Legend of the Tiger Generals

1 - The Call
Three paragons learn that their names have been written on the Tablets of Courage.

A powerful storm rages above Chalcedon, and Captain Valakar Doel steers his ship into the thick of it. He shouts orders at his crew to get the vanes ready before the lightning strikes. As he rides the winds into the heart of the electrical activity, a lookout spies someone approaching — a hawkwoman, braving the tempest to reach his ship. He calls for his men to prepare for a visitor, but continues the process of catching the lightning to feed his tree. His raven-colored visitor watches the bolts strike. Once the tree is fed, she announces her purpose, and asks the captain to set course for Diamond — Captain Doel has been chosen by the Tablets of Courage.

Elsewhere, Dr. Alec Lupine runs for his life, ahead of an isolationist tribe of angry Hanumen. He manages to reach the velox-pulled cart and his hired guide, and the velox races away from the furious tribesmen at top speed. Lupine recounts that the tribe got very upset when he took their sacred plant, only to find out that the explanation he’d given them apparently translated as something pants-related.

They reach town before long, and Lupine returns to the room he’s rented and filled with all manner of plants. There he finds another hawkwoman waiting for him. She explains that he has been chosen to wear the white star. Listening to something unseen, she says that their ride to Diamond is arriving. She opens the window, and Captain Doel’s arboreal sky ship can be seen descending. Dr. Lupine is fascinated at once, and excitedly accepts. Doel and the hawkwoman Gin descend to meet Lupine and Gin’s sister Nin. The crew begins bringing Lupine’s things aboard as the twins explain there’s one more person to collect.

On the Thunder Plains, Gemma Fleetwind races ahead of a storm and the knave directing it, Shango the Stormbinder. When the arboreal skyship of Captain Doel descends along the path, she puts on a burst of speed and accelerates well ahead of the distracted Shango. The storm wizard directs a thunderbolt at the ship, only to see it absorbed — and decides discretion is the better part of valor. As he retreats, Gemma races back from the town, her message delivered. She doesn’t wait for the lift, leaping from root to root until she stands on the ship’s deck. Gin and Nin make introductions, and extend the call to her as well.

On the trip to Diamond, the hawkwoman twins explain more. Three Tiger Generals recently fell all at once, giving their lives to defeat a colossal wind-Terror from Erebus. Now their stars seek new bearers. The conversation spills over to the flying tavern The Fifth Wind during a quick break for resupplies and drinks.

While at the Fifth Wind, though, the conversation is interrupted by a trio of bounty hunters. Kaska Thornlasher, Vald Blazewing and Tibo the Drunkard call out Captain Doel, aiming for the price on his head placed by Lord Accumulo. The hawkman accepts their challenge, and Dr. Lupine and Gemma Fleetwind stand alongside him. The skirmish is embarrassingly brief: Blazewing falls to Fleetwind’s unblockable flurry, Tibo is overborne by the sudden massive form of Dr. Lupine’s werewolf form, and Kaska eats a quick thunderbolt from Doel. The Strato-Warden offers them a chance to retreat, and she accepts.

They reach Diamond, and are guided to the Tiger Palace. There they are greeted by Sirius Invictus of the Magnificent Twelve, the lamia Seraphina who acts as adjutant to the Diamond Throne, and the seneschal Minister Jagatai. The newcomers go below to the cavern where the Tablets of Courage await, with Bouda Khan, Mamont Trigontherii and Shieldmaiden as witnesses to their oaths. Each one touches the Tablets without hesitation, and receives the white star — hovering between Doel’s wings, upon Lupine’s breast, and between Fleetwind’s horns. The initiation complete, the ranks of Chalcedon’s 108 are complete once more.

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2 - Cargo Cult
As the newest Tiger Generals explore Diamond, Valakar Doel's crew draws them into a conflict with a covert and warlike organization.

The three new Tiger Generals begin to receive their orientation. Dr. Lupine quickly splits off to investigate the gardens and greenhouses that will be opened to him. Valakar Doel and Gemma Fleetwind get to know their assigned guide and liaison, a Vesper named Kuro. Kuro offers to arrange lodging for them in Diamond (Doel accepts, Fleetwind declines). He then points out a skysled and volunteers to fly them on a tour of the city.

The initial part of the aerial tour of Diamond is pleasant enough. However, as they pass over a section of skydocks, Kuro notes that it seems Doel’s crew is involved in some kind of trouble. As they descend, they see that the crew is confronting a group of dockworkers who are attempting to unload a vessel as quickly as they can. The bosun Gorin, a rhino-Kin, has taken the spearhead in the argument, attempting to shout down the rival team’s leader. Once Captain Doel arrives, Gorin explains that the teamsters commandeered the crane while his crew were still using it. The teamster head insists that their need is greater, and refuses to have his men cede the equipment — he stubbornly insists that Doel’s crew can use it once they’re finished.

As the argument continues, Gemma takes notice of the crate dangling from the crane. She takes advantage of the distraction to dash over and encourage the crate to slip its hastily-fastened line, returning to her previous spot in a blur. The crate falls and spills open, and a great deal of chitin spills onto the ground — arms and armor made from daemonstinger shells. Pandaemonic contraband, and highly illegal.

The teamsters become determined to fight their way out. They draw empty sword hilts from under their clothes, and then focus their will. Reddish energy blades spring up from the hilts, something that Gemma recognizes as a weapon that draws partly on its user’s life force. With a shout of “For the Sword!”, the covert agents charge into battle. Unfortunately for them, they grievously overestimate their enemies. Doel drops one with a lightning bolt before they can even close, and the rest don’t last long against their paragon enemies. Only the one battling Gorin manages to last for more than a single exchange of blows, and he too falls after the angry Kin bosun puts his back into a final shot.

Valakar Doel takes charge of the interrogation. The chosen Conquering Sword soldier isn’t nearly as fearless as his doctrine would require, and he rapidly surrenders what he knows. The arms shipment was to go to the local cell — under a dojo that’s recently changed hands. Kuro volunteers that he knows the dojo in question, and he can get the Tiger Generals there.

Kuro quickly pilots them to the dojo. There they push past the ursine Master Gorbo, and find their way down a passage to a lower room, an old warehouse now commandeered by the Conquering Sword, by the looks of the banners on the wall.

Two ranking templars of the Conquering Sword confront them in the lower storehouse. One is a Pridefolk male with rune-tattoos on his neck just visible under his mane; the other a human female with a bright orange mohawk. As the Tiger Generals challenge them, they move to the attack. The woman, Vulkana, activates the Erebian jewel in her neck, covering herself in molten basalt that rapidly cools into armor. Seeing that, Gemma opts to challenge the Pridefolk, Ruja the War-Crier, reasoning that he won’t be too painful to punch. Valakar Doel braces himself against the woman, Vulkana, and the brawl begins.

After an initial pass or two, Gemma takes a hit from Ruja’s powerful roar, knocking her into the wall. Vulkana’s smoking basalt fist likewise sends Valakar back. But the two quickly reverse the battle’s momentum. Gemma kicks to her feet and leaps forward, catching the Pridefolk templar with a clothesline to the neck, knocking him senseless and draping him over one of the quintains. Doel aims a gauntleted fist at Vulkana, beginning to overcharge the weapon.

“This is your last chance to surrender,” he says.

“That’s against the rules,” she replies.

He nods and fires a supercharged thunderbolt into her. Her feet leave two burning furrows in the floor as she’s blasted back, then collapses.

Kuro comes down the stairs as the smoke clears, and congratulates the new Tiger Generals on their victory. He says that the guard has been summoned, and proposes that they celebrate with a drink. Doel decides this is a fine idea.

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3 - Tigers In the Middle
A Cinnabrian Cardinal leads the way to a three-way confrontation with the Iron Stampede and a False Tiger.

On a Cinnabrian phoenixship, the Blackbird Teppa, a chameleon-type Scaled Folk, explains the situation. The pair of Cinnabrian knaves they’re pursuing have apparently fled to Chalcedon, where they undoubtedly feel the Cardinals will have a harder time reaching them. Lunos Dreamshaper could be anywhere and in any guise, but he’s likely to be in the company of the swordsman Wandering Gale. The Cardinal’s mission will have the greatest chance of success with the assistance of the local paragons.

Rubican agrees.

The phoenixship docks in the plains city of Ivory, where they are met by Guard-Chief Darjaba. Rubican announces that he requires the assistance of local paragons, and she takes him to an open-air restaurant. There some of the paragons of the Thunder Plains are already assembled, including a pair of Tiger Generals. At one table sits the veteran Bouda Khan, surrounded by her daughters Gaira, Tisa, and Lecta and her son Kiba. At another, Gemma Fleetwind is putting away a surprising number of vegetarian dishes, far more than one might expect from her petite form.

Rubican’s entrance can’t be missed. He draws the attention of both Tiger Generals, as well as the restaurant’s proprietor, the martial artist Ironscale. The Cardinal explains the situation, and the likelihood that his fugitive may have more allies.

Bouda Khan steps forward, presumably to offer her help, when a cicada-form Coleoth in stealth raiment appears in a puff of smoke. It informs her that she is needed elsewhere first, as the town of Platinum is under siege. She gathers her three daughters and responds to that call.

Rubican still gets the assistance he’d sought, though. Gemma offers her assistance, and Ironscale gladly sets aside his apron and places his sous-chef in charge.

Gemma carries Teppa to two distant point in Ivory so that he can use the compass pointing to Lunos Dreamshaper. Triangulation points to a distant mountain, specifically the Riven Snow monastery. As they take a veloxen transport there, they find that a crowd of pilgrims is gathering. Apparently a wandering adventurer, a white Rajara with apparent amnesia, has surfaced, and there are rumors that he is the latest incarnation of the Tiger Heir.

The three paragons assemble at the outer stair of the monastery, where the Rajara wanderer Snowcoat appears to make a speech. He speaks about how he can promise nothing, but if he does indeed regain his memory and turns out to be the Tiger Heir, he will be delighted by the honor. The heroes note that he has a pair of advisors, a robed figure named “Castario” and a swordsman named “Fujin,” who seem suspiciously similar to the roles of Lunos Dreamshaper and Wandering Gale. The three are still contemplating the best move when the Iron Stampede shows up.

Three members of Overkhan Attilus’ paragon elite — Vald the Peltast, Crazy Dragon and Aurinta Goldfist — make their way through the parting crowd, appraising Snowcoat. As they chat, they decide that whether false Tiger or true, the Rajara would make a useful captive either way. Somewhat nervous, Snowcoat and his backers prepare for the worst — and then the heroes get involved.

A three-way fight breaks out, with each side splitting their members between the other two fronts. Rubican draws Crazy Dragon’s attention, but isn’t sufficiently flammable for the flame-slinging Hanuman’s tastes. “You don’t burn, huh?” he says. “Well, let’s see what your melting point is!”

The back-and-forth brawl goes mostly against Snowcoat, Lunos and Wandering Gale. Wandering Gale defends himself only so far against the Stampede before Ironscale intercedes with a vicious elbow strike to the top of his head, dropping him. The myriad illusions don’t hide Lunos from Rubican’s tremorsense, and with a massive haymaker, the Cardinal plants the trickster in a temple wall.

Seeing these victories, the Iron Stampede calls a retreat. The three heroes let them withdraw, being sure to secure Snowcoat and his accomplices.

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4 - Drinks on the House
A heist at the Trophy Room leads to a battle in Alabaster.

In Diamond, Dr. Lupine finally tears himself away from the imperial Arboretum, with an invitation to meet his two new colleagues for drinks. He heads to the Trophy Room, a bar popular with paragons of all stripes, including Tiger Generals. There he warily notes the presence of Monkshood, a monster-hunter from the Witchwood, but she seems uninterested in his presence. He meets Valkar Doel and Gemma Swiftwind, and the two tell him of their run-in with the Conquering Sword. When Doel asks him how his studies have gone, Lupine launches into a discussion of the arboretum that lasts well past the point where his fellows’ eyes have glazed over.

Partway through the herbal monologue, two other paragons approach the three. They introduce themselves: Bolt Blitzmark, a fellow Tiger General, and Sir Belarius Ironpaw, a kobold knight-errant who aspires to wear the white star himself. The new Tiger Generals get along fairly well with the two, though Gemma doesn’t appreciate Bolt’s claim of being the fastest of the 108. They discuss major threats to the realm, such as local conquerors and Pandaemonium. Lupine asks if they just wait for trouble, or if there’s a way to invade the hostile realm and just drop a bomb on it or so

During the course of the conversation, Bolt Blitzmark moves over to one of the trophies for emphasis, the severed metal hand of a mechanical colossus. “There’s no way keeping a hand like that around could cause trouble,” Lupine notes sarcastically. His pessimism is immediately justified, as the hand comes to life, flicking the cheetah-Kin speedster away with a single finger.

The paragons leap to beat the hand back into submission. Gemma and Doel tangle its fingers, Lupine hurls alchemical bombs at it, and Sir Ironpaw lunges in with a sword as large as he is. Gemma peels off a portion of its armor, only for Bolt to dive in with a thunderbolt punch and give her a “thanks for that” wink. Finally, the hand is decommissioned. Lupine examines it, and finds some traces of alchemical application at its severed wrist. He remembers someone in gold armor passing the trophy, a possible candidate for the reanimation.

Gemma and Bolt tear through the bar at top speed, searching for the gold-armored visitor. They don’t find him, and it becomes evident that the hand was a distraction — Mistress Lush, the deific proprietress of the Trophy Room, is missing her sacred cornucopia. At this news, Dr. Lupine shifts into his wolf form and begins searching for the thief’s scent. He finds a metallic smell that is appropriately alchemical, and sets out into the streets of Diamond. It’s a tricky thing to track their quarry though the busy streets, but the trail leads to a skyport where a ship has just departed for Alabaster.

The three newest Tiger Generals head for Doel’s skyship as Bolt races off to get a little more assistance. As they are preparing for departure, a young weasel-Kin woman appears in a small whirlwind, introducing herself as Ichi. The Wild Phantom unrolls a collection of small rods with varying scents, a “library” of olfactory mugshots. Dr. Lupine goes through them until he finds a scent that matches the thief from the Trophy Room.

Ichi identifies the scent as Xanthus Quicktemper, a rogue alchemist with a grudge against the realm. The group sets out for Alabaster in pursuit. They let Gemma off partway through the voyage, and she races ahead to trail the alchemist.

Gemma reaches Alabaster before the skyship carrying Quicktemper. She watches him disembark, and tails him to a large warehouse/workshop where the parts of colossi are sculpted. Along the way he meets with a bulky henchman of some sort, and rants about how “soon they will all see… or they won’t.”

She returns to meet the others when Doel’s ship arrives, and leads them (and the Alabaster guard-captain Jiwei) to the warehouse. The Tiger Generals show a remarkable aptitude for stealth, and all three are able to sneak in and hide themselves among the massive portions of colossi still under construction. There they overhear Xanthus explaining to Iron Head Drang that with the perfect fruits from Lush’s cornucopia, he’ll be able to brew wine of forgetfulness. Then with that wine in hand, he can set himself up as the advisor to the recently discovered Tiger Heir — whether the Heir in question is legitimate or not.

The Tiger Generals decide they’ve heard enough. Perching on the massive stone hand suspended by chains, Doel calls on Quicktemper to surrender. While the alchemist and his henchman are distracted, Gemma darts in and makes an unsuccessful grab for the apple in Quicktemper’s hand, while Dr. Lupine crashes onto his workbench and snatches the cornucopia. Doel then soars down and pulls the apple away.

The knaves aren’t willing to let it go without a fight. Gemma throws unblockable punches into Xanthus Quicktemper, while Lupine struggles with Iron Head Drang. He lands good hits on the metal-plated knave, but is rocked by a vicious jab in return. And as they brawl, a number of smaller statues scattered about the warehouse come lurching in, animated by some viscous alchemical goo.

Gemma turns to dismantle the alchemical minions one at a time. Doel drops Quicktemper with an overcharged thunderbolt. Lupine manages to turn the tables on Drang by knocking him under the immense suspended stone hand. Then while the knave is still regaining his feet, the werewolf leaps atop the hand and severs its chains with his claws, bringing it crashing down on Drang.

“Ha ha!” roars Doel. “The Hand of Justice!”

With the cornucopia secured and both knaves subdued, they report full success to Captain Jiwei. He thanks them profusely for their assistance. He also notes that as chaotic as the realm is at present, it would provide much peace of mind if the Tiger Generals were to escort the two to prison. They agree.

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5 - The Brig
A prison ship escort turns complicated.

After the events of Xanthus Quicktemper and the cornucopia, the three newest Tiger Generals have the opportunity to enjoy Alabaster for an evening before the prison escort begins. Dr. Lupine insists on dragging Gemma to several of the many libraries, while Captain Doel mingles with the city’s artificers to keep abreast of what mechanical works are being pursued locally.

The next morning, they rendezvous with the Solemn Contemplation, a modified Ebonheim tortoise-ship. The vessel’s Captain Lampyrus and the chief guard Lieutenant Cloverfoot introduce themselves and announce their honor at serving alongside the Tiger Generals.

The guards load the prisoner complement. Xanthus Quicktemper and Iron Head Drang are the most familiar. Also aboard is “Razor” Barjack, a boar-Kin belonging to the Purebloods, and an unrelated pair of grifters — Rider Crowley, a human cartomancer, card cheat and thief, and Cypria Silvertongue, a Scaled Folk confidence woman whose hypnotic voice seems to affect only cold-blooded people such as herself. Lupine and Doel also notice a wooden coffin, wrapped in ropes covered with paper seals, being loaded quietly into the cargo hold. As they ask about it, Lt. Cloverfoot responds that she’ll tell them once they’re safely in the air.

The prison ship gets safely off the ground. They ask again about the coffin, and Cloverfoot tells them that it’s Ironskull — a name that nobody recognizes. She describes the metal-commanding deathknight, brought in by Zu the Chimera.

The prisoners don’t offer much resistance. Xanthus quietly rants about how his associates will free him, but is largely ignored. Barjack threatens Dr. Lupine, who responds by pulling out a volume on herbalism and aggressively lecturing the prisoners on the merits of various flora. This continues for some time, with Barjack gradually going slack from boredom and Quicktemper pretending not to pay attention.

Doel is at the bridge, conversing with Captain Lampyrus, when he notices the oncoming twisters. He recognizes the unnatural weather pattern: the work of the aerokinetic sky pirate Gallia the Hurricane. He warns the captain to hold steady as best he can, and goes to warn the others. Soon enough, the Solemn Contemplation is held steady in the eye of a large cyclone, unable to move further.

Using the hatch to the roof, Doel goes outside to confront Gallia. An honor guard of flying sky pirates hangs in the air between ships, and she descends. She recognizes Doel, and exchanges a bit of banter until Gemma and Dr. Lupine emerge as well. “You picked the wrong ship,” growls Lupine. Confronted with a trio of Tiger Generals, the Hurricane opts for discretion. She returns to her ship, and the winds dissipate.

The trip seems to go well after that, with more casual conversation between captains and herbalism lectures, until an explosion rocks the ship. A quick assessment reveals that a Pandaemonic cannon set on a nearby mountain is firing on the ship. Valakar Doel soars out to stabilize the ship, and notices the remains of some form of mark — a homing glyph, painted on the underside. The cannon keeps firing, and although Doel is able to strike one of the missiles out of the sky, another evades his thunderbolts and strikes the ship. The Solemn Contemplation goes down.

The landing is rough, but those inside are intact. The Tiger Generals make sure the prisoners are secure, and deploy to guard the outside of the ship. Gemma races in the direction of the cannon, and discovers a crew of Hanuman bandits racing for the downed vessel. They are led by Jin Woo, the Powder King.

When the brigands arrive, the Tiger Generals are ready. Dr. Lupine draws a line in the dirt, and says, “I’ll say it again. You picked the wrong ship.”

It’s not enough to deter the Powder King. They skirmish for a bit — Gemma tries to snatch the taper from Jin Woo’s mouth, and a few grenades go off — but the fight is interrupted. A scythe blade tears open reality from the other side, opening a portal to Pandaemonium. Several Helkyries emerge flanking Cremator-General Insinner, one of the generals to Overlord Heladonna. Insinner notes that the ship has a powerful undead warrior, and demands it be turned over to her.

The response is as one would expect from Tiger Generals. “I’ll say it again,” growls Lupine. “You picked the wrong ship.”

The fight begins in earnest. The Helkyries fan out and engage, while Insinner moves to start melting the hatch into the Solemn Contemplation. It’s a mistake — Lupine leaps at her with a terrible claw rake that actually stuns the Pandaemonic general, and Jin Woo contributes by hurling a bomb into Insinner that ignites upon reaching her flame aura. The infuriated Cremator-General turns her powers against her opponents, but she’s already shaken, and the group exploits her weakness. The Pandaemonic finally goes down when Lupine smashes her skull face-first into the ship’s hull, leaving a searing impression. One of the Helkyries goes for the dimension-cutting scythe, but Gemma grabs it and plays keep-away as they argue about keeping Insinner contained.

Mopping up the Pandaemonic mess, the Tiger Generals notice the Hanumen bandits have quietly withdrawn. They argue about dealing with the cannon, Lupine still pounding intermittently on Insinner to keep her unconscious. A quick check of the ship reveals that the cargo hatch was blown open. Thankfully, the coffin containing Ironskull is still present, but the guards are unconscious, and Rider Crowley is gone. The cartomantic grifter apparently has contacts with the Brotherhood of Brigands.

The Tiger Generals then get the situation under control. Valakar helps fix the aeromantic repellers on the Solemn Contemplation. Gemma races off to get a second prison ship dispatched for the transport of Insinner. Alec keeps beating the Cremator-General into the ground to keep her from recovering.

The second prison ship arrives before any more problems ensue; on board is another Tiger General, the archer Fletcher Frost. They load up Insinner, placing her in a tank of some form of alchemical goo, and both ships head for the Iron Pinnacle. There they finally transfer their cargo to Mengzhu and Zhumeng, the prison’s wardens. Frost asks if they plan to drop the scythe off at the Trophy Room, but they decide it’s more prudent to store the scythe in the vaults below Diamond. They do leave off a souvenir for the Trophy Room, though: a plate of metal taken from the Solemn Contemplation, with the skull-print of Insinner smashed and melted into its surface.

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6 - Storm Warning
A Tiger General goes missing as a storm rolls in.

Somewhere in the Thunder Plains, Bolt Blitzmark opens the door to a tower, and steps inside. He is immediately struck down by a blast of energy emerging from the dark. “You’re not the speedster I was expecting,” says a voice, “but you’ll do.”

Valakar Doel is reprovisioning in Ivory, and decides to treat his men to a proper evening of land leave. He arranges for a fine dinner at Cortunum’s Contusion Cafe. They occupy one of the curtained-off back areas, and carouse mightily. In the main section of the restaurant, Gemma Fleetwind is also having dinner and catching her mother up on some of the Diamond gossip.

Partway through her dinner, Gemma is approached by a pair of mages: a conservatively dressed owl-hawkman with spectacles, and a shaggy-haired yak-Kin carrying a staff carved with spirals. The two introduce themselves respectively as Pulsator of the Nexus Pact and Rafa of the Spiral Clan. Pulsator asks for her assistance in a Pact matter, and Rafa clarifies that a friend of the Spiral Clan is affected — Bolt Blitzmark.

Pulsator explains that they lost contact with a Nexus Pact tower on the Emerald Plateau a day ago. They requested assistance from the Tiger Generals, and Bolt Blitzmark volunteered. However, the cheetah-Kin has yet to return from the errand, and it’s been eight hours — far too long for an impatient speedster. To complicate things, a powerful storm has been brewing in the area; something is clearly amiss. Gemma immediately becomes suspicious.

Doel wanders out of his party to enter the conversation. After introductions, the mages ask for his help as well, given his ship’s utility where thunderstorms are concerned. Doel agrees, invites Pulsator and Rafa to come along, and goes to gather up his men.

Despite his men being drunk at the time of the order, Doel is able to wrangle them into an orderly casting-off within the hour. The ship soon reaches the plateau, where they see not only the gathering storm, but a small group of forces at the base. Doel recognizes the banner of the Overkhan, and estimates about fifty men are present, with a dozen or so beginning the march up the road winding around the mesa’s side.

Doel brings the ship around the mesa, carefully angling it so that it will be hidden from the Overkhan’s troops. He lowers a rope for Gemma to use, and the two of them descent to the roof of the tower. The Pact tower is set about with lightning rods and has a domed iris-roof, which Doel is easily able to open.

They drop down inside, and survey the room. The tower is outfitted for all manner of magical observations, from star-charts and meteoromantic diagrams to racks of reagents. The room is dominated by a huge brass gyroscope, spinning wildly — with Bolt Blitzmark strapped into it. The device seems to be siphoning off his lightning-power, and charging up some form of golem.

Before they can free Bolt, his captor arrives. Gemma’s suspicions were correct — the knave is Shango the Storm-Binder. He exchanges a few quips with the Tiger Generals, noting that he’d be glad to strap Gemma into the machine instead, before the fighting begins.

Gemma’s quick to begin tying up Shango with loose coils of the gyroscope’s cable. The storm sorcerer blasts himself free, though. As he’s exchanging thunderbolts with Doel, Gemma then manages to pull his golden rod free from his hand. The Storm-Binder is far from useless without it, and conjures up whirlwinds to defend himself, but a portion of his offense is gone. Valakar Doel sends an overcharged lightning bolt into Shango, dropping the knave.

But the trouble’s not over. The golem, fully charge, lurches into battle. It manages to get in a punch accurate enough to strike Gemma, and the gazelle-Kin is not built to withstand it. She flies backward, unconscious. Doel and a newly freed Bolt Blitzmark try to finish the work. “Glad you could join the fight!” shouts the privateer captain. Regrettably, Bolt isn’t at his best form. He manages to get a couple of good hits in before the golem stuns him in turn. But it eats too many thunderbolts in the process, and Doel is finally able to drop it.

By that point, Shango has recovered consciousness enough to attempt to flee, leaving his scepter behind. The Tiger Generals let him go, focusing their attention on defending against the Overkhan’s troops. When Crazy Dragon leads a platoon to the top of the mesa, they aren’t please to find themselves up against three of the Stars of Courage. A few handfuls of soldiers go flying before Crazy Dragon calls for the retreat.

With the tower secured, Pulsator and Rafa are finally able to descend from the airship and investigate the scene. Pulsator is quite chagrined to see the damage sustained by the tower’s uppermost level during the fight with Shango. “Those savages!” he exclaims.

“Yes,” agrees Doel. “Savages indeed.”

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7 - Intoxicating Knowledge
The Tiger Generals attend an event of learning and drinking.

The time for another Grand Symposium has rolled around, and the Tiger Generals are present in Alabaster to both participate and provide security. As Hyuginsha and Myuninsha explain it, since Dr. Lupine has been invited to host a session and Valakar Doel intends to participate, it makes the most sense to have Gemma Fleetwind along as security, since the three work well together. Another Tiger General, the silent Thorbjorn, rounds out the official presence. The hawkwomen explain that they don’t expect too much trouble — the knaves most likely to cause trouble at such a scholarly accounting, such as Vervetine the Tinker Queen, are largely accounted for or being actively distracted.

“So there’s little danger of the symposium getting out of hand,” says Hyuginsha. “Well, apart from the usual.” She gestures toward the heavily laden wine carts pulling up to the gardens.

As is traditional for a Grand Symposium, the first round of mingling takes place over breakfast before the seminars begin. The Tiger Generals enjoy their places of honor at the table, and Doel and Lupine begin speaking with their fellow scholars. An enthusiastic human scholar attaches himself to Lupine, introducing himself as Dr. Archimedes Griffon, another herbalist and alchemist of some repute. Griffon admits to being very interested in Lupine’s work. He also helps point out some of the other luminaries, such as Malachi Riverfoot (naturalism), Octavian Lycosa (medicine), Cleophilia Neferbuto (archaeology), Orbran Tyrfonsson (metallurgy), Petrovosondarvikkios (geology), Diana Argentine (alchemy), and Hephaestia Geier (mechanics).

The scholars head to the first symposiums of the day, while Gemma Fleetwind and Thorbjorn patrol as security detail. Orbrang Tyrfonsson’s metallurgy symposium is a noisy place, even ruling out the massive voice of the fire jotun. Valakar Doel quite enjoys the opportunity to discuss technique at full volume. Alec Lupine’s seminar on herbalism is directly the opposite, however, as he augments his discussion with free samples of various soporific botanica. Their discussion takes place in a dreamy haze.

The scholars spill out for lunch before the afternoon lecture/debates begin. Doel heads for the mechanics symposium led by Hephaestia Geier. Griffon attaches himself to Lupine again, claiming excitedly that the botanarium contains a rare phoenix-in-the-pulpit. The two herbalists agree to go and view it for themselves.

But someone’s waiting for them along the way to the greenhouses — Smiling Kate, the smilodon-shifter who holds the dubious honor of craziest among the Purebloods. Kate begins toying with Lupine, who takes a nasty wound. Dr. Lupine yells for Griffon to find help, and then blinks away, leaving his clothes and gear behind.

Smiling Kate and Dr. Lupine play a game of cat and mouse, as she continues to track him as best she can given his teleportation. The badly bleeding herbalist hides in the brain cavity of a behemoth skull, hoping for the time to transform before the Pureblood picks up his scent. Soon he hears her padding through the room full of skeletons, sniffing the air.

In the other rooms, the sounds of drinking, lecturing and debating drown out any chance of hearing Lupine’s troubles — almost any. The storm bear senses of Thorbjorn are different. The ursine Tiger General speaks for the first time since meeting the others, directing Gemma to go look for Lupine. He in turn heads to the engineering symposium that Valakar Doel’s attending.

Doel’s symposium is reaching an energetic pitch, as Geier’s claims that Ebonheim has by and large better engineering at hand are causing some controversy. The argument is abruptly cut short when the door slams down off its hinges courtesy of Thorbjorn’s paw. The storm bear roars for Doel, telling him that trouble’s at hand. Doel rises and promises his peers to finish the discussion later.

Smiling Kate pauses under the skeleton where Lupine is hiding, but before she can clamber up, Gemma Fleetwind dashes into the gallery. She throws a flurry of unblockable punches, staggering the Pureblood. Kate anticipates the gazelle-Kin’s next move, and sends Gemma flying with a well-aimed backhand, but by then Lupine has completed his change. In his bloodied warform, he explodes from the skull and flattens Smiling Kate.

At the other end of the building, Doel and Thorbjorn storm the alchemy seminar, where the Knockabout Three have raided the party. Brother Griff and Ursus Majorus are looting the shelves for valuable reagents, while Tyg the Wallbender has pressed various scholars against the wall with a stone rampart.

Thorbjorn slams into Ursus Majorus, storm bear vs. bear-Kin. Brother Griff spars with Doel in turn, leaping off the walls to strike the hawkman. The irritated Doel soon overcharges and strikes Griff with his maximum-strength thunderbolt, blasting the goat-Kin back so far he’s embedded in Tyg’s imprisoning wall. Doel demands that Tyg surrender, and faced with the violent subdual of Brother Griff, Tyg seriously considers it for a moment.

But only for a moment. Mocking the hawkman for an intellectual, he strikes Doel with an earthbolt, then pins the hawkman between two stony slabs. The brawl between Majorus and Thorbjorn is still inconclusive, but assistance arrives quickly as Gemma and then Dr. Lupine reach the brawl.

Gemma chooses to aid Thorbjorn, using the storm bear’s back as a ramp to leap up and strike at Majorus. Lupine runs down Tyg, knocking him into his own wall as Valakar Doel explodes free. With four-against-two odds (and Griff still unconscious), the remaining members of the Knockabout Three are quickly subdued. Fleetwind fetches Dr. Lycosa from his medicine seminar, and the bemused Spinner sees to mending Lupine’s wounds.

Doel waits for Tyg to regain consciousness and be carted away before he addresses the assembled scholars. “Ladies and gentlemen, this bruised brute figured me for a nerd. Ha! Let’s have a toast to nerddom — we’re smart enough not to go to jail!” He cheerily returns to the mechanics symposium, to defend the state of Chalcedonian mechanical advances.

But when Lupine returns to the site of Kate’s attack, things are less tidily resolved. Smiling Kate is long gone, her stubby tail between her legs. Also troubling, there’s no sign of Dr. Archimedes Griffon, who apparently didn’t go for help as instructed. When Dr. Lupine investigates the scene, it becomes evident that someone has scraped up some of his spilled blood.

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8 - Tangled Webs
A silken trail leads to Grandmother Blight.

Dr. Alec Lupine, Valakar Doel and Gemma Fleetwind are enjoying another round of drinks at the Trophy Room, discussing affairs of interest with Fletcher Frost and Sir Belarius Ironpaw. The talk turns to the threat of Pandaemonium, and how best to proactively counter it. Though Ironpaw and Frost are not optimistic regarding the logistics of successfully invading an Overlord’s realm, a newcomer expresses a different view. Arantella Sands, the Spinner lawwoman known as the Hexagunner, says that there’s a network of people quite interested in going proactive. She asks if they’re interested; Lupine and Doel answer in the unqualified affirmative.

Then Gorin bursts into the Trophy Room, shouting “Cap’n! We had a maggot on board!”

As Valakar Doel and his allies return to his ship in haste, he explains that it was one of the Maggot Men soldiers of Grandmother Blight. Subsequent investigation reveals that it apparently snuck on board when the crew took on a load of silk cargo for the lightning sails, and that it had meant to perpetrate some sabotage before it was discovered.

The Tiger Generals sail for the village of Silken Prism, where Doel had purchased the silk. As they draw near, they see the village has undergone a frightening change — it is covered with tents of webbing, almost cocooned. Doel confirms this is a clear sign of Grandmother Blight’s presence.

The ship lowers some lines for the group to descend. The three Tiger General land atop the shroud, and Dr. Lupine uses a chemical mixture to dissolve a path in. They drop onto the upper balcony of the village’s principal hotel. Most of the people have been cocooned, while a few Pupa Soldiers stand guard. Lupine slips away to go scouting, while Doel looks around the upper floors of the hotel. Doel finds a small Kin girl, Pia, who’d eluded everyone so far. Lupine finds the silk warehouse, and indications of more activity.

When the doctor returns, the Tiger Generals assemble their knowledge from Pia’s testimony and Lupine’s cluefinding. Apparently the Walking Hive arrived at Silken Prism two days ago, and quickly overcame the place. Blight’s forces assembled the large silk shipment intended for the nearby Monastery of the Celestial Mirror, and sent it out as if nothing were wrong. The group decides it’s another infiltration. They carefully isolate and beat down the Pupa Soldiers watching over the village, peel off the armor, and tell villagers inside to start freeing their neighbors. Then they set sail for the monastery.

The Monastery of the Celestial Mirror is named for the massive mirror held by a colossus that stands on the monastery grounds. When properly turned and aimed, the mirror can reflect and even focus sunlight into a weapon. It’s therefore off-putting to the Tiger Generals as they see that the Walking Hive is resting by the monastery, while the mirror itself has been angled to reflect sunlight down into a massive cauldron. The heat and light seem to be congealing some tremendous waxy lump within the buttery broth, while the hunched form of Grandmother Blight herself stirs the pot with an outsized ladle.

On their first pass, Doel has his ship position between the sun and the mirror. It works temporarily, but a six-armed Pupa Soldier perched on the mirror’s moorings unslings a witchlock rifle and begins firing at the tree. Doel is forced to tack away before the sniper does severe damage to the rigging.

Doel swings the ship around for a second pass. This time he lowers a long chain with a heavy hook from the hull, while Gemma Fleetwind rides on the hook. Lupine drops into the fray, challenging Grandmother Blight. He manages to dodge or resist some of the attacks of her hive-sorcery — calling cicada-like projectiles from underground, clouds of bloodseeking midges — but she’s remarkably powerful, and he isn’t able to do more than distract her. It’s enough, though. Gemma rides the hook down to the cauldron, then slips free and attaches it to the pot’s rim. The chain goes taut as the tree-ship passes overhead — and then it overturns the cauldron entirely, spilling out the liquid and the half-formed colossal larva.

Another Pupa Soldier runs to the base of the statue, and begins to turn the colossus on its pivot as the six-armed sniper angles the mirror. They focus the mirror’s beam at Doel’s ship, which manages to stay just a few yards ahead. But as the tree-ship sails behind the Walking Hive, the Pupa Soldiers avert the mirror’s beam. An idea occurs to Doel, and he gives his crew orders to hold position behind the Hive while he takes to the air personally.

Grandmother Blight lets fly with a small insect that dodges around and locks onto Lupine’s neck. Its drone floods his mind. When the hive-witch gestures at Gemma and says “Go punish that naughty child,” he is compelled to obey. He goes loping after the speedster, who manages to evade his claws until he can reassert mastery over his own mind.

Doel comes flying in at the mirror. He exchanges shots with the sniper, finally managing to arrive and take hold of the massive reflector. Lupine races over to the base of the stature, and begins to shift it as well. The two coordinate until the solar beam sears into the outer surface of the Walking Hive. With a shriek, Grandmother Blight molt-teleports away, leaving her outermost chitin rattling across the stones. The Hive shudders and begins to walk away. It’s badly burned as it limps across the horizon, and the Tiger Generals can turn their attention to cleanup.

They pull off the armor of the Pupa Soldiers who gave them the most trouble, the defender at the statue’s base and the six-armed sniper. The paragons underneath are Janey Irons, the pirate-hunting Flagcatcher, and Arantella Sands. The Tiger Generals are most interested in how Arantella managed to get from talking with them about Pandaemonium in the Trophy Room only hours ago, to captured and converted into a Pupa Soldier just now.

Arantella frowns. “I wasn’t in Diamond this morning.”

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9 - Hunt Club
A nobleman arranges for a Tiger hunt that quickly goes awry.

After driving off Grandmother Blight, the three paragons spend a little time setting things right in Silken Prism. They dissolve the webs with more alchemy, help get the people back on their feet and more organized, and enjoy the gratitude of the local populace. Pia is tearful when it finally comes time for them to leave.

They stop back in Alabaster, where they make a few inquiries about the ones that got away. Specifically, Mirror Smoke is an object of curiosity, as is the whereabouts of Dr. Archimedes Griffon. Both targets are lying fairly low, it would seem.

Eventually the three wind up at the Peach Typhoon teahouse, speaking with Arantella Sands. The Hexagunner knows a few things about Mirror Smoke and his associates, but can’t answer precisely why they’d be allied with Grandmother Blight (if indeed they are), or what they’d be doing if it’s one of them who impersonated Sands back in Diamond.

As the conversation continues, Gemma’s ears suddenly prick up. She becomes aware of a figure leaning down from the teahouse’s eaves, a split second before said figure throws a large projectile into the establishment. She has time enough to register that the expanding sphere is some kind of fungus. Then she snatches a tablecloth from a nearby table, and quickly wraps the puffball in it. The fungal projectile detonates partway through, and she accidentally inhales a dose of the the semi-liquid agent.

Valakar takes to the air in pursuit of the mysterious assailant. He isn’t able to notice the stealthy intruder, but he does see a munin-bird fly from a nearby building toward the Peach Typhoon. Scanning the location where the bird emerged, he sees a figure in a green hood slip into the crowd below. Doel hangs high in the air, attempting to tail the figure, but the mysterious individual looks up and sees him. The target quickly detonates a smoke bomb of some sort, surprising and agitating the crowd. When the smoke clears, he’s nowhere to be seen.

Back at the tea-house, Lupine looks over Gemma and the signs of the puffball’s payload. She appears to have been dosed with day-and-a-night, a poison that rapidly accelerates the victim’s metabolism after 24 hours. He recalls that the stuff is hazardous even to paragons, who tend to be consumed by their own powers. Then the munin-bird enters the teahouse. It spots the two of them, perches nearby, and delivers a message in a thick accent — a voice they immediately recognize as Count Jaeger Drakenvalt.

“My dear Doctor Lupine and Miss Fleetwind,

“My apologies for such an impersonal means of extending an invitation, but I fear you would decline without obvious inducements. As you may no doubt discover, you have been poisoned with day-and-a-night, which has precious few antidotes. I would be happy to offer my assistance. I have… recently cornered the market on dreaming silvertassel, and I offer it as a prize to the winner of a little contest.

“Come and participate in the Running of the Terrorgarden. Reach the center, avoiding me and my guests, and the herb is yours. I do not recommend storming the garden — the flower is terribly fragile. It would almost certainly be the first thing to go.

“My man will await you in Queenslace. He will guide you to the garden. Do be punctual. I would hate for our association to become a casualty of tardiness.”

The Tiger Generals set sail for Queenslace. Along the way, Dr. Lupine uses one of the ship’s recently outfitted alchemy labs, along with Captain Doel’s help, to devise an antidote for the night-and-a-day. They present Gemma with the cure, and when the ship reaches its destination, all three of them are healthier than they let on.

The small wooded town of Queenslace is clearly not used to airships. When the Tiger Generals descend, the locals keep a respectful distance. The only one to approach them is a gorilla Hanuman in livery, who introduces himself as Torgo, the Count’s man. He offers the three a coach ride to the gardens, and they accept.

Over the course of the coach ride, the group speaks with the evidently cultured Torgo. The Hanuman expresses some remorse at the Tiger Generals’ fate, but seems to have a largely clear conscience — to obey is his lot, and his master’s word is law. The three are unimpressed by his reasoning, if perhaps respectful of his loyalty.

The coach arrives at a massive stone gate with spiked wooden doors, a somewhat refurbished but still overgrown forest ruin. They enter the doors, and disembark. A massive stepped pyramid dominates the area, with a gateway to either side into what seems to be the elaborate garden labyrinth. On the lowest tier of the ziggurat stands Count Jaeger Drakenvalt, flanked by two “guests” — one an unknown Pridefolk woman carrying a pair of shotel-like swords and various other bits of hunting gear, the other the infamous Teind archer known as the Sparrow.

Drakenvalt receives his guests, or rather his prey, with gentility and no small amount of arrogance. The Tiger Generals banter for a few moments with him, before dropping the ruse. Doel announces that they’ve already cured themselves of the night-and-a-day, and now it’s time for the knaves to receive a proper beatdown. The announcement does not impress nor please Drakenvalt.

Hostilities break out immediately. Gemma charges for the three, dodging an arrow launched by the Sparrow that seemed to be aiming for her shadow, as well as Drakenvalt’s whip. Doel flies forward, but the Pridefolk hits him with a blunted throwing iron that sends him reeling. Lupine uses the distraction to leap among the three would-be hunters.

Gemma manages to get a solid hold on the Sparrow’s bow, much to his surprise. She wrests it free from his hand, to his further surprise. Quite perturbed by the turn of events, the Teind assassin turns and flees.

The Pridefolk is made of sterner stuff. She switches her swords to the blunt edges, and begins tearing into her opponents. Count Drakenvalt is no slouch himself, handily standing toe-to-toe with the alchemist werewolf. When Lupine rakes Drakenvalt, he pulls back a burning hand — the Count’s vest is laced with silver.

Valakar rejoins the fight, and a battered Dr. Lupine takes the opportunity to leap away for the woods. “You want to hunt me?” he roars at Drakenvalt. “Here I am!”

The Count is clearly conflicted. Finally he turns and says “Sekhmet, I leave these others to you.” He then races towards the gates to the forest. His action leaves the Pridefolk in a bit of a lurch, as Fleetwind begins assailing her with wind-swift unblockable punches. Like the Sparrow, she decides on the better part of valor.

Lupine advances on Count Drakenvalt, and Doel moves into a flanking maneuver. A thunderbolt smashes the Count into the coach. As he begins to pull himself free, Gemma races over to steal his whip, and uses it to hogtie Torgo. Lupine then aims an axehandle smash at the Drakenvalt. It misses him, but smashes the coach such that it effectively launches the aristocrat free. Valakar takes the opportunity to blast the knave into a wall.

Once it’s clear that the Count is subdued, the Tiger Generals prepare to ship him off to Diamond to stand trial — certainly the Count will be stripped of his lands. But in the process, Captain Doel considers the possibility of speaking up for Torgo. While the Hanuman will certainly have to face his share of debt to pay, his loyalty and bearing was impressive. Perhaps he would make a fine addition to the crew…

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10 - Digging Up Trouble
The hunt for a lost Tiger General goes to dark, dead places.

Gemma Fleetwind and Valakar Doel are summoned to the city of Ghost. While outside Gemma’s usual patrols, the city is known to both of them as a place where there is strong understanding of the more morbid aspects of the supernatural. This reputation is reinforced once they meet the magistrate at the sky docks. With the magistrate are two necromancers — a human, and oddly enough, an Atropos — wearing garments embroidered with a Nexus Pact motif. The Atropos, an oddly genial sort for his kind, introduces himself as Loxos; the human, Thane Tyrshade. Tyrshade nods apologetically as he keeps his gloved right hand against his chest. “Pardon me for not shaking hands. I caught my hand in a door.”

As the magistrate walks, he explains the situation to the group. One of the White Stars has been missing for several years now, and the situation has precluded any sort of search. The Tiger General Rahatesh, Champion of the Unrelenting Sun, had distinguished himself many times, and given his… unliving nature, it was assumed that he was perhaps recuperating for a time. His star has not passed on, and thus the Nexus Pact has been asked to call in help from someone familiar with the situation.

They stop the walk at a cemetery, and Valakar is momentarily a little crestfallen that they’re moving right to business instead of stopping for a drink first. The necromancers guide the group to a fresh grave, the only marker a small square of blank white stone. Thane Tyrshade removes the glove over his right hand, revealing that it’s withered and near-skeletal. He places his palm to the churned earth as Loxos whispers “He really did catch his hand in a door.” Dark energy pulses and seeps into the ground, and then the earth moves. A tall headstone erupts from the soil, followed by a gaunt, not-quite-dead man with long, haggard hair. He shoulders the tombstone, regards the group, and the magistrate steps forward to make introductions.

“Gregory Gronstine,” he nods.

Gregory, an Exemplar of Azuros, volunteers his help with the operation. He has a few things in common with the lost Rahatesh, and given the current state of chaos in Chalcedon, the Dragon Emperor of the East is glad to offer help. He travels with the Tiger Generals back to their ship. Loxos does as well, as his necrodowsing skills will be able to point to Rahatesh. Doel welcomes them both aboard, and explains the new ziplines he’s equipped for the rapid deployment of passengers.

Loxos’ pendulum points south. The journey takes hours, during which Gemma experiments with the ziplines. The trail eventually leads to the Midnight Waste, a desert covered by perpetual cloud. A little way into the waste, they spot a small caravan that’s been overturned and scattered, the fennec-kobold traders waving up for assistance.

Once the ship descends, the Tiger Generals meet with the caravan master, one Ali Alizar. The kobold explains that their caravan was headed on a salvage run to the lost city of Pallor. They were raided by another party, in fine vehicles led by a “fancy lady” who spoke disdainfully to them. The raiders apparently took a portion of the kobolds’ supplies despite having plenty of their own, no doubt out of spite. Doel has his men help repair the caravan wagons, and leaves a portion of food and water for the kobolds before they set out again.

Loxos’ pendulum guides the ship straight to Pallor. The sands have half-buried the faded ruins, making it all the easier to see an active dig taking place. Not only is the caravan that Ali Alizar described present, but something much worse — a large Pandaemonic hovership, marked with the dark metal and skull heraldry of Heladonna, Overlord of the Grave.

Gregory steps to the fore and begins scanning downwards. The undying Exemplar’s ability to see through the earth shows no sign of Rahatesh, at least at this height, but he does spot a tiny pinprick of gold — likely the shield of the solar champion, in an entirely different portion of the city.

Setting the ship down without being sighted is no easy task, and Valakar is sure they’ve been spotted. Nonetheless, it’s child’s play for Gregory to swim through the sand and retrieve Rahatesh’s shield. A small pack of dark-swathed thugs with blastwands, no doubt from the raider caravan, arrives as the Exemplar is returning. They are pitilessly outmatched by the Stars of Destiny — Gemma kicks up a small sandstorm to blind them, and they are quickly subdued.

Wherever Rahatesh is — and Gregory didn’t spot him underground — he’s surely weakened by the lack of exposure to the sun. Valakar decides to remedy this, ordering his men to pull an M-Shift maneuver, breaking through the clouds. The ship takes off and begins its arc, as the Tiger Generals and Exemplar head over toward the Pandaemonic ship.

They overhear some discussion between the “fancy lady” Ali Alizar described, who is apparently coordinating her men in the same search, and the Pandaemonic officer in charge. The officer is a pale-haired woman wearing dark goggles, a somber uniform, and a dark cloak over what appears to be a massive hump on her back. At one point, the human refers to her as “Exhumer-General,” identifying her as Rezrael. The group also spots a levitating sarcophagus on the ship’s pontoon, near the Exhumer-General.

They move out to confront the Pandaemonic, demanding the return of Rahatesh. The Pandaemonic general smirks and sheds her cloak. Huge bone appendages unfold, her “hump” revealing itself as two pairs of giant skeletal arms, as well as a pair of writhing skeletal vertebrae tipped with draconic or Pandaemonic-seeming skulls.

Gemma leaps onto the ship and heads for the large turret, and Valakar immediately engages Rezrael. Gregory uses the distraction to move up to the sarcophagus. With a perfect swing of his tombstone, he smacks the coffin well beyond the ship’s reach. Clearly perturbed by the resistance, Rezrael focuses a measure of necromantic power — and the sands begin to shift. The immense skeletons of reptilian behemoths pull themselves free.

Captain Doel makes it to the Pandaemonic ship’s turret and begins firing alternately at the pontoon and at the dinosaur skeletons. Gemma takes off after the sarcophagus while Gregory engages Rezrael. The melee shifts around with Valakar firing a cannon round into the clouds to temporarily disperse them, before Rezrael bats Gregory away and moves to grapple with the artillery barrel. Gemma pushes the levitating coffin into the shaft of light that comes down and quickly pries it open, all the while with huge skeletons bearing down on her.

Valakar fires a bolt at Rezrael, but she shrugs it off. One of her massive bone talons pulls him free and hurls him well away from the turret. Gregory, having unearthed Rahatesh’s shield, immediately becomes involved in turn. Gemma snatches up the shield and races it across the battlefield to the open sarcophagus. As one of the animated skeletons charges her, a withered arm smashes the shield into its teeth — Rahatesh, Champion of the Unrelenting Sun has entered the fray.

At that point Exhumer-General Rezrael has had enough, and calls for the ship to retreat. It begins to move through the gate into the Underworld. Valakar flies back to the turret, managing to launch another bolt into the outer ring of the turret’s mount. The blast shakes the integrity of the Pandaemonic craft, which begins to come apart. Rezrael catches him in a bony hand. Rahatesh disposes of the last of the bone behemoths, but as he begins to run back toward the main fray, it’s clear he won’t make it in time.

Gemma and Gregory race in to assist Valakar before the ship goes beyond the living world. Gregory tries one last bit of throwing his voice, telling the pilot to go into full reverse — but his impersonation of the Exhumer-General isn’t good enough. They manage to knock Rezrael senseless before the ship passes through the portal, hurling everyone into the Underworld as it comes apart.

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