Trials of the Seven Heroes

Grim News
In Media Res, so don't expect to get it unless you're in it

After returning to the Capitol, the Seven Heroes discover that Gavan’s amenuensis Esmeralda has been compromised, and that, further, the stitching Bridgit had made of him has been taken by parties unknown. Bridgit than makes a quick sketch of her stitching, and the whole lot of the heroes go to it. It is, unforunately, in a box much like a hope chest, which shatters on their arrival. They are in a fancy bedroom, with a screaming woman and a guard. Mr. Pants runs to the woman superquick and knocks her out. The guard is silenced. But still the occupants of the next room are approaching, and it seems that it’s Prince Michael. This is bad, so the seven heroes bravely flee by way of Bridgit’s cloak. They then go about establishing a seperate means to communicate with Gavan’s secret cult of Purple Emperor followers, which involved purchasing the Severed Hand Tavern (not just a name, mind you, but a decor choice) and establishing a new cult leader, Benedict, in it. Esmeralda is to keep up contacts with the cultists she knows of, but it’s just a front; all new cultists are to deal with Benedict, about whom Esmeralda is unaware. The Seven also discover that there had been a big powwow, hosted by the Ebony Queen’s Wizard, and including the Royal Children, and ostensibly Mistress Madeline, although she was not available. To this powwow, they suspect, Esmeralda was taken, and thus a number of powerful and dangerous sorts might know quite a bit more about the Seven, and especially Gavan, than anyone would like. Grim news, indeed.

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We Broke Our Only Friend
He wasn't a construct, but one lived in him

The Heroes discussed their various options, and decided pretty quickly that they wanted to wrap up some local loose ends. While doing this, it occurred to them that Donovan might be a little weird, or even a construct, so Teddy went into his head and found that he wasn’t, but that there was something there. Not to be dealt with at once, whatever it was, so they headed down to the river to check out the ruined manor house where Princess Joanna retires all her former lovers. She names them all Philip and then steals the name, along with their vitality, when the relationship is over, and the place is horribly depressing. The Heroes come away convinced the Joanna is more evil than anyone they’ve yet encountered. On returning to the palace, they decide that their clothes are out of fashion, and then decide to invade Donovan’s brain while he’s asleep. But when they gather for this task, they find that Brigid is missing, because, as they find out, she’s off having sex with Donovan, wanting to find out if real things are better than constructs. The rest go ahead with the plan anyway, and a psychic battle ensues as they shatter the structure in Donovan’s mind and are attacked by the things inside which is either the Master, or a younger version of the Master, or some pure incarnation of rage and hate. Or all of the above. They barely escape, dragging their mental leader, Ridley, away with serious damage. Donovan and Ridley are both comatose after this, and only Brigid’s stitching and the exhausted minds of the other heroes manange to bring them out of it. But Donovan is different after, and he realizes that maybe he doesn’t really like the Heroes, maybe it was just the thing in his head. He wants to see his family in Arborea. So he leaves, after efforts to convince him to stay fail. And Darby is broken up by it, because he’s the only friend the Seven have. She takes him to Arborea and sees him off, and returns to cry out, “We broke our only before” before running off sobbing.

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Come Sail Away
Sometimes a vacation is good, and sometimes, it's just creepy

Having been left by their only friend, the Seven Heroes do what any sensible group would do: briefly wallow in self pity, and then plan a trip to the beach. To Strand, to be more precise, the world with more shoreline than anyplace, and the homeworld of the curious Sirens, a race (subrace?) that guides ships to other worlds through the power of their songs. On the shore, Darby heard the singing of the Sirens under the sea, and wisely avoided it, since she was already entranced once before. In Strand, they stayed at the Sea Lion’s Head, using magic to duplicate sea charts and cutlasses, and met with Madame Genevive, a grossly fat and reasonably disgusting Siren with attractive neices (one of whom Teddy would pay to entrace him, in the process learning her song reasonably well) who is the factor, or surface representative, of the amphibious Sirens of the area. For a price, they found out the destination of the ship they had stolen charts from, the Dark Shores by way of Black Rock Island. They found that there is a strange world that the Sirens have never taken a surface dweller to. They found out that even finding out about this place, where they were advised never to go, would cost more money than most people could concieve of. And then they rushed to the Silver Hind, the ship that was sailing to the Dark Shores to obtain rare woods, oils, and unguents, and they bought passage with most of the rest of their money. On board, they were treated as nuisances, and the Siren who was guiding the ship almost killed Bennett when he cast a spell, because she was using some sort of magic to steer the ship and the spell was disrupting it. Apparently, said magic is only done at night, because Bennett cast a spell a couple days later, with no raving Siren trying to kill him as a result. Bridgit and Gavan returned every night to the palace, where Gavan tried to persuade the embroiderer Hero to show him the ways of real love, that is, love with real people, but Bridgit is (so far) still too put about about both of her manservant Thomases being statues in the garden, and Donovan abandoning her, to go along with that. Ellis investigated the hold and found that it contained wooden chests, all the same, inside of which, with Ridley and Mr Pants’s help, he discovered riveted metal spheres, that Ridley sensed ghosts inside of. Later discussion circled around the notion of how one could devour the power of the ghosts, and what one would use that much power for, and how much power it might actually be, and how disgusting the notion of eating souls is, which seemed to be a minority position. It was also realized that the Siren must know of the cargo, and thinks that Bennett is an actual member of the Order, and is probably a bit afraid that he will find out what the ship she is guiding is carrying. Bennett has decided to be rather alert.

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Killing a God
In which a metal thing is confronted and defeated, and much is learned

From the huge stone pier where they left their ship, the heroes, guided by this world’s version of Bennett, marched through a woodsy forest into the wild country. They travelled for two days, hearing the frightening screams of the tall, soulless monsters of the wood, and hearing tales also of the metal god who devoured the souls that were brought to the Far Shores, and punished those who did not do its bidding. From Auntie they heard of the arrival of the thing, some thirty years before (though with the time differential that they had noted, this meant it was probably more like 25 or 27 years on the Eight Worlds) and how those who had seen its arrival all died of vomiting illnesses shortly after. They heard of its shining spy birds with their distant stings, of the poison gasses it produced, and of threats of worse to come. They decided, of course, to immediately confont the thing. When they did, it proved to be formidable, with a massive mentality that was very narrowly built but horrifically strong. But then, that mentality dwindled to something rather small, and the sorcerers in the group noted that magic had changed at the same time. It appeared to have spent all its accumulated power, that of the souls it had consumed apparently, to shift the world further away than where it had been, and so changed the rules of magic. With a little preparation, and after lunch, the heroes mentally assaulted the thing, and led by Ridley, were able to capture its mind and find out that it had been to other worlds before, where it had consumed local produce, as it were, to move them further out from the core worlds. Soon, it thought, it might move inward to continue, but it had spent all its souls in anticipation of the shipment which came on the ship with the heroes, and thus, in a way, defeated itself. Inside was an orrery that showed the worlds, suspended in air, but it was too complicated and time consuming to reproduce, and Ridley didn’t think he could hold the thing captive forever, so they destroyed it instead. Gavan speculated that perhaps the Fallen was something similar, if not identical, and that the demons there, with their soul gathering swords, were being used to pick up local produce for that device, whatever it might actually be. Messages arrived from the Sirens, revealing that Teddy was some sort of prophecies hero, the Landborn, who was meant to save their Spellkeepers from the captivity in which they languished, held for ransom on their songs, which is why the Sirens crave money so greatly, as they have to buy them back. From one of the Siren’s minds, an image of a set of stone steps rising from the harbor of the Lord Emperor’s capitol was taken, and Brigit made a stitching pattern to take them there, after first transporting all the soul boxes to the Castle, in a great many exhausting trips. Upon their arrival at the Lord Emperor’s city, they were confronted by a man in a cloak stitched like Brigit’s, who said he didn’t realize that anyone had such a thing…

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Outside a Limited Infinite Set
It's a big universe out there

The man in the cloak (who would later be revealed as one Magister Lucien, head of the secret police and bearer of the Cloak of Wonders) demanded the heroes accompany him to the Emperor, willingly or not. To enforce this, he waved his cloak about and axemen strode out from it. The heroes refusing to come willingly, there was a fight, in which the axemen proved competent enough to actually injure their foes, not badly at all, but there were more of them than there were fighters on the heroes side. A shadowy thing then came from the cloak, and during its advance the Magister vanished. Psychic power was used, along with power words, to weaken the thing and hold it in place while Darby hacked it to pieces using one of the axes of the fallen and her own brute strength. After the fight, the heroes went with some of Gavan’s followers to a miniature city/stronghold which they claim is the site of the end of the Purple Emperor’s famous ride, the place he lingered before turning around and going back to Capitol. There’s a vast building called the Stable, which is sort of built like a stable and sort of like a church, in which the heroes were housed. While there, Bennett was in contact with his local self, a functionary at the palace who revealed that the Emperor is apparently immortal, though not unaging, and can barely move on his own, so decrepit is he. LocalBennett suggested that the heroes should come to meet the Emperor, but that seemed like something they didn’t necessarily want to do. Instead, they decided to go to meet the Great Priestess, who rules the other half of the Empire, and who holds one of the three Sirens, another held by the Lord Emperor and a third rotating back and forth. One of the followers of Gavan knew of a spot rather near her temple on the other continent, and Briget was able to get that information from his mind and make a stitching pattern from it. The heroes traveled to the temple, where the rather unrestrained Great Priestess, the daughter of the Purple Emperor and ancestress of the Lord Emperor, and a true immortal, greeted them. She knew quite a bit but didn’t tell all, only giving hints of her knowledge of the Master and the Topaz King, and even the Onyx Queen before him. But she eventually offered up a playing card with a picture of a very large man on it, a card that worked just like one of Briget’s stitchings, and which she said they could use if they dared. They did dare, of course, and, leaving Ridley behind as an anchor, found themselves in a streetside cafe, with a man who introduced himself as Gerard, and who took them to a small meeting room to talk with them. After hearing a bit of their tale, he produced a card himself, and, concentrating on it, said that there were some people who would like to meet you, Random. Disturbingly to Bennett, this world has no local Bennett, and he cannot even feel one.

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Role Reversal
In which they find out what an asshole is

The appearance of Random a moment after Gerard has contacted him does not please the Seven Heroes. He isn’t a nice little man, though he is a little man, and he expresses little interest in them beyond the fact of Brigit’s cloak, and how it was made. Gavan decides to irritate Random to see what will happen—how good is the little man they don’t like? Good enough, it turns out, to almost kill Gavan with a thrown bread knife. While he bleeds, Random, unconcerned with whether Gavan is dying or not, tells Gerard, who goes along with the notion apologetically, to take the cloak, and they depart. Teddy tells them as they leave to look up the Lord Emperor if they want to find out where the cloak came from. The Heroes re-equip themselves with spells (said action causing the local area Bennetts to manifest) and a sketch of the castle, and, after Teddy has wandered off with Darby’s magical language amulet and reappeared some time later dressed in local clothing, all return to Capitol. Gavan, weak and badly hurt, is healed by his own wand, and recovers with wine and Esmeralda. It is decided to go and try to make the meet and greet with the Lord Emperor, and as they are gathering supplies, Brigit’s cloak turns up again, at the tailor’s. Well equipped, they travel to join Ridley in the Stable, and then all proceed first to the Great Priestess, who is bothered to discover that they met Random, and that he is supposedly coming to visit the Lord Emperor, who had been revealed as the source of the cloak. The meeting with the Lord Emperor occurs, and it goes not pleasingly, with the LE offering power and knowledge in exchange for services, and refusing to hand over any of the Songkeepers. The Heroes refuse his offer and are readying themselves to leave when Random and Gerard arrive, having claimed Magister Lucien’s cloak. There is a rather tense standoff for a moment, until the Lord Emperor is outclassed by his foes, and the Songkeeper he has with him is claimed by Random, who gets the answers he wants, but does not, as no one seemed to notice, actually return the Songkeeper as he had bargained. During this confusion, Darby discovered her Primal self, a ferocious bear with horns and spikes that is purely savage and fiercely dangerous. The two men, now thought to be total assholes, depart, and the Heroes hurry away with their prize, the Songkeeper. The Great Priestess (her name is Elizabeth) gives the siren her tongue, and then the siren says there is a plan to escape, which the Heroes facilitate, and then after seeing her off, adjourn to the Stable. While there, some activity takes place in the palace, so that the local Bennett hides in the archives, and stays there as the Lord Emperor, now apparently deprived off all his sirens and likely only having three months to live, sets in motion an attack on the Stable. While the Heroes set up defenses, including Bennett draining all his nearby selves for their strength to create a defensive ward on the walls, Gavan starts a massive conjuration to make all of his followers on this world able to shift to the next one. It will take sixteen hours. As buildings are torn down, and fog rolls off of the Emperor’s hilltop palace to occlude the streets, the seige of the Stable begins. Will the Heroes be able to hold off the Lord Emperor’s wrath for long enough to enable Gavan to save his followers, or will they fail, have to flee and doom thousands to their deaths…

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A Seige Perilous
Perhaps Gavan shouldn't know this...

The seige was undertaken. The idea occurred to use the combined psychic power of the End of the Line to overwhelm the Lord Emperor. This seemed like a good idea at the time. It happened, by means of a trifecta of Bennett as leader, Brigid and Ridley. The followers of the Purple Emperor put their all into it. This was disasterous to them, as they, in large part, perished in the effort. It did, however, kill the Lord Emperor. Bennett admitted he could have reigned them in, but didn’t think the limited effort would have done what was needed, and so was accepting of the loss. Ghosts had been introduced into the enclave in the meantime, and did some killing of people, both before the mind meld, when it was more difficult and when Darby, with the soulsucking sword, killed some of them, and after, when it was vastly easier, and when Teddy and Darby killed more of them. Further, the shadow monsters also appeared, one of which was mauled by Ellis, who, however, was faced with two of them. The first was made by Mr. Pants to assume its true form, and was badly hurt but retreated. The second tossed Pants away, and then was hit by pressurized lava from Ellis, who fell, his heart failing at the shadow grip, to the ground, and was rescued only by the fact that the shadow beast was badly hurt, and Darby’s arrival at the same time. Darby mananged, with some time and effort, to break up the thing and then feed its shadowy bits into the cooling lava, while rescuing Ellis, legs badly burnt, from the same peril. Pants, on returning, used Gavan’s healing wand to fix the legs, ever so slowly. Teddy and Bennett found the traitors in the city and dealt with them, and Darby found the last shadow and drove it off, eventually, after dark, killing it. Bennett and Brigid went to speak to the Great Priestess, who had taken over immediately the Lord Emperor was felled, and she indicated, to Bennett’s great chagrin, that she was done with them as tools, and that she was taking over all the world, as she had waited for 900 years to do. She indicated she would kill anyone who opposed her, and expressed no real gratitude for the efforts of the heroes. Later, talking to Teddy, she explained to some degree what her position was, and asked that the Master be in touch with her. The Heroes waited for Ellis to heal and Gavan to be aware again, so that they could leave Tuvaladin at last.

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The Eventual Fate of Poor Thomas
In which some heroes reveal the weakness of their virtue

Gavan emerges from his conjuring to discover that the majority of his followers are dead. His reaction is not as predicted-they died doing what they would have wanted to do, working for a cause they delighted in, and so there should be no problems. He thought that his conjuration had done something more to his followers, also. Something perhaps permanent. But before he would test it, the heroes decided to all return to Capitol, and to the Palace. Although Brigid remained unable to use her cloak, others turned out not to have that problem, and they soon enough were home. There had been visitors-thugs who awaited Ellis (they wanted a job, recommended by Countess Michael). There had been cult growth—moreso now that Gavan convinced them they could travel to known worlds by an effort of will, which some of them, perhaps, did. At least, they disappeared. And the Council of Nobles wished them to appear, within five days, to account for themselves. Word had it that huge fines were to be levied, and when they couldn’t be paid, the Heroes would be required to serve. But before all of this, they went to speak with the Master. The wizard explained to them that if they killed the Emperor, which shocked him, that they must have gone through his Runic Door, which they had, of course, no idea existed. He mentioned then that there were Runic Doors at both ends of creation, and that the Topaz King, and the Onyz Queen, had gone through the one at this end, apparently under the guidance and with the advice of the Lord Emperor. Now, apparently, no one at all was holding on to whatever power was beyond the Runic Doors, and this could be a bit fretful. The Heroes then went to meet with Prince Michael to see if they could straighten out this whole Council of Nobles issue before it went too far, and in fact, they could. Michael wanted them to agree that the Council had authority over them, and to submit their actions for approval, when those actions would impact the Council, but he recognized that he was unlikely to be able to fully control them, and didn’t expect to do so.

And so we come to poor Thomas. Two of them, clones one of the other, and the first of a servant at the Castle, created to love and serve Brigid. Both of them, at different times, turned to stone so as to get them out of the way, and tucked into the gardens in back, collecting moss and such. For reasons still unclear, Ellis decided it would be a fine time to de-stone the one that he had once, some time earlier, turned into a statue. This fellow went immediately to serve Brigid, a bit the worse for his time outside. But she had decided it was best to not have a devoted, rather overamorous manservent, and sent him away. He returned, with the wine she had requested, and she suggested he take a bath. Which he remained in for some twelve hours, while she attended meetings. He had expected her to join him at any moment, of course, as this was the sort of thing he was created by Gavan, at Brigid’s request, to expect. She tried to convince him that she didn’t want his attention any longer, when Bennett asked him to hold a large metal bowl, and then, a moment later, he was turned back into stone. Now a perfect birdbath, he was taken out into the garden for a time, his basin filled by Mr Pants who was eagerly awaiting the first bird, while new spells were prepared and Brigid thought about what to do. Gavan, in the meantime, dispersed the other statue of Thomas, once his creation and still vulnerable, in some degree, to his will. The birdbath Thomas was changed back into human form, and then Brigid attempted to make his mind change with her cloak, but discovered that she couldn’t, only that she could, with some effort, make him into a piece of stitching on her cloak, by trapping him there. She freed him from the cloak, and began once more to try to convince him he should not serve her, this time with an offer: go away forever, or be imprisoned in the cloak forever. He couldn’t seem to grasp that either option was one he could undertake (and in fact, he couldn’t, he wasn’t made that way) and was growing more and more confused, but before Brigid could transport him into the cloak again, Teddy cut his head off. A mercy, by this time, oddly.

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The difference between Hubris and Pride
In which the council is foiled, and so is a horse

Breakfast with Count Opal and Countess Michael convinces the Heroes that it’s a bad idea to kowtow to the Princes and that it would be best to confuse and bebother the Council and make them argue over pointless things while the Heroes go about their business. This, in fact, is in general what occurs, as the Heroes, counting on the arrogance of the Princes and the self-importance of the Council, request to know what sort of fine would be assessed of them, and the entire Council dissolves into suggestions and demands. A quick motion by the newly arrived Countess Micheal is made to allow the Heroes freedom to go about their business while the matter is debated, which motion passes narrowly, and the Heroes depart to, well, go about their business. Some matters concerning Gavan’s cult are fomented, involving magical contacting of his figurehead leader Benedict, and assessment of the truth of the fact that his followers can in reality travel between worlds, which they indeed can. Following this, on a retreat the Castle worldlet, Darby discovers a magnificent horse who calls himself Pride, and says he is the stallion of the Purple Emperor, the very one on which the great ride was made, called back into being because the Emperor returned. Darby and Ellis take Pride to Veldt, and while they’re there, they contact Random to see if he wants his horse, which he most emphatically doesn’t. Darby lies to the horse to not be mean to him, and they return to the Castle, where Ellis’s room is invaded by slugs overnight.

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One Third Less Fen
A goddess is killed, or part of one at least

The Heroes decide to journey to Fen, which they haven’t (really) visited at all. Along they way they run into a merchant train and ask questions about the warm, damp, thinly populated world. They hear that there are Fenlings in the swamps, so they say, though what exactly Fenlings are is uncertain, and that there are ancient Swamp Temples to Goddesses hidden away in the deep swamp. Successful psychic drainings allow them to get a good impression of one of the Temples; Brigid makes a quick design of it, and they travel to the place. Once there, they’re attacked by the guardians, froglike people with spears who are fast, but not fast enough, and fall to the beatings of Darby, the weapons of Ellis and Teddy. Priests with magic appear, hurtling balls of acidic mud, and are dealt with with somewhat greater difficulty, as acid stings quite a bit, and catches poor Mr. Pants directly. Inside the Temple is a vast frog-beast with human features and a voice-a goddess of Fen, she claims, with two sisters elsewhere. Eventually irritated enough to attack, a fight ensues in which first Ellis and then Teddy are eaten (Ellis teleports out and is stitched back in, Teddy cuts his way out) along with one of the Boys now in Ellis’s employ, who is not saved; Bennett drains away some of the magic in the place, and is then faced with his own magic drain, while sending a dozen of his selves to fight against the goddess, channelling their pain and wounds through the network as crushing blows rain down on them. Ridley and Gavan tried a psychic assault, and discovered they weren’t up to it, barely getting away mostly due to the ferocious physical attacks happening at the same time, but were able to discover that the Temple itself made her stronger, so that with Brigid’s help, and through the cloak, they were able to call up Teddy and bring him out, dragging the goddess with him. Removed from the Temple, she was weak enough to be Stonebound by Bennett as his last act before collapsing from exhaustion, and then was hacked apart by Teddy and Ellis into tiny fragments. Gavan summoned his magical house for them to all rest in. Bennett, on awakening hours later, was told to cancel the stone binding, and so the goddess’s bits bled out in seconds, and she was certainly dead and gone. Shortly thereafter, scores of angels appeared to confirm the death of the goddess, and strongly imply that it was a very bad idea to kill divine things, because it would weaken all of reality. They departed mournfully.

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