The Keystone Project

Session 13

Momoko theorizes that the magical glow from the well may be this land mass’s keystone. Zorran discretely checks the shard of his people’s keystone (and didn’t tell anybody he has it) and it is indicating another keystone in the direction of the grand hall.

At the entrance, Shan opens one of the 10-foot-wide double doors that presumably lead to the grand hall. Upon opening the doors, all of the other doors start to close on that side as it opens. Inside the grand hall, a feast akin to that of Amaira’s people is happening, with all of the seats inhabited by skeletons dressed in finery. They eat and drink as the food items fall through their bodies, and the master of the hall sits at a throne.

Zorran points out what he thinks is the keystone behind the throne, so Shan sneaks up toward it. Zorran finally discloses that he has the capacity to link the keystone to Momoko and Amaira, so that they can ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands if he happens to die. When Shan approaches the throne, the nobleman and his lady wife pay her no attention, and it appears that the skeletons are on a roughly 30-second loop of eating and drinking. The zombies take a different path to keep the plates stocked.

Amaira decides to swipe an ale, and the zombie butler lowers the platter so that she can take it. When she does, three skeletons fix their gaze upon her and begin to draw their weapons. She steps back to Zorran and Momoko, chugs the beer, and asks her compatriots are ready for a fight. Zorran decides to close the door, and once it is bolted in place, the skeletons sit back down when the three had left. Shan emerges through another exit and sulks about being locked in. They decide to check out the other room, and Shan leads the charge into the passageway that leads to barracks, complete with skeleton soldiers laying in beds and sharpening swords. Another room shows a skeleton putting on armour with zombies attending in a smithing area.

The team decides to attack this skeleton, which takes up a shoddy sword and charges at Shan. The zombies ignore the melee and continue their work. The party then proceeds into an armoury and more doors, one leading to the feast hall. Momoko suggests returning to the entrance hall to speak to the zombie butler. She asks to be taken to the sorcerer of the castle, and the zombie leads them into the great hall and goes to the door behind the lord.

The Official Response Squad decides to go inspect the lord’s door, closing the main door behind them. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, next time on The Keystone Project!

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Session 12

The Official Response Squad continues to explore the castle, and come across a stables with three horse skeletons that appear to be animated. Shan wants to punch them and gets dissuaded by Amaira, explaining that the horses could be used as mounts. Zorran inspects the sturdiness of one of them, and Amaira mounts another to give it a test drive. It responds readily and moves at a steady pace.

Shan pushes in some double-doors to expose a large hallway about 20’ across, sunlight spilling inside now. Momoko pursues Shan in the belief that the latter needs supervision… and having found a zombie in fancy clothing (“butler café”?) confirms Momoko’s concerns. Skeletons in armour attack! After taking out the four skeletons, two more guard the door. Amaira greets the zombie butler, who bows. Shan asks for cake, and it heads off, and then she charges the guarding skeletons. After Momoko shoots a scorching ray at Shan (by accident), they decide to follow the zombie.

The team is led to a kitchen, crewed (not crude) by five skeletons in chef outfits in the process of preparing food. Momoko deducts that they are going through the process of preparing food, without actually cooking it or otherwise preparing for a final product – and the ingredients are all fresh. They decide to step into the kitchen, and the skeletons keep at work. The team then follows a skeleton carrying raw pork slices into a room lined with tables, containing piles of pork, vegetables, and loaves of bread: it appears to be a pantry as though getting ready to serve to guests. About a third of the food is rotten. Shan picks up the freshest basket of pork and some bread. Another zombie inside takes the oldest pork and takes it to another room in the castle, putting it along with pile of rotted food.

Zorran notices boot prints and char marks on the ground, as well as a headless bird flying about that Amaira saw fly from the tower earlier (and the birds had been spying on them the night before). They decide to follow the footprints, and it goes into the keep (hard to follow) as well as to the front, where they go to and from a well.

Amaira draws up some water from the well, and Momoko detects poison and magic on the water and the well: she only detects some magic somewhere down in the well. After further exploration, handholds in the side of the well are revealed, and Zorran decides to descend into the water. He encounters a magical barrier (likely what Momoko discovered), and before he could pull out of the well, Shan fires chi blast into the water, inadvertently hitting Zorran.

They decide to return to the keep’s grand hall.

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Session 11
Surrounded by the dead

In the courtyard, the ORS find themselves surrounded by the dead. Shan gets rushed first by a pair of skeletons and ends up with an arm stuck in one’s rib cage, while Momoko inspires the team with her singing skills. Zorran shows off his scimitar skills, while Amaira synthesized with Enamund uses tail slaps, bites, and claws to decimate the undead.

After a strenuous battle, the party is victorious and defeats the swarm of skeleton soldiers. Huzzah!

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Session 10
The Blue Bastard

The Official Response Team approaches the gate and encounter Porthos and his dog. Porthos welcomes the visitors, who inform him that he is in fact the newcomer. Amaira asks him about the castle, which Porthos declares to be haunted, eventually revealing that the dead walk the halls.

Momoko asks about the leader, who apparently is still the undead “lordship”. Porthos directs them to the tavern called “The Ecstasy of Agony”. Amaira gets the name of the baron from Porthos, and Shan extracts from him that the undead are known to wander at night. Zorran wants to consult the relics to see how long this landmass will remain in the realm.

They track down Sheriff Hemlock, a human who resides in Dagna, to inform him about the new village and the castle full of undead. At the Walled City, the team encounters Mayor Dolorian and explain to him the situation. Zorran slinks off to meet with contacts, while the three women return to Dagna to set up an overnight watch.

While Zorran wants to go charging off into the night, the others argue that a good night’s rest is needed before proceeding into unknown territory. When Zorran offers to take first watch, he sneaks away and heads back to the new landmass to scope out the castle. He sees creatures roaming around, walking the walls in the moonlight.

Amaira wakes up about two hours after her watch was to begin. Seeing no sign of Zorran, Amaira asks around about him: nobody has seen him. She wakes up Momoko and Shan to inform them and they head off to the new area to seek him out. On their way, Momoko notices headless birds flying overhead with red eyes on their chests. Amaira and Momoko hear a rustling in the bushes, and then the sound of a sword unsheathing… and Zorran appears, from a different spot where the rustling came.

After some discussion, Zorran and Amaira set up to watch the castle for the rest of the night, while Momoko convinces Shan to return to Dagna after the latter tries to zap one of the watcher birds (and fails miserably). Zorran falls asleep after about an half-hour and Amaira takes on the watching.

The next morning, the bird has moved on, yet the undead continue their patrol at the castle. Shan and Momoko return to the hillside to rejoin Zorran and Amaira. While the undead have maintained their activity on the wall, Amaira notices that the town of Arven is quiet with nobody milling about. When they get to the gate, nobody is on duty, and nobody is found inside the walls. Magic is detected all around in the town, as if “bathing” in energy.

The houses are devoid of personal possessions, yet all of the buildings appear in good order and working condition. When they reach the bar, it is also devoid of people. The only furniture found is at the inn, fully operational, yet appears to not have been used recently. Zorran, Momoko, and Amaira all attempt to detect the sources of the magic: conjuration in a strong magic aura, meaning a spell is active and likely to summon.

The team heads to the castle, finding the gates wide open. The guards are wearing a uniform, and walking into the courtyard gets their attention. The skeleton warriors advance with menace!

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Session 9

The party returns to Dagna as dusk begins to fall, and they head to the tavern to sup. Roasted garlic chickens are on offer: Shan takes three for herself, while the others take one each. The waiter — Annick — ends up being the fellow whom Shan recruited as a student. Zorran begins telling the story of their adventure to the gem cavern in epic fashion, with the “return of spoils” and the “defeat of the bakemono”. Amaira rolls her eyes at some of the more exaggerated aspects, before waiter-dude asks about the tengu “bird men” that were spotted during the rescue, to which she says they were simply in costume. Momoko also relays information to Amic and near-by listeners about the guard captain that the team encountered before entering the cavern, who was also dressed in a feathered cape and bird mask.

Farmers in South Crystalmere have mostly recovered from their injuries, and folks aren’t quite sure what to make of the “half-height people” that were rescued from the manor. Amaira professes that they are called “halflings”, but Zorran claims there is no such thing as a “ling”. Shan declares the tengu would be halflings: half human, half starling.

Momoko decides to interrupt the inanity and tell the tavern clientele a story from her village about a foolish adventurer who strays from the path and runs into goblins who steal all of his possessions, even his clothing. Returning to his home, he gets ridiculed for his fate. When Zorran says, “This reminds me of another story about foolish adventures, who ran off toward a field that they knew nothing about…” and Amaira slaps him on the back of the head.

The next day, Momoko makes a beautiful lunch for her apprentices. Shan approaches Faustina about a battle exhibition. Zorran hangs out at Generations and drinks. Amaira consults with one of the Raven’s Eye lodge elders about her vision quest, confirming that the ants likely represent ants, and trees are symbolic of the world and divinity: in this case, the tree may be the creator. The timing nearly lines up with the arrival of the hobgoblin land mass.

On day two of downtime, Shan decides to work on a gi for the Shotokai Dojo. Amaira heads south to do a second vision quest with Enamund at her side, experiencing some cleansing but no further visions. Momoko has her students recite stories again, with Aki improving and Haruno doing about the same, and teaches some more etiquette. Zorran has little success in his dealings.

As Amaira is contemplating her empty vision, the ground quakes, and a new island has arrived in the east. In a series of hills, there appears to be a castle in one of the upper peaks. She heads back to Dagna. Everyone else senses the collision as well. Momoko starts a fresh pot of tea as she is “expecting company”. Shan gets on the roof of the dojo to see what happened. Zorran heads toward Dagna to meet the others in the “ORS”.

Amaira spots Shan on the roof of the dojo in her new bright-orange gi, and then enters the tea house to alert Momoko and Zorran about what she saw. They decide to gear up and head out on horse-back. As they get through the first ridge of hills, the valley reveals a town built at the side of the hill with a wooden palasad around it. Watchmen guard the walls. The castle atop the hill appears to be about a half-hour walk from the town.

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Session 8

The party continues into the caves, and comes into an area containing a statue atop a fountain, filled with a lime-green liquid. Amaira notices scoring on the bowl from the liquid, and Zorran recalls that he has seen the fluid in an alchemist’s shop. Momoko determines that it is, in essence, a “bird bath of acid”. The path splits in two, and Shan declares heading left.

The next room has a series of columns with a low ceiling of fine spiderwebs. Suspended in the webs are numerous gemstones, which Amaira determines are topaz. Shan jams the torch into the spiderwebs and they burn rather quickly, causing the gemstones to fall, and Momoko and Amaira each catch one as they fall, while the other two fell to the ground and shattered on the inside.

Past the spider room, the next area is a larger room with a series of transparent white gemstones in knee-high piles and a giant door at the other end of the room, complete with its own collection of levers. Amaira and Momoko determine that the crystals are salt, completely clear. Zorran starts to investigate the door while Shan starts loading up salt crystals into a sack. Zorran determines that discs on the ceiling are written in Samsaran, and the group determines that the person who wrote these don’t have them as their native language: Samsaran, Cat-Folk, and Elven.

After some failed attempts, the party returns to the room with the cauldron fountain, which itself is extremely smooth: Amaira determines that this has been carved out of stone that is fully integrated with the floor. Shan lends her clay cup to Momoko to use it to scoop up any possible gems at the bottom of the bowl; unfortunately, the mage hand spell is not sufficient to stand up against the resistance of the liquid.

The party takes the right tunnel this time, and it appears to be veering off in two directions. Shan runs into something solid and sharp, which cuts her face! She appears to have run into the “knife edge” of a mirror. They decide to continue down on the left, with Shan swooping the torch in front of her. After about ten minutes, the party finds themselves back at the cauldron. Amaira gives it a try, sticking the the right, and after fifteen minutes return to the acid bath again. Momoko decides to attempt navigating on the third trip, and Shan notices this time around that the ceilings occasionally have eyes peeking through. Shan waves and greets the eyes, which gets a greeting in reply. She then asks which way we should be going, and some fingers poke out to help navigate. Amaira feels they are going in circles and proposes leaving a trail of bread crumbs.

A spider falls from the ceiling on top of Shan! She blasts it with electricity before it lands on her face. Amaira laughs at the spectacle, and Momoko throws a ray of frost in Shan’s direction and knocks her on her rear end. Zorran attempts to swat the spider away and instead it climbs onto his hand, giving Shan the opportunity to squish it between her hands, followed by wiping them off on Momoko’s robes.

“Better run!” comes some broken Common from above, before some clear, viscous fluid hits Amaira’s hair. She decides they should head back to the acid bath. Amaira and Momoko both get rather drenched by the fluid, while Zorran and Shan avoid it. Back at the acid bath, Shan determines that it is some kind of cooking oil. Flicking some into the acid produces no reaction. While they are discussing the next move, little flaming sticks begin to fall from the ceiling. Amaira manages to avoid them, while Momoko is protected by Shan’s kung fu and Zorran’s scimitar. They decide to leave, but not before another round of flaming sticks fall from the ceiling. Again, Shan plucks the flaming stick from Momoko’s threat, yet Zorran can not protect Amaira who catches fire (9 – 5 = 4 dmg).

Outside of the room with the acid bath, the viewing ports stop. Once they reach the open air, those who need to wash up in the river and got healed up. After a short rest, they decide to head back to Dagna.

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Session 7
A-hunting we will go!

The morning following the inaugural meeting of the “official response squad” (or ORS), the team started out for the caves at the base of Atamaishiyama, inhabited by the lizard-like bakemono. Momoko insists that non-lethal damage be done to the monsters. It takes a day to reach the mountain. Some banter on trip included Amaira complementing Shan on her taste in men, who responds that she doesn’t generally go around licking people.

Upon reaching the mountain, an armoured man approaches and speaks with Momoko by name. After a baffling conversation, the party sets up camp for the night. The next morning, after breakfast, Amaira packs up first and then sidles up to Momoko to ask her some questions about the guard from the night before, who seemed offended by the comments about the lizard folk being monsters. Momoko professes not to know, but Amaira sees through her deception and asks why she lied. Momoko replies that it’s not her secret to tell, and Amaira reminds her that such secrets can be shared amongst those who are supposed to be working with her, especially should becomes important to their current outing.

Inside the caves, a old lizard man carves keys out of wood. Amaira calls out a greeting to the leathery-skinned man, who looks like a humanoid turtle, and he responds with slightly-accented common. Shan takes a key from the turtle man and wishes them good luck. Momoko doesn’t detect any magic in the cave, so Shan inserts the key into the lock at the portcullis. A knife blade inside the lock cuts the key! Shan trades her 50-foot ball of thread for another key. Meanwhile, Zorran tries to disable the lock and fails miserably, damaging his fingers in the process.

Momoko eventually figures out to use mage hand to turn the cut key. The lock opens! Amaira lights one of her torches and Shan offers to carry it. Mage armour is cast on those who need it.

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Session 6

A new day breaks. Momoko recruits Aki and Haruno from Atamaishiyama and start back toward Lake Crystalmere. She tells them about the other races who live in the rest of the realm while they walk.

Shan is performing her morning exercises when she encounters a tiefling from the Reaving Falcon Warrior Lodge at her Shotokai Dojo, who challenges her to a fight. She manages to best him with little effort. Later in the day, she heads for the roughest bar in Dagna to see if the waitresses are having any problems, and how they deal with it. It is on the west side and typically frequented by the lumberjacks and tiefling warriors. The lumber camp is typically attacked by goblins, and sometimes the Reaving Falcon Warrior Lodge provides extermination services. Shan notices that one of the servers is male, and appears to be eye candy for the alpha females. Shan speaks to him and lets him know about the dojo, offering him to partake in one of her classes.

Amaira heads east to the grasslands to partake in a day-long “vision quest” to gain some meditative restoration, opening her mind to hear from other planes of existence. She comes across a mature tree that has always been healthy and home to a ant colony, and finds it has been savagely taken down with an axe. The ants are spilling out of the pulpy stump and into the grass, and the attack appears to be recent (within a week). Amaira determines this to be a divination and a reflection of something worldly: are we the ants? She puts out her hand and senses exploration and discovery. Amaira and Enamund continue on their quest…

Zorran is spontaneously inspired to take a meditative spell of his own and takes a day off from his official duties, hoping to reflect on the recent events. He spends his time in The Walled City.

The following day, Minako continues the journey with her apprentices, and the skies are getting cloudier. Aki appears to have a paper umbrella as the only protection from rain. Momoka hastens the pace so that they can reach town before the storm hits, and Aki is completely exhausted while Haruno appears to have managed.

Shan spends some time on the roof looking for possible holes where rain may leak through.

Amaira awakens the next day in the grasslands and sees the impending storm, and finds her boots missing from her feet and her hairbrush has been set out for use. After searching around the campsite, she finally the boots inside her bag! She curses “the ghost” and heads back to Dagna.

The storm begins, with pouring rain and lightning. The waiter Annick appears at Shan’s dojo and expresses interest in lessons.

Another day passes. Aki is looking unwell and appears to have damaged feet. Momoko heads to the Reaving Falcon Warrior Lodge with Aki in tow to seek out healing for his feet, and finds Faustina Bystrom conversing with some of the older members of the lodge. Estarus greets Momoko and ascertains her needs, and then brings her over to Faustina. Momoko also speaks about establishing an “embassy”, and gets a lead on an empty café, whose current owner enters negotiations with her.

Shan continues training Annick.

Zorran remains in The Walled City, continuing his investigation into the secret societies.

Amaira attempts to reconnect with the “official response squad”, and finds the new dojo with Shan and her student. She gives him a leering look, which embarrasses him and he shuffles away. They decide to meet in the evening at the dojo. Amaira continues to search and sees Momoko with her two apprentices and informs her of the meeting. Momoko didn’t know about the dojo, and Amaira mentions how she helped Shan with finding the real estate. Zorran being the last member, Amaira walks to The Walled City and seeks him out, eventually finding him at the pub Generations (full of samsarans). He greets her and offers a honey wine (tulip flavour), a specialty at Generations. Amaria informs Zorran of the evening meeting, and then enjoys wine and exotic foods.

The four convene at the dojo, and Amaira hasn’t quite sobered up yet. Shan reminds Amaira that it was her task to bring the food, so she ventures out to a viking restaurant and pays for a delivery meal. The restaurant staff are amused by the experience. Momoko mentions the vacant café, and Amaira offers to help as she did with Shan obtaining the dojo. Momoko also wants the group to ensure that those who talk about the tengu are “corrected” that the rescuers were just mountain men in feathered capes. Momoko also brings up gems under the mountain being guarded by lizard-like monsters.

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Session 5

The following day, the “official response squad” split up to take care of their own private business: Momoko decides to go home to visit her village and recruit apprentices; Shan and Amaira head to Dagna to work on setting up a base, with Shan’s focus on building a dojo and Amaira visiting with her rescued cousin Estarus; Zorran also leaves the Walled City for Dagna to investigate a samsaran who had moved there. {Amaira generates 4 points of influence with the Dagna folks to help Shan with her dojo, while Shan gets 2 points of her own, and obtains a “level 1” dojo with a downpayment.}

Zorran has difficulty tracking the samsaran named Tybrus, but eventually finds him at a bed and breakfast. After speaking with the landlord, Zorran’s request to relay a message is denied as Tybrus is looking to stay away from others of his kind… but he ends up going to knock on the door looking for Tybrus. The door opens and Zorran finds a darkened room with a lantern going, and Tybrus in the shadows with a crossbow. Tybrus is convinced he gets killed every lifetime for the last seven, not “unfortunate accidents” as Zorran had heard, and has received a letter, which Zorran requests to read. Despite Zorran’s best attempts, Tybrus remains suspicious.

Amaira finds Estarus at the family lodge. They talk about the capture and the future of relations with new lands that may encounter. Estarus speaks about his desire for raiding and how it felt good at the time, but in retrospect not so much after being on the “other side” with the hobgoblins. Amaira confides that she has yet to have feel the urge for destruction from the demon blood that runs through their veins.

Momoko heads to her village, with an uneventful day of travel.

The next day, Amaira seeks out a location for the headquarters of the squad. Zorran goes to the hall of lineage to research who may have chosen Tybrus as a target. Shan starts setting up the dojo using Amaira’s influence with the Reaving Falcon Warrior Lodge. Momoko reaches the village and meets with Okimoto.

Another day later, Shan starts outfitting the dojo with mats and dummies. Momoko seeks out apprentices. Zorran continues his research. Amaira finds herself unable to decide what to do.

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Session 4

The survivors are returned to Dagna, including some unknown humans (two) and halflings (four). The kenku who performed the daring rescue disappear as mysteriously as they came. Zorran drinks at the bar and tells stories. Momoko stays with the rescued to recuperate. Amaira helped the farmers repel an attack by the hobgoblins at South Crystalmere.

The next morning, Amaira wakes up after the battle — badly injured — and decides to rest at Elbert Grove’s estate in case the hobgoblins try another last-ditch attempt before their realm departs from this world, after healing herself up. Shan Puneko hears about the troubles with hobgoblins. Momoko also spends the morning tending to wounds.

Late in the afternoon, the hobgoblin realm disappears into the æther. Dolorian sends messengers to collect community leaders to meet with him to discuss the recent events. Amaira travels with Elbert to the Walled City, and meet with the mayor along with Zorran, Momoko, Faustina Bystrom, and Shan. Discussion surrounds having a policy for first contact, and setting up a diplomatic station to deal with newcomers. (Amaira gets confirmation from Faustina that Estarus survived the ordeal.) Shan demonstrates her abilities by breaking a log into kindling with her voice. Dolorian asks Momoko, Zorran, Amaira, and Shan to act as the contact force. Faustina says the Reaving Falcon will not be a standby army, but will be training to act when asked so long as they get pillaging rights.

Zorran invites his newfound team out to have some drinks, and Momoko pulls sake from her sleeve. Shan gets a large glass of milk, a delicacy in these lands. Amaira convinces Shan that a buried hatchet can grow into a hatchet tree…

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