Aldion is a world in upheaval. Everywhere, beings are wrestling with the aftermath of The Arrival - the event that just 77 years ago brought magic, monsters, and extraplanar visitors to roost in a realm that until then had been mundane. Portals to other planes of existence open and close seemingly at random, bringing curious and power-hungry denizens with them. Ancient societies rear their heads in retaliation, existing monarchies attempt (and often fail) to consolidate their power from threats they cannot possibly prepare themselves for, and a select few common folk have begun to show signs of inherent magical talent. Even items and locales that were once mundane are showing signs of magical activity. Aldion is a realm aflame, actively being colonized by outside forces while existing power structures struggle to keep order.

A few powerful individuals could guide this world back to relative peace, or tip it over the edge to damnation.

In Legacy, the F.I.A ventures into the chaotic realm known as the Feywild in order to fulfill a request by the Queen of Air and Darkness and uncover further mysteries that surround the multiverse ...

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Session 36: Murder, Mushrooms, and Mayonnaise
The session opened with the party traveling north through the streets of Yalba, unsure of their next steps in the aftermath of Teoshi’s al-Surai’s demise. On their way towards the Sultan’s Palace, they noticed a conclave of guards gathered at the Athenaeum. According to Raha al-Kharii and Nurata, who were overseeing the apparent crime scene within, a break-in had occurred the night of the ball. The two librarians who were tasked with guarding the quarters of Racha’s gynosphinx had been killed! The party decided to lend their preternatural abilities to ascertain what had occurred at the Athenaeum before dealing with the owlbear in the room: the fact that the F.I.A was still not in agreement about their next steps.

With the hesitant approval of Sekmet al-Id, the F.I.A was allowed temporary access to the hallway that led to the divine gynosphinx. Before entering the darkened chamber, Midzaynov used her Headband of Thoughts to scan the mind of Nurata, who was also examining the crime scene. Midzaynov picked up on a few errant thoughts as she was speaking to the party: “Contact,” “Network,” “Investigation,” “Conspiracy,” and “The Weavers.” The party also learned that Nurata was not a member of The Hellraisers, although she was closely affiliated with them. Entering the chamber, Wykeera found that both humanoid footprints and an irregular, amorphous shape had made its way through the ancient dust and gravel that lined the chamber’s floor. Deductible deduced that the large, winding shape was consistent with the tracks of a massive snake. The tracks revealed that whatever creatures had entered the gynosphinx’s chambers had also left it.

Examining the guards, the party determined that their cause of death was most likely a series of deep cuts on their torsos. Wykeera deduced that the cuts were made by a bladed weapon from an especially high vantage point. The librarians were close to their posts at the time of their deaths, meaning that whatever killed them was able to get close without alerting suspicion. Examining the floor next to the winding double staircase that led to the gynosphinx’s chambers, Thane found a translucent pliable convex object with an emerald-colored center about the size of his thumb. It was a contact lens - a rare object usually coveted by elites who can afford such a commodity. The party recalled the only individual that they knew who had emerald eyes: Sisava al-Surai. At the moment, however, there appeared to be no concrete evidence to link her to the crime.

As the party geared up to leave the Athenaeum, their investigation completed for the moment, Hagar pulled Raha aside. He informed her that their party was soon leaving for the Feywild, and offered to stay behind in Yalba and help to rebuild the city in the meantime. Raha nodded slowly, pulled Zari away from the rest of the party, and asked her when she was planning to tell her best friend that she was leaving for an epic adventure on another plane of existence. They caught up in the brief time they had, and Raha informed Zari that Makaria would act as her retainer for the immediate future. The two had a tearful farewell that was in no way interrupted by Thane. The F.I.A had officially decided on their next step: they would enter the Feywild to answer the Queen of Air and Darkness' invitation. Hagar would stay behind in the interim to nurture the growth of the Yalban Parliament, build the FIAting Pit, and reinforce the strength of his network of contacts.

The F.I.A began to prepare for their extraplanar journey. Zari decided that she should tell her friends and loved ones that she was leaving Yalba for the foreseeable future, and casually informed the party that she had slept with Zaeshir. When Zari visited her home temple to tell her family of her impending adventure, she found Rashad speaking to her mother in the main foyer. Her on-again off-again romantic partner was wearing ... ceremonial robes of Kielel!? Zari immediately broke out in a cold sweat. She was here to unofficially break things off between them, but was he about to … propose? No. He couldn’t be. He wouldn’t. They hadn’t even talked about it, why would he -

And then he dropped to one knee.

Zari just about had a heart attack before she realized that her tiefling companion had simply dropped a ceremonial bangle and had knelt down to pick it up. The shell-shocked cleric let her heart rate slowly fall as Tulsi explained that Rashad planned to help out around the Temple of Kielel for the time being, seemingly anticipating her daughter’s growing sense of wanderlust. Before she departed, Tulsi reiterated the situation with her siblings. Twenty years ago, when Zari was too young to remember, Tulsi decided to scatter her children to the corners of the earth in a desperate bid to keep them safe from Urilesh. Tulsi had taken Zari’s magic potential as a child as a sign that Kielel had a special plan for her, and kept her under her watch Yalba. When several years had passed and the Miszas thought that the threat of Urilesh was behind them, they had Hamza. Tulsi explained that she gave each sibling’s caretaker an amulet, and instructed them to never let the child be without it. With one amulet, another amulet could be found - that way, even though Tulsi would not know her children’s whereabouts, they could perhaps find each other one day when the danger had permanently left them.

As Zari was leaving, she found a strangely beautiful tiefling man closely examining the Temple of Kielel. The mystical figure introduced himself as Zaric, an emissary from the Queen of Air and Darkness who had been sent to ensure that the F.I.A reach their destination of the Winter Court safe and sound. Zaric had an airy, otherworldly quality about him. He had traveled to Yalba with the aid of a former enemy - Raam the jackalwere! The three of them made introductions and caught up. Meanwhile, Hagar visited Belet again, and Midi gave him 10 platinum to give to the beleaguered tiefling. As Midzaynov was wishing Quespa farewell, she told her to not steal from people unless they were bad, and promised to take her to Kelkenheim one day. Thane gave Atka spending some spending money to live off of while they were away. The party bought supplies in the form of rations and spell material components, bade a temporary farewell to Hagar, and head to the River Room within the Yalban Catacombs to begin the next chapter in their journey. Utilizing the fish scale that Meekroot had given Wykeera, the F.I.A passed through the azure glow of the recently-restored Fey Crossing by immersing themselves in the river’s currents. When the F.I.A broke the surface of the water once more, they had emerged in another world.

This realm, known as the Feydark, was brightly-colored, otherworldly, and filled to the brim with magic. Thane made the decision to travel in his changeling form for the time being. As Lyndra emerged from the Fey Crossing, a new form was revealed. Citing a phenomenon known as “Planar Vitality,” Lyndra revealed that her humanoid-sized form was due to her re-emergence into her home plane. She explained that there are certain creatures in Aldion who have a unique connection to one of the planes of existence. For those creatures, a return to their connected plane can lead to a resurgence of vitality; by the same token, being separated from their plane for long periods of time can lead to their gradual enervation.

As the F.I.A traveled through subterranean tunnels, neon-hued mushrooms gave electrum coins as thanks for interacting with them. The party traveled through winding passageways and past flora-covered rocks until they came across a wide cavern full of bipedal mushroom-like beings. The party consented to the apparent wishes of these mute, ambulatory mushroom creatures and were herded towards the center of their settlement. Glowing spores shot from the caps of these myconids, allowing for a psychic form of communication between the two groups. Between immense, moss-covered stones, a towering myconid made their presence known. This myconid sovereign introduced himself as Bulon, and welcomed the F.I.A to Penumbra Grove. The party made note of several elven spore servants - fallen beings who were found in the underdark and reanimated by the myconids to serve as temporary labor.

The F.I.A was informed that because they entered the myconids’ domain peacefully, they would be allowed passage through their home. Upon hearing of the F.I.A’s goals, Bulon offered them an escort out of the Feydark in exchange for a favor: embarrassing a cyclops known as Grusktooth. The Feydark was full of cyclopes, but this one in particular apparently found great pleasure in dismembering the myconid scouts who left from Penumbra Grove to gather resources. The myconids were a peaceful race, so outright violence was out of the question. A bit of mischief, though … that was acceptable. The party was also warned of a race of giants known as fomorians - perceptive and hideous beings who had betrayed the fey queens in an age long past and now commanded the cyclopes of the Feydark. The party agreed to Bulon’s request, came up with a plan, and left Penumbra Grove to find Grusktooth.

The F.I.A successfully followed Bulon’s directions on their way to the cyclopes’ den, stealthed past humongous beetles that occupied the top of the massive cavern, and passed by a crevice in the cave wall that seemed to contain a campsite. The F.I.A created a very realistic-looking replica of a myconid using druidcraft and Wykeera’s basketweaving skills, and then filled it to the brim with four gallons of mayonnaise created from the Jug of Alchemy. The party used Zaric’s invisibility spell to sneak into Grusktooth’s den, which contained dozens of menacing one-eyed giants. The party found Grusktooth mouthing off to two other cyclopses in the main thoroughfare of their makeshift underground city, found a suitable hiding place beneath a large crack in the stone of one of their streets, and captured Grusktooth’s attention just enough for him to see the myconid replica. Grusktooh picked the myconid up with one massive hand, and began waving it around, indicating to all of the other cyclopes in the vicinity of his capture. Just as Grusktooth was about to crush the myconid in his hand, Zaric unleashed two eldritch blasts at the dummy! The myconid replica exploded, unleashing mayonnaise into the cyclops’ eye. The giant screamed, grabbed at its eye, and stumbled backwards … right into Midzaynov’s unseen servant. Grusktooth lost his balance and fell ass-first onto a lighting fixture, causing the roar of dozens of cyclopses’ laughter to shake the very foundation of the Feydark itself.

Unfortunately, there was one enemy that the party was not able to fool. Catching onto Zaric’s second eldritch blast, a formorian made its hideous presence known, stomping directly for the F.I.A’s hiding spot! The party turned invisible and ran before the giant could use his massive hand to upturn the small section of road that they managed to hide under, barely escaping their dire straits. The session ended as the party returned to Penumbra Grove, excited to tell their tale to the myconids ...
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Session 35: Galas and Gaslighting
The session opened with the F.I.A ensnared in a perilous position. Thane Illamin, Raha al-Kharii, Phanalan, Teoshi al-Surai, and two dozen Janavian nobles had inadvertently triggered a trap in Teoshi’s basement during the Crystal Ball on the eve of the new year, trapping them inside as the room filled with poisonous gas! The rest of the F.I.A would need to quickly find a way to save their allies before they succumbed to the toxic fumes!

Surviving this trap would require both guile and cunning. Almost immediately after the trap sprung, the Janavian nobles began to clutch their throats and gasp for whatever breathable air was left in the chamber. They pressed their bodies against the door, pounding on the stone as they began to lose consciousness. Thane’s use of a misty step spell to get closer to the exit alerted Phanalan that the blacksmith that he had been speaking to before things went sideways had inherent magical potential. Unbeknownst that it was actually Thane in disguise, Phanalan began to launch spells at Thane instead of trying to find a way to escape! Teoshi announced to the choking crowd that the trap had sprung because the manor’s security systems had been triggered, and that she was going to the back of the chamber to activate something that would help them. She ran out of the range of Phanalan’s dancing lights and into the darkness.

Meanwhile, the rest of the F.I.A attempted to enter the basement. Two magically-sealed doors stood in their way: one directly behind the false bookcase on the main level of the estate, and another on the basement level. Wykeera, sharp as ever, cast stone shape twice on the walls adjacent to the magic doors to bypass them entirely! She entered the deadly chamber with Zari and Hagar following close behind. Soon after entering, the Zeharian stonework began to magically knit itself shut, trapping most of the F.I.A in the basement once again. Midzaynov, who had missed her opportunity to enter the chamber before the stonework had shut itself, teleported inside with the assistance of Ghara’s dimension door spell. Reunited, the F.I.A was ready to tackle the situation head-on.

Wykeera cast a daylight spell to completely illuminate the darkened chamber. Zari discovered Teoshi’s unmoving form near the back of the chamber and ran to her. Teoshi’s arm was inside of a hole in the wall; Zari removed Teoshi’s arm, reached her own arm into the hole, and discovered a hidden lever! Pulling it, hidden vents in the basement’s walls suddenly opened, providing an exit for the gas that had accumulated in the chamber. Meanwhile, Midzaynov used her time to inspect the statue in the center of the chamber. She determined that while it probably was not directly related to the trap, there was evidence that another statue once stood in its place.

After disabling the magical locks that held the door of the basement shut with the help of Nurata’s bardic inspiration from the other side of the door, most of the room’s inhabitants had fallen unconscious from the onslaught of poison gas. The gas shifted in type during the encounter, challenging the party’s physical and mental attributes alike. Eventually, only Hagar and Ghara were left standing after a dramatic showdown with Phanalan ended with the sorcerer unconscious. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Hagar finally pulled the door to the chamber open with his brute strength alone! Yalban guards rushed into the room and began to rescue the survivors.

In the trap’s aftermath, Teoshi’s body was discovered. Wykeera determined that Teoshi had succumbed to her own poison gas. Upon discovering this, Sisava became inconsolable; she began lashing out at the guards, Phanalan, and the F.I.A. Zari cast a calm emotions spell to try to mollify her - strangely, it had no effect. Midzaynov used the last charge of her headband of thoughts to read Sisava’s mind, and learned that her inner monologue in that moment was not based in emotion in the slightest. Through crocodile tears, she asked the crowd if her mother’s fate would befall all who attempted to free their slaves in the city. On the sidelines of the spectacle, Hagar word-vomited at Ghara in an awkward attempt at normal human conversation. Ghara was curious, tipsy, and looking for a way to get Hagar to stop talking. She quickly kissed Hagar, and walked into the cool night air.

Phanalan was promptly arrested and brought to Qadira Prison for temporary holding. He was followed by Bernadette, Voriombor, and the F.I.A. Midzaynov turned invisible to eavesdrop on Bernadette and Vorimbor, who were whispering to each other in the prison’s atrium. Midi learned from the pair that Phanalan’s symptoms of madness were not new, and had apparently been getting worse as of late. Thane and Midi (invisibly) followed Phanalan to his holding cell. The pair learned that the cell was warded by an antimagic field, and that Phanalan himself was not sure if he had perpetuated the crimes that he had been accused of.

The F.I.A was torn about what to do next. Wykeera wanted to leave for the feywild immediately, while Thane and the others wanted to tackle the trial of the sphinx. Hagar was strongly considering staying in Yalba for the time being to watch over the city while it recovered. Wykeera spoke with Lyndra, who told her that it would be a difficult task to reach the Queen of Air and Darkness, and that journey itself was part of the trial that the queen had in mind for her. Atka demonstrated to Thane that she had apparently learned the scorching ray spell by almost ruining a perfectly good breakfast that she was in the process of cooking.

The session closed as the party walked northward through the city to seek the counsel of the royal family, unsure of their next course of action...
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Session 34: Starfall
The session began during the morning of Starfall with the F.I.A exchanging their holiday gifts. Joined by Atka and Quespa, the adventurers sat on a circle of pillows within their new abode in the Gold District. Gifts were given, laughs were had, and joy was shared. Thane gifted his fellow party members with magically-imbued business cards that provided a small boost to their power. Midzaynov gave Zari an enchanted journal that could only be opened with the sound of her voice. Within the journal’s pages was an updated Letter of Recommendation from House Maldren that officially added Zari as a member of the F.I.A. Midzaynov gifted Thane with a copy of his first book that included a forward from the recently-crowned Sultan Abdul al-Kharii to support the Firan release. Zari gave each of her companions three hundred gold pieces worth of diamonds, essentially granting each of them with an extra chance to avoid passing into Kielel’s warm embrace before it was their time with the help of her revivify spell. Wykeera offered to awaken Deductible, Hagar’s stalwart squirrel companion, and set off to begin the eight-hour casting process once she received an answer in the affirmative. Hagar gave his companions crudely constructed busts made of baklava, and announced his plan to re-make the Levithan’s Pit into a government-sanctioned fighting pit dubbed the FIAting Pit, a name given by Wykeera’s unfortunate suggestion.

During the day, Hagar threw flaming barrels off of the roof of their new home and Zari caught them because she is resistant to fire damage. Starfall! Hagar used to do this tradition in Yalba by burning down entire houses. This behavior probably came from Bana-Kye.

That evening, the F.I.A invited the rest of their friends and allies to exchange gifts. A cornucopia of people made an appearance. The crew of Dak's Axes (And We Also Sell Swords), the Cobalt Company, and many others took part in the festivities. During the gathering, Aldritch revealed to the F.I.A that he was engaged to a Galmranian lass named Laura, and that he had accepted an opportunity to act as the captain of the Yalban guard for the time being. Zari was officially inducted into the F.I.A., and told the party that she wished to continue adventuring with them. All in all, far too many gifts were given to recount here, and I refuse to spend even one more second mentioning them.

Raha, between bites of star-shaped cookies, agreed that Hagar's idea of a government-sanctioned fighting pit could help to raise the quality of life for those who lived outside the walls - if it was done right, that is. About midway through the evening celebration, Wykeera and Deductible made their way downstairs. The squirrel spoke to the party for the first time with the aid of Wykeera's magic, and revealed his tragic backstory: a pack of wolves had killed his parents mere days before Hagar found him in Drasek. The F.I.A also became acquainted with Ghara, the stern sorcerer/mercenary daughter of Artificer Saadia. Before the night could come to a close, the party received a parcel that contained premium invitations to Teoshi’s ball. Hagar recalled that premium tickets are reserved for Teoshi’s close friends, and provided access to an "after dark" version of the ball after midnight that typically involves doing hard, hard drugs. The next day, Wykeera visited Galene, her nereid mentor and friend. Galene warned her to be careful while she was in the Feywild, and told her of the Peacewaters, a neutral region of the Feywild that once served to heal the wounded and weary.

The night of the gala quickly approached. The party bought Janavian cocktail attire, had a quick discussion weighing the pros and cons of exposing Teoshi's murder dungeon, and walked confidently into the brisk winter air. Their first snag hit them as they reached the front of the entry line: Kriv, who was acting as a bouncer, told the F.I.A that weapons were not allowed inside. The F.I.A slightly faltered in their persuasion, and Hagar’s magic hammer was confiscated!

The adventurers, now allowed entry into the gala, were immediately taken by the ambiance. The outer chambers of the estate were filled with the sound of light social chatter and the smell of fresh lavender. Teoshi's estate - a building purposefully designed to resemble a Zeharian ruin - had been specially prepared for the evening. Slaves lined each wall with cocktails and appetizers in hand. Would-be socialites spoke amongst themselves as the party arrived, hoping to curry favor. Sensing her impending social anxiety, Midzaynov immediately downed a glass of champagne. As the F.I.A mingled with the party-goers, they noticed that certain members of Iomine (Phanalan, Vorimbor, Bernadette) were in attendance, as well as Nurata and Shivalis. Hagar noticed that Pakt was in charge of security for the event, and approached her. He asked her if she was okay with the F.I.A exposing Teoshi at her gala tonight. The gang leader gave a belly laugh, told Hagar that she had no idea what he was talking about, and urged him to enjoy the party.

Thirty minutes later, Teoshi made a grand entrance at the top of the balcony in the Crystal Ballroom with a large serpent coiled across her shoulders. She dramatically introduced her daughter, Sisava, who bore a striking resemblance to her mother. Teoshi then made the announcement that she was freeing all of her slaves, effective immediately. With a wave of her hand, all of her servants’ shackles dropped to the floor. The crowd was agog. Teoshi explained that she had felt the winds of change blowing in Yalba for some time now, but with the F.I.A’s victory over Auntie Ashheart, it was now time for her to take the first steps in combating the evils of the slave trade. Teoshi also mentioned that she would be happy to stay at the forefront of any groups of power that supported the freeing of slaves. Once Teoshi’s eye-catching pronouncement was over, the ball began in earnest. As Teoshi walked away from the balcony, Midzaynov used her Headband of Thoughts to read Teoshi’s mind. As Teoshi turned a sideways glance to the crowd beneath her, she thought to herself “that should keep me safe.”

Zari began to dance with Sisava, who looked to be about her age. While they spun in the center of the crowded ballroom, Sisava casually asked Zari if she came from a rich family, and lost all interest in the conversation when Zari replied in the negative. Zari asked if they had met before. Sisava shook her head and told her that she had been out of town for a very long time. Midzaynov used another charge of her headband to read Sisava’s thoughts; she was condescendingly analyzing Zari as they twirled and conversed. Midzaynov noticed Nurata talking to Shivalis, the latter of whom darted off to another area of the party once they finished speaking. Midzaynov danced with the ebony-skinned aasimar, who moved with a practiced grace.

During this time, Wykeera did her absolute best to not cause a scene. For better or worse, the rest of the F.I.A had other plans. Thane disguised himself as both Rafiq and a Galmrankan blacksmith named Zaerok to lure Teoshi away from the gala to the parlor where they had first met. Meanwhile, Zari focused her efforts on Phanalan. Phanalan seemed to be more unstable than usual; he could not catch his breath, and was relieved to have an excuse to leave the crowded space when Zari approached him. In the parlor, Thane found an excuse to step out while disguised as Zaerok, and then twinned his dominate person scroll. His magics overcame both Teoshi’s and Phanalan’s willpower; they both became enslaved to Thane’s will! Without hesitation, Thane had his thralls re-enter the ballroom. Phanalan announced to the ball from the top of the marble balcony that they were on their way to Teoshi’s secret basement, and invited the entire room to join them there for “a surprise.” Teoshi affirmed this, and then began to make out with Phanalan. The two controlled individuals bypassed Teoshi’s secret chamber entrance behind the false bookcase with a whispered command word. Teoshi, Phanalan, and two dozen nobles hurried down into the basement area, including Raha al-Kharii, at Zari’s request.

From his perch near the secret opening behind the bookcase, Thane sensed that party-goers were not having the reaction that he had anticipated. He then realized that there was no light inside of the basement chamber. To rectify this, he had Phanalan cast dancing lights to illuminate the space. The two dozen nobles still seemed more confused than horrified, so Thane descended the ladder to find the basement not at all as it was described by Wykeera over a month ago. The hundreds of snakes that Wykeera had told the F.I.A about were not present. Stacked against the ancient walls were several mundane crates and barrels, dusty and cobweb-ridden. Standing in the center of the room was a tall, bulky object covered by a white sheet. With the last of the time remaining on the dominate person spell, Thane commanded Phanalan to remove the sheet. As he did, Teoshi regained her senses and cried “No! The security syst-” as gouts of purple gas began to rise from the floor. The doors to the cellar closed with a heavy thud as the occupants of the basement began coughing and clutching their throats …
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Session 33: Of Gods and Kings [Expanse Epilogue]
The session opened in the Diamond Bazaar mere moments after the F.I.A had vanquished the demon witch Auntie Ashheart and saved Yalba from a demonic incursion. The party immediately split up to ascertain the whereabouts of their allies. Midzaynov set off to search for Aldritch, and eventually found him outside the city walls. The wyvern had successfully caught her paladin friend, but he had succumbed to his wounds before she arrived. Midzaynov had no magics that could bring the dead back to life, and too much time had passed for Zari to use revivify. Midzaynov carefully positioned Aldritch onto her back, and made a somber trek to the Temple of Kielel.

Wykeera and Thane made their way to the Sultan’s Palace. Inside, they found the body of Farza al-Kharii, one of Abdul’s younger brothers. The adventurers confirmed Raha and Abdul’s safety, and then followed a long trail of blood into a throne room. They discovered the sultan, whose corpse had been disfigured beyond recognition. The adventurers broke the news of their father’s passing to Abdul and Raha, who bore their grief in different ways. Looking over Atka, Thane asked how much money it would cost to buy a slave. Picking up on his intent, Raha said that she would draw up the necessary paperwork to have Atka freed.

Meanwhile, Hagar took on a task of even greater importance: terrifying the owner of Belet’s Baklava. In his defense, it was likely unintentional. Hagar inquired about buying the store from the tiefling who owned it, who was unaware that the danger that faced the city had passed. Hagar spent a few moments touting the amazing deeds that the party had accomplished to random citizens as they passed by, demonstrating his immense pride in the sixty foot tall spear that had embedded itself into the cobblestone of the district from their previous battle.

Zari went to check on her family at the Temple of Kielel. They were unharmed, but busy - the temple had been converted into an impromptu infirmary during the assault on the city, and many wounded lay strewn across tables and pews alike. Zari helped her family by tending to the injured as best she could until Midzaynov arrived with her fallen aasimar friend. When Tulsi pronounced Aldritch as deceased, Midzaynov began to cry. Quespa attempted to comfort her, and was pulled into a tear-strewn embrace. The party agreed to attempt a raise dead spell within the next few days with Tulsi’s aid, who cast a gentle repose spell on their fallen ally to keep the body preserved in the interim. When the party informed the Cobalt Company of Aldritch’s passing, their reactions were varied. For Shivalis, Aldritch’s death was the last straw in a long list of events in which the F.I.A had caused her allies harm. When they heard of the F.I.A’s plan, Zaeshir and Lidda focused their worry on if Aldritch would even want to return to life. Zaeshir admitted that none of them knew Aldritch as well as they wish they had, and that his drinking problem hinted at a darkness that may interfere with Tulsi’s divine magic.

Meanwhile, Hagar took some baklava to Raha in the Sultan’s Palace. While it was a bit stale, the princess greatly appreciated the chance to decompress after the life-or-death battle that had just taken place. The two humans ate baklava on the princess’ bed and mused about Hagar's true lineage until a knock rang out at the door. Behind it, Hagar discovered, was his brother Malkar! He explained to Hagar that he was here as part of the Galmranian relief effort for the city, and asked to speak to his wife alone for a moment. Hagar left the room, anxious about the implications of his brother’s presence in Yalba.

Three days later, Sultan Abdul al-Kharii gave a grand pronouncement at The Furnace. He spoke of the dangers that Yalba now faced in the aftermath of the attempted fiendish invasion. Abdul explained that witnesses saw the dao Calvinia unleash a wickedly strong earthquake beneath the city’s barracks in the initial stages of the attack, causing the majority of Yalba’s military presence to be wiped out in an instant. The sultan then gestured to the empire soldiers who flanked him, and explained that their Galmranian allies would be bolstering their military forces in this time of need. Then, Abdul rewarded the F.I.A for their deeds for the city. The adventurers received platinum, medals, and a new home in the Gold District to replace the one that had been destroyed during the attack.

A few hours later, the F.I.A was shown their new property. Nestled comfortably in the Gold District, the manor featured high glass windows and intricate stone archways. When they opened the doors to their new abode, they were faced with Abdul’s final gift: several courtesans of every race and gender who were available for conversation or intimate activities upon request. The party was flabbergasted, but decided to engage in pleasant banter with the courtesans. The night was proceeding somewhat normally until Thane spiked the wine with the Philter of Love that they had pilfered from the Palace of Pleasure. A farcical night ensued, in which each member of the F.I.A regarded one of the chamber’s inhabitants as their true love … at least for a time. Thane spent his evening with tiefling triplets, and promptly forgot their names when the sun came up.

Over the course of the next few days, the party ran various errands. Hagar had a tense conversation with Malkar in his new office in The Spires. The barbarian did not trust his brother’s intentions for coming to Yalba, and some old wounds were re-opened. With Meekroot’s help, Wykeera continued to use stone shape to recreate the wall that once contained a fey crossing beneath the streets of Yalba. Midzaynov messaged her mother and negotiated with a gnome by the name of Gerrbat, a member of a minor archaeological society within the city. She convinced him to excavate the archalium sarcophagus within Auntie Ashheart’s old lair without alerting Iomine, to use Bip and Bap as laborers, and to deliver it wholesale to Artificer Saadia in the Sultan’s Palace.

When the time for the raise dead ritual was at hand, Tulsi and her daughter made the necessary preparations; they burned incense, drew the necessary arcane runes, and provided the requisite diamonds. The members of the F.I.A and Cobalt Company took turns attempting to petition Aldritch’s soul to return to his body. Midzaynov tearfully insisted that Aldritch’s work in this world was not yet done, and Hagar apologized for his terrible first impression of him. Shivalis took a turn speaking to Aldritch as well, but whispered her message into the corpse’s ear. Zari, perceptive as ever, was able to pick up on a few phrases during her pleas, chief among them that “the plan is not done yet,” and “there is still too much to do to rest now.” Once the spell’s magic had been released, there was a long pause before Aldritch shot up from the table and asked everyone why he was being stared at. Midzaynov hugged her friend, and relief spread throughout the chamber, as infectious as Aldritch’s laugh.

Over the next several days, the F.I.A mused over what they had learned. They asked themselves: What was Shivalis whispering to Aldritch about? What was Galmran thinking by sending military over to help the city? What was the empire’s intent? These questions and more swarmed through the adventurer’s minds as they walked to the Yalban Auction House, ready once again to bid on new items of arcane creation. Several magic items were bought at the auction, including a Saddle of the Cavalier, a Headband of Intellect, a Clasp of Proof Against Detection and Location, and a Circlet of Thoughts. Hagar attuned to the headband for a brief moment and found himself unable to enter his barbaric rage. The party immediately begged for him to remove it.

Midzaynov then paid a visit to Heskan, who she had not seen since their argument several days ago. Within Heskan’s chambers, Midzaynov noticed that the excessive items that had once adorned the space had been removed. Not five words were spoken between them before Heskan began a long apology. He explained to Midzaynov that the nightmares that were implanted in his mind that had caused him to act so strangely involved her. He had been sent on a pilgrimage from the dragonborn city of Kel in the north to spread the teachings of the Scaled Protector, but quickly ran into trouble when he arrived in Yalba. There were very few dragonborn in the city, the established temple was in a dangerous part of the city, and he lacked the charisma to truly influence Gavriel’s followers in a way that he felt was meaningful. In his nightmares, he explained, Midzaynov took over for his inequities, and led the church into a new state of success that he would never have been able to achieve on his own. Heskan explained that he believed that his holy mission from the Scaled Protector involved him protecting her flock and elevating their lives, and to be replaced in that mission meant that his life had no purpose. The night hag’s malignant influence had conflagurated his insecurities and poisoned his mind. Midzaynov gave Heskan a new pair of prayer beads made of residual archalium scrap. She explained that it was to serve as a reminder of his internal self-worth, and that a wealth of material belongings did not equate spiritual wealth. Heskan smiled, and asked if Midzaynov wanted to undertake her official paladin oath.

One day later, Midzaynov took her oath of redemption. Reciting the tenants of the Scaled Protector, a holy light surrounded the dragonborn. In that moment, the newly-sworn champion received a vision of a tall, angel-like being. A divine voice asked for Midzaynov to be her instrument in a world full of evil. It warned that there were those with strong ties to Kar’duuth in the region, and to silence their rituals. Midzaynov accepted, and a new paladin was created.

In a task of equal importance, Thane utilized ancient magics of great and terrible power to buy hard drugs. Appearing through the teleportation circle within the circle of the Iron Circle, Felsira’s foremost pirate faction, Thane inquired about the drugs that Zaeshir had mentioned in the Wyvern’s Rest Inn several weeks ago. He learned that the drugs were highly addictive, imbued with dangerous magic, and bore the name Death’s Dirge. Thane bought two doses of Death’s Dirge, and spent the rest of the day tracking down the elf who could operate the teleportation circle. As he left, Thane recited the motto of the Iron Circle with another member. “No Gods, no Kings.”

One day later, Hagar organized and attended a historic meeting between a few members of the F.I.A, Sultan Abdul al-Kharii, the leader of the Pit Vipers, and their various bodyguards. The place of assembly was as dramatic as it was symbolic: the ashy remains of the Leviathan's Pit. Utilizing both his knowledge of governmental structures from his Sidunian education and his own wealth of experience from living in Yalba's shanty towns, Hagar made a passionate argument for establishing a Yalban parliament and reducing the city's reliance on slave labor. Pakt, who lived outside the city’s walls, would gain significant political clout in exchange for reduced income from the slave trade. Abdul would gain a foothold towards abolishing the slave trade, but risked diluting his political influence and isolating the nobles who relied on slave labor. In the end, despite the risks, both parties agreed to support the creation of a parliament.

Back at the Temple of Kielel, Zari had a fated encounter with a man whom she would only learn later was her grandfather. Urilesh, a dashing tiefling man who did not appear to be any older than thirty, entered the temple and commanded that Zari answer two questions. He demanded to know how close she was to being able to kill him, and the location of the rest of her siblings. They fought briefly, and Zari was quickly overpowered. Tulsi appeared in the doorway to the chamber, causing Urilesh to teleport away with a smirk. Zari’s mother tended to her wounds and led her into the temple’s basement chambers. There, Tulsi explained that the man she had just fought was responsible for the fiendish heritage running through their bloodline. Shortly after the Arrival, Urilesh made a deal with the archdevil Krynora. In exchange for great and terrible arcane power, Urilesh cursed his future family. Zari learned that the reason that her family members lived unusually short lives is because of this curse: the years that are cut short from Misza family are added to Urilesh’s lifespan, hence his youthful appearance. Finally, Tulsi revealed to her daughter that she had more siblings than just Hamza; they had been sent away at a young age to keep them safe from Urilesh. Accompanied by a vision from Kielel herself, Tulsi bequeathed Zari with the Cryptkiller Flail - a magic weapon passed down through the Misza family.

The F.I.A’s adventure thus far had not been an easy one. Over four months ago, the surviving members of the F.I.A were tasked to find a Janavian prince after demonstrating their worth by fending off assassins at the wedding of Malkar Terroc and Raha al-Kharii. They met Zari Misza, a cleric of the Matron of Souls and minor authority figure within the city of Yalba, Janav’s capital city. The adventurers traveled across the Great Expanse, the world’s largest desert. From there, their journey would take them everywhere from the sacrificial basements of the super-rich to the largest fighting pit in the country as they searched for the missing prince. They would meet old enemies in a new light, become enslaved in a lamia’s torture palace, and fend off a shadow creature that rivaled even Xeridal in their sheer might.

Once Prince Abdul was recovered, a new plot would unfurl: that of the grim nightmares that had been plaguing the major members of Yalba’s clergy. The F.I.A uncovered the presence of a night hag within the city - a fiend with the power to instill doubt and fear in her victims to the point of absolute corruption. A game of cat and mouse ensued, in which the ethereally-bound fiendish forces attempted to kill the F.I.A before their plot could be halted. Botanical buildings were destroyed, catacombs were explored, and the lair of the night hag Auntie Ashheart was eventually located. The hag was battled once beneath Yalba’s streets and once more above them. The battle for the soul of Yalba ended in climactic fashion with the hag smote far above the city by a would-be paladin of the Scaled Protector.

Over the course of their desert-bound adventure, the party had grown more powerful in both might and bond. New monsters were discovered and defeated for the greater good, several magical implements were added to the F.I.A’s inventory to bolster their strength, and a new member of the party had been all but officially inducted into the party’s ranks. After being pushed to their absolute limits both physically and mentally from the literal and psychological torture that their enemies had put them through, the party desperately needed the space to heal. As the session drew to a close, the F.I.A collected themselves in the central living area of their new home. Their newest mission: to laugh, love, and celebrate life with their closest friends over Starfall.

And celebrate they did.
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Session 32: Ashes to Ashes
As the sun began to set on a day that would be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in Janav’s long and bloody history, the F.I.A found themselves caught in a maelstrom. Crimson-cloaked members of the Bloodbroods and crazed cultists of Yelpech swarmed the streets of Yalba, striking at citizens with dagger and spell alike! Meanwhile, the demon witch Auntie Ashheart had taken to the sky, muttering an incantation as storm clouds began to gather around her! The only clue that the party of adventurers had of what plots were lurking under the surface of this attack was Princess Raha al-Kharii’s warning that the forbiddance spell that protected the palace’s grounds from fiends and undead had been suddenly dispelled. Faced with their greatest peril to date, the F.I.A sprung into action to save as much of the besieged city as they could!

The party split up in order to cover more ground. Thane, Hagar, and Wykeera rocketed into the sky. Their goal: steal Auntie Ashheart’s heartstone to prevent her escape. Meanwhile, unsure of the fate of many of their allies, Midzaynov and Zari sprinted towards the Sultan’s Palace. As the dragonborn and tiefling champions bolted through the city streets, they picked up on two vital pieces of information. Firstly, death dogs and gnolls alike seemed to be emanating from the Victory District, snapping their jaws at any who came too close. Secondly, their enterprising friend Dak was currently in the midst of frantically hawking to the entirety of Merchant’s Row the items that he currently had in the greatest supply: the absolute deluge of lightly used weaponry that the F.I.A had brought back with them from the Palace of Pleasure and given to Dak upon request.

Wykeera, Thane, and Hagar shot towards their target with resolute intent. About one hundred feet away from Auntie Ashheart, the party noticed that hundreds of emaciated vines were floating in a wide radius around her. Soon after, their fortunes took a turn for the worse. Hagar had an earthbind spell cast on him, Thane’s fly was dispelled, and Wykeera was blasted with magic missile. All three party members began to plummet to the ground. Wykeera cast a gust of wind straight downward, cushioning her fall. Thane grabbed onto Hagar while the barbarian was being dragged down by Auntie Ashheart’s magics, preventing a fatal fall. Thane cast fly once again and landed a few hits on Auntie Ashheart with his eldritch blast, but his fly was dispelled once again. Wykeera let loose Saadia’s Feather Token, releasing a gargantuan roc that caught Thane before he could plummet to the ground yet again. Hagar took off once Auntie Ashheart’s magics were dispelled and caught up with Thane in the vicinity above the hag. Hagar used his Snake of Climbing to temporarily tame the gargantuan bird, Thane attempted to invoke Moroden’s aid in the coming skirmish, and the two airborne adventurers strafed out of range to prepare their next steps.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party hastened to the Sultan’s Palace. As they charged, they became aware that a building had suddenly collapsed somewhere within The Spires. Aldritch Xanroc, wounded and bloodied, was holding the bridge that led into the palace proper when they arrived. Within the palace’s atrium, the party encountered Eldon, Raha’s other retainer. Zari intuited that Eldon’s intentions were malicious, and a fight broke out; her former ally had apparently been swayed by some dark influence! After a brief skirmish, and Eldon used dimension door to teleport away. The party sought out Artificer Saadia, who was barricaded in her tower. The party persuaded her to join them, and they set off to find prince Abdul al-Kharii. After searching through several passageways, they found him in dire straits. At the end of a long corridor, the party found a force of cultists and Bloodbroods alike facing down Rashad and Abdul, who were desperately outnumbered. Fireballs and other magics rang out as the party attempted to save the besieged prince and his retainer!

Several prominent moments stood out in this skirmish. Rashad defended the prince like a madman with his spear, cutting down several cultists. Eldon launched a fireball at the party, greatly compounding their wounds from their previous battle with Auntie Ashheart earlier that day. Abdul sparred with the cultists with a surprising amount of speed and agility, at one point disarming one and stabbing him with his own knife. Yeron, the new leader of the Bloodbroods after Thyrias’ death, was embarrassingly ineffectual at fighting the party. Kilvan and a black horse wreathed in red flame appeared out of the Ethereal Plane to snatch Abdul away, but they were thwarted. Artificer Saadia killed Eldon with a high-powered magic missile. The battle was bloody and decisive - the F.I.A was victorious! Once the dust had settled, Abdul revealed himself to be Fazil, who had used his changeling heritage to disguise himself and protect the prince. The clergy member in the back who was supporting his allies with long-range spells removed their veil to reveal that they were, in fact, Abdul al-Kharii. Thanking his saviors, the beleaguered prince warned the party that his father might be in danger. Aware that there may be spies in the Ethereal Plane watching them at this very moment, Rashad hinted to the party that there might be something in The Furnace that could help them fight back against Auntie Ashheart, who was still hundreds of feet in the air and out of their reach. The party decided to not check on Abdul’s father or Raha, opting instead to rush to The Furnace to search for aid. On their way out, the adventurers picked up Sekmet al-Id and Aldritch Xanroc and all rushed to the fighting pit together.

Meanwhile, the boys were getting into some nonsense. Hagar and Thane continued to assail the witch, who defended herself by casting a plant growth spell to enlarge the vines that levitated around her to form a humongous spherical entity made of living plants. At the same time, the adventurers saw that Calvinia was making a beeline towards them with eyes that glowed red with murderous intent! Hagar and Thane responded by commanding the roc to use its great talons to latch onto the night hag’s plant-based shield and propel the entire thing northward. To everyone’s surprise, their gambit worked. The entire plant-based fortress began to slowly move towards the city’s walls. As an unexpected consequence, Calvinia became entangled in the vines, unable to escape! Auntie Ashheart retorted by summoning a deluge of demons. Massive gorilla-like fiends used the writhing vines to swing up at their targets, and a vulture-like fiend with razor sharp talons sailed through the air towards the multicolored bird that now eclipsed the sun! Hagar responded by pulling out the sixty foot-long spear that Thane had created using Auntie Ashheart’s Miraculous Pigments, and leapt off the bird to strike down upon them! Hagar sunk his oversized spear into the shoulder of one of the demons, but was quickly rebuked by the fiend’s overwhelming strength. The fiends began to close in on Thane and Hagar as storm clouds and rolling thunder gathered above them …

At the same time, the other party members arrived in The Furnace with Artificer Saadia, Sekmet, and Aldritch in tow. The various creatures that were held beneath the fighting pit had been let loose, and were fighting both cultist and guard alike. The party came upon two wounded wyverns that were futilely thrashing against their chains. Midzaynov spoke draconic to one creature, and, with the help of Sekmet’s divinatory magic, convinced it to temporarily aid them in their battle against Auntie Ashheart. Midzaynov broke its chain with her hammer, mounted the creature, and was shortly joined by Aldritch. Wykeera failed to tame the other wyvern with her druidic inclinations, but Zari’s calm emotions spell allowed them to ride for the moment. Sekmet and Saadia cast various fly spells on the party as an extra layer of protection, and the wyverns shot up into the sky.

By the time that the wyverns arrived, the situation above the city had dramatically worsened. Auntie Ashheart had cast a call lightning spell that buffeted both Thane and Hagar, who were now outnumbered; both adventurers had been knocked unconscious by the onslaught of fiendish might. As the rest of the party approached on their winged steeds, Auntie Ashheart’s lightning turned from a bright electric white to a midnight black. She croaked at the party as they approached: “You absolute fools, meddling in affairs you cannot possibly understand. My original intent was to kidnap your precious prince and have him commit a public suicide to throw this city into chaos. It was Siaval who was to see that the final light of hope in this city was extinguished. But now, I see the truth. You have become the hopes of Yalba. When you die here, as loudly and publicly as possible, the soul of Yalba will be mine, and I will spread your carcasses to all four corners of the Expanse!” The F.I.A tightened their grips on their weapons. The final phase of their struggle for the soul of Yalba had begun!

Zari and Wykeera’s wyvern flew directly towards the roc in order to heal their allies. Zari cast a blight spell as she passed by the ball of vines, greatly decreasing their ability to hamper her allies’s movement! Wykeera managed to stabilize Hagar with her fey magics, but it was too late for Thane. By the time that they reached their changeling companion, he had already expired from his wounds. Zari cast the revivify spell on Thane, pulling his soul from Kielel’s warm embrace once again.

Midzaynov and Aldritch’s wyvern shot straight for the sickly heart in the middle of the maelstrom itself: Auntie Ashheart. During their flight, they felt that the fly spells from Sekmet and Artificer Saadia had been lost. Something was clearly happening in The Furnace, but the party was too far away to tell what it was. Weaving through arcs of necrotic lightning that threatened to topple them from their mount, the two paladins soared towards their target. At the same time, Calvinia finally broke free of her bindings and rushed to intercept them. Calvinia took two mighty swings with her maul, causing Aldritch to hurtle towards the ground. Midzaynov commanded that her mount dive down to catch the unconscious aasimar, and leapt forward to strike at Calvinia with all of her might. Instead of connecting with the dao’s form, however, something unexpected happened. Thane’s djinn patron, sensing the imminent conflict with his rival, materialized just in the nick of time to give Midzaynov the requisite wind-based momentum to carry her to the hollow center of Auntie Ashheart’s makeshift lair. Midzaynov would have one chance to kill the witch before she began to plummet back to the ground. Mustering every ounce of her remaining strength, she brought her Hammer of Kar’duuth down on Auntie Ashheart’s form and unleashed the mightiest divine smite that she could! Midzaynov’s channeled holy powers proved to be too much for the fiend, who fell onto one of the now-deteriorating vines beneath her with a blinding flash of light. Midzaynov braced herself for the inevitable fall to earth, but she somehow remained aloft. Looking behind her, a pair of multicolored dragon wings had sprouted from her back. Looking ahead, her Hammer of Kar’duuth was shining brighter than it ever had before. Midzaynov floated down to the form of the dead hag and retrieved her heartstone as the evil being’s raiments began to disintegrate into ash.

Meanwhile, Calvinia continued her struggle against Moroden. Finally conscious and in the presence of his mighty patron, Thane willed a small cloud to form beneath him and act as a method of temporary flight. Infused with his patron’s full power, Thane unleashed a shocking grasp that was so powerful that it disintegrated the dao almost instantly. Still feeling the rush of might from his patron, Thane maneuvered towards the demon witch’s corpse. Something inside of him, equal parts integral and unidentifiable, compelled him to place a hand on her skin. Thane complied with his strange urge, and touched Auntie Ashheart’s cold flesh. When he tried to remove his hand, a sort of membrane came off with it, and began to attach itself to Thane’s skin! In a terrifying and sudden display, this cold membrane crawled itself over every inch of the changeling’s skin. By the time it was over, Thane had absorbed both new power and new understanding. He now had the ability to use his changeling heritage to create articles of clothing that he had seen before to increase his penchant at creating disguises. He also had the terrifying realization that changelings and hags are inextricably connected. Suddenly, the pieces of lore that Thane had picked up on his journeys began to click in his mind. He was not sure why, and he was not sure how. But Thane Illamin understood that he - and perhaps his entire race - owed their existence to that of hags.

While the immediate conflict seemed to have ended, several aspects of the attack still remained a mystery. What was Calvinia’s role in the attack? What became of the sultan, or Kilvan? How could such a large cultist presence gone undetected in the city for so long? These thoughts and more raced through the adventurers’ minds as they regrouped on top of their trusty roc. Waving from a balcony from the Sultan’s Palace was Raha al-Kharii, Quespa, and, surprisingly, Kilvan! After a brief moment, however, Kilvan’s form shimmered and turned into that of Atka al-Safiri. Apparently, she had mastered the disguise self spell that Thane had recommended she focus on, and was able to keep both the princess and Midzaynov’s dragonborn ward safe during the attack. As the F.I.A soared above Yalba, they could see that the remaining cultists and Bloodbroods had suffered a devastating loss in morale with the death of Auntie Ashheart, and were in full retreat. Their unanswered questions would have to wait for another time - for now, the city was safe. The F.I.A descended towards the Diamond Bazaar, their silhouettes framed by a brilliant Yalban sunset.
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