Dark Sun: Trials of Ash and Silt

#7: The Shadow of Tyr
As the hand of Tyr comes to rest firmly on the shoulder of Korsun, the characters decide to become scarce.

The characters discover a sinister plot, the two half-elf mages (Caboudon and Cavanar) and their work involving the cave of glass, where the Shardmind came from. Something regarding “preventing the gates from opening” and “denying the Celestials access to this realm.” Also, in a show of power unseen before, the Shardmind transforms into a giant crystal drake, absorbing all of the gray glass that’s outside the cave and bringing it all crashing down on himself. Then, safely, popping out via his spirit’s teleportation.

Taking a brief detour to Monolith in order to drop off the two mercenaries and four slaves from the slain Vordon expeditionary force, the characters find that the Dwarven cult has set up a stone temple, complete with contraption to dig precious clay out of the bottom of the oasis. The characters spend the night, with their goal to return to Celik to see what has happened in the wake of Korsun’s gambit with House Vordon.

On the way, the characters discover that there is fungus among us. The far exit of the subterranean path beneath the salt flats has been collapsed, and the tower and entrance near Celik has become completely overgrown with choking vines and stalks of brilliantly colored mushrooms stalks. Skeletons litter the periphery, no doubt an indication of the lethality of this new outcropping. The party takes a wide berth.

Arriving in Celik, the party witnesses House Vordon’s wagon leaving and two other wagons arriving – the latter flying banners belonging to the city-state of Tyr. The characters find Korsun in his home, being tended to by a healer – apparently narrowly missing getting stabbed in the back of the neck by Thehk, Pavlos’ former bodyguard. It is presumed that Pavlos is dead. Korsun informs the party that he called in a favor to prevent a political storm from killing Pavlos and kicking out House Vordon, and in exchange of that favor, a templar from Tyr has arrived to “observe and secure” Korsun’s efforts. In private, Korsun confides in Sera that Thehk was paid to make the revenge assassination attempt look as convincing as possible, but it was meant as a ruse.

Jaad-sun checks in with his Dwarven stonemason apprentice friend, who has crafted an octagonal table and five chairs, all made of stone, as well as a partly lopsided book shelf. All of this was made out of scrap stone, which was free for the party as they promised coin in exchange for more work later. Sera secretly checks in with Thehk, that she finds on his perching ledge far beneath Celik in one of the old cisterns. Thehk explains to her that Korsun gave a steep price for betraying his employer, a price of sacrifice of something very dear to him. The half-dead Tiefling also expressed that he had no callings, but that Sera was one reason for him to stick around.

The party decided to become scarce, as Korsun would not engage in any chicanery while Tyr was snooping around his compound. In true fast-hand slow-hand fashion, the party decided to travel to Tyr, to investigate the political situation there as well as provide ammunition for Korsun should he need it.

On the way, the characters came across Belgoi, not too far off the Trade Road in the thin scrub. After a long fight, the characters discovered what they had been clustered around: the shattered bodies of three Thri-Kreen. Traveling further north into the scrub, they came across another Thri-Kreen, desperately trying to fight a Bulette that was toying with it. The fight was brutal but quick, with the party showing its lethality when confronted with a single, overpowering foe. But, the Thri-Kreen did not take well to having its kill taken from it, and after an exchange of blows and some ill negotiations, it bounded off into the scrub. Later, as the party made camp, they became aware of the Kreen following behind, keeping just beyond the periphery of what could be easily seen by the light of the moons.

Completed Encounters

  • Belgoi
  • Bulette + Kreen

XP Earned: 510 XP.

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#6: Broken Glass
The characters escort a House Vordon survey expedition, and end up at the birthplace of the Shardmind.

Completed Encounters

Completed Quests

XP Earned: 1070 XP.
Treasure: loot from Casaubon, Cavanar, and the Vordon survey

Level Up!

The characters are now level 4. Current XP total: 3920.

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#5: To Find a Sage
While waiting for their home to be built, the characters go look for Vakhur the Sage.

(to be filled in)

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#4: We Want A House
Deciding they want a headquarters, the party does work for Korsun to clear out more of the ruins.

Korsun was content to leave the group to their own devices — but, much to Lokk’s dismay, Jaad-sun started considering their next option for action nearly immediately. More specifically, he pitched the idea of about clearing out a nearby section of the ruins of Celik to establish a base of operations: simply, a home. The idea was bandied about back and forth for a bit, and then Lokk decided to approach Korsun about it himself.

After a bit of diplomacy elbow-greasing on Lokk’s part, Korson made a counter-offer: if the party cleared out a path to a suspected active well, he would build a home for the characters, to their specification, locating it inside the expanding compound. Lokk was quick to accept, and the party then had a new mission: blaze a short path to the active well, killing anything they find along the way.

In the meantime, Sera did some more nosing around and chatting with the workers and guards of Celik on her task of finding Vakhur the Sage. She identified that the man attacks caravans by himself, either stealing seemingly random single items, or obliterating the entire caravan himself — but never directly harming anyone.

Rather than spend another night in the old, blind elf’s tavern, the restless characters chose to head out once the sun set behind the ruins to the west. Prowling along, they followed the path outlined by Korsun on a crudely charcoal-sketched map, following alleyways between ruined buildings. (It was made apparent that tonight’s adventure resembled a side-scroller video game, as the playing field was narrow and long, and we ran out of map at one point and had to pick up the minis and move them an equal distance back. Double Dragon FTW!) They came up to a pack of gith, overturning rubble and searching for… something. Upon seeing the Shardmind, the gith leader cried out, “Power source! Smash it!” and they rushed forward to attack. The battle was fierce, with Xerima being knocked unconscious at one point, but in the end the tragic hilarity ensued of fleeing gith apologizing in Deep Speech whilst still throwing javelins. In fact, Jaad-sun finished off the last gith hobbler with a masterful throw from the jawbone hand axe he had crafted. “Huh. Who knew a hand axe would be useful,” he said, as the last gith lay twitching.

Searching the leader revealed that they were in fact looking for any scraps of magic or psionics as gith are want to do — and they had, indeed, found something. Wrapped around its belt was a fine gauze funerary shroud, the white fabric threaded with what was meant to look like veins, and stitched in dark grey lettering. Lokk immediately identified it as something dark and sinister that mirrors the powers Sera uses to fuel her assassin’s powers; once she handled it, she knew immediately it was a powerful ki focus. The deduction was made that these gith must’ve gotten it from somewhere… which leads to the question of, where?

Moving further down the alley way, with Jaad-sun and Sera scouting ahead, the party came across a collapsed section where darkness seemed to deepen and cling towards the bottom of a long depression in the ground. Rubble was strewn everywhere, and the general feeling was of an unnatural disquiet. Sera, having been already in her shade form, scouted the bottom of the collapsed section, only to be face to face with an id fiend. Distracting the beast with one of the gith’s javelins, the party charged down into the pit, only to be harassed by three fell taint pulsars attracted by the fear of the id fiend and the thin barrier between this world and the aberrant, starless black. The fight was won far quickly, the group’s skill with handling large, powerful creatures shining through once again (re: [[Encounter: Krayt the Butcher | Encounter: Krayt the Butcher]]). Much to Sera’s dissatisfaction, the group decided to finish the job for Korsun before investigating the water source that was clearly apparent in this tumbled section of alleyway.

Finally, the party came upon an overgrown courtyard of sorts, with the circular stone well at the center. Scrub grasses and reeds were growing freely here, indicating the presence of much water. Investigating the abutting buildings and poking around the grasses, Jaad-sun and Sera identified two important things: One, that small lizard-type creatures in habited this place on occasion, and stored food and scavenged House Mareneth gear in the antechamber of a still-standing ruined building, and two, that these creatures were long gone. The party as a group investigated the most intact building, where Sera discovered the sealed pottery and Mareneth crate. Lokk, quick with his bardic knowledge, identified the saying carved in Draconic above the antechamber archway: a blessing of protection, long-since faded.

Proceeding deeper into the building, the first floor was more or less dust and completely rotten wood. The stairs up were blocked off by rubble, but the stairs down, smeared with blood and the signs of a recent battle. Cuts in the stonework showed that edged or piercing weapons were swung, and Jaad-sun identified a piece of rapidly-crumbling iron rust. They suspected undead.

Forging into the basement, the characters came across a faded but brilliant mural of a landscape depiction of the Green Age, with a blue sky and rolling green hills, a magnificent tower in the background, and a pair if Dray dueling with fencing swords. This raised some questions for later, as it is generally accepted that the Dray were created by one of the sorcerer-kings as an experimental kind of magical soldier. Heavy petrified stone doors were investigated; Lokk again identified a magical inscription on the doors: something to do with security. Beyond one of the doors was a hallway lined with shelves, with torn and rotten books and scrolls strewn everywhere. Most of it would likely turn to dust the moment it was moved above ground. Sera and Lokk identified a pressure plate trap on the floor, but when the bard attempted to disable it, the wire simply broke… provoking the library’s defenders. Much like what killed the silt runners, rusty iron beasts looking like vicious dogs marched up the hallway. The beasts were dispatched with little effort from the party, and they immediately began crumbling into dust — which was, of course, harvested by the ever-pragmatic Jaad-sun. The remainder of the floor was investigated, revealing similar creatures on the opposite side, but that had already succumbed to time and their enchantment dissipated. Lokk, on the other hand, found the few scrolls he could safely remove from the library.

On the way out, the party was confronted by what was left of the curious silt runners, numbering a half-dozen. The talking ensued, with Lokk as translator: the silt runners wanted no fighting, and simply wanted to take their foodstuffs and leave. Jaad-sun negotiated that they act as scouts for Korsun if they were given food and trinkets in payment — they agreed, tentatively. They grabbed their stuff and ran, leaving behind the Mareneth crate for the PCs to take back, as well as the two petrified doors.

Completed Encounters

Completed Quests

XP Earned: 585 XP.
Treasure: death shroud ki focus +1, around 55 crude obsidian tipped javelins (~35gp), id fiend parts (~50gp for spiny bits, ~160gp for brain meats), six rituals (arcane mark, banish vermin, secret page, eye of alarm, seek rumor, undead ward), iron rust (~50gp). And two heavy petrified wood doors.

Level Up!

The characters are now level 3. Current XP total: 2340.

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#3: The Abyssal Glyphs
The characters delve deeply into the shallow ruins of Celik, retrieving ancient magical marks for an Eladrin arcanist.

The characters make their journey back to Celik, crossing back across the salt flats along the route blazed by the expeditionary force before them. As the party draws closer to the ruined city, the Eladrin they are escorting become gradually weaker and sicker. They show none of their haughty superiority by the time they reach Celik nearly a week later. Korsun is quite pleased with the party’s progress, although he is a bit disappointed that most of the twenty-man expedition he sent ended up dead. The is a man of his word, though, and gives the reward he promised the party.

The next day, Korsun, along with the Eladrin lord (finally revealing his name as Valhaminur, the Lord of Wretched Wind) inform the party what their next task is: to infiltrate the ruins, seeking active and corrupt manifestations of the elemental runes that once helped power the magic of ancient Celik. All four of the abyssal-corrupted runes (caustic, plague, cinder, and void) are to be harvested and brought back for his “studies.”

In the meantime, before their jaunt into the ruins, Sera, Jaad-sun, and a distracting Shardmind do some investigation into the nature of the scraps of wisdom left by Vakhur the Sage. They manage to identify where the cult meets, to exchange their scraps of wisdom in an attempt to magically manufacture a larger script; it seems even the words themselves, when copied mundanely, carry some kind of magical power with them. Sera confronts one of the cultists, who ends up teleporting away in a flash of illusion, leaving clues for her to follow in the future.

Delving carefully into the ruins, the party makes its way towards the center of the great hexagonal ruined city. Avoiding the sounds of gith and other nasty creatures, the party came across the caustic glyph first, inscribed at the base of an old crumbling stone fountain. Defeating bloodthirsty vines and burrowing ankhegs and their broodlings, the party dislodges the caustic glyph from the base of the fountain. Much to his delight, Jaad-sun learned that simply being in proximity to the caustic glyph caused his Genasi blood to stir, awakening hidden affinity for the corrupted element of water.

The next glyph to be found was plague, located in the middle of a smoldering charnel pit being rooted through by a few undead drakes. The drakes were quickly dispatched, but Sera spotted the main threat: a skulking silt runner, who was not nearly as stealthy as he thought he was. Sorting through the piles of smoldering flesh and rubbish through the use of the Way, Jaad-sun finds the plague glyph inscribed on the skull of a minotaur. Once again, he feels the latent power surge, and quickly begins showing signs of losing himself due to these glyphs.

Finally, atop a ruined tower abutting the inner city of ruined Celik, the party discovers a makeshift elemental altar constructed of smoldering, shattered stone and scraps of iron. An ancient elemental force, weakened by the corruption of the cinder and void glyphs nearby, erupted from the altar in the form of a massive firebird. Tiny elementals danced out from nothingness, and the battle ensued. Jaad-sun was nearly outright slain by the firebird, but as the party fought for their survival, something awoke inside Jaad-sun’s soul and the true rage of the Abyss fueled his fury. Once the hard-fought battle was won, Jaad-sun briefly united himself with all four glyphs, transforming his mind and essence to something… otherworldly. But he had enough willpower to let go, and the party returned to the House Mareneth compound triumphant.

Quotable Quotes

Chris, to Dan (as the Shardmind): "Go, explore, be one of the sights!’

Completed Encounters

Completed Quests

XP Earned: 653 (by calc)
Treasure: one potion fruit of healing, one ring worth 20gp, hellfire wand +1, hungry spirits totem +1, 350gp worth of iron scraps.

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#2: Saving Esheria
The characters discover a threat of doomsday cultists, while rescuing a wayward druid.

The adventure begins with Lokk, the party’s Half-Elf Bard and Minstrel, escorting his charge to Monolith Oasis. A mysterious Eladrin and his two bodyguards, apparently some manner of business partner with Korsun, knows very little of the ways of the Tyr Region and the Tablelands; Korsun dispatched Lokk to escort him from Balic. Along the way to Celik, a small horde of thirty raiders ambushed the small group; for five days they fled north, away from Celik, and eventually found themselves at the Oasis. However, none of them knew that there would be an encampment of three merchant houses there, and the rest of the party.

After a night of watering, food, and rest, the party prepared to depart Monolith. Unfortunately for them, the Lord Eladrin chose to remain for two days to study the awesome power of the monolith. Fortunately for the party, or perhaps unfortunately again, trouble found them. The raiders that chased Lokk and the Lord Eladrin and his bodyguards to the oasis were waiting far outside the merchant emporium encampment, likely deciding whether or not it was worth testing the defenses of the place. Then, a party of nine Dwarven pilgrims came marching out of the north. The party toyed with the notion of saving the Dwarves, but before they could muster their ranks the raiders split their group in half, with one half going to intercept the Dwarves. Everyone expected a blood bath, but the raiders simply turned back with no fight and no ruckus. The entire group of raiders departed hastily, going the way they came, and then the Dwarves found their way to the Oasis.

Xerima soon found her way into the pilgrims’ hearts, calling her Tall Sister, as she was interested in their ways and polite in assisting their language barrier problems. When the Dwarves began their ritual of worship of the monolith, one Dwarf stood out.

“Why aren’t you singing?” Jaad-sun asked the Dwarf. “It’s not my kind of song,” came the gruff Dwarf’s reply. “Then why the hell did you come with them?”

And then the defiling began.

The pilgrims scattered in confusion in horror as the Dwarven defiler, shouting about the Red Sun coming, raised four undead minions from out of the muddy ground. Without much ado, the party dispatched the foul defiler and the Dwarven zombies — and the Dwarven pilgrims rejoiced that Xerima was indeed the Tall Sister prophesied that will save Esheria, the druid who used to guard the oasis. Also, on the defiler’s corpse, a wooden pendant marked with an ancient mark of the Red Age, hinting at something sinister on the horizon…

After some deliberation as to how to proceed, the party agreed to enter the salt marshes to the south in pursuit of Esheria’s temple and befell the druid. After masterfully navigating the salt marshes and avoiding the life-choking poisonous plants and the fetid salty bogs, the party comes across a group of poisonscale ssurrans who, apparently, set a trap for the party — as they’re fresh meat. The party springs the trap and deals swiftly with the ssurrans, keeping one of them as a captive scout.

Using their scout, they come across Esheria’s “temple”, which appears to be an old Green Age ruin of tumbled Balican columns. After ingenuity wins the day, the party devises a way to skim across an acidic moat using their body equilibrium powers, and use ropes to get others less skilled in the Way across, avoiding a stone bridge covered in hungry blue ooze. The characters confront Krayt, a minion of the same Red Age cult as the dwarven defiler slain in Monolith, guarding a bound and crippled Mul woman. The fight is quick as the party proves to be stronger than the massive (and fat) Mul, and Xerima takes his bronze-headed waraxe.

The party escorts Esheria back to Monolith, who confesses her powers were stolen by the Red Age cult. The Eladrin lord — Lokk’s charge — floats Esheria up to the top of the limestone rock at the center of Monolith’s oasis, and he offers words of ancient fey wisdom to the druid to seek the vessel which contains her power so that she might become great again. The dwarven pilgrims thank the group for their return of their goddess, even if she is “powerless” — the symbolism of her return is enough for them to reward the party.

Quotable Quotes

GM (Alex): “It doesn’t say enemy. He’s going to bite his boss.”

GM (as a dwarf pilgrim): “She’s the Tall Sister!”
Trish (as Xerima): “Oh, no.”
GM: “She’s the one prophesied that will save Esheria!”
Trish: “No, no, no, no…”
GM: They all fall on their knees and start worshiping Xerima, pawing at her armor, wailing…
Trish: “No, no, get up, get up!”

GM (as the dwarf pilgrims): “Tell the tale!”
Steve (sung): “Hi-ho!”

Completed Encounters

Completed Quests

XP Earned: 620 XP.
Treasure: One moonstone carved with a falling sun glyph (100gp), 140gp worth of ceramic coins, Krayt’s bronze waraxe +1 (non-magical), 20 supply days, favor with the Pilgrims of Blessed Pyramid (840 gp).

Level Up!

The characters are now level 2.

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#1: Finding the Path
Finding the fate of a lost expeditionary force

The adventure begins with three of our heroes – Jaad-sun, Sera, and Xerima – invited to the home of Korsun, the head of House Mareneth and the leader of the growing encampment abutting the ruins of Celik. The characters are witness to a measure of Korsun’s wealth, admitted to his walled and heavily guarded estate; they see his private garden, and the beautifully sculpted marble columns to his Balican-style palatial home. Inside, rugs from all corners of Athas, braziers burning with sweet incense – a tremendous, vaulted room.

After given a meal richer than any of the three had enjoyed in recent history, Korsun asks them, “I have a dangerous task for you three. It’s better than hauling stone. It’s more dangerous than killing those that have offended me. But it’s vital to the survival of this compound and to my House. Two weeks ago, I sent an expeditionary force off to find a shorter path to an oasis that’s known as ‘The Monolith’. Now, one could take the Trade Road… and then cut back through to the oasis. A good two week trip, even with speedy crodlu. My men left heading north along the mountains and then cutting northeast across the salt flat. With the right skill and supplies, they would be able to reach Monolith in less than a week. They’ve not come back. I suspect something has befallen them along the way. Suffice it to say I need to know what happened to my men; these men have families, and these families need to be compensated.”

“I’m prepared to compensate you. You will be supplied with one of our sherpas, an inix, several crodlu, and roughly two weeks of supplies. Whatever you don’t use, is yours to keep. If you go the long way, it’s enough to get you there; the short route, it should be round trip.”

Korsun gives the party a chance to decide. Minstrels come in to entertain, playing ‘civilized’ Balican background music.

X: “If we don’t accept, he’s going to kill us. If we go, there’s a distinct chance we’re going to die, which is why he’s feeding us so well. The question is, how do we do it?”
Js: “I say we ride the shortest trail, and if we find them, we find them. If we don’t, we don’t. Seems pretty simple to me.”
X: “Well, I don’t want to get lost out there, do you?”
Js: “I won’t get lost.”
X: “Fair.”

Korsun returns, pours small glasses of port for everyone at the table. “So, have you decided?”

Js: “I’m in.” (other two nod)

After an overnight stay at the Mareneth compound’s only inn, the party sets off in the early morning. Going north, Nobor, the party’s sherpa, finds a trail skirting the divide between the mountains and rocky badlands. The going is reasonably easy, as the sherpa manages to find flat enough land for the party to traverse the otherwise rugged terrain.

After a day of travel, they come across an oddity: a man, made of blue rock, standing atop a tower of rock and avoiding the violence of four tareks. Jaad-sun, knowing the language of giants,
determines one of the tareks is a shaman and wants the “guts of the rock monster” to make totems out of. A fight ensues; Sera, in her unfamiliarity with desert creatures, is battered badly twice by the beasts, but the party emerges victorious. And after some lengthy conversation with the rock beast in Primordial and by using the Way, it is determined that the rock-creature is a shaman and a healer, and will help the party.

Reaching the edge of the salt flats, the party encounters what seems to be a group of stragglers from the expedition. Totaling nine, they shuffle and shamble towards the party, apparently suffering from deprivation. It is quickly determined, though, that they are long-dead: turned into some manner of water-thirsty salt zombies, their brains infiltrated by some kind of vicious mind-mold. Despite being outnumbered over 2:1, the party easily defeats the shambling creatures. One of the victims has a crude bloodstained map that shows several curious markings: ‘tower’, ‘exit?’ and ‘monolith’.

A day later, after traveling into the salt flats, the party comes across a ruined tower by a rubble-strewn sinkhole. They encounter a survivor, a young human who’s apparently gone mad from deprivation and what he witnessed below in the sinkhole. Something about “the Voice”. The party spends the evening camped by the tower, occasionally hearing echoing and distant screams coming from the sinkhole. They decide to march forward, crossing the salt flats, and in time find a massive collapse and cave by the opposite edge, by where ‘exit?’ is marked on the map.

Going past, they reach the Monolith oasis; they make contact with the local House Mareneth master, a man named Zaref. Sera attempts, and succeeds, to identify a local Veiled Alliance contact – a slave working for House Vordon; Jaad-sun enjoys the gambling and whoring establishment; and Xera admires the three Houses’ installations and the defenses of the oasis.

Quotable Quotes

Steve: “[Jaad-sun] has the table manners of someone who kills people for olive oil.”

Alex (GM, as Korsun): “There are some terrible horrors that come out on the salt flats at night.”
Sera: “Besides us?”

Alex (GM): (describing Nobor, the sherpa) “He’s Raamani…”
Dan: He looks like noodles?
Alex (GM): No, no, no. Raam. It’s a city.

Alex (GM): (describing a crodlu) “And they have little arms, with claws. And their wings sort of tuck in and don’t do anything.”
Dan: “You’re riding a chocobo.”

Shardmind: “Do you seek to destroy this world?”
Jaad-sun: “No, I’m living here.”
Shardmind: “Do you seek to destroy this world?”
Xerima: “No.”
Shardmind: “Do you seek to destroy this world?”
Sera growls.

Jaad-sun: “I think he wants to know if you’re a defiler.”
Xerima: “That’s the impression I got.”
Alex (GM, as Nobor): “…”
Jaad-sun: “I’ll tell him ‘no’.”

Alex (GM, as Nobor): “How much does he weigh?”
Jaad-sun: “I don’t know, I haven’t picked him up.”
Nobor: “Could you try? Give him a hug.”

Completed Encounters

Completed Quests

XP Earned: 500 XP.
Treasure: badge of the berserker, 12 survival days, one potion fruit of healing, 3 bone heartpicks, 6 days of water (used).

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#0: The Plan
"Greetings, young adventurers!"

Summary

Steve, Trish, Dan, Chris, Linda, and myself gathered at Linda’s Lovely Zoo for a session of friends catching up, working on characters, and generally having a good time hanging out.

Highlights

  • Character party has settled on two Strikers, one martial-inspired Leader, one ranged Leader with melee buffs, and one… Controller? We’re not quite sure yet. ( Party Composition)
  • Three out of five sheets are finalized, or mostly finalized.
  • Much adoration was given to a certain well-behaved puppy, who provided many opportunities for focused gamers to briefly recharge their brains with, “awww!” and, “what a good girl she is.”

Next Session

Saturday, September 18th, 5PM. There was some question as to whether folks would be able to make it on October 2nd, but that won’t be addressed until the next game.

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