Amar – Session Two
Session 2. First Blood
After Swiftstream recovered he spoke to the chosen ones. All four agreed to pursue the quest that had seemingly been laid out for them. They would collect the sacred keys of their peoples and investigate this strange island.
Now came the bad news. This was still a bureaucracy. Tomorrow there would be another committee meeting, with such items on the agenda as: what should this party of heroes be called? What will be their stated objectives? What will be their agreed code of conduct? Should there be a uniform? What is their diplomatic status, and what level of access will they have to each race’s capital?
Further points of discussion had been added by the various ambassadors. The Phae Touched wanted to enforce a minimum number of good deeds on the way and include a ban on any further forest destruction. The Basites wanted to make Goldrock the leader of this party and give them all an instruction to kill all faeries on site (the fact that the ambiguity of the term faeries would also include the Phae Touched was surely a simple oversight). The Kasheetans wanted to add a statement condemning Ohmryn expansionism in the Strait of Muldrasa. And the Ohmryn wanted the heroes to travel in a party boat with a full entourage.
All this was to look forward to tomorrow. For today each hero still had other meetings and preparations to attend to.
Fleet returned to his office to find a vast queue of visitors. This was something he had gotten used to over the years. His assistant Leafthorn also provided him with a big pile of paperwork and complained about having to always stay late due to Fleet’s many visitors. Fleet decided he had time to see three visitors but no more . The first visitor was desperately ill, having contracted Dutch Elm disease due to his severe beetle infestation. Fleet was not able to heal him personally but recommended the services of Fieldshadow, a local healer/varnisher. The second visitor was Knick-Knack, a ‘businessman’ of dubious honesty who offered to cut Fleet into various get rich quick schemes. The third visitor was a concerned mother whose son had fallen in with a bad crowd and had been arrested for various misdemeanours; she asked Fleet to look into his case and see if there was anything he could do to help him out. Just as Leafthorn was about to send everyone away a fourth visitor stepped forward. It was Bethran Highhill, his old Wildren comrade. Bethran explained that he would very much like to meet the seer and see the standing stones before he died. Fleet passed this request on to Swiftstream who agreed to make this exception to protocol as a personal favour.
Sharl had a meeting with Ambassador Makrun and other political advisors. In the light of Sharl’s recent ‘indiscretion’ with the Kasheetans, they had decided to give him some much-needed diversity training so as to avoid upsetting the other races any further. After a brief period of relaxation, including the smoking of a large amount of sea weed, various scenarios and strategies were explored. Sharl seemed thoroughly bored by the whole endeavour, but the politicians would not give up. Sharl left several hours later feeling none the wiser, only to bump into one of Sanctuary Island’s guards – in this case, a Kasheetan. The guard seemed to recognise him and launched into a tirade of abuse, saying he had Kasheetan blood on his hands and was not fit to even step foot on Sanctuary Island. Sharl tried to remain cool but as soon as the Kasheetan started making threats and shoving him, he lost it. He went into a berserk shark fury and blacked out.
Zhel’darax was to greet the Sorcerer-Poet of Kratos Dai, the new Kasheetan apprentice to the seer of Sanctuary Island. They filtered smoke and then conducted a ritual of sacrifice ; the Sorcerer-Poet surprised Zhel-darax by asking him to take over this important ritual, but Zhel-darax proved more than up to this task and impressed his visitor with his insight. A poetry duel conducted afterwards only cemented this relationship. The Sorcerer-Poet has the ear of the Grand Matriarch so this was an important connection to have. During the period of meditation afterwards, however, Zhel’darax once again had his recurring dream. A younger-looking Grand Matriarch approaches a simple Kasheetan hut with two of her guards. Inside there is a female Kasheetan lying on the bed. The child she has just given birth to bears the sacred rune of fire as a birthmark. A Kasheetan man stands in the corner. The guards draw their weapons. And then the dream ends, as it always does, with no other clues as to what it’s about.
Goldrock attended a guild meeting in the Basite temple in the east wing, where there was a small circle of standing stones. In union the Basites present performed the holy ritual of veneration and then announced the time of grudges, where Basites could present their grievances and seek restitution from one another. One of Goldrock’s main customers, Stalag, complained that one of the runehammers that had been sold to him had broken and must have been substandard. Goldrock’s whole reputation as a craftsman was on the line, not to mention his pride. Stalag demanded a full apology and 17 free replacements! An attempt at negotiation failed so the matter was escalated to a full duel of honour before the sacred ancestor stones. At first it seemed that Goldrock was on the back foot, if only because he was holding back so as not to risk seriously injuring or killing one of his best customers. But then Stalag made a particularly cutting jibe about Goldrock’s martial prowess and the gloves were off. Within seconds Stalag was lying on the floor with a sore head and Goldrock stood victorious. The pair shook hands and agreed to resume their working relationship in full.
Sharl woke up in the corridor. His knuckles were bloodied and bruised. The Kasheetan guard lay on the floor next to him, beaten to death. In panic, Sharl picked up the body and threw it into the nearest room. He could not remember the fight but did not want to be accused of a crime he may not have committed.
Fleet flew over to the sacred chamber to see how Swiftstream and Bethran were getting on. Along the way he passed a pair of Basite guards, but then when he went round the corner he passed another pair of Basite guards who looked just like them. He had the briefest feeling of deja vu and then carried on his way.
Just then shouts were heard coming from the inner sanctum. The elderly Phae Touched who had carried the talking stone around during the council meeting came flying down the corridor raising the alarm. ‘Help! Help! Swiftstream has been murdered!’ she said. People started coming out of their rooms to see what all the fuss is about. All four heroes ran towards the chamber and opened the door. Inside they found a circle of magical energy crackling around the stones. Within the circle lay the bodies of both Swiftstream and Bethan; both had been stabbed multiple times. A chaos moth was in the process of emerging from the astral plane, attracted by the wild energies of Swiftstream’s now-fizzled ritual of seeing; anyone inside the circle who was still alive would not stay so for long.
Fleet threw his javelin through at the chaotic creature but missed. Goldrock ran in but the giant moth unleashed a storm of electricity, trapping him in a cage of pure lightning and fusing the hinges of his nightsteel armour. Zhel’darax threw his bolas but the dread creature used its telekinesis to bat the weapon straight back at him. In the end it was Sharl who saved the day, barrelling towards the creature and running it though with his ancient relic spear Haon-Sri-Hu. 
By this time there was a crowd outside. The heroes worked together again to take control of the fizzled ritual and drain away the wild magical energies that were surging through the room. On examination it was clear that Swiftstream was dead; he had been stabbed multiple times, and judging by the burn marks the assailant had used some kind of nightsteel weapon to do it. Bethran was gravely injured but still just about holding on. Zhel’darax tried to heal him with his Breath of Life but all that could be done was to make his last moments more comfortable. Fleet was beside himself with grief.
To try to shed more light on what had happened, Fleet used his power to Sift Through Memory and Borrow Senses to replay Bethran’s memories. He saw two figures come into the room – a Basite and an Ohmryn. The Ohmryn was none other than the supposed hero Sharl! It seems Sharl had approached the seer, pulled out a nightsteel dagger, and leaped on him in a frenzy. The unknown Basite did the same thing to Bethan and then both assailants left. At this time Bethan began to drift away, and Fleet had to move quickly to avoid being left inside his mind at the terrifying moment of death itself. Bethan died. 
Outside the Sorcerer-Poet and members of the guards were busy organising a full lock-down of the building in case the perpetrators had not already escaped. Goldrock joined the search. Soon enough the bodies of two Basite guards were found in a small closet, with a weird pile of skin flakes on the floor next to them. Skinchanger assassins! Those rare snakelike creatures can alter their appearance at will, and they are as deadly as they are fanatical. They could be anyone, or anywhere. From the success of their infiltration they must also have a set of keys.
The Sorcerer-Poet explained to the heroes that although skinchangers may well have been involved, they still had to investigate every lead no matter how unlikely. Some reports had also come in of Sharl being seen throwing a body into a deserted room, in which the body of a dead Kasheetan guard was subsequently found. This was clear evidence against Sharl so he and his quarters needed to be searched. Sharl refused, bristling with pride and fury at being suspected of such a crime . The other heroes offered to be searched as well, and for their quarters to be examined, but this turned up no additional clues. Next stop: Sharl’s quarters.
 Fleet’s visitors were roleplayed by the other players (that’s why there are three). I gave each player a one-sentence brief and let them improv the rest. It was quite a fun little diversion.
, ,  Prologue abilities driving the fiction!
 This is the fight scene I should really have run in session one.