War of the Burning Sky Session 26

When Ufgar turned around, Arwal had disappeared.

I soon awoke to find myself carried over Ulfgar’s shoulder, and was quickly back on my own feet.

We were heading back to Grandma Baker’s.

“So what happened?” I asked.

Ulfgar filled me in on Arwal’s attack.

I shook my head at the thought that the dwarven victim was a trap after all.

On the alert for more trouble, we soon reached Grandma Baker’s and found Cyrus sleeping in a pile of hay. His face looked bloodied and beaten. There was no sign of Xireas.

Ulfgar and I ate and soon joined Cyrus in slumber.

In the morning, Cyrus changed, revealing more bruises all over his body.

“What happened to you, Cyrus?” Ulfgar asked.

“Yeah, guys, we gotta talk,” Cyrus replied.

“Do you need any healing?” I asked.

“No, no, I'm fine,” Cyrus waved me off. “I'll be Okay. So, remember how we got to this land? We were riding in that wagon, being attacked by some people, and then a crate crashed open and some orb shattered and transported us here…”

“Yes,” I nodded, “I remember.”

“Well,” Cyrus continued, “during our travels down to Seaquen, I discovered a shard of that crystal in my backpack. Uh, it was inert and I thought it would be useful to show the mages here—that maybe they'll figure out a way to get us home. But last night, while I was relaxing, I encountered someone with another shard of that crystal ball. The crystals seemed to awaken and be attracted to each other. I was able to retrieve the shard from that person, and when I did, the two crystals violently came together, like a strong magnet, and fused into one crystal. So now,” Cyrus pulled out a little blue crystal, “I have this, some kind of item from that orb. I don't know, maybe it can help us get home. Maybe it's something else, I don't know. Do you think you can identify it?”

“You said you found it in your pack?” I asked.

“Yeah, I got the impression that it was from the explosion,” Cyrus explained. “It just fell into one of the side pockets and it's been there ever since.”

“Do you have any idea how this other person got their part of the crystal or who they were?” I asked.

“No,” Cyrus shook his head, “I was unable to get that information.”

“When the two pieces came together violently, like you said,” I probed, “did they morph to join each other, or did they maintain their same shape like they were part of the same crystal originally?”

“It looks like they morphed into each other,” Cyrus showed me the crystal, which looked like a blue gem.

“So it seems reasonable to assume that the other person's gem or crystal was not part of the same crystal,” I suspected, “just the same type of crystal, and they joined together.”

“Right!” Cyrus enthusiastically confirmed.

“Okay,” I reasoned, “so we don't have to consider that they might be somehow involved or from our world, but they could be.”

“They could be,” Cyrus acknowledged. “They seemed like a local that's been here. They didn't strike me as a far traveler. He looked like a pirate.”

“Did you ask them how they came across their crystal?” I questioned.

“Well, we didn't really talk much,” Cyrus hinted.”

“I wonder if this pirate acquired it through treasure,” Ulfgar pondered. “Perhaps we can show the jewel to The Shining Star jeweler to see if they have other types of this crystal or know where we would get them.”

“Yeah, the thing is,” Cyrus explained, “before I was able to acquire his shard—cause I had this thing in my possession—I could feel it trying to pull me to the other shard, and I noticed he was having the same kind of effect. Like he was looking at me and he was like all drawn to the shard. So there might be a danger in spreading around the word. There might be other people with—whatever this is—looking to collect it. Just so you know.”

“Do you think if you get close enough to another shard that you would know?” Ulfgar inquired. “Like it would also try to call you.”

“I think so,” Cyrus shared. I wouldn't say it's like a mind control, but it's like that feeling when you really need a drink.”

“But you were drawn to each other before you knew that about the crystal?” I inquired.

“Yes,” Cyrus confirmed.

“I see,” I replied. “We need Xireas to cast Identify because she has the pearl. I can cast it, but Xireas has the pearl.”

“Alright,” Cyrus sighed. “I'll ask her when we find her. I just wanted to let you guys know, cause maybe there's people hunting these shards and we might encounter them.”

“Yeah,” Ulfgar and I nodded.

“I wanna see if the mages at the Academy know anything about these?” Cyrus shared, “but I wanted to identify it ourselves first before I just trust them.”

“And speaking of problems,” Ulfgar added, “another slight complication… “We were ambushed last night on the way back. One of one of my former monk compatriots evidently wants me to return to the Monastery of the Two Winds.”

“Was it an escape situation?” Cyrus asked. “Did you run away from that place?”

“I left the monastery,” Ulfgar admitted. “I don't know if I would call it an escape. And it's not a cult, but they want me to return and I'm disinclined to acquiesce to their request. This time it was only sleep. Next time it could be poison. So we need to be careful.”

“We’re building up quite a rogues gallery in this place,” Cyrus noted. “Alright, what's on the agenda for today?”

“I think we want to find Xireas,” I suggested. “I think we want to find Torrent. Ulfgar, why don't you tell Cyrus about our meeting with Laurabec?”

“She is a Knight of the Aqualine Cross,” Ulfgar began, and brought Cyrus up to speed on our encounters and progress, or lack thereof.

“I think she means to do well,” Ulfgar concluded.

Cyrus remembered that Laurabec was the eagle rider that Lorb was complaining about, and was passively onboard with trying to get the other factions to join her cause.

“I think that it could help these refugees,” I added, “If they were united and working together. Right now it's a mess out there, and not only are they short of supplies that they need to live, but it seems that they are shunned from society. It seems that Laurabec's goal is admirable. Perhaps Torrent could talk to Lee Sidoneth on Laurabec’s behalf. He is with the Temple of Oceanus.”

“Right,” Cyrus agreed. “Yeah, that should be an easy sell because we helped her out.”

“That's what I thought about the dwarves,” I admitted, “but I had no luck convincing them.”

We discussed the eight different factions we hoped to convince to join the pantheist temple.

“Is that what you wanna do today?” Cyrus asked. “Go to these different groups and see if we can convince them?”

“Well, I think Torrent is probably either with Lee Sidoneth,” Ulfgar suggested, “or he would know where she is.”

“And we're invited to dinner there, right?” Cyrus noted. “So we could go have dinner there.”

“But I think we wanna get that pearl, right?” Ulfgar noted. “Do we have any idea where Xireas went?”

“Maybe we could check the local graveyard,” Cyrus quipped.

“Getting some troops?” Ulfgar added. “It's not a bad idea.”

“Well, if we don't see Xireas today,” I offered, “I will prepare Sending for tomorrow. When is our dinner with Lee?”

There was a knock at the barn door.

I opened it and found Grandma Baker with a nice wicker basket for us. 

“Morning,” Grandma Braker cheerily greeted us. “How are you fellas doing? Oh my gods!” She spotted Cyrus. “You look so beaten up. I hope you're alright.”

Cyrus assured her that she was alright, and we thanked her profusely.

Grandma Baker didn’t linger, adding, “I'll leave you to your things and I'll see you later. Please leave the basket on the porch,” as she left.

The basket was filled with some hard boiled eggs, a big hunk of bread, and a jar of fresh milk, all of which was quickly devoured.

“Since we still have another day or two before the council meeting at Lyceum,” I suggested, “I'm thinking I don't have anything better to do except try to find Torrent and Lee, so I would say let's go to the temple of Oceanus first. And if we can't figure out where they are from there, then we should head east to where Lee Sidoneth lives.”

Cyrus and Ulfgar agreed.

After gathering our things and leaving the basket on the porch, we headed to the Temple of Oceanus.

Despite the weather, which was even wetter and gloomier than usual, the streets were already busy.

The streets were muddy, and as we passed by the dock we were greeted by the familiar fishy smell.

We made our way around the Lyceum Academy down to the Temple of Oceanus, which was on the far side of the bay.

The temple was a solid structure of marble, with an ancient formal style decorated with sea motifs of waves and a big commanding male riding on two dolphins.

The two big doors were open, overlooking the sea to the north.

I led my companions into the temple where we found seafaring men and women gathered for services. At the altar was Torrent, presiding over the services, pouring water into a decanter and granting divine blessings.

As soon as I saw Torrent, I let my companions into the pews to the side and waited patiently.

Cyrus began looking through one of the prayer books on the pew, eventually commenting quietly that it had no pictures.

“Draw the pictures with your mind,” Ulfgar quipped.

Someone shushed us and we waited quietly as the congregation prayed for better weather and good harvests.

After twenty to thirty minutes, the services came to an end and the congregants began filing out of the temple.

Once they had left, I rose and led my companions to the front of the temple where Torrent was removing her vestments and putting away her books.

“Hey, Torrent!” Cyrus called out.

“That was a lovely service,” Ulfgar added.

Torrent rose quickly and turned toward us. “Oh my, you came for services!” Torrent smiled. “Thank you.”

Placing her things to the side, she quickly came down from the dais and greeted us.

“So what brings you to Oceanus’ house?” Torrent enquired.

“Well, we wanted to see you,” I responded, “and we were interested in meeting Lee and taking you up on that offer.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Torrent replied. “I'm sure he'll be glad to meet you.”

“And we also wanted to talk to you about Laurabec,” I added.

“Uh, sure, of course,” Torrent agreed. “Now or…”

“Whenever you have time,” I responded.

“I always have time for you, my friends,” Torrent replied, waving to someone behind her. “Would you like to sit and talk here? My house is your house.”

“Have you met with Laurabec, the Knight of the Aquiline Cross,” Ulfgar asked, “the griffin rider?”

“Ah, Laurabec,” Torrent replied. “Yes, she's a good soul.”

“She is a good soul,” Ulfgar agreed. “She wants to help the people and she has an idea about a pantheist church. If we could unite all the religions, maybe the people themselves would be better off. They'd be more willing to share their resources and help each other. Right now we have a divided camp full of refugees.”

An acolyte approached with cups and a teapot on a tray, patiently offering it to us, which we gladly accepted.

“We were coming to seek your,” Ulfgar stuttered, pouring himself tea, “whether or not you would be open to such a pantheist church, of joining it. We plan on visiting all of the groups. But as yet it's a difficult sell.”

Sipping the tea, it had a taste of seaweed, but was oddly pleasant.

“Yes, I've heard the idea around about this whole pantheist church,” Torrent shared, “and I have to admit that it probably would go a long way of reducing some tensions in the city, and maybe bringing people together. Those poor refugees have had a tough time of it, as I understand it and the conditions don't look too good to begin with. So if you all think that this is a worthy cause, I trust your judgment, and if you would support it, then I would support you, and I would go along with it.”

“I didn't meet her,” Cyrus added, “but it sounds like a good idea that could help people.”

“That was our thought,” I responded. “We reached the same conclusion after speaking with her. It seems like there's a lot of tension and despair and it's only getting worse. If we could get people sharing their resources and their space, instead of being forced to be in these segregated communities to fend for themselves, it would be a much better situation for everyone.”

“So what's your plan on accomplishing this?” Torrent asked. “How do you intend to do it?”

“We went to go speak to the leader of the dwarven refugees,” I explained, “thinking that would be the easiest of the factions to win over, but it was quite the opposite.”

“Really?” Torrent gasped.

“Yes,” I admitted. “I had no luck with Battleface.”

“Battleface?” Cyrus chuckled. “That's his name?”

“That is his name,” I responded. “Gernis Battleface.”

“That's kind of shocking,” Torrent chucked at Cyrus’ humor. “I would have thought that you would have been able to convince a fellow dwarf.”

“You and me both,” I hung my head.

“Okay, well, perhaps there are others we can work on instead,” Torrent suggested.

“Yes, that was our hope,” I responded, “and that is partially why we're here.”

“We're trying to build consensus,” Ulfgar explained, “and we're just starting.”

“Yes, well, you have my support,” Torrent reiterated.

“If we could get Lee onboard,” I hinted, “then maybe the next stop would be the Sindairese exiles.”

“We got the Torrent onboard, right?” Cyrus suggested. “We don't need Lee to make this happen, right?”

“I'll talk to Lee,” Torrent offered. “It's fine.”

“I think it's fair to say that Lee would probably go along with this,” Torrent surmised. “So I'll take care of that. And we can also discuss it at dinner later. You had mentioned you wanted to meet him.”

“Yes,” I confirmed. “That was the other reason that we're here.”

“Do you have any advice, Torrent, for dealing with any of the other groups?” Ulfgar probed. “I mean some might be outright hostile. Are there any that are more leaning towards it, that might be willing to accept a sort of pantheist cooperation?”

“I really don't know,” Torrent admitted. “All these Ragesian groups, I really haven't had a lot of exposure to them. So I don't really know what they might do. We'll have to play it by ear and see what it is that they may want or need. Maybe you can negotiate with them. I don't know. I wish I could. I just don't know them.”

“Fair enough,” Ulfgar accepted.

“Yeah, we'll need to appeal to them based on their interests, right?” Cyrus proposed. “Like the healers will probably be on board pretty easily, if we say the church would be good for tending to the ill and sick, you know, etcetera.”

“Yes, I think that's a very good approach Cyrus,” Torrent agreed.

“Well for whatever it's worth,” I mentioned, “before I spoke to Gernis, I did some healing and created rations in their mess hall, and it didn't make any difference.”

“Well, the dwarves don't value healing and food, right?” Cyrus suggested. “What's important to dwarves? Gold, right?”

“They are hungry,” I countered, “but we might have more luck, and we might have more luck with all the factions, once we have Oceanus onboard, being that this is the predominant local temple.”

“That's true,” Torrent considered. “Oceanus has a good heart and I think he would lend himself to having everyone here get along.”

“I think it would mean a lot if you're with us when we visit the other factions,” I suggested.

“Of course,” Torrent agreed. “When will you go?”

“We can leave as soon as you're ready,” I responded.

“Yes, no problem,” Torrent waved the acolyte over and instructed, “Would you please finish cleaning up in the temple and preparing for this evening’s service? I have some errands I need to run.”

The acolyte gave a little bow and scurried off, attending to the temple.

Ulfgar suggested we visit the Ragesian Hospitalers, and we all agreed.

While Ulfgar was relieving himself, I mentioned Ulfgar’s fellow monks being willing to help.

Torrent was surprised to hear that they had a settlement among the refugees.

“They're monastery got trashed by the Ragesians,” Cyrus noted.

“Oh my!” Torrent gasped. “I had no idea.”

Once Ulfgar joined us, we made our way to the Ragesian settlements.

“The monasteries were attacked,” Ulfgar explained.

“That is awful news,” Torrent frowned. “I'm sorry to hear that.”

“And my Master Juriaya was killed by the Regulation Army,” Ulfgar added.

“Oh, that's awful,” Torrent sympathized. “I can't imagine what that's like.”

“He was a wise man,” Ulfgar responded. “And we will miss him, but we must carry on his legacy.”

“What was his legacy?” Cyrus asked.

“He was the teacher of the four elements,” Ulfgar summarized.

After sloshing through grasslands for about an hour, we eventually reached Ragesian Hospitalers.

The conditions in the settlement were worse than what we had seen elsewhere.

We spotted a priestess overseeing crowds of people holding their stomachs. Casting spells and disseminating herbs from her medical pouch, she attended to them as best she could along with the help of a few assistants.

As we approached, I cast enhance ability, bestowing Eagle’s Splendor on Ulfgar.

“Greetings,” Ulfgar called to her. “Are you one of the Hospitalers? Is there anything we can do to help?”

“I'm priestess Leandra,” the priestess replied, “and I am, but I’m kind of busy trying to help these folks at the moment.”

“You have great compassion and we would like to help,” Ulfgar offered. “Perhaps my friend can help with some food. People here have many needs.”

I began examining those waiting to see Leandra, cleaning and bandaging wounds where necessary.

“Thank you for your help,” Leandra noted. “I appreciate that. There's lots to be done here.”

“That’s what we're here for,” I responded.

With the extra help, the line soon dispersed as people’s immediate needs were soon met.

“So what can I do for you?” Leandra addressed us. “How are you? You seem a little out of place here, if you don't mind me saying so?”

“It's true,” Ulfgar acknowledged. “My companions and I are seeking to help all people here, regardless of which gods they worship or which lands there from. I have a proposal for you. Are you perhaps familiar with Laurabec, from the Knight of the Aqualine Cross. You might have seen her flying overhead, and with her eagle.”

“Uch, Laurabec!” Leandra made a sour face. “Yeah, we know Laurabec.”

“You don’t like her?” Cyrus asked.

“The Aqualine Cross has a bit of a different outlook than Belenus does,” Leandra replied.

“Well, the proposal I have for you is not for the Knights of the Aqualine Cross directly though,” Ulfgar explained. “What we are trying to gain support for is the idea that there could be a pantheist church setup in Seaquen that would pool everyone's resources and help all the refugees. The temple of Oceanus is willing to help and our companion Torrent can confirm that with you. Perhaps by sharing resources we can help more of the refugees than people that need help.”

“Our church is behind it,” Torrent added. “We think it's a good idea to try and bring people together and perhaps restore some of the goodwill amongst the different refugees here and the people in need.”

“Belanus is the goddess of compassion,” Ulfgar noted, “so I think it would behoove us all to show compassion to all the people here.”

“Yes, compassion is a good thing,” Leandra agreed, “and not enough people in this world show it.”

“I am a follower of the Dwarven Soul Father,” I added, “and I also agree.”

“Is that Grungni?” Leandra asked.

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Okay,” Leandra nodded. “We have a pretty good relationship with them.”

“Are there hungry here?” I asked.

“Yes,” Leandra nodded, “we tend to the wounds, but their bellies are far from full.”

Locating a table and empty barrels, I cast create food and water, encouraging those around not to hoard the food, but to share it.

As Ulfgar spoke with Leandra and asked about their needs and how we could best be of service, Leandra suggested we help distribute the food and water, which we all quickly pitched in to do.

Ulfgar gradually worked his way into Leandra’s good graces, explaining that by working together we'll be stronger and that having a pantheist church doesn't mean you stop worshiping Beleanus or giving up your religion, it just means that all the churches and temples will help each other by sharing resources.

Leandra seemed open to the idea, but was still skeptical, saying that it sounds really good in theory, but that she needed some time to think about it.

“Well, you don't need to make up your mind right away,” Ulgar suggested. “We can revisit you.”

After we parted ways, Torrent shook her head. “I can't believe it. I didn't know that she didn't like Laurabec.”

“I wonder how much she doesn't like Laurabec,” I pondered, “or if her bias is just against the Aquiline Cross.”

“Right,” Torrent agreed. “Yeah, that's very insightful.”

“So what's the real story about the Aquiline Cross?” Cyrus probed. “The marketing is they go around doing good, but what's the real story? Are they like a bunch of noble dickheads trying to make everybody think in their way?”

“I don't think so,” Torrent considered. “They believe in charity and helping people. When we were in Gate Pass, they were very open to helping the resistance and healing people. I think they're paladins and all about healing and helping people.”

“Some people are just scared because they haven't been around too long,” Ulfgar offered. “They're a relatively new order. They haven't built up the trust yet.”

“Belenus is the goddess of healing and restoration,” Torrent suggested, “so maybe they see them as a threat for followers. That happens when religions are competing for followers. They may have that going against them. They may not like each other because they're both with the same domain and they want the same followers and they're both healing and all that stuff. So there's a lot of layers of that onion.”

“I've seen a lot of cruelty come from people who think they're doing the right thing,” Cyrus hinted.

“Yeah, there's no doubt about that too.” Torrent agreed.

Cyrus suggested we visit the Ragesian Savages next, suggesting, “Strength. I think it's an easy sell. Strength is everything. And if it looks like it's going south, we challenge them to some kind of competition.”

We agreed to visit the Savages.

Rather, what people call savages, and it's sort of it's very these are basically.

We quickly arrived at what looked like a typical barbarian camp. In the center was a longhouse, and as we approached we saw a big bonfire in front of it.

The two big wooden doors were open.

Entering, we saw people sitting at big long tables drinking from big mugs.

At the far end, sitting on a throne-like chair, was a big, burly lady with a large nose ring and mohawk tied back into like a long ponytail and tattoos on her head. At her side was a big two-handed battleaxe.

I cast enhance ability, bestowing Eagle’s Splendor on Ulfgar as he thumped his chest in greeting.

“Greetings,” Ulfgar addressed her. “I take you for the leader of these great Ragesian people. I'm Ulfgar Untbergheim, and these are my companions. We are the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky. And who might you be?”

“I am Broomhilda,” she replied. “I'm the leader of these people.”

“I must say that your encampment looks very well put together,” Ulfgar complimented.

“Yes, we value order here,” Brookhilda replied. “What come you here to do, Ulfgar Untbergheim?”

“I am here with a proposal,” Ulfgar replied.

“Then speak!” Broomhilda commanded.

“Some of these people need additional help,” Ulfgar began. “They're not as orderly as you are. From speaking with Laurabec, the Knights of the Aquiline Cross, there's been a proposal to perhaps create a pantheist church.”

“And why should that be my problem?” Broomhilda demanded.

“We are asking you to join and to help with the formation of this church,” Ulfgar advised, “so that all the resources can be shared evenly.”

“And tell us,” Broomhilda challenged, “how does it benefit my people here?”

“You would have more access to resources that the others might be hoarding,” Ulfgar replied, “to help all the people.”

“If people are hoarding it,” Broomhilda threatened, “we might just go take it.”

“Ah, but then there would be much more fighting,” Ulfgar counseled. “I thought you were trying to escape the fighting.”

“Our people don't fear the fight!” Broomhilda insisted. “We relish the fight! That’s how you get to Vahalla!”

“Then why did you—” Ulfgar started.

“Family,” Cyrus elbowed Ulfgar. “You build a family here and you can make this a new home. Griselda values family. Family is everything, right? You came here to escape the ravages of the Ragesian Empire. You can build a family here at home. You can create something new.”

“Your friend speaks good words, Ulfgar Untbergheim,” Broomhilda replied. “You should take a lesson from him. Who are you?”

“I'm Cyrus.”

“Well, Cyrus,” Broomhilda greeted, “Since you know of our ways, why don't you tell us about this proposal?”

“Look, I'm not a religious man,” Cyrus explained. “I just think the people here are scattered. People are dying. I know you only care about your own, but your own doesn't have to be limited to this camp. If you come together with the other faiths, maybe you can build something strong here. Something that Griselda will be proud of.”

Griselda looked thoughtful.

“Yes, maybe it's time to rebuild the community here as well,” Broomhilda concluded. “Our people are a bit tired and they need a rest.”

“You gotta regain your strength sometimes,” Cyrus added.

“Tell me more about this,” Broomhilda demanded.

Cyrus nudged Ulfgar and shrugged.

“Choose your words wisely, master dwarf,” Broomhilda warned.

“It's a pantheist church,” Ulfgar explained. “Everyone has their own gods, still. It's just an affiliation so all the temples can share resources to help more people.”

Rising, she addressed her people in the tent with a wave of her axe, “What do you all think?”

The people began talking amongst themselves and over the course of a few minutes, the conversation gradually turned into a chorus of agreement.

“Well, then, Master Dwarf,” Broomhilda acknowledged, “you have your answer. We will support such a movement.”

Cyrus grabbed a mug off the table and raised it in cheer with the Ragesians before gulping down its contents. Looking around and the sparse fare, he then left five rations on the table.

After joining the Ragesians in a few beers and congratulating them on their decision, we soon headed out of the encampment.

Afterwards, we headed back to the dwarven encampment, where I cast create food and water in the mess hall.

“Greetings,” said a priestly looking dwarf who came walking into the tent after me. “I am Gelongma Gerdor Kindhandle.”

“Greetings,” I replied. “I'm Angradin ‘Sonnlinor’ Hammerforged.”

“Yes, Angradin Hammerforged, I've heard all about you,” Gelongma returned. “Thank you for coming and sharing Grungni’s blessing. I appreciate that. Where are you staying? I was kinda hoping to catch up with you at some point and have a little chat.”

“We are staying in town,” I shared, “but I'm happy to come see you here. Did you want to talk privately?”

“Not right now,” Gelongma eluded, “but perhaps you can come back when you have a few minutes. We can have a chat.”

“I hope to come back as often as I can,” I indicated.

“Well, that would be wonderful,” Gelongma smiled. “We'd love to see you here.”

“I assume Gernis has told you about the prospect that we raised,” I probed, “with a pantheist church—”

“Ohh, yeah, absolutely,” Gelongma nodded. “He told me all about it and it's certainly something to consider.”

“Well, I wanted to let Gernis and you know that the followers of Griselda and Oceanus are onboard,” I insuated. “There is strength in numbers.”

“Yes, please tell Battleface that,” Cyrus chimed in.

“I thank you,” Gelongma replied. “I think I will and thank you for coming. I hope to see you soon, Angradin.”

“I hope to be back tomorrow,” I promised. “If matters keep me away, I will return as soon as I can.”

“Very good,” Gelongma acknowledged. “We look forward to seeing you. Grungni’s blessings upon you all.”

With that Gelongma left the mess hall.

As we left, I turned to Cyrus. “It's too bad we couldn't find Battleface. I think you would have liked him. We spent hours drinking with him. The food was scarce, but the brew was never ending.”

Sloshing through the puddles, we arrived at Laurabec’s camp with the huge eagle lounging underneath the wooden-framed corral with a canvas top.

It looked particularly miserable in this drizzle as one of its eyes tracked our movements.

“Greetings, Takasi,” Ulfgar waved. “We're here to see Laurabec. These are our companions.”

“I haven't seen you before,” the eagle looked at Cyrus.

“This is Takasi,” Ulfgar indicated to Cyrus and Torrent.

“Hi, Takasi,” Cyrus nodded. “Yeah, I'm with these guys.”

Some moments later, Laurabec emerged from her tent. “Hail and well met, my friends.”

“Hail, Laurabec,” Ulfgar greeted. “I’d like to introduce you to our two companions. This is Cyrus and Torrent. Torrent is one of the acolytes of the Temple of Oceanus.”

“Uh, yes, I'm a priestess,” Torrent corrected, “but yes, thank you for your kind introduction.”

“Priestess. Sorry,” Ulfgar apologized. “Apologies.”

“It's nice to finally meet you, Laurabec,” Torrent greeted. “Your reputation precedes you.”

“Cyrus, is it?” Laurabec confirmed.

“Yep,” Cyrus nodded. “Nice to meet you.”

“It's nice to meet you as well,” Laurabec replied. “Would you all care to come in? Get out of the cold and warm your bones up a bit.”

We thanked her and followed her into her tent.

Laurabec put some cups out on her makeshift table, and poured us all some warm tea.

“So what brings you around here today?” Laurabec enquired. “How are things going?”

“We just wanted to give you an update,” Ulfgar explained. “We have spoken, already, to four of the groups. Two have joined so far.”

“And we're working on the others,” I added.

“Yes,” Torrent confirmed, “the Temple of Oceanus will support your cause. We think it's a good one.”

“Yes,” Ulfgar continued, “and we have the followers of Griselda as well.”

“Griselda?” Laurabec seemed surprised. “You work quickly.”

“Ohh, that wasn't my doing,” Ulfgar praised. “That was thanks to Cyrus. She’s a strong—”

“We all worked together,” Cyrus indicated.

“They're a tough lot,” Laurabec acknowledged. “They're a tough, but good lot. It's like many of the refugees here that are widely misunderstood.”

“It seems that way,” Ulfgar described, “but yet, the Hospitalers are not yet sold, but we're still working on it.”

“That's unfortunate,” Laurabec accepted. “That's too bad. That would have been a very good group to have onboard.”

“They didn't seem too keen on your Aqualine Cross’s dogma,” Cyrus divulged. “Can you tell me what you're about?”

“Yes,” Laurabec hemmed. “Well, there's a bit of a competitive streak going on there. You might say we’re competing for followers in a sense, or at least the gods are, because we’re healing and they're healing. They kind of feel like we're the new kid on the block and we're poaching off of their flock.”

“Who do you worship?” Cyrus asked.

“We're less of a religion than we are a philosophy,” Laurabec explained. “In some ways, like our monk friend here.”

“I guess they feel your philosophy doesn't jive with Belenus?” Cyrus posed.

“Yes,” Laurabec considered, “or it may sway people not to worship Belenus, because we don't have a divine host. Although we do have priests and healing and things like that, our powers come from our convictions, not from a divine source.”

“Is that the source of the animosity from Belenus?” I asked.

“You'd have to ask them,” Laurabec shrugged. “We love everybody. We don't have any quarrel with them.”

“I wonder if it would help if you were to appeal to Leandra in person,” I suggested. “Maybe you could join us the next time—”

“Uh, with respect, master dwarf,” Laurabec interrupted, “I don't think that would be a good idea. We've rarely been able to spend time in the same room together before she grows openly hostile of our views.”

“Alright,” Cyrus proposed, “So maybe if we get everybody else, maybe she will grudgingly get onboard with your temple thing.”

“I think that's the more likely case, to be honest,” Laurabec agreed. “I wouldn't want to be a hindrance, and going there and fostering a conflict at the expense of this effort.”

“I understand,” I acknowledged.

“So what's your next move?” Laurabec asked.

“We will continue meeting with the groups,” Ulfgar indicated. “We still have to meet with the druids and the mercenaries.”

“Maybe the Sinairese,” Laurabec suggested. “They’re sorcerers, so perhaps if you know someone who's a sorcerer or maybe someone with arcane abilities, maybe that might be helpful.”

“We have someone like that among us,” I shared. “We're planning on meeting the Sinairese as soon as we join back up with them.”

“Not anything against our companions, Xireas,” Cyrus hinted, “but she's sometimes difficult to swallow. But the people at the academy—there was that guy that helped us capture the demon. Maybe we can enlist him. Bernardo Clemente. He seemed like a charming fellow.”

“Whomever you choose,” Laurabec suggested, “it might be helpful to have one of them along for the ride.”

“We could try that,” I agreed.

“Will you stay for dinner?” Laurabec offered.

“No,” I declined, “unfortunately we have a prior engagement.”

“Ah, I see,” Laurabec replied. “Alright, well, that sounds pretty good. Thank you for coming.”

“By the way, where are you from?” Cyrus asked. “You don't appear to be a Ragesian.”

“Sindaire,” Laurabec answered. “If there’s anything I can do to help move things along, please let me know. I appreciate your help.”

“Thanks for the tea,” Ulfgar replied, and we headed out.

After a long trek east, through the fields, we followed a path through the eastern ruins and then over long rickety bridges that crossed the choppy sea from one island to another until we reached a dome shaped island.

Where the walkway ended, the path split, descending down soggy wooden stairs to a dock, and ascending rock hewn steps to the cavernous entrance to Lee’s home.

The main door was slightly ajar and a small parchment secured above its handle says in Common, “Welcome. Enter freely. I am usually in the back, tending to Lula.”

“Who's Lula?,” Cyrus asked Torrent.

“Oh, Lula is his pet squid,” Torrent explained.

Following Torrent, we found Lee walking in the foyer, walking to greet us.

Torrent and Lee embraced.

“Oh, these are the friends I told you about,” Torrent mentioned. “They wanted to come and meet you and make your acquaintance.”

“Oh, it would be my pleasure,” Lee greeted us. “It's nice to meet you all. I am Lee Sidoneth. And who might you all be?”

“I've heard so much about you,” I shared, “I feel like I already know you.”

“The feeling is mutual,” Lee replied.

“I'm Angradin Hammerforged,” I indicated. “We're The Ambassadors of the Blue Sky. Ulfgar and Cyrus. Our other companion Xireas is attending to other matters right now and was not able to join us.”

“Yes, I'd love to meet her too,” Lee replied. “She sounds very intriguing. Can I offer you some refreshments for dinner?” Lee offered. “Perhaps some wine or some spirits?”

“Sounds good,” Cyrus replied.

“Just water for me, please,” Ulfgar replied. “Thank you.”

“Of course,” Lee replied, stepping out of the room.

A second later, Lee returned rolling in a little bar cart with various decanters, carafes, and a pitcher of ice water. On a lower shelf of the cart were an array of varied glasses.

“Please help yourself,” Lee invited us. “Make yourself comfortable. I'll be back in a few moments.”

“How long have you known Lee, Torrent?” Ulfgar enquired.

“I've known him for quite some time,” Torrent answered. “Since I've joined the church, he's been a great help with getting to understand the finer points of the teachings of Oceanus. He’s really a great man.”

“So he was at the temple before you joined?” Ulfgar asked.

“Yes, he was,” Torrent confirmed.

We had all poured ourselves drinks by the time Lee returned with three others.

Two looked like they might be local to Seaquen, but the third one’s body was adorned with unnatural protrusions and alterations; teeth on his cheeks and tentacles on his arms.

“We'll talk again soon,” Lee was saying to them as he quickly ushered them through the room. “Thank you for coming.”

Cyrus tried to introduce himself, but Lee quickly closed the door behind them, saying “We had some guests earlier and they were just leaving.”

Lee walked up to the cart, and placed a few ice cubes into a glass followed by some brown spirit.

“So, Lee,” Cyrus probed, “who are those guys?”

“Ohh, just some friends that were coming by,” Lee dismissed.

“I've never seen a race with tentacle arms,” Cyrus pressed. “Well, who— what was that?”

“Ohh, he's a transmuter wizard,” Lee explained, “and he tries different types of experiments on himself sometimes and the results are less than desirable on some occasions. I've counseled him many times not to do those things, but he seems persistent to get on with his experiments expediently, despite my better judgment and counsel against it.”

“Some people like a unique look,” Cyrus replied.

“A unique look indeed,” Lee raised his glass. “To The Ambassadors of the Blue Sky. It's a pleasure to finally meet you all.”

We joined his toast.

“So tell me about yourself,” Lee requested. “Where are you from? I hear you had quite the experience. You’re not from here? Torrent said you’re from some other place?”

“That is true,” I acknowledged.

“We were magically transported to this world,” Cyrus explained. “We're from a different land entirely.”

“Huh!” Lee responded. “Well, what's it like?”

“The sky is bluer,” I answered.

“Yeah, and you don't burst into flames when you teleport,” Cyrus hinted.

“Ohh, well that is an unfortunate recent event, isn't it?” Lee replied. “But hopefully the mages will figure out what's going on with that and resolve it. Fortunately our deities haven't been impacted here by any of this.”

“Wait, what do you mean?” Cyrus paused.

“Well the teleporting is an arcane issue,” Lee explained. “And it's not a divine issue, it's an arcane issue.”

“So if you used divine magic to teleport, you don't burn into flame?” Cyrus asked.

“I don't know of any divine magic that does that,” Lee admitted, “but I guess maybe it functions differently. I suppose the gods could pluck you up and where they care to put you, right? They are the gods, after all.”

Cyrus peered out of the window, across the sea.

“Come over here,” Lee waved Cyrus over, opening a set of double doors onto a balcony overlooking the sea. “It's glorious, isn't it?”

“It's a nice view,” Cyrus acknowledged.

The sun was coming down in the overcast sky, and we could barely make out an outline of a vessel floating in distance.

“What do you think about this blockade the elves are doing to Seaquen?” Cyrus asked.

“I think we have to wait and see what happens and open up negotiations with them to try and understand what they're doing,” Lee responded. “Talks haven't really happened yet, and so there's a lot of speculation about what they're doing out there, with their ships. Some say they're here to protect us. Others say they’re here to—like you said—blockade us. But we don't really know their true intentions yet, because we haven't had a discussion.”

“Will that be one of the topics of the Council meeting?” I asked.

“If it's not, it should be, right?” Lee indicated. “I think it's important enough to merit some discussion. Shall we eat?”

Lee led us into another chamber with big, open windows and a long table with settings for each of us. Seafood crowded the table, and the smell mixed with the smell of brine from outside. We could hear the ocean lapping against the rocks of the island below.

We all sat, with Lee at the head of the table, saying, “Enjoy my friends.”

“Thank you for sharing the sea’s bounty with us,” Ulfgar replied.

“Don't thank me,” Lee waved. “Thank Oceanus.”

“Thanks, Oceanus,” Cyrus quipped. “Hey, Lee, are you a member of the resistance too, like Torrent is?”

“I am not a member of a resistance because we don't have that here,” Lee explained. “But I certainly support the efforts of the Lyceum. There's no need for resistance here. We're not occupied like, for example, in Gate Pass.”

“Torrent, are you from Seaquen,” Cyrus turned to the cleric, “or are you from Gate Pass?”

“I'm from Seaquen here,” Torrent explained, “and this is where I met Lee and I became part of the church, and Lee's been my mentor for quite some time. I left and made a home in Gate Pass. I spent quite some time in Gate Pass, meeting people, talking about Oceanus, and that sort of became my home for a while.”

“Ohh, so you were at Gate Pass evangelizing and then this all happened?” Cyrus asked.

“Yes,” Torrent confirmed, “and we're no fans of the Ragesians, so when they started to abduct people or do whatever they were doing, we quickly organized a resistance to try and counter what they were doing there. And we were fortunate enough to make your acquaintances somewhere along the road and get connected.”

“That's great,” Cyrus praised. “Well, even though you're not part of the resistance, I think it's really nice that you're supporting Torrent and her cause.”

“Yes, of course,” Lee insisted. “Anything for Torrent. She’s like a daughter to me.”

“Well, no doubt, Torrent has filled you in on our encounters since we left Gate Pass,” I implied.

“We haven't had a lot of time because we've been trying to take care of things here,” Lee confirmed, “but yes, she's mentioned some of your adventures coming back here. I was particularly intrigued by the fire forest and how you managed to douse that. Very impressive. Very impressive indeed.”

“I'm surprised with all the refugees fleeing here for safety,” Ulfgar hinted, “that there haven't been inquisitors mixed in with them, given the lots of magic users here. You haven't run into any inquisitors at all?”

“That is a concern,” Lee admitted. “Votberd has been quite vocal about that. Although he's a bit too extreme for my taste, he's been quite vocal about that possibility. Now, I haven't seen any—or they haven't caught any, that I know of—inquisitors here. But that's certainly been a concern that's been raised.”

“Well, we caught worse,” Cyrus shared. “Apparently they sent a devil.”

“When did this happen?” Lee sat closer in his chair to listen.

“Two days ago,” Cyrus answered.

“Please, do you have any more you can share about that?” Lee pressed.

“There was a devil in town,” Cyrus explained. “We sussed it out. The Magisters at the Lyceum captured it. We were able to question it, and we were able to determine that it was sent by the inquisitors to create trouble here in Seaquen.”

“Wow!” Lee gasped.

“...and maybe look for us, incidentally, as well,” Cyrus added.

“So, sent here to sow the seeds of trouble amongst the folk here?” Lee was wide-eyed.

“Yes,” Cyrus acknowledged, “and kill us.”

“Wow!” Lee repeated. “Quite devious indeed. Well, I'm grateful that you uncovered this plot. It's a bit of nasty business, and yet another reason for us to be grateful for your presence here. A toast to you all you, my friends. Thank you.”

“Perhaps when all this is over,” Lee continued, “we can arrange for a nice boat tour. We're on a peninsula. The sea is magnificent here when the weather is better.”

“Part of the plot—” I continued. “We found out that there were Ragesian spies in town with a device that blocks teleportation.”

“Ragesian spies and town!” Lee surmised. “Well, I guess that that answers your question about inquisitors, right? Spies and inquisitors. They’re all sort of—”

“Yeah,” Cyrus interjected, “Lorb may not be so crazy after all.”

“Well, spies are not necessarily inquisitors,” I specified.

“Well, yes,” Lee clarified, “but it sounds like they've begun to infiltrate the city in some way.”

“A cell of them,” Ulfgar noted. “We don't know how many though, right?”

“Did they locate the spies?” Lee asked.

“Not yet,” we all replied, and I added, “But we did get a list of all the people that have been charmed in Seaquen.”

“Ohh, so who did the charming?” Lee asked. “Was that the devil that you had mentioned?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Wow!” Lee gasped. “That’s incredible. So it sounds like it may have been here a while, beguiling all those people to whatever end it had.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus confirmed, “working at subterfuge.”

“Wow, this war is upon us,” Lee recognized, “subtly if not obviously, right?”

“Yep,” Cyrus warned, “Ragesia’s not gonna stop at Gate Pass. It's coming.”

“Yes, well, the battles are quite violent up there,” Lee asked, “aren't they?”

“They were,” I acknowledged.

“I hear the Shahalesti are getting supplies to Gate Pass to try and help them hold off the Ragesians,” Lee mentioned. “But it's not entirely altruistic, right? Because Gate Pass is a pretty key tactical location for them, because if they get through gate pass, they can get to the Shahalesti more quickly. So it makes sense that they're getting supplies in there as much as they can to fend them off.”

We nodded in agreement.

“What are your thoughts on the Shahalesti offer,” Ulfgar enquired, “if you don't want to call it a blockade?”

“What offer is that?” Lee asked.

“The offer for Seaquen to come under their protection?” Ulfgar clarified.

“Are you talking about Thalan’s offer?” I specified. “We encountered one of the Shahalesti, and their leader asked us to encourage those in power in Seaquen to accept their offer. He said that they have the means to make the conditions much better for the thousands of refugees who are without homes.”

“Hmm,” Lee considered. “Yeah, but that sounds quite informal, right? It doesn't sound like they've made that a formal request yet to the leadership here…”

“No,” Cyrus acknowledged, “although he tried to imply that it was formal. I didn't like him.”

“So have you met the headmaster yet?” Lee asked.

“Simeon,” I replied. “Yes, we did.”

“Ohh, very good,” Lee smiled. “He’s a good man.”

“He was involved in the banishment of the devil,” I elaborated.

“Ah, okay,” Lee nodded. “That's the right person to have involved in that. That's for certain. Have you been invited to the Council meeting?”

“We have,” I confirmed. “Is that tomorrow?”

“Yes, tomorrow afternoon,” Lee clarified. “That's gonna be quite the meeting.”

“What do you think they will discuss?” I asked.

“Well, it's a war council,” Lee replied. “So all manner of issues with the Ragesians and the refugees are a big topic? They seem to need a lot of help.”

“Who's on the council?” Cyrus asked.

“I think some ambassadors are coming in from some of the adjoining nations,” Lee indicated. “Sindaire and some other places. And Simeon will be chairing the meeting.”

“I hope it’s well protected with all of those ambassadors coming in,” I implied.

“I would think so,” Lee replied. “With all those mages, I would think it should be protected. We will be there… You'll be there…”

“Hopefully these Ragesian spies have not infiltrated that deep,” I worried.

“Yes, that would be bad,” Lee acknowledged, “if they were embedded into the highest levels of the government here.”

“Speaking of the refugees,” I segued, “what is your take on Laurabec's mission to form a pantheist church for those in need to share resources.”

“Well, Torrent briefly mentioned it,” Lee shared, “and she supports it, and I support Torrent. So I trust her judgment, and if she thinks it's worthwhile doing, then I'm all for it.”

“Is Lorb Votberd on the Council?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lee rolled his eyes a little bit. “”He'll be there.”

“I take it you're not a fan?” I surmised.

“Yeah,” Lee wavered slightly, “he's a little bit too reactionary for my taste.”

“We did some work for him,” I shared. “Turned out that buildings were being burned down by—.”

“Ah, the arsonist issue,” Lee was familiar.

“Yes, it turned out to be fire rats,” I continued, “that had infiltrated from below the ground.”

“Ohh really!” Lee seemed surprised. “Fire rats. Who would have thought?”

Lee lifted the wine carafe and topped off the participants around the table before pouring himself a mug.

“I'm glad that's resolved too,” Lee commended. “You guys have done quite a few good deeds here. On behalf of the community, I thank you.”

“We are doing what we can,” I replied.

“You have anything that needs doing?” Cyrus offered.

“I don't actually at this point,” Lee replied.

“You’ve lived here his whole life,” Ulfgar inquired. “Do you know anything about the volcano, or the sunken temple, or the fire mage?”

“Ah, the take of Rizik the Fire Mage,” Lee chuckled. “Yes, Rizik the Fire Mage. I'm not surprised that you guys are taking that quite seriously. It's really a child's tale. Years ago there was a mage that lived here. As a matter of fact, I think as the history of this place goes, there was a settlement here of mages—I want to say hundreds of years ago—that got overwhelmed by the ocean. I think there was a volcano or something happened here and they got wiped out. Hence some of the ruins you walked through to get here. Sometime later they came and they rebuilt this place, and people like to make rumors and stories to explain what they don't understand, and the tale of Rizik was born.”

“Could there be any truth to the rumors, though?” Ulfgar persisted.

“I've lived here all my life,” Lee explained, “and I've never seen any indication of any truth to that.”

“Have you ever seen fire rats before?” Ulfgar challenged.

“Fire rats I haven't seen,” Lee conceded. “That's something I haven't seen though.”

“I just find it curious that there's fire rats and legends of a fire mage,” Ulfgar hinted. “Both, perhaps underground.”

“It might be a muth,” Cyrus implied, “vut there may be a grain of truth to it.”

“I don't know if there's causation or correlation,” Lee shrugged. “Perhaps they’re related. Maybe there's a chance.”

“I wonder if it's just not a kid's tail,” Ulfgar maintained. “Maybe there is a nugget of truth somewhere.”

“Hey, listen, anything's possible,” Lee conceded again. “If you can get transported from another world to come here, maybe there’s some truth to Rizik. I won't deny that.”

“Are you aware of any caves in the area or entrances to an underground?” Ulfgar questioned. “Where we pass through, there's old buildings. Do any of them date back as far as—”

“The only real underground that I know of here,” Lee revealed, “is some real roughhouse type of places where sailors like to congregate. Those are the only real places that are around here…that I know of. I'm not all knowing by all means, but those are the only places that I know where people go to congregate.”

“Where is the restroom?” Cyrus asked.

“Ah yes, of course,” Lee described where it was, and Cyrus departed in that direction.

On his way, Cyrus looked for any place that looked like an office or bedroom, and came upon a study with an oak desk, a couple of lounge chairs, and a bookcase. Ensuring that we were still conversing about the old ruins, he ducked into the room. He rifled through the papers on the desk, examined the fireplace and the bookcase, but didn’t find anything suspicious. After about a minute, he continued on to the restroom and soon returned.

“I'm intrigued by your friend that you had mentioned was a transmuter wizard,” Ulfgar was saying. “Is it possible that he had anything to do with the fire rats? Perhaps another experiment gone wrong?”

“I’m sure I would have heard about it if something like that may have happened,” Lee considered. “I don't think so. I wanna say I don't think so, but obviously I can't know for certain, but I doubt it.”

“You know him better than I would,” Ulfgar acknowledged. “So I appreciate you keep looking into it.”

“Listen, I'll ask around,” Lee agreed. “I'm happy to ask around and see and see if I hear anything about it. That's no problem.”

“That would be great,” Ulfgar replied.

As the night wore on, we were soon done with our meals, but the wine kept flowing. Lee pulled out some cigars and offered them around along with some port wine.

“So we'll see you tomorrow at the council meeting?” Cyrus asked.

“I'll be there for sure,” Lee ensured.

“Don't assassinate anybody,” Cyrus teased as we were all saying our goodbyes.

It was getting dark as we made our way back to town

“What was that about, Cyrus?” I asked.

“Yeah, I'm drunk,” Cyrus dismissed.

Back in town, before Torrent split off to head back to the temple, I confirmed that we would see her the next day at the council meeting.

“I don't know,” Cyrus shared. “Something about Lee. I don't trust him.”

“Really,” I responded.

“Yeah, I don't have any evidence,” Cyrus admitted. “I looked through his office. I didn't find anything.”

“You did?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Cyrus acknowledged, “but it's just the tentacled creature and his being all nice; I don't buy it. Call it a hunch.”

“Well, I guess that's all it is for now, since we haven't found anything,” I suggested. “I guess we'll see where he stands tomorrow at the council meeting. In the meantime, he is supporting Torrent to join Laurabec’s movement.”

Cyrus nodded.

When we arrived at Grandma Baker's, Xireas was there and we told her about our experience with Laurabec and the religious factions, as well as meeting Lee, and being attacked by the puppet master monk.

Cyrus also told her about the crystal and asked if she could identify it.

He gave her the blue gem.

After casting identify, Xireas shared, “It is a magic imbued item. It is in fact attracted to other crystals. It has the ability to store some energy. There are no charges. It does not require attunement.”

In the morning, Grandma Baker arrived with the usual basket of fare. We inquired about the history of the place, and she explained that an old city on a rocky coastal spur on the far side of a remote swamp, on the southern tip of civilized lands, was swept into the sea. An earthquake collapsed its coastline, and volcanic geysers obliterated its people. All this happened centuries ago, but eventually people forgot the legends of curses, and sought to inhabit the land again. A clan of wizards, remembering only that once the peninsula had been home to a mighty fire mage in ages past, established a school, the Lyceum, on the rocky coastline, and brought slaves with them to tend to their needs.

She continued to tell us how students, headmasters, and even slaves came and went, until only free men lived on the now-verdant rock spur. Around Lyceum grew a large town named Seaquen, home to just over a thousand fishermen, craftsmen, and former students. Spellcasters from around the world travel to Lyceum, no longer a school simply for wizards, but for all those who practice the magical arts.

Once we had finished hearing the tale and eating our meal, we left early to visit the Sindairese Exiles.

The encampment was very different from the others, with odd shaped dwellings of random shapes, some that appeared to require magic to stand. The refugees were all wearing flowy, bright colored clothing.

Asking around, Ulfgar was told that a sorcerer by the name of Darney Bano is in charge, and was directed to their tent.

The large tent had a big, billowing banner and little bellpull suspended in midair in front.

I cast enhance ability on Xireas, imparting eagle’s splendor.

Cyrus yanked on the bellpull and we heard the sound of a bell out of thin air.

The fold of the tent parted open and we followed Ulfgar inside where we found light spells illuminating a portly bald sorcerer sitting behind the desk pouring over some papers.

Red hot coals seemed to heat the area, though there was no obvious fire.

“Uh, good morning,” the sorcerer looked up from his writing, removing his reading glasses. “How can I help you?”

“Good morning,” Ulfgar replied. “We are The Ambassadors of the Blue Sky. Your area here is certainly a land of many splendors.”

“Congratulations,” the sorcerer quipped. “That it is. That it is.”

“You seem like you're very busy,” Ulfgar continued. “Perhaps we should just get right to the point.”

“Uh, Okay,” the sorcerer replied. “That works. That works for me.”

“We've been sent on behalf of an initiative to try and establish a pantheist church,” Ulfgar explained. “And we are hoping that you, as the worshippers of Mystra, the mother of all magic, would entertain the possibility of joining this pantheist church, so that we can pull our resources to help all of the refugees.”

“Hmm, that's interesting,” Darney contemplated. “Pantheist church, you say?”

Darney waved a finger and a little creature came running in, and ran off after the sorcerer whispered something to it.

“That's an interesting concept,” Darney pondered. “And where would you build this? Who would run it? Where would Mystra’s space be in this place?”

“All the temples would be members,” Ulfgar answered.

“If it's a pantheist temple,” Darney elaborated, “we’re all gonna need a place to set up our respective worship places. We certainly don't want to be the last ones there.”

“I think the idea is that everybody would share the space,” I chimed in. “So all would be welcome.”

“It might be an octagonal building with alcoves for each faith,” Cyrus conjectured, “and a central area where everybody can come together and share ideas, reveal mysteries from different lands and different people that you may not be familiar with. You know, it's like magic.”

“I'm sure they'll have an extensive library that you can put in,” Xireas added, “and you can study and you can do some research on your spells and all types of things like that, and maybe there's storage area for some components and things. I'm sure they'll have some unique spaces for each of you.”

“The beautiful part is if you sign on,” Cyrus encouraged, “you can have a word in how it looks and what's there.”

“Hmm,” Darney mused. “That's interesting. Interesting theory.”

After a bit more back and forth, Darney said, “You know what? That sounds like something we probably would be interested in doing.”

“Great!” Ulfgar rejoiced. “Once we've talked to the rest of the churches—you're the third one to have joined. We're still working through the rest of the temples, trying to build a consensus and as my companion said, once we have more on board, we'll return and—”

“Well, we won't,” Cyrus interjected. “Laurabec will have somebody contact your people.”

The little creature returned with a couple of books, handed them to Darney, and ran off.

“Do you have people in need of food and water?” I asked.

“I think we're good,” Darney replied. “I think we're good right now, but thanks for offering. I appreciate it. I think we're good. I think we'll manage. We've been managing. We'll manage. We're good. We're good.”

“That's great,” Cyrus acknowledged. “Well, nice meeting you, Lord Bano. Have a good day.”

“Keep me posted,” Darney replied. “Good meeting. Good meeting.”

From there we went to the dwarven encampment.

I visited the mess hall, where I cast create food and water, reminding everyone that this is the blessing of Moradin/Grungni and not to hoard the food, but to share it.

Then I looked for Gelongma Gerdor Kindhandle, who I soon found talking to some other folks at a little stone altar.

Not wanting to interrupt. I waved a hand to get his attention, and he nodded in recognition.

A few moments later, Gerdor waved me forward and I approached, my companions behind me.

“Gerdor, I was able to come back,” I greeted. “I don't have long. We are headed to a council meeting at Lyceum. But we do have more of the factions joining the pantheist cause.”

“Ah, good to know, good to know,” Gerdor acknowledged. “But let's walk for a minute. Let's take a walk. Would you all mind?” He turned to my companions. “We're just gonna walk and talk for a few minutes.”

“I'll be back,” I nodded to my companions.

“Well, thanks for coming back,” Gerdor said, as we walked. “I appreciate it and all the help that you've been providing to our brethren here. All the dwarves in the encampment, they've all been talking about all the great stuff you've been doing for us. So we really appreciate that.”

“It's the least I can do for my brothers and sisters here,” I replied.

“Um, but I need some help from you on one front,” Gerdor hesitantly asked, “if I may be so bold as to ask it…”

“Please,” I urged him, “what is it?”

“So I think there's been a bit of confusion,” , “that has been spreading amongst the flock with the terms you've been using with the ‘Grungni Moradin’—the compounding that you've been putting together the names—and it's been causing a bit of confusion amongst the brothers and I respectfully request that you just keep using the name Grungni because they just don't understand the nuances that are happening here and it's driven some conflict and people are fighting about it and it's really creating a bad situation for us here and I really could use your help in keeping it consistent amongst the brothers so that we can keep them unified in this very difficult time that we're facing. You think that's something you can help me with?”

“I will try to be sensitive to this,” I promised, “and I will pray on this. For where I'm from, the Soul Father of the Dwarves is known as Moradin, and I must be true to Moradin. But I can also appreciate your situation. Let me pray on this, and in the meantime I will cause no further confusion.”

“That's all I ask,” Gerdor replied. “I very much appreciate that. And if you'd like to have some more discussion about it, I'm happy to make the time for us to sit down and have more conversation about this.”

“I'm actually thinking that perhaps I will perform an Augury on this,” I proposed.

“Okay,” Gerdor replied. “That’s not a bad idea.”

“I wonder if it's something that maybe we should do together at some point,” I indicated, “so we can both benefit and witness what the divine response is.”

“Again, not not a terrible idea,” Gerdor replied. “I'm certainly open to doing that.”

“Okay,” I acknowledged. “I will return again.”

“Okay,” Gerdor replied. “I look forward to it and thank you for your help.”

We chatted idly as we returned to my companions.

“Alright, Gerdor,” I waved. “Until we meet again.”

“Good travels, my friends,” Gerdor returned.

As we left the dwarven encampment, I shared that my concatenation Moradin-Grungni has apparently caused some confusion.

We headed back to Lyceum, where we were escorted from the front gate to the main tower.

In the main tower we were brought into a big meeting room with a big oval table.

At the head of the table was Headmaster Simeon.

Around the table were Magistrate Lorb Votberd, Lee Sidoneth, Commander Xavious Foebane, Laurabec Adelsburg, Katrina, and others whom we did not recognize. Some of the strangers appeared to be ambassadors based on the placards in front of them, including those from Dassen, Sindaire, and Ostalin.

We were brought to some extra seats that had been set up behind Katrina, and took our seats there, where Torrent soon joined us.

After everybody was seated, Headmaster Simeon rose and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll pardon me if I’m brief. Our enemies are many, and we know their eyes are constantly watching. We don’t have much time for this meeting, so, even though I encourage each and every one of us to have our time to speak, I need to ask that we not get too bogged down in discussions of minutiae and other small things.

"We have such a great task ahead of us—a task that we do not do simply to protect ourselves, but to save the lives of all our families, brothers, and sisters. The new emperor of Ragesia, Leska, who proudly calls herself the Supreme Inquisitor, has set her armies to conquer all our nations. Everyone is in danger, from lowliest warrior to mightiest mage. I have vowed as my duty that I will fight against this scourge from Ragesia, but I don’t know much about running a war.

"What I do know is that we all have knowledge and skills that will be valuable in this fight. I hope that you will trust me to lead this fight against tyranny, and I will trust you to give me your best wisdom and aid so that we may be victorious.

"Our goal is to stop the scourge, to drive back the armies of the Ragesian Empire, to dethrone Leska, and to ensure our families and homelands are safe. Now, I hope you all have some idea how to do that. My ears are open to all.”

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