- Plane Weaver
[A letter makes its way to you in a marble envelope, hinges creak as you open it. There is a piece of smooth, high-quality black card inside with writing in shimmering gold ink that reads…]
Greetings Productive and Heroic Citizens of Rastaban,
We extend a cordial invitation to qualified individuals to serve as security personnel for an extravagant gala thrown on grounds of the coveted Esposito estate. The gala is an opportunity for the wealthy to mingle amongst priceless, never before seen artifacts from the Esposito private collection. Trustworthy, strong and, most importantly, loyal, fighters are needed to protect this testament to Rastaban’s glory.
If you would be interested, there is no need for reply.
We already know.
Details will reach you shortly.
Yours Sincerely, Bastion Esposito
[The signature looks rushed and crooked as compared to the neat handwriting in the rest of the invitation]
Welcome to the Marble Palace
The players come upon the Esposito estate, a towering 50 ft cylinder with a dome on top made out of stone columns interspersed with triangular panels made of bronze and reflective metal. The head of security at the Esposito estate, Kondo greets the players and tells them that are expected to perform act as security detail for the grand gala to their utmost ability. Word of the artifacts and people seen here today should not reach the outside world. He is sharp and serious as he warns that Bastion is under a lot of pressure from the powers that be. Those powers are not always there to help, but you must remain strong, you must remain loyal. In order to help them remain loyal, he gives each of the party members a playing card, amongst them a King, Queen, Ace and Joker. With this, the party is led through metal gates into the courtyard, The gates thud close behind them, inside they see that the floor is completely marble, and the walls and ceiling is painted to look like the sky, complete with clouds and sunlight. Where the marble cracks, there are metallic trees that sprout from the ground, their winding branches swirling upwards to form four-sided display cases, paneled with glass in between the metal cables. There are 8 display cases around in a circle in the middle of the courtyard. Within the cases sit precious artifacts. Surrounding the courtyard is a huge mansion, with stairs leading up to the entrance from the center. To each side is a row of archways that lead into long corridors and more rooms.
The party then begins to mingle with a variety of wealthy, influential guests, among them, Damien the Farseer, former Kaiser Flavia Taan, and Lyra the Blessed.The party members are particularly interested in speaking with Bastion and Granny Esposito, as the hosts of this event and the owners of the estate. The connection weavers make the decision to form a mind link with Bastion. Meanwhile, Imperial commissioner Carmen enhances her glorious sense of smell, and feels the presence of two strong sources of ichor within the mansion, one of which coming from a puzzle box that sits within one of the 8 display cases, and other, much fainter scent, leads into the mansion. While the three mingle with the various guests, Bastion is lured to the edges of the courtyard, drugged, and dragged away by mysterious figures dressed as staff. The party try to stop the kidnapping but are blocked by a planar barrier which forces them to try and pursue Bastion and his abductors on foot.
Rat Infestation in a Grand Estate
Alessia and Carta sense the faint presence of Bastion, though his true location is shrouded by various wards as they find their way up the staircases and down long hallways. Eventually, they enter a room where the scent feels strongest, but instead of finding Bastion they are ambushed by Petronax’s men. The players manage to defeat the assassins before Kondo arrives, he commends their hard work, and is interrupted when relaying the status of the rest of the gala’s guests by the crude commentary of the leader of Petronax’s men. Kondo does not take to these insinuations kindly, and after a particularly jarring insult at the weakness of the Espacito family, he executes these goons himself.
Kondo insists that the players must get back to the guests to check if everyone is in their right minds after Bastion was hastily taken, he suggests under his breath that some of these ‘guests’ may have information on where his boss has gone. He leads them down a hallway with marble floors and walls made of bronze with the 3D metalwork of giant flowers, vines and trees, half painted in bright colours, light bulbs shine from the center of these flowers as they bend haphazardly over the ceiling, some of it is rusted. During this time, Carta enlists a group of thieves to raid the main artifact display in the courtyard, these hooligans manage to make away with some of the Esposito collection while security is distracted trying to locate Bastion.
This is Definitely a Murder Mystery Now…Right?
Kondo opens marble doors into a billiards room, the bar, billiard table, sofas and coffee tables are all made of marble and look seamless from the ground. The walls here are a smooth dark metal, the bar top is stone and so are the cabinets behind it. In the center of the room is a table with a large floral arrangement and vines spilling off the table. The arrangement looks like someone snipped the flowers from the murals on the walls and bunched them up together, dark metal tipped with bright mismatching colours. Damien is in this room, along with Flavia’s secretary and one of Lucretia’s accountants are disguised as guests.
Lucretia’s accountant engages in conversation with Carmen and makes some insinuations about what is really going on at the Esposito estate. She mentions an invaluable artifact, possibly concerned with ichor that Bastion has been unwilling to give up. The moment she mentions this artifact, she is brutally stabbed by the commissioner until she gives up any information she has on it’s whereabouts. She hands Carmen a key to the room the artifact is locked in and speaks of an underground casino, where they may find more information. Despite her pleading words, she is decapitated by the commissioner, causing a momentary disruption in the otherwise jovial atmosphere of the billiards room.
Flavia’s secretary is particularly interested in the connection weavers Carta and Alessia, willing to give them some tidbits of information on what’s going on behind the scenes…if they’re able to obtain a precious item for Flavia, or at least keep the night’s events going smoothly. Carta responds most favorably to the secretary’s coy suggestions and she takes note of the weaver’s possible, if tenuous, loyalty to their faction. The connection weaver also uses her abilities to understand more about the cards they were given, she sees strange visions of the Espacito family, but also of Flavia, Lucretia and Petronax. Her deductions are interrupted by a fight breaking out in the billiards room, ending in one of Petronax’s men getting stabbed with a pool cue. Exasperated, Kondo comes to an understanding that the kidnapping of Bastion may signal an upset between the conflicting powers within the mansion, he sends the party to go root out more of Petronax’s men, and continue on their search for Bastion.
Protect the Wine
As they patrol the hallways, Carmen, Carta, Alessia, and Lyra come upon a strange scene in the lower chambers of the estate. Several of Petronax’s people, appearing very drunk have cornered some of the estate’s servants at the end of a hallway. The servants are cowering by food carts and crates of fine wine, some of them appear willing to lay down their lives to protect the alcohol and decadent appetizers. The Barrens people threaten to kill them if they don’t hand over the food and wine, or at least move out of the way.
Flavia’s people stand on the edges looking on with mild disgust. They appear entirely disinterested in participating in the aggressive and pathetic show the Petronax men are putting on. When the party members arrive they quickly dive in to help the distressed servants. They are forced to engage with Petronax’s people, who can scarcely fight back due to how inebriated they are. As the party begins to trounce the remainder of the aggressive Petronax people, a couple of Flavia’s people step in to finish off the ones who refuse to lay down their arms. The servants are successfully rescued and are relatively unscathed. The servants lose some of their cases of wine to a couple Petronax men who carry it off with an excess of excitement. Placated with drink in hand, one extremely drunk man offers to show the security party the way to the casino, with slurred promises of money to be made and power to be won, but only if you are worthy.
Making it past these encounters, the players arrive at what seems to be one of the deepest, darkest corners of the mansion. They enter a dimly lit corridor which ends in a forbidding archway guarded by two statues of women wielding wickedly sharp swords, the tips of the stone blades pointed at one another. Lyra and Carmen start a duel, hoping that their attempt at bloodshed will please the statues. To their pleasure, bronze statues lower their swords, and the doors to the casino open.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The short corridor beyond the entrance opens onto a shocking and horrifying sight. There they see what a massive underground operation can only be, the extent of which had only been hinted at from the guests and turncoats encountered earlier, with a fighting ring set in the center of a large chamber. Underneath a dome made of slightly opaque, blue tinted glass and steel, mimicking the shapes of the dome on the exterior of the mansion but replacing the elegance with a hypnotic atmosphere, throngs of people are playing cards, rolling dice, and testing their luck at roulette at tables scattered around the perimeter, but the majority seem to be nobles in various high positions within Rastaban, placing bets with bookies which now look quite obviously like Barrens goons, having dispensed with the careful disguises that were worn by all of the other members posted throughout the mansion.
In the center, sunk into the floor, seemingly supported by five taut iron chains and separated from the decadently dressed nobles, are the fighters who the wealthy and fortunate are cheering on. There is no real way out for the people in the ring, as although there is another level even with the platform where there appear to several doors spaced out, the ring itself can be moved up or down, creating an insurmountable gap from the spectators above or bringing them eye to eye with the very same people placing bets on their survival. The fighters appear to be a Forest Touched and a raggedly dressed farming-type with bulging forearms. Both fighters’ breathing comes in ragged pants, strangely tinted blood running down the Forest-Touched’s cheek, and the weapons they grasp seem to shake and shimmer in the strangely faceted light. Carmen notices the scent of ichor getting stronger, coming from a patch of wall on the far side of the casino in line with the ring where the dark metal flowers and vines pull back to reveal a glass window, covered by a scaled metal curtain.
Fight to the Death!
The players do not get a chance to see how this fight will end because their presence is quickly noticed by the spectators and ring employees when a group of Petronax’s men appear from behind. Chaos ensues as several of the employees leap up and join the fray and the players must fight for their lives in this enclosed chamber. Vastly outnumbered and outmaneuvered, they are forced into a corner of the chamber where the connection weavers are able to keep their companions on their feet and fighting, but are making no headway against the bristling ranks of Barrens people.
After a period of intense and drawn out combat, a forbidding character calling themselves the Grandmaster, who is wearing a masquerade mask which covers their entire face, steps in front of the fighting ring where the Forest Touched and farmer are still fighting, sweat streaming down their faces. Their voice rings out above the clanging and cries of combat, reverberating in the chamber. Something in that voice compels all of the people in the room, regardless of their loyalty to stop and listen. Satisfied that they have everyone’s attention, the Grandmaster announces that the crowd, the beloved, paying patrons of the ring, have not had their blood lust sated just yet. They turn around, grabs a broadsword and swiftly decapitates the farmer that remained inside the ring. The Forest Touched had tried to duck beneath the ropes to escape, only to be stabbed by one of Petronax’s men who had been cheering on the fighters just moments before. The scaled curtain is lifted by the pulling of a lever, revealing Bastion Esposito, seated in a throne-like chair in a perfect position to view the fighting ring, appears to be expressionless, staring into black space—being treated like an ‘honored guest’ by the Grandmaster and his people.
A Solution on the Fly
The Grandmaster faces the players once again with the now bloodstained sword and points at the player who had been the last to be overpowered. He announces that he has chosen them to be the next fighter and that they will have the honor to fight in Petronax’s name. But, first, they must choose someone from the player party to fight. The Grandmaster insists it must be a battle to the death and the players engage each other. They select Alessia and Lyra to fight, and all of the occupants in the room roar in support of the ensuing fight. Just as Alessia and Lyra begin to exchange blows and are being forced into a difficult position of either caving to the demands of the Grandmaster or attempting to escape from the ring, Carmen takes drastic action, carrying out the plan she had been forming since she canvased the room and was aware of Bastion’s presence. The Imperial Commissioner sprouts dark ichor wings and swoops over the circular fighting ring to land on the upper level where Bastion is seated and begins cutting through his bonds. Alessia follows Carmen, teleporting using their mindlink with Bastion.
What Is Precious
Bastion, while not himself, is able to tell Carmen that there is something he must protect with his life, something previous and valuable, he gestures with his head to the door behind him, where the scent of ichor emanates. Carmen unlocks his room using the key given to her by Lucretia’s accountant and locks it behind her, eventually, she emerges, distressed by what she saw. Shortly after, Kondo arrives, grateful to the party for finding his master. Carmen and Alessia attempt to cure Bastion of his multiple mental afflictions. He agrees to a connection ritual performed by Alessia and mediated by Carmen in which all of Bastion’s afflictions would be transferred to Kondo. The ritual appears to succeed and, thanks to his noble sacrifice, Bastion recovers to nearly his former self, although the transfer proves to exacerbate the afflictions and Kondo is left a barbaric shivering mess, barely recognizable as the proud head of security and capable Paladin of the Torch he once was. He attempts to attack the party in a blind rage, but is subdued.
Meanwhile, Carta and Lyra have been separated from Carmen, Alessia and Bastion. Lyra is spotted by the Barren’s people still in the underground chambers, she is wounded badly and bleeding out, abandoned by her comrades in their haste to escape from the chaos of the fighting arena. The Grandmaster, already furious at the intruders having escaped and fearing the retribution they will face from Petronax himself, swiftly executes Lyra before she can be saved.
Carta, on the other hand, seeks to curry favor with the Petronax faction, or at least to prove their potential usefulness. The Grandmaster has difficulty finding an excuse to kill this one as well, whose silver tongue offers more appealing alternatives. Yes, they are admittedly impressed by Carta’s conniving sort of diplomacy even in the face of a companion being brutally slaughtered. No firm agreement is reached and the other Petronax loyalists are in disarray, seeing no other reason to fight, but thrown off from their typical routine for the evening. This confusion and idle disinterest among their ranks transforms into panic when word arrives that Imperial bureaucrats are arriving to conduct a raid on the gambling operation and they all flee the premises—evidently more concerned with their survival and freedom than lost profits and even Petronax’s wrath. Any possibility of Carta coming to a beneficial arrangement with the Grandmaster is rendered unfeasible as they too must move on or face a brigade of bureaucrats to also bargain with.
At this moment, a flood of people rushes into the study and adjoining room, some surround the bewildered and unsteady Esposito and the rest surround the party. They claim to be sent from the Imperial bureaucracy and the Imperial Commission and ignore any and all protestations from the party, saying that their job is done—the fighting ring and casino are being routed as they speak and that their services are greatly appreciated. In the background, Bastion looks worried and is struggling in the hold of two of the bureaucrats—he is visibly perturbed and still disoriented from the lingering effects of the connection ritual. The party members are ushered out to their utmost confusion and dissatisfaction. This signals the end of the adventure.
After stumbling upon a strange ichor creature and then quickly being approached by a group of people claiming to be from the Imperial bureaucracy, the party are left in disarray, trying to make sense of what exactly happened in the Esposito mansion. How did what was supposed to be a simple security detail job turn into something so convoluted, into something so wrong? The party suspects that the people that forced them out of the mansion and laid claim to both the illegal ichor and to Bastion Esposito were not who they claimed to be. The tangle of loyalties at work within the mansion had certainly convinced them that rarely was anything or anyone what they seemed, and Carmen especially is concerned about what will become of both the ichor and of poor Bastion.
The party members deal with the aftermath of this odd interplay of wants and desires in different ways. Carta reports to House Keelen and tries to curry favor with Flavia. Carmen tries to explain the intricacies of the situation to the Imperial Commission. Alessia supports the efforts of the others and Lyra does her best to steer clear of any…unsavory outcomes which may have come from the revealing of the underground gambling ring and fighting arena in the heart of Esteban of all places.
A conclusion is reached that not only does the Imperial bureaucracy not have the ichor artifact behind the locked door, or Bastion Esposito, but one of the many unsavory characters they met in the estate is likely the culprit. Bastion has therefore become a missing person, likely kidnapped. The party, led by Carmen, proceeds to meet with Granny Esposito, the wealthy grandmother figure of the Esposito estate. She is, to say the least, eager to get her son back and agrees to a ransom for Bastion’s safe return. The party organizes an exchange with the culprits who turn out to be a pair of Barrens members who can only be assumed to be more of Petronax’s men. It appears to go smoothly, with Petronax’s people receiving the favour the desire and Granny Esposito being assured of her son’s safety. Bastion appears relieved to be out of the hands of dubious parties. He is beaten, bloody, and bruised, but alive and intact for the most part. He is especially grateful to Carmen who had been the keenest to insure his safety while he had been captured, first within his own mansion and then by Petronax in what seemed a foolhardy and rash attempt to keep Bastion’s knowledge and influence from the rest of society. He quickly agrees to go to dinner with Carmen despite the haunted cast to his features and the faint scent of ichor which Carmen notices clings to his clothes and body.
Prior to this, Carta and Alessia had noticed a strangely familiar figure wandering aimlessly down the road. Upon closer inspection they realized that the person hobbling towards them was none other than Kondo, who was a shell of formerly proud and passionate self after absorbing the suffering and curses previously afflicted on Bastion Esposito. Alessia and Carta are able to subdue and capture the confused Kondo with some effort—the Torch Paladin’s strength remains intact even if his mind has been shattered and fragmented beyond repair. Understanding his ties to the Torch, Alessia resolves to bring Kondo back to the sanctum of the Order of the Torch which he had previously all but abandoned to serve Bastion and Bastion alone. With Kondo in tow they arrive at the sanctum and are received by members of the Order who are horrified to see what has become of their wayward comrade. But, despite their initial shock and horror they welcome the shell of Kondo back into the Order with the hope that they may heal and strengthen his mind so that nothing of this sort happens again.
During all of this, unfortunately the exact whereabouts of the strange ichor artifact was not uncovered. The hope is that the Imperial bureaucracy or the Imperial Commission, potentially even the enigmatic Cult of the Mystikos, has control of the creature and ‘hope’ may be all we have to operate on…for now.
Gifts and Consequences
Carta: +1 Favour from House Keelen +1 Favour from Flavia (under the condition that you provide your services as a connection weaver when she calls upon you, in her follow up letter there is no elaboration on what kind of services this may entail) Note: This connection may grant Carta additional information on what occurred at the estate and what is happening after. +2 Favour from Granny Esposito for rescuing her son Pilfered artifacts from the Esposito collection (detailed in separate email)
Carmen: +2 Favour from Granny Esposito for rescuing her son A lovely spaghetti dinner with Bastion who is now in your debt
Alessia: +2 Favour from Granny Esposito for rescuing her son +1 Favour from the Order of the Torch for returning Kondo into their care
Lyra: +2 Favour from Granny Esposito for rescuing her son -1 Life (must discuss what happens with Lyra when she revives)