The end…for now.
After the Ashen Crown was returned to the Kech Volaar under the party’s watchful eye, Ivello chose not to return to Sharn with the rest. He spent the next several weeks in Rhukaan Draal, building up his relationship with the envoys of the Kech Volaar in the hope of convincing their leaders to grant his request to visit the kech in earnest.
While he waited, he stayed at the Lyrandar enclave and assisted Arend d’Lyrandar in putting together the necessary paperwork required for the House to properly deal with Enzo’s treachery. He had never told anyone his whole side of the story that had led to Enzo’s removal from Rhuukan Draal. Though Lhesh Haruuc had done his own investigation after the fact and refused to work with Enzo going forward, precipitating his exile to Lhazaar, Ivello’s subsequent disappearance and the only complaint against Enzo coming directly from Haruuc had given House Lyrandar little reason to punish Enzo further. Relaying to Arend the full story of the attempt on his life on board the Kordenga at the hands of a Thuranni assassin, Ivello began to think that Enzo was not the only loose end that needed to be dealt with. While he didn’t believe he’d ever be able to find the assassin Jalros again, assuming he was well-protected by his own House, Ivello sent word to Lyrandar representatives in various border towns to keep their ears open just in case. Aruget had stayed in Rhuukan Draal with his friend, glad to spend more time in a place that continued to be both comforting and new. Jak, of course, had been ordered by Captain Kalaes to return to Sharn with a report as soon as possible, and he had been more than happy to do so, and Kayde was eager to return to the luxury of the Five Nations.
In time, Ivello received the news he’d been hoping for: an invitation to enter the halls of the Kech Volaar along with his friends. He sent a message to Jak and Kayde in Sharn, asking them to rejoin him and Aruget, and Kalaes gladly released Jak back to Darguun for this unprecedented chance to gather more information on their reclusive allies.
Deep underground, surrounded by awe-inspiring craftsmanship and deeply aware that he and his friends were likely the first outsiders to ever set foot in the kech, Ivello intended to make the most of his time and immediately requested access to their library. The books he was permitted to see referenced little more than basic cultural information, as well as regular references to finding more information in “the archives” which lay even deeper below, and where he suspected the Ashen Crown and other relics now sat to wait for the restoration of Dhakaan. Undeterred, his interest turned to the stories of the fall of the empire, the warlords for whom the pieces of the Crown were named, and as much as he was permitted to learn about the daelkyr and their creations whom he and his friends had encountered beneath the Six Kings.
Aruget, for his part, was impressed by the Kech Volaar’s military precision and skill. Their weapons and armour were like nothing he’d ever seen, but so were their dirgesingers. He asked Senan, the one who had come to Darguun to claim the Ashen Crown on her kech’s behalf, to show him around, and they shared their stories of their fallen ally Yeraa. As Senan spoke to Aruget of the other keches, she told him that what had ultimately convinced the Daughters of the Dirge to allow outsiders into their midst had been the account in Yeraa’s journal of Aruget defeating a leader of the Kech Sharaat honourably, in single combat. Over the course of his stay, several warriors sought to challenge or train with Aruget for their own honour, and he offered Senan the Tiger’s Blade that had served him so well on his journey. It was, after all, a relic of Dhakaan, and he did not want to keep it from them. Senan refused, reaffirming that Aruget had earned the weapon honourably, but asked that he entrust someone to return it to the Kech Volaar in the event of his death.
Kayde, as expected, settled into swapping stories with the dirgesingers, and anyone else who would listen. As he recorded their songs, and put some new ones of his own to paper, he set aside his own ego for a time in order to pay his respects to Yeraa’s memory. One night, he found himself in front of a captive audience as he told the tale of her honour and bravery in their short time together, and her fellow dirgesingers seemed moved by the great respect shown by an outsider to one of their own.
Jak spent his time with the Kech Volaar doing what he’d been entrusted to do: observe and report. He spent his time talking with as many scholars and warriors as were willing, but for the most part simply kept his eyes and ears open, committing everything to memory. After a week, he, Kayde, and Aruget returned to the surface and made their way back to Sharn, but Ivello elected to remain behind as long as the Dhakaani would allow. His new research led him to wonder if there was something more to be gained from a proper exploration of the ruins beneath Graywall, especially the sections Yeraa’s party hadn’t entered. He was also determined to solve the mysteries of the Six Kings, particularly in relation to the tunnel to Khyber the party had encountered, as well as the unanswered question of what the ilithid at the Moon Pool had been up to. Satisfied that he’d learned as much as he could, he spent the next few weeks trying to convince the Dhakaani to come with him on an artifact hunt, and offered his services as a guide.
Back in Sharn, a couple of months passed, and Jak was back in his element. Partnered with Thom again and slowly beginning to build up the network of assets he hoped to oversee one day, the Dark Lanterns had more pressing problems for him to worry about. The Swords of Liberty were starting to quietly become more active in the city, and Jak and Thom had been tasked with infiltrating their underground meetings. After a particularly long night in Middle Dura, they returned to the Citadel in the early hours of the morning to make their report.
As usual, Citadel headquarters never slept. No matter the hour, the halls held a steady stream of agents, clerks, and adjutants going about their business. However, things were not entirely as Jak had remembered them before his exile. Ever since the depths of Tik’s betrayal had come to light, there was a noticeable tension among his former colleagues between those who were confident that Tik was an anomaly, and those who had become paranoid at the prospect of traitors in every corner. Kalaes had confided in Jak that there would be no public execution – the Lanterns would keep Tik alive until they were confident that he could be of no more use to them, at which point he would disappear for good.
Talking and laughing as he and Thom made their way through the halls, Jak had also begun to notice a distinct change in the way he was treated by his colleagues. While there were some who sought to work their way into his good graces now that he had distinguished himself – and had Kalaes’ ear – there were others who resented his newfound success, and were eager to see him fail again. He listened to the former with an aloof deference, revealing nothing and making no promises, and presented little more than a smirk to the latter, though their attitude stung more than he cared to admit.
Turning a corner, his words died in his throat and his smile froze as he found himself face to face at last with someone whose opinion did matter to him, even after everything that had happened: him and Thom’s former captain, Kendra Torval. A tall, severe-looking Khorovar woman with a perpetual scowl, Jak could not begin to guess whether she agreed that he had redeemed himself and regretted cutting him off completely, or whether she agreed that his success had been little more than a fluke. When Kalaes honoured Jak’s request to take him under his command after his initial return from Darguun, he had heavily implied that it was not only because he considered it a coup to personally take on an agent who had helped take down the greatest traitor the Dark Lanterns had ever known, but also out of spite for Kendra, who was well-respected by her peers but largely unloved due to her unpleasant nature. In spite of reaching out, he had not seen or heard from her since his misdeeds had come to light half a year ago, but he steeled himself and kept his head high as they passed each other.
She did not break her stride, and said nothing. But she did look over at Jak with her trademark glare…and gave him a quiet, perhaps even respectful nod. Jak considered her acknowledgement a sufficient victory.
Kayde, for his part, was in no rush to get back to work. Riding high on his recent success, he returned to the Phiarlan enclave in Sharn with as much swagger as he could muster, which was considerable. However, he only returned long enough to deliver his report, and then informed his handlers that he had some personal business to attend to. This personal business largely involved schmoozing, partying, and continuing to climb Sharn’s social ladder, though he was also careful to continue building up his connections within House Phiarlan as he went. Agreeing to some odd, low-stakes espionnage jobs here and there to keep his pockets lined, Kayde spent the next few months enjoying the finer things Sharn had to offer before his Phiarlan handlers made it clear in no uncertain terms that it was time to step up once again.
Meanwhile, Aruget had his own business in Sharn. Finally able to reconnect in earnest with his sister Razu, he explained his plan to return to Graywall to get answers about their brother Dabrak’s death once and for all. However, he’d need her help first, to get out of his contract with House Deneith. Between the revelations that he’d learned from Dabrak after speaking with him through Zaraani’s Solitaire, and having gotten a taste of the wider goblinoid world from his time in Darguun and the Kech Volaar, he felt that it was time to move on from the Blademarks and forge a path that was more true to himself. Razu walked him through the paperwork, helped him buy out the remainder of his contract, and wished him well as he began the long journey overland back to Graywall. Aruget had never been comfortable with airship travel, and now free to be his own man, he happily made the considerably longer trip with solid ground under his feet.
Unfortunately, his investigation into the war troll Kalak – whom Dabrak had worked for in the time leading to his death, and was now even more untouchable as the captain of the Mayor of Graywall’s personal guard – did not go as planned. After hitting a solid string of dead ends, and getting into a bit of trouble with Kalak directly, Aruget remembered Jak’s exhortation to call on him if he ever needed a favour and sent a message to Sharn asking his friend to come to Graywall to do what he did best: navigate the seedy side of the city, gather information, and put his networking skills to Aruget’s use. Calling in a favour of his own with Captain Kalaes to take some personal time, Jak boarded an airship to Graywall and arrived a few days later. He quickly got down to business, finding a few leads Aruget had missed, but he had some personal matters of his own to attend to while he was there.
Begging Aruget’s indulgence for a few hours, Jak made his way to Brelish Ceramics, where the local Dark Lantern Thrandi kept his cover as a potter, and where the old man had called in House Tharashk to arrest Jak for treason. Pushing open the old but sturdy door, Jak found Thrandi behind the counter with his apprentice. Quickly sending the young man away, Thrandi steeled himself. He wondered if Jak had returned to take revenge on him, and quickly tried to deflect any hard feelings now that their positions were reversed and Jak was held in high standing – after all, he’d only been doing his job and following orders. Jak calmed the old man’s fears. He hadn’t come to hurt him, or to further harm his own position in the Lanterns, but did give him some trouble about having been so cruel to Jak even prior to his arrest. Caught between defending himself and apologizing, Thrandi uncharacteristically stumbled over his words before Jak stopped him. As he’d said, he hadn’t come back to do him harm (though perhaps he had come back to gloat a little). What he really wanted was what he’d wanted from the moment they’d met: to hear Thrandi’s story, and learn how he’d wound up stuck in Graywall. Though he’d long since drunk the bottle Jak had brought him as a peace offering all those months ago, Thrandi agreed to the younger agent’s request at last, and they talked long into the afternoon.
His next port of call was the Tharashk enclave. Though Jak knew he couldn’t give Korbus everything she wanted, he had long prided himself on being a man of his word, and he hadn’t forgotten his promise to join her for dinner once he’d cleared his name. He identified himself at the gate, asked for Korbus, and was given a funny look in return and told to go inside and speak with the clerk. The same surly half-orc who had processed Jak’s arrest was behind the desk, and his face betrayed no emotion as he informed Jak that he couldn’t see Korbus, for she was no longer in Graywall. Although her superiors had been unable to acquire any concrete proof of her involvement in freeing Jak and Aruget and enabling the party to escape the city, there had been too many holes in her story, and too much suspicion surrounding her. While they had no grounds to punish her severely, they still considered her to have actively worked against her House, and she had been reassigned to a dragonshard prospecting expedition in Q’barra for the foreseeable future.
Jak felt a twinge of guilt, but also one of relief. He hadn’t been looking forward to formally letting her down. She had been a good ally, but when it came to matters of the heart, he’d had someone else on his mind for a long time. It hadn’t been in the cards at the time, as he firmly refused to mix business with pleasure, and he hadn’t contacted her since his abrupt disappearance from High Walls and subsequent suspension, but he’d never forgotten her. He had never wanted her to get mixed up in his troubles, but now that his fortunes had changed, he wondered if there was a place for her in his life, and he in hers…but that is a story for another time.
Greatest Hits: The Table’s Favourite Moments
Ivello fondly remembers the time he and Lestok decided to try to produce a forgery in the most complicated way imaginable: by fooling Morgrave’s alchemy department into believing they had a flea infestation, posing as fumigators, and breaking into Lestok’s arch-nemesis Lenard’s office to steal his official documents seal. You can revisit those shenanigans here.
Aruget will never forget the time Kayde tried to short-change a minotaur, with disastrous results. The fallout of that decision is recorded here. He also particularly enjoyed the time he found himself responsible for getting a rather fatalistic Jak out of jail, and the final showdown with Demise and her horde of undead in the Dragon’s Forge.
The GM really enjoyed playing Tik, and how things played out with Tik. Aruget and I very much agreed that he was a fantastic nemesis. The GM’s acting was top-notch, making Tik the perfect villain we loved to hate.
I have a laundry list of memorable moments from this campaign. From Aruget’s very first action with this group – having joined in media res in the back half of a fight – being to save Jak’s life, to the absolute delicious run of events that began with Jak’s arrest in Graywall and carried straight through to the end, and the time in-between when Jak told the party about his greatest triumph only for it to be turned into a 20-minute lecture on the questionable state of his moral compass, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This has been a campaign I’ll never forget.
Some moments were universally memorable to the group and GM alike. Those included Aruget challenging a leader of the Kech Sharaat to single combat, the attempt on Ivello’s life, and Thom’s unintentional betrayal – and a series of incredibly well-timed Adventure Cards – that allowed our epic showdown with Tik at the Traveler’s Rest to end with capturing him alive after Aruget’s sister called in reinforcements to deal with his goons…and an angry mob of displaced barflies took care of the man himself.
We’ll be back in two weeks time (barring any unforeseen technical difficulties as the GM completely resets our game world in Foundry) with a new cast of characters, a new player, and a new story to tell. In the meantime, if any of you have your own favourite moments from Seekers of the Ashen Crown, be sure to leave a comment!