Under The Dome
The campaign that preceded Vanguard...
A domed city, efficiently run by a cabal of four generals. It is said that forty years ago, demons attacked, and the mages erected the dome. Now, nobody enters or leaves.
The city runs like clockwork. There is virtually no violent crime, guards are present but never raise a weapon, many buildings are uninhabited, everyone has a home and almost everyone is provided for (though there is one slum for the destitute). Magic is never on display, and there is an anti-teleport field throughout the city.
The mages continue to labor, unseen, to maintain the dome. Everyone, or nearly so, is happy that the generals are doing such a good job at protecting the populace from the horrors without.
- Arcadius, Dio's volatile mage
- Rebecca, Susan's knight-in-training
- Reven, Ryan's soldier
- Sharone, John's healer
- Father Dante, Eli's priest
- Lucky Jack, Brad's acrobat
- Jace, Alex's Inquisitor (!)
The campaign had an earlier phase in which the characters were years younger, teenagers built on 80 points. They started an 'adventuring club', and found their way into the catacombs. This was discovered by people who could use an off-the-radar exploration team.
More recently, Jack, Dante, Arcadius, and Rebecca have all learned that their respective mentors/patrons believed that The Fall of the great city didn't exactly happen as the one authoritative history book asserts. The four mentors may have different goals or hypotheses, but the purpose is common: let's find out what happened.
A recent venture into the catacombs revealed undead creatures that almost killed the party. Grappling fire-zombies were tough. Also, a mystery -- the catacombs were scorched, charred, and upon entry, the old embers lit up. What could have created such a fire, so many years ago, that it yet burns today?
Also, a note, "It is time," though its author and intention are unclear. Discovering those may help unravel the mystery of what really happened 40 years ago.
Upon exiting the catacombs, the party was spotted, and there is concern they are all wanted, or suspected of trespass, or worse.
Reven, a soldier and childhood friend of Sharone, shows up at her house to express his concern about rumors she's involved with some ne'er-do-wells and criminals. No no, she assures him, we are good and just and trying to reveal some important truths. She invites him to meet the rest of the party, and he confides that being a soldier without a war to fight is dreadfully boring, so he may as well try to help out.
Drinks are shared, and Jack has a history with Reven too, so the deal is sealed and a friend is made.
The party spends much time in the library, researching history and alchemy, and the Master Librarian surreptitiously slips young Sharone an alternative history called the Dark Days. Dante later 'borrows' the book so Sharone can read it.
Another lead brings Dante to visit with a beautiful elven alchemist. She offers to provide information if only the party can secure for her a rare mountain flower. Knowing that Sharone is a gardener, Dante agrees, and the party convenes to learn of this flower.
Sharone reports that it is a rare thing, growing near bird nests in the tops the trees high in the mountains. In other words, no longer accessible.
But Jack says his friends the Mistwalkers have a way to get outside the city, and after checking with them, the plan unfolds, and heads into the catacombs to the Mistwalkers' underground camp. The Jumpmaster prepares the magical gate, explains that they have exactly one hour, and in a flash of magical light, the party is transported to a mountain side in the sunshine. After some hiking and flying and harvesting and running about, the mission is a success, and the local monsters are evaded, at a cost only of discarded rations and camping gear.
Sharone plants two of the rare flowers in her garden while Dante rushes back to the elf. She accepts the barter and informs him that a great goblin alchemist assisted the military in the defense of the city during the assault. In fact, he may have been responsible for the fire. And he kept a journal, that has never turned up. And he disappeared after the war. And his great grandson is Micah, a fence and trader with whom the party has conducted business.
The party discusses what to do next in a tavern. Arcadius gets drunk. Jack and Sharone marvel at the experience of flying around on a outside the city, in the glorious sunshine. And someone hears them, and bolts for the door.
The party follows, but he gets away.
Dante and Arcadius eventually go visit with Micah and try to convince him to give them the journal by claiming they are rewriting history and wanting to laud Micah's family as heroes. Their appeals to his vanity and pride are not successful. He deals in gold.
Back to the library where, while Dante and Arcadius research alchemy and alchemical history, Sharone uses her pert feminine charms to persuade the Master Librarian to have a private conversation with her. He leads her to his bedchamber in the back of the library.
Sharone expresses her anxiety and need for a mentor. She tells of the recent adventure on the mountainside, and wonders whether leaving the city is so forbidden that she should be fearful. At first he cannot believe the amazing tale, but then confirms that yes, she has committed a grave crime, and his responsibility is to deliver word of it to the authorities. She begs him not to, and points out that he provided her with the forbidden book, attempting to get some leverage. He clarifies that the book is not on the 'blacklist', it is simply unknown. And, he cannot confirm anything about a goblin alchemist or his journal.
Sharone thanks him for his kindness and makes her exit, to his licentious chagrin.
The party reconvenes, and an elven Mistwalker is revealed to be following/spying on the party. Jack knows her and invites her in. She ridicules the group for its collective blunders, and asks who the hell is leading this trainwreck?
Sharone smiles pleasantly and reports that we're all friends here,and operate by consensus, provoking hearty laughter from those with military training. Reven, Dante, and Rebecca nod to each other knowingly, and Rebecca assumes the role.
Her first directive: Father Dante is to send one of his sneaky acolytes to track the movements and activities of the Master Librarian, in case he intends to create trouble.
Then, the party relocates to the secret clubhouse to get some rest.
Later that evening, the party is discussing next steps when Veer, Dante's elvish minion, appears ominously and chimes in with a report that the Master Librarian has paid a visit to The Magus. Because Sharone divulged so much to the former, the party decides an immediate visit to the latter is warranted -- but leaving Sharone and Reven behind.
The visit doesn't end well, as Lucky Jack loses his temper and wantonly insults the revered wizard in his home. The Magus strikes fear into the visitors' hearts with a stern glance and proceeds to chastise them for their ignorance, stupidity, insolence, arrogance, and ineffectiveness. He tosses a pouch containing sixty pieces of silver on a table and invites the group to take it, disband, and never speak of the matter again. You're fired.
Rebecca drags the ornery Jack out onto the street. However, Arcadius secretly wonders whether the apparent termination was a veiled invitation to continue the investigation, somehow. That perhaps the party was getting closer to sensitive truths, heretofore hidden.
The next day, both Reven and Sharone observe their dwellings being staked out by armed guards, and both avoid the confrontation.
Dante and Arcadius however, upon being approached by armed interrogators, proceed willingly to a government office, where they meet the Inquisitor.
Their respective meetings seem friendly, if a bit ominous, and each is given a special gift.
The party proceeds with providing business assistance to Micah, the goblin merchant, as barter for his grandfather's journal. Fastidious Sharone worries about the open-endedness of the arrangement, but nevertheless the party retrieves a stolen statuette from a thieves' hoard in the scummiest slums, and researches Micah's alleged shipping problems for much of the next day.
Reunited back at the clubhouse that night, the party decides again to visit the Magus. The hurry forth, arriving at his open door thirty minutes later. Arcadius dashes in, and slips in the vast puddle of blood in the entry chamber. As the others move in to investigate, Sharone turns and surveys the dark streets for a moment, and catches a glimpse of a hooded figure on the roof across the street, but the figure deftly retreats out of view.
A Lurch Forward
As Arcadius, Jack, Dante, and Rebecca rush into the crime scene, Jack scales the wall in pursuit of the shadowy figure while Sharone slips into the night. The figure is gone, but Jack remains on the roof and provides lookout.
Within the tower, the other party members are surprised to encounter a novice Inquisitor named Jace, who explains that he was in the neighborhood on another investigation, saw flashing lights and heard a commotion, and arrived minutes ago to find two bodies -- one of which is now gone. The other, of course, is the body of the Magus.
Arcadius and Jace proceed to conduct investigations, magical and forensic respectively. Guards arrive, but Jace shoos them away. One sergeant mutters something about having the instructions deviating from the rehearsal.
Jack hurls pebbles through the open window to warn the group that the grand Inquisitor seems to be approaching with a larger contingent of force, but the debate rages on whether and how to flee the scene. Jace declares that the party is to be his personal assistants in his investigation, which he mysteriously wants to conceal from his overlords.
Arcadius and Dante decide they want to remove the Magus' body and bring it to Dante's church, which Jace approves, and soon the group is on the way, just in time, and to the great concern of the waiting guards.
Jack witnesses the Grand Inquisitor apparently levitating one of the guards by the neck before scurrying away in the darkness to collect Sharone, who has stashed her staff and dressed down in street clothes.
Back at the church, the full party trades interrogations back and forth with Jace, who points out that if he was conducting an undercover entrapment on the party, just about the worst cover imaginable would be a criminal investigator. He also mentions that the reason he wanted to make away with the party was that he suspected that this would be the only way to truly solve the crime, because he suspects that his masters would simply sweep the matter under the proverbial rug.
While the group gradually comes to realize that Jace was in the middle of forsaking his vows of loyalty to the Inquisitors in order to solve the same mystery they're working on, Sharone fetches incognito clothing for all.
Eventually, Arcadius again announces that his spells have identified two locations:
- the blood on the floor belonged to a man currently undergoing painful medical treatments inside the palace
- the knife, now slipped out of the Magus' chest, belongs to someone in the merchant district
Sharone naively suggests that the party report the assailants' locations to the authorities. Arcadius replies that it might actually be a good idea, because these assailants successfully murdered a powerful arch mage and are not to be trifled with.
Eventually the party decides to at least figure out who the knife-owner is, and then decide how to deal with him or her.
The next morning, the group splits into tactical teams and heads into the merchant district. The location is quickly identified, and the confused and terrified woodworker who created the weapon's hilt claims to remember nothing about the person who commissioned the work. Suspecting some sort of magical interference, the party lets the man off the hook and ponders the implications.
GM sums it up:
There's only a couple ways that could happen.
- Someone used a highly specialized version of remove aura... which seems silly as it allows for you to follow the trail, (thaumotology). Also it's unprofessional for such a mythical group to be that clumsy (criminology, streetwise).
- No one actually imprinted on the knife. An object carried by courier and left on the step wouldn't lead you to the courier if you cast seeker on the owner. It's not "last touched" it's something that has a psychic aura from someone who possessed it, or held it for a long time. The more precious the better.
Which means that if the weapon wasn't wiped completely clean of aura by spell, then it didn't belong to a Ravenblade. ie, the "this isn't what it seems" stack of clues got bigger.
They decide to continue to attempt to solve Micah's shipping problems, and soon have the matter worked out (with the payment of 10 gold pieces to a shadowy gangster boss and Dante's promise to keep Micah in line).
Micah keeps his end of the bargain, and the party is soon in possession of his grandfather's journal. After debating the options for translating it, Sharone and Arcadius take it to the library, where Sharone's feminine mystique proves useful in obtaining the needed help from a junior librarian.
The journal contains evidence of malevolence in the south tower, some sort of planned demolition that would explain the horrendous conflagrations, and the party makes haste to the tower to determine whether any additional evidence remains.
Various methods of infiltration are debated, but finally Jace simply leads Arcadius in to sniff around on some concocted official business. His credentials apparently still intact, they are let in, but don't find anything of obvious value in the area of the tower.
A Plot Revealed
Reconvening at Dante's temple, the party is in the process of staring at each other and trying to decide what to do next, when agents of the Nightwatch burst through the door. The party responds discordantly with a mix of demanding interrogation and gracious welcome, but eventually cursory introductions are made and the new arrivals' purpose made known: to rescue the party from approaching guards.
Jace urges the party to accept the offer of help, but many are skeptical and debate ensues. Eventually, everyone comes around and the entire entourage rushes out into the night. But they're too late -- a group of guards arrives, demanding the party lay down arms and allow Father Dante to be arrested.
Lucky Jack claims to be Dante and taunts, "You'll never take me alive!"
But then Reven summons the young guard sergeant to a take counsel with him, using the pretense to strike the hapless guard with his sword. Bloody combat breaks out.
Moments later, guards lay dying, and Sharone attempts to save a few lives before the Nightwatch leader ushers the party along.
Soon exhausted, the battle-weary and sleep-deprived group takes refuge in an abandoned shop briefly. Conversation turns to the Inquisitors, with the Nightwatch inquiring whether anyone had received any objects from them.
Arcadius denies it, unconvincingly, and Jace presses him to tell the truth. Rebecca steps in before Reven has a chance to beat it out of him. Arcadius begins to utter an incantation, but passes out, and is carried like a sack of potatoes into the catacombs, led by the Nightwatch contingent.
Left, right, right, left, they scurry, illuminated by Arcadius' magic stone, activated by Dante and carried by Sharone. Then they encounter some bestial gang members lurking, and hostilities erupt. Arrows and blades fly, and some of the gangsters are able slip away.
The next test occurs in a larger chamber that the Nightwatch insists the party must traverse. However, it is inhabited by a Ravenblade assassin.
Jack takes an ill-advised shot at him, which is met by an instantaneously hurled dagger, which penetrates Jack's armor and leaches poison into his unlucky bloodstream.
Flee, you fools, yells the youngest of the Nightwatch trio, and the party takes heed, not a moment too soon -- Jack collapses seconds later. Sharone performs her best incantations and procedures, but without specific knowledge of the poison, her abilities are limited. Nevertheless, she prevents Jack's quick death while Dante prays for a miracle.
The prayer may have worked, for soon one of Jack's allies rushes down the corridor with concoctions that save him from further damage and energize Sharone out of spellcaster's exhaustion.
Moving on through the catacombs, the party eventually ascends, emerging in a sumptuous palace chamber complete with a feast table and serving girls. One of the generals is present.
Back to the Catacombs
Nightwatch captain Dailah fills the group in. It has long been suspected that there was some nefarious intent 40 years ago, some sabotage or internal savagery. Retired General Tivus has served as the patron of the Nightwatch and led the secret investigation. Recently the party's actions (e.g., absconding with the Magus' decoy corpse) has appeared on their radar, and so before they were rounded up and executed by the Powers That Be, the Nightwatch has brought them in to see where their allegiances lie. So, what'll it be?
The party soul-searches and commits to help the Nightwatch uncover the truth, even if it results in a coup, or worse, civil war. For her part, Sharone recounts her experiences in the slums, knowing in her heart that whatever power structure has resulted in such misery is not just, and she hopes for a bloodless transition of power.
Having adventured through the night, the party retires to simple servants' quarters, nodding in greeting to the curious, nubile serving lass neighbors on the way.
Awakening mid-afternoon, each rises, but not before each having a mysterious vision.
After tortuous accounting of provisions, Rebecca asserts that the party will be headed back into the catacombs to attempt to retrieve one of the magical orbs, originally used by mages in the defense of the city, and still containing information about the surrounding events. First, evidence must be gathered -- once the case is airtight, then it will be time to identify royal lineage and allied factions.
Several Nightwatch warriors accompany, and Jace concocts a ruse and associated documents concerning leak repair, which gets the party past a number of disinterested city guards on the way below.
The next obstacle is a shimmering blue warrior -- a spirit guardian -- who has a riddle, "Who brings the dragon's fire?"
The party frets, reviews their notes, and someone blurt's out the name of Micah's grandfather, the goblin alchemist of yesteryear.
The spirit smiles and steps aside, and the party proceeds, eventually encountering flowing knee-deep water, and lots of vines and slime and snakes.
Soon, the party arrives at a chamber with a deeper pool formed by a sort of vine dam. Submerged are several skeletal bodies, and an immense chest. Arcadius waves his hands, and, with some additional effort by Rebecca and Jack, the half-ton lead chest is extracted and opened. Within, a royal artifact -- a bejeweled crown, and a sheaf of parchments proving its authenticity. The party's wonder is somewhat tainted by dread at handling such a significant artifact, and they decide to put it back in the chest and hide it in a corner, hidden by vines.
Along the way, Sharone has a third vision, initiated when she spots another shard of magical disturbance in the smoothly flowing water. When she snaps out of it and re-dons her healer's robe, it magically grows new blue sleeve stripes.
They pick their way through, and soon are confronted with the apparent source of the flow, a hole in the ceiling through which a torrential blast of freshwater cascades. It seems impassable at first, but soon a rope system is developed to mostly prevent a mass drowning.
Dante and Arcadius have unique experiences in the center of the waterfall -- Dante emerges unconscious, but grasping a small chest.
After a frustrating waterboarding experience, Sharone takes a few moments to regain her composure, and then awakens the ailing Dante with a word and an arcane gesture.
In Your Face
Soggy and sputtering, the party rests a while in the tunnel beyond the falls. Sharone plucks some plant and fungus samples (with Jace's note-taking help), while Dante marvels at the contents of the small chest he dragged out from the deep. It's a religious coronation kit. Combined with the crown discovered earlier, it seems as if the party, and Dante in particular, is part of a grand design to crown a new king.
Snakes and giant cave bees provide some consternation, but eventually the party moves on to meet up with the toad people in their tiny huts and mud bikinis. A successful parlay avoids all violence, and the boggle-eyed primitives invite the party to pass by unmolested.
After skipping a few side passages, they arrive in a chamber with some outside light flowing in and a living statue methodically arranging and dusting a collection of magic items on a little stone altar.
The party considers how to attack and rob the golem, but decide to attempt a lie first: that they have been sent by the monarchy to collect these items, especially the orb.
Wexoo is simply a domestic worker, and is relieved to reply in the affirmative. Goods are collected and the automaton joins the party.
The group traverses the waterfall with Wexoo's help, and proceeds back towards the hub of the catacombs. But soon, Jack detects danger ahead, and four members of the Twisted gang rush forward in ambush. Violent combat ensues, felling Rebecca, but also three of the attackers, each with an arrow embedded in their face.
Jack chases down one escapee and has a conversation while Sharone leaps upon Rebecca's bloody body to disrobe her and inspect the grievous wound.
After some recovery time, the party splits, with Jack, mostly-healed Rebecca, and Jace taking the face-impaled prisoners on a walk, and the rest of the party collecting the massive crown chest and proceeding back to the hub. Interrogations ensue, and new conspiracies uncovered.
Eventually, the party reunites, heads back into the palace, and turns over the prisoners to the Nightwatch leadership.
That night, after a warm meal and a hot bath, the group experiences a shared dream in which a party remarkably like themselves enter the final catacomb doorway, armed with a special lantern, the Light of Civilization. They compare notes, astonished, in the morning.
The next thirty days are spent selling off loot, buying a dark magic book for Arcadius, forging land ownership documents, taking possession of a ramshackle mansion, hiring renovators and decorators, and practicing some skills with the Nightwatch teachers. Sharone sets up shop and heals the sick and wounded, earning some coin she'll probably donate to the party.
Next steps? Learn about the Light, and head into the final door...
Peeling the Onion
Arcadius is unable to resist the temptation, and follows the magical trail laid by a magic ring, into the catacomb, to a dead-end room utterly covered with sorcerer's runes. Stymied initially, he vows to return.
Back in the palace meeting room, General Tivus drops by for a long awaited debriefing. With some internal tension about how much to share about the crown, the full story comes out, leading secretive Jack to lose his temper, only to be assuaged by Jace and Sharone.
Tivus appreciates the caution with a wink of irony, and advises the party to do what's necessary to bring him the final orb. And he introduces Rena, a slim young Nightwatch operative with a precocious attitude and an overt interest in the deep-voiced Jace. With that, he makes his exit abruptly.
After much debate and preparation, a plan is hatched to retrieve the coronation kit from Dante's church. It works flawlessly, though Jack spots someone following Dante from the rooftops.
Arcadius summons the soundtrack to the kit from forty years back, and it is learned that it, and many other religious artifacts, were removed from the church during the crisis. Royal guards seized it from a group of soldiers and stored it in an unknown location.
Efforts are launched to find the golden book of royal lineage that Rebecca envisioned in a dream. Jace and she do some futile research at the architectural school, nearly resulting in their arrests after some bungled subterfuge.
Sharone heads into the grand library with Veer at her side, greets the Master Librarian courteously, and is assisted by staff to find picture books of the castle, scanning for a scene similar to Rebecca's sketch of her dream. This far-fetched endeavor fails, but during the process Sharone wanders into the biography section and Veer loses track of her for a bit.
Finally, Jack comes looking for them, and Sharone turns up clutching a book and muttering about a statue by a bridge in a park. Jack knows the place, takes her there, and mysteriously she digs a simple wooden staff out of the soil at the base of one of the statues.
Back in the palace meeting room, Arcadius examines the staff and reports that it is capable of dazing people, and offers to be a test subject. It works flawlessly, to his great chagrin.
Still wondering where the book and the Light of Civilization might be, and hypothesizing that they're stored together, the party wonders aloud whether they may be secreted away somewhere in the palace. Rena volunteers, after some encouragement from Arcadius, that there are old storage areas called the Dark Rooms which may be of use. She offers to show them the way, though it'll be impossible to pass.
Along the way, Jace is accosted by a family friend, the truth of the mission comes out, and aid offered, in the form of the names of three nobles, a writ from any of which would be sufficient to gain entry into the Dark Rooms.
Dante goes back to his old neighborhood to ask about the reputations of the three nobles. One, Triana Litheblossom, is an elven lady, good and kind and interested in matters of charity and social justice. It is resolved that this is the noble to approach, and Dante's contacts deliver a message for the party, inviting her to the church.
A charity event is quickly conceived and executed, with unwashed hordes arriving quickly in response to the public pronouncements of free food and medical care at the church. The mob proves unruly though, with some sinister elements take unfair advantage, and Jack moves in to correct the transgressions. But soon he is at knifepoint, and the scene is poised on the edge of violence, just as Triana' entourage is spotted.
Impulsively, Sharone rushes to the site of the conflict and, with a quiet word and arcane gesture, produces a great cloud of stinking yellow smoke, dispersing the combatants just in time. She then returns to the line of scabrous children to provide aid and succor.
After some minor social missteps, Dante and Jace invite Triana and her bodyguards into the church for a conversation. When their quarter-truth fails to convince, they go with a half-truth, filling the noble lady in on the brewing conspiracy to restore the monarchy.
Stunned but not perturbed, she reflects quietly for a few minutes, while Jace and Dante wring their hands. Finally, she says, "Please give General Tivus my warmest regards and let him know I am at his disposal. You'll have your writ within an hour. Good day."
Next time... into the Dark Rooms.
Developing in the Dark Rooms
The party successfully infiltrates the Dark Rooms by waving the writ provided by Triana Litheblossom, breezing past the bored guards at its perimeter and snooping around the silent, charred inner courtyards and buildings.
The discover evidence of necromantic reanimation but press on and soon encounter its product -- skillful zombie soldiers, nearly impervious to many weapons. In the melee, Dante, Jack and Arcadius are struck down, only to be saved by Sharone before bleeding out, and Rebecca heroically trades blows with the beasts for many seconds while Jace pelts them with his crossbow and sling.
After holing up for recuperation and sending comatose Arcadius and Rena back to a charred safe house, the team presses on, is chased by giant dogs, pursued by more zombie soldiers, and finally takes brief cover in a sort of shattered library, junk strewn everywhere. With zombies breaking down the doors, the group scavenges for items of value, uncovering both the Book of Succession and the Light of Civilization, among various other minor treasures. With no time to spare, they press on, only to find themselves in a vast courtyard with dozens more foes.
Thinking quickly, Rebecca commands the squad into a sprint, and miraculously, they thread the needle with only minor injuries.
Once back at the palace, they coax Arcadius back into consciousness to begin the arduous work of magic item analysis, and poor over the giant golden book to deduce the name of the next king or queen.
After briefing the Nightwatch, they transport the booty to Dante's church, Jack drops off a creepy necro gem with his leaders, and Rebecca and Jace collect some silvered weapons and better armor from a monarchy-allied orc blacksmith.
Next time, through the Moon Door to learn The Truth of the Fall, collect the final orb, tangle with killer elf zombies, and set in motion the city's civil war.
Casting the Light
After some preparation time, the party used the Light of Civilization to gain entry to and, with some difficulty and injuries, demolish many ghoulish foes in the catacombs.
Setting the Stage
Pressing on, the party learns some truths about the conspiracy which unleashed hell upon their fair city, and then they unintentionally cause a small pocket of remaining demons to be released. They wisely flee.
Later, Arcadius returns with a magus and participates in a grand battle, losing a leg in the process.
The rest of the party visits with the Mistwalkers and then schemes and plots. Three tasks:
- locate and protect the rightful heir
- appear before council for revelations and proposals
- annihilate the growing zombie hordes before they are loosed on the populace
Father Dante and Rebecca will lead the annihilation mission.
War hero Arcadius and diplomatic genius Jace will appear before council.
Lucky Jack and Sharone will locate and spirit away the rightful heir.
The Revolution Begins
The party briefs retired general Tivus at the palace and then convenes at the mansion hideout to await a meeting of allies: Tivus and his entourage, a squad of Mistwalkers, and leaders of the Swords of Light. Notes are compared and a scheme hatched while Sharone makes her dubious vegetable stew in the adjoining kitchen.
Some facts (or at least, observations):
- military units are setting up roadblocks throughout the city
- they are collaborating with or protecting a powerful dragon mage, whose Aura suggests anticipation for the dome coming down, soon.
- the fiery death of 40 years ago was caused by soldiers following orders, not demons
- the rightful heirs to the throne are known to Dante, Sharone, and now Jack
- Ravenblade assassins are operating, at whose behest, we're not sure
Tivus takes charge and amends the original plan. The heirs will not be sought out, as doing so will alert whomever has an interest in making them dead.
And so, in the wee hours of the night, the new plan emerges, with some amendments after Tivus and others leave:
- Arcadius and Jace are still going to court to attend the no-confidence proceedings
- Jack will take a group of Mistwalkers to protect one of the mage batteries responsible for holding up the dome
- Dante, Sharone, Rebecca and a company of Swords of Light will clear the Dark Rooms
Arcadius says he'll rendezvous with Jace at the palace at the appointed hour and exits the mansion quickly, after invoking a vision of powerful mages in the rune room of the catacombs. On his way there to help, he has an unfortunate encounter with a Ravenblade assassin, and is forced to teleport himself to safety.
Jace, with Mistwalker bodyguards, makes it to court without any trouble, and Arcadius staggers in, healed by medics just enough to cheat death.
Jace and Arcadius and one of Dante's minions all present evidence, bolstered by information provided by the Magus. The high council of generals is split in their response, and the proceedings become chaotic before the vote is counted. Weapons are drawn, exploding fireballs fortunately miss their mark, and armed combat ensues.
In the midst of the controversy, the dome blinks out of existence, allowing the bright rays of the sun to bathe the city in a warmth forgotten for forty years. Citizens of all classes screech in horror and take cover, expecting a vast army of demons to flood in.
The culpable general slips away, surrounded by vigilant and capable thugs.
Meanwhile, Jack and his squad of rangers take up a position overlooking one of the dome-maintenance facilities. At the intersection of paranoia and miscommunication, young Rena is nearly killed by Mistwalker arrows as she returns with vital intelligence: It's NOT the Ravenblades tracking down royal heirs to slaughter, it's.... and she passes out.
Simultaneously, Rebecca commands a squad of guards to step aside or join the effort to clear the Dark Rooms of necromancers and their minions. In they go, and are quickly beset on both sides by wights and zombies. Dante, Rebecca, Sharone, and a handful of knights slip through the clashing parties, only to find themselves in the presence of an enormous Deathknight. Sharone shudders, suspecting her remaining time in this life is short.
Grisly combat with a contingent of necromancers and their Deathknight bodyguard ensues. Vrees scampers from foe to foe with his daggers flashing while Dante and Rebecca trade blows with the enormous Deathknight and one of Rebecca's knights wades in to hack at the necros as well. Sharone hangs back, paranoid about the wights and zombies behind the group.
Eventually, the good guys win. In the process, Sharone has another vision.
Meanwhile, Jack and a company of Mistwalkers coordinates with Arcadius and takes up a position overlooking a large group of soldiers preparing to raid the mansion of one of the heirs. Jack tries diplomacy first, but has no standing, and is ordered away.
He commands his archers to attack the well-armored infantry, with little martial effect, but creating a delay and diversion of the assault. Finally, Arcadius and another mage arrive with more firepower, and a series of violent skirmishes commences. Some family members escape the mansion in the chaos, but the whereabouts of the heir is unknown.
Luckily, there is a defined process for establishing the next in line, and, in the aftermath of the revolution, order eventually prevails.
The general who arranged the conspiracy, it is later learned, escapes the walls of the city with a contingent of some 2000 citizens and soldiers.
In the weeks to follow, it is learned that the wilderness surrounding the city is filled with dangerous beasts, but no demon armies. Yet.