Burning Sky Session 24

Preparing to leave the Lyceum’s conference room for the night, we discussed the captured fiend and the broader implications to the Ragesian assault.

“The information we have,” Bernardo shared, “is that Leska seems to be foolishly splitting her forces. Ragesia’s armies are winning all their battles, but cannot hope to occupy territory. They're on destructive marches, but these types of campaigns use immense amounts of money and resources.”

“Where have they invaded?”” Cyrus asked

“Well,” Bernardo elaborated, “we have some intelligence that the second Ragesian army, led by General Danava and aided by a branch of the third army, breached the first district gate of Gate Pass. However, they could not get through. So they led their third army, led by General Revulus, south to Dassen to attempt to get them from the north. But that is a long and treacherous journey, so it would require lots of resources. So all I'm saying is, I don't know they're inner workings, but I would imagine that all these campaigns are costing them lots of money.”

“And they'll be able to hit Gate Pass from the side,” Cyrus noted, “because we extinguished the fire forest.”

“If they go through Gate Pass,” I surmised, “they are going to try to attack Shahalesti?”

“That’s right,” Bernardo confirmed. “That's what's keeping them out of Shahalesti now. So the Shahalesti may be getting a bit concerned.”

“So they blockade Seaquen,” Cyrus quipped.

“But they did make a truce offering, right?” I hinted.

“We haven't received their official envoy as of yet,” Bernatdo clarified. “So I'm sure they'll be making some offer. However, we do have intelligence that they've sent out envoys to each country in this region, looking for help in what could become a two front war if and when Gate Pass.”

“Bernardo,” Cyrus asked, “if you wouldn’t mind, could I confer with my compatriots in private for a second?”

“Of course, by all means,” Bernardo agreed, waving Matteo out. “Matteo, come. Let us discuss a few things.”

“So are we gonna get some sleep or—” Xireas asked.

“Not yet. Hold on,” Cyrus interjected. “The whole reason this devil's here after us is for this in military intelligence. This guy seems to be involved in the intelligence gathering for this nation. If we give him the military intelligence, our mission is done. And the devil isn’t after us anymore more, and they can do whatever they want with it.”

“Should we pass on the message from Thalan?” I asked.

“I wasn't convinced that they’re good guys,” Cyrus warned, “and I don't really wanna speak on their behalf.”

“But we could pass on the message,” I suggested, “and let Seaquen—”

“What would that accomplish?” Xireas asked. “Why would we get involved in that?”

“I don't know if we're getting involved by passing on the information,” I suggested. “If we're assuming that we want to help Seaquen because they are on the right side, wouldn't this be helping them by sharing this information? Why would we wanna keep this information to ourselves? We can also share our any distrust that we have.”

“I guess any and all intelligence is good to have,” Torrent advised, “to evaluate it. In these times of trouble, all intelligence is good, and not turning away any. So maybe there's some value to that.”

“I'm not gonna be that mouthpiece,” Xireas objected. “Let them freaking come here and give their own damn message.”

Torrent and Xireas began to get into a philosophical debate until I interjected.

“And what do you think of Cyrus's proposition,” I asked Torrent, “of handing over the intelligence here. That is our mission.”

“Yeah, I guess we can inform them of what we have,” Torrent concluded, hesitantly, “if you think this is the right time and place to give it. I suppose it can't hurt.”

“Well, we don't have a sense of what the right time or place is,” Cyrus noted.

“Torrent,” Xireas challenged, “you just said you didn't know this Foebane. Why would we kind of pony it up now? It's like it's not making any sense. Didn't you say that you didn't really know him?”

“Well, yes, I did say that,” Torrent acknowledged. “I'm not saying he's dishonest or anything. We've been operating under cover for so long, I’m just a little skeptical about who to give it to or not give it to. If you think we should give it here then maybe we should do that.”

“I think we should use both pieces to talk to the real leadership in the Lyceum,” Ulfgar counseled. “If they're not gonna meet with us, then…”

“We can toss it in the harbor,” Cyrus added. “The extent of the information we got was to take this package to the Lyceum. That's it. We're here. Why don't we just hand it off and be done with it?”

“The only thing I can think of, Cyrus,” I advised, “is maybe we should wait until Jess is banished before we reveal that we have this information.”

“Now that makes sense,” Xireas agreed. “These devils are pretty slippery, so we should defend it until it doesn't need to be defended.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus added. “Although she knows we have it, so it's not like keeping that information from her is doing anything.”

“But if she’s banished and we give it,” Ulfgar countered, “then she doesn't know that we don't have it anymore.”

“You're right,” Cyrus nodded. “It’s true.

“Well, if she comes back,” Xireas stated, “we'll just kill her.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus shook his head, “I don't know if it's that simple.”

“We killed that other devil, didn't we?” Xireas calculated, “...without too much of a fuss.”

“I think this one is going to be a little tougher,” Cyrus advised.

“Cyrus, if someone tries to summon her back,” Ulfgar asked, “does she have to come? Like if we put a condition on her saying ‘if you're summoned you cannot come back,’ as part of her contract to be banished, would that still apply if they have?”

“If they have her true name,” Cyrus answered, “they can force her to come to their call.”

“Right, but if there's some kind of contract, can't we make a deal,” Xireas suggested, “like if we do this, part of your deal is you can't come after us or come up with some kind of thing like that?”

“She can't break a contract she made with whoever,” Cyrus explained. “It's impossible for her to do that. So, if we try making a condition that forces her to break the contract, it's just not gonna work. If she breaks a contract, she is tortured for all eternity.”

“So would it make sense to try to get her to agree to not come back?” I asked.

“She can't make that promise,” Cyrus clarified. “If they have the information to force her to come back, she won't make the deal to never come back. Then they force it back and she breaks her contract with us and then she's screwed.”

“So you're saying that she wouldn't make that deal?” I questioned. “I think that's what Ulfgar was saying would be informative in itself.”

“She's not gonna make a deal that she knows she can't keep,” Cyrus reiterated, “because once she breaks that deal, it's not just on her. Her whole existence is in jeopardy.”

“Would it be possible,” Ulfgar inquired, “as part of the deal, that she tells her the terms of her existing contract?”

“That should be okay,” Cyrus reasoned, “unless they included secrecy as part of her contract.”

“I think if we banish her,” Ulfgar warned, “she will be back.”

“If we let them physically kill her,” Cyrus informed us, “then she has to wait one hundred years before she can come back.”

“If she's working with the Ragesians,” I propounded, “I wonder, would she not have any military intelligence? I wonder if they know where they're holding my father, or any other Ragesian information she might have?”

As we left Lyceum, we discussed what other questions we could and should ask Jess.

“Torrent,” I asked as we reached the market, “are you staying with us or you staying with Lee?”

“Where are you staying?” Torrent asked. “Over at Grandma Baker’s house?”

“Yeah, in the barn,” I clarified. “If you have nicer accommodations than a barn, you might as well stay there.”

“Right, Okay,” Torrent agreed. “I'll just catch up with you in the morning then. When do you wanna meet?”

“Why don't we meet here bright and early?” I suggested.

“Okay,” Torrent agreed. “I'll wait for you in front of the gate early tomorrow morning.”

“Now I'm going to be side-eyeing everyone, wondering who's charmed and who isn't,” Ulfgar commented, “even Grandma Baker.”

“I'm actually wondering about Torrent,” I confided.

“What do you mean ‘you're wondering about her’?” Cyrus asked.

“Well, I think Xireas brought up a good point,” I explained. “Torrent did say that she didn't trust Foebane. Now she wants to hand over the intelligence to him.”

When we reached Grandma Baker’s, we set up a usual watch for the night.

In the morning, we returned to Lyceum.

“Just to be clear,” Cyrus qualified, “I've never dealt with a devil before. I just learned about them.”

“You sound like an authority on the topic,” Xireas noted. “Where did you learn about them?”

“From my old nan,” Cyrus claimed. “She dabbled in…various arts.”

When we reached the Lyceum gate, we found Torrent waiting there.

“Any word from Lee?” Cyrus asked.

“Yes,” Torrent replied, “we can go see Lee anytime you like.”

“Should we do that after we deal with this business?” I suggested.

“Torrent, are you able to Enhance Ability?” I asked.

“I am,” Torrent confirmed.

“We would like to impart Eagle’s Splendor on Xireas, when we're ready,” I requested.

“Okay, yeah, we can do that,” Torrent agreed. “No problem.”

With that, Torrent approached the gate guards informing them that we’re being expected, and we were soon met by Bernardo.

“What became of that circlet that she was using to disguise herself?,” Cyrus asked Bernardo.

“That was the equivalent of a Hat of Disguise,” Bernardo revealed. “So we inventoried it and put it away.”

“Can we cast spells through that cage?” I asked.

“Ah, the amber glass cage that we have her in,” Bernardo clarified. “Alas, you cannot. It is impervious to magic. That is the purpose of the cage.”

“Okay,” I confirmed, “and that includes divine magic like Zone of Truth.”

“Yes,” Bernardo nodded, “we will have to do this the hard way.”

I cast enhance ability on Ulfgar and me, imparting us with owl’s wisdom and Torrent cast enhance ability on Xireas, imparting eagle’s spendor.

Bernardo led us back inside the holding room with Matteo and a couple of guards.

The fiend, Jess, was sitting in the seat within the amber cage, the same as the previous night.

“Good morning,” I greeted.

“Sleep well?” Ulfgar asked.

Jess glared.

“Last night you said you wanted to make a deal for banishment rather than destruction,” Xireas began.

“I did,” Jess confirmed.

“So what are you willing to offer for your banishment?” Xireas asked.

“Well,” Jess reiterated, “I already told you that I would tell you all the people that I was able to charm in the city.”

“What else?” Xireas asked.

“Are you the folks who will be able to make this deal on behalf of this place?” Jess asked.

“That's right,” Xireas claimed.

“I can tell you who sent me to confront you all,” Jess offered.

“Okay, that's nice,” Xireas yawned. We know they were Ragesian. You gotta sweeten the pot.”

“Well, you don't know which Ragesian,” Jess temped. “There are many of them.”

“Yeah, they all look alike to me,” Xireas shrugged.

“Well, that's unfortunate,” Jess warned. “That just means they can sneak up on you and kill you.”

“Yeah, but you're not really worried about that, though, are you?” Xireas waved a hand. “So what are you gonna do to sweeten the deal?”

“Well,” Jess encouraged, “why don't you tell me what you're interested in, and perhaps I can see if I can help you out.”

“That's all you have to offer?” Xireas smirked. “The name of who sent you and names of people in the city that I don't know. That's all you can offer for a contract. That's really unfortunate.”

“That's not what I said,” Jess urged.

“No?” Xireas questioned. “It sounds like that's what you said.”

“I said, ‘why don't you tell me what you need to know, and perhaps I can help you,’” Jess reiterated.

“I want to hear your offers first,” Xireas insisted. “We don't make a negotiation if I don't know what you have to offer. Then I'll tell you what I want. See how that works?”

“I can do a lot of things,” Jess contended, “but I can't read minds, so we can go fishing and I can give you my grandmother's recipe for pudding, but that's not gonna be helpful to you. But if you tell me what you're looking for, perhaps I can be helpful to you.”

“Well, how good is the pudding?” Xireas bantered.

“Quite good, actually,” Jess claimed.

“It's probably a blood pudding,” I quipped.

“Alright, well we wanna know what were the details of your contract,” Xireas questioned. “You were sent here to recover a satchel. Is that it?”

“I was sent here by Inquisitor Guthwulf to retrieve the case that you carry, because the other devil failed so miserably at it,” Jess revealed. “So I was summoned and sent to retrieve the case.”

“So why charm all the people in the city?” Xireas probed. “Why go through all that effort?”

“Well, first of all, I needed to find you,” Jess explained.” So I needed agents to search for you on my behalf. And secondly, these folks are the enemies of the Ragesians, so having them have ill will towards the Lyceum would be helpful to the Ragesians. It would stir tension within the city.”

“So your deal is more than just getting the case,” Xireas nodded. “It's a destabilizing campaign.”

“I suppose you can call that,” Jess agreed, “yes.”

“Is your deal a contract or is it just a service?” Xireas pressed. “Because if it's a contract, we know we can't mess with it.”

“I see you are someone with some experience in these things,” Jess acknowledged. “Yes, this was a service that I was to perform.”

“Right,” Xireas smiled. “Now we're getting somewhere. Alright, so in exchange for a banishment rather than destruction, you'll give us the names of the charmed people in Seaquen, the details of the military strategy of Ragesia, and the local—”

“Wait, wait, what military strategy?” Jess objected. “I didn't say anything about that.”

“No, I know,” Xireas clarified. “I'm telling you what we want in exchange for your banishment.”

“Ah, I see,” Jess nodded.

“...and the location of one Danvadin Hammerforged,” Xireas continued, “a prisoner of Ragesia.”

“Okay, some of those things I may be able to help you with,” Jess admitted, “others, I cannot. I was summoned to do this service, but they did not share the particulars of their military campaign with me.”

“But truly one as clever as yourself was able to deduce their paltry actions,” Xireas praised.

“Their intentions are obvious,” Jess insinuated, “are they not?”

“Well, conquest but us mortals need to know the details so that we can counter them,” Xireas pressed.

“What I can tell you,” Jess revealed, “is that my understanding is they can't wield the same power as Coaltongue at this time. The power to transport the military has been greatly diminished. And that's an area of concern for Leska.”

“Who is Danvadin,” Jess asked. “They have many prisoners. Can you give me a little more information?”

“A dwarven warrior from another world,” Xireas explained.

“I haven't seen that dwarf,” Jess explained after a long and thoughtful pause, “but there were rumors around the castle of a dwarf that they captured and sent to the far west to some prison facility that they have because he was very powerful and that was the only place they could contain him.”

“Where is this prison facility?” I asked.

“I have never been there,” Jess claimed, “but to the far west.”

Ulfgar whispered in Xireas’ ear and she asked, “What do you know about Rizik the fire mage?”

“Who?” Jess looked puzzled. “I don't know anything about that.”

“Rizik the fire mage,” Ulfgar reiterated. “A lich with a tomb…”

“I'm a devil,” Jess replied, “but that doesn't mean I'm all knowing. I don't know anything about this Rizik.”

“Sure, you like fire,” Ulfgar pressed, “he liked fire…”

“What's preventing teleportation in the area?” Xireas asked.

“Well, I think that has to do with the reason Leska’s powers have been diminished,” Jess revealed. “She has some artifact that Coaltongue was previously able to use, but I think it's been damaged. And because of this damaged powerful artifact, it's allowing energy from the realm of fire to leach through to the ethereal realm, where you have to travel through when you teleport, so that becomes a problem.”

“Do the Ragesians have any workaround?” Xireas asked.

“I guess if you're immune to fire,” Jess hinted, “it might be.”

“I’m curious,” Xireas whispered to Cyrus, placing hand on his shoulder, “when they went to capture her, why didn't she just then teleport away?”

“Jess, why were you unable to escape the mages that captured you?” Cyrus asked.

“They executed their Hold Person much more quickly than I could react,” Jess admitted.

“She's holding something back,” Ulgar muttered.

“Hold Person wouldn't prevent you from using your innate ability to teleport,” Xireas insinuated. “Why didn't you teleport?”

“No, no,” Jess brow furrowed for a moment. “They hit me with five Hold Person spells, and I wasn't able to get it off before I was held.”

“Are you working with any Ragesians in Seaquen?” Xireas asked.

“Look—and this is the last bit that I can tell you—honestly,” Jess claimed, “I think there’s probably a cell of spies somewhere in the town here. I don't know who they are. They're operating in secret, and they may have some kind of device that blocks teleportation beyond normal people getting burned, which is why I suspect I wasn't able to teleport away.”

“Alright, so here's what I'm thinking about the deal we're gonna make with you,” Cyrus offered, “you get a banishment, so that you're not trapped in hell for a hundred years, and you give these people the name of the charmed folk, and an agreement to refuse to be involved in this conflict any longer. And this deal would have to be secret. You do that, you get your banishment. If you agree to those terms, we'll have a deal. You’ll get sent home and we’ll go on our merry way.”

“So if it's a secret,” Jess pondered aloud, “and I get summoned, I can reveal that I have a contract. I don't necessarily have to reveal that it's your contract or the terms of the contract. Merely that's the contract that I have to follow—”

“That prevents you from getting involved in this conflict—” Cyrus clarified.

“Okay, that's fine then,” Jess concluded. “I can live with that.”

“Okay,” Cyrus agreed. “We're gonna leave and go make the arrangements for the banishment.”

As we all left the room with Matteo and Bernardo, we were greeted by a bearded man in bright robes holding a wizard’s staff.

“I am Headmaster Simeon,” the man introduced himself. “This is my school and I thank you for your assistance here.”

“Hello,” Cyrus nodded. “You're welcome. Did you happen to listen in on our discussion?”

“Yes, I see the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky, their reputation precedes them,” the headmaster replied. “I've listened to some of the negotiations inside, however it is my preference to put this devil to death.”

“Well, I understand that as your preference,” Cyrus objected, “but your compatriot here put us in charge of the negotiations and we've already come to an agreement.”

The headmaster nodded.

“So I'm sorry that it may be distasteful for you,” Cyrus continued, “but the deal is the deal.”

“I didn't hear everything that happened in there,” the headmaster indicated. “Would you mind sharing the details of what she divulged to you? Please, sit, sit. How rude of me. Please sit.”

The headmaster took a seat at the head of the table.

“Of course,” I said, taking a seat, “but headmaster, understand that before we made this arrangement, we explicitly asked your people if that arrangement would be acceptable.”

“Headmaster,” Bernardo chimed in, standing up from his seat, “I instructed them to go ahead and make a deal with the devil in the interest of obtaining any intelligence we could for the war.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus added, “not to mention that you have a bunch of charmed people in your city that we can make a deal to reveal.”

“Mm-hmm,” the headmaster nodded.

“We will definitely share whatever information we have with you,” I promised.

Leaning back in his chair, the headmaster reached into his robe and produced an abnormally long, curved pipe, too long to fit into his robes. For a moment he seemed lost in thought as he waved his hand over the pipe and smoke began dragging on it. The smoke he absentmindedly exhaled coalesced into little dragon and eagle shapes that flew around each other.

“You all speak very wisely in this case,” the headmaster finally concluded. “I think it would be the best idea to spare her the execution in consideration of what you've said, and do the banishment.”

“Your city will be the better for it,” Cyrus encouraged him.

“I agree,” the headmaster nodded. “In these trying times, we must take time out to ensure that we put the public good ahead of our own egos.”

“May I ask what your position in the Lyceum is, sir?” Cyrus enquired.

“You may,” the headmaster replied. “I am the headmaster. Meaning I run the entire Lyceum.”

We shared with the headmaster what we learned, including the name of Jess’ summoner and the details of the contract, Coaltongue not having full teleporting abilities, the lack of a teleportation workaround, the existence Ragesian spies in town with a device that blocks teleportation, and the promise of a list of all the charmed people in Seaquen, all in exchange for banishment and an agreement to secrecy that she didn't have this conversation with us and to refuse any involvement in this region or this conflict.

We returned to Jess and informed her that we had an agreement and that the contracts were being drawn.

“Thank you,” Jess replied, “for keeping your end of the deal. And if you're ever in a position to call upon me, I'll give you nine days of service as a reward for the way you've conducted yourselves.”

“Who do we call?” Cyrus asked. “Your name's not really Jess, right?”

“I need only be known to you,” Jess claimed.

“Matteo, the headmaster called, “would you get a few of the specialists and attend to the banishment?

“Alright,” Cyrus called, “before they do the banishment, time to give up the list.”

One of the headmaster’s produced the contract and secured the signatures, and Jess provided a list of fifteen names of spies in town. Tenga Litaranesh was the only name familiar to us.

Matteo’s eyebrows raised as he looked through the list.

While we waited, Cyrus asked, “So, Angradin, are you gonna get in trouble for making a deal with the devil?”

“I hope not,” I replied. “I think it served the greater good, and I have no plans of ever calling on this devil for help.”

“I might,” Cyrus hinted.

Eventually, the headmaster’s specialists arrived and drew patterns on the ground around the cage, a big circle with various intersecting pentagrams and other geometric shapes and sigils.

Four of them then led Jess out of the cage in chains into the middle of the circle. Then they surrounded the circle with big books that floated in front of each of them. They began chanting and the circles began to glow and spin in opposite directions.

The light grew brighter until it consumed Jess, and then there was a sudden popping sound and the light disappeared along with Jess.

“You know,” Cyrus began to inform the headmaster, “you got a group of Ragesian spies in the city somewhere, so you might wanna get your secret police on that. But we have more information for you. We came from Gate Pass. I don't know if you know this person, but a certain gnome, by the name of Rivereye Badgerface, imparted some military intelligence to bring to you.”

“Ah, I see,” the headmaster gew interested. “And you have this intelligence?”

Cyrus reached into my pack, pulled out the case, and handed it to the headmaster, “Right here.”

“Thank you,” the headmaster replied, taking a look at the case. “I see there's quite a bit of magic on this case, and so we won't be able to ordinarily open it up here. We'll have to do it inside the facility somewhere to examine the contents.”

“Yup,” Cyrus acknowledged.

“Matteo,” the headmaster called his assistant over. “Take this up to my study, if you would, so we can look at this at the appropriate time.”

Matteo took the case and scurried off.

“We are indebted to you,” the headmaster acknowledged. “Thank you for taking such awful risk to come here and support our cause. We believe we have to stand together in these trying times to keep this wave of destruction back from our people.”

“Absolutely,” Cyrus nodded. “And if you need some sticky situations handled, we're not that expensive.”

“Well, that's good to know,” the headmaster smiled. “Thank you.”

“That's what we do,” I added. “We are the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky. “There's one more piece of information that we have. It might not be worth any value, but when we were coming here from the swamp, we were engaged by some Shahalesti. They were inspecting everybody coming to Seaquen, and their leader Thalan asked us to encourage those in power to accept their offer. He said they have the means to make conditions much better for the thousands of refugees who are, as of yet, without homes.”

“Interesting,” the headmaster replied. “I'm sure they believe that. That’s yet to be seen.”

“They did not present themselves well,” Cyrus revealed. “They were full of lies and deceit, so you deal with that as you see fit.”

“Unfortunately,” the headmaster indicated, “allies rarely surround you and blockade you in the name of friendship. And so—how did they say that—’we must take it with a grain of salt’ I think the saying goes, does it not?”

“Exactly!” Cyrus agreed. “It does.”

“So we shall see what their intentions are,” the headmaster continued. “Perhaps you would be kind enough to come and observe during the next council meeting that we have in three days time. I would like your insights after the council meeting, perhaps.”

“I would love to,” Cyrus eagerly replied.

“Headmaster,” Ulfgar inquired, “can I ask, how will you handle the people that have been charmed? Are you able to dispel [magic] to free them?”

“Yes,” the headmaster confirmed. “Yes, I believe we should be able to dispel the charms. Now that we know who they are, we should be able to get enough to Dispel Magics to go out there and release them from their charms. It should be a fairly simple task.”

“And can you tell us anything about the fire mage, Rizik?” Ulfgar pried.

“Rizik,” the headmaster smirked. “I see you've heard the stories of Rizik the fire mage.”

“We have reason to believe they may be more than just stories,” I hinted.

“I see,” the headmaster enquired. “May I ask why?”

“Your Magistrate asked us to investigate some alleged arsons,” I explained. “And we discovered that the cause was fire breathing rats that came down from far beneath the earth.”

“Okay,” the headmaster hesitated, “and do you believe the rats indicate that you found the tomb of Rizik?”

“Perhaps it has been disturbed—” I started.

“Fire mage, fire breathing rats…” Cyrus suggested. “You know…”

“Well, we did find tunnels heading down,” Ulfgar explained, “and down is likely where the tomb is, so we thought perhaps the rats might have come from there, perhaps early scouts.”

“I see,” the headmaster chuckled, “well, I thank you, for those are very keen observations, and I thank you for them, and I suppose we can be on the lookout for these things as things progress.”

“Alright,” Cyrus said, “I guess we'll see you at the council meeting.”

“You have my thanks again,” the headmaster rose from his seat. “And I shall see you in a few days with the council meeting.”

“No, no, thank you,” Cyrus replied.

The headmaster saluted us all, turned on his heel and he walked out, Bernardo following behind him.

“Bernardo,” Cyrus called, “a moment, please.”

After a gentle nod from the headmaster, Bernardo came back into the room. “Si senor. How can I help you?”

“Well,” Cyrus began, “first I wanted to thank you for your help in dealing with this creature that was pursuing us and sticking to your word about the banishment. I appreciate that.”

“Of course,” Bernardo responded. “It's in our mutual interest.”

“And I guess I just want to ask,” Cyrus continued, “if I ever wanted to have an audience with you or the headmaster, how would I arrange that?”

“I think if you just come to the gates,” Bernardo offered, “and tell them you are looking for me, I can allow you to be escorted in. Not a problem.”

“That's great,” Cyrus replied. “Thank you very much.”

“You're very welcome,” Bernardo turned and left.

We all looked at each other a bit awkwardly and walked out, leaving the facility.

Once we were outside, Torrent said, “Thank you so much. I appreciate you all. You took a great risk bringing this intelligence back here, and with little investment in our community here being that I know your stories—well, save for you Ulfgar. And so you have the thanks from the bottom of my heart and my undying friendship. I have to tend to things with Lee Sidoneth for a bit, so we probably won't get to spend much time here, but if you choose to leave, please see me so we can have a last meal together or something if you choose to go.”

“It was great traveling with you,” Cyrus replied, returning Torrent’s arm-clasp and hug. “Thank you for all your help.”

Torrent gave me a hearty hug, as I recalled our first meeting and the following confrontation with Warrock.

After giving Ulfgar a hearty handshake, Torrent chatted with Xireas before giving her a big hug and heading off

We agreed to head toward the Wayfarer ship to sell the fancy dress we had recovered.

As we circled the bay, we heard a town crier shouting, “War wizard Gabal has been killed by the Ragesians, but not before killing thousands of Ragesians with him and his cabal of mages along with him. Sadly, one of the Inquisitors managed to locate Gabal, dispeled his fire protection, and a mighty fire-breathing dragon incinerated him in the war. We're going to miss Gabal and his teachings.”

“Whoa!” Cyrus gasped. “The Ragesians got a dragon fighting with them!”

“Still no word on the status of those mage prisoners of war captured by the scourge,” the crier continued.

“Where did this happen?” Cyrus asked the crier.

“He emerged from hiding after the council let some Ragesian Inquisitors in the wall,” the crier explained. “The story goes that the soldiers kept Inquisitors busy, while Gabal and his students waged a mighty campaign against the camps outside the gates of Gate Pass.”

The town crier turned and repeated his new, “In Gate Pass, the war wizard Gabal emerged from hiding when the city council let Ragesian inquisitors inside the walls. Gate Pass soldiers kept the inquisitors busy while Gabal and his students assaulted Ragesian camps outside the gates. Reported Ragesian losses were nearly two thousand in one day. Sadly, one of the inquisitors managed to locate Gabal and dispel his fire protection, and a mighty fire-breathing dragon incinerated the mage.”

“I wonder if it was the same dragon,” I pondered. “Gate Passes is right next to that mountain range where they said that dragon was, the same range that Moznek was located.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus submitted, “it's possible, it's the same dragon, I guess.”

“But that incident happened years before, right?” Xireas challenged. “Like, years prior.”

“Yeah, but dragons live a long time though, right?” Cyrus pointed out.

“Kristen said something to us about a dragon,” I recalled. “When we first met her, she said, ‘The scourge comes and the skulls of the dragon pursue you. I saw it in a dream.’”

“The scourge is the inquisitors, right?” Cyrus suggested. “The skulls of the dragon pursue you?”

“Maybe the skull refers to their masks,” I postulated. “Don't they wear those skull masks? Could that be the dragon? ‘The skulls of the dragon?’”

“It’s possible,” Cyrus shrugged.

“Was that a vision that she had?” Xireas asked.

“She said, ‘I saw it in a dream,’” I repeated.

“So that's her interpreting whatever it is she saw,” Xireas countered.

“Right,” I agreed. “It could just be the Inquisitors.”

“Well, now we know they have a dragon,” Cyrus concluded. “So maybe she was telling the literal story.”

From the marketplace, we could see the giant golden ship in the middle of the bay; An ornate galleon adorned with whipping banners atop its masts and a swirling red and gold paint job on its hull.

Theatrical looking folk were busy on the deck, some painting, some unfurling banners, some talking about the spectacular trial of Toteth Topec, all busy at work preparing for a show.

As we approached, we saw people practicing acrobatics on the deck, hanging from the masts, and swinging on ropes like a trapeze.

A small ticket booth at the beginning of the dock advertised the show with a grand little banner and flags. A halfling sat inside behind a desk with a little box.

“Good day,” Ulfgar greeted. “Can I ask how much are tickets for the show and when does it start?”

“Tickets for the show are five silvers per ticket,” the halfling replied. “And the show is slated to go on in two weeks.”

Looking to find anybody who might be interested in buying our dress, we asked to talk to their props department?

“Ohh that's quite a beautiful dress!” one woman replied. “Of course, why don’t you step on down to the peer over there and you can take the little dinghy over, and speak to Guildmistress Sheena Larkins.”

Following her instructions we took the dinghy to the large ship.

And after a few moments we climbed aboard. There was a lot of activity, and we had to be wary of acrobats flipping past us and the crew running around with different props and tools.

I asked around for Guildmistress Sheena Larkins until someone pointed towards a dark skinned half-elf woman who was barking orders. “No, no! You have to put your heart into those tumbles! What's wrong with you? That's being an amateur.” Then, turning to some singing ladies, she cried, “Take it from the top. I need to hear you again, honey. I don't hear your tone!”

A human male stood by her side, chewing tobacco and spitting it out, remorselessly making fun of the guild mistress's subjects.

“Are you Guildmistress Larkins?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, I am,” she turned to me.

“We heard that you might be interested in some fine apparel for your show,” I hinted.

“Yes, yes, just a moment,” the guild mistress turned away. “Just a moment. A little higher, honey. Let me hear you belt that out.”

After a few moments of the subject trying her hardest to impress the guild mistress with her operatic singing, she continued, “Alright, you can be on the third line. You're alto. Just go see Thomas over there and he can help set you up.”

“Okay,” she turned back to us. “What did you have now? You had a dress or something?”

“Yes, we heard that you might be in the market for some fine apparel,” I repeated, “for your one of a kind show.”

“Uh, perhaps,” she replied. “What do you got?”

I showed her the dress.

“May I,” she reached for it and I handed it to her.

After a thorough inspection, she said, “Well, this is kind of a bit of a beauty. I'll give you 700 golds for it.”

“700?” I replied. “Nah, I think we should hold on to it. We can get a better offer than that. The prices here and Seaquen.”

“What the hell are you gonna do with this thing?” Xireas muttered. “Just get rid of it.”

“This dress is flawless,” I replied. “A powerful wizard once wore this dress. You will not find any blemishes on it. Look at this craftsmanship.”

“Think about your leading lady, starring in Toteth Topec,” Cyrus embellished, “wearing this extravagant dress that shines in the light.”

Pointing the fine linking of the threads, I suggested 1,250. “With the inflated prices here, you could make a hefty profit with that. Using it in your show, your star will stand out like no other.”

“Alright,” she agreed, calling someone over. “Propmaster, pay this man, take this dress downstairs, store it properly, and pay them 1250 golds.”

Leaving the dress with the guild mistress, we took our gold and returned to shore.

“Perhaps we should go and offer our services to try and find the Ragesian spies,” Ulfgar suggested. “Maybe he can give us some clues.”

“Why don't we meet tomorrow at Lorb's place and see if they'll hire us to find these spies?” Cyrus suggested. “I'm going to go have some drinks. See you later. I'll meet you at Grandma Bakers, probably later tonight or tomorrow morning.”

Cyrus walked off and was soon lost in the crowd of the market.

I suggested returning to the Lyceum to find work.

Ulfgar suggested paying a visit to Laurabec in the southern refugee district, but was also willing to find out what we can about how to detect the Ragesian spies.

We agreed to go to the Lyceum first and then head south to see Laurabec and possibly help out some of the refugees.

ON the way to the Lyceum, Xireas said, “I'm gonna stop off by the Yawning Griffin and have a chat with Tenga. So maybe I'll catch up with you guys afterwards.”

When we arrived at the Lyceum gates, the same two guards were standing there.

“Greetings, master dwarf,” one of them hailed.

“Greetings,” I replied. “We would like a brief audience with Commander Foebane.”

“I see,” the guard replied. “May I ask the nature of your visit please?”

“We'd like to offer our services,” I explained, “regarding a matter that Foebane was made aware of this morning.”

“I see just a moment, sir,” he then pulled a little device out from under his shirt, which glowed for a moment until he put it back. “Alright, he'll be here in just a few moments. He's busy with some duties. If you would be so kind just to wait to the side for a little bit, he'll be right with you.”

“Very well,” I agreed, doing as asked.

A little over ten minutes later, was saw Commander Foebane marching up to the front gate.

“Greetings,” Foebane acknowledged us. “How may I help you gentlemen today?”

“Greetings,” I replied. “We were discussing our plans, and we want to see if we can be of further service to Seaquen. As you are aware, we were all alerted today to the presence of Ragesian spies within the city. We would like to be of service tracking them down. If you have any idea where they might be, we can begin the search.”

“Well,” Foebane hesitated, “I appreciate your eagerness to do this. We just got the information earlier today, so we haven't really made a lot of headway in getting intel with regards to where they might be as of yet. If you think you can investigate and come up with some information, absolutely.”

“Understood,” I nodded.

“We just haven't had enough time or resources put to it yet to uncover anything of use,” Foebane elaborated.

“Is there any idea of how they might be preventing this teleportation?” Ulfgar enquired. “Do you think perhaps it's magic or perhaps it’s some sort of machine…”

“I'm guessing,” Foebane shrugged, “I don't know about any machine thing but, I'm guessing it's probably magic. But I really am just reaching here. I have no idea yet.”

“Understood,” I acknowledged. “Okay, well, we are staying at Grandma Bakers. Are you familiar with that place?”

“Grandma bakers?” Foebane nodded, and then, “Ohh, is that that nice old lady?”

“Yes, with the cookies,” I winked.

“Ah, she’s a human lady, right?” Foebane clarified, and I nodded. “ Ah, yes. All I need to do is follow the smell of lovely cookies in the morning and I can find Grandma Baker. She's legendary in these parts.”

“Yes,” I acknowledged, “she has been very kind to us; kind enough to put us up, which, as you know, it's not easy to find lodging.”

“It is not,” Foebane agreed. “It is not.”

“As a matter of fact,” I continued, “it's not easy to find many things in Seaquen these days, at least not at fair prices, especially with this blockade around Seaquen. If there’s anything we can do about that, let us know. We're willing to help however we can.”

“Yeah,” Foebane replied. “Unfortunately, I think the blockade needs to be dealt with through negotiations.”

“Understood,” I nodded. “Understood. Well, like I said, if there's anything you think we could do, just let us know.”

“And if you do find any leads with regards to the spies,” Foebane replied, “we'll be happy to take that information.”

“We will share that information with you, of course,” I promised. “Ohh, speaking of things that are hard to acquire, I've been trying to acquire some heavier armor. And I wonder if perhaps, you being a dwarf, might know where I might be able to acquire some at a fair price. I'm willing to pay a fair price for it.”

“Well, what do you mean by fair price?” Foebane questioned. “Everything here is through the roof now.”

“Right, but if you have your own smiths,” I hinted, “you might be able to…”

“Yeah, the problem is that this place is really ruled by mages, mostly,” Foebane responded, “so they don't—”

“I just figured you do have an army of soldiers,” I advocated, “and you probably have your own smiths.”

“Well, actually,” Foebane explained, “we have some soldiers. Not a lot. We have more mages than we do anything else. So that's part of the reason for the call to action here, to get people to come here so we can build allies and get the resources we need to start fighting back in this war, once they get to us. There are a few good armorers in and around the marketplace, but alas, I don't have anybody I could call upon.”

“What armorer would you recommend?” I asked.

“I think there was a guy down by Grandma Baker's house,” Foebane suggested. “Did you visit him yet?”

“Yes, we did,” I shared. “In fact, we sold some weapons, and other armor that we found, to him on our way in. We can return to him if that's what you recommend.”

“Yeah, he's a pretty good sort,” Foebane stated. “I don't know that he's going to come down and his prices much, because there's so much going on, there's a scarcity of supplies. So it's inevitable that prices go through the roof.”

“Understood,” I sighed.

“Is there anything else I can help you with, perhaps?” Foebane asked.

“No, that was it,” I replied. “We'll be on our way. Thank you for your time.”

“Well, thanks for coming by,” Foebane nodded. “I appreciate it.”

“Like I said, we'll share whatever news we find,” I reiterated.

“Wonderful,” Foebane smiled. “Thank you.”

Foebane returned the compound as we parted ways.

“Do you mind if we swing by that armorer,” I asked Ulfgar, “and I can see, at least, what I'm contending with here?”

“No,” Ulfgar agreed. “Yeah, let's go.”

We hustled through the crowded midday streets and returned to The Polished Anvil without incident.

“Greetings, sir,” I hailed the backsmith.

“Greetings,” the blacksmith replied.

“I don't know if you remember us,” I continued. “You referred us to Grandma Bakers. That was very kind.”

“Ohh yes,” the blacksmith recalled, “that was a few days ago.”

“I'm Angradin Hammerforged,” I introduced myself. “And you are?”

“I am Sergio,” the blacksmith shared.

“Sergio, since we've been here, thanks to you,” I explained, “we've been able to stay at Grandma Bakers, and we have helped the magistrate uncover a threat of fires just north of here that you might have heard of affecting a fish store, a bait and tackle shop, and some other buildings.”

“Well, that’s very nice,” Sergio acknowledged. “That's nice of you to contribute that way.”

“Yeah, we were also able to help the Lyceum uncover some mysteries—that I won’t get into the details,” I embellished, “But anyway, I am in the market for some plate armor. Is that something that you can help with?”

“Plate armor,” Sergio looked around his shop. “Let's see here. That’s very specialized. I don't have any plate armor here.”

“And about how long would it take to make,” I inquired, “if I were to commission it?”

“It's gonna take almost a year to make,” Sergio explained. “It takes quite some time. It's highly specialized and each piece is made to fit your individual body. It's going to take some time to make such a product.”

“I don't anticipate that we'll be here that long,” I sighed, “but thank you very much, Sergio.”

“Okay,” Sergio waved. “Well, thanks for coming by.”

We headed south to the southern refugee camps to find Laurabec, the eagle rider.

When we reached the edge of the refugee camp, we found it much like those to the northwest. The conditions were pretty squalid with people living in dirty, busted tents without many sanitary conditions.

We sloshed through the puddles of the muddy refugee camp until we came upon a single tent with a small corral beside it. A huge eagle lounged underneath a wooden frame with a canvas top, seemingly resting, but with one eye open that tracked our movements as we approached. It looked miserable in the drizzle, with a chain connected to one of its claws and a large sign written in common: “Keep away. Dangerous creature.”

As we approached the tent entrance, the eagle suddenly spoke! We heard it say in Common, “Stop! Announce yourself and your intentions for the audience with the divine Laurabec!”

Before we could even reply, a ranseur pushed through the tent opening, followed by a tall, half-elven woman who entreated the eagle, “Takasi, stop that!”

Even in the wet weather, her chainmail gleamed, looking like feathers layered on top of each other. Her eyes were intense, and her long brown hair seemed to ruffle as if in a constant wind.

“Pay my steed no mind,” the half-elf approached us. “He is out of sorts from the restrictions imposed on him by the Magistrate. Vortberd may be the law in this town, but he is taking his power—”

“Sorry,” the half-elf stops abruptly, seeming to compose herself. “I am Laurabec Adelsburg. How may I be of service?”

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