Sklooh's brother Houpier shows up and makes a poor choice of entry ... but Sklooh hugs him anyway.

A GRIPPING TITLE GOES HERE

Session #48 & #49: A Promise Kept

The Pillarmen decided it probably wasn't the best idea to mess around with the Cataclysm territory. Instead, they decided to approach their meeting point with Adrian by the fastest route/method while still ensuring their safety. They skirted the wasteland and came within view of the Vardan capitol -- a mega-city metropolis on the coast near the edge of the mountains. A large and well-organized logging operation was underway near the Pillarmen at the edge of the forest. Strange mechanical contraptions were being used to bore into the woods at a level of efficiency and efficacy not seen by the likes of the party. Miles away, down a road used mainly for transporting lumber, the capitol stood looming with strange machines that could be seen even at this distance. Into the mountains, the Pillarmen saw steel tracks and some sort of automated long-carriages travelling to and from the city center. The port was bustling with large vessels (though not quite as numerous as the vessels of Cardel).

The party, after finding that the lumber operation was very heavily guarded with an entire army of Vardan personnel, decided to push further back into the woods and avoid the city entirely, making for the coast to the East swiftly. Lena, Sai, and Igan made a concerted effort to fly everyone to the meeting place, passing over the steel tracks that stretched eastward into the mountains and westward back to Varda. Eventually, they came to the area agreed upon by Adrian.

A few days earlier, Adrian had put in a transfer for Orin -- a high-level classified transfer document into the direct service of himself. Knowing that he had a certain amount of leverage on Orin that would assure his confidence and knowing that Orin's allegiances weren't wholly towards the Vardan king, Adrian decided to entrust him with the responsibility of reporting to him on the Pillarmen and their activities.

Adrian had a ship prepared to leave Arcatraz, and half-way to their destination, the small crew prepared a single-man vessel for Adrian and Orin to disembark on to conduct their classified business. Once they arrived at the shore, the two of them set up a low-impact camp and stayed their for a few days in wait. There was a single interruption. A Vardan scout, whose job it was to apparently patrol the shore near the capitol, stumbled upon them. He was quickly apprehended by the (inebriated) Orin, interrogated by Adrian, and told to suspend patrols of this area for the immediate future. Orin was told that any more uninvited guests were to be killed, but only after questioning (if possible).

Once everyone was in place, a significant amount of time was spent ensuring the relative comfort of all those involved. They had to decide what to do with their Nihilstone to appease everyone's apprehension. Eventually it was decided that Orin's would be disposed of, and Adrian's would be placed on the ground at a distance, so that any threatening movements toward it would alert the Pillarmen, but would still be accessible if the party turned on him.

During the conversation that followed, Adrian sought to learn everything he could about Silas, revealing that his brother was an ambitious man in the upper echelons in the Vardan nobility, but suddenly disappeared after being invited into Conroy's inner-circle (as is not necessarily uncommon). Adrian says that he has reason to believe that Silas was involved his disappearance due to brief conversations he had with his brother before the induction. He wonders if his brother is still alive, but doubts it. Further, the disappearance of his brother was the final straw in turning his loyalties away from his old friend Conroy -- the strange alienation and secrecy, the hypocrisy of using magic on prisoners of the state, the brutal methods of establishing imperial legitimacy, etc. The only conviction that remains true in Adrian's mind is that non-magic beings would be better off if magic was eradicated.

Lena probed for information about the workings of Varda, but otherwise did not seek to discover anything of value. Other than, of course, information regarding Artel and Shah-Jahan. There was little to be said about the former -- Lena knew everything Adrian had to say about Artel (his arrogance, his heritage, his station, etc.). Her inquisition about Shah-Jahan, though, yielded much valuable information. This man who supposedly knew something about her father's location and/or condition was a renowned halfling within Varda. He was a brilliant inventor and innovator, employed as one of the primary chief architects in the capitol. Supposedly, the machines used to fell the forest as well as the "train" and the Admiral's flagship were all designed by him.

Sklooh asked if Adrian had investigated the fate of his lizardfolk kin, and received information that Vdriy, Suing, and Lotoc had been killed. Houpeir, Motzu were alive and near Varda, but nothing could be found of Suaco Vepeks.

During the discussion, it was discovered that the meeting was being watched. The group immediately engaged in battle with a band of onlookers. At least eight different seemingly unaffiliated bandits or assassins or bounty hunters were caught up in the fray, during which Irthir practiced a new summon to everyone's dismay. Eventually, though, all of the assailants were killed and captured. Upon questioning, the group found out that they were a band of professional bounty hunters gunning for Lena who had vastly underestimated their chances of success and were completely unprepared to stumble upon a Vardan military matter. In the end, though, the survivor was dispatched and Adrian thought it best that he take his leave. Orin was instructed to remain with the Pillarmen and report back to Adrian in cipher-coded messages and also told that messages for him would be left at any major Vardan postal center filed in with classified military mail.

The Pillarmen left the scene with their new member. Suddenly, a large Lizardfolk sprung up from the bushes and put a knife to Lena's throat. Sklooh immediately recognized as his brother Houpeir and allowed Lena to magically swap places with Sklooh. With his brother's blade now being held up to Sklooh, the large lizardfolk turned and engaged Houpeir in a human-embrace ritual.

Irthir summons a demon and aims it at bounty hunter archers ... with rather poor results.

Orin Linebreaker and Penelope reluctantly join the party.