The Burned Crow stood between us and, we suspected, Lydra Geb. We had hoped to use the Black Phoenix as a distraction for longer, but Azu-Makeen had not revealed himself; if we let him continue his rampage, it seemed increasingly likely that he would get to Lydra before us, so we engaged him and his men.
The Crow was accompanied by many powerful minions, but was himself the greatest threat; a powerful monk, his fists struck like hammers at our pressure points, leaving us shaken and weaken. We seemed to start at a tragic loss when he struck Lyr with a quivering palm strike; even though her fall filled us with righteous fury, the fight seemed hopeless until a miracle occurred. By the grace of Pelor, an error on the part of our foe, or some strange effect none of us comprehended, she rose and struck at our foe with divine rage. Balance was, for now, restored to the fight and, as the Phoneix henchmen fell, the odds shifted to our favor.
By this time, however, the Cobalt Crown’s security systems had taken note of the fight and a pair of glass golems joined the fray, viewing all of us as foes and lashing out with their jagged, razorlike fists.
We fought on despite poison and blood loss and the Crow’s debilitating strikes until his strength was nearly spent and he attempted to flee. Kong Day Li’s treachery revealed itself and the Crow knew he had been betrayed as I ran him through with my rapier.
As Cressida and Indira felled the last of the golems, Feng cut the Burned Crow’s head from his body; now crumbling with the loss of the magic and will that had sustained it. Suddenly, we were again surrounded, as Kong Day Li arrived with several squads of Black Phoenix warriors. He and Feng exchanged terse words and we were introduced to Sheng Ying, a hawk-headed kenku who would now be the master of the Black Phoenix. It became quite clear that, though we had just dispatched their twisted master, we would not be seen as allies in future encounters.
After they departed, we investigated further, encountering several small groups of Cobalt Crown agents who proved no match for our combined strength. We discovered some potentially valuable sources of information, such as an apparently unfinished counterpart to the Glass Artifact and a strange magical apparatus that we suspected may have been a prototype of these artifacts. Additionally, we collected pages of an experimental journal and some correspondence involving a “JE”.
We freed a fire elemental that had been entrapped for use as a sort of magical battery; after its release it communed with Feng. He explained that it had tested him, though what that meant, none of us truly understood.
Most importantly, we found Lydra, apparently well and nearly unharmed.
We continued our search, hitting dead ends, until Sehera, frustrated at milling about, flew into a rage and obliterated one of the doors that stood in our way. We had discovered a treasure room and we pillaged it accordingly as Sehera caught her breath. Within, we discovered a peculiar key, which was able to open the other door that barred our exploration, a large, ceremonial door.
Within was a spiraling staircase, which lead to a large, ceremonial chamber, filled with Cobalt Crown agents, the great blue dragon Azu Makeen himself, and an Ancilla, apparently, his first successful creation.
The time had come to use the Tenrashinban, but still we had no understanding of its use. Fortunately, Nessisus had a moment of insight; it had been prophesized to us that “the blood of the king” would be the key, but the Tenrashinban was Harukan and in Haruka, there are no kings. There are, however, Shoguns, such as Shogun Norio Hokoru, the creator of the device.
Seeing no other choice, I used a wish from the Khatam Mahib Ghaza to give me the “ability to bind the four cardinal spirits with the Tenrashinban,” though I feared what that might mean. The power of the efreeti’s coursed through me and, when it was gone, I felt no change. However, I no longer looked the same; I was now of the bloodline of the Shogun.
I am no longer an heir to Hazred. My friends say that I mostly look the same, but I wonder if even my mother would recognize me? I am certain my father would not.
We burst into the ceremonial chamber, cutting through the Cobalt Crown agents surrounding the great beast. Up close, the dragon was a terror-inducing sight and I knew we were doomed if this encounter did not play out as we had hoped. The dragon mocked us and snatched me up in his jaws. The look of surprise that filled in his huge reptilian eyes when I jammed the Tenrashinban down his throat was a sight I will cherish.
In a cloud of magic, he was sucked into the compass and his agents immediately ceased their struggle, resigning themselves to die. A rumbling filled the structure and mud began to flood the room from dragon-mouthed spigots that we had seen lining all of the walls. The new Ancilla, however, did not give up; though her strength was fearsome and we were exhausted, she was no match for our combined might. As Lydra reclaimed her belongings from this woman, we located the Reliquary of Yadisunu, lying in a mandala on the floor that was rapidly being submerged by mud.
There seemed to be no exit, for the Warp Ring we had would not carry us all away and Ramal’s had been taken from him by his captors. We ran through the halls, looking for a way out, but the mud was growing so deep in places that Lyr had to be carried. The exquisite statuary that lined the halls was all coming to life, all golems.
It was Dendera who first suggested the magical array, the apparent protoype portal device. We investigated it and, when we felt we understood at least roughly how to use it, gave Ramal and Lydra our warp ring and much of what we had found of the Artifact, as well as my previous journal, to give to Claudia Lestoue (fortunately, I had grabbed a blank journal out of some sort of accounting office, since my old book had been filling up). Hopefully they will be able to get some use of the knowledge we have acquired.
Dendera seemed uncertain what to do, so I persuaded her to go with Ramal and Lydra; she had a mission to accomplish with the Khatam Mahib Ghaza and we did not even know if this device would work, let alone where it would take us. But, at the last second, she pushed away from Ramal and Lydra as they teleported to safety and joined us in our journey into the unknown…
Date and location unknown; the first night
We found ourselves on a beach at night, though it was barely midday when we had entered the portal array. We were all exhausted, however, and after washing the mud off in the warm ocean, we ate, set watch, and tried to catch some sleep.
Thoughts flit through my mind, as insubstantial as the warm breeze and the susurrus of the ocean. I am distracted by my own reflection; by the ramifications of the face that looks back at me. When I try to rub the exhaustion from my eyes, they feel wrong, no longer the same shape. I should learn Harukan. I should stay awake. Maybe if I just close my eyes for a few minutes.