War of the Burning Sky Session 28

We decided to visit the Ostaliner Mercenaries and soon found their camp to be more militaristic than most, though not as well organized as the dwarven camp.

Most of the people were wearing some type of armor and groups of mercenaries were gathered together performing various drills.

Cyrus stopped a soldier and asked where the main chapel was, and was directed to a large tent flying the flag of Tempus.

As we followed him to the tent, two heavily armed soldiers crossed their pikes in front of the entrance.

“Can I talk to the chaplain, please,” Cyrus said.

“State your business,” a soldier demanded.

“I want to talk to him about Tempus and church matters,” Cyrus explained.

“Wait here,” the soldier instructed before disappearing into the tent.

He was quickly replaced by another soldier from within the tent.

A few minutes later, a man in fleming white partial plate armor emblazoned with a large symbol of Tempus on his chest came out. A white scabbard was at his side.

“How can I help you, gentlemen?” the man asked.

“Well met,” Cyrus greeted. “We are the…” Cyrus held his arm out toward me.

“Ambassadors of the Blue Sky,” I finished.

“That's it,” Cyrus added. “We’d like to discuss with you, if you are the religious person, regarding the pantheistic church that has been recommended be struck up between these refugee camps.”

“I'm Father Valinor,” the man replied. “I’d be happy to have this discussion with you. I’ve heard some intelligence about some of these discussions happening around the camp. We were wondering when we would speak to you. Step right in.”

The guards moved their pikes aside and held open the tent flap as Father Valinor led us into his tent.

Braziers lit the inside, which was dominated by a large table filled with tactical maps. Off to the sides were a small utilitarian cot, a small shrine to Tempus, and neatly stacked weapons.

“Thanks for seeing us in time,” Cyrus continued once we were all inside. “We appreciate your time. I’ll get right to it.”

Father Valinor brought out a tray with a decanter and a few goblets.

“We're trying to organize the pantheistic church,” Cyrus continued, “that all the varied religious interests in refugee camps can get together and maybe pool resources and more efficiently administer to the needs of the growing populace here in these camps. And we're curious if the worshipers of Tempus are interested in participating in such an alliance.”

“It’s an interesting concept,” Father Valinor considered as he passed out full goblets of wine, taking one for himself. “We're pretty well fortified here. Why would we need to join this particular organization? What benefit would it be to the Ostaliner folk here? It sounds like it would certainly be a benefit to some of the weaker folk here.”

“It’s clear that you’re self-sufficient in terms of protecting yourselves,” Cyrus replied, “but there are other reasons to form an alliance other than mutual protection.”

“Okay,” Father Valinor replied. “I'm listening.”

“The idea is that there's always a benefit in numbers,” I added. “More people to serve. More healing or producing food, when the need arises. Resource requirements, they ebb and flow. The needs will rise and the needs will fall, and the availability to meet those needs might not always be maintained as easily by only one group. Allowing the sharing  of resources will benefit the greater whole and spread unity instead of segregation.”

“And utilizing these allies,” Cyrus continued, “will free up your soldiers to do what they do best, which is fight.”

If I may intercede,” Ulfgar interjected, “and perhaps give you an example that you might be familiar with as Ostaliners, perhaps you’ve heard of the Monastery of the Two Winds? The monastery is far to the north and in Ostalin.”

“Those are the monks,” Father Valinor clarified, “are they not?”

“They are,” Ulfgar confirmed. “But perhaps, you might not know, is that there are two styles that the monastery teaches. One is the gentle westwinds style and the other one, you might be more familiar, is my own style: the east wind style. They're two different styles. Two different types of people. But together they are even stronger. And what is being proposed is to bring all the peoples together to make everyone stronger. We could certainly use your strengths in helping all these other parties.”

“Are you saying you’re from Ostalin?” Father Valinor asked.

“I trained with the Monastery of the Two Winds, originally,” Ulfgar shared. “But I'm not from Ostalin myself. I am from Dassen, originally. Near Bresk.”

“Where would this church be created?” Father Valinor inquired. “Where would it be built? What are the logistics behind where it’s going to be placed.”

“This is not set in stone,” I replied, “but the working assumption is that it would be in a neutral place, convenient for everyone.”

“Well, in order for us to even consider it,” Father Valinor stated, “it would have to be in a defensible position that we would have to have a voice in choosing.”

“I think all would appreciate your input into choosing such a site,” Ulfgar replied.

“I can't think of many with more expertise in helping to decide that matter,” I added.

“And this new temple can be built as a fortification,” Cyrus hinted.

“Well, if we’re involved,” Father Balinor stated, “it’s not going to be anything less. I'll tell you what. Let me ask you this. Do any of you know Foebane?”

“Yeah, we know Foebane,” Cyrus answered.

“We know him well,” I added. “We were just meeting with him earlier today.”

“He has a fort over by the northeast part of the city,” Father Valinor explained, “by the sea, and he's got some recruits he’s been training there or trying to drum up support. I'm not against him. I think in these times of trouble, it’s smart to have some type of defense. As paltry as it might be, Foebane is making a respective try of it. But we haven't had a chance to speak with him yet. If you could generate an alliance between us and Foebane, I would lend serious consideration to joining your cause.”

“Generated an alliance?” I questioned. “How about if we can proctor a meeting?”

That would be just as well,” Father Valinor responded, “being that you do fancy yourselves ambassadors.”

“Alright,” I responded, “that's something we can do.”

“You can go off and be our informal ambassadors in this sense,” Father Valinor suggested.

“Facilitating a meeting between you and Foebane would be our honor,” I responded.

“It's not just the meeting,” Father Valinor clarified. “I’d like you to facilitate a working alliance.”

“And just so I understand,” Ulfgar questioned, “is the nature of this alliance regarding training of new soldiers?”

“It could be any and all of the above,” Father Valinor indicated.

“What is it that you hope to gain from Foebane?” I inquired. “Maybe we can pave the way for that.”

“We would like a working relationship with whatever military situation he’s putting together,” Father Valinor explained, “in anticipation of any Ragesian hostilities. It could be military intelligence exchanged from Seaquen to us and us to them. Swapping of training personnel to support each other's efforts. Raising troops and perhaps marching, someday, together. But this would be the beginning of that relationship.”

“You got it,” Cyrus guaranteed. “No problem. We'll get you and Foebane in bed together. Easy-peasy.”

“If you can work that out,” Father Valinor continued, “I think we would willing to help your cause and join up with you.”

“That sounds like a mutually beneficial arrangement,” I responded.

“Very good,” Father Valinor replied, lifting a glass and toasting with us with a blessing, “Let Tempus’ guide your weapons to strike true in the moment of battle.”

We soon departed the camp and went back to town.

Beyond the Lyceum, close to the shore, Foebane’s fort was surrounded by two rock walls with a gated break in the center, between two wooden towers.

At the top of the towers, two men were keeping watch with heavy crossbows tilted down.

“Who goes there,” one of the guards called from the tower as we approached.

“It’s the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky,” I announced, “coming to seek an audience with Commander Foebane.”

“Okay, hold your position there,” the guard instructed us.

The guard turned and stepped away, disappearing for ten minutes before returning and calling, “Okay, step back.”

Metal grated as the gate began to open.

Entering, we followed a path between the towers, as well as a second set of towers of an inner keep.

Inside, we found groups of men in training with swords and shields.

“Ambassadors of the Blue Sky!” Foebane called out from across the courtyard.

The gates closed behind as we approached Foebane. The fort and courtyard appeared large enough to accommodate many more than were currently occupying it.

“Welcome to my training facility,” Foebane greeted us. “Thank you for coming.”

“Quite an impressive facility you have here,” I stated.

“Thank you,” Foebane replied. “I’m trying to instill some form of readiness here. Have you come to join the muster?”

“We did not come to pester you about finding the torch,” I joked. “We are patiently awaiting your further research into that.”

“I see,” Foebane acknowledged. “That may take some time, but thank you. We have not forgotten about your generous offer.”

“We were speaking to the Ostaliner Mercs,” I shared, “and they wish alliance with you that could be mutually beneficial.”

“That’s interesting,” Foebane stroked his beard. “What matter of alliance is this?”

“Sounds like they would like to have the opportunity to assist you,” I continued, “in your military endeavors.”

“This could be a good opportunity,” Foebane seemed interested. “Assist in what way?”

“Mutual defense of Seaquen,” Cyrus mentioned, “training opportunities, intelligence gathering…”

“As impressive as this structure is,” Ulfgar added, “it looks like you can always use more soldiers, and they are willing to fight.”

“That's a true statement, my friend,” Foebane replied. “We can use more soldiers. We can always use some more soldiers.”

“And as my companion, Cyrus, mentioned,” Ulfgar added, “they seemed to hint also that they might have some intelligence that perhaps they would be willing to share.”

“Huh,” Foebane considered. “Well, that's intriguing. I’d love to hear more about that.”

A sword clanged as it fell to the ground, dropped by one of the soldiers in training.

“Cadet Devan,” Foebane called, “how many times have I told you, you’re not holding the sword right. Choke up on it a little bit…”

Foebane walked over to demonstrate for the cadet.

“Yes, sir,” the cadet continued his training. “Yes, sir.”

“Sorry,” Foebane returned to us. “Please go ahead.”

“They are an experienced military force,” Cyrus explained, “that can aid in rooting out the potential Ragesian spies we heard about in town, and they might help train these troops of yours.”

“Yes, well,” Foebane sighed, “not all of them are troops quite yet.”

“What are their terms?” Foebane asked. “What are they asking for?”

“They would like to have a meeting between you and Valinor,” I answered.

“Valinor, Valinor,” Foebane recalled. “That’s their religious leader, is it not?”

“Correct,” I confirmed.

“Does he speak on behalf of his entire encampment?” Foe inquired.

“Apparently,” Cyrus indicated.

“You know,” Foebane considered, “this would be a good opportunity to start bringing some of these refugees into the fold. I think that might give them some validity and make them feel less like refugees and more like part of the cause.”

“That's what we're trying to do,” I shared.

“You could use them to swell the town’s watch,” Cyrus suggested.

“Well, we'd have to work things out,” Foebane added, “because Votberd might not be too happy with not having his people in the watch. But that's a different issue. I’d be happy to speak with them. What is your take on them? Do they seem sincere? Are they worth having the conversation with? What is your take on them, my friends?”

“They seem sincere,” I responded, “and it seems worth having a conversation. I cannot guarantee that everybody's goals will be met, but it sounds promising, from what we’ve heard. Perhaps something like City Watch would not be the best use, but perhaps something like military activity outside of town.”

“Well, my goal here is to build some kind of military readiness,” Foebane admitted. “I recognize that they probably wouldn't stand long against the Ragesians as it stands, but we have to start somewhere to build up our defenses here.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus added, “and those elves ain’t gonna wait forever.”

“No, they're not, my friend,” Foebane nodded. I agree with you there.”

“I trust your judgment, my friends,” Foebane concluded. “If you trust the character of these folks enough to bring me this proposal, then I'll respect that enough to honor it, and have the conversation with them.”

“Would you like to have the meeting here,” I asked, “or would you like to visit them in their camp.”

“I think meeting them in their camp might be best,” Foebane replied, “to demonstrate to all others that they are, in fact, a part of this place. To give them some legitimacy.”

“If you'd like,” Ulfgar offered, “we would be honored to accompany you and provide the introduction. It would give you an idea to see their capability first hand.”

“That would be great,” Foebane agreed. “I'd love it for you to come with us and set the introductions, start the conversations, and then we can get into the minutia from that point on.”

“Would you be available tomorrow?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” Foebane acknowledged. “I can absolutely make myself available tomorrow.”

“We don't want to go now,” Ulfgar whispered to me. “Is it too late?”

“I don't think anybody wants to come across as being overly eager,” I suggested.

“An introduction,” Foebane suggested, “perhaps tomorrow will be fine.”

“Tomorrow morning?” I suggested. “Does that work for you?”

“Certainly,” Foebane agreed.

“They're military,” I indicated. “As military, I'm sure that they will be up and ready.”

“Perhaps,” Foebane nodded. “We’ll see how tight a ship they run. We’re always up at the crack of dawn here.”

“We’ll see you in the morning,” I agreed.

Cyrus approached one of the trainers and asked to give the cadet who dropped his sword some pointers.

“Please. Not at all,” the trainer replied. “Okay, everybody. Stop your exercise. Lord Cyrus jere would like to give you some information on tweaking your styles. Please go ahead, sir.”

The soldiers listened intently as Cyrus offered some off the cuff pointers, including a comment about not feeling the need to always fight honorably, to which the trainer shook his head.

Then Cyrus pulled the sword dropping cadet off to the side and spoke with him privately.

“Foebane, there is one nother matter I want to bring up with you again,” I said. “I mentioned this to the headmaster. I think you understand my concerns about this show on the Wayfarer’s ship and all the ambassadors being present in this one room relatively unprotected place at the same time.”

“Yes, it's not for lack of agreement with me,” Foebane acknowledged. “But these are politicians we’re talking about…”

“My main concern would be the headmaster,” I suggested. “I'm hoping there's something you can do to assure the master remains safe. I'm not as concerned with some of the other ambassadors…”

“I'll have a chat with him about his personal security that day,” Foebane promised, “and perhaps I'll have a couple of guys escort him and stay with him at the theater while he observes, as personal bodyguards. But they all seem very set on going there, dangers be damned. I've had the same security discussions with him myself. They have to go, regardless of the danger, because they have to show the unity, and they can’t lead from a place of fear. So they have to go and do what must be done, and leave it to us to take care of the security. Believe me, I I tried a few times already, and he’s just not having any more of it.”

“Understood,” I acknowledged. “Okay, well I've done what I can. We'll continue to do what we can on that day as well.”

“We’ll all be there as well,” Foebane indicated. “So I'm sure between having bodyguards sit with him and having you folks there as well, anyone would be hard pressed to cause some kind of issue.”

Cyrus sauntered back, “Alright, let's go.”

We said our farewells and departed.

Outside the fort, we walked back through town and Cyrus indicated that he wanted to take care of some shopping and took off on his own.

Ulfgar and I considered visiting the druids, or revisiting the dwarfs, but then we decided we were hungry and Ulfgar led me to a place to get Dasseni barbecue.

“You're gonna love this,” Ulfgar promised. “The orc spices really make it.”

After dinner, we headed back to Grandma Baker and slept until morning.

We woke at the crack of dawn, and before we left, Grandma Baker stopped by like she always does, this time with a basket of hard boiled eggs, a couple of jars of milk and some loaves of bread.

Thanking her, we ate quickly and headed out.

We went to the Ostalin Mercenaries and informed Father Valinor that we would be returning shortly with Commander Foebane.

Then we headed to Foebane’s fort and accompanied him, along with two lieutenants, to the Ostalin Mercenary encampment.

The guards at Father Valinor’s tent were waiting for us, and waved us inside where Father Valinor was waiting with two assistants at his big war table, which now held jugs of wine and many cups.

“Father Valinor. Commander Xavious Foebane,” I introduced them.

They saluted each other.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Commander Foebane,” Father Valinor greeted, welcoming his new guests to sit.”

“We believe there's an opportunity here for mutual benefit,” I suggested. “You can join forces. Seaquen’s in the need of additional military muster. Seaquen can always use that, especially in these trying times. The Ostaliner mercenaries are very experienced in this area and can benefit from the foundation that Seaquen can offer, just like all the refugees have value to offer in their own ways.”

“Yes, the fact that we're standing here is a testament to that,” Foebane acknowledged. “Thank you for your assistance in bringing everyone together. I think it's important for us to start to get together and be as one here, and these are important first steps.”

“I agree,” Father Valinor nodded. “Let’s sit and talk.”

“Thank you,” Foebane turned to us, “we can take it from here.”

“Perhaps we can check in later on,” Ulfgar suggested. “Make sure everything sorted itself out.”

“Yes,” Foebane agreed. “We can talk later.”

As the two began their discussion in earnest, we departed.

As we were leaving, one of Father Valinor’s assistants followed us and said, “Father Valinor would like you to know that he will be joining your entreaty.”

Departing the camp, we headed to the dwarven encampment, where I went to the mess hall. 

But when I arrived, the cook stopped me, saying, “I think we're good this morning. Thank you for your assistance, but I think we’re good this morning.”

“That’s excellent news,” I responded, and went to the infirmary.

There were already a few dwarven healers tending to the few sick and injured dwarves there.

Next I went to see Gelongma Gerdor Kindhandle.

“Greetings, Gelongma Kindhandle,” I nodded, easily finding the cleric. “It seems that the camp is well in order.”

“Yes, we take pleasure in that order here,” Kindhandle replied.

“I’m in no way surprised,” I responded. “I’ve already come from the medic and mess hall. Nevertheless, I will continue to stop by, as I can. If you need any assistance with anything else, I might be able to help as well. Any smithing needs, please let me know.”

“Yeah, we pretty much have everything under control at the moment,” Kindhandle responded, “but I appreciate your offer and we’ll reach out if the need arises.”

“Of course,” I continued. “I also wanted to tell you about the pantheist church that we’ve spoken about previously. It seems that most of the other factions are willing to join. I want to make sure that this faction has the opportunity to reap the benefits of that alliance.”

“Who joined this alliance?” Kindhandle asked.

“The Ragesian Philosophers that worship Oghma, God of Knowledge,” Ulfgar noted, “the Ragesian Savages that worship Griselda, Goddess of Strength, the Ostaliner Mercenaries that worship Tempus, God of Battle, the Seaquen locals that worship Oceanus, God of the Sea and Storms, and the Sindairese Exiles that worship Mystra the Goddess of Magic.”

“I see,” Kindlehandle responded. “Well thank you for informing me. I’ll get with Commander Battleface later and inform him and we can discuss it. We’ll see if our situation has changed.”

“Okay,” I responded. “I hope to see you there.”

“Thank you,” Kindhandle repeated. “Thank you. That’s very nice of you to bring us that information.”

“Be well,” I replied.

“You as well,” Kindhandle said.

We departed the dwarven encampment and headed to see Laurabec.

Ulfgar greeted Takasi as we arrived and requested an audience with Laurabec.

Laurabec greeted us and welcomed us into her tent.

“How fare all of you?” Laurabec inquired.

“I hope we all fare well,” Ulfgar replied, “but we have good news. We do have a plurality of the worshippers that wish to join your pantheist church.”

Laurabec offered us some meager food, some of the fruit a little too old, and some of the meat and cheese dried up.

I matched the food with rations of my own, as we ate together.

“The only ones we have visited yet are the druids, that worship the goddess of Woodlands,” Ulfgar continued, “which we could still swing by and offer them, but you already have a plurality. Everyone has joined; the Philosophers, the Hospitalers, the Savages, the Mercs, the Seauen locals, and the Sinairese Exiles have all agreed to join the church. Mind you, they might have their specific ask, but I'm sure it can all be worked out.”

“No one said it would be easy to bring all these different people together,” Laurabec replied, “but through our mercy, we can find our strength.”

“That is what we shared,” Ulfgar replied.

“That’s wonderful news and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Laurabec replied. “I don’t have much to give you other than my eternal gratitude. If there’s anything I can do for you, please feel free to let me know.”

“Yes, it was honestly our great appreciation to help,” Ulfgar replied.

“Yes, this will go a long way to bring together this community,” Laurabec added. “I can’t wait to break ground.”

“I agree,” I added, “and for whatever it’s worth, as you probably already know, you seem to have an ally in Commander Foebane in that regard.”

“Oh!” Laurabec seemed surprised. “Really?”

“Right now, he’s meeting with the Ostaliner Mercs to try and form an alliance,” I shared, “and seems agreeable to meeting with other refugees as well, to see where they can be useful, integrating into the larger whole.”

“That is absolutely amazing!” Laurabec responded. “That will go a long way to bringing people together here. That’s all I ever wanted was to try and get everybody to start seeing each other equally here.”

“Please let us know if there's any other way we can help,” Ulfgar added, “but it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.”

“Absolutely!” Laurabec replied. “It’s just the boost we needed. Again, I thank you. I’m sure the whole community will be thanking you soon enough, once they see how good of a thing it is that you helped us accomplish.”

I explained to Laurabec that I could create food and water, adding that, “it would be my honor if she would accompany me to dispense of the creation to those in the most need.”

“Yes, we can certainly try that,” Laurabec said. “The folks that have it the worst are the Ragesians. If we really want to give it to those in the most need, we should probably go to the Ragesian quarter and help them out. Although some of them might be too prideful, like the Savages. They might be too prideful to take the help, but some of the other factions might not be so. We can set up a place where we let people know that they could come for the food at a certain time, and then whoever wants it can come and get it, but we run the risk of being overrun.”

“I don’t know that I can do this every day,” I qualified. “Why don’t we just go to one of the Ragesian camps that you think is in the greatest need, and we can dispense it to them today?”

“Sure, we can do that?” Laurabec replied.

After we were all done eating, Laurabec took us to the poorest encampments we had ever seen. Many of them were dressed in tattered clothing and didn’t even have tents to sleep in.

Casting create food and water twice, I advised them not to hoard the gifts of the Soul Father, and soon let Laurabec continue to serve them, for which I could see they were immensely grateful.

We left Laurabec at the camp and headed to the bay, where Cyrus suggested we investigate the Wayfarer’s Ship.

Soon we could see the big galleon in the harbor.

When we got to the dock, we were told that unless we had a ticket to the show, we could not board the ship due to heightened security.

“We’re here on behalf of Simeon,” Cyrus said, “as part of Simeon’s security details, and we’re here to check out the safety of the spec, so bring us over there.”

“Alright, alright,” the dockworker replied to Cyrus. “Come on board.”

We boarded a dinghy, which took us to the galleon.

“Is Giorgio around?” Cyrus asked, once we were onboard.

“Giorgio is below deck helping with the preparations,” some guard looking types responded.

“Is there a show on tonight?” Cyrus asked.

“Yes, there’s going to be a show later,” they said, “and they’re preparing the venue for the show now.”

“How much time do I have before the show starts?” Cyrus asked.

“You probably have about an hour,” they said.

“Is this the same show that they'll be presenting for the ambassadors tomorrow?” Ulfgar inquired.

“I believe so,” they replied.

“What can we help you with?” they asked.

“If Giorgio’s not available, then we’ll need to talk to your head of security,” Cyrus replied.

“Giorgio was the one taking care of that,” they said. “I can fetch him if you’d like.”

“You know what,” Cyrus responded, “we’ll just go down. It’ll be fine.”

As we began descending the stairs, we encountered Giorgio coming up the stairs.

“Well met, my friends,” Giorgio greeted us warmly. “How are you today?”

“Hello,” Cyrus returned. “We’re part of Headmaster Simeon’s security detail, and we’ve come to check out the ship to make sure it’s safe for the ambassadors.”

“Okay, let me show you around,” Giorgio offered. “The theater is right down the stairs.” 

As Giorgio turned to lead us down, Cyrus pointed at a door, asking, “What’s behind this door?”

“Those are crew quarters,” Giorgio replied and continued to lead us down a circular stairway.

After descending two levels, past a closed door, he opened the door and led us into a large theater with plush seating and fancy curtains on the walls and an elevated stage at the far end.

Actors and stagehands wandered about.

“Is this stairway the only exit for the audience?” Cyrus questioned.

“That’s the exit to get out,” Giorgio confirmed, “yes.”

“That’s great,” Cyrus replied. “Can you show us the rest of the ship?”

“What are you looking for?” Giorgio seemed puzzled.

“We’re casing the space to determine whether the security’s adequate,” Cyrus replied.

“Okay, well, you can see this area here,” Giorgio offered. “You can look behind the curtains, if you like. The second floor is off limits.”

“Why?” Cyrus interrogated. “What’s on the second floor?”

“It’s cargo and crew only,” Giorgio replied. “You’re not allowed to go there. Not just you. Nobody can go there.”

“How many people are on the ship?” Ulfgar inquired. “What's your crew complement?”

“Between the play and crew to manage the ship,” Giorgio calculated, “this will be fifty people.”

“So your crew and performers is fifty people in total?” Ulfgar confirmed.

Meanwhile, I walked over to the stage and peaked behind the curtain.

“So you've got seats for 120 people here,” Ulfgar interrogated, “and a crew of fifty, and everyone's supposed to get up this single circular staircase, if the ship starts to sink, or if there's some other emergency like fire. Explain to me, exactly, what would happen if there's a fire? How's everyone gonna get out on this one single circular staircase?”

“Fire is not a big deal,” Giorgio was unphased. “We have enough mages and whatever we need here to deal with any situation.”

Cyrus began examining the walls.

“If not fire, then water,” Ulfgar pressed. “What if the ship’s sinking? What if we’re under attack?” 

Finding three doors behind the curtain, I opened the nearest one and peaked inside to find a small room filled with crates, barrels and a staircase leading up. The other two rooms appeared to be dressing rooms.

“Alright, would there be anything else?” Giorgio was asking. “We do have quite a bit of work to get ready. And as far as the performance that you’re concerned with, there will be ample security that evening to ensure the safety of our dignitaries here.”

Seeing that they were still talking, I went behind the curtain, back into the storage room, and up the stairs until I was in another storage room.

I opened one of the unlabeled crates and peaked inside. It contained folded curtains, so I went back down the stairs, through the curtain, and back to the stage.

“I'm really concerned about if there's an emergency,” Ulfgar was ranting, “how are these people all going to get up the stairs and off the ship safely? Do you have enough lifeboats? How are people gonna get back to the dock? What happens if the ship starts sinking? I don't understand. These preparations look somewhat lax. We have ambassadors here that have to be kept safe. You don't understand. If these people get as much as a little flick on their finger. A splinter in their thumb, they're gonna cause a war. Come on!”

I came down from the stage and returned to the theater seats.

“Alright,” Ulfgar wrapped up, “well, I'm not really happy with these preparations, but I suppose it will have to do.”

“I assure you everything’s going to be just fine,” Giorgio was looking a bit perturbed.

“Yeah, well, that's what they all say,” Ulfgar responded.

“Yeah, we'll hold you to that,” Cyrus added.

“As you should,” Giorgio acknowledged, “but I really must be getting back to work now.”

“Well, we appreciate your reassurances,” Ulfgar replied, “and we'll be on our way. Yes, thank you.”

We went back up the stairs to the main deck and were ferried back to the dock.

Later that day I returned to the dwarven encampment and again was told that they were well supplied. When I enquired how they were suddenly so well supplied, being refugees and all, I was told that their priests had been out preaching, but had since all returned.

“Blessing of the Soul Father be with you,” I said as I departed.


The next day, we arrived at the Wayfarers’ Theater by ferry a little before noon. After guards insisted we hand over our weapons, we were hurried down the spiral staircase from the main deck to the theater itself. The theater was lit by dozens of lanterns, and lenses over the stage focused spotlights on a curtain stitched with a pattern of fire. Ushers costumed as monsters and angels guided people to their seats.

We took our seats in the very back row, as indicated by our tickets. Katrina was sitting nearby.

Simeon and various dignitaries were in the front row, and I was determined to keep an eye on them as the show began.

Starting at the back of the theater and cascading forward, lantern flames flickered and vanished, drawing our attention toward the spot-lit stage. When only a handful of lanterns remained, violins, cellos, and a tinny drumroll sounded from the walls, seeming to come from nowhere. The last lanterns were snuffed, the curtain slowly crawled to the forty-foot high ceiling, and then even the spotlights died, fading like the setting sun, white to orange to blood red. The drum rose to a crescendo, and then went silent just as a man strode onto stage, a spotlight snapping him into view.

He hurried across the stage and cast a furtive glance to the audience. I recognized the actor, under layers of magic and illusion, as Giorgio the Wayfarer. He played the role of the ancient orc geomancer, Toteth Topec, clad in a white traveling robe of ancient times. Then, from the shadows of the theater’s ceiling, a serpent dove, like a pearly lightning bolt, snapping its jaws just as Toteth dove out of reach. Violin strings cried out in fright from the walls. The geomancer somersaulted to his feet and pulled a long black staff from under his robe. The snarling serpent rose into the air, snarling in rage, its tail whipping past Toteth like the trough of an iridescent wave.

Just when the dragon’s tail was almost out of reach, Toteth leaped and grasped the tail in one hand, holding his long club of a staff in the other. Drums sounded, horns cheered, and the audience gasped as, flying through the air, Toteth clambered up the beast’s back, fought off it’s thundering bites, dug his hand into the monster’s eye, and cracked out one of the dragon’s teeth with a ferocious swing of his staff. The wyrm bucked and vanished into the shadowed sky, and Toteth flipped and rolled twenty feet to the ground, stones cracking where his hands and feet struck.

As the curtains drew closed, the audience stood and applauded, and so began The Spectacular Trial of Toteth Topec.

As the curtains opened, singing and cartwheeling primitives at the far end of the world celebrated Toteth Topec as a great hero, for he had saved their town from a dragon, but the geomancer did not care. He traveled to find great magic, to find immortality. His journeys carried him to many foreign lands where he fought strange beasts, all the while pursued in the shadow by the opaline dragon. He befriended three mages along the way, each helping him at a different leg of his journey with their control over flames, winds, and sea, but ultimately Toteth traveled alone in a great desert, under the searing sun.

Demons assaulted him, heat drove him mad, and he saw a vision of the Stormchaser Eagle crashing to the earth before him. Feathers burst across the theater, floated through the air, and when people grabbed them out of the air, they saw that they were not illusions. Then everyone looked up to see Toteth passed out, and the dragon hovering over him. But before it could strike, a beautiful, dark-skinned woman in green robes found Toteth, fell across his body, and prayed for help. Light beamed from the heavens, and the dragon fled again to the shadows. As the stage faded to darkness, the woman carried Toteth to her home, and a deep percussive thrum shook the theater, like the beating of a massive heart.

The curtains closed for a two-minute musical intermission, during which Katrina scoffed at the heavy-handed allusions, explaining that, “clearly the dragon is Ragesia, the air mage is Ostalin, the fire mage is Dassen, the water mage is Shahalesti, and Toteth, an earth mage, is Sindaire. The woman in green is meant to represent Seaquen, coming to aid Dassen. The elements chosen are fairly common motifs for the nations of the region; the original myth says only that there were four mages who helped Toteth. The costume choices are clearly intended as propaganda to show many nations—the very nations under attack—working together against Ragesia.

“Still,” Katrina reluctantly admitted, “I’m quite impressed by the level of detail put into the on-stage illusions.” 

As well dressed ladies came around offering drinks and treats, she smirked and tucked a feather into her sleeve.

I had struggled to make sense of the show while maintaining an eye on Simeon and the ambassadors, as well as the stairs and other exits. Meanwhile, Ulfgar was familiar with the myths and made small talk with Katrina.

Lights flashed and the curtains soon opened once again as Toteth woke in fits, light and dark represented many passing months as the woman tended to him. As he healed, a romance formed between them, and the healing montage ended with a flamboyant love song and mock battle between Toteth and his love’s in-laws so he could marry her. The battle was interrupted at the funniest moment by a tremor, and people in the audience actually cringed in fear as the stage seemed to crack and intense winds blew out of the deep. Toteth realized the world was still in danger, and he recalled the vision he had of the Eagle. He set out to find a way to save the woman he loved, leaving her behind, not realizing she was pregnant.

Another montage showcased his incredible journey, as he faced riddling fairies, giant spiders, and a cursed pyre filled with evil spirits to find a gem that could seal the world. Interspersed during the odyssey were images of his love, growing slowly more pregnant, until finally she gave birth. When she did, she was visited by the other three mages who aided Toteth in Act One, and they blessed the child, swearing to go join the geomancer’s quest so he could come home soon.

They traveled through the aftermath of the various monsters and challenges Toteth had defeated, the ease of their journey a humorous counterpoint to the geomancers. But then they found him, and saw him standing atop a shining peak, fighting the dragon of bright shadows. Toteth held the gem high, trying to capture the dragon’s soul so he could take its power to heal the world, but the dragon was stronger. It bit him in half and the stage went dark, the only thing visible was the gem, which fell and shattered.

Once the curtains had closed for the next intermission, I asked Katrina for a synopsis, and she explained that, “Toteth trapped his own spirit in the mountain, but the others don’t realize the significance of what they saw, so they try to track down and kill the dragon. The dragon kills them at the end of Act Three, and it seems like the whole thing is a tragedy. But then the geomancer’s daughter, Eshu, grows into womanhood, and she vows to destroy the dragon and complete her father’s work.”

Just as the third act was about to start, Giorgio emerged into the shadows from one of the back walls, wearing slightly different garb, and was heading up the spiral staircase toward the main deck when he dropped something on the stairs.

Tapping Ulfgar, Cyrus went toward the stairs.

“What’s going on over there?” Katrina said, as she rose to follow Cyrus.

At the steps, Cyrus bent down and picked up a red-stained handkerchief.

Ulfgar also rose and went after Cyrus.

“Giorgio dropped this blood,” Cyrus said in a hushed voice before bolting up the stairs.

Xireas began to follow.

Remaining in my seat, I kept my eye on Simeon and cast guidance on myself.

Ulfgar dashed up the stairs, passing Cyrus.

“Protect the ambassadors!” Cyrus instructed Xireas as he disappeared up the spiral staircase.

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