[Author’s note: What are these “AoA” tags? Check out this post to know why I’m writing these and why they don’t have anything to do with superheroes. After writing only the occasional cut-scene, I decided to do a quick narrative before every Pathfinder session instead of a recap. We already had someone in the group writing recaps, so mine felt redundant, and there were too many opportunities for fiction writing that I was letting pass me by. Below are a collection of intros from our sessions. I don’t love using present tense, but it’s what fits best into these tabletop roleplaying sessions.]
Session 56: Nolly’s Last Stand
One of Nolly Peltry’s eyes has swollen shut. Her muscles on the left side of her body spasm, almost dropping her to one knee. She tightens the grip on her trusty hoe and braces herself as the huge golem before her–a monstrosity made of wood with a floating brain in green liquid for a head–pulls back its hand to strike her. The golem’s fingers each end in syringes as long as Nolly’s forearm. She’s been stabbed… twice? Three times? She’s lost track. But Nolly isn’t sure she’ll withstand another hit.
Then she sees movement behind the construct. It’s Coxsackie, that crazy goblin. Except there are four of him, shimmering and dancing in a pattern that makes her already pounding head swim. He’s humming a madman’s hum, bringing his mace overhand like he’s chopping firewood.
For a surreal instant, Nolly’s good eye darts from those five syringes, pulled back and ready to impale her, to Coxsackie’s multitude of faces. All images of the goblin wink at her, and then brings down the mace.
There is a thundering boom, and the sound like several barroom chairs breaking at once. Electricity explodes on and around the golem. Nolly turns her head away from the sharp, bright light, then staggers. When she regains her footing, she looks up to see the images of the goblin dancing a little jig. What’s left of the construct is a heap of cracked wood and spilled chemicals. The thing’s brain floats impotently in a vat now cracked and leaking across the floor.
“I don’t know how you got past that barrier back there but thank the gods you did. Wasn’t sure if I was going to last much longer, truth be told. Well met, Coxsackie. We might get these people… to freedom…”
Her voice falters and her gaze wanders to the back of the room. Figures begin fanning out from the staircase.
“…after… all.” Nolly sighs. “Well, bloody Hell. Look alive, my friend. Our fight isn’t done yet.”
Session 57: Boblin the Goblin
The springtime weather is not glorious today. High, wispy clouds cover most of the sky, making the sun a bright blur. Midday, the temperatures have climbed to not requiring a coat, but still recommending long sleeves. It is one of those Spring days struggling to break free from the gloom of Winter.
Yet and still, a group of carousers have decided to take tea at an outdoor patio. They are surrounded by the silver-streaked, white marble of Kintargo, across a cobblestone road from the once-great Alabaster Academy, and they are alone in choosing to dine outdoors.
They are an odd bunch–a couple of humans, a halfling, and a dwarf, all boisterously loud, sitting in a circle around a blue-skinned goblin. Their clothes are garish colors, pushing past the limits of fashion. Ears, lips, and noses are pierced with abandon. They sip tea, pretending to be posh, interrupted by loud, crude humor. Which is to say that the members of the group are young and insecure and full of life. The various people passing on the streets of Kintargo give them annoyed looks and a wide berth.
“I say,” one of the humans, a teen with half her head shaved and a chain linking her nose ring to her ear, says in an affected accent. “I do believe we’ve made that woman there uncomfortable. See how she looks at her toes while crossing the street away from us.” She sips her tea with a pinkie finger outstretched from her cup.
“Indubitably,” the young halfling man tries to say seriously, then the group bursts into laughter.
“Don’t want to join us for lunch, lady? We’re too good for you anyway!” the dwarf bellows, and the group laughs again.
Once the prim, middle-aged woman has hurriedly disappeared around a corner, the teen asks the goblin, “Whaddaya wanna do after tea, Boblin?”
The blue-skinned goblin has not been partaking in the obnoxious banter of the group around him. He only smiles lazily at their jokes, watching passerbys casually and seemingly without interest. He is taking up two chairs in the outdoor patio, one for his body and another for his outstretched feet. Unlike the rest, the goblin’s artfully-placed piercings make him look daring. His clothes–a bloused white shirt with three-quarter flared sleeves with tight, navy pants–are right in line with Kintargan trends.
Before the goblin can answer, a seagull makes a dive for the table. (I picture this as the same seagull Pit gave drugs to the day before) The young group gasps as it lands, clutches a hunk of cheese in its beak, and takes flight.
“Should kill that thing!”
“That was my piece of cheese!”
Amidst the fervor, the goblin merely arches an eyebrow, seemingly amused by both the bird and the consternation it’s caused.
The dwarf grabs for one of the daggers used to slice the meat and cheese that lay scattered on the round, outdoor table. “I swear, if any other bird tries that bloody nonsense I’m gonna–”
“Look!” the teenage human gasps.
All eyes turn, following the seagull’s flight.
“What? My cheese?”
“No,” the girl points with excitement. “Look at the tower!”
Past the seagull is one of several towers at Alabaster Academy. A tall, round structure of silver-streaked marble with skinny stained-glass windows dotting its length.
Four figures are climbing the tower like ants. From this distance it looks like two goblins, a halfling, and a human warrior in armor. Two other figures fly past them without even touching the tower, a human glowing with warm light and some smaller creature they can’t see clearly.
“Is that–? Amazing!”
“What do you think of that, Boblin?”
The blue-skinned goblin stands, suddenly and gracefully, squinting at the tower like the rest of his group. An eager, genuine smile touches his lips.
“I think,” Boblin the Goblin says, his fashionable attire blurs and begins to change. “You should hand me my mask and cloak.”
Session 58: Purging Kintargo
Jethro, Pit, Robin, and Coxsackie are ushered through the heavy gates into an imposing stone castle. Whereas the rest of Kintargo is silver-streaked white marble and gentle spires, Castle Kintargo is a reminder that imperial Cheliax once ruled Ravounel with an iron fist. Its towers are still beautiful and striking, but the thick, tan walls are clearly more functional than aesthetic. In fact, as you wander through you can’t help but see the discolored patches on the stone where devils and gargoyles have been pried from the façade since the city proclaimed its freedom. As of today, in this new nation, no new decorations have yet taken their place.
City Watch members are swarming over the castle grounds, and all pause to regard you as you pass. Some grip cudgels or saps, frowning and narrowing their eyes. Many bring their heads close to whisper to one another. A sparse few simply watch appraisingly and with curiosity. But make no mistake: All eyes are on you within Castle Kintargo.
The young member of the Watch who leads you through the grounds is a skinny, bird-boned young woman with short-cropped black hair. Without commentary she nods to guardsmen at doors and gates as they open before you and shut behind you. There’s clear sweat on most of the doormen’s faces. The tension seems to grow as you go deeper into the castle.
Thus far, you’ve experienced Kintargo as a burgeoning city of hope and energy. It feels like something new and untamed. But here, in this heavy fortress surrounded by mistrusting soldiers, you are aware that it is also a city ravaged by war and uncertainty. The indignation of Cheliax rule still hangs in the air.
Finally, you come to two large, double doors flanked by well-armed guards. As you approach, they nod to your young escort and, as one, pull open the doors.
“Go on in,” the young guard says, voice surprisingly steady. “He’s waiting for you.”
The room you enter is large, square, and spartan. Whatever wall decorations were once here have been pulled down, replaced by only a couple of modest maps of the city. Two windows at the far end look out onto the inner courtyard, letting in the late-day sun. There is a bookshelf, a work desk, and a large, heavy rectangular table. Several sheafs of paper lay across the table’s surface. Your eyes take in all of these details briefly before focusing on the two figures in the room.
Obedience Fletcher sits at the table, looking impossibly small in the high-backed chair next to the enormous table. He looks none the worse for wear, but his expression is difficult to read as you enter.
Across from him is a dark-skinned, older human man in full platemail. Even without the armor it’s clear that he is heavily muscled despite his age (played by a Idris Elba, because I’m giving him another chance). Heavy shadows beneath his eyes suggest that this is not a man who sleeps well or often. But his eyes are clear, and intelligent, and hard.
“Come in, please. My name is Vors Eivensor. I’m the Captain of the City Watch here in Kintargo, which means I am responsible for the defense of this city and its inhabitants.”
As you come in, the heavy doors BOOM! behind you and echo across the stone walls.
Vors picks up some of the paper, squints at them, and sighs. “In the past two days, I have seventeen murdered citizens at Kite Hill by what witnesses say was a devil that appeared out of thin air. Witnesses also report of a group of armed people matching your description who defeated the devil.”
He picks up another sheet. “At Sunset Imports, based on an anonymous tip, we found the establishment heavily damaged, with a dead human male whom we could not identify as a known resident of the city. The owner of the establishment is missing, but we found eleven Sunset Imports dock workers, starved, drugged, and beaten at the Alabaster Academy today. The ones who are coherent are at least able to express that they have been kidnapped and tortured.”
He sighs again, heavily, and reaches for another sheet. “Speaking of the Alabaster Academy, in the same abandoned tower where we found the dockworkers, we also found nine dead bodies. Several of these were also unidentified as residents, but two were apparently teachers at the school. The living teacher said she had been manacled to a bed with her dead colleagues, but otherwise has been incoherent and it’s been frankly impossible to understand her story.
“We also identified Corra Dianthe, a beloved halfling of the city who’s known as a kite enthusiast on Kite Hill, running a small kite stand there. Both Corra and the unidentified corpses appeared to be armed and killed with battle, along with the remains of multiple golems.”
“My City Watch members say that there were reports of figures that match your description climbing the outside of the tower, along with flashes of magic and signs of combat. They organized a group of five Watchmen to enter the tower midday today. We found their corpses on the third floor of the tower. The Watchmen guarding the tower’s entrance say a group of four armed humans and an armed halfling assaulted them, leaving two more dead. The group escaped about five minutes before members of your group also attempted to leave the tower. Mr. Fletcher here allowed himself to be lawfully arrested, while the rest of you…” His face hardens here. “Did not. We’ll come back to this matter in a moment.”
He reaches over to another sheet of paper. “Your other goblin friend here exited the tower with five halflings. These were Laria Longroad, owner of the Long Roads Coffeehouse, and four employees of said establishment. We have their full statements. We have also since investigated the coffeehouse, where we found ten MORE corpses. Several of these appear to be residents of Kintargo. Three others match the dress of the corpse at Sunset Imports and the unidentified bodies at the Alabaster Academy. There were two other bodies,” he sighs and a vein throbs in his forehead. “One with the head of a tiger and other with the head of a fox.
“Witnesses of nearby establishments said that a City Watch member and someone who matches the description of your human friend here,” he nods to Robin, “discouraged anyone from entering the establishment. I’ve since taken roll call of City Watch members of the area of the Long Roads Coffeehouse yesterday and none of them claim to have been there. There was also some confusing reports of two people flying and fighting in mid-air.
“Laria and her employees, however, insist that you freed them at the Academy and had not met you before then. She did not know if you had or had not been to her coffeehouse since she was captured and insists that you were opponents of her captors and not responsible for any wrongdoing.”
Vors sets the parchment aside and folds his heavily calloused hands together. He tries to meet each of your eyes. “Rumors are raging across the city. Most seem to think Nidal has something to do with the massacres happening. Some others think it’s some secret slaver organization, which is what Mr. Fletcher here insists. Boblin, a local, well I suppose he would describe himself as a celebrity, exited the tower with you all and is claiming he’s already solved the problems and that there is no need to worry. From experience, I trust Boblin’s word not at all.
“By my count, that is forty-four known corpses in less than two days, many of them unarmed Kintargo citizens. We have not seen anything like this since Barzillai Thrune’s bloody rule, and I don’t need to tell you that those are days we’d like to put behind us.
“Based on all of these reports, I’ve come to a few conclusions. The first is that there is something insidious, murderous, and disturbing in the Silver City that must be expunged immediately. The second is that you have something to do with it, though you seem to be opposed to whatever’s going on. That is the only reason you’re not sitting in a jail cell right now, though your vigilante tactics are leading to death and destruction everywhere, and I am fairly sure that with a bit more evidence we will have enough to convict and imprison you all. And finally, I’ve concluded that I have no bloody idea how to make sense of this or whether to trust you at all.”
Vors’ voice nearly shakes with rage. “So. Talk. What is happening in my city?”
Session 59: Last Days in Kintargo
Gelb Freeland is a skinny man with a long neck and a beak-like nose, making him look somewhat like a human stork. He has a habit of swallowing constantly, which makes his Adams apple bob distractingly. Indeed, the only aspect of his character more distracting than the constant swallowing is that Gelb’s watery eyes blink, ceaselessly and almost violently. He is, everyone agrees, a naturally nervous fellow, prone to seeing the most dire of consequences in every moment.
Right now, he is wringing his hands and pacing. His Adams apple dances and eyes flutter as he watches the front door of his tavern, the Bearded Hollow.
“Do you… I say. Do you think everything will be all right in there?” he asks the City Watchman next to him. She is a tall human with a jagged, puckered scar from forehead to cheek.
“Well, they’re capable warriors.”
A window from the second floor shatters and something heavy hits the ground, out of sight. It is now easier to hear swords clashing. The Watch officer looks to her companion, nods, and the two go to investigate.
“Oh dear,” Gelb swallows.
The windows to the street illuminate briefly as lightning crackles within the second floor of the inn. Moments later the windows glow with fiery light and someone screams.
“Oh dear. Dear, dear, dear…” Gelb Freeland swallows again, blinking in distress.
Session 60: Welcome to Summershade Granite Quarry
We begin the final chapter of Tomorrow Must Burn with a montage of scenes. We see a close-up of Canton Jhaltero’s face as he says, “If there are truly slavers, giants, and whatever is haunting the quarry, it seems the five of you are doomed.”
The scene changes and Jhaltero is spreading maps out across a large dining table in his manor, with you all arrayed around him. We zero in on the map and Canton’s finger traces the path from Whiterock to the Summershade Granite Quarry. The journey looks to be about 70 miles along small trails used by stonecutters. It is a very remote location, sitting in the shadow of a place called Summershade Mountain.
We next see a crude map that shows the quarry as a large square cut into the foothills ground. The camera pans around at your frowning faces as you ask questions. It is clear neither the map nor Canton’s explanation are overly useful. He knows his own operations less than you’d like, and it’s something you’ll need to see for yourselves.
The scene fades to dinner, then to drinks, as Canton hosts you for the evening. He seems pleased to have guests, and we see him giving you a tour of his manor before showing you to your rooms.
Now we see the early morning light peeking through a window, where Jethro Vermillion is praying. Pit sits on a bed next to the cleric, unblinking and looking impassively out at the window as the modest town of Whiterock begins its day.
Now we see Robin Sterling going through sword forms outside in the morning, working up a sweat. We see Obedience Fletcher doing calisthenics, then dressing carefully and meticulously.
Finally, the camera pans to Coxsackie, snoring and still asleep as daylight plays across his face. He is having a conversation with someone in sleep, smiling and talking animatedly.