Zg Session 66a

Your ship passes close to the scrub-brushed shore, weaving between looming stones that jut from the sea, some of them even higher than the vessel's sails. Hazy clouds and sea spray fade the island into a foggy grey, but somehow the crew navigates to a small pier.
The ride inland from the dock is brief and surprising. As you and the other passengers look out from your two carriages, the island looks wholly abandoned, and it's hardly an auspicious gathering place for a group as powerful as the Obscurati.
You've barely had a chance to meet or speak with the other guests—some priests from the Clergy, a Danoran, a dwarf from Drakr, even an elf from Risur, plus a few whose nationality you can’t place—but you all know Leone Quital, the steelshaper, who arranged your travel. It's been a convoluted route, but these precautions are necessary.
The drivers bring you down an overgrown dirt road, along a weed-choked reflecting pool, and finally pull to a stop just outside a run down mansion. Cracked and empty windows leer down at you, and even the plants that have taken over the estate are tattered and bug-chewed.
You spot two figures at the front door, and though the entry behind them is rotted, they are resplendent. A distinguished old tiefling, dressed like a head of state in a black silk suit and golden jewellery, is attended by a human in a loose coat. He whispers something to the tiefling, then lifts off the ground an ornate glass lantern the size of a small pumpkin.
"My apologies," says the tiefling. "One drawback of secrecy is that we have to carry our own luggage."
Xavier Sangria: "Travel lighter."
As you exit the two carriages, your drivers hand you each a heavy iron amulet on a cord, and once you've retrieved your luggage they drive off. The human with the lamp talks as he reaches into his coat and pulls out a small vial of oil.
"Lady, gentlemen, may I introduce Han Jierre, sovereign of Danor and one of the people you’ve been working for, whether you knew it or not."
The tiefling gives a slight smile to you, then works his way down the line of visitors, greeting you each with a handshake or a bow or a subtle blessed gesture, always appropriate to your culture, always comfortable and with the practiced ease of a seventeenth generation politician.
Han: "Leone, an honor to finally shake your hand. Monsignior Dexlano, Patre Hevny, Bishop Vigilio your grace. Monsignior Don. Oscan how's it going? Monsieur Guiscard, Herr Hetman, Miss Hatsfield, thank you for coming so far. Sir Sangria. It's a pleasure to meet you all." He nods to his assistant. "Bert, if you would?"
Bert has finished loading the lantern oil, and now he lights it with a quick strike of a match. A purple glow covers you, and your surroundings are spontaneously transformed. The cracked dusty ground is now also smooth and swept clean. The façade of the mansion is somehow both decayed and coated with pristine white plaster. And your small gathering has been joined by dimly visible figures on the periphery of the light's radius—armed men.
Xavier Sangria only has a well-beaten backpack for luggage, worn and stained from many years of hard use. "Your… Grace? Apologies, I'm not sure on the right, uh… title."
Han: "Everyone, please put on your amulets. While we're currently coterminous to the Bleak Gate, the amulet will pull you through to the other side over the course of five minutes. When our business here is over, you'll be returned to the real world via the same method. Please hold off on
Obscurati: any questions until we're safely on the other side. "
Xavier Sangria puts on the amulet.
Kiov Hetman quirks an eyebrow at Han, but holds his tongue. With a smirk.
Gran Guiscard leads with one hand forward, opposite foot forward as well, his other hand far off to the side for balance, and he leaaaaaaaaans back during his offering. His luggage is framed with gold, and has a new invention on it- wheels, and an attached handle for pulling.
Oscan puts the amulet on with the roll of a shrug.
As you each put on your amulet (including Han and Bert), you switch over into the Bleak Gate, and can now see a predominately dark world with a cloudless black sky. Only a small area is illuminated by lights from mansion windows and lamps beside the flower bushes that glow along the reflecting pool behind you.
Livia Hatfield lets out a tiny little puff of breath when the lantern lights, looking around, eyes a little wide- after a bit too long a moment of that, she puts on the amulet.
A dozen bookpin guards—distinguished by silver pins on their lapels that look like open books—stand just at the edge of the lantern's light radius.
Han: "Please pardon us as we perform a bit of security."
From outside the light radius a massive snake slithers in, at first inky black. The moment it gets into an area of bright light its scales turn a brilliant iridescent in reds, greens, and purples. It grasps the ground with short, stubby forelimbs, and its eyes glow like pale yellow suns.
Gran Guiscard 's amulet is hidden behind his fancy shirt. (The amulet doesn't match, you see…)
Livia Hatfield stares at the serpent, wide-eyed, wishing she had her sketchbook… (although that wouldn't really be appropriate, would it? Secrecy and all.)
Obscurati: The guards start to level their weapons, for one of the newly-arrived guests looks like someone completely different. Monsignior Dexlano, originally a heavy-set pale priest, now has a second face, that of a muscular, dark-skinned man. As he realizes his disguise has been pierced he reaches to tear off his amulet, but the serpent—called a shadowlisk—moves first. Its eyes flash with blinding light, and the man’s body starts to blacken and peel away while his shadow is slowly burned into the manor wall behind him.
Kiov Hetman sighs and raises his arms to his sides, expecting - quite a different procedure than what's happening here.
Oscan: "Hahahaha."
Xavier Sangria: "Well. I was gonna just give you my list of weapons. But uh. That's fine too, I guess."
Livia Hatfield gasps!
Obscurati: The other priests are panicked and confused.
Oscan: "This is way more entertaining!"
Bert starts shouting for people to stay away from the shadowlisk.
Han calmly grabs a nearby guard and tells him to fetch Vicemi, and the guard runs indoors.
Kiov Hetman: "Hah! Seems you've been had. Unsurprising."
Kiov Hetman: "Unfortunate, but in this line of work, you know."
Obscurati: 10 seconds later, the man has been disintegrated, leaving behind only a silhouette on the manor wall. That silhouette twitches slightly, as if it is somehow still alive. The shadowlisk slithers up to the wall and starts licking the silhouette’s fingers.
The other Clergy members demand answers, asking why the snake just murdered one of their fellow priests. The answer comes from the door as four spectral figures glide through.
Livia Hatfield is… is as far away from the shadowlisk as it's safe to be without vanishing into the depths of- wherever in the world they really are! (She's… still staring at the shadowlisk in morbid curiosity, though.)
Xavier Sangria stays focused on the shadowlisk with perfect clarity now that the fireworks are over. His hands are both tucked under his cloak, doubtless gripping weapon hilts.
Obscurati: Three of the ghosts hang back, while the one in the front takes control of the situation, speaking with a raspy voice that reverberates unnaturally and chills all who hear it. "That man was a spy," he says. "Your fellow priest was replaced and likely died long ago. You should be more careful in keeping your secrets. But we will find out how you were compromised. Macbannin."
Gran Guiscard pulls back even further, but eventually straightened up as the shadowlisk begins to lick the shadow. "And the pet plays with its food…"
Obscurati: One of the three other ghosts walks forward. While Vicemi's face is withered and decayed, and the other two ghosts' features are faded like they don’t remember what they looked like in life, this one mostly walks rather than floats. He stops next to the still-twitching shadow of the intruder, casually shoos the shadowlisk aside, and draws a very solid vial of blood out of his spectral cloak.
"Really," Macbannin laughs, "it'd worry me more if we didn't have any spies trying to come here."
With that he coats his hands in blood, then reaches into the wall and grabs the shadows. He yanks, and Vitus falls to the ground shivering and burnt, barely alive. The guards swarm him, search him, and manacle him. Macbannin casts another quick spell to fully hold Vitus in the Bleak Gate, then pulls off his amulet.
Macbannin: "I'll take him to the dungeon." Then he grins and winks at you, the new arrivals. "Welcome to the Obscurati."
Xavier Sangria: "Charmed, I'm sure." He sure doesn't look it.
Oscan: "Y'know, I heard you died in the news. Seems like it's really agreein' with ya, though!"
Kiov Hetman doesn't bat an eye at any of the proceedings. He directly reports to Vicemi already, so he's a familiar face.
Gran Guiscard: "It's a pleasure, I'm sure. Do you intentionally lure spies here to make a grand showing to all first-time visitors?"
Macbannin offers a half-wave as he walks off. "Could be worse!"
Gran Guiscard: "If you don't, consider keeping it around~."
Gran Guiscard: "It works."
Han: "May I introduce all of you to Vicemi Terio, head of Lantern Cell. Please, Bishop Vigilio and Patre Hevny, stay a few moments and answer Vicemi's questions? I'll show the rest of you inside."
Livia Hatfield: "…quite the grand entrance, yes. I suppose we're the 'lucky ones'." She smiles, with a tinge more twisted amusement than fear, follows along.
Kiov Hetman: "Prepare well for the end, and you have nothing to fear."
Kiov Hetman gives a nod at Vicemi before following Macbannin.
Oscan laughs out loud at Kiov as they proceed inside.
Xavier Sangria: "Except for whatever kills you. That's probably worth being afraid of."
Xavier Sangria heads inside.
Kiov Hetman: "Death doesn't seem to be much of an impediment to our superiors."
Kiov Hetman shrugs.
The vast entry hall stretches eighty feet in either direction, with a twenty-foot ceiling. Luxurious red rugs guide walkers across a marble floor with a repeating zig-zag pattern in black and white. Fine wood covers stone walls, and rare pieces of painting, sculpture, and jewellery are on display here and throughout the palace.
Gran Guiscard: "Once you've died, what is left to fear?"
Xavier Sangria: "I don't assume I'll get the same favor."
Double stairs lead up to the second floor. Doors lead sideways into two lounges, while a set of double doors lead south to the main hall.
Obscurati: You see a number of people sitting in the lounges on either side.
Han: "Would like you like some refreshments first, or would you prefer I show you up right away?"
Oscan: "It *was* a bit of a long trip… Bring on the refreshments!"
Gran Guiscard: "If you've got something local to the Bleak Gate, I'm interested."
Xavier Sangria: "Got any whiskey?"
Kiov Hetman: "Ale."
Livia Hatfield smiles brightly at Xavier. "Make yourself useful enough to them, and you won't have to fear anything ever again."
Han: "There's a large variety. Let me show you. Sadly nothing 'local', no."
Livia Hatfield: "What would 'local' even look like here, I wonder?"
Xavier Sangria smiles faintly at Livia. "There's always something scarier than you, out in the dark."
[OOC] Xavier Sangria: *casts Summon Bigger Fish*
Gran Guiscard shrugs. "I was hoping to be further surprised."
Livia Hatfield: "I suppose it's not out of the question that something could kill a ghost. The world is stranger than anyone supposes."
Obscurati: He leads you into the western lounge, which has thirty comfortable leather chairs setup to encourage discussion. He leads you over to a side room which has closets for cloaks, racks of alcohol, and shelves with a few hundred books.
Kiov Hetman: "A cocktail of witchoil and phlogiston."
Gran Guiscard: "It's fine, though- wherever reality fails is where I… we, can pick up."
Kiov Hetman: "I call it a 'Fire, Walk With Me.'"
Han laughs. "I think I'll pass on that one."
He grabs a few drinks and glasses for everyone.
Xavier Sangria pours himself a small glass of whiskey to sip. "Ahh, that's better. Nothing worse than road dust."
Livia Hatfield will accept a glass of wine. (She's choosy, but the selection's good…)
Obscurati: While you're standing nearby, a dragonborn walks up to your group after doing a double-take and calls out "Mr. Guiscard!"
Obscurati: She walks up to you and introduces herself as Praesidia de Vaca, gushing with fan-girl glee.
Livia Hatfield: "(I think you've got a fan~.)"
Praesidia: "I can't believe you're involved with this conspiracy, too!"
Oscan just takes an entire bottle of gin and starts downing it, not bothering with a glass.
Gran Guiscard smiles warmly, doing his same limbs-akimbo handshake from earlier.
Praesidia: "Do you think, maybe, before the gathering is over, we might be able to sing 'The Marriage of Achaea and Hibiscus'?"
Gran Guiscard: "It's good to know that I've got supporters even among the darkest of shadows."
Kiov Hetman: "Though, speaking of phlogiston, give me whatever burns the most."
Gran Guiscard: "Of course," he trills, "-as certain as / the scars of their love / the lace of their bond…" He cuts the bar short htere.
Gran Guiscard: "Ah, well, we can do so once spared from our hosts."
Praesidia squees. "Oooh! Yes, please! I'll let you go do that. Loved meeting you!"
Gran Guiscard: "And I, you, My dear miss de Vaca."
After you've had your refreshments and a bit of small talk later, Han leads you back out of lounge and over to the western stairwell.
As you ascend the stairs, passing by you on the other way is a Risuri redhead. Livia recognizes her as Catherine Ramona, one of the nobles who supported Duchess Ethelyn; you've seen her around Slate. A house cat follows close on her heels. She notices Livia and says, "Hm, small world."
Livia Hatfield glances to Catherine, bows her head in respect and smiles. "Indeed it is."
Catherine: "Sorry, I must be on my way though. I'll not keep you." She heads downstairs, smiling briefly at Han and Gran.
Obscurati: Contrary to what you've seen of the mansion so far, the west wing of the mansion appears nearly empty. None of the hall lamps are lit, and lights are only visible from under a few doors. But there is a dim red glow at the end of the three-hundred foot long hallway.
Livia Hatfield makes a quiet, amused chuckle. "(Can't say I'm surprised.)"
Obscurati: In the vast room at the end of the hallway, a central fireplace roars warmly, but out hte glass windows on the north, south, and west walls the whole landscape is nearly black. Together it creates the effect of light disappearing, and darkness encroaching.
Gran Guiscard: "I get it, I get it, it's the aesthetic. (You'd get that by throwing open some curtains, too…)"
A set of luxurious leather chairs are arrayed near the west windows, and one man sits smoking. His hands are gloved, and a necklace is visible around his neck, but tucked into his shirt. At first he seems alone, but as he stands to greet the group, it becomes clear that a dozen or more ghosts are floating outside the windows, watching.
Kiov Hetman looks Xavier up and down, some hint of recognition forming in his face. Possibly. He's unsure.
Oscan: "And you are…?"
Livia Hatfield inclines her head, respectfully. There's only one person this /can/ be.
Gran Guiscard smiles wide. "Here we… are."
He says, "Call me Nicodemus. I'm glad you came. Together we're going to change the world. Come on. Let’s have a drink and talk."
[OOC] Obscurati: He looks like http://storagebin.wdfiles.com/local-files/zg-avery-coast-railroad/Mister%20Mapple.jpg
[OOC] Xavier Sangria: … SON OF A BITCH

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