War of the Burning Sky Session 27

As soon as Headmaster Simeon took his seat, Magistrate Lorb Votberd rose. “If it’s ideas ya want, here's some…

"Lets get all this chaos and crime under control in the town. Ever since we had all these refugees comin' unchecked, things have gotten way outta control around here. We should expand the constabulary and get some more able bodies out there to keep the peace and start questioning all these outsiders, so we can get the troublemakers off the streets right away! Otherwise my hands are tied in keeping you all safe!” He rapped a fist on the table and sat down.

Murmuring began around the room.

A moment later, Lee Sidoneth rose. “As a commander of the Harbor security, I can report to you all that North Harbor is currently at capacity and we are sending the overflow of new refugee ships around the peninsula to south harbor for the time being. However, there is inadequate dock space. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the moored ships can be moved much more quickly in case of attack. However, I should implore you all, we all need to have some patience, wait and build strength before taking any action.” As Lee sat down, he sneered at the ambassador from Ostalin, saying, "Some war-mongers might disagree with me, but they are motivated by the flow of gold into their coffers, not the safety of refugees or our city."

Moments later, Commander Xavious Foebane rose. “In my view we should be sending emissaries out to negotiate an alliance with any nations that are willing to stand up to the Ragesians. We have an abundance of magical support that can serve us well in exchange for additional martial support in fending off any attacks. However, all our efforts will be for naught if we do not find the Torch of the Burning Sky before Leska finds it. I have taken the liberty to send an inquiry to my contacts in Dassen who may be willing to help us locate it. Once we have a crew, we can then take it to King Steppengard.”

As Foebane sat, some of the ambassadors seemed a little antsy, while most nodded in agreement.

Laurabec Adelsburg then rose. “While all the discussion about the military may be interesting to discuss, I believe we are missing a central concern in our own house. We have quite a few people who have already been displaced by the Ragesian’s actions and have taken up residence right up on our doorstep.” Laurabec pointed out of the window. “These men, women, and children can be valuable allies in this effort and yet this council has taken no action to prevent the profiteering that is occurring from them. We need to focus some efforts on providing food, shelter, and clean water to ease tensions and provide a means to diffuse the bitter religious and cultural differences. These people can be vital allies if we begin to set up an office to—”

“The people don’t need extra anything,” Lorb Votberd interrupted. “What we need are stricter laws and more law enforcement to enforce our rules.”

Simeon rose, “Let us have order and show each other the civility that is necessary for us to move forward. Votberd, please.”

They all sat down.

Laurabec seemed a bit frustrated.

Giorgio the flamboyant Wayfarer
A flamboyant dressed man wearing a large, feathered hat covering his long flowing hair, and carrying a lute, rose from his seat and began walking around the room. We recognized him from the Wayfarer ship, and the placard in front of his seat said: Giorgio of the Wayfarer. He said, “The wayfarers have been studying the dangers in teleportation and are working on a solution as we speak… Consider the advantage Seaquen would have if we solved this issue and decided to set aside our long standing policy of neutrality.” After pausing with a broad smile, he continued, “I'm betting the Guild Mistress might just be willing to consider just that, if the Lyceum can prove it has a legitimate chance of defeating Ragesia. In the spirit of the unity which Lady Adelsburg has been speaking, I present each of you with this valuable ticket.”

He produced tickets from his pocket and handed them to everyone in the room.

“These are for a performance, in three days, of The Spectacular Trial of Toteth Topec, which you’ve no doubt heard will be premiering at the Wayfarers’ Theater in the harbor. Though there will be other performances before the night of your tickets, the ageless beauty that is Guildmistress Larkins wants to be certain we have everything perfect before we show it to you, the city’s most respected citizens, and those dignitaries visiting from similarly respected nations. Think of the symbol it will be, for all you to attend a show together! I dare say it may be wholly disastrous to morale if even one of you fails to attend!" With a theatrical bow he took his seat.

Katrina, then rose and said, “Distinguished guests, ambassadors, everyone, please allow me to take a moment of your time to present to the council The Ambassadors of the Blue Sky,” Cyrus buried his face in his palm as she waved her arms dramatically toward us, “Exfiltrators of Gate Pass, Destroyers of the Inquisitors, Extinguishers of the Innenotdar Forest fire, which raised on mind you for forty years and no one could put it out, Liberators of Cornerwood, and Exterminators of the Seaquen Fire Rats. I can attest to you all just how strong and capable warriors they are, having faced one of the Inquisitors and defeated them myself. It's quite the feat. I would like to add that I have communicated with my brother Rantle, who is vital to Gate Pass, and he reports the resistance is alive and well in Gate Pass. Perhaps one of The Ambassadors of the Blue Sky would like to say a few words to the council.”

Chairs grinded against the stone floor of the chamber as all the heads in the room turned toward us.

Seeing that no one else moved to speak, I rose. “We must all band together if we are to defeat Ragesia and Emperor Leska. We cannot allow the Ragesian Empire to pick off each kingdom, one by one. Only through unity, will we be able to withstand her armies and inquisitors. We must set aside our petty squabbles about borders or religion, about language and culture. If we allow the Ragesians to prevail, none of that will exist, or even matter. We agree with Commander Foebane. We must send emissaries to all remaining free kingdoms and send scouts to determine where the Ragesian armies are massing, if we are just to discern where they will strike next. We must choose the site of the next battle and not allow it to be dictated to us by the Ragesian Empire. If needed, we need to delay and fall back to buy time, deny their armies any food or comfort while we bolster our own. We must raise armies, not just of soldiers and mages, but also of craftsmen, farmers, healers, sailors. We also must encourage Ragesians everywhere to rise up and overthrow their emperor, if they value peace and prosperity at all. For even our Ragesian refugee friends may ultimately wish to return to their homes.”

Along with my companions, Lee Sidoneth nodded his head earnestly in agreement.

Laurabec seemed keenly interested at the mention of refugees, while Votberd’s face turned visibly red and tense.

After a moment, Headmaster Simeon said, “Welcome Ambassador of the Blue Sky. We welcome your counsel.”

“Thank you, headmaster,” I replied. “I would also counsel that it may be unwise for all the leaders to gather themselves en masse at this Wayfarer show. As entertaining as it might be, it is not the Lyceum Academy, and it may be dangerous.”

“We already know,” Cyrus rose, “that there are Ragesian spies in this town.”

 “Thank you,” Giorgio rose. Though a slight flush indicated that my comments had embarrassed him, he remained visibly composed. “Thank you, oh wise ambassadors. Our security will be top notch on that evening to ensure that everyone is safe and secure.” Then he sat back down.

I also sat, but Cyrus continued, “You also might wanna consider Laurabec's words: Treating people like chattel is no good! Even if we come to victory, what good is that victory if you sacrifice your own morality for it?”

Laurabec nodded in agreement, as did I.

Cyrus sat and I gave him a supportive pat on the back.

Many in the room were nodding. Others just listened intently.

Dassen Ambassador Keifer Numhaut
The Dassen Ambassador, Keifer Numhaut, rose and said, “I bring to you greetings and salutations from His Lord Majesty King Steppenguard. Firstly, I would inform you all that Seaquen's rallying call has caused much disruption to the Kingdom as so many refugees have come through our lands both destroying and consuming our resources. Additionally, this activity makes the Kingdom a potential target for Ragesia.

“While His Highness is not above lending support where there is legitimate reason, for the time being the King believes it is wiser to make a pact of neutrality with Leska and leave Seaquen to manage its own affairs.”

To this, Simeon rose to respond, “Mr. Ambassador, perhaps we can convene after this meeting where I can show you evidence that quite clearly demonstrates that Ragesia will accept no neutrality and give no quarter.”

"Of course, Headmaster," Ambassador Keifer Numhaut replied, taking his seat.

Sindare Ambassador Cranston Snord
The Sindare Ambassador, Cranston Snord, an aged gnome, rose next, “Headmaster Simeon, I can tell you that we want nothing more than to resist Ragesia, but by openly doing so and supporting Seaquen we risk, as the Dasseni Ambassador noted, becoming a target and drawing Leska's ire. However, we have one notable difference; If Seaquen could manage to defeat Regasia in some momentous battle...well, then such a victory could be enough of a difference to sway the politicians to action.”

Looking around, and then giving a slight nod to Commander Foebane, Ambassador Snord added, “Concerning the Torch of the Burning Sky, I believe I know where it might be. It is simply impossible to reach. The evening that the Old Dragon was slain, a storm of fire opened up in the skies above the late emperor’s castle, a place called Korstull, a canyon in a broad field. Now everything there is dead, burned by months of searing rain. Sometimes the dead wander out of the storm. I don’t know how anyone could have gotten into that firestorm to retrieve the torch, nor do I know how you would expect to either."

The old gnome sat down.

Kazha Lonam, The Ostalin Ambassador
Kazha Lonam, The Ostalin Ambassador, a slender half-elf woman with sharpened black fingernails and voluminous robes, rose, "The inestimable Khagan Onamdammin, generous monarch of Ostalin, deeply regrets that his neighbors might be endangered by the Ragesian armies, but is willing to lend his elite, fierce armies if his neighbors are reasonable. Ragesia intends to conquer your entire nation. Would it not be reasonable to trade us one-third of your land, so that you may keep the rest from the greedy, cruel Ragesians?"

Vortberg slammed his fist against the table, "Preposterous! What the hell kind of offer of help is that!"

A heated debate and bickering broke out among the rest of the ambassadors.

Turning to Cyrus amid the ruckus, I whispered, “It's not really as bad of an offer as it seems. Surely they could spare one third of their swamp.”

The door to the conference room suddenly burst open with a boom and a human stepped in, but was then hurled back out of the room.

The thrum of a telekinetic thrust shook the room. Kiernan, one of the headmaster’s instructors, hands were raised from spellcasting.

Simeon looked at Kiernan in shock, “That was Johund you just attacked!”

“Just being safe,” Kiernan replied.

The shaking Johund rose and came back into the room, saying frantically, “A group of elves just flew over the walls and are heading up to the tower right now! There are seven of them and they carry the flag of the Shahalesti!”

Everyone stopped arguing and listened, before nervous murmuring resumed.

“Calm down, everyone,” Simeon urged. “Calm down. Diplomats must meet their new guest politely, but at the same time, just prepare yourself for the worst, just in case. Everyone should be ready. Everyone, let's leave now to the lecture hall. Please, Kiernan help everybody get into the lecture hall.”

They opened the door on the other side of the room and folks began moving into the lecture hall.

We followed everyone to the lecture hall, where the Shahalesti elves flew in through a window, all dressed in silver armor and blue cloaks. As they landed, they stood tall and bright, with straight blonde hair and straight swords at their hips.

Shalosha, daughter of the Shining Lord Shaaladel
Their leader was a pristinely beautiful elf woman whose eyes shone like the son of the bluest sea. She walked up to the front of the lecture hall, where the headmaster stood at the podium, two bodyguards at her side. Another elf held a flag ceremoniously, while the rest of the elves watched warily.

“I would have waited,” the elf quipped. “I didn’t intend to frighten you all.”

“Who are you?” Simeon demanded. “What are you doing here?”

“I am Princess Shalosha, daughter of the Shining Lord Shaaladel of Shahalesti,” she replied. “I have come to offer an alliance to Seaquen against Ragesia.”

“It's not looking good for your security,” Cyrus said to Juohund, “when six elves can just fly in here. Maybe you should do something about that, or find somebody who can.”

“Yes, it's true,” Johund admitted. “We're going to have to do something about this. This is not acceptable.”

“Very well then,” Simeon replied to the princess. “We shall hear your offer.” The sound of a gavel tapping on the podium sounded. “Everyone please be seated so we can proceed in an orderly fashion.”

"I come with an offer of safety and salvation for Seaquen,” Princess Shalosha began, “and those who shelter here. As you know, Shahalesti is the shining jewel of civilization, and now we are attacked by the armies of Ragesia. For every loss we suffer, the progress of all nations suffers. We are the only power strong enough to drive back the fires of Ragesia, but even for our greatness, victory is not assured.

"My father, Lord Shaaladel, knows that some of the nations, whose ambassadors stand in this very hall, would prefer Shahalesti fall. But they don’t realize that in doing so they prefer their own doom. All here must admit that faith in the leaders of other nations is a difficult thing when the only gesture is a few diplomats sent to the banner of Seaquen.

"Shahalesti sends a fleet. Seventeen of our ships sail now to this peninsula, surrounding it from all directions to protect it from hostilities. By this we show our devotion to the fight, and—so my father believes—we prove that it is our nation who should lead that fight.

"We invite you to join us in the war against Ragesia. Many potential allies have found their way to your city, and so we have come here to meet them. However, we will not risk betrayal on any scale, nor would it be wise for you to risk it. So we ask that you hand over control of Seaquen to the Shahalesti fleet, so that we may begin checking the purity of your allies’ spirit. Admiral Telshanth will serve as provisional governor of Seaquen—"

“Our nation will never hand over any territory!” Dassen Ambassador Keifer Numhaut interrupted.

Within moments, the other ambassadors began to clamor about as well.

After a moment, Headmaster Simeon waved a hand and the loud tapping gavel sound was heard. “ORDER,” his voice magically boomed. “WE MUST HAVE ORDER.”

“With respect, Princess,” The headmaster replied, “"with respect Princess, I, we, can recognize a threat so thinly veiled. We would welcome a genuine alliance on equal grounds when you are ready to discuss it. Princess, everyone, Seaquen will not hand over its territory or governance if its people to anyone. However Shahalesti need to share resources and protect each other.”

“Understand,” Princess Shalosha turned to the headmaster, “Seaquen is in grave danger and we would prefer to not see it fall. To that extent, the Admiral has his orders. The fleet will remain and there will be no travel by sea into or out of Seaquen. I will speak with my father to try and find a compromise, but such things are rarely resolved quickly.”

The room erupted in murmuring and outrage.

“I knew they were bad news,” Cyrus said.

“Princess,” Ufgar spoke up, “you mentioned that you have ways of finding these impure people? What exactly does that entail?”

“We would begin by interviewing many of the people here,” Princess Shalosha replied, “to understand who is an ally and who is not. Root out the spies to make sure that the city is secure.”

“Why do we need you to do that?” Ulfgar asked.

“Lorb Votberd is but one man,” Princess Shalosha explained. “Our methods are quite advanced to your one security person here.”

“And that's my question—” Ulfgar began.

“That's nonsense,” Lorb Votberd interrupted. “I can handle the job! Who the hell do you think you are, elf woman?”

“Steady, steady, Lorb,” Ulfgar cautioned.

“Your Highness,” I challenged, “it seems disingenuous to suggest that Votberd is acting alone in his efforts. But that's not to dismiss the benefits that you might be able to provide. The question is why could you not provide those benefits in collaboration with the rulers of Seaquen?”

“We would be collaborating,” Princess Shalosha disputed. “We’d assign an interim governor to oversee operations here during the war.”

“That is not collaboration,” Cyrus and I both refuted.

“It will be an interim measure during war time efforts to ensure that we are successful,” Princess Shalosha insisted. “But we—”

“You want these people to just surrender to your inquisition, just because?” Cyrus interjected. “That's ridiculous, and you know it! Why don't you take your little flyboys back to wherever you came from?”

“Please, please,” Simeon called for calm.

Some of the other ambassadors echoed Cyrus’ words, shouting, “Get out of here!” “You guys should leave. This is a closed discussion anyway,” and “Who invited you here?”

“Princess,” Simeon requested, “I should ask you to retire from our meeting here. We'll take your proposal under advisement, but unless you're willing to collaborate with us, as was well said, your proposal is rejected at this time.”

“Very well, but the fleet will stay,” the Princess replied. With a nod the elves took flight and departed.

“Well, now you gotta deal with the second conquering force,” Cyrus muttered.

“Well, they weren't the only ones,” Xireas replied. “Everybody wants a piece of this place, don't they?”

“It wasn't too long ago that the Shahalesti were allied with the Raegsians,” Ulfgar noted, “back in Coaltongue’s day. So am I to understand that the Ragesians under Leska are attacking them? Now they seek allies?”

“Well, obviously they're being attacked now,” Xireas replied. “Why wouldn't they look for allies wherever they could find them.”

As the ambassadors were milling about and talking amongst themselves, Ulfgar asked Lorb “What kind of progress are you making weeding out the Ragesian spies that they were advised about?”

“That's outside of my duties, actually,” Vorberd replied. “The big shots in the tower here are trying to weed out the spies. I'm in charge of security and keeping the peace amongst the people. If I had my way, I'd be interviewing everybody coming in here to figure out if they’re spies or not.”

I approached Commander Foebane, “It seems that we are in alignment. What can you tell us about this Torch of the Burning Sky that you spoke of?”

“The Torch of the Burning Sky,” Foebane considered. “The Torch of the Burning Sky is a relic of great power that Coaltongue used to somehow support his armies. It seems that since his demise it may have gone missing, or something happened to it during his demise.”

“You said something about this being the priority,” I inquired. “Why do you think that that's the case?”

“Well, if it was powerful enough for Coaltongue to carve out a giant empire with it,” Foebane explained, “perhaps that relic is something that we can get to turn the tides and use it back on them.”

“Do you think it would be a strong enough symbol to unite these people?” Cyrus asked. “They wanted some kind of victory. Maybe the acquisition of this torch could work instead.”

“I imagine I could,” Foebane surmised. “Such a symbol would be a huge victory and would be a huge symbol of power. Perhaps it would be enough to rally these other kingdoms to get together.”

“Do you know where this Korstull is?” Cyrus asked.

“Based on the Sindarin Ambassador's comments,” I suggested, “it seems like a mission that we might be well suited for, with the raining fire and all.”

“Okay, that would be great,” Foebane replied. “We'd have to coordinate a few things. Let's talk about that.”

“You don't need to coordinate,” Cyrus indicated. “We just need to go.”

“Yes,” Foebane acknowledged. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but these are our allies right now, so we need to kind of proceed cautiously.”

“We will coordinate with you,” I replied. “Consider us volunteered for the mission.”

“Thank you,” Foebane nodded. “Thank you.”

“Gentlemen, lady,” Simeon ushered us, “would you have a few minutes to speak privately?”

“Of course,” I responded. “We were just coming to see you.”

“Ah, very good,” the Headmaster smiled. “Then this is very fortuitous. I'm going to adjourn the meeting, and then perhaps we can retire to another room to have a discussion.”

Returning to the podium, Simeon gestured slightly and the gavel sounded three times before he addressed the audience, “Thank you for attending the meeting. We shall call another meeting in due time to reassess our situation. At this point, we're going to adjourn the meeting. If you have any concerns, you know where to find me or my staff. I thank you all again for your support.”

The attendants began gathering their things and dispersing through the exit, talking amongst themselves.

“Please come in, come in,” Simeon waved, leading us back into the conference room where the war council began.

Once we were settled, the headmaster turned to us, “I wanted to share with you some information concerning the scroll case that you brought back here. It took some time—and it's gonna take some more time—but we found some information on it. The content was written by someone by the name of Kreven. He is second in command of the Ragesian Inquisitors. We also know that this document was approved by someone who is immune to divinations. My suspicion is that it was Leska herself. Kreven used magic to scramble the information in the scrolls to encrypt it, and was so confident in his encryption that there was very lax protection otherwise on the scroll. Fortunately you managed to get it and bring it here. The details within are somehow tied to something called the Scourge. This is Leska’s military order to capture hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘disloyal’ mages. As I was divining these things, something odd came to me. As if the name Scourge had some other meaning that I could not put my finger on, so I need to do some more research upon it. However, lastly, both Kreven and the unknown person who approved this were concerned with legends surrounding something called a Trillith. I have never heard of that particular name before.”

“I think we know what this is,” I advised.

“Ohh, really?” Simeon replied eagerly. “What is it?”

“I believe that this is the creature responsible for the Innenotdar Forest and its destruction,” I recalled. “Indomitability. Nelle told us about it, the unicorn.”

“Ah, so it has a name, does it?” the Headmaster noted.

“Yes,” I struggled to recite the unicorn’s words. “Nelle said it comes ‘as whispers on the wind.’ ‘As strange dreams.’ She said she thinks it was some type of young gold dragon that was captured and enslaved.”

“Didn’t Cranston Snord talk about an old dragon?” Xireas hinted.

“Yes,” I acknowledged. “And Nelle said that as a result of this, these creatures were spawned and came here. I think Nelle was referring to Indomitability.”

“Ohh,” Cyrus remembered. “Indomitability, child of Trillith.”

“Huh,” Simeon nodded. “So it's not merely a legend. You've encountered it.”

“Killed it,” Cyrus corrected.

“What was it like?” the Headmaster inquired. “Can you share any of that information with me?”

“It was a beast of fire responsible for the burning of the forest,” I described. “At times it appeared as a burning stag. At other times, I believe it appeared as the head of a dragon.”

“So if its child was a burning dragon,” Cyrus speculated, “then I guess we can assume that Trillith is also some sort of fire creature…”

“My understanding is that Trillith was the dragon,” I supposed, “and Indomitability was created by its capture and enslavement somehow. I thought that's what Nelle told us.”

“This is very interesting,” the Headmaster recognized. “I'm going to have to spend some time researching this. Not much seems to be known about this just yet.”

“We have spoken with Foebane about his words,” I informed Simeon, “as well as the Sindaire ambassador’s, and I think the mission to seek out the Torch of the Burning Sky is one we would be well suited for…especially if you agree that this should be a priority. It's troubling to leave Seaquen at a time when so many are trying to manipulate you to give up your ground.”

“I see,” Simeon resisted. “I hesitate to send you off just yet, because I feel like I don't have enough information about that particular item to know if it will be fruitful to use our resources that way. We've heard little bits and pieces about it, but I feel like I don't have enough information yet to make a hard and fast decision just yet.”

“We're not doing any good sitting around the city though,” Cyrus countered, “Also, you might wanna look into any histories you have about Anyariel. She was the one who captured Indomitability to begin with.”

“Ah, Okay,” Simeon agreed. “We can absolutely do that.”

“If you have something better for us to do,” I implied, “or if you think you'll have more information for us imminently, then we can wait for that.”

“Yes,” the Headmaster counseled. “Allow me to discuss it in some detail with Foebane and some others here just briefly so I can get a better understanding about all of that.”

“Can I ask a favor of you, Simeon?” Cyrus requested.

“But of course,” the Headmaster encouraged.

“I don't know if now is a good time,” Cyrus qualified, “but I have an item that I need Identified or researched.”

“Okay,” Simeon agreed. “What is it?”

Cyrus withdrew the blue shard.

The Headmaster examined the shard with a little monocle. “Huh, that's an interesting item you have there. Why don't we take it to my laboratory and we can have a look at it there where I have many of my tools?”

“Sure,” Cyrus agreed. “When do you wanna do that?”

“Why don’t we take a short break,” Simeon suggested. “You can stick around here or use a commissary—our kitchen—if you wanna eat. Do you want to reconvene in, let's say, an hour?”

“Sounds good to me,” Cyrus agreed.

“As you wish,” I added. “In the meantime, Headmaster, I would like to reiterate our warning against allowing all the ambassadors and leaders to congregate in a vulnerable ship.”

“Yeah, that totally could have been a trap,” Cyrus concurred.

“If necessary,” I warned, “I would advise shutting down that performance.”

“Okay, we'll take that under advisement,” the Headmaster avowed. “Thank you.”

We spent the next hour discussing our plans. Ulfgar wanted to know if my eagerness to pursue the Torch of the Burning Sky would interfere with convincing the factions to join the pantheist church. I said I was happy to wait until the Headmaster gave us leave. We discussed ways we could prevent disaster from striking at the Wayfarer’s show.

After an hour, one of the students escorted us back to the Headmaster’s laboratory, where Simeon was waiting for us behind a workbench containing books and various devices and other things I didn’t recognize.

The room was larger than appeared possible from the outside. The walls in the study were fifty feet tall and packed with books, tomes and scrolls. Xireas was lost in the sea of knowledge and seemed eager for an opportunity to pour over some of the volumes.

“So you have this crystal,” Simeon said. “May I see it to examine it?”

Cyrus held it up.

As Simeon reached for it, Cyrus pulled it back and said, “I want it back.”

“Yeah, of course,” the headmaster acknowledged. “I understand.”

As Headmaster Simeon examined the crystal, he placed it on a small metal stand resembling a desk with a glass top and the magnifying glass of a bullseye lantern beneath it. With a wave of his hand and the word “Illuminar'' a light appeared beneath the crystal and bathed the crystal in the focused white light. He then fumbled around on his somewhat messy desk to find a metal cup with a polished crystal crystal on the end. He fit the cup over the crystal and peered down through the eyepiece to examine it more closely. He stopped looking, scratched his chin looking lost in thought then looked again…mumbling to himself, “can this be possible?” Reaching with a free hand, he absently pulled over a notebook and pencil, while adjusting the viewing contraption with his other hand. Automatically, his hand began to sketch the crystal in great detail noting all of its faces and its perfect sides. From the looks of the drawing, this crystal seemed whole and not broken.

“I can’t be sure yet,” Simeon peered up, wide eyed, light beaming through the viewing device, “but you may have quite a rare find here. Something not seen for a millennia.”

Simeon then turned toward the tremendous library and pointed up towards the books and spoke, “Levitación las manos.” A ghostly hand appeared to form from his own and took off towards the volumes high up in the cases. As it raced up, he grabbed a set of, what resembled opera glasses, and peered in the direction of the hand. With his free hand he directed the ghostly hand left and right, scanning the spines of the countless books. Within a few moments he seemed to find his quarry. ”Yes, yes, that's it. History from the age of Jäegernaught’s.” The ghostly hand firmly grabbed hold and gently pulled out the book before descending with it. “Pagina markos,” Simeon uttered, looking down at the book and tracing a sigil in the air, which then settled onto the page and disappeared. He then gently closed the ancient book and placed it on the desk while at the same time the hand placed the history book on the stand. With a wave, the book opened and its pages turned themselves until it got to the middle of the book. Simeon opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of white gloves, which he then put on.

“What do the gloves do?” Xireas eagerly asked.

“These gloves?” Simeon clarified, “Oh, they are nothing more than what they appear. The pages of this tome are ancient, and the oils from my hands would surely ruin them. So this simple set of cotton gloves is better than any spell I could conjure.”

Headmaster Simeon seemed troubled as he consumed the information from the tomb, gently turning the ancient pages of the text one by one. After a few moments he turned to Cyrus, "Well my friends, this is quite dire. If my suspicions are correct you are in possession of a fragment of a mysterious, ancient relic known as the Orb of Ages. This is quite a dangerous artifact indeed. May I ask how you came to be in possession of such a thing?"

“I don't know if you know this,” Cyrus shared, “but we're not from this world. We were transported here by the shattering of a crystal ball. And I have one of the shards in my possession.”

“Ah, I see,” the headmaster nodded, taking notes meticulously. “Interesting.”

“The shard I had is a lot smaller than what I currently have,” Cyrus continued, “but I encountered someone that had a similar shard and they were attracted to each other. They fused together completely outside of my control after I gained possession of the other man's shard.”

"I see...hmmmhm" as Simone takes careful notes concerning the circumstances...

“My goodness,” Simeon indicated, “this is interesting! Not much is known of this item other than it seems to simply appear every millennia or so after which strife ensues. According to history and legend, entire civilizations have risen and fallen whenever the orb—or crystal ball as you called it—appeared. Legend also has it that wielder of the Orb can command great power. Mind you, these are tales we tell our children, but there may be some truth to this. I've studied this in the past as well. That's how I knew which book to go to. There's some references to perfectly formed crystals such as these with the same amount of facets.”

He held the orb in between his fingers for all to see.

“You see,” Simeon continued, “when you combine those facts along with the notion that, if this were a smaller part of a whole, the crystal should have some imperfections, cracks, or breaks, I think this may be the orb that I am referring to. I must caution you, we must keep this very quiet for the time being, as we already have war at a doorstep. Any rumors of such an item can exacerbate an already tumultuous situation. I must conduct some additional research concerning this item. Obviously, this is a once in a lifetime find. May I hold on to this for the moment? Perhaps we can perform some experiments to determine its true nature?"

Xireas was intensely looking through the books about the place.

“Perhaps while we're here,” I suggested. “I don't think we should let it out of our possession.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus agreed. “I think I'll hold on to it for now. When we return and when we have more time, we can investigate it together.”

“Of course,” the headmaster conceded, handing the Orb back to Cyrus. “Meanwhile, perhaps I can set some of our interns to scouring the history books and see what else we may be able to find on this.”

“Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,” Cyrus agreed.

“I caution you,” Simeon warned, “if this is what I suspect it is, and others find out that you're in possession of this, your lives could be in danger, because it will be a very sought after item. So just a word of caution in that regard.”

“You're the only one I've told,” Cyrus acknowledged.

“And I shall tell no one,” the headmaster promised. “I am not gonna tell them you have it, but I shall instruct some of my students just simply to do research on the topic.”

We nodded our agreement and thanked him for his efforts and the information.

A student escorted us out.

Once we had left Lyceum, I turned to Cyrus, “Cyrus, what do you think about leaving the crystal with Xireas, and letting Xireas stay with the crystal while he performs his experiments? This way he can learn as much as he can, and Xireas can benefit from that knowledge, but it stays with one of us.”

“It's not a terrible idea,” Cyrus considered. “Let me think about it.”

I returned to my concerns about the Wayfarer’s show, floating the idea that maybe we could prevent the show from happening by sinking the boat beforehand.

“You know,” Xireas said, “that sounds a little crazy to me. We're gonna sink that whole galleon boat?”

“What's so crazy about it?” I asked.

“You're gonna sink the boat because you suspect that something might happen?” Xireas questioned. You wanna prevent something from happening, so you're gonna sink the boat. You don't see anything wrong with that?”

“I can't believe I'm agreeing with Xireas,” Ulfgar indicated, “but that's a little…”

“Don't you agree that this is probably a trap?” I challenged. “They're trying to get all the leaders into this relatively unsecured place. This vulnerable place.”

“That presumes that there's a conspiracy to do that,” Xireas argued.

“Absolutely,” I conceded.

“Think about what Giorgio said,” I asserted, “about ‘anyone who doesn't attend should be embarrassed not to intend.’”

“Think about what Giorgio said they're on the cusp of being able to do teleportation somehow,” Ulfgar offered. “What happens if they teleport the whole ship? Maybe they have cracked it.”

“Yeah,” I considered. “I would rather find some other way to stop the show from happening or just to stop all the leaders from going to it.”

“Is the reason you wanna meet with the ambassadors to convince them not to go?” Ulfgar asked.

“That's one of the reasons,” I confirmed. “Send somebody else instead of them.”

“Won’t that show weakness?” Xireas asked. “That they're frightened to go…”

“Why would it show weakness?” I questioned.

“Weakness to who?” Cyrus added.

“I don't understand how it would show weakness,” I asserted. “It's not like they're being called out in a competition. And they're diplomats! It would show caution. It would show prudence.”

“Yeah, I agree that they shouldn’t go,” Cyrus stated. “I don't think we should sink the boat though. I mean, I love a crazy plan, but that sounds nuts. People might die! Like the innocent performers that live on that boat. What about their life? How would you even—”

“How would you even get them off the boat to make sure it's completely empty,” Xireas asked, “and then do your deed? I'm not gonna sink a boat. So if you're gonna be going to sink a boat—”

“I'm not suggesting that the boat would sink right away,” I clarified. “The boat takes a long time to sink. It's right in the middle of the bay. It's not a boat in the middle of the ocean. Everybody could swim off the boat to shore. There's plenty of boats around the big ship.”

“The risk is low, I guess,” Cyrus conceded. “It just seems crazy, especially coming from you.”

“I just think,” I explained, “what happens if what Ulfgar considered winds up coming to pass, and that whole galleon gets teleported someplace, and it's the Shahalesti behind it and they're holding all of the leaders hostage…”

“Yeah, I think as long as we keep the Seaquen leaders out of the show,” Cyrus suggested. “I mean, it's not really any skin off our back if the Dassen ambassador gets kidnapped…”

“There are some of the ambassadors,” I admitted, “that I wouldn't mind taking out of the negotiation.”

“You're going under the assumption that it's the Shahalesti though,” Ulfgar considered. “It could be the Ragesians. It could be the Wayfarers. We don’t know.”

“Absolutely!” I agreed. “I'm not assuming. I'm just supposing, what if something like that happens? It could absolutely be the Ragesians. There's multiple enemies here. The Shahalesti are controlling the waters.”

“I think we're all in agreement,” Ulfgar proposed. “We don't want all of the ambassadors on there at the same time. I think it would be helpful if maybe we could somehow get a closer look. I don't know how we're going to do that, but maybe we should just have a go to one of the earlier shows and snoop around a bit.”

“Yes,” Cyrus nodded.

“We could see an earlier show,” Ulfgar elaborated, “and then try and sneak away and get under the decks?”

“Yeah, we could do that,” I agreed. “And for what it's worth, in terms of the ambassadors, I would like to, if we can, keep the Sindaire ambassador off the ship. He seemed to be the most agreeable.”

“Look, we warned the ambassadors,” Cyrus maintained. “If they go and get themselves killed or kidnapped… I think as long as the Seaquen leaders are safe, ambassadors could easily be replaced.”

“We’re the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky, aren't we?” Xireas mocked. “Slayers of the blah, blah, blah all this and that. We’ll be there to protect them, won't we?”

“That's my proposition,” Cyrus agreed. “Instead of sinking the boat, I say we just go. If something crazy happens, we're there, to stop it, or try to stop it.”

“Or get teleported away with everyone,” Ulfgar countered.

“I just think there are things that we cannot stop,” I worried.

“How are they going to teleport away though?” Xireas challenged. “Isn't teleporting dangerous now? You can't teleport away.”

“Giorgio was saying that they think they might have found a way around that,” I responded. “He could have been lying. I had chalked it up to that was just his mechanism of luring everybody there. But there could be more to it than that.”

“Wait,” Xireas asked, “how would everybody get lured there by him potentially fixing teleportation?”

“Everybody has a vested interest in being able to teleport,” I offered. “All the kingdoms are hampered by their lack of ability to teleport.”

“Didn't they have something in their show that had to do with teleportation?” Ulfgar asked.

“Maybe we could convince all the ambassadors to go to a different showing of the show,” I pondered.

“Yeah,” Cyrus agreed, “or stagger their visits to different showings. Does the ticket have a specific three-days-from-now-date?”

Examining our tickets we confirmed that they were specifically in three days’ time.

Cyrus went to see Lorb Votberd and inquired if he knew anyone in town named Devan. He said he did not, but added, “Now if I was interviewing everybody and had a register and everybody would be in there and I’d tell you exactly where they were—”

“Alright, thanks for your time anyway, Lorb” Cyrus interrupted as we left.

Cyrus suggested we invite the Ragesian druids to join the pantheist church.

I suggested that the philosophers, worshiping knowledge, might be able to share information about the other factions, which Cyrus and Ulfgar agreed was the best approach.

We made our way to the campsite of the Ragesian Philosophers, which were very simple and communal grounds, as were the tents and the clothing.

One of the tents had a shingle outside that looked a bit like a scroll.

I cast enhance ability, bestowing Eagle’s Splendor on Ulfgar as Cyrus knocked on the tent pole with a “Hello.”

The flap of the tent opened and inside we saw a long-haired, bearded man with wooden beads around his neck. The tent smelled of herbs.

“Greetings brothers,” the man smiled.

“Hello,” and “Greetings,” we replied.

“What's your name, good man?” Cyrus inquired.

“I'm Father Brandon Ennsis,” he replied. “Who are you guys?”

“We’re the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky,” I replied.

“Right, right,” Father Brandon nodded. “Blue sky. Right. I like it. So what brings you to this land here? Come on in. Come on in. Where are my manners?”

“Thanks. Thanks,” Ulfgar replied, leading the way in. “We heard you were the leader of the worshippers of the god of knowledge.”

“Well, you know, we don't have any leaders here, man,” Father Brandon explained. “We all kind of participate here, you know. Everyone has a voice in our camp, you know. I just kind of help move things along.”

“That's great,” Ulfgar acknowledged. “That's an amazing model. So y'all like equals?”

“Yeah, right,” Father Brandon nodded. “We all thought so. That's why we all kind of band together, you know. Can I get you something to drink or something?”

“What's that you're smoking over there?” Cyrus inquired.

“Ah yeah, man,” Father Brandon held out his corn cob pipe. “This connects us. This kind of helps you open your mind. Wanna try some?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Cyrus replied and Father Brandon passed his pipe around.

“You got any tea?” Ulfgar asked.

“Yeah, we got tea,” Father Brandon replied. “We got tons of tea.” He put a pot of water on the fire to start the tea.

“There's some pastries there,” Father Brandon pointed. “You'll probably want some in a little bit.”

“I know you guys are the sages and the scholars too,” Ulfgar suggested. “Like you know what's going on. Maybe you've heard about the pantheistic church that they're talking about in Seaquen.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Father Brandon nodded. “You know, there's been some rumors about that. There's been some rumors about some kind of far out church to bring people together.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus smiled, “everybody working together, pulling together like a commune, so that all boats float when the tide comes.”

“Yeah, you know how that old saying goes, right?” Father Brandon nodded. “All boats rise with the tide, right?”

“Yep,” Ulfgar pursued. “What do you think about it? Do you have any thoughts, opinions?”

“It sounds like an interesting idea,” Father Brandon replied. “Why? You guys know more about it?”

“A little bit,” Ulfgar admitted. “We're going around and we're talking to all the different groups. We're trying to get people to join.”

“A lot of the groups want to work together,” I added.

“I don't know, man,” Father Brandon frowned. “Some of those cats that don't like to have the whole communal thing, you know? Very materialistic.”

“Well, yeah,” Cyrus nudged, “but sometimes you gotta ease them into it, right? Maybe we start with a church. Maybe some ideas get floated here and there. You know, after you when you're sharing a little wine or…other stuff.”

“The ones that have agreed to join already,” Ulfgar hinted, “they're willing to share.”

“You gotta have a dialogue, right?” Cyrus pressed.

“It's not just sharing,” Ulfgar continued, “it's sharing ideas, sharing food, sharing water, sharing lodging. It's like a community.”

Our heads were feeling a little bit mellow from the smoke.

“Yeah, I just think Oghma would really like it if everybody was open to the knowledge and experiences of everybody,” Cyrus suggested. “And a church where everybody got together to do their thing, would be a great place to spread that knowledge and to learn more.”

“Yeah, I can dig it,” Father Brandon nodded and agreed to sign on.

“You guys are all Ragesians,” Ulfgar questioned. Do you talk to any of the other refugees that have come like you? Are you all fleeing for the same reason, because of the war, or are you coming in for different reasons?”

“Yeah,” Father Brandon nodded. “I think people have mostly fled because of the war. Our group, we’re peaceful folk. We don't like war from wherever it comes from. So we didn't want to get involved, and we left. Others feared for their lives and all the tragedy that war brings.”

I asked him how they were doing with food and water and he indicated that they were making out okay foraging and fishing.

I asked him about the druids and he said he hadn't really spoken to them and that they kind of keep to themselves, but that they're a nice group of folks.

I asked him about Leandra of the Hospitalers and he said that every now and then they might need some healing that they can't do themselves, which they like to do and are really good at. He also mentioned that she can really get into deep conversations about all things healing, not just body, but mind and soul.

“I wonder if she can help me with my spiritual healing,” I pondered.

“Maybe,” Father Brandon nodded. “Yeah.”

“I'm particularly troubled right now,” I admitted.

“Ohh man,” Father Brandon nodded. “Sorry to hear that.”

“With this dilemma with the ambassadors,” I continued.

“Ah, you want to tell me about it?” Father Brandon asked. “Come on, we could sit down and have a chat. I'm a priest, you know. A priest of Oghma.”

“We were at the Lyceum Academy,” I shared, reclining into one of the large sitting pillows, while Ulfgar served the tea. “And all the ambassadors were there making their pitches. And someone from the Wayfarer’s Guild was pressuring them all to appear at this show on their galleon and the bay. Maybe you've seen it. Huge ship.”

“Ohh yeah,” Father Brandon nodded. “You know, they've been giving away some of those tickets every now and then to some of the poorer folks.”

“Yeah, they gave tickets to everybody that was in the Lyceum,” I continued, showing him my ticket. “They gave them to everybody, but I'm afraid it's a trap for the ambassadors.”

“Wow,” Father Brandon gasped. “What kind of trap?”

“I think it's related to the war somehow,” I explained. “Everybody's vying for advantage. So we're trying to get them all to work together—”

“So wait a minute,” Father Brandon interrupted. “Wait a minute. So what kind of advantage are they going to get on the boat? What's the angle that you're kind of thinking about?”

“Just trying to get all these ambassadors and pressuring them,” I tried to explain. “The way that they were all being pressured.”

“How are they pressuring them?” Father Brandon asked

“Telling them that it would be an embarrassment to their kingdoms if they didn't show up for this performance,” I explained.

“Wow,” Father Brandon nodded. “Really turning up the heat to get them to go, huh? So what's your dilemma? What are you concerned about?”

“Well, I wish I could convince them all to not go for this one specific performance that they all were given tickets to,” I admitted. “I don't know what to do about it.”

“Did you express yourself and tell folks how you feel?” Father Brandon asked.

“I did,” I replied. “I did warn them. But I'm afraid they're not gonna heed the warning. I’m wondering if maybe Leandra could offer some advice?”

“Well, you know,” Father Brandon replied, “I hate to get all corny and everything, but you know you can lead a horse to water kind of thing, but you can't make him drink.”

“It is true,” I nodded.

“You know, people just have to follow their own paths, man,” Father Brandon continued. “Can't put a yoke on them and drag them along your path because you think it's the right one.”

“Yeah, maybe you're right,” I considered.

“It's a difficult situation,” Father Brandon nodded. “Maybe you could protest the show. Like a march or something, if it's really that bad. How do you know that something bad is gonna happen? Is it just sort of a gut feeling?”

“It is,” I admitted. “It’s a gut feeling.”

“Yeah, that makes it tough to convince people, right?” Father Brandon replied. “If you say, ‘well, I feel like it's gonna be bad, so it is.’ Although sometimes, you know, you can manifest things by believing strongly enough in them. The power of creation, man, it works. But that's a different conversation, right?”

“I'll have to think about that,” I replied. “Are these the kind of conversations that Leandra likes to get into with you?”

“I guess,” Father Brandon nodded. “She kind of digs the philosophy a little bit.”

“All right,” I nodded. “Well, thank you.”

“You're welcome,” Father Brandon nodded. “You're welcome. I hope this church thing works out. Sounds like a great way to share knowledge and accumulate it as well.”

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