Lodestone aka Kealt Sanja
Lodestone, using his Sanja SIN, has been operating a legit one-man detective agency on Mars for almost two years. Business has really taken off recently due to his success in rescuing the child of upper city politician Lihua Wan from an undercity Christian cult. Today is no different: early in the morning he gets a call from Robert Toomey asking for a matrix meet. He agrees, and Toomey hires him to track down some diamonds that arrived on Mars a few months back. They have unknown provenance, use, and ability, and Toomey’s only clues are the arrival date, and that a large South African man with oversized cyberarms is thought to have been the courier. Sanja agrees to check it out, for his usual retainer.
He traces the courier to the Mungikicontrolled area near the core, with the help of Ibn Hassan. He goes there, and meets Rooster at a free clinic run by the ork shaman Samson. Rooster offers to help him look around, and they talk to Daniel Agabo, who they bribe into telling them that he saw the courier outside a local church during a firefight there, and that he left with some Knight Errant security and a local dwarf ganger who recently died.
Rooster calls John Caruthers, who tells him that the dead dwarf is probably Harmony Craig Bottow, and tells them where the funeral took place. They go to check out Slot, and after asking after HCB get sent to the Slaughtertower, where Ivan the Jackle instructs the remaining team to meet them, see what they want with HCB, and take any actions necesary. Rooster and Sanja quicky recognize Thankyou as the courier, and a standoff ensues. After recognizing their common friend (Arlen Thompson) K and Sanja agree to work together. Thompson hires them out from under his old nemesis Toomey, although Sanja doesn’t tell Toomey yet. The rest of the team goes along, and TY tells them what he knows.
He brought the diamonds from Africa to Mars after a run in which a more experienced team was wiped out, and part of his team was killed, by an incredibly powerful mage. The mage instructed him to get the diamonds off planet, and told him a man would meet him at the spaceport to get them from him. TY then was recomended to Ivan the Jackle, presumably by this same group, although Ivan also knows nothing of the diamonds. Everyone’s contacts come up short, as well.
The team decides to check out the spaceport first, and find that the vidlogs of the day in question, as well as the flight records have been scrubbed. The mages locate a powerful astral residue lingering around the spot where TY made the handoff, and they track it out to the parking lot, back in, and then lose the trail at the entrance to a private shuttle facility. They decide that the diamonds likely remained on Mars, although where on the planet is in question.
Sanja gets a call from Wan, asking him to check in on their recently returned son, as he has been worsening in recent days and is mostly incommunicative. They think seeing his rescuer might help. Thompson calls K around the same time, worried that the cult the boy was rescued from may be related to the insect infestations. They check it out and it seems likely, given Sanja’s recollections, so he goes to see the boy at the Wan family compound in the upper city. The boy, Dengxiang, is about 19, and is pale, sweaty, and heavily bloated since last Sanja saw him. His astral presence is also somewhat skewed.
Sanja calls in Thompson and K, who verify that Dengxiang has been infected with some sort of awakened parasite, but appears to still be alive underneath it all. Thompson has him rushed to a hospital, where he assists in the surgery to remove the dozens of tiny insectoid life forces that Sanja found within him. The team goes back to looking into diamonds while waitig for news.
They check two undercity churches where the insect cult had operated, since TY’s superstition led him to believe that the two things are connected. Neither has traces of the diamonds, and are both cordoned off with KE tape. They decide to check Heliopolis as well. Rooster and Sanja are somewhat horrified to see the extent of the devastation of that town ( Better Nuke the Place From Orbit), having only heard the news reports of an ‘earthquake’. The center of the Thor shot impacts are huge crates, with a flattened glasslike surface for a significant radius around. Outside of that, remains and rubble increase in size and frequency, but the town has been utterly destroyed. The brutal astral disruption of such an act damages K, who flees astral space to recover. Sanja holds his own, and manages to filter out the diamond aura from the others, locate its strongest point, and compare that to a satellite image of the town when it existed.
The location? The old Thoth temple, under which the insect hive grew. However, the aura seems to have been fading since before the town was destroyed, so Sanja assumes they were moved again. He traces the path, and it seems to head straight for the Crater. Disturbing. The team decides to prep more before heading any further in.
On the way back to MC, Thompson calls and tells them that the boy survived the surgery, and the infectious nodes were safely removed and destroyed. However, he is unsure how much mental or physical function the boy will ever regain. The Wan family is distressed but optimistic. Rooster also tells the team that Caruthers wants him looking in to the assassination of his uncle, niece, and nephew via a carbomb, and K is excited to hear that Caruthers has returned to society, although he is surprised to learn that he has become a mid-level mafia boss.
Jack meets The Huntsman and the Grey Knight
Jack was now a man grown, and had been involved in too many adventures to count, all stories for another time. He had been adventuring in The Red Kingdom for some time, with the occasional aid of a magical witch that could cloud the memories of people who had seen him, because Jack was a very clever man indeed, and so that the enemies that he vanquished would scarcely remember him and how he cleverly tricked them.
Jack went to see a friend, a healing priest, in one of the many temples just outside of the walls of The Red City. They had had many adventures before, and the priest knew that Jack was very clever indeed.
When Jack arrived at the temple, the priest introduced him to a man dressed in dark clothing.
“I am the huntsman,” the man said, “and there is nothing that I cannot hunt.”
“I have never seen a huntsman without a bow,” said Jack.
“You are clever,” said The Huntsman. “I hunt with magic, and I summon my animal friends to hunt with me.”
“I am Jack, and I also carry no bow. I possess a silver tongue that makes people believe me, and I know a friendly witch that clouds the memories of my enemies. Those are my only tools besides my cleverness.”
“Perhaps if you are so clever, and have your silver tongue, you could help me in a quest?” said the huntsman. “I am hunting a man, and what the man carries.”
“I would be delighted, as it is my quest to have the grandest adventures.” said Jack.
The two friends went to a mighty tower that belonged to a powerful warrior who was recently killed by the Insect Queen. The warrior’s friends were there, and they were wroth that Jack and The Huntsman trespassed on the land of the warrior. One of the friends was a Grey Paladin, and he was the man that The Huntsman was hunting.
“We must kill them,” said The Huntsman, “and capture the Grey Paladin.”
“No,” said Jack, “I can solve this dispute with my cleverness and silver tongue.”
So instead of fighting, Jack talked to the warrior’s friends, and praised the heroics of the fallen warrior. The warrior’s friends became very sad, and they shed many tears over their friend, and they soon were crying so much that they could not see and they could not hold their swords and their spears.
“We were angry, but now we are sad,” said the warrior’s friends, “and we will not kill you because you have reminded us of our friend and told good stories about him and we must thank you for doing that. For rekindling the memories of our fallen friend, we will grant you a boon.”
Jack thought for a moment and then said that he would most like to speak to The Grey Paladin about what he had brought from far away lands. The Huntsman was pleased to have a clever friend like Jack to help him.
The Grey Paladin told him that he had brought royal jewels from a kingdom far away after an evil wizard forced him to do it. He did not know where the royal jewels were now, but they would be willing to help look for them because they liked Jack so much and he was so clever, and the wizard that forced The Grey Paladin to do this was so evil.
Jack and his friends searched high and low for the jewels, but they did not find them. They asked many questions to people in the village where the jewels were taken, but nobody could remember anything.
“These people are foolish to not remember,” said The Grey Knight.
“You also have forgotten who took the jewels,” said Jack, “and I think that perhaps there is magic here.”
One of the group of friends, The Shrouded Wizard, said “If there is magic than I will look to find it.” And The Shrouded Wizard cast a spell and then he was able to see that there was magic here, and that the jewels had left a trail, and that the trail was headed straight into The Forbidden Woods.
“We are frightened of The Forbidden Woods,” said the party.
“I am not frightened,” said Jack. “I am brave and clever, and I know that all of us friends can face whatever dangers are in The Forbidden Woods, and we will recover the jewels and it will be a grand adventure.”
“We are no longer frightened, and will follow you into The Forbidden Woods,” said the party.
So the five friends all went into The Forbidden Woods. They were Jack, The Huntsman, The Grey Paladin, The Shrouded Wizard, and The Spring-heeled Bowman.