The explanation of the context of the decision got long, so.
For those familiar with the system/setting, this is 13th Age. For those not familiar with it, it's basically D&D 4th ed, except not trying to be D&D, and with some bits that the designers of D&D4e wanted to include that didn't really fit into D&D (or so I gather).
The core group of adventurers was Vattu (halfling wizard), K'tangs (dragonborn necromancer, formally known as K'tang's 82nd Error for reasons that have been lost to history), Anwe (elf nobility ... and I'm not sure exactly. Mage, maybe?), and Claire (human priestess). They've been adventuring together for quite some time, and in one of their recent adventures they had obtained a treasure known as the Eye of the Stone Thief.
This wants a bit of background.
The Stone Thief is ... imagine a D&D dungeon crossed with a sandworm from Dune. It's a city-sized being that lives underground, and occasionally pops up and swallows parts of cities, which then get sort of shuffled around inside it in a way that suggests rather more magic than biology. There are settlements inside and civilizations of orcs and a room of notable buildings and treasures dating back to the First Age, and a very long stairway, and many other things. Getting out is difficult.
The Eye is a soccerball-sized diamond, one of two magical artifacts that the Stone Thief uses to see where it's going. Without them, it mostly blunders about blindly.
There is a mostly-passed-into-history cult that believes that the Eye can be used to control the Stone Thief. K'tangs (and/or one of the conciousnesses of past-Age necromancers that also occupy his brain) has good reason to believe that this is the sort of madness that leads to Very Bad Things happening, and we mostly believe him even if he is a bit of a paranoid conspiracy theorist.
The Eye also happens to be the current residence of a guardian spirit that had been guarding a Dwarven city many years ago. It would like to be returned there. We would like to return it there.
This is where I joined the weekly sessions, and thus where my first character -- Cal, a dwarf bard, agent of the Dwarven Diplomatic Apparatus (which is totally not Stross's Laundry or the CIA, at all, and doesn't ever do spying or anything, we swear) -- comes in. The Dwarves would very much like to have this diamond, and would like to have the guardian returned, and so Cal has been assigned to make sure that nothing untoward happens to it or its carriers on the journey. Cal befriends them; they befriend Cal, we slowly begin to trust each other.
Then ... things happen.
The setting is the grand wedding of the Emperor. The Emperor is one of a dozen or so Icons -- major magical power-wielders that define the Age. Who he's marrying is a deep secret, aside from the fact that we know it's one of the other Icons. Probably the Elf Queen or the Blue Dragon, could be the Diabolist or the Priestess of Light. We're all scurrying about caught up in getting ready for the wedding and trying to stay out from underfoot on the morning before.
And then there's a cut, and we wake up, a couple of weeks later, inside the Stone Thief, with no memory of what happened.
Lots of adventuring happens, and we eventually get out (and get the Emperor and some other nobility out), in part through Claire making a heroic sacrifice that provides a fitting and appropriate character death. Claire's player begins playing Faye, a human warrior who had been in the Imperial Guard and is one of the people we got out. Also somewhere in there we establish that one of Cal's magic items is a standard-issue Diplomatic Apparatus pouch, into which he can place small items or notes that will be immediately transported to Headquarters.
More things happen, and we find that the Empire is rather in chaos from the Imperial Capital City being eaten by the Stone Thief, and nobody has any memory of what happened at the wedding. A couple of different armies of Iconic destruction (notably the Crusader, who is a "cleanse the world by burning it all down" sort of power, and the Orc Lord) are taking advantage of the chaos to invade. The alignments of some other Icons are unclear. Nobody knows what happened to the Elf Queen, which deeply bothers Anwe who is very close and committed to her.
So, there is more adventuring trying to get to a reasonable place of safety and regrouping, and eventually we end up in a Dwarven city.
We then play out a "flashback" scene of the royal wedding, with a game-mechanical explanation that somehow we end up recovering some of our memories. As expected, there's a massive fight with several Icons involved -- it happens before the wedding, in the antechamber. The Elf Queen is the bride, and the fight is between her, the Blue Dragon (part of a triumvirate Icon), the Black Dragon (yet another Icon), and a bunch of mercenary goblins and orcs. And us, caught in the middle of it. Towards the end Elf Queen is taken down and sort of disappears into a black swirling void that takes her place.
Cal recognizes that with all his companions down and no clear escape, the situation is personally dire as well as being a sure beginning to empire-wide geopolitical chaos, and that the Elf Queen's circlet that is the center of Elven power is still on ... where her head would be if the black void had a head. So he makes a last-ditch running leap, grabs the circlet, stuffs it into his diplomatic pouch, and falls unconscious from the damage from reaching into the void.
(There is, in my headcanon for outside-the-roleplay story, a scene where one of the Dwarves who's responsible for cataloging and storing the things that come in from the diplomatic pouches is waiting for any news of the Imperial wedding while a few boring-ish things come in, someone gets a message saying "Something bad is going down" with little detail, and then this comes in. It's a combination of "Holy cave-ins, I just won capture-the-flag against the people who've been our enemies since time immemorial" and "Holy cave-ins, if word gets out that we have this, we are all in SUCH DEEP TROUBLE." And then ... nothing. For hours, until finally word gets out that the volcano under the city blew up, the Stone Thief ate the center of it, and the Crusader's army is scouring what's left. For weeks the only news on the Elf Queen is that she's missing, presumed dead.)
That was as far as I got with Cal. Outside of played sessions, a different-and-unrelated group of black-ops Dwarves stole the Eye of the Stone Thief by secretly swapping it for a fake, and used it to attract the Stone Thief to a city where most of the Crusader's army was being occupied by a small number of Dwarves, and thus largely ended that aspect of the war. Then, for in-game reasons that I'm not entirely sure of, but related to the recovery of memories (and, out-of-game, because K and I weren't there for a couple of weeks), Anwe and K'tangs and Vattu go off by themselves to try to find what's left of the Elf Queen.
At the remains of the city, they meet my new character, Teranne, who is an High-Elf commander (her combat skills are primarily quick-action buffs and heals on other players) with a bit of long-ago jotun heritage. She's also looking for the Elf Queen, and joins their party -- she doesn't ask, she just states that she will accompany them. K's character -- a Wood-Elf wuxia hero, basically -- also joins the party there as well.
We find where the Elf Queen was; there's a spot of fresh cool moss in the middle of the smoking caldera. Above it is some fog, and levitating into the fog we find ourselves a pocket universe with a single ancient giant dead tree in the middle of a large plain. We begin climbing the tree, and it gets dark, and we find some thousand-year-old remains of a Wood Elf settlement, and further up some equally-old remains of a High-Elf settlement, with bodies from an ancient battle, and some ghosts and specters that are continuing to attempt to prevent people from going up the tree.
That's a very fierce battle, due to some rather unlucky choices, and Anwe is actually thoroughly killed rather than just the kind-of-killed-but-resurrectable that usually befalls player characters. (Our GM had a plan for how that wouldn't be an actual end-of-character if it happened -- we'd just all reappear back outside the pocket universe, unharmed -- but Anwe's player said this was actually better, so.) The rest of us continue climbing, and find an observatory at the top, but a dark starless void of a sky. And journals and notes that indicate that the Elf Queen has been coming here since the Second Age, when her horoscope says that her death is near, and using the telescope to suck the power out of stars to prolong her life. Which ... explains the dark starless sky; she eventually used up all of the stars.
(This game has been good at having some rather creepy bits, in that kind of way.)
So we collect some relevant carryable notes and artifacts that explain what happened to the Elf Queen, and make plans to use the teleport circle in the observatory that will take us back to the Elven Court -- not really knowing what political chaos it's in, although news is that with the Elf Queen missing and presumed dead, it's falling into civil war. And that's where we are at the moment.
And thus I have a conundrum: Next week, do I play Cal, or Teranne?
Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.