Shard of the Sun: Just the facts.
The party and other assorted dignitaries leave Lagonier to travel to far Falfax to deliver the marriage documents to King Kearney, with a diplomatic side mission to try and find a Falfaxian boat that had vanished. This “side quest” is under the nominal command of Falfaxes high priest Aston Deagh.
On board the Lagonier navy vessel Amoroso tracking the pirate ship that had stolen the Falfaxian “treasure” from it’s now sunken ship.
The Pirate vessel was found all but deserted, the “treasure” in its hold is a giant crystal in an ornate tube – this was moved to the Amoroso. Followed by the (surely unconnected) haunting of the Amoroso by tentacled high weirdness as they head for shore.
The party, Deagh and the Crystal artefact head overland to The Falfaxian capital where the wedding documents are handed over – the artefact is squirreled away to the residence of one Hayden Deagh, Astons “twin brother” whom they are delighted to meet at a delegates reception. Under the guise of “answering any questions they might have” Hayden is eager to talk to them alone: they all converse over cocktails in what Sanguine later calls “the worlds most polite interrogation.”
A return to Lagonier and the haven of Ashwell – only to soon discover it was now called Oakwell and the party were in “the universe next door” – identical in many respects to their own, except in this world beer was made from cheese! Or – no – wait, the town had an oak tree in the town square rather than an Ash. That’s it. Call this world Ashwell2.
Other small discrepancies were noted and Ashwells’ major mages (Hamlyn and Morgan – Magical mystic misanthrope and Druidic mother goddess maiden) explained to them the rudiments of planar travel &, the chakra designs possessed by each living thing that both mark them like dimensional fingerprints and attune them to the plane they are bound to. They followed the crash course with a warning about the dangers of straying across dimensions unprotected and while they were in the mood shared with them the theory that what seemed to have happened to them was exposure to the recovered crystal object had caused a basic failure of the principle of quantum decoherence thus removing the axiom of the collapsing wave packet and causing the consistent states of the measured system to become present (in a physical sense) across many entangled states of independent yet parallel universes.
They made that sound less scary by mentioning “strange magic’s and portals” instead.
The party came up with Plan#1. Hamlyn will contact the acknowledged experts in cross-planar occurrences and self styled reality cops The Caldbeck Rise while our team head for Swarkstone2 library and read every available book on planar travel. Easy.
Half way to the city they slipped through another plane jumping reality portal and the party find themselves in World#3.
Swarkstone-3 is similar enough to the one they know, but grander somehow. Good news: they make the acquaintance of Cshca – gypsy barge taxi owner and all round good egg. The bad news: the grand and imposing Swarkstone library has been inexplicably plundered of every known book on planar travel or any associated topic.
Plan #2 – Find who removed the books and (as arranged by Hamlyn) meet with the Caldbeck Rise on the Diridian Bridge at a designated time. (Bridges are a good place for planar jumping – as they join two “places” but are not considered “places” in their own right: Stairs and steps are similarly inclined). Following the leads gleaned from library access records they track their way up the criminal food chain to the home of Swarkstones3’s shadowy aristocratic crime boss / mayor named Randolph Dean Cargille. Part mage, part looming blubbery mass he is not an easy adversary to best.
Once the giant man-mass has been reduced to components (and identified as yet another Deagh, just a lot fatter) his house revealed documents and correspondence that hinted at a large and complex plan regarding the crystal objects and planar travel that was being shaped by a parallel universe consortium of Deaghs calling themselves “The brotherhood” – with Hayden Deagh at it’s centre.
His house also revealed a great deal of traps, some of which explode and some of which poison. It is while recovering from this ordeal that Scry and Sanguine make their first inner journey to the Summer Lands and encounter the fey world beyond even the worlds beyond the world they knew. It’s here that they face the mighty cloven hooved lord of the land, in his place of power on his day of high worship. Scry takes this as a sign he’s ripe for the taking and steps up when the traditional fey “fight me for my kingdom” motif is raised. For about half a second, then he rethinks and they play games and riddles instead. Winning the day with wit and elan rather than brute force - thus learning the irresistible power of words and phrasing in this most purely magical of places.
Healed from this mystical stupor the party returns to Swarkstone3 to prepare for the rendezvous with the Rise. Ballentine and Roggen have a “fortuitous” encounter with the mysterious enigma / drunken tramp known as Preston Elliot and are warned about the arrogant power behind The Caldbeck Rise and to be wary of meeting them.
Diridian Bridge – largest oldest bridge in Swarkstone3 – takes quite a pounding as the battle between the leather suited magically enhanced soldiers of the rise fall upon our team like they were wanted criminals. Many bruises and scrapes later the Rise is dispatched but the portal they opened to get to S3 is open and drawing out heroes in. They are saved from this uncertain fate by the Intervention of Preston Elliot, but having been in the vicinity of a planar portal they slip the bonds of this reality and spin through to a new world.
The plains they find themselves on are dry and the barley grass is scorched by a high sun. Wandering for days they finally catch a lift with a caravan run by a talking baboon which is heading to the city of Adipsicor(4) – they know of this by reputation as being on of the 5 cities the rise use as a base, and decide to “take the fight to them”.
The caravan winds its way through the dry landscape, some tombs are plundered and they get quite bored. The only real fun the group have is when – on midsummer’s eve –Sister Luana offers to honour the goddess energy by make a soothing tea laced with high grade hallucinogens.
The group drifts in and out of this dreamstate, sometimes together sometimes not. Visions of a Deagh creating a giant clay blood golem laced with sharp crystal haunt them - then visions of the elysian fields of the summer lands where many strange adventures take place and a conversation with Grandfather Trout (so called as he is a trout who is a grandfather) reveals much about the nature of Elliot (trustworthy) The Rise (not so trustworthy) and the Deaghs purpose (hidden even from himself in a spell of blinding memory)
When the dreamstate was lifted they discovered that the workings of the planar soul can indeed affect the body. Leaves and twigs were in their hair, specs of dew from the summer lands clung to the clothing they wore, and on a harsher note the dream of Sanguine being utterly eviscerated by the giant red golem seemed to have been true – he was gone and his clothing was shredded.
Disheartened by this turn of events the remaining party decide to take a firm hand with this whole “reality shifting mumbo jumbo” and try to move themselves from this plane to another. They throw themselves into it and whether the power comes from their grief, raw talent or the remaining dew from the summer lands in their hair – it works.
Appearing in the middle of a village fete in a leafy backwater of quintessential Englishness the group waste no time in being incarcerated and marked for death by the W.H.O. organization. In this apparently magic-less world any sign of other-worldly weirdness is stamped out harshly, and our crew may as well have “otherworldly weirdness” printed on their foreheads.
From their new home in a prison camp for people who exhibit magical tendencies they are quietly approached by a civil servant who informs them he can offer them an avenue of escape. An individual in this world (call it World#5, Londres) attempts to provide safe haven for those that are persecuted for magical sensitivity. They can elect to join his group (called with some irony W.H.Y.) and be provided with fake papers and a small stipend – or remain in the camp for a mock trial and almost certain death.
“Sprung from pokey” the group are whisked around from town to city to avoid detection and are finally assigned to help another small group of (native) sensitive’s who are investigating the current mystical hot-potato-hot-spot The Matheson House.
Arriving at said house the party find they have fallen into a scenario so strange, so bizarre and so unearthly that the unfolding events could only have been predicted by someone who had a passing familiarity of the works of Dennis Wheatly, Richard Matheson, M.R. James or William Castle. All homage aside - dealing with the ghostly occurrences at the Matheson House, including possession by demons, the appearance of shadowy figures that seem to freeze time known as “the grey men” and a dinner party of the dead (on the menu - all sorts of high grade weird in a fear sauce) take a real toll on the group. Part way through the investigation they are bone weary and sent to recuperate at the calming religious retreat and one time seat of great pagan magic: Ynis-Witrin.
In the historical town Ynis they learn of the lands long conflict between the goddess worshiping Legion of St. Jean and the patriarchal magic-quashing Knights of St George – who currently hold the world in an iron grip. On a more personal level they are (re)acquainted with this worlds Cscha and her Romany brood, and enjoy seeing a gypsy presentation of a play “pan is dead” with familiar echoes of the parties various trips to the summer lands.
The stay in Ynis is cut short when they attract and are attacked by more of the grey men and so beat a hasty advance back to the Matheson house, where they finally solve the mystery of Matheson’s missing Private tower and exhume his corpse along with a few other nasty surprises. Also unearthed: this worlds crystal linchpin artefact (missing a few slivers and broken prongs here and there). Eventually they spend a last hellish night in the Matheson library inside a pentagram resisting an avalanche of screaming dead souls and demonic creatures raised by the tormented spirit of Matheson himself. Easy-peasy.
With the house quiet and the squad recuperated and filled with purpose they set off to Escotia to track down their benefactor and the leader of the “W.H.Y.” – only to be caught at the first roadblock and gassed unconscious by the WHO Bloody Dolts.
Londres. Bedlam Asylum. Where the Knights of St George store the most “magically polluted” prisoners of their secret war. An almost inescapable pit of despair. Of course the Knights have never had to deal with hardened warriors, mythical creatures or people who can still use actual magic before, so it takes out group scant hours to break free – find a mad Deagh (and not kill him) and liberate a misplaced plane travelling drow elf Baiulus Dieaens who had been incarcerated here for more months that he cared to recall – caught searching for his missing drow brothers.
In the Drows company the party explore the cobbled streets of Londres – a stinking fog shrouded city of noise and clutter. They love it. Dieaens leads them to his bolthole in the city a long abandoned theatre and introduces them to his par amour – Molly Cannard, a ghost. She runs the theatre as an orphanage for the street urchins of Londres who are unaffected by the pall, the strange fog-within-a-fog that descends on the city freezing everything in a paused moment and allowing the esoteric elements of the Knights of St George to go about their business uninterrupted.
Within this vile mist lurk creatures of twisted aspect and fearsome power, and the party (also unaffected by the strange smoke) is forced to defend themselves against them on many occasions. Brrrr.
It’s from Molly's theatre base that our group learn something of the machinations of Doctor Gull, current leader of the Knights of St George: Based in the Crystal Palace and protector of the Glass Crown – constructed from the missing shards of the artefact recently regained. It’s learned that each artefact has a smaller “control” made from it, a child of the whole – and the crown controls this worlds crystal.
The regaining of this crown involves a midnight break-in to the crystal palace – a confrontation with Gull and (once the crown is snatched) fleeing through the eerily still pall enshrouded streets of londres chased by a gigantic Chthonic creature summoned by the demonic Gull. Child's play really.
With the forward planning of Preson Elliots trademarked “suitcase full of old crap” the group invisibly quit the city and head once more for Ynis-Witrin where rumour has it that all followers of St Jean are gathering as if drawn by some inaudible signal. They find the town under siege from the armed forces of St George and the Romany travellers surrounded at the Tor base: The tor itself magically barricaded by a fence of crucified innocents. A small ugly war is looming and with the help of the party Cshca draws the battle plans.
A many pronged assault on the Tor is launched: From overground and through the wookie hole caves they stream and the barrier is broken. The final battle ranges on the Tor’s slopes as Gull and his mind washed Drow arrive in a last desperate stand. Cshca is protected long enough to wear the crown and walk the world map and is thus transformed in spirit: using her very soul to open the lands magical heart once more in a triumphant yet very hippy sounding act of sacrifice. The Knights of St George are bloodied or destroyed and the party celebrate there triumph with a pint in the nearby pub.
This world free from tyranny and it’s magic once again vibrant our group are free to shift out and make their way home, in the process passing through Ashwell(3) where they collect themselves a new version of Sanguine (having broken the previous one.) just in time for a return to Ashwell(1) and news of the royal wedding which has recently taken place.
An Ashwell(1) based hiatus of some months is in order while the group plan a next move – to ponder why the Caldbeck Rise should be so unsupportive, to practice useful magics and meditations, the reading of tomes and pondering investigation of the events up to this point in preparation for the battle ahead. Except for Scrylash who uses the cash from his interdimentional plunder to upgrade his whorehouse in Swarkstone.
It’s during a planning session at this den of scant-repute that the party are gathered when Aston Deagh comes visiting. Drawing up in a carriage with his Falfaxian entourage in tow and carrying an ornate sceptre topped with a crystal (looking like the recovered artefact in miniature) he seems every inch the calm collected dignitary, ‘till he realised what kind of establishment the party have made there base – and then he goes into meltdown, screaming “whore, whore, whore” over and over again until – shrieking and quite visibly insane he smashes the sceptre against the air and reality joins his bleeding brain in full-on meltdown.
Reality is broken and corrupted as reality shatters and it’s neighbouring planes begin to bleed in. A whirlwind of images and scenarios take place where our band is dispersed and their memories become a heaving non-linear blur. One single event from this mess lingers large in the mind – in the blind spot noise generated by the reality-storm Preston Elliot is vulnerable. The Rise have tracked him down and his wandering spirit is exorcised by an ancient wizened CBR mage named Gill. R.I.P Preston Elliot.
The party (minus Luana) somehow find each other again in the ruins of a strangely dreamlike Swarkstone: now contained inside a shimmering dome cutting it off from the rest of the unaffected world: seemingly contained by the Rise to stop the spread of the reality unravelling.
They survive hand-to-mouth in this desolate, unreal and reality-conflicted place for some days before being trapped by the Caldbeck Rise and “tried” for crimes against reality in a very biased court. The verdict – death and unmaking, the end result: thanks to a sneak reprieve by some friendly seeming members of the Rise, dissolution of spirit. To the sound of a ringing bell they find their souls falling apart and being absorbed back into ...
Cosy life in Ashwell. All the events of the previous 24 months have been undone as if they never once shifted realities. They all returned from the initial diplomatic mission and went back to their lives with thanks and a small purse from the thane. They have lived these happy lives in general contentment – except for the nagging suspicion that something isn’t quite right. Signs and portents seem everywhere.
This culminates one right when Sanguine reads a report from Swarkstone library (where several books have been discovered to have gone missing) and the name of Bryony Wells is mentioned. Our stalwarts memories are suddenly aflame but unclear : they are spun off on a Preston Elliot created dogged clue-by-clue hunt to recover fragments of the story now forgotten, leading to a bank in Swarkstone where in a long held safe box they discover the remnants of the life they had forgotten. Armour, swords and parchments: strange in aspect and yet unquestionably theirs. Using the incense and apparatus within they walked a stone maze long buried in Ashwells gardens and in another flurry of dreamstate visions see a grave on the edges of the summer lands containing Sanguines corpse.
On returning home they have their old memories returned intact – including Sanguine from Ashwell(3) who now remembers both his life, his Caldbeck adjusted life and his planar twins life from Ashwell(1) and as a result is very adept at planar magic’s but can’t remember how to tie his own shoelaces.
They scarce have time to celebrate when the weather takes a turn for the worse and during a gigantic unnatural storm they are visited by Hayden Deagh. After the usual dull pouting “why are you people intent on causing trouble for me” conversation the evening takes a further turn for the worse when Gill – the traveller of the Caldbeck Rise arrives by coach and A) Is revealed as an pre-aged elderly Deagh and B) tries to kill them.
Despite Gills cruel magic the vicious conflict ended as it so often does in a muddy game of Deagh-head football. Rain did not stop play.
Now the party once again knew where it stood – their only true ally was dead and almost everyone else wanted to kill them. In an astute combination of aggressive attack and cowardly hiding they strapped on their kit and hit the ethric road, heading for Turen-re-Ainia: Preston Elliots bolt-hole in times of crisis and home of the Caldbeck Rise.