Neuman was out, but Evii made his triumphant return. I have to say, it was nice having Creig in full form again this time.
After a somewhat long night of finishing off whatever booze was left in the monastery, the party woke up bright and early to set off for Tel Phonen. After a two week journey, the colossal walls of the city finally came into view. As they approached the north gate, they were stopped by an extremely surly guard. He informed them that the city is on lockdown due to a recent assassination and a gang war, and that nobody was allowed in or out. Shamus tried to convince him that the party was either a group of circus clowns or a private detective agency, but he didn't bite. Finally, Denzai displayed Gregory the goblin's severed head. This had the desired effect - the guard let the group in and got them a platform direct to the central tower of Phoenicae.
The platform rose up near the top of an incredibly tall shaft before rotating outwards and beginning to move horizontally along the northern divider. The city flashed by, shining brightly in the daylight. The party was treated to the sight of dozens of platforms, bridges, and walkways dotted by gardens, shops, and houses. Rich and beautiful people walked along this utopian landscape. Everyone was quite impressed by the sight.
As they passed through the fourth wall from the center, the platform sputtered to a halt. A few moments later, the platform began to plummet downwards through the levels as the party held on for dear life. The platform stopped at level 2. When the party got their bearings and managed to look out, they were momentarily stunned by the change. There was almost no natural light, and anything still standing was dilapidated and disgusting. After a few moments, the platform lurched to life and began to climb back to the upper levels, where it made the rest of its journey to the tower undisturbed.
Upon arrival, the party was greeted by an Avatar. The Phoenix spoke through Mara, startling everyone present. The woman recovered and brought the group to the upper chamber, where dozens of avatars were gathered. After discussing what had happened, the party was ushered out while the Phoenix briefed the avatars. Shamus tried to listen in on the proceedings and overheard two pieces of valuable information. First, a group called the Order of Oblivion might be returning after centuries of lying dormant. Second, there was a possibility that Jutha Krall was somehow still alive.
Before the party could properly discuss this development, an avatar opened the doors and led them back in. They were just in time to hear the Phoenix end her briefing by saying, "... AND FINALLY, IN RECOGNITION OF THEIR SERVICES, I RECOMMEND THAT THESE MEN BE GRANTED ADMISSION INTO THE GUARDIANS SHOULD THEY DESIRE IT." When asked to explain, the avatars informed the group that the Guardians had been their footsoldiers during the Wyrm war. Whereas Avatars were granted an entirely new power by their connection to the Phoenix, Guardians had their existing physical capacity augmented. Gerard, Shamus, and Amusel agreed to join, while Denzai and Creig held off. Mara decided to stay with the Avatars to train and research ways to reconnect her ember with the rest of the Phoenix, and the party was given a temporary apartment in a reasonably nice section of town.
With that out of the way, the party decided to go to a bar to look for information concerning the ongoing gang war. They found themselves in the Dancing Serpent Inn, located on the rather dingy 5th level. Gerard and Shamus immediately went to go get plastered while Denzai, Creig, and Amusel began to ask around for information. Sure enough, a fight eventually broke out in the bar. Highlights from the brawl included Denzai casting Grease on the floor, Gerard taking the opportunity to slide between someone's legs and punch them in the balls, and Shamus accidentally knocking a torch off the wall and into the puddle of magically generated grease.
After everyone had evactuated from the now-burning bar, a group of Orcs showed up to inspect the damage. They informed the party that they'd need to take them in to see Canson Okerzale, the mobster who owned the bar. The party miraculously agreed, but just then a few more orcs arrived from a rival gang under the control of Cax Dankleburg. A fight broke out, and the party was able to take out most of Dankleburg's men. The last survivor had just pushed Okerzale's fighter off the edge of the platform when he saw the party surrounded by corpses and covered in blood. He wisely turned tail and ran. Gerard attempted to pursue, but tripped and fell over due to his heavy intoxication. They eventually managed to collect themselves enough to make it back to their apartment, where everyone passed out from a variety of exhaustion and drunken stupor.
In the middle of the night, a few city guardsmen came banging on the door asking if any guardians were inside. Gerard answered, very hung over. He was, however, barely able to process what the guards were telling him: Mara Sabel had been kidnapped.
And that was pretty much it for the night.
- Alcohol Hic: Shamus and Gerard started speaking this way.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: All over the place.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Gerard has gained this as a power. Fittingly.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Order of Oblivion.
- Bar Brawl
- Brutal Honesty: One of Mara's defining traits is that she's very, very direct. Best line here:
Denzai: She is the true avatar, with the whole Phoenix inside her.
Gerard: You...might not want to say things like that around here Denzai. Lying to the Avatars? Noooot a good idea.
Mara: I don't think he's lying, he's just wrong.
- Capital City: Tel Phonen. It's considerably more complicated than this, but a somewhat approproate Flanderization would be "Minas Tirith meets Midgar meets Ba Sing Se. But bigger."
- Chekhov's Boomerang: "Denzai's favorite party trick" made one final appearance before it was confiscated by the Avatars for research and analysis.
- Cheerful Child: Mara, although how much of her smile is of the Stepford variety remains to be seen.
- Dungeon Punk: Tel Phonen has a full-on rapid transit system. Don't ask me how it works, but it does.
- False Reassurance: When Gerard demands autonomy if he becomes a Guardian, the response he gets isn't anything along the lines of "you'll have it," it's "that shouldn't be a problem. The Guardians haven't been given a direct order in centuries." You'd think such an avid reader would be Genre Savvy enough to pick that one apart... ah well, that's what you get when your GM is the son of two lawyers.
- From the Mouths of Babes:
- Functional Magic: I spent a fair amount of time clarifying the exact details of how Avatars and Guardians work. Put simply, Avatars gain a portion of the Phoenix inside them that enables them to draw on her power and communicate with her, while Guardians have their natural abilities augmented by the Phoenix's strength. Mara is very far outside the norm.
- Gangster Land: The lower levels of Tel Phonen are currently embroiled in a gang war between Canson Okerzale, Hyde Fendator, Cax Dankleburg, and several others.
- Groin Attack: By Gerard. Ouch.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Gerard after having to deal with Creig for two weeks without a drop of alcohol in sight. You can't really blame him.
- The Need For Mead: Which inevitably turned into a Bar Brawl.
- Necromantic: See below.
- Noodle Incident: If you believe Creig, Denzai apparently got frisky with a ghoul at some point during the trip down from the mountains. This is a very big "If".
- Off the Rails: Things started to get bumpy around the time Shamus burned down the bar, and flew straight off the tracks once Okerzale's enforcers showed up. Seriously, who in their right mind would expect a group of PCs to come quietly when ordered to do so?
- Only Sane Man: Creig, of all people, ended up as this by virtue of sobriety. Needless to say, there was absolutely no possible way to plan for this.
- The Other Darrin: Mara went through so many actors it's a miracle she managed to come out with any solid characterization at all.
- Plucky Girl: One of Mara's few consistent traits.
- The Quiet One: Amusel is generally this even when Neuman's actually here, but when I took over I had him completely silent.
- Retcon: Several, but the most notable is Gerard changing his slow track to avoid a redundancy with Denzai's. To be fair, he hadn't actually used the ability yet.
- Scenery Porn: Attempted with my description of Tel Phonen. It took a few tries, but I was eventually able to convey the desired impression.
- Shining City: Tel Phonen is supposed to be one. How much it actually lives up to the ideal varies wildly depending on the size of your pocketbook.
- Single Malt Vision: Shamus, of all people, ends up with this.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Dancing Serpent Tavern, we hardly knew ye...
- Suddenly Sober: Gerard, as soon as he heard that Mara had been kidnapped.
- Touched by Vorlons: This is how the relationship with the Phoenix works for every avatar that isn't Mara.
- Urban Segregation: Now in both vertical and radial flavors - the further you are from the tower and the closer you are to the bottom, the crappier your conditions.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Let's just say things work better when the party has a somewhat clear idea where I want things to go.