Trials of the Seven Heroes

A Mountain, a Mob, and some Minions
In which the scattered heroes achieve some things, and fail to achieve others

Divided into three groups, the heroes are still seeking to complete their world attunements.

Darby, having achieved union with Fen, concentrates on calming down the Fenlings, because getting rid of them entirely seems unlikely. They are, she has realized, a part of Fen just like all other things, and vanishing them wouldn’t work well. So instead she focuses on calming them, with reasonable effect, because she makes them stop wanting to slaughter everything. Mostly. The other two Fen Goddesses talk to her in “her” temple and are angry, but Darby explains that if there aren’t any humans, there’s no one to usefully terrorize and intimidate, and the Goddesses eventually agree. So they accept that the Fenlings can be only normally angry and hateful, and they accept that Darby can keep residence in “her” temple, and in fact send her priests. Darby waits for her other minions to arrive while planning to rejoin the others.

On Veldt Gavin, bound to his world as well, concentrates on making the Purple Riders serve him, because he realizes that the original target he had in mind, the portal they guard and use, is not really attached to Veldt at all. After a day or more of focusing, he decides to take a mob of his loyal followers and see where the Riders stand. His approach noted, he discovers that the Riders are divided in their opinions, some of them seeing him as what he claims to be, some denying it. He demands to speak to the Grand Master, and is taken to him. They psychically duel, with Gavin coming out ahead, and the Grand Master, at the last, demanding to know if Gavin is the Purple Emperor, to which the depressing answer is I don’t know. Beaten, the Grand Master agrees to convene the council of the Riders, who, uncertain whether Gavin is what he says, are still excited to hear about the God of Night, and agree to initiate Gavin into the Order, because if he is the Purple Emperor incarnate, he will not need the training, and if he isn’t, he will die, and so much the better. Gavin goes to meditate and clear his mind.

The others are on Montagne, seeking out a focal point for either Ellis or Ridley, one of whom must be attached to the world. Small towns are useless, as is an encounter with a stranger, possibly sorcerous fellow named Tretch. In the major city of Vale, Teddy uncovers information about mines being the common point of the world, otherwise so seperated by mountains into different patches of culture. The Seven Mile Field is the most legendary of all, and it’s to this that he wishes to guide the others, who have gone onto a wild goose chase to the great and terrible mountain called Vapsak, which no man, it is said, has ever climbed. Teddy finds them at the base of the mountain and suggests they should travel to the Seven Mile Field, which he has images of from the mind of a scholar. Brigid sets to making a preliminary stitch pattern.

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Scrambling to Bond
In which some people make bonds, and some don't

Darby really focuses on changing things, but maybe she’s not good at it, or maybe her mind isn’t just right. In any case, she grows some trees, but not quickly. Donovan hangs out with her, though, while the rest go off to find their own bonds.

Part of this is Gavin hurrying to Veldt, where he finds there are half a million of his followers waiting, cultically, to slaughter the Purple Riders if they oppose him. He’s come with Pride, and he uses the horse to serve as his focus, and he bonds with the world pretty quickly. And then settles in to think about what to do with half a million fanatically loyal followers gathered half a day from the enclave of the Riders.

Teddy talks to a Songkeeper, who would certainly be a good focus for Strand, but she will not serve as one until and unless she has some assurance of his intentions, which he cannot or will not give. So it amounts to nothing.

And Brigid, with the rest of them, on Urbs, finds the Duchess, theoretical ruling lady of the world, though this is just a title, not a position of actual power. She is in charge of a city, built on ancient foundations, onto the supposed first city of Urbs, where there is a keystone on the first arch built in the world. To this, she grants her consent, haughty and a bit insane, for Brigid to journey, and she is taken below with Ellis to watch over her. She bonds with the keystone, and with Urbs, and returns to the city above, fleeing the Duchess, who is quite possibly completely insane, and certainly convinced of her own supreme importance. And a good bit of fun, also.

The rest of the heroes, joined by Teddy, make for Montaigne.

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A week off
Not much happened, and then it did

After some further testy events concerning Arboria’s wizard and his desire to not have Gavan mess with his world, they all went back to the Palace and scattered for a week off. Spells were tested, conjurations made, songs practiced, stitchings embroiders, horses played with and networks developed. Drinks were also had. The Master’s confiscation of the duplicating diamond and gold was noticed. And at the end, a trip was made to Urbs, which revealed that it was rife with rivalrous city-states, most of whom were patronized by noblemen and fought only slightly deadly fueds with their neighbors. Urbs proving not much use beyond poisons and weapons and hats (liberally purchased), they decided to finish with the Fallen on his hot, bright demon-infested world. A long overland journey from the friendly village ended when a mass of some 35 demons attacked, and well thought out plans, along with conjured tricks and spells, succeeded in killing them with minimal harm to the Heroes. But the magical clock is ticking, as it were, and who knows how many more such assaults can be expected? With the Fallen, god or machine or whatever, at the end…

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Stumped by a Wizard
It's funny, because it happened on Arboria

Teddy visits with the Songkeeper the next morning, and is told that he’ll have to be able to spend at least 12 hours under the water, able to sing, per day, in order to learn most of the secrets fo the Songs of the Sirens. This is something he can’t do, but he realizes maybe Gavan or one of the sorcerers can help him out, so he says that when he’s able to do that, he’ll return. Back at the Palace, the best idea anyone can come up with is the nose frog, a water/air breathing conjuration that will transfer its powers to Teddy, enabling him to breath so long as they remain in contact. Hence hiding it up Teddy’s nose, and the name, Nose Frog.

A visit to Arboria follows, with all the Heroes going to meet the Wizard once again, who simply denied having done anything to foil Gavan’s conjurations. He was also willing to return Gavan’s amulet, and to provide his own means of protecting Donovan, since he certainly didn’t trust the Heroes, being as they were raised by the Master, who he feels is the worst thing in the world, and the enemy of the Governor General and the good old days, and all that sort of thing. But Gavan couldn’t get him to say anything at all concerning breaking his conjurations, and that was, to the cult leader, rather frustrating. Then the Governor General himself came to speak with them, and try to suggest they be responsible and careful, and indicate that he was pleased with the notion that they were going to perhaps put in a new king. He suggested that Teddy or Ellis (still back in the Palace working on his shaped charge spell) would be the best King candidates, a suggestion that no one else disagreed with.

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That's How You Make An Entrance
In which a Lady appears, and proves not all Random's kind are jerks

The waters of Fen proving to be bubbly and reactive the next morning, the Heroes thought it the better part of valor to depart the realm before any aftereffects of killing the frog goddess could emerge, but left only just as Fenlings began to rise, fully clothed and ready, from the muck. Back at the Palace, they decided it would be good to take a few moments of downtime, with Bennett beginning to heal, Ellis working on a spell, Teddy and Brigit heading for Strand and Gavan working enchantments on his followers. Few of these things went as planned. Bennett’s healing was hastened along by a somewhat morbidly gleeful Darby wielding the healing wand, but not, mind you, too quickly, so that Bennett, on absorbing grotesque harm from his other selves, would writhe in agony for a bit longer than needed. Gavan’s enchantments would turn out to be negated over the next few days, one after another, until he carefully left out Arboria, where he suspected his work was being undone by the Governor General’s Wizard. And Teddy’s mission to meet the Songkeepers would be interrupted by the sudden return of Donovan to the Palace, with Brigit vanishing off to see him, and Teddy later following.

But there were problems with Donovan, too, as he became horrified by the fate of poor Thomas, and fled magically back to Arboria. Eventually persuaded to come back by promises from the Seven Heroes to be good, he returned, and Gavan became aware he no longer had his protective amulet, which the Wizard had taken charge of, apparently. This was bothersome, and added to the role call of things that Gavan wanted to talk about with the Wizard, especially after the Master denied all responsibility for troubling with Gavan’s conjurations (on his cult, at least—there was some other thing he mentioned, but Gavan was easily distracted by his current concerns).

Donovan suggested going out to dinner at a great steakhouse he knew, and the Heroes all reassembled, Bennett taking a break from the last of the healing, to attend dinner. Partway through, in a sudden confluence of lights by the door, the Lady walked in. She was a knockout, the sort of girl you sell out your friends for, the kind that makes you howl at the moon, and she walked right up to their table and had a chair brought for her. Florimel was her name, and she was come, she claimed, as an emissary from Random’s folk, to try to figure out what it was the Seven Heroes wanted in the big wide world. She ate like a champ, drank like a fish, smoked like a pro, was charming and flirty, and in the end got the Heroes to agree, essentially, to deal with their own problems before moving out and looking for any more. She also seemed more than willing to take them on as proteges (clients? servants? I guess it depended on how charming you found her….) She left then, and a few moments later, all accoutrements of her visit were gone, even her chair, without anyone making them so.

There was some talk of this. There was some amount of promising to be better people. There was Teddy heading back to Strand to keep his appointment with the Songkeeper. And then, to bed.

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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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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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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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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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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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