So this week on the Anduwin Chronicles…

Granuaile, Patch and a nearly unconscious Abraxos remain on the island of the Lighthouse. The body of the Emperor ruined and his soul starting to leave his body. The island begins to break, and list into the sea. The already broken lighthouse crumbling further as Viscaronn’s ethereal form tells his son to rest. The Edict falling from the sky, and huge shards of glass falling. Viscaronn looks to the remaining party members, and blesses the three party members. A blue skinned woman recovering her own mental faculties is also caught in the subtle orange light. The island shakes more, as rocks tumble to the side. The lighthouse collapses completely, into the sea, before Viscaronn opens a swirling portal, and commanding the survivors to leave through the portal. The island rises out of the water, as sand and mud roll down the side, plunging into the salty opening. Under the sand, more water washes away a green solid stone ground. The ground itself form of solid hexagonal groves, with the land continuing to rise out of the water. Unsure what is happening, the four survivors, now healed, flee through the portal. As each of them pass through, Abraxos looks back, and notices a massive tortoise, whose shell was forming the island. The four portal from the shell, to Maurdórne, having realised that the Lighthouse was built on an ancient seafaring beast.

On the cinder blackened beeches or Maurdórne fire and ash fill the air and land. A massive mushroom cloud of ash, and smoke continues to ebb skyward, indicating the impact of the Orion into the Monolith moments earlier. Soldiers are engaged in fights for their very lives. Greyborn clashing weapons and horns with elves, men and dwarves. Around a hundred feet away from where the portal opened, a tall elven man in battle worn purple robes, and commander’s armour and a long pony tail is parrying blows from an Autarch, or similar sized Maurdórnee warrior. From this distance, and looking through the cinders and smoke, it is nearly impossible to work out who each of these figures is, or more importantly who is winning. Then the elf catches his enemies horn, and cleaves through, cutting a second of the bone horns from the greyborn, knocking his enemy to the ground.

The sky splits in a howl, as a massive red ancient dragon flies overhead at impossible speed. Its enormous leathery wings beating, and carrying it forward. It unleashes a torrent of flame from its mouth to near where the Orion crashed, before it turns in the air, and comes to land near the purple robed elven commander and wounded greyborn. A single figure jumps down from riding on the back of the red dragon. The red dragon takes to the sky once more, as a sonic boom is hear and a seismic rumble felt from far beneath the ground. The temperature drops almost instantly, and many of the fires on the beech start to putter out, as winds begin to blow heavily. Almost as though trapped air was rushing out of the Monolith, but also rushing into it to be fresh air. The winds collide and add to the growing storm above, as more and more huge fires as extinguished by the wind. A wave of blackness begins to roll down the mountain ahead. Soldiers fighting further inland are swept up in the wave before vanishing form sight. Greyborn, men elves, all pulled into the mass of shadow. The darkness continues to roll down the mountain, gathering speed. The elven man ahead, turns his attention to his foe, and rather than finish the battle, and fell the greyborn, he helps him up, and hands him a blade. The elf, the greyborn and another elven man who had jumped down from the red dragon hold an alliance, and start to move away from the shadowy torrent and closer to where Granuaile, Patch, Sivaras and Abraxos are huddled. As the trio approach the quartet, Granuaile recognises Hugótaire Strathholme of Naramia as the elven commander, and following him, is another familiar face. Orryon Ma’Talli. Those on the beach, enemies a moment before form as allies.

“Not dead then” says Granuaile, shrugging towards her former ally.

“It is a long story” Orryon replies.

“It is good to see you Orryon, I’m glad you survived whatever happened” she continues.

“If we survive this, I will tell you. Where is everyone else my lady? Is this everyone?”

“I have a long story as well. Magnus and 428 buggered off. Brant, we think is dead, as is Journ’ee. But I kept the fight going, and we did manage to defeat the emperor”

“The emperor is not the main threat at the moment-“

“-Not anymore, hes dead-“

“-Z’at is” he finished, pointing to the swarming shades barrelling towards them.

“What is that?” she asks, her soldiers instincts kicking in, in the heat of battle.

“Fight first, questions later” the healer tells.

“How do we fight it?”

“Hit it with everything you have. There are shadow soldiers. Hit everything that isn’t moral” They agree, as Granuaile issue instructions to Patch and Abraxos. The red dragon flies overhead again, and exhales more dragonfire that cuts into the shades deeply. The fire’s cut down some of the advancing horde, but more and more enemies keep coming. The sky is not home just to the dragon, as an airborne armada of birdfolk descent with spears, picking off those that they can, whilst offer sky soldiers fire bows into the dark mass. On birdfolk seems to be carrying a small gnomish man screaming “Lockfoot” as he too unleashes attacks. Around the birdfolk, are hundreds of thousands of dreadbats, ridden by dragonoid soldiers. Smaller than greyborn cousins, but in a range of chromatic colours: reds, green, blue, white, black and green scales. These new warriors unleash magik and bows into the shadow, before the arrows fail, and the magik becomes the primary attack.

As the dark wave gets closer, Granuaile realises this isn’t just a wave, but that it is rolling army of shadows and shambling dark skeletons. Shades that the party has fought before. Some of them spitting out additional shadow beasts and entities. Claws and long unnatural necks and limbs sticking out of the twisted mass of darkness, rushing and climbing over each other, desperate to claw and climb ahead of the army, and be the first to kill the mortal defenders that are gathering.

The surviving mortals, the forces of Menosophia and Maurdórne now united form ranks against the blackness. The dark mass sweeps over some defenders to the party’s right and all that remains is a red mist. To their left other greyborn have turned their canons and armaments inland towards the shades. The bullets fired but don’t seem to have an effect. When ammunition is emptied, the greyborn start to throw their Anduwin crystals into the horde. The guns no longer being powered but the crystals do detonate and burn a radiant hole in the enemy forces. The holes are short lived as the shades continue to spit out more of their dark ilk. Seeing this and the impending battle. Orryon takes out his fountain pen, and writes down “bottleneck” onto a corner page of his anatomy book. The pen vibrates and the message is sent. Higher than the birdfolk is a mostly bronze coloured dragon, with some grey discolouration on its scales. This dragon moves down, and comes to almost but heads with the red fire master. The two dragons appear to know each other, but obviously do not get along. However, after a moment, they turn mid-air and unleash twin blasts of their breath. Giant cones of flame from the red dragon, and a powerful line of lightning from the bronze scaled Sultan of Derimyre, working in tandem to create a bottle neck to force the shadow army to approach from a single contained point. A burst of magik flashes over head of the party. Turning, Granuaile and Orryon spot Rhogar and Magnus running towards the slowly gathering allies. The pair are speaking in dwarven to each other – gesticulating and pointing towards Orryon, before they take up defending positions around Orryon.

Seeing the bottleneck, and wanting to take advantage of this, Patch draws on Azazel’s power and unleashes a burst of radiant energy. The spell he has used to melt the pirates, or disrupt skeletons. The area becomes infected with divine radiant energy. Each shade that passes through is burnt, and some even fall from the act of crossing the twenty foot zone of nuclear radiation. The feline then takes defence position behind Abraxos, before the samurai orders the other factions of warriors to form up ranks. Dragonoids, greyborn, elves, men and dwarves form up, and joint the pincer movement. Hugótaire adds his voice to Abraxos’ order as the samurai begins forward preparing to cut through those that made it through the bottleneck.

Orryon maintains his light healing magik for those that may need it, and touches Granuaile to ward her against death, should the worst come. Ethereal feather come from the half-orc’s back, and curl instantly around her in a divine embrace, before they fade from view completely. The half-orc appraises the narrow funnel from the dragon’s breath and the shadows swarming. She takes shots with her crossbow; the sheer number of shades making it impossible to miss. She fires again and again, and continues to unleash bolts into the oncoming darkness.

Sivaras takes stock of the attack and of her chances to survive and makes a decision to flee. She ensorcels her body to transform into a giant eagle, before taking to the air, and flying as far and fast as she is able to, away from the battle of Maurdórne. Hugótaire steps forward and quickly thinks about the terror of the situation. Looking from his hands to the shadow, and back, he snaps his wand, and hurls it towards the bottleneck. Chaotic electricity crackles from the halves of the wand and erupt around the funnel. The energy burst in blinding light. Several soldiers including Abraxos who were nearest to the front are knocked to the ground. The energy burns, and as the moral defenders blind back their vision, a familiar haunting face is visible in the mushroom cloud. Two glowing red emberous eyes surveying the battle field. The Autarch that were a part of the battle now march towards the bottle neck, swinging massive two handed glaives. The dwarven wizard and bugbear keep themselves in front of Orryon, and thrown their spells into the funnel. The shadow forces keep pushing their advance as the wave swells and breaks through of the radiant zone. Patch concentrates on maintaining his spell his muscles straining at the level of power. Abraxos stands and prepares to dodge oncoming attacks. Orryon sees his allies about to take a more physical assault, and so weaves magik to his hands, extending his arms outwards towards Granuaile, Abraxos, Hugótaire, Magnus and Rhogar. Each of the five has a pulse of divine energy, blessing them. The birdfolk overhead engage in a flyby, dropping some sort of red magikal weapon into the mass, trying to thin the shadowy ranks, and stop the outliers from travelling a route other than the bottleneck. Granuaile holsters her crossbow before taking out her radiant glass warhammer. She swings, and the shades form seems to draw into a more humanoid form. Its face is a void, but in the vacuum of its visage Granuaile sees her mother’s face. The sight shocks her, so much she becomes stunned to the spot, struggling with an array of thoughts about what she has seen and been through. Feeling herself stunned, she starts to try to speak the words of her teleportation spell. Half way through a word, she begins to stutter, but pushes through this to be able to complete the spell, and vanish, before reappearing 30 feet backwards. Hugótaire begins to cast additional magiks over the martial forces. The blades of those before him begin to glow a slight blue colour, as the greyborn, and elven forces form ranks either side of Abraxos. Magnus and Rhogar continue to level magik into the horde, protecting Orryon.

Seeing Abraxos having fallen, Patch conjures his vibrant, and rushes at impossible speed to his friend’s side. He begins to swing his vibrant into the horde. His blade catches fire as he draws it across the shade. The blade cuts into the daemon and fire burns into its flesh. Each lick of flame amplified by radiance, and Patch’s magik. The flames then jump from one shade to another. Each burning shade starts to absorb the fire, causing Patch to panic somewhat, as he then flees to Abraxos’ side. The samurai draws out his katana, Snowhearth, activating the icy blade, before stabbing the frosty weapon into the fire, hoping to extinguish the flames Patch had just started. His sword misses his target, but in the horde, it does connect with one of the foes. He swings again, and is about to miss, until his arm is shoved by a nearly invisible radiant force. The effect of the bless bringing the blade to bear.

“Shields Up!” cries Abraxos.

Orryon continues to focus on his spell, and moves to try to heal anyone he can. The first soldier he reaches is near death. His body covered in thousands of cuts. Orryon performs a kindness on this man, who will lightly not survive anyway. Near to him, the half-orc breaks out of her stun effect, and rushes back into melee, activating her hammer as she does. Her weapon becomes one of pure light. Divine magik spreading through the glassy form of the weapon. She swings and connects with shade after shade. The now radiant hammer able to strike critically against the shadow beasts. Seeing her attack, Hugótaire steps forward, and places a staff on the ground, creating an energy barrier. He spends time concentrating on this barrier, as Magnus and Rhogar hurl their magik into the darkness shielding Orryon whilst he performs his “kindness”.

The horde advance over the melee fighters, including Abraxos, Granuaile and Patch. The fighters and the party are covered completely in the wave of shadow. Darkness rips through them. Their visibility is nothing, as though in a hailstorm of darkness. Around them, greyborn try to fight, but are consumed before they become a red mist. The samurai fails to move in time, and is cut again and again, taking an insurmountable amount of damage before falling unconscious. Granuaile too begins to fall, but a pair of golden wings burst from their invisible protective position embracing her, and keeping her from falling. As she survives, the shadows continue to slice. She falls again, but draws on her orcish blood to stay stood. Every ounce of her being eviscerated as she tries to hold on and keep fighting. She falls for a third and final time. The feline warlock moves at speed to a rock, and hides. The waves of shades continue to flow over his hiding place, but his speed seems to have kept him from the worst of the cutting daemons. He is pinned in this place, but still awake and aware of the hell he is in, having seen his friends fall. Orryon turns from his duty, as the shadow approaches closer. His own wings burst from his back, as he lifts into the air, rising above the swarm. His magik conjures a poisonous infestation into a single shade, and with his wings extended, his spell causes additional radiance. The prime minister of Naramiá continue to hold his defensive magikal wall, straining against the amount of enemies. Their size and number pushing against his will. Seeing the healer rise into the rise, Magnus and Rhogar charge into the fray simultaneously and are hit by the shades tiny cuts. The thousands upon millions of dagger-like claws. The barrier bows, as Hugótaire calls out that he cannot hold the horde. The spell breaks as wave after wave of shades breach the defences. Orryon ascends further into the air, avoiding the initial swell of darkness. A massive shadowy arm pulls his cloak and smashes the healer into the dark ocean. The thousands of cuts rip into his skin, and he starts to fall into unconsciousness, before his wings pulse and his own deathward triggers, keeping him awake for just a moment longer, before the army of evil consumes him. Only Patch remains. The cat speeds between the shades to the samurai, before casting his thunderous teleport back to his hiding place with his friend. Healing him, as the two stay awake, hiding and alive. Hours pass as the two survivors are too wounded to do anything.

After three or four hours a dark smog fills the air. The shades have gone. Small fires burn emberous, as soot and filth cloud the sky. The samurai and warlock are physically and emotionally exhausted. Footsteps begin to be heard. Calmly walking over ash and chard bone. A woman, with pale grey skin walks calmly through the devastation. Her long black hair tumbles over her shoulders, and knits back into a ponytail. She is young, and surveys the scenes before her through dark eyes. Her make-up is also black and seems to bleed beyond her eyes into reality. Patch falls into his own unconsciousness, as Abraxos turns to take in the sight of this woman. Granuaile stirs, not dead, but impossibly weak. She looks at the samurai, who in his weakness blinks. When his eyes reopen, she is gone.

Abraxos wakes from his nightmare, remembering the events of that day. The Cataclysm of Nehzar. Though seven years has passed since that day, he still is regularly haunted by nightmares of that day, as are the others who were awake that day. He prepares himself for the day. After a lengthy wash, to shake of the residue of the nightmarish memories, the noble warrior dons his ambassadorial robes within his suite of the Solomut Hotel, nestled in the Vale, the capital city of the Provinces of Oskil. The years since the Cataclysm have been kind to Abraxos, and although he was a prince of the greyborn, his abdication allowed his mother Venracka to assume the throne. In response, he was appointed Ambassador to the Grey Empire of Maurdórne. He leaves his blade, and makes his way down to the gathering banquet hall. His attendance is to help clear the greyborn name in the eyes of the world, and highlight the true evil of the meddling seventh Anduwin, Nezhar. At roughly the same time, in their respective suites. Lady Granuaile of Mountainsfoot stirs, and prepares herself for courtly duties to attend the gathering summit, and so she too leaves her suite, here to represent Vespárd. In the time since the cataclysm, the shards of Edict glass wrought damage untold to the free peoples, and in a strange way, unites the free people. Some deny, and don’t acknowledge the new world order, but most have grown in the last seven years, leading to the current month long festival of freedom currently taking place within the Solomunt hotel. As she leaves her own suite, the door to the rooms neighbouring hers opens, revealing a familiar face of Bastel Procter, joining the half-orc noble in representing Mountainsfoot and the Protectorate, Amelie.

The prime minister of Naramia and the healer Orryon made friends after their united battle on the shores of Maurdórne. As such, the elven medic is present, representing Hugótaire himself and the magikal ways, and the interests of his people. The healer has some unique knowledge of one of the newer nations that has appeared since the Edict fell, and so the prime minster was keen for Ma’Talli’s attendance. Orryon buttons his oriental style tunic, pulls on his signature left arm grieve and runs a hand through his hair, still shaved shorter on one side, but not quite as drastic as it had been in his youth. For him, it had not been seven years, but twelves. He leaves his suite and makes his way down to the banquet hall, to await this evenings’ speeches, and the eventual setting of the Grand Conference.

Within the banquet chamber are dozens of dignitaries, emissaries and ambassadors from different countries, factions and provinces. Most tables are occupied, save for one which appears to be hosting only one solitary figure. A human male, wearing a blue duster jacket, with a range of scrolls poking out from various pockets about his person. Although he is sitting, he has not let go of a tall staff with shinning emerald at its tip. His hair is slicked back blond with some brownish elements streaking through it. By human ages, he appears to be in his mid-twenties. From appearance, he fits the description of a successful mage of the Ministerium, who is attending the Festival on their behalf, though he has been seen around the hotel grounds, it appears his sleeping arrangements take him to another hotel each eve. One other figure is moving around looking like she doesn’t belong at the festival, but moving confidently enough to not be approached by security. Her lithe elven figures single her out instantly. Long blonde hair tumbles over her shoulders covering parts of her dark black leather armour. The armour itself is adorned in strange runic sigils and symbols, though to the eyes of those practiced in magik, the runes do not appear to have a function, other than being decorative. When speaking, she has a Naramian accent clearly detectable. Over her shoulder rests a longbow marked up with similar runes to her armour, but equally for aesthetic rather than obvious functions.

A buffet is revealed, to encourage the sharing of different cultures, foods and tastes, with a band providing the background music from across the world. Abraxos, and Granuaile gather food, being familiar with each other from their previous adventuring, before they make their way to the table where the blue robed and dusted mage is sat. A pale gnomish man is serving at the buffet table, astutely. Seeing Granuaile, Orryon joins her at this table with the mage and Abraxos. Immediately, the blue robes wizard turns his attention to Orryon.

“Sir Ma’Talli” he beings.

“I am not a sir” Orryon interrupts.

“I just want to thank you for your… Well I’ve seen you around but have never had a chance to thank you for your service on the day of the Cataclysm, and erm, I am just glad to see you here”

Orryon visibly freezes at the mention of the Cataclysm, before composing himself and replying, “It was an unpleasant day for many people. Many friends did not make it.” He pauses reflecting on those lost, “But you are Cato oui? From the Ministerium monsieur. You’re repetition proceeds you.”

“I know enough to get by. I was just a student when it happened. I wasn’t there on the battlefield”

“It is perhaps a gift and a curse – the elven life line – we are able to live through many tragedies. Please, what are you eating?” he asks the mage, looking at the blue mage’s bare plate. Orryon gestures the wizard to join him at the buffet, and requests that some food be provided to the man, who it seems has been denied sustenance as he is not staying at this hotel. The gnome staffing the buffet provides a selective range of chips, garlic bread and salmon.

As the two leave the buffet and return to the table, the wizard asks who Orryon’s associates are. Orryon introduces Lady Granuaile to the mage, commenting that she and Orryon travelled together for a time, many years ago; as well as introducing the ambassador to the Grey Empire, Abraxos. At this moment, the blonde elven woman in rune armour approaches the table, and asks if a seat is taken. She is welcomed to the table, and introductions are made once more, learning that this elven woman is Siala. The gathered group learn who each is representing, and a glance around the room and dignitaries reveals a great many faces of importance. Siala spies a creepy looking gentleman in a top hat and a skull mask concealing his face. His ears or facial features cannot be seen, and the figure is moving around examining food as though he has never seen it before. Picking up stewed frog, and squeezing it before putting it back in front of emissaries. Orryon notices a man sat alone at a table. Someone does try to join this man, but he turned to an aggressive pose and the second individual leaves. This man alone is an elder gentleman and appears to have a deep red shadow around his eyes, giving him a powerful piecing look. Valrock the deceiver, in his human form. Abraxos notices a male with long white hair, over a black leather coat with red detailing. His face is adorned with a silver white goatee the same shade as his hair. His face is gaunt and sunken in places, as well as pale. Abraxos knows this man to be High Inquisitor Vandrex; the ruler of Sh’ren Ri’la. His appearance at the Festival of Freedom is unusual as his people have been against the alliance for some time. It is also notable that whilst most other denizens of Sh’ren Ri’la are elven, he is not. Abraxos recalls some intrigue from the Grey Empire that there is known to be a secret about him, and it is curious how he rose to his position. The former samurai spends time watching the High Inquisitor, and is able to discern what is being said, by reading his lips. They are speaking a kind if Dornish language, but it is mixed up and wrong in places. Abraxos deciphers that “it has to be tomorrow” as the key phrase.

Siala comments that she is at the conference for all the tall people, but that she is not representing any specific group of people. She shares she does not think she will be allowed into the conference. The conversation continues to the various diners’ occupations and small talk ensues. Midway through the meal, a woman takes to the central stage, and calls attention to herself.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Festival of Freedom, and the first day of what will hopefully be successful talks to further our diplomatic interests and our countries strengths together. I am Jacquwine Stormway, I will be organising the event. We are honoured this evening to have two speakers. Quick speeches from each, as both are due to be giving lengthy talks during the conference. However, we are honoured to introduce the head of the Free Republics, mister Pliskin.”

Applause is heard throughout the room as a man steps to the stage from behind a curtain. A human man who appears to be in his fifties steps out. He has an eye patch over his right eye, and his face is dotted with an array of scars. His grey hair is short, and has the beginnings of a ponytail down his back. He stands at average height, with broad shoulders. On alternate steps a loud clink is heard as he limps up the steps and onto the staging area. Poking form his mouth is a cigar that is almost comically large.

“Good evening all. For those who have not met me, my name is Iroquois Pliskin” he starts in a gruff gravelly voice. “I am honoured to be amongst you all tonight, as well as being honoured to choose Menosophia as the host of the conference this year. I am very pleased and also saddened to be here, for I know that in order to be here today, many lives were lost at the hand of a new threat. Something we didn’t know existed before, which we must embrace. I urge you, in the audience, any of whom deny the events that unfolded, any of you who tried to hide away from it, I urge you to come forth to share your concerns and become one with us, as we fight whatever this foe is. We have the conference to speak of this. For me, now, I just wanted to say hello, and thank you for hosting me, on this prestigious and historic world. I am honoured to be amongst you. I am staying at the hotel, and frequently walk its halls. I encourage any of you to stop and have a chat. I would love to get to know the world that I lost almost two thousand years ago, and to get to know everyone who has prospered here.” His words punctuated by meaningful silence, until their end, when further applause is heard. He raises his hands, to quiet the crowd before continuing, “Now to speak more on the importance of peoples’ rights, and the importance of welfare, and the fact that we must uphold them, and root out those that would undo such protections, I have the pleasure of introducing a highly commended speaker who hails from this very world. He is the Champion of Humanity; The Saviour of Truth; Friend of the Unhorned; Minister for the Furtherment of Principled Studies into the Sentiment Against Those Which Once We Owed Pans By Now Duly Depart the Courage and Hate Attributing to Which Should Divide Us but That Which Brings Us Together; Liberator of Slaves; The Mayor of Rushbrook and Hero of Vespárd. Mister Brant Goldust”

The room erupts into louder and louder applauses as a familiar looking halfling steps out. His face less scarred and burnt than when last seen. He climbs the steps, takes the podium and begins his own speech.

“Thank you for that fantastic introduction. I honestly couldn’t have written it better myself” at which point Pliskin is leaving the stage and he hands back a speech card to the bardic halfling. From their place at the table, those who have met him get a sense this is genuinely him, by reading his body language and micro-expressions, and that he somehow survived the events of the day of the Cataclysm alone.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen, and esteemed guests. We are on the verge of an exciting new time. Our world has now been opened up to many new things. Lots of new places and many new people. We are, in our eyes, joining this universe and we all need to ensure we put our best foot forward. We are now one world and one people. Our past issues and problems must be put aside. We must unite to ensure we are worthy to be part of this universe and to help our world to prosper. The new people we will meet may seem strange and different. Some may even not be nice. But that does not mean we should shun them or treat them differently. Every person. Every man, woman or child deserves to be given a chance just as we ourselves would expect. Do not let the few dictate how you treat the many. Though I hope everybody enjoys their meal and the rest of the event, please remember we are all one.” He steps from the stage to a nearly full banquet hall cheering his sentiments.

“He sounded very wise” quips Siala. She hasn’t finished talking when Granuaile strides up from her seat, and approaches Brant and the crowd around him. The half-orc pushes her way through the gathered crowd towards Brant.

“What the hell!?!” she accuses. After a short pause the bard turns his attention to the solider,

“Well, hello to you too”

“You could have let me know you were alive”

“Well, as you know from when we last saw each other, I didn’t want to continue. I wasn’t intending to be somebody in the spot light”

Granuaile subtly glances towards the stage Brant has just left, where the podium is still illuminated in its own spotlight. “Right… Go on” she encourages Brant notices her look, and is slightly flustered.

“I took time away. Time away from adventuring. From travelling. I didn’t want to do it but I did want to ensure that the lessons we learnt. The lessons I had learnt, about the bad things that had happened, and about the greyborn… I wanted everybody to know they weren’t all the same.” A long breathe out, as the crowd around the pair thins, sensing the personal conversation.

“After my break, I started traveling, and started just speaking the word, just to make sure that people knew. I guess I became a bit popular and well known because of it, because many people seem to care about their lives” His voice raising towards the end, somewhat embarrassed by his noble act becoming one of publicity.

“You could have sent me a letter. You could have sent me something Brant. We travelled together for many months, and fought together. It would have been nice to know you were alive.”

“Yes, I apologise, I should have. I wasn’t sure that I wanted… Not in a bad way or anything, but I wasn’t sure that if I were to continue in that light, I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep the connections…”

“Brant, I understood when you left. We had a talk. You left because you said you needed to and that was fine” She interrupts him, then her speech calms, “I just didn’t know what had happened to you, and I assumed the worst – a lot of bad things happened following the death of the Emperor and such things”

“Well, I mean, I saw you were here with Abraxos, did he not tell you? He did see me.”

“I’ve only just met up with him again, it’s not come up in conversation yet. It is good to see you though” and she genuflects to offer the halfling a hug. When the pair eventually separate from an awkward five minute embrace, a figure in blue robes stands behind Granuaile.

The half-orc leaves Brant and returns to the table, allowing a moment of respite for the hero of Vespard. Only a moment though, as Cato steps in, introduces himself, and rapidly enquires about Brant. Cato it seems is a fan of Brant’s work and words. He compliments the bard on his speech and asks if Brant is planning an expedition into the universe now that Menosophia is a part of it again. Brant had nothing specific planned, and comments that he is just trying to spread the message, and encourage people to be nice to each other. Cato invites Brant to join him, and Lady Granuaile at their table, where Siala, Abraxos and Orryon still sit. Cato urges Brant to remember him if an expedition is planned, as the mage assures that he can be of use and will serve Brant well. Brant joins the wizard and is surprised to see Orryon at the table. Having last see the healer seven years ago.

“Hey Orryon, Brant’s alive” prompts Granuaile.

“Monsieur Goldust”

“Did you know he was alive?” Granuaile asks Orryon, then turns to Abraxos, “apparently you knew he was alive? Why didn’t you say anything?!”

“As you know I’ve been quiet busy with many matters that are still ongoing” the ambassador calmly replies.

“My lady, you sound surprised that he alive –“

“To be fair, without me to defend him, I don’t know how he survivied” she comments.

Orryon continues “-forgive me, but without wanting to toot my own horn… I fell from a window”

“Ah, but we didn’t know what happened to you? What did happen? Did Magnus push you as Brant suggested?”

Orryon takes a long drink of his lotus infused tea. “He did not. There are a great many people who can survive the improbably. The world is a strange place. What is meant to happen happens. It is a pleasure to see you” his last words directs at Brant rather than Granuaile.

“As it is you. It’s a big surprise. As Granuaile says, we didn’t know what happened to you, and we feared the worst” Brant offers in empathy.

“A great strangeness occurred. It has been more than seven years for me, monsieur” Silence takes the table. “Please, these are my new associates…” and a round of introductions takes off again, ensuring that the six sat now know each other, by name at least.

The conversation continues, and old friends talk with each other, to catch up, whilst those who are knew to each other begin to become acquainted. Cato wonders if a former adventuring party is being reformed, having recognised that Brant and Granuaile have travelled before, with Orryon, and then later with Abraxos. However, they all comment that the party is not being reborn, as they each have their own duties to attend to in their respective domains. They discuss the upcoming Triathelus Challenge, where the prize of a magikal Trident is available. Cato wonders if anyone is applying to compete in the contest, but sadly, the Lady and the Ambassador comment they will be busy with their duties. Cato also confirms he will be busy on Ministerium tasks, so not entering himself. At some point during the evening, the strange man in a top hat has made his way around most tables, and is not stood behind Brant’s chair

“-that was a great speech-I was very impressed-may I have you a moment-“ he says, leaning in to speak to Brant, and holding his face uncomfortably close.

“Oh. Erm. Creepy” Brant whispers to himself, before addressing this individual, “Thank you for those kind words. What would you like to speak to me about?”

“-I just think I may have some ideas you may be interested in-“ He looks over to Siala’s stew and dips his finger into it, swirls the food, before withdrawing his finger and feeding himself through a keenly located hole in his skull patterned mask. In response, Granuaile pulls her own food defensively close to her. “-what do you call this?-“

“It’s just a stew” Siala replies.

“-st ewe-“ he comments, elongating the word preposterously.

“Who are you?” the elven girl asks.

“-ah-forgive me-I am Mr Graves-I hale from the Shale-haha-“

“How do you not know what stew is?” she continues

“-well it is unlike anything I have ever been to-your food-this sustenance you need to survive-and ifyou don’t you perish and mold away-does that not bother you-“

“All the time”

“-It would me- – -I do not need to eat-but I can enjoy it-not quite vibing with it yet-us Shales we do not have the joy of banqueting-“

“Oh, so what do you do instead?”

“-we stand in silence-observe”

“I wouldn’t be very good at that” Siala comments half to herself, and half to Mr Graves.

“-Well perhaps don’t come to the Shale-Ultimately I doubt you’d be able to breath- with all the fire and smoke and that- – Anyway-if I could have a moment with mr Goldust-unless you are his family, in which I will speak to all of you-“

“No, they’re not my famil-“ Brant begins but stops when the table seems to jump up as if whacked from underneath

“Brant, we are family, and are here to assist you. Best be sticking together, right” Granuaile encourages

“Yeah, all that unity for Menosophia stuff” adds Siala.

“Oh yes, erm, sure, you can speak openly with my friends here” Brant relents.

“-good-so-you speak of unity-and bringing people together-you also speak about achieving that without killing everyone-I think this is an interesting concept-one that I might want to bring back to the Shale world-How are you implementing it-“

Abraxos puts his hands together, leaning forward slightly, and keeping his observant eyes on Brant Goldust. This question seeming to grasp the attention of the table, but also stumping the bards brain. Orryon offers up a summary answer; that the whole purpose of the conference if to find a way to implement these principles. Mr Graves is then keen to be invites at Brant’s plus one to the conference, as a means to attend. He plans to stand at the party’s table until the conference takes place this evening. Brant and Granuaile encourage Mr Graves to circulate, and learn more customs, whilst Siala enourages him to take a seat and try to blend in. He declines these suggests before telling that he plans to find out more about the Dawnikan people. He overheard some speaking under a bridge earlier today, appearing to be very shady and secretive. When questioned by Abraxos, Mr Graves shares they were gathered under red foliage which he enjoyed as it was similar to his home world. He overheard the Dawnikans telling each other something. He asked them what they were doing, and the Dawnikans told him to leave, so Mr Graves left. He recognised that they had a shady vibe, and that they were discussing assassinations. This picks up the attention of all at the table, particularly Abraxos, who asks who they were planning to assassinate. Mr Graves only know that it is someone important. A blue person. At this, Brant’s eyes noticeably look towards Cato, in his almost entirely blood outfit. Those gathered at the table try to think of significant characters related to the colour blue, but they are unable to come up with any confirmed possibilities, with the exception of Cato, who thinks to the described appearance of the Netheran people. He hasn’t seen or met one, but knows of their descriptions. When Mr Graves is asked if the Dawnikans are in the room, he loudly proclaims that they are “over there” whilst pointing, and still standing, being about as conspicuous as he is likely to be able to be. Mr Graves appears to be pointing to the table of High Inquisitor Vandrex, who notices Mr Grave’s finger. Learning this information, Abraxos excuses himself and warns the event security. The guards tell him that they are watching all people. Abraxos then asks to speak to senior officer in charge of security. The ambassador is taken to Captain Swinly Batton, to share his concerns. As Abraxos leaves, Mr Graves is still pointing at the representatives of Sh’ren Ri’la who were identified as the Dawnikans. Cato encourages the stranger to lower his finger, and offers the masked man his plate, by means of distraction. Mr Graves takes this plate, still refusing to sit, but stands facing a corner, and begins to eat the plate and the food as one. Looking back, the Sh’ren Ri’la delegates, now identified as Dawnikans has stopped talking, and as one, they make to leave the banquet hall. As the Dawnika, High Inquisitor Vandrex, and his men leave, the half-orc beings to follow. Orryon touches her shoulder and a small golden jackal sigil appears on her forehead before fading from view. A blessing from Orryon, to Granuaile, allowing her to move with greater dexterity and stealth. She leaves the table, with obvious intention, but nothing verbal. As Lady Granuaile walks away, several other eventual take place simultaneously. Abraxos arrives as the Captain’s office. The ambassador introduces himself, and tells he has urgent business for the security staff. He warns of worrying possibly unfounded rumours that members from Sh’ren Ri’la may be planning something nefarious tomorrow. Abraxos encourages security to be boosted around the delegates “for their safety” for the time being. Captain Batton tells he will note Abraxos’ warning, but due to the political difficulties he cannot do anything additional to what has already been done. The building is secured, and the guards have already swept the conference hall for threats. Abraxos gets the feeling that this captain is telling the truth about his hands being tied. He cannot act on this information without causing a diplomatic incident. The ambassador takes his leave. At the same time, Brant Goldust approaches Mr Graves, who returns a half eaten plate to the bard. Brant asks him how he knows the people he pointed at were Dawnikans. Mr Graves is very matter-of-fact with his replies, and he knows this man was a Dawnikan, as he has all the signs. When asked, Mr Graves tells that the main signs are that the people struggle to breath on their own world. The Dawnikans therefore wear a breathing apparatus, as they tend to wheeze or choke without this device to help lung functioning. Mr Graves confirms that the individual with the “big mane” is the Dawnikan, referring to High Inquisitor Vandrex. The stranger dismisses Brant, and then begins to lick and try to bite the wall. The bard then makes his way to try and catch up with Lady Granuaile. The woman is not going stealthily, but walks confidently, and no one seems to pay her particular attention. The halfling spy is able to catch up without any particular difficulty, due to his size and training.

Back at the table, Cato, Orryon and Siala remain, whilst Mr Graves slowly licks slightly further away against the wall. Towards the main door of the hall, a familiar looking man enters the chamber, and looks around, as though lost, until his eyes meet Orryon’s. The individual comes across the room, and sits with Orryon. The healer finishes grinding his lotus root, and sprinkles it over his noodles whilst the man, Lui Bei takes a seat. The converse as it has been a while. They speak as old friends. Lui Bei thanks the healer for something, and the new man tells Orryon that he has attended the conference for Orryon specifically. More introductions are made for Lui Bei to the others. Orryon is provided with a message from that which he and Orryon take their command. Orryon is to visit the Stone Circle, in due time. With the promise of courage and direction on offer when he does attend. The Whispered Woods call to him. Lui Bei tells Orryon that since they last met, it has been a further ten years. The Moonglade is reported to shine brighter now, as though connected to even more than before, and the Spire appears greater. Lui Bei is on holiday from his role, and his life on the island. Orryon encourages Lui Bei to be well, before telling him that the world will bring them together when they need to be, before he stands up, and leaves.

In a corridor, Brant has caught up with Granuaile, and explains that he spoke more with Mr Graves, learning why the stranger thinks Vandrex is a Dawnikan. Brant explains to Granuaile about the breathing apparatus. Brant soon realises that he is poorly armoured, and he only has a small dagger on him. Whilst Granuaile is in a finer gown. She is not worried as she has always been able to conjure her weapon to her. The corridor itself is poorly lit in this side of the hotel. This may be a feature for some guests who prefer darker areas. After a short while, the pair hear some frantically shut doors. The half-orc rounds the corner, and spots a double door to a room just closing. She tells Brant which door she means, and gestures to him. The approach the door, and each put their ear to the wood, trying to make out voices or words. Brant listens first and hears some murmuring. However the half-orc comes to listen, but as she gets closer, her head strikes the wood with a thud. The whispering stops suddenly. There is a tall flowerpot and a broom cupboard to try to use as shelter. With her speed, she is confident she reach the broom cupboard to his, but she thinks about trying to feign being a couple in the corridor. Brant isn’t sure about this, and appears to be favouring the plant pot. Lady Granuaile tries to open the broom cupboard quietly, and the jackal on her forehead flashes guiding her dexterity more. The door opens silently, and as she tries to close it behind her, it squeaks loudly. Within the cupboard, are several broom, and buckets, and shelves. Brant dives behind the plant pot, and hides expertly, hidden so long as his pursuer doesn’t turn around. The cupboard door opens with a dull creak, and an eleven man from the Sh’ren Ri’la table stands before Granuaile, bearing a scimitar. As soon as the door creaks, the sound cuts out. Brant releases a spell, as the cupboard and corridor are engulfed in magikal silence. The man spots Granuaile and wordlessly screams. Silence hold strong. She attempts to teleport behind him to push him into the cupboard, but without being able to speak the incantation her spell fails. Instead she opens her palm, and her glassy warhammer pommel forms in her hand. The weapon appears to grow out of thin air as it is summoned from her hotel suite. Hammer in hand, she begins her assault. She lunges first to try and trip her opponent, she does so expertly, but his swings his feet and stands up, before speaking to her silently. He swings his scimitar, and with the half-orc unable to cast her shield charm, due to the silence, the blade cuts in and pulses in a strange way. An odd energy ripples into the corridor around her. Granuaile perceives things to be in slow motion, but her assailant looks to be moving extremely fast. Seeing this, Brant moves silently through the enchanted zone. The elf doesn’t hear him, as Brant tries to disarm the man of his scimitar. The bard goes to deliver a short, sharp jab to the back of the elf’s knee, but his halfling height leads to him missing his target. In the instant that the elf is distracted, Granuaile pulls ono her fighting reserve and takes advantage of the situation to deal a powerful blow from her glassy warhammer. Her body still arching through the air in slow motion, until she lands, almost comically slowly, before returning to her normal speed. The elf swings this enchanted scimitar again, cutting her forearm, and sending her spiralling back into a slowed state. Brant still tries to assist his friend, and this time moves to disarm the blade from the elf. He nimbly stabs his favoured dagger into the back of the elf’s hand. The enemy trying to scream out, but still ensorcelled by the magikal silence around him. The scimitar drops to the ground initially moving through the air slowly, before falling normally, and noiselessly clattering on the stone hotel floor, bouncing from end to end of the blade. Used to moving faster than most, Brant Goldust skids down and grabs the weapon as the handle is bounced upwards. Seeing this, and her attacker now unarmed, Granuaile moves to grapple the assailant. Her powerful half-orc build, even moving at a slower pace is easily able to hold the man in a grip, preventing him from moving, or attacking. Whilst the elf is restrained, Brant tries knocking him out with the pommel of the scimitar. The elf resists the blow, as Granuaile swings the elf around and throws him into the cupboard, slamming the door and breaking the handle, sealing the elf inside. The door shakes noiselessly as he tries to make his escape, but no sound comes.

Granuaile and Brant exit his magikal zone of silence before agreeing that they would be best suited leaving this part of the hotel, as Granuaile has been seen. The pair walks away from the cupboard and the plant pot, with Granuaile leaving her warhammer in the plant pot, knowing she can conjure it later. Brant leads the way, as the duo go through a grand set of double doors into the banquet hall’s own kitchen. Realising that Lady Granuaile has been cut and is bleeding, they opt to tell a half truth, that they were attacked. The half-orc female declares loudly that she was attacked in the corridor before Brant the Hero saved her. She begs the kitchen staff to summon the guard as although Brant has rescued her, she believes the attacker may still be out there. Collapsed on the kitchen floor, the half-orc adds ketchup to her dress, mixing with her actual blood. One particularly bold chef takes up his food preparation knife, before inciting a sense of chivalry in the other chefs, who cannot bear for a woman to be attacked. Each of the chefs then takes up arms, or sorts. A motley array or steak knives, rolling pins, toasting forks and carving knives, before leaving the kitchen, down the hallway. One knees next to Brant and offers him a large fish, almost as big as he is, “on the house”. From the kitchen the chefs marching down the corridor sound brave. It may have been a long and bold battle or a short brutal massacre, but Brant and Granuaile will never know as the chefs enter the zone of silence, the last sound being one chef’s pained cries. Brant feels that these actions have doubtless caused the kitchen staff to lose their lives, as well as strike up an international incident. Granuaile tries to reassure that Brant has an alibi, as the kitchen staff were the ones up the hallway, and that saving the Lady of Mountainsfoot has no doubt added to the bards reputation. When the two get a moment alone in the kitchen, Granuaile comments genuinely that it is good to see Brant again, like old times. Brant calls for the guards. He glances down the corridor and spies a number of chefs in a scuffle with several scimitar armed elves. The combat does not appear to be favouring the chefs, and the zone of magikal silence continues. Brant turns away, and finds another entrance into the banquet hall, alerting the guards that Lady Granuaile has been attacked. They draw swords, and rush to Granuaile in the kitchen. Brant quickly tells them that the chefs went to defend Granuaile’s honour. Brant accompanies the guards to the mound of six or so now deceased kitchen workers, before going with them from the scene of fighting to the kitchen, where a wounded Granuaile now rests on the floor, sat up leaning against a table leg. She is assisted to her feet, and surrounded by guards who form a turtle shell with their shields to protect her. She is ushered to her own room to rest and be tended. Brant is brought along too and surrenders the enchanted scimitar to the marshals. Guards attend Abraxos’ table and comment that Captain Swinley Batton wants to see him in Lady Granuaile’s quarters, as he knew something of a plot or threat.

Around an hour later, Abraxos has brought the rest of the table’s diners to the half-orc’s room, to meet with Captain Batton along with Jaqcuwin Stormway, Brant and Lady Granuaile. Batton begins by explaining that Abraxos came to the captain earlier in the day to warn of some plot, but before he can explain further, Stormway cuts him off abruptly, surprised that he knew of the threat to the dignitaries and yet did nothing. The argument continues for a short while, before Stormway turns her attention to Granuaile, asking if the Lady is alright, and allowing Granuaile to retell the story of how Brant saved her live. Stormway commends Goldust and says that once again the free people find themselves owing Brant Goldust a debt of gratitude. Brant then gestures to the surrendered scimitar, commenting that it seems to hold a time altering enchantment. Captain Batton examines the blade before confirming that this particular scimitar is not from this realm. Batton gives the blade to another guard, Henry, who knows of the Dawnikan ways and is able to confirm that the weapon is indeed of Dawnikan design. Batton apologises to Abraxos for thinking that the ambassador’s information was less important than it was. Abraxos turns to include Mr Graves in the conversation as a means to stop him from rummaging the Lady’s draws. Mr Graves confirms that he overheard a plot from the Dawnikans to assassinate an important figure who is blue. Batton wonders about cancelling the festival, but Stormway urges him to allow it to continue, so that all at least looks to be continuing without incident. Stormway wonders about deploying some sort of proactive defence. She asks those present not to talk of these events, as it may cause a stir. Stormway then asks those gathered, given their unique backgrounds and that they appear to already be inside or ahead of this plot, to investigate, carefully. Stormway comments that they are diplomates in disguise but have a skill set that blends to uncovering a dark plot. She comments that some of those gathered used to adventure together as a group, and that they may be able to prevent an assassination attempt. Each of the dignitaries and those who are present comment that they will need to speak to their respective nation’s leaderships to confirm involvement.

Orryon, Granuaile and Brant reminisce of how their adventuring party first came to the adventuring lifestyle. Orryon comments that some force in the universe seems to have brought them all together, with those with suitable skills. The healer wonders what each can bring to the grouping, knowing of Granauile’s skills, and those of Brant. He comments on having heard of Cato at the magisterium, who specialises in illusionary magic. Siala identifies herself as an archer, tossing her bow from one hand to another, whilst Abraxos comments he is skilled in assault.

They agree that this particular mission appear to require subtly, rather than walking around the hotel fully armed and armoured. Cato offers to carry Abraxos’ weapon and to cast an illusion over himself, so that it does not appear he is carrying something dangerous. However, the sword is not keen to leave Abraxos’ company, so he conceals it under his cloak. The ambassador leaves the room, and goes to speak to the other members of the Greyborn delegation to get word to his mother, the Empress, while Orryon, Cato and Siala leave Granuaile’s chambers to speak with the Naramián agents, leaving Granuaile, Brant and Mr Graves in the half-orc’s suite. One their way to the Naramián consort, Cato suggests that they visit the scene of the crime, as time is of the essence. Brant follows and then joins the mage, the healer and the archer, offering to show them what he saw and where. The healer touches Cato’s robes and mutters a few words. Over them both translucent golden feathers form into wings wrapped around them, before shifting into armour, and becoming invisible; a magikal protection for Orryon and Cato. Granuaile dons her armour, and makes her own way to the once silent corridor. Abraxos returns in his ambassador’s robes, thinking that full armour may be too suspicious. Not being dismissed, Mr Graves follows the party to the scene of the incident. Several guards stand watch at the ends of the corridor, not allowing other hotel guests to use the hallway. The party arrives and are allowed to enter. At which, Brant shows the group the room, which appears empty, but is naught by a food storage area. A thin window, too small to squeeze through allows natural light into the room. Crates of dried fruits and flour adorn shelves in this room, with no obvious sign of a struggle or of malicious plots taking place. One guard tells that the chef’s bodies have been moved to another room down the corridor for identification by those who were involved in the attack. Brant is lead down the hallway to the make-shift mortuary. Six chefs’ bodies lay on six tables in the room. None of the bodies are those of the attacking elves using Dawnikan scimitars.

The investigation is underway, with Lady Granuaile, the half-orc warrior; Ambassador Abraxos, the samurai; Mayor Brant Goldust, the Hero of Vespard; Healer Orryon Ma’Talli, the Light Barer; Cato of the Magestirum; and Siala.

And that’s where we left off.