Though the party remains underground, dawn does come, and the nine present all come to consciousness. The camp is packed quietly as those with keener ears try to hear evidence of the greyborn defeat or victory. The tunnels remain silent to the group, and with cold shoulders being turned to Brant specifically. Eventually, Prodomicus suggests the party set out, and make their way to the surface before deciding where they should be, Al’Zieharia or further afield. The group trudges through the dark lightless tunnel and comes after a few hours to a ladder. They make their way up for a time, continuously ascending, until the ladder ends at a new higher point, and the ground plateaus out. An hour down this higher tunnel and 428, Karmel and Brant’s eyes see daylight at last, no longer relying on torches or their allies for sight. The sunlight starts to be seen breeching the dark interior providing a much needed sense of hope to the weary troop. Cautiously, the party steps out the tunnel and into the light, their eyes blur and blink, adjusting to the changing light levels before instinctively glancing to the heavens. The greyborn vessel now a fixture of the Derimyre skyline rests above Al’Rhen, but no longer is there evidence of greyborn within Al’Zieharia. The dreadnaught hovers still above Derimyre’s second city, by the coast, and closer to the greyborn homeland. Granuaile and Brant lead the way through the city, and survey the battle scars. Flagstones cracked by gunfire, with buildings and sand still clinging to the rare memory of frost and mist that dominated it just hours before. Prodomicus suggests the group move to the Citadel and home of the Sultan, as the greyborn assault will need to be considered as well as the United Protectorate’s response to it. The route to the Citadel fortunately takes the group past the Ram, and Granuaile rescues Julio, who remained stabled at the hotel during the night’s assault. Whilst she bridles her stallion, Brant approaches Orryon and returns the scroll that had been leant, to add legitimacy to the forged paperwork. That seems like so long ago.
Prodomicus continues to lead the group through the city towards the Anduwin built Citadel that serves as the Sultan’s home, and the centre of power in Derimyre. As they approach, there is a small number of Raj present at the gates, but the entrance itself is slightly ajar. This seems to be an insufficient level of security over the Citadel. As this thought crosses Brant’s mind, he is stopped by a barrier, preventing access. The Raj notice the group as Brant attempts to pass the barrier, and make their way across. They question the group, wanting to know who dares approach the Citadel so soon after last night’s barrage of attacks. Prodomicus vouches for the party, and speaks on their before, which seems to work, as the Raj recognise his station allowing the whole group to enter.
Inside the grand structure are a number of individuals in a main chamber. The building designed in the same Derimyre style that has been seen around the city the last few days. The windows are enormous and open, without glass fitted for most of them. Impressive draperies and tapestries adorn the walls and provide much needed cover from the seemingly constant day time sun. Raj are stationed on either side of the marble staircase ascending into the Citadel, as well as one on either side of the grand doors. There spears are a finer quality, and their robes look to have more golden thread stitched into them. However, for all the finery of the Raj, there are still noticeable signs of recent combat. Mudded hems on robes. Crimson streaks weapons, handles and turbans. Their veils are pinned to the veils and off their faces whilst inside and these too appear less well kempt than seen thus far in Al’Zieharia, dirt and streaks of sweat from hard fighting remaining evident. The central chamber Prodomicus leads the party towards has more people, not just milling around, but leaning over a table barring a map of Oskiliath, with counters making the map more alive, with one man moving certain pieces following the nature and content of the discussions. Prodomicus is announced by the Raj, and many faces within the chamber turn to regard him, and the party with him. Around the circular table stand a small number of people that Brant recognises and knows in person. Jameson Ferard the acting Protectorate of Mountainsfoot, on behalf of his close friend Anton Quinn, and Bastel Procter the rightful Protectorate of Borodos. Surprisingly, they look over to Brant, but also appear to know Magnus Marche.
Karmel and Prodomicus both make their opinion about the party known, and so the group is permitted to stay in the Citadel, but not within the Council of Protectorates gathering in this room. Amelie is identified by sight more than anything else as Jameson approaches her and comments that she looks like her father. Prodomicus leaves the chamber to arrange the appropriate paperwork for Amelie, and attend to her regular duties. From the meeting room in the Citadel the Protectorates continue to consider action as a response to the greyborn presence. Meanwhile soldiers begin to pack away papers, charts and other maps. The Council apparently is not planning on staying in Derimyre. Bastel Procter comments then that this ship in the sky is not the Orion, but is in fact the secondary war ship, the Andromeda. She is larger and is confirmed to be a stronger better version of her sister ship, the Orion. The Protectorates discuss whether this is a restart of the war, breaking the ceasefire, and so opening the world to battles once more, or if this presence and the initial arrival last night was their warning, in line with The Code of Marr, much as the Orion hovered without action for fifty days over thirty years ago. None of the council can come to an agreement on this, but the one thing they do agree about is that they are afraid, and more importantly, so are the people. Most living can still remember the last greyborn war, and the horrors it wrought. Not a soul wants to see that again.
As the party start to wait for the next update and their course of action, Granuaile starts to assist the soldiers packing papers, whilst Magnus compares his own maps to those in the war room, making small annotations along the edges and even over some landmarks.
From a corner of the entry foyer before the war room a dwarf can be seen. His head down. Bright red hair from his head, but oddly for a dwarf, no beard to be seen. His face has burn scars in a wild untamed pattern that seem to run down his neck, and under his black leather armour. He has a flag tied to his waist, looped his leathers and belt. On closer inspection, the flag is that of Skalt, the dwarven Vassal State of Oskiliath. He regards 428 inquisitively. The blue grey skinned giantkin warrior with shards of bone jutting from his skin rests against an opposite wall, nearer to the war room, though not inside. The dwarf moves his fingers subtly and his lips let out a whisper, but 428 reacts to this. He glares around the room, looking for the source of the magik. Most look away from him, seeing the fury in his eyes, but the red haired dwarf looks back confidently and calmly. The giantkin storms to the dwarf, raging about not wanting people inside his head, as they might control him or change him again. The giantkin swings a meaty fist at the dwarf in anger, knocking the wind out of him and sprawling the dwarf onto the ground. Magnus sees this commotion, and moves over to 428 and the new dwarf to act as a mediator for the pair. The new coming with the fiery hair introduces himself as a demolitions expert and mercenary. He has been brought to Derimyre specifically due to his skillset. Magnus and 428 appraise what he has said, and whilst 428 is still uncomfortable with the magikal message that this dwarf sent, his need to fight is quelled somewhat. Magnus introduces himself, and 428, before the new dwarf gives his name. Journ’ee Torride.
Prodomicus advises Brant and Orryon that the Sultan will want to discuss something with the party, but first an ally is wounded and in need of assistance. To this end, the elf volunteers to help in any way he can. He is led by the bronzed scaled dragonoid out of the Citadel and around towards a new destination. On the way, Orryon asks Prodomicus about the letter, and its contents. He is invested by having carried the letter for so many years. The bronze individual stops, and tells Orryon that it is from the Kai, which Orryon already knew, but that it provides confirmation of a something that until now was only a theory. Aratartum Velentai. The elf moves to ask more, but before he can, they have arrived at a loading or cargo area. Orryon is shown to his patient. A wounded greyborn who may have vital information. However, this man is not just a greyborn, but Axpal the Autarch. Orryon clenches his fists tightly. The greyborn is bound in bandages with a dark purple liquid oozing from a wound. Several healers are working on Axpal at once using a combination of magik and natural means, but nothing seems to help the Autarch.
Orryon asks just how important Axpal is, weighing up a decision. The healers and Prodomicus tell him that the Sultan has faith in this man, and so all efforts to save his life should be made. The elf instinctively brushes his fingertips over his recently returned scroll. He tells the gathered healers that he has something that may work. It is powerful magik, beyond his skill level, or any spell he has ever used. He asks Prodomicus for gems, as the spell itself calls for riches to be ground down to a powder, to carry the magik. The ingredients are supplied whilst Orryon marks out a double circle, one just inside the other, on the grounds in chalk shaping runes between the circles. At six even points he shapes symbols of the Anduwin. A’Dal, Kaine, Vollabuke, Paz, Marr and Y’Shaj. Healers take the gem dust and combine it with Orryon’s own Aether powder allowing the elf to rub this into Axpal’s wound. The oozing slows, not by healing, but by the injury site being blocked with various powders. Orryon takes out his scroll, still held with the wax seal that it was presented to him, a gift from The Temple of Vollabuke for completing his training. The wax breaks as the vellum is unrolled and Orryon begins to read the scroll, pushing his own magik into it, hoping it is enough. The elf feels his feet lifted from the ground a few inches. A foot. With radiance screaming from the scroll, too bright to look at. In a moment, the brightness fades. The scroll is gone. Orryon slumps on the floor where he fell. Faint golden particle trails float on an invisible breeze from where the scroll had been into Axpal’s wound. Particles merging with powdered gems and Aether until the light fade completely. He remains wounded, and his breathing is laboured slightly, but the oozing has stopped. His health and resilience restored and whatever dark poison has been expunged. Orryon looks over his shoulder to his patient. Conflicted. Satisfied with his work, but filling with a mixture of shame and pride at having used such powerful magiks to heal. Heal a greyborn. He turns his back on the Autarch and the healers, and walks with Prodomicus back to the Citadel proper. It seems this act has helped earn some good graces with the Sultan, who is now ready to meet with the party.
Prodomicus collects Brant, Magnus, Granuaile and 428 joining them with Orryon, and asking the party to wait outside the Sultan’s throne room. He returns shortly after escorting the fiery dwarf Journ’ee, who has apparently also been summoned. Prodomicus explains to the rest of the party what he told Orryon earlier. That the letter gives confirmation of an Aratartum Velentai and that the Sultan must know this to help devise a means to break it.
Magnus paces now. Frustrated at the loss of innocent lives. He knows of a way to raise a magikal shield, and has seen the Protectorates achieve this over other cities, such as Emmalrost and Vespard in Borodos and Mountainsfoot respectively. However, it is rumoured that the Sultan is strongly against the use of arcane magiks in Derimyre, and won’t allow a shield to be cast over the city. Prodomicus advises that most of the civilians have been evacuated from the city already via the Ferfellers district and down the river to the deltas.
Whilst the group waits to be allowed into the throne room, they begin think about what hope the free peoples have against the might of Maurdórne. Magnus and Journ’ee almost in unison comment that magik can be effective against the giant skyships. The newer dwarf comments that he saw magik work to some good effect earlier in his life and more recently when he was in BeJórne. Journ’ee tells the others that the Silver Assault agents based in Majoire are most likely all dead. The dreadnaught fired a large beam of light and energy. As a direct result of this action, there has been a large amount of infighting within the Assault’s ranks to fill the power vacuum, as well as other higher ranking agents splitting away to start their own factions.
On hearing this news, many react in similar ways for different reasons. Brant is angry using rage as a performer’s mask to hide his sorrow. He goes to leave the waiting area, 428 stops him. The giantkin has a similar reaction in his sadness, but not the anger that the group has come to associate with the savage warrior. The warrior is clearly grieving someone or something. He just looks down at Brant. His eight foot frame towering above the halfling’s minute stature. He asks only one question, perhaps already knowing the answer. “Is Tracy alive?”
Brant holds the giantkin’s gaze for a beat. No words spoken. The answer given. The two have travelled together longer than the rest of the group, with the exception of Magnus and the late Rhogar, and so silence seems to be appropriate as they slowly begin to process the vast array of emotions they each feel about the death troll from Majorie. Brant choses this moment to continue his emotion fuelled exit, and heads directly to the war room. Bursting through the doors, Jameson, Bastel and Amelie turn to regard him, and tell him this meeting is private and for the Protectorates ears only. The spy ignores this and instead calls the Council out, for letting their people down, and allowing a part of Oskiliath to become occupied territory, as well as seading so much power to the greyborn, which he feels direcly enabled this fresh attack. The Protectorates remain quiet. Hearing him. Not just hearing words, but listening to them, acknowledging that there may be some truth in what Brant has said in rage. However, his rage is shortened as two Raj each moves their spear shaffs into Brant’s view, as his shoulders are too far down for them to reach and maintain their imposing demeanour. They escort the bard out of the war room, and forcebly bring him back to the group, to continue to wait. As he is lead away, he notices that Axpal is now up and about, and permitted to enter the war room. Before the Council’s doors close, the spy overhears that the Autarch is ready to assist in destroying the Andromeda.
Brant half sulks and speaks to himself about how he had served the United Protectorates of Oskiliath in the war, and should be allowed to help in the war room. His muttering is overheard and Journ’ee asks the spy to speak up. Surprisingly, Brant does, and begins to retell of his work and his teams mission in sabotaging the construction of the Andromeda. Sneaking on board in enemy lands, and planting explosive charges. His team’s efforts prevented the Andromeda from joining the first war. This act of bravery surely saved thousands of lives by stopping the second dreadnaught from taking off. Brant admits he thought the mission had been a success, but when he saw the vessel in Maurdórne after Anton had passed, his heart stood still a moment. They had rebuilt it.
Journ’ee pipes up, and declares, “ah ha. Zat ees where I know you from zen?”
Brant looks confused, but so to do other party members. This does not stop the newest dwarf though who continues to point out that it was he who had sold Brant the explosives for that very mission.
There is no time for questions, as Prodomicus returns to the group. Not from the war chamber direction, but instead from beyond the grand bronze doors leading into the Sultan’s throne room.
“He is ready for you now” says the bronze dragonoid, “it is time”.