Codex VIII-Chapter 3

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Sethrayin was massively impressive, large enough that they could see and inspect it for almost two full days before arriving at it. Even Hammerdine paled in comparison. The capitol sprawled out from the North Gallidan Sea, covering an amount of land that, frankly, astonished Khaska and Aestus. (Orensland and Sanjin had their memories of Dreqorun to compare it to, and though the comparison was a bit apples to oranges, their elven sensibilities were not as impressed.) There were two major buildings visible for several days as they approached the city. One of them must be the palace of Emperor Ashlotle, a gaudy-looking display of ostentatiousness. The other seemed to gleam whenever the light caught it, a huge building that looked coated in gold. This, then, was probably the Cathedral of Thakillestra the Gold.

There was a decent skyship port to the south of the city, so this time they didn’t need to land the Randale in the water. They did have to pay an official dockmaster for their place, though, a little bit of coin that made Greygook a bit incensed. “They don’t own the skies! They shouldn’t own the ships that float here!”

The city itself was like Cyriest in architecture as well as culture. The intervening weeks had brought them to spring, and the city was abloom with flowers as the chill in the air vanished. The cobblestone streets seemed ancient, as did much of the city’s buildings, stained from wind and rain over the centuries. Even some of the artwork, fountains and statues and the like, seemed less clean, wear having actually reduced their sharpness due to their age. Aqueducts ringed the city, water flowing through them, helping dispose of waste and bringing fresh water. The city did smell better than any other city they had visited, and that not just because of all the pollen in the air from the blooming flowers. If Cyriest had been impressive, this was like Cyriest doubled or even tripled in displays of ostentatiousness, though it was older ostentatiousness. It was substantially more hilly, and Khaska found himself winded a bit as they entered the gates of the city proper.

“Well,” Orensland said, “I vote we head for the Cathedral first. I know the trail of the seer’s mate has gone cold over the centuries, but I’m interested to see what we might find out.”

Rider Reitman did ask us to check in with the chapter of Knights here,” Khaska said. “We were to give their chapter head a full debriefing on our findings from the Marshes. He was very insistent. That seems the greater priority to me.”

Eryx (DM)
To the Knights first, or to the Cathedral?

Crosis
Orensland's first impulse is to see the Cathedral— he has more of an ambient relationship with the Riders in general. Obviously he supports whatever good they do, but he's also a thief. It feels like an uneasy truce whenever he's in their presence. However, he also understands that the Riders can provide a networking advantage to our exploration of the Cathedral. Visiting the Riders first, we may be able to solicit their aid.

One thing does worry me— our very first encounter with Rider Reitman was when he was in the pursuit of a dangerous "criminal" I personally now suspect of being a brass dragon. That sounds… gray to me. He's not sure if he fully trusts them at the moment.

All of that in mind, he'd ask if we could perhaps split up— one group get an initial run at the Cathedral while the other reports to the Riders, agreeing to meet up at the Cathedral for a more thorough investigation. If that's agreeable with the party, Orensland would prefer to start at the Cathedral. He'd be looking for possible secret underground chambers in addition to asking around generally— we've run into those in the past with other Cathedrals. :) From more of a research perspective, we could ask if they have records of visitors to the Cathedral (up Sanjin's alley…?).

If Khaska and crew just want to do one of them together, then the Riders are probably the best place to start. But Orensland will feel cautious while he's there. Good thing his passive perception/investigation is so good. :)

Thev
Khaska would take Orensland's concern into advisement — he's definitely of the opinion that the identities of the likely dragons we've met should remain under wraps. Further, the experience with the rider in Laishtek seems to suggest that there's complexity in the Knights' opinions regarding dragons. All the same, Khaska would be willing to offer a debriefing to the chapter in Sethrayin on what the party learned of the Marshes (though, perhaps, leaving out identifying information about the druids who rescued us, to help them continue to operate in secrecy).

Somewhat more assertive than in past encounters, and coming off an unprecedently mixed-species dinner in a Tlerian noble house, Khaska would request what information they could share that might help the party gather allies and uncover enemies in the leadup to the Dark Times. It's partly a matter of verifying mutual respect and partly a matter of preparation and planning: if the party has more information, we'll be able to make more informed choices about where we'd want to go next. Even though, of course, determine our own path, and are under no obligation to the Knights. (And Khaska, having his own goals and knowing what happened with Tawru, does not plan on joining the Order.)

He'd support Orensland's scouting of the cathedral, but given Orensland's skepticism and keen insight, Khaska would ask that he come to the meeting with the Knights and keep an eye out for anything unusual.

Another thing we might want to ask is to consult with the local Knights' library — it might have important information about Thakillestra and even the seer's wife!

DeltaWolf
Sanjin would be more then happy to see what he can uncover in the library.

  • Investgation Check: 17

Musha
Aestus would prefer to start with the Knights. He's eager to report to them their findings in the Marsh and see how they react. Let's see if they take any sort of action at all. Like Khaska, he understands the tactical advantage that secrecy and anonymity has and thus won't be disclosing any info on the druids. He'd also be quite on the lookout for anybody who might be a dragon and try to get to know them. He is now thinking more about how the Knights of the Silver Dragons are an organization of people and will try to associate with them and try to make contacts and friends with several of them. He will inquire of several of them their thoughts on slavery and what they think can and should be done about such an issue and their opinions on if the Order should have any involvement in such endeavors.

Orensland began to shift a bit. “I don’t really like hanging out with the Knights that much. Perhaps you should go ahead without me. We could divide and conquer!”

Khaska shook his head. “Meeting with the Knights should come first. Besides, it’s likely they might be able to help us with our research into the Cathedral.”

“Why do you not trust the Knights so much?” asked Aestus. “I wish they could have stopped more of the slave trade in the Deadlands, but Hyrmaphridion’s words have helped me realize they probably are doing the best they can with limited resources. But why are you so skeptical?”

Orensland made sure they were roughly alone, pulling the party aside from the busy street. “We have met several beings we think are dragons, but do not forget, Elial was, I suspect, one of them. And he was being hunted by Rider Reitman. That sounds …” he struggled for the right word “… grey to me.” Then the elf shrugged and gave his goofy smile. “Besides, I’m a thief. I’m bound to not trust those in authority.”

Khaska put his hand on Orensland’s shoulder. “Your skepticism and keen eye are exactly why I want you there when we meet with the Knights. Perhaps you might notice something unusual that I would miss. We can scout the cathedral later.”

Orensland thought about it, then nodded.

Finding the Knights' chapterhouse was easy enough, though it was deep in the city and it took nearly an hour of walking to get there. Orensland was about to give up and pay for some kind of transportation, but by the time he thought of that they were close enough that they would not be bothered.

Khaska approached the Knights at the entrance to the large building that apparently served as the chapterhouse here in Sethrayin. He had Rider Reitman’s letter at the ready.

“Greetings, honorable Knights,” he said. He held out the letter. “We come on urgent business, and request a meeting with your chapter head at the behest of Rider Reitman, of the Hammerdine chapter.”

“Ah, Khaska of the Mawkhavi Tribe!” came a voice. A knight nearby approached, a younger man, perhaps in his early thirties, dressed in simple robes, but with a rapier at his side. Aestus noticed that it was a functional rapier—not the gaudy ones the nobles seemed to wear across the entire empire. This newcomer waved off the guards. “As you were, please. We have been expecting Khaska and his friends, of course. Welcome, Orensland, Sanjin, and Rynn! We have word of your coming and every courtesy is to be extended to you. Please, follow me.”

“Ah, excuse me,” Sanjin said, pointing to Aestus. “This is Aestus Fellblade. He is a more recent traveling companion of our group.”

The Knight seemed surprised. “I hope nothing ill has happened to your friend Rynn!”

“His path has taken him down a different road, though one more happy for him,” Khaska said. “And you are, sir,” inquired Khaska, following the Knight as he began to walk into the building.

“Forgive my manners,” he said, turning with a flourishing bow. “I am Sir Adriano Mistretta, and I have the honor of serving my country by being an active member of the Knights of the Silver Dragons.”

“Were you waiting for us?” asked Sanjin.

“The officers of the chapter have been asked to keep an eye out for you,” he said. “I just happened to be the lucky one to have noticed you first. As I said, you are expected.” At this, he grabbed a nearby Knight. “Please go alert Rider Valnala. Have him come to Sir Perone’s office.” The young man saluted and practically ran to fulfill his charge. Khaska and Orensland exchanged glances. Another Dragon Rider. That meant another dragon.

Sir Mistretta seemed very down to business and various knights and acolytes cleared the way as he marched up several flights of stairs and down a long corridor. He knocked on the door to a room, and then walked in.

Sir Perone,” he said, “the adventurers Rider Reitman told us to expect.”

Sir Perone was a much older gentleman, dressed in fine leather armor with the crest of the Knights emblazoned on the vest. He, too, had a rapier at his side and stood up quickly, whip fast, his thin body nimble despite his obvious advanced age.

“You are dismissed,” he said to the young Knight that was standing by his side going over some papers. He didn’t give the young Knight another glance, and that young man hurriedly collected his papers and scurried from the room.

“Please, come in. Sir Mistretta, have food and drink sent up immediately.”

“Sir,” Knight Mistretta saluted, hand to chest, and then disappeared.

Sir Perone quickly pulled up some chairs to surround his desk. “Rider Reitman has told us to expect you and given some small hints of what you have discovered. Rider Valnala has come to help debrief you and take word to the Grandmaster himself. I’ll have word sent to the Golden Cask, where rooms will be ready for your, free of charge, during your stay her in Sethrayin.” At this, Orensland whistled. The Golden Cask was world-renowned for its hospitality. Even he, lowly criminal, had heard people reminisce that when they would “make it big” they might spend a night or two there. “Do you require anything else?”

“Not at the moment, Sir Knight,” Khaska said. “Your hospitality is very generous.”

The door opened, and Rider Valnala walked in. No, not walked. Glided. Sanjin and Orensland immediately noted his elven features. He had on finely crafted and decorated plate armor and the sword at his side looked exquisitely smithed. Despite his armor, he moved quietly, an economy of movement that showed Aestus, used to sizing up opponents in a moment, that he was a skilled warrior.

“Gentlemen,” he said, giving a deep bow, “welcome to the Sethrayin chapterhouse.” He moved over to the desk and sat down in Sir Perone’s chair. “I hear you have some information to impart of serious import. I have come to personally debrief you on the matters.” He put down a scroll and began to unfurl it, taking a quill from Sir Perone’s desk. Then the elf glanced at the human. “Rooms have been provided for them?”

“As ordered, sir,” he replied. Just then several acolytes returned with some hors d’oeuvres and a pitcher of water with cups, which they quickly set up on a side table before leaving.

“Thank you, Sir Perone. That will be all.” Sir Perone saluted, and then turned and left, shutting the door behind him.

“Your dragon isn’t here?” asked Aestus. “Don’t you usually travel with them?”

“This is one of the chapterhouses that has a chamber specifically for holding dragons when Dragonriders are present. Chronas is there.” He touched his dragon orb, itself held on a necklace of complicated elven gold craftwork. “I am still in control of her. She would have to be more than a thousand miles away for me to lose her. We are quite safe with her downstairs.”

Aestus shrugged. “All the better. I met Khalisara recently. He wanted to spar with me, as I had with his dragonrider, but she didn’t let him.”

“Nor would I let you,” he said. “But if you want to spar with some of the lesser Knights, that could certainly be arranged. But you are no ranger.” He turned to Khaska. “Has Rynn Fowler fallen in battle?”

“Rynn has found his peace elsewhere,” Khaska said. “He no longer travels with us. This is Aestus Fellblade.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Master Fellblade. You are from the Death Side?”

“I am,” Aestus replied. “Trained and lived in Darkcrest, now Dusklight.”

“Your last name is that of an orc clan, I believe,” the dragonrider said, his green eyes boring into Aestus. “Coincidence?”

Aestus shook his head, surprised by the Rider’s knowledge of the Deadlands. “The Fell clan kidnapped me as a child and sold me into slavery. I took their name to inspire fear in others as they once did in me.”

“Noble to take your suffering and turn it to strength.” His eyes darted over Aestus. “I think it might do some of the fops here to face a real warrior in training.” He smiled. “And it might be a reasonably good workout for you if you wanted to take enough time.”

“I would be honored to spar with any of your Knights,” Aestus said.

“But first,” Rider Valnala said, “Rider Reitman indicated you have discovered a mass of chromatic dragons in the swamps.” He dipped the quill in the ink and hovered it over the blank scroll in front of him. “Please tell me everything. I will take my report directly to Grandmaster Earthshaper at the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance, and the Dragonrider Council will decide how to act.”

Eryx (DM)
What exactly do you wish to tell Dragonrider Valnala? Just give me bullet points, and then we’ll move forward from here. Musha, may I assume that you would be happy to spar with some Knights and to make friends with them that way, per your post, to then ask about slavery and their Order’s response to it flourishing on the Death Side.

I’ll use your Investigation Roll in the next post, DeltaWolf.

Thev
Khaska is impressed by Valnala's knowledge of the Death Side — and also by the party's more courteous reception here than in Cyriest. He'd be watching Orensland for any signs the elf might wish to send to communicate his impressions of Valnala, and would attempt an Insight check himself:

20 = 11 + 9

If if seems that Valnala is trustworthy (or, rather, that there aren't obvious causes for alarm), here's what Khaska would like to share:

  • The party entered the Marshes in an attempt to investigate what was going on in the interior, especially with the slave trade that the party had previously disrupted.
  • We didn't get too far ourselves, but did encounter someone with more knowledge of the workings of the Cult within the Marshes.
  • This someone is trustworthy, and for their security wishes to remain anonymous and undescribed.
  • A report on what this "someone" (the druids, collectively treated as an individual as an extra measure of security) told us about the center of the Marshes (the Shrine to Tiamat, reports on the number of dragons, creation of dragon hybrid creatures, and more).

What do folks think of that?

Crosis
We might as well mention we fought a dragon ourselves, so our information is more than secondhand. :)

Otherwise, I think it's good. I'm not entirely sure why we're trying to avoid mentioning the druids— it seems to me the Cult is already well aware of them, and knowledge of their presence in the Marshes would not put them in any more danger than they already are.

Orensland would also like to ask Valnala if the dragonriders were aware that more dragons existed beyond their power in any capacity. Orensland would be trying to detect if Valnala is lying in his reply— he's trying to suss out if they were hunting a brass dragon earlier. Would you like me to roll for that, or would you prefer to do that roll on your own so I don't know if I did well or poorly?

Musha
As far as the group is concerned, Aestus has nothing more to add or subtract. He would, with some pride, enjoy talking about their encounter with, and victory over, the (green? black? i don't recall) dragon in the swamp. He will attempt to gauge Rider Valnala's reaction while Khaska mentions the slave trade and their investigations of it in the swamp. Aestus is content to keep the druid circle anonymous, especially as their friend is currently residing with them, and might even react defensively if Valnala pushes to get more info about them from us. He sees no reason why knowing exactly who helped us and provided the info would be of any use to the Order. We have acted in nothing but a trustworthy manner, and thus there is no reason for them to doubt us or our words.

Yes, Aestus would love to make some friends here, via sparring, but his most present interest would be in how Valnala knows of his childhood slavers. He would press him for information regarding the Fell clan, their current whereabouts, and Valnala's own experience with them. He would follow any segues to inquire on this man's stance on slavery and ending it or, gods willing, any information he might glean about his unknown sister. If Valnala has had anything to do with killing slavers or freeing slaves, Aestus would see and treat this man with great respect and honor. Unless he has somehow annihilated the entire Fell clan, then he would be extremely disappointed, as all roads for vengeance and extracting info about his sister from them would be lost to him.

Thev
Crosis makes a good point that the Cult is aware of the rebel druids! But Aestus makes a good point, too, that now Rynn is with them. If someone like Amara (who is, for all we know, now a top leader in the Cult) wants to scry on the druids, finding out that someone she knows has joined them could be a big deal. That's one reason Khaska wants to be circumspect!

As for fighting the black dragon, that's a worthwhile thing to mention! We could mention that we received "help" in the fight, without specifying the nature of the help or helper.

[EDIT: Eryx just reminded me that Khaska offered to introduce the Knights to the rebel druids. So scratch some of what I said above; Khaska would mention that we got help and information from rebel druids and, perhaps, leave it there, unless they have some new way of communicating with each other that Sir Reitman didn't.]

DeltaWolf
Sanjin personally doesn't like to give any information -but as that defeats the point…

Eryx (DM)
Insight check give via text from Musha.

17 + 7 = 24 total.

And given via text from Crosis.

18 + 1 = 19 total.

I'll only accept the first two rolls (the "aid another" rule, which is not the "everybody aids everybody all of the time" rule), but luckily that included the highest roll. For the record, in moments like this I would prefer you to all act of your own initiative like Thev and give me the relevant rolls instead of my asking for them. Of course some times I'll deem a roll necessary, but being proactive will also help things move along faster.

Khaksa did most of the talking, with Orensland jumping in here or there. They stuck to a general description of the situation. They had decided to investigate the marshes after discovering so much of the slave trade on the Death Side centered on them. They did not get too far in before they discovered the rebel druids, who aided them in fighting and defeating a black dragon, Grilrut. The druids were the ones that gave them information about what was deeper in the marshes.

“So you did not see any additional dragons with your own eyes?” asked Rider Valnala.

“I’m sure the dragon we killed was operating alone. He appeared to be only a few hundred years old, born well after the rest of the chromatics were destroyed, but he must have really been an ancient dragon masquerading as a younger one, which is why it was so easy to defeat him. The druids must have been lying,” Sanjin said, absolutely deadpan.

Rider Valnala didn’t miss a beat. “Rider Reitman warned me about your dry sense of humor, Sanjin. You are quite correct that this Grilrut was probably not alone. But I am ascertaining all of the facts here, and I do not appreciate your sarcasm. I have no reason to doubt these rebel druids or your account.”

Aestus held up the long tooth he had collected from Grilrut’s mouth before the druids had decomposed the body. “This is pretty fresh, as dragon’s teeth go.”

There was a flicker of disgust from Alasdair upon seeing the tooth, but it vanished quickly. “A worthy trophy from such a kill,” he said.

“You don’t seem to approve,” Aestus said, having noticed the momentary disgust.

“We paladins do not collect trophies from our enemies. Even an enemy is to be treated with respect, as the brass dragons would have us do, and honor, as the gold dragons would have us do. But you do not follow the Code of the Good Dragons, and I should not hold you to my standards.” He turned his eyes to Khaska. “Please, continue, master cleric.”

Khaska detailed what the rebel druids had told the party—the shrine to Tiamat, the number of dragons, the hybrid dragon-men.

“Thousands, you say,” Valnala said, writing quickly. His movements were swift and economical, and as Orensland could observe, his handwriting was neat and very nice. Clearly not just an elf, but probably an elf nobleman. Well-educated.

“Were you even aware that there are any dragons on the moon aside from the ones you control?” the shadowdancer asked.

“Reports of such creatures crop up from time to time,” he said. “Usually they are false, the tales of farmers or ignorant peasants who can’t tell the difference between a true dragon and a wyvern or some similar creature.”

“Usually?”

“Although I have been a dragon rider for over a hundred years, I have never seen a chromatic that we did not control. If there are any left, they are in deep hiding, and wish not to be found.”

“What about metallic dragons?” Orensland asked. He was thinking of Elial, whom Rider Reitman seemed to be in pursuit of, and who Orensland thought could be a brass dragon.

Valnala raised a single eyebrow, and a small smile crept over his face. “I do not know why they would similarly be in hiding from us. We named our order after the Silver Dragons who perished in great numbers in the last Dark Times, and honor all the metallics by our adherence to the Code. Why would they not make themselves known?” He sighed. “No, the metallics are extinct. Perhaps others exist on other worlds across the multiverse, but no longer on Jenoa.”

They finished their discussion and when he was satisfied he poured sand over the scroll to prevent ink smears, and then rolled it up. “Thank you for your report. I will fly this night to the Fortress and deliver it as soon as possible to the Grandmaster. Is there anything else that I can do myself?”

“I am curious why you know so much about the slave trade on the Death Side,” asked Aestus. “You know of the Fell Clan.”

“As I said, I have been a dragon rider for over a hundred years. I was there when we the council decreed that we would begin pulling our forces from the Deadlands to prepare for the upcoming Dark Times. But before that decision, I was frequently a visitor to our stations on the dark side of our fair moon, coordinating efforts as we could.” He looked at Aestus. “I understand that you probably disagree with our decision. I am ambivalent about it myself. But if we do not win the day against the devils of Arkenos, the problems of the slave trade will seem but a candle to the sun of their invasion. We are preparing for that now, first and foremost, and the strength of our forces is substantial because of our preparation.

“Have we over-prepared, to the detriment of doing good on our moon in the meantime? Perhaps. Time will tell. In the meantime, we rely on the good graces of adventurers such as yourself and what good is left on the Death Side, even if the Bringers of Light are more zealous than is perhaps good for them.”

“We have had contact with the Bringers,” Khaska said. “Their new leader seems to be turning over a new leaf.”

“Let us hope that he is successful,” the dragonrider said. Then he stood. “Sir Perone can see to whatever needs you have. Chronas and I will be leaving now, though I do wish to see Aestus here in the sparring ring. Some of the knights here are too foppish for my tastes, and my tastes are sufficiently high elven that should say something.” Sanjin and Orensland smiled at that. “Perhaps seeing some of them taken down a peg would be an enjoyable sight as they collect my dragon for me.”

“They collect your dragon?” Aestus asked.

“There is a room here designed to keep dragons in, or at least delay them escaping should they break free somehow. An older set of precautions—no dragon has ever escaped the control of a dragon orb and the Knights, but I follow the protocol. Chronas is in my control, but the door must be opened from the outside.” He reached over to ring a bell. Sir Perons entered immediately. “Please have Chronas released, and summon your most arrogant knights to the sparring court,” the dragonrider said to him. “The ones that could be taught humility.”

“Sir,” Perone said, then left.

Rider Valnala touched his dragon orb for a moment. It glowed green as he moved his mouth, muttering words so quietly none of them could make them out.

The brave knights of the order stood ready at the sparring pit. It was an actual pit, designed for spectatorship, and reminded Aestus of his time in the gladiatorial arenas of Darkcrest. But these knights were mostly younger men, excited to be part of the order, perhaps at the behest of their parents, or to impress a girl, or something like that.

Aestus carved through the first one like butter. There were no wooden weapons like his duel-wielded hammer and axe, but the long halberd he selected was sufficient to knock the young man to the ground in two passes. The group watching cheered and jeered. When Aestus took another weapon, a long flail, and easily dispatched the next opponent, there was still jeering, but less of it.

When he selected a longsword and disarmed his next opponent in three moves, there was no jeering.

He had dispatched ten different low-ranking knights, each time with a different weapon, sending them away with bruises and minor cuts and abrasions when a door opened above and Chronas walked in. Her humanoid form was that of an elf, and she was accompanied by a single knight, who looked ready to wet himself. She was dressed in an elegant, yet comfortable dress, modest and plain. Her green hair was done up in a tight bun, and she had long green fingernails.

Aestus immediately noticed this, and stopped paying attention to his opponent for a moment. The young man rushed at him quickly. Eyes still on the dragon, Aestus stepped aside so fast the youth tripped over his feet, having expecting to connect with the large Fellblade. Aestus perfunctorily whacked him on the backside with the flat of the wooden battleaxe he was using for this particular match, sending him facefirst into the wooden wall with a tooth-jarring crunch. Rider Valnala spoke up. All eyes went to him instantly.

“My fellow knights, I leave you now in the capable hands of this opponent. Train well with him. Observe. Too many of you think this a game. The Dark Times are coming, and the devils of Arkenos will have creatures that make this former vampire gladiator look like a kitten.” He put his hands together after the elven fashion, gave a deep bow to Aestus, who gave a gladiator salute, and then turned to glide out of the room.

Chronas glanced at Aestus, then, unerringly, straight to Khaska, then to Orensland, then to Sanjin. Then she turned and followed her rider. After Aestus defeated two more opponents, they heard the thrumming of wings outside.

Aestus continued to humiliate the knights for nearly an hour. It wasn’t until some of the officers began to step into the ring that he even began to feel there was a challenge. It was some time before one of them even laid a blow on him.

None defeated him.

Eventually, Sir Perone clapped. “It is obvious that we have been too lax in our combat training. I thank you for this knowledge, Aestus Fellblade. Please go now that I may properly instruct my knights.” His irritation was palpable.

Aestus was satisfied.


It was just before dusk, so when asked Sir Mistretta accompanied them to the Cathedral of Thakillestra the Gold. He was not as irritated with Aestus’ prowess in the sparring matches as the others were. Khaska could tell that he took his duties as a knight seriously, and that was a difference between him and many of the others here in Sethrayin.

The Cathedral was a short walk away, no more than half an hour, and when they finally saw it Khaska’s breath was almost taken away. The entire thing was leafed with gold, and the entrance held a giant mural in gold leaf of two figures, one a golden dragon, another a stylized version of Heironeous. Together they both made the frame of the large entrance. The entire thing glittered in the late afternoon sun.

The Cathedral itself was mostly empty, but people were beginning to trickle in for the evening vespers service. Sir Mistretta disappeared to find the a priest as Orensland began to look around on his own. The large windows let in an enormous amount of light, and as most of the cathedral was in whites and golds, the entire thing was very bright. There were murals all over the place, mostly depicting a gold dragon performing various deeds of valor, but always with Heironeous, or his symbol, present in some manner.

Sir Mistretta arrived soon after with an older gentlemen in tow, a balding man with a rotund belly dressed in fine robes and with a large symbol of Heironeous on a golden necklace. It looked heavy. “This is Deacon Valenti Rizzo. He will be able to help you with whatever you need. The bishop, unfortunately, will be busy for the next little while with the evening services.”

“Deacon Rizzo will, I’m sure, be more than adequate for what we require,” Khaska said.

Khaska apologized for the unusual request, but explained the situation that they were looking for records of a female storm giant who had visited Thakillestra the Gold centuries ago, before the metallics had vanished. Deacon Rizzo seemed to think that there would be little information on such things, but took Sanjin into the records of the Cathedral (which were actually in a nearby monastery) while the others stayed to enjoy the vespers service to Heironeous. Khaska didn’t quite want to participate, unsure of the protocols of a cleric of a different God in this setting in this culture, but did sit on a bench towards the back to observe, along with Sir Mistretta.

Orensland and Aestus wandered, circumspectly, after a sharp glance from the Maha’i. The two of them more closely inspected the murals, Orensland noting the progression from the entrance to the Cathedral towards the front, Thakillestra growing in size as they got closer to the altar from which the bishop was presiding over the evening services. Orensland didn’t know much about dragons, but he knew they were born small and got larger over time like any creature. The murals were chronological. They went down one side of the Cathedral, and Orensland noted that the “later” murals usually depicted Thakillestra in a version of this very Cathedral, but meeting with various people of different races, but many of whom were humans wearing a specific crown—probably the Tlerian emperors of the day.

It was about halfway back down the Cathedral when the shadowdancer stopped dead in his tracks. Aestus stumbled into him, a clatter of noise that drew the attention of some worshippers. Aestus didn’t care much for others’ opinions of him, but wary of being undiplomatic he backed away and mouthed a “sorry” to an older woman glaring at him from her perch on the nearest bench.

“What is it?” Aestus whispered to Orensland. He looked at the mural. It depicted Thakillestra feeding refugees, a bedraggled group of elves. The mural had her swooping down in dragon form over the refugees, then in the next panel morphing into the half-dragon/half-humanoid form in the golden robes of a cleric of Heironeous, and then finally with an elven woman, dressed in those same robes and with long golden hair. Obviously Thakillestra’s chosen humanoid form. In that final panel she was serving the elves from a large stew pot.

“Let’s go!” Orensland said, practically dragging the warrior back to where Khaska was sitting. Orensland beckoned hurriedly, and once Khaska saw him the cleric stood, worried at the rogue’s insistence. Orensland rushed back to the mural, the groupm and with Sir Mistretta, following behind.

Khaska stared at it. “What’s so important? What do you see?”

Just then Sanjin and Deacon Rizzo returned and found them. “I wasn’t able to find anything,” the wizard said. “What are we looking at?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Khaska said. Sanjin looked at Aestus, who just shrugged.

“This mural depicts Thakillestra feeding a group of elven refugees after their tree city had been burned in the last Dark Times,” Deacon Rizzo said. “She is reported to have been a very good cook, and to this day we have kitchens open to the public all over the city to serve the less fortunate among us. She enjoyed cooking.”

And it was then that Khaska realized what Orensland was expectantly waiting for him to figure out.

The figure in the third panel, the humanoid version of Thakillestra … it was a much much younger Mirwen Taldiril.

They had already met Thakillestra. And she was still a wonderful cook.

Eryx (DM)
Unfortunately, Sanjin's investigation roll did not yield any results on the Storm Giant Seer's Mate.

However, you have discovered that Mirwen Taldiril is actually Thakillestra the Gold. The stories about the "Golden Lady" who brokered a stalemate with Kagu the Cunning make a lot more sense now.

If you have any specific questions about Rider Valnala from your Insight checks, I'd be happy to slightly expand on what I posted in the text itself here in the gray box, but I think I covered most of it. He's flown off to the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance to deliver his report.

And don't forget that your rooms for your stay here in Sethrayin at the Golden Cask are being provided by the Knights. Sir Mistretta will gladly show you to that establishment.

Thev
My literal reaction to that confirmation/revelation: aaaaaahhhhhHHHHHHH!

I shall post more later, but I had to register that first.

[Addendum]

Well, this is an exciting bit of information. I suppose we don't need to consult the library here — we can go directly to the source! Of course, as it seems we learned, the Sending spells don't work directly to our suspected dragon counterparts, and we wouldn't necessarily want to pass this information through an intermediary, so we might need to visit Twilight again. Alas that is halfway around the world and equidistant, is a great distance, from four voidgates!

In the moment, Khaska will maintain his composure, and if anyone asks him about any reaction that they might perceive, he will say that it is appropriately humbling to see such a notable figure providing such humble service. He would ask the Deacon whether he could direct them to one of these kitchens that they still maintain in Thakillestra's honor, and would perhaps proceed there for an evening meal.

Later on, to explain why he and Orensland reacted to the mural, he would say something like this: "There are some things that it would be best to discuss indirectly save when we are not in the company of so many people. When we were in Twilight months ago, we encountered a kind elven lady who embodied the spirit of these followers of Hieroneous, feeding the poor and downtrodden. I should like to visit her again."

… That might be me, as a player, being somewhat more paranoid than I should be. We probably had a chance to discuss those we suspect to be dragons during our weeks of sky sailing, and so even an indirect reference would be clear.

In any case, perhaps there's something that we could research here: any other specific places or practices associated with notable metallic dragons: bronze, brass, and silver, at least. Or if there any notable dragons of those names. That should be a reasonable enough course of study for a party that has come to parlay with the Knights of the Silver Dragons.

After such research, Khaska would move that they go to investigate the nearby voidgate: it's very close, so it would be an ideal location for research.

Crosis
Finally! Proof that we're not crazy and that there really are metallic dragons among us! XD

I think we could still communicate through an intermediary on some basics, though I think we have a long-overdue chat with one of the hidden metallic dragons. In the meantime, however, we would like to know where the storm giant's mate may have gone. Mirwen could still help us in this regard, presuming the storm giant's mate reached her.

Khaska, I'm not sure what details you've shared with our intermediary with Mirwen— does he know we're looking for an individual from centuries ago that went to Sethrayin to seek out Thakillestra? If not, we should be good with the following:

"Ask Mirwen: You once fed the homeless. You helped storm giant's mate [do we know her name?] years ago? Know alive/location? Can scry to talk, we have scroll."

…and then we can use our scrying scroll to talk with her if she's willing. I'd meant to use it to spy on my father, but what the hey, we may have our own crystal ball soon.

I agree with Khaska— we may want to do research on other notable metallic dragons, and locations surrounding them. I would be interested to see if we wind up finding a portrait of Captain Bronzebeard or somesuch.

Eryx (DM)
Your intermediary with Mirwen was Nir. You've not revealed much to him at all.

I'd allow a basic History or Arcana Check for notable metallic dragons, only for those proficient in History and/or Arcana.

If you want to do research, that will have to wait until tomorrow. Vespers is ending and Sir Mistretta assures you that the libraries of Sethrayin will be closed already. The sun has set during the services, and night is falling. But anybody who wants can give me an Investigation Check to see what they might find in the libraries tomorrow.

DeltaWolf

I will take you up on making a basic History and Arcana Check for notable metallic dragons (Sanjin is proficient in both).

  • History check: 27
  • Arcana check: 25

Thev
You can see our last contact with Nir and Mirwen here: http://salvationofjenoa.wikidot.com/sending-conversations-between-codex-vii-and-codex-viii. If we do want to reach out to Nir, we should probably just say something like, "Greetings! We have a question for Mirwen, and we can scry to converse. When would be a good time for her to speak?"

  • History Check: 13 + 6 = 19
  • Investigation Check: 1 + 2 = 3 (LOL.)

Eryx (DM)
With Sanjin's rolls there, he recalls the basics: Thakillestra and Jiveneit are the most notable gold dragons from Jenoa. Hyrmaphridion the most notable silver dragon.

He's familiar with a Bronze dragon pair, Brivos and Quillenesta, who claimed Clearwater Lake as their territory nearly a thousand years or so ago. Endaller was a Brass dragon who favored pretending to be a bard and travelled the world over until his fame grew such that his reputation always preceeded him. Itydnum was a copper dragon who enjoyed pranking various lords and ladies and political leaders, attempting to keep them humble. The elves particularly didn't enjoy her company, as they were long-lived enough that a prank from Itydnum might come to fruition centuries after the original perceived slight or mismanagement.

All of these dragons were active before the most recent Dark Times, or at least, that's what the stories about them Sanjin would know about said.

For that Investigation Check … you will learn absolutely nothing in the libraries tomorrow, Thev.

Thev
…Drat. :P

Musha
Well that certainly was entertaining! I got beat the last time I sparred with the Knights; but this time, it sounds like I was able to teach them a thing or two!! So I'm not sure if Aestus has any knowledge about this Mirwen, having never met her. But going off the assumption that Aestus' besties filled him in on all the important figures and suspected would-be dragons of the area, I think Aestus would clue in that the person they are looking at in the mural is known to them. Although, maybe to make it interesting, here is an Insight check:

  • 10 = rolled 3 + 7

Once he realizes what's going on and the significance of it, he will ask Sir Mistretta about the history of these murals and of the cathedral itself. His objective is to ask if there are other cathedrals built to other dragons and where those might be, but he'll start with this one just so it seems like a smooth transition to get to his main question.

Khaska was a bit taken aback, his mouth visibly hanging open. Sir Mistretta noticed and walked up beside him. “Are you alright?”

Khaska composed himself, nodding. “Yes. Months ago, I encountered a kind elven lady who embodied the spirit of these followers of Hieroneous, feeding the poor and downtrodden. I should like to visit her again someday. This mural reminded me of her, and of her good works.”

“Heironeous inspires many people around the world to do good works,” Deacon Rizzo said.

It was then that Aestus realized what Khaska was talking about. During their travels aboard the Randale the party had shared with Aestus their thoughts about hidden dragons amongst the people of Jenoa. Aestus could put two and two together. He grew visibly excited before Orensland gave a subtle hand motion for him to calm down. He did so.

“So what is the history of these murals?” asked Aestus, rather strainedly, trying to be more low-key, but still gather more information in his excitement.

Dean Rizzo explained that the murals were all painted after Thakillestra had passed away. (Everybody in the party, to Orensland’s satisfaction, managed to keep a straight face at that moment.) The golden dragon would not have care for such displays during her life, but had given tacit permission to do so after her passing. She did not wish to be honored in life, but in memory. The stories and legends around her were selected by the then-archbishop with the imperial throne acting as patron to hire the best artists from the empire and from the far corners of Jenoa to paint the murals.

“And are there any similar cathedrals to other metallics anywhere else?” the gladiator asked.

“Not to my knowledge,” Deacon Rizzo said.

“There are other notable metallics, of course,” said Sanjin. He then spoke of Hyrpamhridion, Brivos and Quillestra, Endaller, and his personal favorite Itydnum. “But none of them were active after the last Dark Times. Thakillestra was one of the few who seemed to survive longer than that.”

“Praise be to Markus the Noble and the metallics that we survived the Dark Times at all,” Sir Mistretta said.

Khaska spoke up. “I think I would like to visit one of these kitchens you keep in Thakillestra’s honor,” he said. “Would it be possible to have an evening meal there?”

Sir Mistretta grimaced slightly and shooked his head. “I suspect the kitchens are closed for the day now, and as we have arranged rooms for you at the Golden Cask you would not, um, qualify as the kind of people the kitchens are to support. Perhaps tomorrow you could spend some time aiding one of the kitchens in their service, if that is to your liking.”

Sanjin shrugged, “I don’t know that we need …” Orensland shot him a look. “Well, that is, I think we would be happy to help serve the needy at such a kitchen.”

Dean Rizzo excused himself when it became clear that their time in the Cathedral was ending, and Sir Mistretta took them to the Golden Cask. They remained mum on their conversation it was obvious they all wanted to have, but not in Sir Mistretta’s presence. Khaska asked if there was a library in the city he could have access to, and Sir Mistretta promised that, with the Knight’s influence, he could visit any library in the city.

He entered the front doors of the large hotel, an extravagant building several stories tall. The entryway was a large room with various hotel staff bustling about the room with golden chandeliers and a handsome dark red carpet with gold designs. Though the sun had set the number of candles in the room made it very bright. The Knight checked in with one of them who quickly came over. “Yes, we have been expecting you. Rooms have been arranged for each of you on the top floor where you can see the city. I can have baths drawn up if you like after dinner. Another patron has invited you to dine with him this evening. I can show you to our restaurant to join him.”

“Your reputation precedes you!” Sir Mistretta said. He handed the concierge a gold coin, which the man discretely pocketed. “I leave you in the capable hands of the Golden Cask and their wonderful staff. If you would like, I can meet you tomorrow morning and we could return to the chapterhouse to explore our library, or to one of the imperial libraries, or to one of the soup kitchens. Whatever you desire. Shall I see you after breakfast?”

“Yes,” Orensland said, almost wanting to get rid of the Knight. This was, after all, the world famous Golden Cask and he wanted to enjoy his time here. And he wanted to talk about Mirwen! “We’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Sir Mistretta saluted smartly, turned on his heel, and left.

The concierge brought them to the entrance to the restaurant portion of the lower floor. A maître de assured them they would be seated shortly, and went to make sure the table was arranged to the other patron’s liking and to announce them. They had a few moments alone amongst the bustle.

Sanjin smiled. “When I first joined, it was to adventure with you because you said things about dragons. Turns out, you were right, and the first person we met you suspected was one actually was one.”

“We must try to contact her,” Orensland said.

“None of our suspected dragon friends wished to respond to magic communication,” said Khaska. “And though I like Nir, this is not a conversation I wish to have through an intermediary.”

“Back to Twilight, then?” asked Aestus. “I look forward to meeting Thak—” Khaska shot him a look that, for a moment, startled the typically unrattleable Aestus, “—Mirwen.”

“Perhaps,” Khaska said. “I wish to do some research here first for at least a day or two.”

The maître de returned. “Come, your friend is waiting.”

The party followed him through the low-lit room passed various tables filled with mostly human nobles, all dressed in very swanky finery. There were a few non-humans, and a few not dressed in their absolute finery, so they felt just a little out of place, but the maître de seemed not to care at all.

He brought them to a table in the corner where a tall elf gentleman sat, in a purple silk shirt and with an elegantly dressed, if slightly scandously so, human woman snuggled by his side. Orensland froze.

“Ah,” the elf said, “my guests have arrived. Why don’t you wait for me in the lobby, my dear. We can retire after our conversation.” The human woman gave him a short kiss on the cheek and turned to go. He gave her a surreptitious pat on her rear as she left, so smooth that Orensland thought he might have been the only one to notice it. It made the shadowdancer suspect the young woman was a high-class prostitute.

Zevhran inhaled deeply. “Well, son, why don’t you and your friends join me here for dinner. On me, of course.” He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief, replacing it on his lap. Orensland had never seen him use such manners; had the younger elf not known his father’s background, he would have assumed that his father was like any other nobleperson here in the restaurant.

Eryx (DM)
Thev, you’ll have to fail at research tomorrow morning in the next post. :)

As a matter of fact, the rest of what you all had planned here in Sethrayin will have to wait. We'll move ahead to another chapter after this gray box.

You’ve been invited to dinner with Zevhran in this stunningly elegant restaurant at this stunningly elegant hotel. We can assume that Aestus is passingly familiar with the relationship between Orensland and his abusive father. What do you all wish to do?

Crosis
*Sigh* and you all thought I was paranoid about wanting that crystal ball so I could keep tabs on my father.

I asked Eryx if I could discern Zevhran's combat potential, and got an insight check of 3 total. In Eryx's words:

"You are absolutely petrified to see him, and can't make heads or tails of him, his agenda, or his combat prowess. :-)"

…smiley face from the text. You twisted man, you.

So basically, Orensland will be shaken to his absolute core. It has been a couple years since his last encounter with his father, and will sink to an absolutely unshakeable state of paranoia. Needing to choose between running, fighting, or sitting down (after carefully inspecting his seat for traps), he would likely settle on sitting down. If he runs, he's not sure he can hide sufficiently well— Zevhran has found him twice now after tracking should have been absolutely impossible. It seems Zevhran has put everyone in a position where fighting will just end badly (on top of being thrown out of this fine establishment, we cannot gauge his combat level— someone might die in the party, even if we take him out).

So the best option, though not his immediately preferred option, is to sit at the table and hear… whatever he has to say. Choosing the absolute opposite seat of his father, he will choose the one to its immediate right and inspect it for traps. He will not eat food at this meal, and probably not for a few meals after. He wants to know how his father found him, what he wants, and try to devise a plan of escape out of this horrible nightmare he has suddenly found himself in.

So his first words, before all of that happens, would be choking out "what are you doing here?"

*Edit:* I rolled 6 +11 for investigating the chair for traps.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin respects Orensland enough to be cautious of his father. However Sanjin has faced (and lived) too many vampires, dragons, and other eldritch horrors to be terrified of one elf vs the entire party. But he understands that some demons exist in the mind.

Eryx (DM)
Give me an Investigation check for the chair (and the food), Crosis.

Thev

  • Investigation: 16 = 14 + 2
  • Insight: 28 = 19 + 9

Khaska, picking up on Orensland's incredible change of manner, will immediately be on guard and alert, studying everything Zevhran does and says. (He'll place himself between Orensland and Zevhran.) If someone's been tracking the party somehow, he wishes to find out how as soon as possible to neutralize that vulnerability in the future. He'll also consider inquiring with the Knights about Zevhran the next day, in addition to finding out where Zavhran is staying.

If Zevhran asks any questions about why the party is here in the city, Khaska would respond that we're on a pilgrimage of private service, using the sensitivity of the matter to politely decline elaborating further. If Orensland seems too overwhelmed to give a good answer at any point, Khaska would try to cover for him, keeping as much of a poker face as possible.

Musha
Not one to abandon his friends, even in the face of such lavishness, Aestus will sit at the table with them. As he notices the anxiety that overcomes his usually very poised companion, Aestus will be hyperaware of his surroundings, even on edge. If this rich elf makes any wrong move, Aestus will be ready to wrestle him to the ground.

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