The Age of Man

Episode 9- Jumping at Shadows

Setting Information- A recap of the Races of the Empire

Date: From the 1st Day of the month of Newyield to the night of the 7th of Newyield

The Quiet Men are settled into their inn, The Traveler’s Ease, and have begun to explore the city of Garshen. The city is overflowing with people preparing the city for the Erathin Exposition. Valentine sends word that he is looking into a new drug that is being sold in the streets, and will return after he investigates. The group discusses what they should do with the dragon egg they captured from Sin’s temple, and Oz shows them a flyer for the Dynamic Dirigible Company. They discuss the possibility of Argent using the Animus of the dragon egg to infuse such a vessel, and to make it a living ship bound to their service.

Adonia continues to keep a subtle eye on preparations in the wealthy section of town, Argent joins the design and engineering team in laying out the Starfire Observatory, and Oz begins to venture out from his sulphur and incense laden room to see a bit of the city. Grouse also hears about a new drug, and finds out that it, along with a fair chunk of gold, was used to purchase a Kraken Seed, which when immersed in water transforms into a massive, tentacled monster that seeks to destroy everything around it for the minute or so before it fades away. Valentina returns from aiding her church, after failing to find the source of the drug, which he calls Night Ivy. It is extremely addictive, in spite of the fact that it causes hallucinations that are terrifying. A weaker form of the drug grows naturally in the forests where her people make their home, so she was asked to look into it, and only found dead ends.

Grouse and Argent begin to look into the drug trade, while Valentina watches from a distance to make sure they stay safe. They discover that the dealers are taking some pains to avoid being busted by the overworked city guard. Donning magically enhanced disguises to appear to be seedy investors looking to buy large amounts of Night Ivy, they purchase a sample of the drug and ask for a meeting with someone high enough up the food chain to sell them a large amount of the drug.

Meanwhile, Adonia spots Timeth, one of the secretaries who takes the calls from their field communication device. He is touring the most luxurious parts of town in the company of Naomi, a minor cousin of Rego Trysain. She trails him to discover that he is staying at The Lantern, a luxury hotel and spa. She arranges for Grouse to perform at his hotel while she watches from disguise. Timeth sees him performing, and gladly speaks with him, while Naomi looks on pleasantly. It is clear that Timeth is an honest, but naive, man who assumes that Naomi’s interest in him is genuine, and there are suspicions that she is a skilled actress. Timeth tells them that they should come to dinner with the Trysains once Rego arrives in a week or two, and Grouse accepts.

While wandering the city, Argent and Grouse come upon an intricate puppet show, with intricate backgrounds cut from paper and animated as part of the story. One of the people watching is familiar to Argent…a young girl named Esmet that he saw in a village while acquiring his last apprentice. She recognizes him, and flees into an alley and nearly into the arms of a mugger. Though frightened of Argent, he and Grouse manage to calm her enough to get her away from the mugger. Argent explains that the apprentice (her childhood friend) disappeared during the war and is likely dead. Grouse gives her money to be delivered to his family, and they part ways.

Oz tours through the part of the city where stone work and statuary is being prepared for the exhibition. He sees a group of artisans from the swamp town of Vow. They are just finishing up a statue of their hero, Valentine. Oz is confused, as he firmly recalls his companion as a woman. He speaks with them and they show him several works of art that portray even the entire group, but in each of them Valentina is shown as a man. He is given one of the smaller paintings, and brings it back to the group. They become suspicious that some form of potent magic has been used to cloud either their perceptions, or the perceptions of the artist. When Valentina arrives, they ask her some careful questions that reveal that she is not their companion. Oz thumps her soundly as she tries to flee, and the group quickly subdues her. Argent brews up a potent diuretic, and they feed it to her. When she awakens they question her, telling her that she will die a slow death to the poison in her system if they do not get the answers they want.

She reveals that she and a number of her tribe found a dryad infected by the potent night ivy, and they experimented with the drug. In the terrifying visions they felt a presence, a terrible thing that whispered to them about how he could help them destroy the Empire that sought to destroy their way of life. They learned to call it forth, and it encouraged them to organize their strike upon the Exposition. When they saw Valentine, one of their own willingly in service to their oppressors, they captured him. They called upon their terrible ally, and he bound Valentine in magic that drew his destiny and identity into her. As long as Valentine still lived, she would take his role in the universe, and the longer she had it the more it would truly be hers. In doing this, she had begun to realize that they had gotten in over their heads, and that if they would agree to free her she would tell them where Valentine was. She also warned them that if the leader managed to draw the blood of the dryad that the entity would come, and they would all be destroyed. The group took the information, and Oz gave her a glass of mineral water and placed her hanging in his closet with the diuretic still burning in her stomach.

With the help of Adonia’s ability to scry from a distance, they scout the shifter camp, and decide to call upon Valentine’s church for aid. The church arranges for a distraction and lends both swords and healing to their mission. Under the cover of the distraction, the team focuses all they have on bringing down the dryad and the leader, and they manage to prevent the creature from being summoned. They recover the Kraken Seed, and quickly drag the real Valentine out of the pit they were keeping him in, horrified to find him covered in bloody runic scratches, his eyes black and gummy with the signs of Night Ivy use.

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