Revision as of 21:47, 13 May 2024 by Dre (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Fire on Water.png
Sometimes it is neccessary to fight fire with fire.


Click for audio version

The ships gather in Volkavaar, in the western Commonwealth. Snow covers the mithril spires of the University; the docks throng with Imperial vessels. Dedicated Commonwealth soldiers, given license to take part in the attack against Rachensgrab, seek passage on those vessels not already laden down with Imperial heroes. A few have chartered vessels of their own, eager to join their Imperial allies in the raid. Likewise, a handful of passionate Sumaah warbands have made the long journey east to the Sea of Steel. Some have travelled directly from the assault on Chalonsio, hopping from one Imperial ship to another in the pursuit of a virtuous cause. There are even a few black-sailed ships from Axos here, although the Axou seem more interested in the wealth to be seized from Rachensgrab than in any moral imperative to free slaves. Still, they are part of the Liberty Pact, and nobody questions their right to take part.

The majority of the forces gathering in the Commonwealth are Imperial in nature. All docking fees are waived, and the Empire's champions receive a warm welcome. Strategy is discussed; the University provides maps of the northern Sea of Steel. It is perhaps sobering to see just how big the eastern ocean is. Even the Commonwealth has only sketchy details about its northern expanse. Without the information seized from the Temple of the God of Chains, there would be little hope of narrowing the search for the slave lords down to the Tears of the Moon.

The Tears of the Moon – a fanciful name for an archipelago steeped in horror – lie almost directly north of Volkavaar, across a vast wasteland of cold water. The Commonwealth has no contact with the people who live there. In the past they have fiercely protected their privacy – and it is easy to see why, now.

Rachensgrab – the site of the slave lords' aerie – is the largest of the islands. Commonwealth captains speak of extensive defences and treacherous shallow waters that would give even a skilled explorer pause – but again the charts seized from Chalonsio detail a route through that will allow the raid to strike at Rachensgrab without risking the dangers of the narrow channels.

Time is of the essence; the longer the Liberty Pact delays its assault the more time the slave lords will have to prepare for what is coming. Less than a month after the Autumn Equinox, amid flurries of snow, the signal is given. The armada sails out of Volkavaar's fortified harbour, a great hunting pack of sleek ships, heading north.

The General Assembly recognises Abel, Bursar of Conclave, Zenith Ascendant, as Admiral of the Great Fleet sailing forth to cast down the Aerie of the Slave Lords. A journey of this length, so far into the unknown, will be a battle of logistics as much as it will be a battle of swords. The Bursar is known across Anvil for his Prosperity and administrative acumen. Whether he is chosen as Admiral or not, Abel pledges 60 mana from his personal Prosperity towards the success of this venture. Two mana per fleet captain that pledges to join the raid and enchant their fleet to improve its effectiveness. If you intend to sail to the Aerie, seek out the tent of Zenith Ascendant to claim your share.

Bartimaeus, General Assembly, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Lesser Majority 1133-317)

Tears of the Moon

The passage to the Tears of the Moon requires a careful weighing of risk. Stray too far from sight of land and one risks getting lost in the trackless ocean. Venture too close too the shore and one risks engagement with a minor nation – or worse providing advance warning to the slave lords.

The closer the armada gets, the more regularly they encounter ships with crimson sails heading to or from Rachensgrab. The crews of these vessels are given one chance to surrender, and if they refuse, they are shown no mercy. The first slaves are freed before the raid even sights the Tears of the Moon; some insist on joining the raid, others are given custody of the ships on which they were being transported and the freedom to return to their homes.

It takes the better part of three weeks to reach the archipelago. Two dozen islands stretched out in a frigid sea. Each ship captain has a chart showing the winding route between the isles. Lanterns, and the Heliopticon cipher, allow the Liberty Pact ships to communicate quickly with one another, to coordinate their attack.


With the rising sun, the armada arrows toward Rachensgrab. The island spills out around a volcanic mountain, from which a thin plume of smoke rises towards the grey sky. The waters here are warmer than those in the rest of the archipelago, and a sprawling city stretches along the coastline in the shadow of the mountain. A great stone fortress gazes down from the volcanic peak, shaped like the head of a great lizard. As the Imperial ships approach, beacons are lit in the eyes of the citadel, and the alarm is raised.

The armada overwhelms the docks under a hail of fire. Literal fire – squat stone towers rise from the sea wall, topped with metal catapults that launch globs of burning pitch and oil into the attacking ships. While most of the missiles are mundane, there are a few that burn with brilliant sapphire flames, which spread supernaturally fast, and resist all efforts to quench them – water simply seems to make them burn even more fiercely. They can only be dealt with by smothering them, and several ships sustain catastrophic damage before this solution is discovered. Freeborn magicians will later speak of the Autumn magic that infuses these fireballs, and speculate as to which of the cities their incendiary power might draw upon.

Soldiers spill from the ships onto the docks, and the defenders of Rachensgrab pour out to greet them. Their discipline stands in stark contrast to that of the other defenders – the crews of individual vessels – who fight to try and protect their ships. It is clear that in addition to the crimson sailed ships of the slave lords themselves there are a number of large Jarmish ships here, as well as assorted Asavean traders, several Grendel cogs and even a pair of Sarcophan merchant vessels - all mixed in with ships belonging to nations the Empire has no knowledge of. If the marines of these ships had fought together, or cooperated with the slave lord troops, they might have presented a threat to the Empire's heroes. In the event, it is clear that it is each ship for themselves, and most are quickly overwhelmed or flee. Many sink; a few are captured, their crews surrendering or choosing to take their chances in the waters of the bay.

Chaos floods into the city. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to its layout, the narrow alleys and broad avenues resembling nothing so much as a nest of serpents spilling down from the slopes of the mountain. With the Liberty Pact ships focusing on controlling the docks and the waterfront, the warbands that have travelled with them push into the city towards the temple of Pharam Vex, the Sacrifice Tower, and their ultimate goal – the aerie of the slave lords themselves.

Temple of Chains

The Temple lies not far from the docks; unsurprising as it serves not only as a place of blasphemous worship but also as one of the biggest auction blocks in the city. Its architecture is entirely unfamiliar – a pyramid similar to the ziggurats of the Sumaah but with straight sides rather than steps, brilliant under the rising sun. The white marble facings glows like the full moon, and the twisting green metallic lines that coil across its surface gleam like polished emeralds. Massive arched entryways sealed with great doors of weirwood and mithril allow access to the interior of the structure, flanked by bronze statues of Pharam Vex, the Voivoide of Chains.

This is the domain of Mordrammo, the High Priest of Pharam Vex. It is fortified, but the defences are no match for Imperial heroes. Mordrammo himself is not in residence – he has fled to the aerie above the city at the first sign of the Liberty Pact armada. The defenders fight like fanatics however – wrapped in heavy armour of golden scale, armed with nets and polearms, and vicious mancatchers. Their accoutrements are of fine quality, and many of them are the product of the artisan's arts. Several of the defenders show signs of being enchanted – their armour absorbs blows that might fell even a mighty warrior, and they wield their polearms with supernatural ability.

They are supported by unnatural allies; creatures from the Autumn Realm half again the height of the tallest warrior with metallic skin shaded silver or gold. They wield horrible glass chains that coil around their opponents holding them in place or even paralysing them. These seem to be the agents of Pharam Vex, the Voivoide, and the human defenders treat them with religious awe.

The Imperial champions press the assault, forcing the temple guards back until finally they reach the inner sanctum of the temple – a vaulted open space with a perpetually burning flame. Four great golden statues of Pharam Vex hold the eternal flame aloft by nine thick greensteel chains. The defenders make their final stand here, fighting to the last in the name of their false god.

As the Liberty Pact forces break down the doors of the sanctum, Pharam Vex himself joins the battle. Bound in armour of chains, the “god” wields potent Autumn magics – as befits a lord of the City of Gold and Lead. At first he tries to negotiate, but once it is clear nobody is listening, he unleashes his magic – serpentine chains of force that bind a dozen attackers at a time. Yet, even though he masquerades here as a god, he is still only a herald, and there is a limit to what his magic can achieve. Finally an agile Freeborn ducks beneath the flailing chains and is able to get close enough to the herald to strike, impaling the herald with a devastating blow from their bhuj. With Pharam Vex dispatched, the defence of the temple collapses.

The statues are cast down, thousands of slaves are freed, and the very flame that burned in the heart of the temple let loose to burn Mordrammo's cathedral to the ground, devouring wood and stone with equal hunger.

Tower of Sacrifice

At the same time that some of the Liberty Pact tear down the temple of Pharam Vex, another group of heroes assail the Sacrificial Tower of Ajakstu. The tower itself is as peculiar to Imperial eyes as the temple – a spire made up of a dozen squat cones stacked one upon the other, with thick iron chains anchoring it and helping to keep it vertical. It is surrounded by several smaller buildings – again with the odd shape of truncated cones.

Ajakstu of the Many Masks is the public face of the slave lords – a diplomat, negotiator, and master of disguise. Their apprentices wear featureless metal masks that conceal their identity, and favour metal rods that allow them to wrap their foes in invisible chains. Their mage armour is studded with tempest jade – those whom they cannot immobilize, they hurl away with blasts of irresistible force.

Unlike the fanatics at the Temple of Pharam Vex, the defenders of the Sacrificial Tower prefer to employ hit-and-run tactics, retreating into the tower and its surrounding buildings. Here the Imperial champions learn the truth of the rumour that the tower is full of traps. The entire structure, and parts of the surrounding campus, are riddled with tripwires and pressure plates, dart traps, concealed crossbows, blades pendulum and scything, bellows that spray acid or venom, trapdoors, walls of spikes, and all the mechanisms of torment and entrapment that one can imagine.

They are not enough. The champions of the Liberty Pact will not be turned back by toys, however vicious they might be. One by one the defenders of the tower are defeated many of them falling to their own traps rather than face capture. Ajakstu is cornered, caught in the midst of a desperate negotiation with a figure wearing three masks who laughs with glee when the first champions appear at the top of the tower and abandons Many Masks to their fate.

Cursing the treachery of their patron, Ajakstu and their last few apprentices fight desperately but in the end, they are left with no choice but to surrender or to fall from the top of the Sacrificial Tower. Pausing only to spit a curse at his conquerors, Ajakstu takes the latter course, plunging down onto the spikes at the base of the Sacrificial Tower. Their body is never recovered, but they are surely dead. Surely.

The tower is destroyed, but not before its vaults and treasuries are broken open and the wealth within seized by the victorious Liberty Pact.


While the warbands and champions have taken the temple and the tower, and freed thousands of slaves, the captains and mariners of the armada have not been idle. A blockade is thrown up around the island, aiming to sink any ship that tries to flee the city. A handful manage to slip away – but the majority are boarded or sunk. Those few ships that make it to open water represent a fraction of the might the slave lords once boasted. They will most likely fall prey to the very nations they are used to raiding. A few might make it to the relative safety of Kavor or Vezak, but even there they are unlikely to receive much of a welcome. The Magician Princes are nothing if not practical; without the strength of the slave lords behind them, the crimson sailed ships are little more than pirates.

The armada sinks more ships than it seizes, but easily a score of vessels are captured rather than consigned to the cold embrace of the sea. Most of these ships are handed over to the liberated slaves to crew, but the finest are taken as trophies. Once they have disgorged their cargo of freed slaves, their disposition will be for the Abel, the Admiral of the Great Fleet

Aerie and Vault

With temple and tower in ruins, with a ring of weirwood and steel cast around the island, the final assault on the seat of the Slave Lords begins. A squat fortification on the high ground overlooking the city, on the slopes of the volcano, it is an impressive structure. Easily as intimidating as any imperial fortification, storming it is no easy matter. Yet the Liberty Pact forces have the advantage of surprise.

Help comes from an unexpected source – from some of the liberated slaves. They know of hidden ways into the fortification. Apparently past slave lords did not trust to the white granite walls, or distrusted their fellows enough that they made preparations for their own escape. These tunnels can be used to breach the defences, and attack the defenders from unexpected locations.

While the main force of soldiers assaults the gates of the fortification – as a distraction as much as anything else – elite teams sneak under the walls through these narrow passages led by courageous former slaves. There are traps to deal with, but compared to the horrors of the Sacrificial Tower they are relatively easily overcome.

Once there are agents inside the aerie, the gates are soon torn open. The slave lords and their hand-picked bodyguards fight desperately, savagely, trapped within their own sanctum. Some attempt to make deals of their own, betraying their supposed comrades for the chance to survive. Others fight with pride and courage, refusing to bow their heads, using every advantage they can wring from their superior knowledge of the aerie.

Beneath the aerie lie vaults full of the ill gotten gains of a century of trading in human and orc misery. The guardians of those treasure vaults are two monstrous status of bronze and steel, and when it is clear that the defenders of the aerie are overwhelmed, the slave lords unleash them on their attackers. Four armed titans full of liquid fire tear through the floor of the council chambers, ripping soldiers limb-from-limb or crushing them with great metal fists.

In the end even these monstrous foes are defeated. The last half dozen slave lords fall in the ruins of their council chamber. Their leader, Feetla, is found buried beneath a pile of dead soldiers, having fought to the last breath. The survivors are executed.

The threat of the slave lords is ended for good.


The vaults of the slave lords are looted; in the absence of their monstrous guardians there is little to stop the Liberty Pact taking whatever they can carry. With the city in flames, the armada turns back south. Some of the swifter vessels head straight for home; others will stop at Volkavaar to resupply or to help those former slaves with no homes to go to begin new lives.

The sky is red behind the armada as it sails south. All the slaves in the city are freed, and those who imprisoned them have paid the ultimate price for their crimes.

With the destruction of the slave lords, the international trade in slaves is already collapsing, leaving a vacuum in its wake. With the lesson of Chalonsio and Rachensgrab fresh in peoples' minds, it will be a generation or more before anyone even considers setting up a similar operation – assuming anyone ever does. Jarm and Asavea are unlikely to change their ways – they are too reliant on the corrupt structures that shore up those in power – but they will be unable to buy slaves to replace those they have lost, and unable to sell those they wish to dispose of. Both powers will be forced to consider some changes or else make deep sacrifices to continue as they are.

There is some talk of a fundamental change – of the turning of an age. The heavens turn, the Wanderer shifts into alignment with the Chain and the Great Wyrm. Those who sail away from Rachensgrab are left in no doubt that they have achieved something, taken part in something, monumental.

Game Information : Rachensgrab

The unequivocal success of the assault on the aerie of the slave lords has shattered the international slave trade. It is a great victory for the Liberty Pact.

An immense amount of wealth has been seized as part of the raid. Every character who participated in the raid receives 4 crowns (from the golden status of Pharam Vex), and a pouch of warm ashes taken from the Sacrificial Tower. In addition there are a number of rewards that will be distributed randomly among all those who took part in the raid. These include thirty magic weapons seized from the defenders of the Temple of Pharam Vex, a dozen magic items used to empower Autumn magic, and a hundred wains of materials (mithril, white granite, and weirwood) seized from the slave lords' vaults.

Furthermore, the raid admiral gains possession of eight rank three fleets and two rank five fleets that they can distribute any way they see fit to those who would benefit from a bigger ship, and a pair of ritual texts detailing Autumn rituals seized from Ajakstu of the Many Masks.

Finally, every character who took part in the assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords will find details of a special spiritual aura in their pack. This represents a spontaneous personal aura that has appeared at some point when they were engaged in the fight on Rachensgrab - provided they were sincere about their desire to defeat the slave lords, and free their slaves. If your character was motivated solely by greed, you can discard this spontaneous aura. Otherwise it will prove both durable - persisting until it is removed - and strong. A slip detailing the roleplaying effects will be in each such players' pack and should be kept as long as the aura remains. Only characters whose fleet or military unit was committed to the raid will receive this aura; please do not email in asking for it if you did not take the downtime action supporting the raid.