flood threatens the slums of The Nettles, forcing the PCs to decide what’s more important—saving thousands of innocent lives, or capturing Macbannin.

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Chapter 1 - Island at the Axis of the World

The party is assigned to work security at the launching of the Coaltongue. The adventure starts after they have already done all the boring work of preparation and canvassing, so now their mission is to ensure the dignitaries’ safety during the ship’s brief maiden voyage. As the sun sets the ship weighs anchor, and the PCs are sent to make sure Duchess Ethelyn attends a speech by the king. When they check on her, they find she has fled, and that her handmaiden is leading a plot to sabotage the engine. Right as a naval band starts to play Risur’s national anthem and launch fireworks, a desperate chase and fight develops below decks. The PCs have to stop the assassins before they cause the steam engine boiler to explode, annihilating anything nearby with fire and a hail of shrapnel.
In the aftermath, the party receives accolades for saving the king. Hundreds of miles away armies prepare for a potential civil war. Then a week later the party is called to meet with tiefling Lya Jierre, the Danoran “Minister of Outsiders.”

She explains that the duchess has attacked Danoran territory—Axis Island—and has kidnapped her cousin Nathan Jierre. She has agreed to let Risur handle the task of removing the duchess, and she quickly briefs the PCs on the oddities and dangers of the island.

The PCs are just supposed to accompany and assist more experienced infiltrators, who will create an opening for the Risuri assault fleet. But when an accident kills the infiltration team, the PCs are the only ones in position to finish the mission. Their ultimate goal is a sea gate which protects the entrance to the fortress’s harbor. By stealth, trickery, or open assault, the PCs reach the lighthouse that houses the sea gate controls, open the gate, and signal the fleet to attack.

At this point they may think they’re out of harm’s way, content to let the military take control of the fortress and capture the duchess. But the high elf liaison of the Unseen Court, Asrabey Varal, has stowed away on a Risuri ship, and the PCs spot him as he heads for the duchess, killing anyone on either side who gets in his way.

Asrabey has come under orders from the Unseen Court to execute the duchess. In their fey logic, that will prove that they did not endorse the duchess’s assassination attempt, and it doesn’t matter how many rank and file soldiers they had to slaughter in the process. The PCs have a chance to intercede, and they can decide the duchess’s fate, as well as whether Asrabey takes Nathan Jierre as a hostage. The party’s actions here will have rippling consequences throughout the rest of the campaign.

Once Asrabey is dealt with, the PCs have only a few hours before Risur has to hand control back over to Danor. They can collect a few enigmatic clues to what Danor was up to, but then, as the highest-ranking representatives of the RHC, they are responsible for the official hand-off. Lya Jierre arrives, thanks the party for their help, and casually mentions that she’d like to invite them to her wedding next year, since she is the Danoran woman the king plans to marry for his peace treaty.

The PCs leave the island, but they have met many powerful individuals who will be enemies or allies later on, and they have the first clues toward a mystery that will forever change the world.

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