Zeitgeist

Gory Road

New allies accompany the constables along the risky path to the occupied military fort.

Beset by a crazed Danoran gunman and elementals of earth and shadow, Leocamp Assurgent scramble to secure the base of the mine. With their opponents striking from higher scaffolding, Lethe unleashes a lance of cold that destroys the shadow stalker, as Talus prepares to engage the earth elemental. It, however, is blasted to shambles by a bullet courtesy of Nex. The old miner shoots wildly at the constables from the safety of the topmost landing. Utsusemi slinks beneath the scaffolding unseen, attempting to reach the base of a rope dangling from the crane next to the miner.

Meanwhile, unexpected help arrives for our heroes! A mysterious half-elf sneaks up behind the miner and fires at him with a shortbow, barely missing but revealing the firegem contents of the barrels he’s using for cover. Nex and Utsusemi grab hold of the rope while Nex fires upward, severing the counterweight and launching them instantaneously to the apex landing. Now right in the Danoran’s face, they see that he’s enthralled by the dulcet melody of the half-elf’s song. Nex and Utsusemi, along with Talus, approach the old man carefully, while Lethe pries the golden talisman from the splinter of stone. She recognizes the inscriptions on it that tie it’s magic to Avilona, the Plane of Air. As soon as she claims it, a heretofore unseen air elemental swoops down from the dark ceiling of the cavern, presenting itself to the druid. She backs away carefully, but soon realizes that the creature is offering its services.

The old man happens to be wearing two similar talismans. Utsusemi doesn’t hesitate and hamstrings the hysterical old-timer, breaking the bard’s musical enchantment. The miner attempts to flee, limping away over the barrels, but is finally laid low by a well-placed arrow.

After they cuff the Danoran, the bard introduces himself to Leocamp. He is Deren, a RHC deep-cover spy dispatched to keep tabs on the Danorans long before the Duchess‘s rebels invaded Axis Island. He explains that he was given a magical message to meet the infiltration team here and guide them to the fort. Deren knows that the Danorans have been studying the island’s planar anomalies—looking for artifacts like the talismans, using the mines as a cover. He also knows that the Duchess’s foot soldiers took the Danoran base from within, using a teleportation circle that she must have been given an access key too.

The other two talismans are tied to Nem and Urim, the planes of Void and Earth respectively. The old Danoran, Nicolas, explains during interrogations that when the Duchess attacked, he stole the other two talismans and came to this mine looking for the third. This corroborates Deren’s story about the Danoran’s intentions here—and the implications gravely concern the druid Lethe. Nicolas says the icons attract elementals tied to their specific planes but does not seem to convey any means of summoning them. Talus claims the Urim talisman, which strengthens his chassis and allows him to create walls of stone. Utsusemi excitedly takes the Nem icon, allowing him to see in the dark and become a shadow. Lethe’s Avilona talisman allows her short bursts of flight.

It is still night when the group reach the surface and behold a mass grave of Danoran workmen. While some were killed by conventional weapons, others appear to have been felled by the trees themselves—as if the forest itself came to life against them.

The constables decide to take their chances on the patrolled road to the fortress while the air elemental silently follows. They heatedly debate their plans once they reach the fort. There are five of them now, but they only have four passwall scrolls. There are concerns about their conspicuously non-human teammates moving discreetly about the fort, or being seen in the water or climbing the wall should they swim to the lighthouse. Talus suggests the honest approach of fighting their way to the gate mechanism, but is gently reminded that the Duchess has a veritable army and magical support from the fey to boot. While Utsusemi could theoretically bypass enemies and sneak to the switch, he’d have no chance of holding it open long enough for the Risuri navy to get through. A few consider whether or not their task is even within their means.

Their first encounter along the road is an overturned wagon and scattered weapons, some usable. All sense a trap. Utsusemi approaches cautiously, but even his keen insectoid senses fail to detect the magical glyphs strung throughout the area. As he picks up an axe-musket for his friend Talus, the glyph triggers a blast of winter cold—which fails to affect the ice-caste dromite at all! Nex promises to repair the damaged weapon when they have spare time.

After another hour or so of impassioned debate on the road, the constables hear something large and mechanical stomping toward them through the trees. They break for a run, but Lethe, ever curious and concerned about the Danorans’ activities here, follows her teammates’ hasty retreat only reluctantly.

Soon after, Lethe detects the chatter of a patrol ahead—five of the Duchess’s rebel soldiers. The constables make for the wood to find hiding places, but the soldiers spot Lethe and Deren. The bard, thinking quickly, quickly uses an illusory disguise to assume the form of a wounded rebel soldier. Lethe pretends to be administering his wounds. The platoon captain, a mystic with an inquisitive owl, questions Deren and believes his bluff about losing the rest of his squad to a robotic monster. However, he is less persuaded by Lethe’s lie about being one of the Duchess’s allies. Deren immediately claims to have never seen the elf before.

The platoon shaman assumes the mechanical monster is likely long-gone. Though the troupe do not forcefully detain or disarm her—in case she just might be one of the Duchess’s after all—they insist Lethe accompany them to the fort to verify her claims. The rest of the constables follow along in the wood for a few seconds before Talus inevitably reveals his lumbering presence by crunching a rotted log underfoot. As soon as they spot him, Nex bursts from the bush guns blazing—and the shaman is cut down by hail of bullets.

The air elemental takes its cue and swoops down from the dark sky to strike at Lethe’s guards, while two of the footmen raise swords against Talus; a futile gesture, they struggle to even put a dent in his chassis. Working like never before in martial symmetry, Leocamp Assurgent make short work of two more of the rebels, and the remaining two decide to flee in separate directions. These are quickly brought low by bullets and arrows.

The survivors are interrogated, and though they claim to be the “true patriots of Risur” they barely hesitate to reveal the password for the main gate—"Sokana." Having captured five tabards and standards of the duchy of Shale, our heroes proceed to the fort, while they formulate a new, better plan with a more favorable chance of success.

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Impossible Mission

Our heroes voyage to Axis Island to help capture the Duchess and prevent a war.

After a debriefing by Minister Lee, Leocamp Assurgent find themselves the heroes of the hour. They have prevented lives from being lost, they have saved the Coaltongue from a watery grave, and are honored with the presence of the king himself. Aodhan learns all of their names and spares to each a few sincere words of thanks.

For the next few days, the press endeavors to get quotes from the constables, and while Utsusemi basks in the attention and avows his support of the king’s vision for an industrialized Risur, Talus remains humble and Nex avoids questions entirely. Lethe, as a druid and Skyseer, finds herself singled out for inquiry about the Duchess’s extreme primalist beliefs. The elf maintains that balance must be struck between the Old Ways and the new. The public and press, at least in Flint, seems to be split on the issue.

The Duchess has escaped to her stronghold in Shale, where she still has political and military support. Sokana, condemned for treason, is taken to Slate, to the dungeons of the king where she is to await the gallows. The Flint branch of the RHC, including Leocamp, busies itself over the next few days rounding up suspected primalists and sympathizers to Ethelyn, though the most high profile have already fled to seek protection in Shale. The public braces itself for civil war.

After a week, Leocamp are called into the office of Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft for a special assignment. Awaiting them is one Lya Jierre, Danor‘s Minister of Outsiders and scion of her nation’s ruling family. Delft explains that that the Duchess has successfully employed her naval forces to take a key Danoran holding in the Yerasol Archipelago called Axis Island. There, the technologically advanced nation has several steel mining facilities and a military base. Ethelyn’s rebels presently occupy the heavily fortified base. Lya says that to avoid her own congress’s declaration of war, the Risuri themselves must oust Ethelyn and hand back control of the island to Danor.

Leocamp, as the agents with the most recent contact with Ethelyn’s minions, are to provide support on the mission to Risur’s navy and a more experienced cell of RHC operatives. Delft admits his reservations in allowing the novice team such an important and dangerous undertaking. He lets it slip that Risur’s own higher-ups demanded Leocamp’s participation in light of their recent public heroics, a decision that Minister Harkover Lee pushed through.

Talus, a veteran of the last Yerasol conflict, explains that Axis Island is known for its unstable magical events and was named for it’s tendency to confound compasses. “As if the other planes were attempting to bleed through.” During the war, Risur did not think it was prudent to slug it out with Danor over a few square miles of rocks and scrub.

The mission, as explained by Lya and Delft, is for Leocamp to sail with the Risuri navy to Axis Island. There, the navy will remain at a distance while Guardant Bull of Slate’s constabulary avoid the Duchess’s perimeter defenses and penetrate the island’s interior through a sea cave. The cave opens into a mine. Bull are to take point and secure the mine, then head overland to the Danoran military base with Leocamp as back-up. Once at the base, the more experienced constables will sneak in and open the sea gate before signaling the fleet. The navy are then to storm the fortress and capture the Duchess. After the dust settles, Leocamp are to look for clues and perhaps interrogate the Duchess and her associates.

Lya makes a personal request. She wants the constables to ensure the safety of one person. Her young cousin, a scholar named Nathan Jierre, was on the island when it was attacked, and she’s worried the duchess might have harmed him because he’s a tiefling. If her cousin is still alive, Lya asks them to keep him safe until she can pick him up and bring him home. When pressed, Lya admits that her people, including Nathan, were studying the island’s phenomena. Lethe senses that Lya isn’t being completely forthcoming, a notion Delft privately agrees with. He asks the constables to be wary of anything suspicious.

Leocamp spend the better part of the next day upgrading their gear and receive a few mission critical supplies. They get water breathing potions and also scrolls that will allow them to walk through walls and signal the navy with a pyrotechnic display. The scrolls, provided by Minister Lee, are specially prepared to allow anyone to use them regardless of magical skill. Leocamp then board the RNS Impossible, a swift clipper ship, and rendezvous with the navy in the evening. There, they reunite with Captain Smith, who was an attendee of the Coaltounge launch. Dinner at the captain’s table forces the team to contend with Smith’s penchant for philosophical debate, and he reveals his general mistrust of Lethe Greenbark, who was seen aboard the Coaltongue in the company of the Duchess. Again, the elf is forced to reaffirm her commitment to Risur, which seems to satisfy the blustery captain.

Present at the dinner are Guardant Bull. Their cell consists of a half-elven druid named Tanya who proudly speaks of urban spirits, a brawny human warrior named Seven-Foot Dan who wears a spiked chain for a shirt, a sly illusionist named Letmas, and an extraordinarily cultured goblin thief named Burton. The two teams strike an accord after some icy first impressions. Burton and Utsusemi get along famously, eagerly talking shop about subjects relating to their shared trade.

During the trip, Nex attempts to get to know Tanya, but is disappointed with her platitudinous response to the loss of his family. Burton engages Utsusemi in a test of skill, attempting to sneak within striking reach of the perceptive dromite, though he does not succeed. Talus busies himself at his teammates’ suggestion that some aboard the ship might be sinful in nature, and focuses on a certain sketchy-looking sailor who eventually begs the constables to call the gearman off. Lethe finds that rumors of her brief rapport with Ethelyn and Sokana have reached the crew of the Impossible, who regard her with unrestrained suspicion.

Nex utilizes his skills as a seaman to get in good with the crew, and hears first-hand their qualms about his elven teammate. They are concerned about her loyalties and apprehensive over Lethe’s tattoo of the dead goddess Srasama, which they associate with Vekeshi terrorists. Nex brings word to Lethe, and the two discuss options for subtlety when working alongside less-enlightened humans.

Eventually, the night of decision falls. The Impossible breaks from the naval fleet, hoists black sails, and enters an Axis Island cove under the cover of darkness. Guardant Bull ready themselves to dive overboard and trail a rope through the sea cave. They command Leocamp to wait for their signal that the mine on the other end of the cave is secure. Tanya leaves her hound companion behind.

Minutes later, the rope starts vibrating fitfully and Lethe notices Tanya’s dog has gone feral. She immediately surmises that the other druid is dead. Leocamp takes to the shark-infested water, and Lethe commands a harmless fish to scout ahead and report back their fellow constables’ fate. It returns with grim news: The mountain, it says, has swallowed them up. Following the rope, the heroes find all but Burton fatally crushed beneath fallen boulders, though the goblin’s leg is pinned.

Quickly thinking, Leocamp use Burton’s own passwall scroll to free him. He says that the Bulls had a strange, temporary sensation that they were walking through a swamp inhabited by yellow frogs before the cave ceiling collapsed. The heroes leave the maimed goblin behind and endeavor to complete the mission themselves. After weighing their options and remembering that the Duchess likely has the beaches under magical surveillance, the Sea Lions press on through the dark of the cave.

Leocamp finally emerge in a round cavern that appears to be the base of the mine. Scaffolding leads from the water to an apex platform and cave about forty feet above them. The heroes immediately see a white-haired man scramble up to it and from behind the cover of some barrels, unload his pistol at them. From his accent and angry words, it seems this Donaran man has confused the team for more of the Duchess’s rebels. The rest of Leocamp hang back out of firing range as Utsusemi attempts to reach the Danoran unseen. However, the dromite is the first to see the old man is not alone. A creature of shadows intercepts Utsusemi as he pulls himself onto the lowest dry platform. The monster puts a ghostly hand through the dromite, sapping his strength. The rest of the constables scramble to defend their teammate only to see another monster, an elemental composed of earth and stone, clamber down toward them.

Nex maneuvers through the shallow water to a decent firing position and shoots the shadow stalker. The bullet sails harmlessly through its incorporeal body. The gunslinger notices behind him in the center of the chamber a great plinth of gray stone rising from the water line to the ceiling. A splinter of white marble extrudes from the stone, covered with ancient pictogram carvings. In a tiny nook carved into the tip of the marble splinter sits an oversized gold coin.

Utsusemi drops away from his shadowy assailant and looses a beam of psionic cold that does manage to wound the creature—slightly. Realizing that conventional weapons will otherwise have no effect on the shadow stalker, Leocamp brace themselves for a difficult contest.

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Shakedown Cruise

Leocamp face saboteurs on the royally-attended maiden voyage of the RNS Coaltongue.

The heroes are greeted on the royal docks by Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft, their immediate supervisor at the Flint branch of the RHC. After being congratulated on a job well done for thwarting the docker troublemakers, Delft introduces Leocamp Assurgent to none other than Harkover Lee, master wizard and chief advisor to King Aodhan .

The towering mage closely examines the team and also extends his thanks for their crowd control efforts. He pays particular mind to Utsusemi, and asks about the fabled flying cities that the dromite race are said to hail from. Such magic, says Lee, is known to be impossible. Utsusemi remains coy about his people’s psionic advances, but polite. Lee invites Leocamp to enjoy the festivities soon to commence on the Coultongue’s maiden voyage. He departs, but not before casting an askew glance at the arrival by carriage of the king’s sister, Duchess Ethelyn of Shale and her handmaiden, an elf named Sokana.

Awaiting the arrival of the king and the christening ceremony, Leocamp mingle among the party-goers assembled on the royal dock. They go to work, looking for threats that even a master wizard like Harkover Lee might have overlooked. Among those they interact with are Captain Rutger Smith, commander of the distinguished R.N.S. Impossible, which occasionally assists the RHC on missions. He’s discussing philosophy with a black-bearded dwarf, a Drakran envoy. Smith endorses the writings one William Miller, who said all conflicts could be avoided by sufficient understanding between opposing groups. The dwarf counters with Heid Eschatol theory that any ordered system will inevitably be ruined by some misunderstanding or accident.

Immediately, the party find themselves apprehensive of this sinister-looking Drakran, though a quick survey of his peers and Talus‘s mystic sense of evil intent allays suspicion. Talus, however, detects a variety of evils throughout the crowd—unscrupulous industrialists, merciless military vets, and a few ruthless heads of state. Knowing that any or none of these could pose a threat to the proceedings, Talus can only endeavor to remain vigilant. He finds himself diverted in his watch by two encounters. A decorated Risuri general loudly and longly praises the gearman for his impeccable service during the last Yerasol War. A more personal discussion occurs between the paladin and Geoff Massarde, a Danoran ex-pat who helped build the Coaltongue. Geoff was a close associate of the late Tomas Licht, Talus’s creator. The tiefling expresses his condolences and his hope to become better acquainted with the gearman.

Lethe remains troubled by last night’s as-yet unaccounted for vision of a broken tin whistle. Along with Nex, she investigates the underside of the dock. The druidess laments the pollution of the bay’s waters by the warship, but sees no obvious threat. Lethe is approached by Sokana, who leads her to Duchess Ethelyn. The king’s sister, a devotee of Risuri’s druidic traditions, confides that she is unenthused by the Coaltongue and asks that the constable arrange for a room for her to rest in during the evening’s party. Lethe agrees and finds a petty officer to satisfy the Duchess’s request.

Soon enough, King Aodhan arrives amid much fanfare, with his retinue and Flint’s Governor Roland Stanfield. The christening goes without a hitch. The king takes a champagne bottle, announces that the ship shall be formally known as the Royal Naval Ship Coaltongue, then smashes the bottle across the bow. At that precise moment a steam whistle sounds, and black smoke begins to roil out of the ship’s stacks. The crowd begins to board the ship, and Inspector Delft reminds Leocamp they’ve got a party to enjoy. Once everyone is aboard and enjoying light refreshments on the main deck, the new warship sweeps toward the center of the harbor, where eight traditional fourmasted ships enter formation with it. Against their white sails, the black clouds from the Coaltongue’s smokestacks makes for a dramatic image, and though the heroes catch the duchess glowering at the sight, they can also see crowds along the shore cheering as the small fleet sets a course out of the harbor, toward open sea.

Utsusemi relays to Roland Stanfield the docker Thames Grimsley’s concerns about police brutality and unfair working conditions. The aasimar seems generally impressed, but unconvinced. After an impassioned debate with the heroes, Stanfield agrees to look into the matter.

Lethe takes it upon herself to lead the Duchess to her room—and sneaky Utsusemi follows unseen. This time, Lethe notes that the handmaiden Sokana is at least partly eladrin, the fey offshoots of elves. On the way, Ethelyn confesses to the druid that Risur is on the wrong track pursuing her brother’s vision of industrialization. Ethelyn remarks that each of the elf’s partners are beholden to technology and wonders if a single advocate of nature and tradition among four can provide a proper balance. She seems satisfied with Lethe’s commitment to the Old Ways before retiring. But Utsusemi appears from the shadows and the two quarrel about her loyalties.

They return to the upper deck to the party. As the naval band begins to assemble to perform the national anthem, Nex overhears the king complaining to Harkover Lee about stomach distress. The king explains, “one of the local archfey is upset I parked my ship here. One of the burdens of kingship; the fey can really let me know when they’ve got an opinion.”

Soon after, Stover Delft asks the team to retrieve the Duchess, whose further absence might embarrass the king. Lethe and Utsusemi go to her room. After a polite knock, the door remains closed and they are rebuffed by the handmaiden. Utsusemi hears a commotion in the room, followed by a splash. Sokana continues to stall, imploring Lethe, her spiritual sibling, to leave the ship. Utsusemi tires of waiting and bypasses the lock. Throwing open the door, the constables catch sight beyond the viewport of a Duchess Ethelyn—welcoming the embrace of some tentacled sea creature who brings her below the waves!

Lethe recognizes the creature as an aspect of the marine arch-fey Beshala and surmises the Duchess has used the creature to escape. Utsusemi circles and runs back to get help from the upper deck. Lethe warily approaches Sokana, who continues to plead with Lethe to abandon ship. Once within striking distance of the handmaiden, Lethe is run through from behind by an unseen foe! As she bleeds into unconsciousness, Sokana turns to the assailant, a big knife-wielding brownie who’d been posing as a halfling chef, and says, “leave her, we cannot delay.”

Utsusemi first attempts to convince Captain Smith that there is a clear and present danger, but without specifics or proof, Smith laughs at the idea that the Duchess of Shale would attempt anything nefarious at her brother’s ceremony. Harkover Lee, however, proves more receptive. While not totally convinced, and hesitant to disrupt the proceedings on one being’s word, he provides the dromite a signal orb to shatter should he determine the situation absolutely requires an evacuation of the Coaltongue.

After hearing from Utsusemi, Nex arrives to the Duchess’s room first, and quickly administers a healing elixir to the dying druidess. Lethe wakes and explains who they are looking for, and Utsusemi, who has commandeered the services of two guards, easily detects their trail with his insectile senses. Talus arrives, and the four head from the gun deck down to the berth deck, to the ship’s magazine. Talus senses the presence of evil from the magazine, where gunpowder and firegems are stored. Leaving Talus with the two ship officers, the rest of Leocamp follow Sokana’s trail further downward to the engine deck.

Talus has his hands full. Two small fire elementals are busily dismantling the magic wards that prevent the casks stored in the magazine from accidentally detonating. Interrupting their work, Talus and the guards charge the elementals and raise their weapons against them. After a short clash, the elementals are dispatched but one of the officers is severely wounded. As Talus and the other sailor attend to him, giving him comforting words, the brownie assassin appears from the shadows and hurls a throwing blade through the dying man’s throat. “I couldn’t just let that stand,” he mocks.

Meanwhile, on the engine deck, Lethe is the first to find Sokana with two more saboteurs dressed in coveralls and welding masks. The latter two wield large bloody wrenches, which they’ve used to murder the few engineers assigned to remain below decks and to disable the exhaust ports. One also possesses a wand made from the antennae of a rust monster, which has corroded to uselessness the valve wheels. Lethe passes the firegem pit and uses its heat to ignite an incendiary arrow, which she shoots at one of the henchmen. Nex follows, firing his pistol at the terrorists. Sokana angrily says to Lethe that she should have heeded her warning to abandon ship before tossing a large red jewel into the engine. Utsusemi descends the ladder nearer to the saboteurs as the battle commences. Seeing that the stone is steadily coalescing into a large flame elemental that will doubtlessly overwhelm the engine, Utsusemi chooses to shatter the orb and warn Lee to begin an evacuation.

Back at the magazine, the brownie uses fey sorcery to create illusory duplicates which fluster Talus’s attempts to skewer him with his trident. The acrobatic assassin easily slips past the gearman and jumps down to the engine room. Talus and the guard begin to pat out the small fires and restore the safety wards, just as Geoff Massarde and a retinue of sailors arrive to help. The tiefling says that the stacks abovedecks have stop smoking, and implores Talus to go to the engine, as the terrorists have doubtlessly disabled the relief valves in order to cause a catastrophic pressure buildup.

Sokana and her henchmen prove to be tough opponents. She is a sorcerer of significant power, and sprays her foes with fans of flame. Covered by Nex’s gunfire, Lethe braves the heat of the engine and Sokana’s spellcraft to pull the elemental jewel from the engine with a pair of industrial tongs found lying nearby. In defiance, Lethe hurls the gem at her eladrin enemy. However, the engine is still overloaded with firegems and the pressure has nowhere to escape. Nex, meanwhile, is pounded by one of the henchmen.

The brownie arrives to complicate the battle, but Talus is hot on his heels. The paladin calls upon the powers of good to guide his trident past the evil little assassin’s formidable defenses, including his resistance to arms not forged of cold iron. After a dramatic charge, the barbs of Talus’s weapon bite true, finally drawing blood from the psychotic fey. Utsusemi raises his wakizashi blade and attempts to flank Talus’s foe, so that he and the gearman can quickly finish him. However, one of the thugs charges the dromite and bashes him with a wrench. Lethe magically summons an eagle to engage the saboteur, and the man, revealed to be half-elven, is critically mauled by the bird’s beak and talons. The other masked terrorist falls to a well-placed bullet courtesy of Nex.

Sokana retrieves the elemental jewel and the rusting antennae after finally putting down Lethe and Nex with her flame spells. However, a decisive thrust by Talus mortally gores her brownie accomplice, whom the gearman finishes by flinging into the firegem pit. The mighty paladin busts open the pressure valves with his bare, adamantine hands, which begins to flood the room with searing-hot steam but relieves the pressure building in the engine. Facing both Utsusemi and an unwounded Talus, along with the sound of more guards clamoring down the stairs, Sokana runs. Utsusemi gives chase, calling for the guards to follow. Talus, just ahead of the expanding cloud of steam, scoops up his fallen companions and carries them to safety.

Utsusemi finally zeroes in on Sokana on the birth deck, and a well-placed throw of a bag of caltrops prevents the eladrin sorceress from running or climbing. Picking barbs out of her feet with eight naval officers’ crossbows aimed at her head, the Duchess’s handmaiden surrenders to Utsusemi without a word.


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Crowd Control

Where the heroes ferret out troublemakers determined to spoil the celebratory launch of Risur’s new warship.

THE WARM SPRING day finds Leocamp Assurgent cell amongst a restless crowd who have gathered en masse at the Flint docks to cheer King Aodhan’s christening of the RNS Coaltongue, the first Risury warship powered by steam rather than sail. Along with a squad of local police, the Sea Lions coordinate their strategies to provide security during this very public, and potentially volatile, event.

Utsusemi and Talus use their accumulated familiarity with potential troublemakers to create a threat assessment that the cell, and their police allies, can use to assess the crowd of hundreds. Misguided war vets targeting the ship’s tiefling designer, disgruntled dockers angry at the government, druidic extremists unhappy with the nation’s turn toward industry, and Vekesh terrorists, are all potential threats to the celebration. Lethe, the skyseer, relates aspects of a dream she had the night before, for it’s elements might prove prophetic and useful for flushing out suspects.

It does. The Sea Lions mingle with and observe the crowd and quickly isolate several potential threats, and narrow it down even more to a handful of potential wrongdoers—a trio of dockers dispersed throughout the celebrating throngs. Attempting to question them reveals only belligerent attitudes, so the heroes change tactics. Lethe and Talus continue their vigil at the entrance to the bridge, where the police are preparing to gradually admit spectators to the royal dock. Meanwhile, Nex and Utsusemi shadow one of the dockers. He soon links up with another one of their flagged suspects. As the stealthy constables hover nearby, the docker agitators whisper furtively to each other about their plans.

It seems that while these two planned along with another to simply create a ruckus, a forth man, whom they refer to as Dafton, wants to assault Roland Stanfield, Flint’s governor! When Nex and Utsusemi rendezvous back with their other teammates, the police are already letting people trickle past the barricade onto the bridge. The constables describe the three docker rabble-rousers to the police, thereby preventing their egress to the royal dock, but they have no idea what this Dafton character looks like.

A hard-bitten longshoreman named Thames Grimsley approaches the Sea Lions. Upon introduction, Utsusemi recognizes the man as a leader among the dockers, infamous for his scuffles with local police— and for trying to establish a dockworker’s union. Recalcitrant at first, the grizzled sailor agrees to describe Dafton if the constables deliver a message to Governor Stanfield demanding that the police ease off the docker community. Deftly handling the negotiations, Utsusemi promises to relate Grimsley’s concerns personally.

With a solid description of the tricorne-wearing war vet, the constables push their way past the crowds across the bridge in pursuit of Dafton. Finally catching up to him, Nex ineffectively implores the docker to stand down while Lethe dazes him with a sudden flash of magical light. The brawny veteran charges toward the elf while Nex quick-draws his pistol and fires. Utsusemi sneaks around behind the docker thug as Nex’s shot goes errant. A blunt arrow from Lethe’s bow pings Dafton’s shoulder, just as Talus wades into the fray to deliver a few glancing blows. Dafton, an accomplished pugilist, responds by hammering a massive callused fist into the gearman’s faceplate.

The fight continues amid the parted crowd, who begin to cheer openly for Dafton—an unarmed man holding his own against four armed Royal Constables. Finally, and suddenly, the docker thug drops from the pain of a well-placed slice to the hamstring courtesy of Utsusemi’s short blade.

In short order, the Flint police arrive to remove the handcuffed and bleeding Dafton to the mainland. Immediately recognizing their overly-aggressive mistreatment of their prisoner, Utsusemi challenges the cops. The fussy crowd turns favorable, falling just short of applause, swayed by the dromite’s impassioned demand that the police go easy on the docker and provide him medical attention. Nearby, a silently respectful Thames Grimsley nods his head in approval.

After getting their bearings, Leocamp Assurgent head up the bridge through the deferential crowd to the royal dock. Their next move is to rendezvous there with their boss, Chief Inspector Stover Delft, for the rest of the day’s assignments.

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Rollcall!

In which the protagonists of the ZEITGEIST saga are introduced.

From the Desk of Stover Delft, Asst. Chief Inspector, Royal Homeland Constabulary, Flint branch

To the Office of Margaret Saxby, Lady Inspectress, RHC, Flint branch

RE: Leocamp Assurgent Cell

Esteemed Lady Inspectress, I have been charged by your office par my duties as Cell Director of our Flint branch to evaluate the junior agents of our most recently formed operating cell, officially designated Leocamp Assurgent, and to determine whether or not its four members are fit for duty as official representatives of our King and Country, able to hold full legal authority as deputies of the Crown, assuming all responsibilities thereby.

Before I discuss the individuals who currently form the Sea Lions, it behooves me to discuss the christening ceremony that precedes the formation of every and all new RHC cells.

I have in the past expressed concerns in respect to the involvement of the ministers of the Old Faith in the complex affairs of law enforcement and state security and need not repeat those opinions here. I am a loyal man of Risur, and as such, acknowledge that our national identity is inexorably linked to our land, its spirits, and its ancient magic. More importantly, it is the will of our King that such rites be retained in the halls of officialdom, and that the skyseers who perform them be respected.

Suffice to say in the case of Leocamp, the ambiguity of the astrological visions regarding their lot—interpreted as an aquatic lion emerging from a crest of waves—has complicated the training of this band of recruits. Not a few senior agents have candidly refused to work with them. The ramifications of the symbol weighs heavy on certain of the team as well.

Were it not for the passionate words of respected senior Wrethu, the christening ceremony might have resulted in the dissolution of the Sea Lions and the reassignment of its members. Where others saw a rapacious creature emerging from the fey depths to ravage, Wrethu chose to interpret the symbol in an auspicious way. “Suffice to say this first appearance in our visions of the Leocampus, a creature known for its untamable ferocity, is bound to cause consternation. It is a ravenous beast whose realm is beyond the ken of our great society. But we should place our faith as always in the stars, for just as such a beast can turn its jaws on those of the land, so too must it prowl in depths unfathomable. The sea lion surfaces, to lead the hunt where few would follow.”

A few cynics among her order believed that Skyseer Wrethu was dissimulating on behalf of her young protégé, Lethe Greenbark, an Elfaivaran transplant assigned to provide mystical assistance for the newly formed cell. While these naysayers vowed to hold Skyseer Wrethu responsible should any of the Sea Lions ever betray their oaths to King and Country, the majority were swayed. I must report that I myself, though I might wish to reduce the role of these archaic mystics in our government, could not but help but be moved by the elder Wrethu’s speech.

So because, or in spite, of the matter of their christening, I must assure the Lady Inspectress that what follows is a sober and secular assessment of the four persons who, for better or for worse, go by the cell designation of Leocamp Assurgent. Additional details concerning them may be gleaned from their individual files, which I have included along with this report.

Talus
At the head of the team is a man, and indeed, I’m proud to call him such, who needs little introduction. However, for the sake of a thorough report, I will simply call out the relevant facts from the legends that surround this local idol. Our organization first took note of this adamantine-tungsten alloyed gearman only after he enlisted on our nations’ behalf toward the end of our most recent conflict with Danor, over seven years ago. We know that he was created independently (and illegally) of the crèche-forges of King Clockwork by a rogue artificer named Tomas Licht whom the Danoran government ordered killed. Talus himself served our military in the prevention of his unique and powerful model from being mass-produced for Danor by one Tinker Oddcog, a gnomish golemancer who pilfered Lichte’s designs.

The remainder of Talus’s record in the last Yerasol war is certainly distinguished, punctuated by the valorous deeds that denote it’s greatest heroes. He was, at the outset, mentored by Aurok, an orc-blooded holy warrior of ours who saw something profoundly special in the young clanker. While he was dismissed as little more than a mascot at first—especially by less “technology-friendly” Risuri soldiers—Talus served well with little complaint. He quickly achieved a reputation for bravery and self-sacrifice, often refusing to leave his wounded, flesh and blood compatriots to die on the field of battle, carrying them to safety on his massive shoulders or administering to their wounds with the delicacy of a surgeon. By the time the ceasefire was declared, Talus had achieved the rank of field-commander, the only gearman to rise to such heights in our Royal Army.

However, it is the work Talus committed to after the war that made his fame. He traveled the breadth of the nation, and like a questing knight-errant right out of an old storybook, helped whomever had need for naught to a pittance in compensation. He challenged and defeated robbers and beasts that threatened the lives and livelihoods of country folk, though his help was often initially refused. Even in the face of prejudiced superstitions that his mechanical race are an affront to our fairy “benefactors,” Talus protected the weak and used his modest battlefield medical expertise to treat the minor injuries of men, woman, children, and animals.

Talus’s good deeds did not go unnoticed; he made enemies as easily as he made friends and won over traditional hearts and minds. The least of his enemies are the fey, druids, and hedge mages offended by the mechanical knight’s intrusion onto their territory. These should not be underestimated. Any could have allies among the Unseen Court or ties to politically-connected skyseers. The worst, however, are the criminals Talus has thwarted. It is said that along with Nex, whom Talus briefly allied with to defend Seaton from Crimson Fleet raiders, has a price put on his metallic head by no less than Captain Harliss Javell herself!

While Talus is applauded and acknowledged by other war vets and those among our city who support the King’s vision of an industrialized Risur, the local gearmen regard him with no small amount of awe: Talus was among the most notable of his race whose name and deeds were instrumental in the King Aodhan’s recent judgment to acknowledge gearman personhood and civil rights. His celebrity affords us some inroads to a minority populace that otherwise distrusts the status quo.

Talus was recruited into the our Flint branch of the RHC soon after he came to the city. Notwithstanding those old-fashioned few whose prejudices might make investigative work difficult for Leocamp Assurgent, the gearman is a formidable asset to our organization. Talus was constructed from a tough adamantine-tungsten alloy that is not easily damaged. He is fairly strong, and is trained to wield a variety of arms. His experience as a soldier with a command rank gives one the idea he is a capable leader on and off the battlefield. But even more importantly, Talus is blessed with the intuition one associates with those rare champions of good—a mystical awareness of the presence of malevolence—and an obligation to challenge it. Somewhere in Talus’s boiler a pure heart burns; and something above, amongst the inscrutable heavens, has taken notice.

Utsusemi
Until I met Utsusemi—Leocamp Assurgent’s resident infiltration expert and technologist—I knew very little about the strange race to which he belongs. From what I have researched, the dromites are insectoid beings, naturally proficient in willpower-based mind magic, that might not be native to our world. Any that this government have come across have been solitary wanderers, tinkers, and adventurers. With few exceptions, dromites abroad have not meant or done harm to those they’ve encountered. Less scrupulous parties have attempted to wrest from the dromites the secret of their portals, or the alleged “flying cities” that their kind claims to hail from; but every scholar of the arcane knows that flight magic on that scale is impossible. I am happy to say that Utsusemi is a splendid ambassador of his species—good natured, charming, and curious about our civilization.

Utsusemi has been traveling alongside Talus for quite some time, it would probably be fair to say the two have a sort of symbiosis. I am led to believe that the two crossed paths quite by chance in the aftermath of the Crimson Fleet’s raid upon Seaton, where the heavily damaged Talus was involved in restoring damaged homes and ministering to the wounded. Utsusemi, a gifted engineer and smith, had never encountered a gearman before and was quite taken with the mechanisms involved in Talus’s locomotion and sentience. Utsusemi was able to repair the gearman in short order and became his partner. He has since served as Talus’s eyes and ears whenever the gearman’s own considerable faculties weren’t up to the task, or wherever prudence has necessitated reconnoiter.

Utsusemi has a knack for technology and magical artifice that might be far in advance of what is employed by our Danoran neighbors. This understanding of complex devices and glyphs prove most traps to be little obstacle to him. His unusual insectoid physiognomy is small, slight, and stealthy, he is deceptively strong, and his antennae render him preternaturally intuitive—all these qualities make Utsusemi a great scout and tracker. His deadliness with a short blade, wielded with the surgical delicacy of a skilled cutthroat, somewhat belies Utsusemi’s cheerful temperament. However, I am loath to give any credence to the rumors floating about the department that Utsusemi is an assassin or spy working for some massive invading dromite force. It is unfortunate that the dromite’s alienness will work against him where his charm would otherwise make Utsusemi a wonderful spokesman for the team.

Nex
The young human known as Nex is something of a mystery to us. He bears the mien of an outlaw, rough and off-putting. It probably would not be off the mark to guess that Nex grew up like so many unfortunates since our King declared his industrial revolution—orphaned, and forced to survive on crowded and filthy streets. He keeps his own council about his background, but it is clear the young man has some experience aboard ships, probably from his youth.

Like Talus, Nex has traveled the highways and byways of our nation, waging war against pirates and bandits brazen enough to prey on our more secluded coastal settlements. I daresay his hatred of these scofflaws is deeply personal, and one might guess that it is pirates who took from Nex his parents at a young age. The basis of this grudge might even be the Crimson Fleet itself.

It was in fact in the village of Seaton where Nex and Talus briefly allied to fend off ruthless Crimson Fleet raiders allegedly led by the infamous Dread Pirate Harliss Javell. It was there that Nex displayed an uncanny talent with firearms, where his accuracy and daring helped turn the tide against the pirates. The victory, however, was not without heavy losses and casualties—which might have been prevented by an official, seasoned representative of Risuri law or armed forces. The Seaton affair reminds us of the price paid when independent mercenaries or vigilantes take it upon themselves to do the government’s job.

Which is why we in the RHC immediately attempted to recruit Nex, to hone his skills and to give him some direction so as not to create a conflict with the crown. Nex agreed to work with us only after we assured him no small amount of leeway to pursue his enemies, though it is unknown at this time what the Constabulary’s strategy is as it regards the ever-growing threat of the Crimson Fleet.

As stated, Nex is a veritable artiste in the realm of gunplay. He is a deadeye shot and possesses a single-minded courage and determination that often appears extraordinary. The only caveat involving Nex is his vengeance-driven nature, and though he possesses a mental steadiness rare for a young man, I can’t help but see a potential for recklessness untempered by the wisdom of age. Our work often requires compromise and devil’s bargains, a delicacy I trust that Nex’s more experienced cellmates will impart to him.

Lethe
The elf woman known as Lethe Greenbark is, in my opinion, the dangerous wildcard of Leocamp Assurgent. She quite clearly spent the majority of her long life in Elfaivar. Based on the presence of her elaborate tattoo of the fallen elven goddess Srasama, one might assume Lethe has a history with the Vekeshi mystics. Along those lines, I have to hazard the guess that these earlier ties might be with the more militant branches of that philosophy, whose terrorists plague us here in Flint.

Whatever Lethe’s previous associations, she has friends in high places. Lethe has been adopted and trained by our nation’s informal priesthood, the druidic skyseers—who, it should be noted, share the Vekeshi’s affection for our fickle neighbors in The Dreaming. The skyseers don’t take on new apprentices very often these days, as their influence nationally, and particularly here in Flint, fades. But one among their number, senior Skyseer Wrethu, still has a great deal of power and authority, nearly as much as the famed centenarian Nevard Sechim who vanished from public view some time ago. Wrethu seems to have a personal interest in Lethe, and because she has campaigned so hard for the elf’s induction into the Constabulary, now has a significant stake in her success—or failure.

Lethe has been trained well by her benefactors. She has “the sight” that many in our organization rely upon to guide their investigations. She is fluent in the language of the earth, its beasts and its spirits, and these tend to respond favorably to her. She is adept in the art of medicine, and has experience abroad with first aid and midwifery. Like many of our nature priests, Lethe has demonstrated an affinity for a particular aspect of the natural world, in her case, water and the ocean. I wonder if there isn’t a sliver of sea elf in her bloodline, a race that none of us landlubbers have seen for several hundred years. This kinship with the waves, in tandem with the skills of the rest of her team and the symbol they’ve been associated with, would have us consider the Sea Lions for any maritime assignments.

Like so many of her race and background, Lethe seems to have an inner turmoil and conflict regarding our nation’s recent turn toward industry. She tends to be aloof, and keeps her three technology-oriented cellmates at arm’s length—particularly Talus, who Lethe met previously while providing medicinal service to a plague-ravaged village. I am often told that the druids will always be a part of our national identity, balancing against our increasing industrialization and reminding us of our ties to the First World. My hope is that Lethe is wise enough to overcome what I see as a suspicion of technology and bring this balance to her cell.

A good commander knows he needs to control the field of battle, and I’m afraid there are simply too many variables and mysteries surrounding Miss Greenbark for me to do so effectively. She is protected by the skyseers, which is why she’s even been admitted to our organization for training, but I suspect she may be dangerous. With your permission, Lady Inspectress, I’d like to commence another magical evaluation of Lethe’s loyalties, only this time without the presence of Skyseer Wrethu.

Final Analysis
There are a lot of negatives in play as it concerns Leocamp Assurgent: Their dubious christening, Talus’s list of enemies, Utsusemi’s difficulty blending in, Nex’s vengefulness, and Lethe’s confliction. Discounting once again the idea that our agents are at all beholden to the superstitions of an obsolete order of backwoods mystics, I believe I have adequately outlined the checks and balances to these admittedly egregious downsides.

We are then left with an operating cell with a vast amount of potential. The classic roles of the four- or five-man action team are each filled with distinction, with the most important—such as healing and combat—covered by more than one Lion.

It is often been said that the command personnel of our august body have a job akin to herding kittens, our agents being as diverse and colorful as they are. I don’t doubt that that having Leocamp Assurgent under my onus will be an exercise in aggravation, but it is a challenge I would take willingly, and enthusiastically. Whatever might be said of them by the seers, the Sea Lions extremely capable individuals, and I see them accomplishing great things for Crown and Country.

I thereby implore my Lady Inpectress to approve Leocamp Assurgent and its members for full operating jurisdiction.

Sincerely,
Stover Delft

END

From the Office of Margaret Saxby, Lady Inspectress, RHC, Flint branch

To the Desk of Stover Delft, Asst. Chief Inspector, Royal Homeland Constabulary, Flint branch

Re: Re: Leocamp Assurgent Cell

Cell’s jurisdiction approved. Assign Leocamp to Coaltongue launch security.

END

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