The fog hangs in the air over the river, while the desert sun beats down creating an eerie and unnatural sight of shadows moving through the haze. The party on the ship hold baited breath as they wait to see if the large metallic vessel still follows. After a long twenty minutes, they realise that the ship is not following, nor has it opened fire. Rhogar’s technical mind, Brant’s spy experience as well as the other’s exposure to it are able to surmise that the ship looked to be Máurdórnie in design, but are unable to deduce much more.

The rest of the day and a half crossing is uneventful. Rhogar spends time working on his clockwork device which is now taking form. He tells the others it is to be a mechanical servant to assist him. Amelie stands at the front of the ship, letting the water’s breeze cool her. Granuaile remains by her side, guarding. The pair kept their robes and veils, in line with local customs expected of women. Nearer to the city, Rhogar is distracted from his work, and sets it aside, as he begins to tell the others that there are two check points before they can enter the city proper. The first conducted by The Templars of the Anduwin, and the second by the city’s police and militia, the Raj. Each of the organisations looks for different things at the border control of Al’Zieharia. Though what they search for remains unclear to the party. Brant rapidly forges some documents to explain the magikal items in the parties’ possession suggesting this is official and should allow them passage into the city. Orryon adds an old scroll into the document pile, to add legitimacy to the forgery. A scroll he has owned since his graduation at the Temple. Rhogar casts an illusion over himself to appear as a woman, in robes and veil. The guards do not search the illusion shrouded Rhogar or the two actual women, Granuaile and Amelie. Eventually, the rest of the party is searched and cleared for entry into the city. The brass gate in the water is lifted allowing the boat to journey onwards down one side of the river leading into the city.

The boat rocks and sways as the river becomes shallower here. In one sway, Rhogar falls into water and finds a discarded crate. Within is a magik satchel, capable of containing many things. Far more then it would outwardly suggest possible. The bugbear is pulled back on board, and given time to dry his fur in the hot sun. Brant is familiar with such items, and warns that the way it works is by moving the items to another plane of existence. The spy adds that there are rumours that an item such as this has been linked with the cause of The Sundering. The rest of the journey is slower in pace as the water is shallow, and there are no more check points to pass through, and the true gates of the city can be seen now in the distance. On their approach, Granuaile gives Amelie lessons in martial weaponry as a means to pass the time. The women come to close blows, breathing heavily under their veils, as Granuaile helps the young Protectorate in improving her combat stance. As they spar on deck, Brant thinks on about his forged documents and whether they will be believed.

The boat moors and the eight disembark, bringing Julio along with them. At the edge of the jetty they are greeted by a number of golden armoured and white robed Templars of the Anduwin. Their robes each carry a different symbol of the Anduwin, a telling sign of which of the Six these Templars hold closest. They approach and ask to see Brant’s documentation, having apparently received word from the previous check point garrison about his items. He is brought to the Raj, who then lead the bard away from the rest of the party.

Al’Zieharia is the second largest city in the world and dates back to the time of the Anduwin. The river nourishes its populous, as well as bringing trade to a harsh landscape. There are sprawling market spaces, and grand temples to be seen even from the riverside docks. Magnus quickly obtains a map of the city. He is unimpressed by the craftsmanship, and so starts to add in details to the map, using his keen mind and cartographer’s trade. In the centre of the city is a high rise managed by the Sultan. There is a large mosque to Kaine as well as other smaller temples to the other Anduwin. Al’Zieharia is also home to The Arboreum and the Imperious Pyramid. As Brant is escorted away the rest of the group begin to search for a place to sleep.

Brant is taken to a place called the Aetherium and brought before its keeper, Artemis. The Aetherium is a place where transportation magik and technology is researched, and is one of only a few places in the world capable of artificially entering the Neverwalk for the purpose of travel. He presents his forged documents to Artemis and is allowed to leave, though does not know where the rest of the party is. He makes his way to an area described as the hotel district and acquires a room at an establishment called The Clergyman, using a fake name – Rhogar. Across the street from the Clergyman stands The Ram, a hotel in the Bukká style, and it is there that by coincidence the rest of the party checked in.

Once settled, and still without Brant, the seven members discuss what to do now that they are in Al’Zieharia, as the Seer didn’t give clear or specific instructions. 428 and Granuaile learn about the Yielding Grounds in the Ferfellers area of the city. The two warriors are both eager to test their respective metal, and it is rumoured that the winner of the Yielding Ground’s Challenge is awarded a meeting with the Sultan, who has not been seen in public for a very long time. Through discussion with the proprietors of the Ram, it is identified that the Sultan has representatives within the Raj. The barkeep also tells the seven that the organisation, Imperious is hosting some sort of event at the Arboreum. Magnus suggests that the priority should be to get Amelie home, and so travel should be considered. He proposes a series of options, such as travelling by land north, or down the river and then by ship across the sea. There is even consideration given to trying to ask the Sultan for help, as Amelie is now one of the Protectorate of Oskiliath. Al’Zieharia is also home to the Aetherium, where teleportation is made to look like child’s play. Orryon adds that he has some experience in using the Aetherium in Bukká, and so this may be a viable option to access the Neverwalk once more. Without a clear plan, the party decide to try a combination approach. Some will try to reach out to the Sultan, whilst others consider how to access the Aetherium. Magnus disagrees with splitting resources and that a single path should be chosen, but he is outvoted by Amelie herself, and so once more the party separate into their respective rooms, and rest befalls them, having agreed at least the beginnings of a plan.

We arrived and I’ve learnt of a large Anduwin built structure here, dedicated to the arts of healing. The Arboreum. I vaguely remember lectures about it. You may recall, you always did pay more attention in class. I plan to visit to better my skills.

 

Our group is starting to become friendlier towards each other, although Brant can still be somewhat standoff-ish.

 

Our plan is to try and use the Neverwalk here to get Amelie home. Then, for me to return myself.

– Orryon Ma’talli

Magnus wakes early the following day, as the warmth of the desert sun breeches the opening of the windows in the Ram. Whilst awake he makes a choice to pray at the Mosque he saw, dedicated to Kaine. He dresses and makes his way there, introducing himself to the rectors. He is looking for some specific knowledge and is taken downstairs. There the dwarf is told how to start the Trials of the Anduwin. He is asked by the High Priest to take the ashes of his loved one to The Lighthouse and spread them, so that they may live on in the Anduwin’s Light. Magnus agrees to this, after being told that High Priests or Bishops of each of the Anduwin can offer him tasks, and that he will need at least three separate recommendations from these clergy if he has any hope of entering the Trials. After he agrees to this, Magnus asks about maps of the local area. Being a cartographer by trade, he hopes to find a route out of the city to take Amelie home, if the other agreed approaches fall short. He is given some information and takes copies of maps, sketching them himself over the next several hours.

Slightly later in the day, Magnus is still within the mosque to Kaine as the other party members being to stir. After a brief breakfast, Rhogar and Orryon decide to visit the Arboreum. On their way, the duo discusses Magnus. Orryon shares his family’s history with Rhogar, and that Magnus has recently told him of his potential involvement in his father’s death. Rhogar offers some supportive words, and tells Orryon that Magnus is a good man and a father himself now. He is sometimes foolish in putting what he believes is his duty before the needs of himself or others. Their conversation passes the time, and before they know it, they have arrived at the green tinted glass greenhouse known as the Arboreum Sol Santé. The rumours of its grandeur do it poor credit, as it is truly a sight to behold. Stretching high into the sky, its curved ceramic surface seems to go forever, beyond sight as the sun makes it impossible to see the top or where the glass ends and the sky begins. Outside, the Raj have control of the Arboreum. There is a small wooden kiosk of sorts guarded by two Raj in long white robes with their turbans depicting rank, and veils to offer shelter from the shade. Orryon mentions his own name, and his father’s and is granted access having verified he is a physician, with Rhogar as his guest. Inside is like walking into another world. Rhogar and Orryon move beyond the kiosk and the magikally sealed doors. Once inside, the doors seal once more and there is a moment to take in the scene before them. A narrow stone path snakes its way through rolling fields of green grass which shouldn’t be able to grow in this desert climate. The air however gives tell to that, as it is a different temperature, humidity and even smell. A sense of wonder and profound calm reaches the pair as they are welcomed inside by a half-elf man, who introduces himself as Kaleem. He offers to give Orryon and Rhogar a tour of the Arboreum, and begins to walk them through the calming greenery. Around them are men and women working the plants in long green robes or grown straw and burlap attire. They tend to plants of all manner of colour and size. Rhogar and Orryon are able to recognise some, but others seem alien and unknown to them. Seeing or perhaps sensing the bugbear and elf in wonder, Kaleem explains that part of the duty of the Arboreum is to protect nature. The druidic arts here are being used to help grown any plant that may be needed, to ensure it does not become extinct on this world. They wish to preserve nature, and Kaleem then adds that it is his personal hope that inside the Arboreum any environment can be simulated allowing plants, animals and people to live in here without having to worry about being poorly adapted to certain places, temperatures or diets. Kaleem explains then that the Arboreum was built by the Anduwin, but it is unclear why and what they envisioned it be used for. However, in the last decade or so, Kaleem’s research has allowed him and his team to learn more about the shards of glass that make up the outer shell, and sporadically jut from the grass beneath them. The glass absorbs magikal energy that is ambient in the air, as well as the energy from whatever is in the world above. When used in a certain way, the glass can release this energy that Kaleem refers to as Chi, and that this Chi can be used to aid a living thing in naturally healing, by using its own Chi, combined with Anduwin energy from the glass. With his tour close to an end, Kaleem offers a demonstration of the healing abilities of Chi, and leads Rhogar and Orryon to a wooden structure, with a few beds inside. One houses a large and long striped feline, its breathing rapid and shallow, the other a woman, more alert. She tells that she was trying to tend the animal’s injuries, but it defended itself in fear, and now she is wounded too. Kaleem takes a small pouch of grey powder that looks almost like ash, and mixes this with some other reagents before rubbing it into a large wound on the feline’s side. Almost immediately, the breathing becomes more steady and relaxed, and the size of the wound appears to start to reduce. Kaleem offers the powder mixture to Orryon and then directs him in how to apply this to the wounded woman. An hour passes and the long striped feline has rolled off the bed, and stalked out of the wooden structure, and the woman is back on her feet restocking the healing supplies. Kaleem calls this powder Aether, and offers Orryon a pouch, having seen his skill with healing.

Meanwhile, Karmel takes Amelie shopping, as a means to pass the time, and get her used to being around people again, while 428 and Granuaile head to the Yielding Grounds, each hoping to prove themselves. Knowing little about where the Yielding Ground is, they ask about and are told to follow the snakes. Granuaile and 428 look around the city for a short while before seeing a painted red snake on a street wall, its tongue out, and pointing further down the street. They head in this direction and a short while later another snake is seen. This reptile is red and coiled but its tongue and tail both point which way to go next. The warriors continue to follow the signs of the snake towards the Yielding Grounds. Some snakes continue to be red painted and faded serpents, almost like blood marks, whilst others look to be intricately carved wooden reptiles, or moulded and crafted metallic serpentine idols, but each seemingly pointing to the next and eventually reaching a shanty town on the very edges of the city of Al’Zieharia. No longer able to see snakes leading the way, their attention is drawn to a hexagonal building producing a cacophonous screaming and cheering.

The half-orc and giantkin enter the hexagonal building and find themselves in a drinking hall, where upon they speak to the tavern staff and ask for information about the combat of the Yielding Grounds. They discover that the last person to win was three years ago. The combat is comprised of five tiers, with each stage being more difficult than the last. The bar staff inform Granuaile that the first level is a local fight between two combatants within the tavern, or its sister sites across the edges of Al’Zieharia. The second stage is to fight some form of violent beast, followed by a combat without weapons. The fourth stage is a group battle against a larger foe, with the survivors being allowed to move onto the final bout against “something harder”.

Hearing this, and the limited rules, both Granuaile and 428 sign up and are given a bronze coin to denote they have paid their entrance fees. 428 is called first to a well-used arena space within the hexagonal building, where he has to defeat a bragging human named McCain, who repeatedly shouts out his own name and that “no one can beat…. McCain”. After a surprisingly short round, where 428 didn’t become enraged in battle, the human is broken, disarmed, and flung out of the arena, defeated. The human then shuffles off to one side, rubbing his ribs where bruises are quickly forming, as his companions bring him commissary ale. Granuaile is called second, and her opponent is introduced as Malock, a towering male half-orc. Larger than her own orcish frame, but the battle is equally fast, as Granuaile deftly knocks Malock down, and then uses a combination of the magikal barrier to prevent interference to injure her foe, as well as her warhammer, swung, then thrown at him, before being conjured back to her grip. Both Granuaile and 428 have passed the first stage of the Yielding Grounds.

During this time, Brant wakes in his own separate hotel, The Clergyman. In the morning, he learns that his hotel is owned by Imperious, and so makes a fairy quick exit after his breakfast.  Whilst walking the city streets in the hotel district, he soon bumps into Amelie and Karmel who have just started their walk towards the underground market for some shopping. He parts company with Amelie and her guard, after asking where the rest of the party is staying. Having established that The Ram should be his destination, he heads there, realising that it is indeed just over the street from The Clergyman. He procures his own room, before setting out into the city himself, knowing that he will see the rest of the party back at the hotel eventually. The bard later bumps into Rhogar on his way back from the Arboreum. Brant notices Rhogar now has a new satchel, from the day before. The bag he found in the river, and recognises this and the enchantment it holds. The halfling advises caution against using such an item, as they have been linked to the sundering.

Eventually, the whole grouping returns to The Ram, and begin to discuss their various findings. Orryon and Rhogar talk about the demonstration of healing magik, and that there is a special event this evening which the group is invited to attend. Granuaile and 428 discuss their experiences in the Yielding Grounds, looking bruised and somewhat injured, but talking of their victories and how this brings them one step closer to winning the contest and earning the chance to meet with The Sultan. Brant has a contact in the city that may be able help the party in getting Amelie home, and is surprised to learn that not only is there an Imperious hotel, and their Pyramid in Al’Zieharia, but that all of the leaders of the six branches of Imperious are also within the city currently, as they are hosting the event at the Arboreum this evening. Granuaile approaches Amelie and the pair move to their own table, where they talk and exchange gifts they have for each other. And Magnus takes the party gold to the concierge of The Ram, a man known as Kale, and pays for lodgings for a full week, due to the evenings event, and the time it may take to get access to the Aetherium or the Sultan through the Yielding Grounds. The party review their findings and having had a successful morning, set out into the city once more for an afternoon of activities before attending the Arboreum later this evening.

I visited the Arboreum today. Their Keeper, Kaleem, personally showed me around and gave me a supply of Aether to help with none-magikal healing. Kaleem also invited us back this evening for a grand demonstration. I can’t wait. I’ll write more then.

– Orryon Ma’talli

After a short break collecting their ideas, the party sets out into the city once more, with Orryon going with Granuaile and 428 to the Yielding Grounds, as a healer to the two warriors. As they arrive, the half-orc places bets, and stirs up a crowd of commotion, vying people to bet against 428. This time the half-orc is called into the arena first. The gates drop. The floor of the arena sitting around five feet below the hexagonal building’s floor. High metallic fences enclose the arena, and on one side is another gate connected to a reinforced wooden box. The gate by the crate opens, and then the wood is broken as a beast forces its way to relative freedom. A feline creature with jet black fur. Panther-like in appearance, but with a tentacle ending in sharp teeth growing from each shoulder blade. The feline is hard to look at, as though displaced from reality. Granuaile goes in for an initial strike, but her weapon glides through the air, rather than hitting the beast. She swings again, this time connecting, but when she looks down her pommel to the hammer’s head it has connected with an illusionary duplicate of the feline. The beast takes advantage of these missed strikes, and pounces at Granuaile, knocking her prone and sinking its fangs into her skin. Drawing blood. She pushes it directly upwards and rolls from under it, kicking it as it lands down where she had been. Their battle rages on with fangs ripping cloth and flesh, and the warhammer sometimes managing to strike the real feline, rather than an illusion. As both near exhaustion, the tentacles grapple the half-orc and lift her into the air, plunging teeth and a toxin into her. She begins to lose consciousness until her orcish desire to keep fighting takes over, and she rises up, pulling herself out of the tentacles and ripping them from the beast in the process before landing and throwing her warhammer directly into the feline’s skull, crushing it, and ending the fight. She conjures the hammer back to her hand, and then falls to her knees in sheer fatigue, before being supported out of the arena and into a booth for healing, where Orryon quickly takes over her healing needs instead of the other volunteers who do not appear to know what they are doing.

Next comes the turn of the giantkin. 428 enters the still bloody arena as the feline’s body is dragged away and a new crate is lined up to allow some beast to enter the caged fighting pit. The lights change, and this time, the crate is opened gradually, but no monster comes forth in a flurry of rage or fury. Another feline face steps slowly out of the shadow of the wooden enclosure. Pale fur. A lioness coolly stalking into the arena. As her body is halfway out of the crate, it becomes clear that she is no mere lioness. A pair of brown eagle-like wings grow from her back. As she stalks further out, her tail whips around, not as that of a lion, but red, and scaled. Where the tip would be, is a snake’s head, its own fangs bared. The snake side seemingly acting independently to the lion’s side. 428 readies his faithful axe and screams a war cry, becoming angry at this sight, raging ready for the kill. The lioness pounces forward and her front claws glance the giantkin, but her pounce does not have enough force to knock him down, instead clutching claws into him, and beating her wings mid-leap, pulling her quarry upwards. At her apex, with wings brushing the top of the arena cage, she pushes her weight down, not just dropping 428, but slamming his angry form into the dirt. In his pain, lightning begins to spark from his body, out of the bony protrusions, and into the lioness. The electricity burns a route up her fur, and into her wings, shocking a few feathers from their place in her carpal edges. The axe then swings into her distracted form, but the snake head coils out of the way, before unleashing its potential energy into a viper strike. Its venom ejected into the giantkin, the lioness creature stalks away waiting for the venom to paralyse its prey. However, 428 is of giant blood, and more hardy than most prey. He resists the venom’s effect and shrugs it off, before charging the lioness, striking it first with his bone protrusions to cut the surprises feline, before then swinging his great axe into it again, unleashing yet more lightning as he does. The axe falls through its tail, and removes the snake from its body, while the lightning arches up again and again, burning and singing more feathers and fur. One spark flashes and zaps from his chest, and leaps directly into the lioness’s eye. The force of electric energy bursting the eye, as its water content is immediately boiled. The lioness falls. Its wings burnt and its tail decapitated. Rapturous applause breaks out from the onlookers and the taverns other patrons at the dispatch of such a powerful and dangerous foe. With that 428 is taken to Orryon and Granuaile, where the healer begins to wrap 428’s wounds. The trio then make their way back to the Ram to their own rooms, where Orryon can apply magikal healing, rather than just poultices and balms. It seems Granuaile and 428 are both another step closer to winning the contest and earning their prize of meeting the Sultan.

Rhogar goes for a walk, in search of metal workers whilst the Yielding contest takes place. He makes his way through the city and after a few false starts is given directions to the forges.  He examines the work and craftsmanship of one vendor, before approaching in earnest, where he meets a tall hellspawn individual. Much as the robed horned figures a few days ago in the desert, this figure is nearly eight feet tall if you include the horns, which curve backwards with ridges and striations across them. His skin in a deep purple, and the colouration of the horns is a red/purple blend. The figure’s eyes are a solid colour, with no whites, all black. Behind the forge hangs a long robe, and seemingly this hellspawn is only without his robe due to the heat of working the metal. Rhogar introduces himself, and asks for a few scraps of metal that would be durable but lightweight for his clockwork device, and in return agrees to make a single metallic rose from various coloured shards. There is somewhat of a back and forth between the hellspawn and Rhogar about the bugbear having to shave some of his fur in with the price of the metal, but he declines this offer, instead paying the full fee. After the discussion and payment is made, Rhogar learns that bugbear fur is considered an aphrodisiac in Derimyre.

At the Ram, the halfling thinks about his experience with Imperious, and knowing they are hosting this event at the Arboreum, decides that it would be best if he attended in disguise. He spends some time in his room, applying make-up, and trying different looks and style to see which would best help him to blend in before he is satisfied with his efforts. Brant heads out into the town in his disguise, looking for a tailor to make him some suitable attire that is not his usual style and without his Goldust signature flare. The bard’s disguise appears to be working, as many individuals in town are now holding the door open for this older gentleman, who is stooped with age. His hair greyed and thinned in places. When his errands are done, he begins to make his way back to the Ram. That is until he sees a familiar furry face. Rhogar it seems is also in the market for more fancy attire for the event this evening. However, having spent most of his coin on his metal, he leans into what the hellspawn told him about bugbear fur, deciding to sell some in exchange for a fine shirt that would fit his frame, and cover his mechanical arm. Rhogar cuts fur from his chin. His once twin platted fur beards, now look different, with only the plate on the left side still growing from him. Brant maintains his disguise in front of Rhogar, to test its effectiveness, and sure enough the make-up seems to have fooled at least this familiar individual. In his kind way, the bugbear escorts the older halfling back to the Ram, where he joins the group. Magnus, Orryon, Amelie and Granuaile are able to see through his disguise, but 428 seems convinced that the party need to wait for Brant to return, so that he can reunite with what he assumes is Brant’s father. Mr Goldust then assumes another identify, telling the party to refer to him as Jeremiah Tabernacle for this evening, so as to not draw attention to him being a Goldust.

The evening comes, and the eight are outfitted in their finery, including the still in disguise Brant. Even 428 has been offered some nicer clothes to help him appear less rough, though he comments he will be in the role of a body guard, hence the lack of style. They set out walking across a darkened cityscape. Lanterns are hung on buildings or tall poles to light the way for those traveling after dark. Rhogar and Orryon lead the way, having been to the Arboreum earlier today, and when the route is set, the elf hangs back and walks with Magnus, having not spoken to him for a few days. Orryon starts the conversation awkwardly, not wanting to apologise for his actions and reaction to Magnus’ news, but also feeling that someone has to make the first move. The cool night air blows a breeze between them, accenting the quiet and long pauses. But the dwarf and elf talk to each other in Bukká, and eventually Orryon feels he has said what he needs to. He does not blame Magnus for his actions, as there was no guarantee that Darlenma would have survived anyway. Orryon and Magnus agree amongst themselves that as neither can turn back the clock, it seems unwise to continue this silence, particularly with them having to travel to bring Amelie home for what may be a few more weeks at least.

The familiar wooden security kiosk staffed by white and gold robed Raj gets closer. However, there are far more Raj than there were earlier. In addition to the Raj, there is a lot of additional security, in uniform black armour, checking people have been invited, and relieving guests of their weapons. 428 is uneasy in being parted from his axe for some reason, but Magnus and Rhogar offer reassurance to him that it is not taken, only stored, and he will get it back. 428 is also forced to surrender his daggers but eventually the whole group, separated so not to draw attention manage to gain entry. The inside of the Arboreum is as it was that morning. The large magikal door not sealing, but held open to allow the various guests passage on their arrival. The flagstone walkways are clear, and even though it is night outside the Arboreum, the inside is as though it is noon. The air is warm, and the light appears to be natural, giving life to the various plants and animals that live beneath the glass dome. Everyone inside is dressed in elaborate clothing of various styles. Some of Derimyre, or of Bukká Mortainé. There are fashions here from Naramia and even as far afield as Ultrek. It seems most of the great and the good or at the very least the powerful, rich and influential have been invited tonight. A few hundred feet inside, a while further from where the wooden medical hut stood earlier, is a large marble stage, with six grand empty chairs arranged on the stage, but off centre. The mirror of these chairs is a table or plinth, also off centre. A small obsidian looking box sits upon it. It’s dark stone in clear contrast to the pale marble.

The reception of the event is in full flow by the time the party arrives. Brant sees a few people he knows and Magnus’ keen eye spots several Templars of the Anduwin mingling subtly with the guests. An unusual sight for this party is a familiar face, but that is just what Rhogar spies. Seapriest, the scarred beaked birdfolk who heled rescue the party is also here. Brant tries to stay separate from his allies, to maintain his disguise’s effectiveness, but does choose to approach one of the people he knows, introducing himself as Jeremiah Tabernacle, and telling them that his is a wealthy proprietor of a printing press company that produces the internationally renowned periodical publication Artful and Tasty. This seems to catch the attention of other wealth individuals present wishing to meet the famed Mr Tabernacle, and so Brant is for the time being indisposed.

At this point a figure appears on marble stage, wearing elegant robes with a bronze trim, and runes of an ancient language stitched into the hem. The figure is humanoid and scaled. Many might comment that he were a greyborn, were it not for his obvious bronze scales and much smaller stature than those native to Máurdorne. On closer inspection, the figure is indeed of draconic descent, but appears to be of a different lineage than the greyborn, though some of his broad bronze scales are starting to bare distinct grey patches. The draconic man welcomes the guests, identifying himself as Prodomicus, an advisor to the Sultan, before he introduces Kaleem to the before assembled guests within the Arboreum. The half-elf gives a short speech about the work done towards improving healing, and preservation of life. After his speech, Kaleem invites one of his most accomplished and prized students to the stage to give the rumoured demonstration. To a welcoming applause, an attractive looking and suave man walks onto the stage. He seems to know he is good looking, and plays into this, winking flirtatiously at finely dressed women in the crowd, as well as running his perfect fingers through his pampered blonde hair, catching in some breeze that definitely wasn’t there a moment ago. He is introduced as Quintin Moray, and is all too familiar to Orryon Ma’Talli. Quintin brings out a very old and frail looking elven man. He looks weakened by time and age. Quintin explains that the elf is old, but otherwise has no ailments. Magnus and Orryon share a thought that for an elf to look so old, he must be in his eighth or may be even ninth century. Moray opens the obsidian box and removes a single simple glass vial containing a golden liquid. He provides this to the old elf who drinks from it. Quintin talks about the nature of healing, and responding to trauma and injury, and trying to repair whilst fighting against a body’s natural predisposition to age and grow weaker. As he talks, the elf appears to sit up straighter. His posture returning to the composure that is fitting of an elven patriarch. His wrinkled face smooths, and loose skin tightens. Thin long hair remains long, but no longer thin. Its colour no longer grey and white, but instead returned to the surprising auburn it had been in the elf’s youth. The crowd is stunned into silence as Quintin finishes speaking, allowing all attention now to be on the elf who is now longer visibly an old man, but instead appears to be no older than his first or second century. As the process comes to an end, Quintin tells his audience, for he truly is performing now, that for this to work, they needed only a few things. Knowledge of healing, from the Arboreum, a Hope that it could be achieved, and funding from the generous benefactors at Imperious. Quintin and the elf are lead off stage, allowing Kaleem to introduce the individuals identified as Imperious leaders. A male dwarf known as Plumes Bloomsteed who is involved in the mining industry takes the first chair. Next to him sits a male gnomish figure, Farnwhistle Von Swillington, who has enormous family wealth, and is heavily connected in trade. Clergiman Clergison takes the third chair, a halfling gentleman with an extensive shipping industry, involved in the exportation of goods across the world. Hugh Hapsburg is introduced as another elven individual who appears to be the Imperious leader on scouting information and mining sites. Next to him sits Regelle Coote, a dwarven man known to be a researcher of Anduwin histories and items. When he takes to the stage, Magnus tightens his fists and averts his eyes slightly. The final chair of Imperious is filled by a man who operates Imperious security arm, and is the commander of the black armoured forces present tonight, Jules Talonclaw.

Whilst the leaders of Imperious are welcomed to the stage and thanked for financing the research into the Hope that had just been used, Orryon approaches Quintin. He is surrounded by academics and healers, asking him questions about the vial’s content, but is not answering their questions, only paying attention to the throng of girls swooning around him. Orryon asks Quintin about his studies and how he came to be at the Arboreum, and he tells that he studied for a time at the Temple of Vollabuke in Bukká Mortainé, which Orryon already knows, having crossed paths with him there. Quintin appears to not remember the elf. Quinton tells that he misses Bukká, and after his world tour with the Hope, he plans to return there, as there is a girl who apparently couldn’t keep her hands off him. He explains that she has meagre healing skills, but her family is considerable wealthy and well connected with the Bukká noble houses, and so he plans to ingratiate himself with this elven maid further. Orryon quickly surmises that the girl he is referring to is his twin sister, Orryiana, who also studied at the Temple, but seemingly Quintin can remember her.

Magnus asks Kaleem questions about the “Hope” that had been used, but the leader of the Arboreum apparently is not prepared to give away much, other than explaining that they have a very small supply, as it is difficult to produce. He suggests it is made by combining Aether with some other reagents and some powdered glass, but tells Magnus nothing more, before excusing himself.

Rhogar is not so enamoured by the healing atmosphere, so he and Granuaile purchase some raffle tickets, to show faith and appear to be being part of the festivities, as well as donating to the Arboreum. Their numbers are called as winners, but before they can claim their respective prizes a commotion stirs in the crowd, with finely dressed and wealthy patrons parting like the tide leaving the shore. Allowing a figure to pass between the patrons, before they circle in to close again after he has passed. A tall greyborn has caused this parting in the crowd. He has numerous black tattoos, and is holding a morning star. As the greyborn arrives, Magnus takes advantage of the distraction and sneaks out of the Arboreum, making his way towards the Clergyman hotel, where he appears to begin to enact a plan against Regelle Coote.

Most patrons have taken their steps back, and appear to show a range of emotions, from uneasy to open disgust and mistrust, however, Kaleem goes over to talk to the greyborn, and they interact in a way that appears, from a distance at least, to be friendly and familiar. The Imperious leaders are lead off stage and out a side door when the commotion about the greyborn begins. 428 starts to walk angrily towards the greyborn. As he reaches the draconic individual it turns and faces the giantkin, apparently expecting to find the party here.