The Summer Heroes

Session 21
In Which Mina Has An Identity Crisis

Sanaar finishes his explanations and speaks individually to each of the Summer Heroes. They then leave the Temple, only to be confronted by a very large troll and…Mina?

The newly arrived Mina claims that she was abducted by her twin sister Winifred, who has been masquerading as her since they left Ystria for Sweetwater. The two Minas argue over the Dragon Watch Sword, until Thalion holds on to it while they settle the matter.

Finally, Winifred drops her act, revealing that the newly arrived Mina was correct. She then promptly tries to assassinate Darion, only for Pirro to foil her plan by leaping in front of the arrow. A short race to the Temples ensues, with Pirro arriving too late to prevent Winifred from killing Sanaar. She takes the box containing the impure Sands of Creation and recreates Anaxathraxis and his mate to slow the Summer Heroes (and Venjo the Troll) down. The dragons are defeated without too much trouble, with Winifred forced to escape without Mina’s Dragon Watch Sword.

A large crowd arrives on the scene, with several agitators blaming the Summer Heroes for Sanaar’s death. Darion diffuses the situation with ease, though several of the crowd depart together, still blaming Mina and the rest. Thich and Pirro go to clean and prepare Sanaar’s body for a funeral the next day, while the rest of the Summer Heroes gather to hear Mina’s tale.

Mina explains how she was ambushed by her sister, sent to Skroz, and held captive for the last two and a half months. Her sister has taken over Uncle’s organization in Skroz, and was behind the aborted assassination attempt in Brightwater. Venjo, a (now former) member of Winifred’s organization, broke Mina out, and they escaped through a Temple in Winifred’s compound. Taking a few runestones she possessed, they made their way to the Rotunda, and Lennith and Jahannam. The Sphinxes explained many details to her, now confident the Summer Heroes were not aligned with Glaysa.

Mina also discovered that the trolls of Zacthar’Zaqara have relocated to the enchanted island where the Rotunda resides. Shaktilar, the Troll Storm Mage lost with Juru’s Other Lantern, survived and managed to get to the Rotunda. He reached an agreement with Lennith and Jahannam, received the third known magical ring attuned to the Temples, and brought the troll elders to the island. They negotiated an alliance with the Sphinxes to work against Glaysa.

The trolls sent their greatest champions out into the world to known Temple locations, and to seek the rest. Venjo was sent to Skroz and infiltrated Winifred’s organization to get close to the two Temples there. When he found Mina, he knew she was part of the Summer Heroes and helped her escape.

The funeral happens the next day, with the disgruntled monks absent. Thich publicly reconfirms the order’s commitment to Sanaar’s cause, and they will come to the Summer Heroes’ aid when they need them.

The Summer Heroes depart through the Water Temple and return to the Rotunda. They learn some of what has occurred in Brightwater from Lennith, who has been able to get some information from the Guardian of the Earth Temple in Brightwater. That Temple is run by the leaders of the Curators, of which only Iro remains. Other curators and dissidents who survived subsequent purges by Oswiu, Mellitus, the Corrupted, and the Regulators are spread throughout Penwith, the largest contingent residing in Starll.

The Summer Heroes discuss their next moves…

Session 20
In which the main plot is finally revealed

The Summer Heroes arrive in Auxerre and negotiate passage with a caravan to Soren. Their trip is largely uneventful, as the Summer Heroes (in disguise as the Winter Champions) are more than a match for any bandits or hungry wildlife. After several weeks, they arrive at Tholceus, the entry point to Soren from the east. Wishing to avoid spending as much time as possible in one place, they quickly convince a river boat captain to take them north. They eventually arrive at Sweetwater, the small town by the eponymous lake and at the foot of the mountain on which the monastery resides.

Pirro ascends the steps carved into the mountain side, meeting Abbot Thich at the summit. The Summer Heroes follow shortly after with magical means. All are welcomed and given lodgings and promise of sanctuary while Pirro trains. The monk learns about the new order and its relationship with the wind and water.

Thalion finally has time to teach Mina the finer points of wielding a Dragon Watch Sword, especially how to control it. Their training is only briefly interrupted by a young elf, a member of the Dragon Watch himself. After an awkward interaction, he departs the Monastery. Meanwhile, Darion and Erlindar spend countless hours in the very expansive library, searching for answers, while Sanaar (bard, historian, and expert on The God Who Knew Too Much) avoids contributing to any meaningful discussions.

When Pirro is ready for his final test, the Heroes are surprised to find they have been at the Monastery for a year. Pirro must choose to focus on one of the two disciplines, which will affect his test. The test will take place in one of the temples the Summer Heroes have come to know so well. The Monastery has access to two temples, through wells of water and fog. Pirro chooses wind as his discipline, and Abbot Thich offers the Summer Heroes the opportunity to go with Pirro on his test, if they complete a task of their own: a pesky cloud dragon who has been causing problems for the Monastery. They accept, borrow some of the Monastery’s griffons, and attempt to convince the dragon to leave the Monastery alone. He refuses and proceeds to try and eat them, but is slain. They loot the dragon’s hoard, take home some gruesome trophies, and return to the Monastery.

After resting (and confirming that only a month has passed in the outside world), they venture through the fog and into the temple. Each is faced with memories from their past.

  • Pirro denies Yeronia the aid she seeks and tells her goodbye. She fades away.
  • Thalion is confronted by Sueldor, Alissarienne, and Broderick—all members of the Dragon Watch the Summer Heroes have faced. Thalion acquiesces to Broderick’s request for the return of his Dragon Watch Sword, then watches the Gnome fade away with the blade. The remaining two taunt him and blame him for their current situation, vowing to bring him back to face justice for his crimes, then vanish.
  • Mina is confronted by her mother, who says she never wanted her and purposefully abandoned her. She denounces her daughter’s alliance with Darion and the Curators and asks when she is going to stop lying to everyone, then vanishes. Mina’s scrying later indicates that her mother has reached Varcrist.
  • Darion is confronted by a headless, armored spirit. It reveals itself to be Elegabalor and taunts Darion about the current state of his brother. The spirit then attacks but is defeated by the combined might of the Summer Heroes. It then vanishes.
  • Erlindar is confronted by his father, who taunts him about his mother. After trading insults with a few other members of the Summer Heroes, he vanishes.

Physically drained from their encounters, they exit out of the swirling mists into a chamber containing Sanaar. He explains that he is the Guardian of these two temples, and that Thich’s order share pieces of his power and become Guardians themselves. He then takes out a box containing impure grains of sands of creation and uses it to explain a great deal more about the facts behind The God Who Knew Too Much and their quest.

The story of The God Who Knew Too Much is that other evil gods grew jealous of his domain over the knowledge of the past, present, and future. They attacked him, died in the process, and all domains (save the future) were rearranged and claimed by the remaining gods. The myth is true, to a point.

The God of Knowledge was but one of many gods attacked. Extremely powerful mortals challenged the gods, and the ensuing conflict devastated the world. This Godswar resulted in the remaining mortals (and a few gods who had switched sides) ascending to immortality and becoming deities. They claimed the domains they wished, but no one claimed (or possibly was able to claim) the domain of the future. This domain would eventually give oracles like the Curators their access to divine magic without having to pray to any specific god.

However, the old God of Knowledge knew of this scheme and planned a contingency: the Staff of Prophecy. Once assembled, it would allow those who wielded it access to the remnants of the old gods’ power. Its exact ability and purpose is not entirely clear, but it is suspected that it could be used to bring back the old gods, or challenge the new gods, or even lay waste to the world. It also is rumored to be able to access the Great Library of All, which still exists, somewhere.

The Guardians, immortal servants loyal to the old gods, waited out the Godswar in their temples, some of which contained portions of the old gods’ power. After it was over, they were scattered across the world, separated from each other and bound to their locations. Some of the Guardians have turned against their old masters; some have desired to wipe out all life except those worshippers of the old gods, who could then bring them back; and some have sought a peace between the old and new gods and a sharing of power.

One Guardian in particular, Glaysa, plans to unleash a host of demons trapped at the world’s core. The Summer Heroes recognize these nameless abominations as the same type of creature they accidentally released onto the world. They had unintentionally almost been released thousands of years ago by the Dwarves of Varcrist while under siege. Seeking to prevent a global holocaust, Sanaar enabled them to detonate Varcrist, killing the city and its human invaders. To ensure the secret of how they could be released would stay dead, Sanaar engineered the mass suicide of the Dwarven race.

The second Godswar was avoided for only so long. It is coming far earlier than planned, as a Guardian has for some reason launched an initial strike. Mahra, goddess of insanity and ruler of the Mindscape, has been slain and overthrown. While a relatively minor god, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the new gods realize what is going on. Abajeet’s last wish will have drastic unintended consequences.

To complicate matters, divine healing magic has been failing, largely due to a mortal somehow gaining access to the powers of the old god of healing. This competition within that domain will not go unnoticed for long, if it, or its source, hasn’t already been discovered. The Summer Heroes realize that Lenore’s centuries of impalement upon the statue that healed her wounds is the likely source of this incident.

Sanaar believes the old and new gods can find peace. Pirro agrees with this approach and becomes a member of the Order of Sweetwater, focusing on the wind discipline. The rest of the Summer Heroes are all asked to consider what side, if any, they would back in the coming conflict, as all will have a role to play. There is some discussion, with Darion declaring that he would back the side of the mortals. Sanaar takes this to mean that the oracle agrees with him, but that may not be the case. The Summer Heroes have lots of questions.

Sanaar also notes that Mina wields one of the Swords of Kalora. Surprised that there is more than one, they find out that Kalora split her soul at her death, embodying it in the two blades she wielded. They were separated, and destined to return in the next godswar, either to oppose or compliment each other. Kalora and her descendents were always strong supporters of the new gods, and viewed the Curators as tools of the old gods. Suspicious of their motives and believing them to be too likely to bring the world to destruction, her descendents have vowed to oppose the Curators at every turn, and destroy them utterly. Sanaar does not seem concerned about Mina’s presence throughout his story, despite her family’s opposition to his masters.

Session 19
In which the Summer Heroes get Erlindared

The Summer Heroes dash to the Summer’s Fortune, but are attacked by the Regulators, separated and damaged by magic. Mina gives them time to breathe by drawing her Dragon Watch Sword and shrouding the area in impenetrable darkness. Once they are mostly recovered and able to fight, she dispels the darkness.

Vicious combat ensues as the crew races to get the ship ready to sail. Erlindar almost dies, and in a desperate move, teleports to Ystria, seemingly abandoning his friends.

Without the aid of Erlindar’s magic, the Summer Heroes are slowly losing ground. Darion races from stern to bow, keeping his comrades from falling. Pirro taps heroic reserves he didn’t know he possessed to resist magic that urges him to kill his companions. Several of the Regulators fall, but reinforcements arrive. House Xiri guards shower the ship with crossbow bolts while another Regulator duels Mina.

The ship suddenly vanishes, appearing at the docks of Ystria. Erlindar collapses from exhaustion at the efforts of the spell, a gift from Corinthia. Two Regulators come with the ship, one of whom is quickly dispatched. Seeing Erlindar, the last Regulator leaves his duel with Mina, accepting a vicious strike from behind. Leaping to the docks he impales the renegade wizard. Instead of dying, Erlindar is infused with power and lashes out with necromancy, knocking out his attacker.

Expressing concern, Darion tries to tend to his friend, only to be harmed by merely touching him. Erlindar reveals his father’s amulet has fused with him, embedding itself in his chest. The Summer Heroes are wary about this new development, given the uncanny similarity to Erlindar’s appearance in troubling visions of the (not so?) distant future.

The Regulator is detained, questioned, and handed over to Ystrian authorities as proof of Xiri’s plotting with foreign powers to engineer a coup within the Curators. Darion changes the ownership of the Summer’s Fortune to Carmen. Along with a new name and repainting, the crew should be able to avoid any reprisals or (hopefully) detection from Brightwater.

Mina decides she needs a break from her family, and drops her father off at the home of a family friend who promises to get him to Skroz. Godric and Althea have numerous contacts there, and he will go to recover and wait for her, and Mina, there.

Erlindar talks with Corinthia, finally, and discusses their engagement. The Irian Sister inadvertently reveals knowledge of the temples the Summer Heroes have been seeking, and that their home contains one. The time discrepancies experienced there make a great deal more sense, with this information. Promising to deliver to Erlindar the head Regulator in charge of hunting him (as a wedding present), Corinthia departs happily, promising to fill him in on more information once they have an opportunity to discuss in a more secure (and intimate?) location.

Agreeing to the need to depart Penwith as soon as possible, the Summer Heroes board a merchant barge to Auxerre. River monsters and bandits pose little problem to the accomplished heroes, but their sights are focused forward on joining a merchant caravan. Their ultimate destination is Sweet Water Monastery, hoping to get answers, sanctuary, and training from Abbot Thich and his husband Sanaar, bard and scholar of The God Who Knew Too Much.

Session 18
In Which Many Announcements Are Made

The Summer Heroes decide to return to Brightwater with Godrick via Stonewall. Jojen and the rest of the freed prisoners will depart through Abajeet’s jungle North of Ystria. Upon reaching Stonewall, they are greeted enthusiastically, with the booming town happy to see that bothy they and Aryeon are alive. None are more happy to see them than Feregar, though he is frustrated to have missed out on so many obviously amazing stories. After spending the day reuniting and restocking supplies, they learned the following of events in Penwith:

  • Starrl is developing a significant merchant fleet consisting of former pirates and partial undead crew. While disturbing, it cuts the cost of shipping tremendously.
  • The Republic of the North is rapidly increasing its navy and arming its soldiers. This has greatly increased trade from Saltstone via Starrl, bypassing most of Brightwater (except Stonewall).
  • Brightwater is less than pleased by the above developments, and is denouncing all involved.
  • Ystria is urging caution and cooperation, but has expressed displeasure of Brightwater’s actions to the Silver Palace.
  • Most Dragon Watch members have been recalled.
  • Some Dragon Watch members are about, but always in groups of two to five.
  • The Regulators have been more visible in Brightwater.
  • The Head of the Curators has died, and a convocation is called for in Brightwater in a short time.
  • Rumors exist that the expeditions to recover the Silver Crown, long thought destroyed, have been successful
  • Numerous Curators who have been missing and thought dead have returned

There were numerous messages for the Summer Heroes at the Guild of Sending, including:

  • Corinthia and Dahlia inquire about Erlindar’s health, the latter much less politely, and more repeatedly, than the former.
  • Estrildis has intelligence for Mina about the spy ring she infiltrated
  • Thalion is summoned to return to Darrova to the Dragon Watch to answer for the charges against him
  • Darion is summoned to return for the Conclave of Curators
  • Estrildis demands Talerion and Darion return for the birth of their brother
  • Pirro is warned by Iro that the Conclave might not be safe

Deciding to return to Brightwater via the Northern route, the Summer Heroes arrive safely, avoiding any chance of interaction with Starrl or the Irian Sisters. The dockworkers warmly greet the Summer Heroes as they head directly for Estrildis’ home. Taking refuge there, they catch up on Brightwater politics, learning, among other things, that the organization Mina infiltrated was responsible for the assassination of the Head Curator. After freshening up, they meet Rowena and Severn for brunch, but Darion warns them about his vision of an attack at this location. They depart safely, though Mina and Thalion do track the would-be-assassin around the corner, where the figures magically escapes.

Mina checks her father into the Temple, though they do not seem to be able to do much for him. It is unclear if it is due to the loss of the eyes, the manner in which they were lost, or something else. She also checks in with Lenore, who is doing very, very well. The rest of the Summer Heroes meet with Iro and prepare for the conclave.

Darion and Pirro are the only ones who can attend the Conclave, which is full of intrigue and political maneuverings. Iro, Darion, and Mellitus quickly emerge as the leading candidates. Iro unveils Darion’s discovery of Varcrist on the second day, with Mellitus countering the third day with the discovery of the Silver Crown. Iro denounces it as a fake, but some are swayed thanks to a hundred-year-old prophecy that might tie Mellitus and Prince Oswiu to the recovery of the crown.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Summer Heroes (save Talerion, who is plotting with Estrildis) remain outside the Scriptorium, expecting trouble thanks to Iro’s warnings. They also exchange sending spells with Althea, who is eventually persuaded to return to Brightwater. Unfortunately, she seems intent on ending the Curator threat once and for all, seeing as how they are all conveniently in one place. Alarmed, they try and dissuade her, as well as get an urgent message to Darion and Pirro.

Through Darion and Pirro’s efforts, they are able to push the results of the election in Iro’s favor (using blackmail, in some cases). Mellitus walks out in protest, and the city celebrates the announcement of the results, with a heavy security attachment there to ensure order. Extracting themselves to meet with their fellow adventurers, they exchange information. Darion, Pirro, and Erlindar agree to get to the docks to try and stop Althea’s arrival, which is expected imminently. Thalion and Mina will get her father from the Temple and meet them at the docks.

The first group teleports out of the square, and realizes that House Xiri soldiers are cordoning off the square surrounding the Scriptorium, along with some Regulators. They notice Darion, draw their weapons, and charge. Erlindar teleports them away again, getting past the soldiers, and they race to the docks.

Mina and Thalion enter the square and realize that the Dragon Watch members present are conferring with the Regulators, City Guard, and House Xiri soldiers. They climb the walls and dash across the rooftops to escape the pending trap, hearing the announcement from the Silver Palace denouncing Iro’s power grab from the rightful head of the Curators. Stealing two horses, they get to the temple, remove Godric, and gallop to the docks.

Darion and Erlindar manage multiple incoming messages, resulting in Erlindar’s agreement to marry Corinthia, getting the Hassunai resistance involved in thwarting the coup, and updating a worried Estrildis on their status. She insists that now is an opportunity for them to launch their plans and they have a chance if Darion stays, but he is torn between options and doesn’t know what to do. She promises to try her best to extract Iro, but if her other moves don’t end well, she may have to denounce and disavow Darion and the Summer Heroes. She wishes him good luck, regardless of the path he takes.

Mina, Thalion, and Godric rejoin the group and report their findings. As they dash to the Summer’s Fortune to get it ready for sail and argue about their next move, some Regulators arrive…

Session 17
In Which There Are Many Happy Reunions

After a quick reunion between Erlindar (whose real name is apparently Veserik) and his Uncle Jojen, the freed prisoners and the Summer Heroes flee the scene. As soon as they get around the corner, Glaysa, her enormous Hell Hound, some orcs, some golems, and Krina teleport in.

Glaysa amplifies her voice and gives the Summer Heroes a chance to bargain with her, as they have something she wants. After they make noise trying to flee, Mina causes a distraction which leads their pursuers unsure of which direction to go. THey decide to divide and chase down both groups.

After narrowly escaping back toward the tunnel that leads to the Garden of Light, they watch in horror as Glaysa shapeshifts into a dwarf and activates one of Varcrist’s most powerful defenses. One of the giant, stone pillars, modeled after a statue of a dwarf, animates and begins chasing them. They flee to the Garden of Light as a temporary refuge, and then try and sneak back to the Temple they used to enter Varcrist.

At one point, Darion lags behind to listen in on a conversation Glaysa is having with an unseen speaker, though there is a giant disembodied eyeball floating next to her. She says that she won’t let them get away with the sword, that she knows they came in one of two ways, that the statues are still a priority, and they are still moving. Relieved by the indication that perhaps she is unaware of their possession of the Rod of the Past, the first piece of the Staff of Prophecy, Darion rejoins the group.

They fight one of the disembodied eyeballs guarding the exit to the Temple, narrowly surviving. The Summer Heroes flee into the Temple and rejoin Abajeet. Mina realizes that one of the prisoners, who is missing both of his eyes, is her father. They have a surprised and tearful reunion, and go off to talk. Erlindar also discusses some issues with his Uncle, wanting to hear news about his family and other matters.

Pirro is able to trick his way past the dragon guarding Ayreon’s temple, and finds the collector’s home destroyed. He encounters the sole survivor among the desolation, a numb and defeated Jeanette. Pirro takes her back to Abajeet’s, with the guardian seemingly afraid of the Majordoma.

After learning of Ayreon’s death at the hands of the stone demon, Darion believes he may be able to raise him from the dead. Jeanette leads them back to his home and where she buried him, also revealing that she gave up her status as one of the Unburnt (and the near-divinity that comes with it) to be with Ayreon. They are successful in bringing him back with the Rod of the Past. He thanks them, indicates he is aware of their recent success, and rejoins them at Abajeet’s temple. Jeanette is shocked to find out that the Staff of Prophecy is real, and Ayreon gives some cryptic comments about how she has already chosen her side and it’s too late to turn back.

Learning that Feregar and their crew are safe at Stonewall, the Summer Heroes begin to discuss their next moves and what to do about Mina’s father, Uncle Jojen, and the rest of the freed prisoners. Ayreon feels young again, vows to go off adventuring with Jeanette, and intends to stop in and see Iro in Brightwater as his first order of business.

Session 16
In which history is uncovered

The Summer Heroes considered the best way to use their three wishes, and settled on wishing for the following:

  • knowledge of how to defeat the demon gargoyle (answer: using artifacts of great power while it is not in its protected state)
  • knowledge of how to get to the Temple in Varcrist (answer: through the remaining portal in an adjacent chamber)
  • that Mirth’s soul be immediately transported to the Mindscape

Mirth granted the first two wishes, invoked the favor that the Summer Heroes owed, nominated Abajeet as the replacement Guardian, and disappeared, leaving the gnomish skin to collapse to the ground, empty.

While Mina and Abajeet had a tearful goodbye, the rest of the Summer Heroes tried to notify Aryeon of the latest developments. They narrowly avoided being eaten by the Primal magma Dragon—the Guardian of Aryeon’s Temple—and returned.

Exploring Abajeet’s new domain revealed only one other active portal and 1,000 Sorian soldiers—the legendary Vanished Legion. Leaving Abajeet to explain their situation, they collected the items on Mirth’s body and left for Varcrist.

Varcrist’s Temple was empty (as best they could tell) but still functioning. Exploring Varcrist revealed signs of orcish occupation, as well as an opportunity to spy on Glaysa communicating with Mellitus. They learned that she is the source of the plague statues, and that she has more coming.

Following the direction of the rings from Elegabalor’s horde, they found themselves in the Garden of Light. The rings pointed to one of the pieces of art, which contained the first piece of the Staff of Prophecy. Erlindar attempted to find a way to the rest of Varcrist by exiting through the damaged skylights, but the mountainside would be too treacherous and lengthy of a journey, though the scenario was beautiful. Digging out a collapsed tunnel, they moved onward into Varcrist.

After marveling at the sight of the lost city, they spied Krina and a group of orcs and golems leading some chained prisoners, Erlindar’s Uncle Jojen among them. Glaysa and her two Hell Hounds teleported in, handed Krina three of the statues, and dismissed Krina’s (apparently repeated) concerns about how much trouble the Summer Heroes could cause if not dealt with. Leaving one of her Hell Hounds behind to watch over the prisoners, Glaysa and the other left.

The Summer Heroes launched an ambush, dispatching all of their foes except Krina. Four prisoners died, and several of the Summer Heroes almost did as well. Cursing their interference, but expressing glee that killing the Hell Hound would bring Glaysa down on them, she teleported away.

Session 15
In which much is revealed

Sueldor and Alissarienne, two members of the Dragon Watch present for the battle immediately demanded both Broderick’s and Mina’s swords. Conflict almost ensued, and they swore to return for the swords, in force, and would take Thalion into custody for violating his oaths.
After talking with Carmen and her father, and informing them about the orcs and the armies and the navies, the North swore that it would be ready for when the orcs came.

They also learned about the rise of the independent nation of Starrl, and how they were now suppressing piracy and allowing direct trade between Saltstone and the North without having to go through Brightwater. This was good for everybody involved, except for Brightwater, which was naturally not pleased.

Departing for Aryeon’s, they arrived at Stonewall without too much trouble, actually passing one of Saltstone’s merchant vessels on the way there. Arriving at Aryeon’s revealed his home was still standing, Althea had left, and the woman with the hellhounds was still gone. And no sign of any demon statues.

After an unsatisfying meal, Aryeon led the Summer heroes (except Feregar) to one of his vaults, deep beneath his home. So far beneath that it got very hot and led to caverns with magma lakes. Traveling through a well of pure elemental fire, they found themselves in a temple similar to but smaller than the Rotunda. Inside it was a Primal Magma Dragon, which declined Aryeon’s apparent offer of food.

Now that they were all in an area protected against scrying, Aryeon explained a number of things, including about the Staff of Prophecy and the myth of the God Who Knew Too Much. Or rather, he mentioned them, and then Darion explained it all. Then Aryeon said it was actually really real, and almost no one knew about it, including the Gods. He sought the staff to prevent it from being in the wrong hands, which include, most notably, the woman with the hellhounds, whose name is Glaysa. It was in three pieces, scattered around the world, and the first piece is believed to be in Varcrist, the lost city of the Dwarves.

Darion revealed that he had a prophecy about the Staff of Prophecy and the fall of Brightwater. In it, he and his allies unsuccessfully defended Brightwater against a huge army of monsters (including hobgoblins and orcs); then the vision repeated, only Darion bore the Staff of Prophecy and they successfully defended Brightwater.

Aryeon also revealed the nature of the temple they were in. The God Who Knew Too Much had scattered them throughout the world, each defended by a Guardian, an eternal creature that would protect its secrets for all of time. He also speculated that the temples had something to do with the Great Library of All, or might allow access to it. There are four main temples, and a number of smaller temples connected to each one. They can use the wells of the primal element to travel between the smaller temples and the larger temples. He demonstrated this within the current temple, transporting to a small room similar to Elegabalor’s treasure room.

Realizing that this new room was locked by the rune which they had just recovered, the Summer heroes decided to go through them and see what they could find. They did so, exiting through a long tunnel, which led them to a large jungle. A female gnome ran into them, panicking. She then tried to kill Abajeet, who realized the gnome was Mirth, an annoying, comical, and vicious murderer she encountered in Brightwater.

Mirth agreed to let them pass if they took three tests, and grant them a wish for every test they passed, and owe him/her a favor for every test they failed. They reluctantly concluded they would get nowhere on their own, as the Jungle was – literally – endless.

The first test required chasing Mirth and his/her T-Rex down, using their own dinosaurs as mounts. This was, eventually, successful, resulting in one wish.

The second test required the Summer Heroes deducing which of their number were possessed. They correctly determined it was Erlindar, but neglected to realize that Mirth was cheating, and that Thalion was also possessed. So a partial success, resulting in a second wish, and one owed favor.

The third test required everyone switching bodies and having to slay two fire giants. This caused some confusion, but was ultimately successful, resulting in a third wish.

Session 14
In which a Summer Hero dies

Having successfully defeated the members of the Republic of the North’s Secret Police, recovered Broderick’s Dragon Watch sword, and executed Broderick, the Summer Heroes discovered that more orcs had been spying on them, and at least one had fled. A quick interrogation of their captive from the Secret Police yielded some details about the Arbiter’s organization. A lengthy discussion ensued about how best to handle the prisoner. With the danger of the orc getting away to warn others growing with each passing second, the invisible pixie still out there, and no adequate means to secure him or guarantee he wouldn’t betray them, they decided to execute him.

The Summer Heroes proceeded to both track the fleeing orc and use their map made from a dead orc’s liver, which would lead to some buried treasure. They arrive at an archeological excavation site, overseen by a mixture of orcs, hobgoblins, and giants, all of whom were franticly trying to bury both the site and bodies of their own dead and Northern soldiers. Taking advantage of their arguing over treasure, Abajeet sneaks in and steals a rune, shaped similarly to the one they found on Elegabalor, and which unlocked one of the chambers in the Rotunda.

Setting an ambush, they then attacked the humanoids. Numerous spells were exchanged on both sides as the Summer Heroes tried to contain the threat from fleeing without having any of their own number be isolated. During the battle, Mina killed an enemy possessed by an evil spirit, which allowed her to learn about the woman with the hellhounds and her involvement, the large armies and navies being built by the orcs and hobgoblins, and that Mina’s using her Dragon Watch sword was more important than recovering the rune.

At the very end of the conflict, one final fireball caught many of the Summer Heroes together, slaying Darion. Everyone hurriedly tried to revive him with the precious Breath of Life scroll, but no one was able to decipher its contents. With only a second to spare, Feregar at last was able to manage its use, wrenching Darion’s spirit back from the hell to which it was condemned.

The Summer Heroes buried the rest of the bodies, gathered what supplies they could, found the location of the two ships that had brought each group to Penwith, and put them to the torch. Unfortunately, some of the accompanying smaller ship[s were missing, leading them to conclude that at least some of their enemies had gotten away successfully. Indeed, not all of the foes were accounted for during the battle.

After stopping by the refuge camp to notify the authorities of the immediate danger passing, and to be on the lookout for orcish or hobgoblin warships, the Heroes returned to the capitol to report their findings. They sought and gained an audience with the President and Carmen, but were forced to deal with the presence of the small council, including the Arbiter and his assistant, Krina, the orc disguised by illusion. They were cagey in their responses, unwilling to share much in front of a known enemy whose presence was suddenly much more dangerous. Erlindar eventually settled the matter by attempting, and failing, to dispel Krina’s magical disguise. Before too much action could be taken, Carmen stepped in and dispelled the illusion herself, revealing the orc in their midst.

Krina immediately took the Arbiter as a hostage and summoned two hydras. Conflict ensued, numerous people almost died, and Krina swore revenge, then left via magical gateway. Things were slightly awkward with the Arbiter, who claimed he had no knowledge of events, and everyone believed him. Everyone that wasn’t in the Summer Heroes, anyway.

Session 13

Coming soon!

Session 12.5
In which Jason produces a most excellent accounting of off screen events

The guest rooms of the Margravine’s sprawling residence in Ystria were rambling and well-appointed, but the weak light of the autumn sun was blocked by the heavy drapes that Mina and Abajeet had drawn over the watery glass of their room’s windows. A sharp rap on the door pierced their respective slumbers and Mina shot a bleary glance across the room, met with an equally bleary look from Abajeet.

A second rap at the door, just as sharp and insistent as the first. Mina swung her feet off the bed and staggered across the room. She pulled the heavy wooden door open and light from the garishly painted hallway spilled in.

“Good morning!” said Darion, brightly. Mina scowled and grumbled a bit to express her displeasure.

“Breakfast has been prepared for you and is waiting in the sitting room across the hall,” he continued, ignoring her obvious unhappiness with being roused after such a long night of partying.

The human rogue unsuccessfully attempted to stifle a yawn, costly (and excellent) liquor still on her breath. “Breakfast? Need more sleep. Come back at lunch.”
Darion put his arm out and gently pressed on the door as she began to close it. “It is lunchtime,” he said, “but I thought you and Abajeet might be more amenable to breakfast, so I had them prepare that for you instead. Our meeting at the Palace is this afternoon; I must insist you join us.”

Mina appeared torn between suggesting a bodily storage facility for the Curator’s meeting at the Palace and acquiescing in the face of both the time of day and Darion’s small, unexpected kindness. (She did, after all, prefer breakfast.) “Alright, alright,” she conceded. She turned to face back into the room, where a fluttering of wings and soft snoring indicated Abajeet’s resumed disposition. She wandered over to the alchemist’s bed to rouse the latter, while Darion stood in the doorway, waiting.


The sitting room near the suite of guest rooms was generally overtaken by a mass of pink and purple pillows—the term sitting room having been taken very literally by the Margravine, in this instance—though when guests took meals in it a circle was cleared away in the center of the room and replaced with a proper table and chairs. The rest of the Summer Heroes were already seated—Talerion masticating loudly—when Darion swept in the room, Mina and Abajeet in tow. He ushered the two to their seats and then took his own.

Mina eyed a dark green liquid concoction in a slender crystal glass before her on the table. “I was promised breakfast,” she said, clearly displeased. Abajeet nodded in vexed agreement.

“It is being sent over from the kitchen right now,” Darion said. “This is… well, I don’t remember what they call it, exactly. I believe the term is a ‘hangover cure’.”
Abajeet brightened, but Mina eyed Darion with skepticism. “A ‘hangover cure’? Why don’t they have these in Brightwater? And why didn’t we get these yesterday, or the day before?”

Darion shrugged. “There’s a considerable amount of partying in the city; I’m surprised there isn’t a remedy available more widely. Apparently it’s a concoction from within the Magravine’s own House.” He paused, then continued. “I’m told it’s best to swallow it in one gulp, and that the hangover disappears within a minute or so.”

Abajeet and Mina gave each other significant glances, then picked up the glasses, tinked them together, and downed the drinks. Shortly after setting the glasses back on the table, they both grimaced in pain. “Aww, whaaaatttttt… is…. Arrrrrghhhhh,” Abajeet said. She twisted her face in pain and shot Darion what was ostensibly a dirty look while her head pounded exquisitely.

“I’m told there is some initial discomfort while the elixir does its work,” Darion said drily, “which appears to be the primary impediment to widespread production and sale…”

Mina’s eyes shut in a perpetual wince of pain and she balled her fists up. “I swear to the gods, Darion,” she said, “I am going to punch you in—” she stopped, as the pain abruptly vanished and left her feeling renewed and clear-headed. She looked over at Abajeet, whose expression changed, too, after a few more seconds. Servants put plates of artfully arranged food in front of them, quietly whisking away the empty glasses and fading then from the room.

Bemused looks from the other members of the company indicated that at least some of them had undergone the same treatment. “Our meeting with Their Majesties is at four bells today,” the oracle began. “It is currently noon, which gives us four hours. It will take us about half an hour to cross the city to get to the Palace, and we have been instructed to arrive an hour and a half early to allow time for protocol instruction and additional transit within the Palace complex.

“This leaves two hours for personal preparation. I have selected and laid out clothes for you all in the Green Room, across the hall, and—”

“Why aren’t you eating?” Mina asked, in between bites of an unfamiliar but nevertheless delicious Ystrian dish, gesturing at the lack of food in front of the Curator.

Darion’s eyes flicked down to the empty space before him and then back up, to Mina. “Today’s meeting is with very important people,” he said, “and I would much prefer not to get sick all over the king and queen of Ystria.”
Abajeet raised a curious eyebrow at the half-elf, wondering if this was an actual admission of weakness. Who was this, and what had he done with Darion? “Besides,” he continued, “one does not keep a silver tongue by tarnishing it with vomit.” Oh, there he was.

“As I was saying, outfits have been selected for all of you and are laid out in the Green Room. The Margravine is very kindly lending us some of her stylists to assist in our preparation.” At this information, most of the table lobbed skeptical glances at Darion, though Mina and Erlindar seemed comfortable with the notion.

“There are also matters of protocol to consider,” he explained, his continuance effectively bowling over the possibility of objection, “which I will briefly outline. We will be given instruction in the Palace itself; anything I say that is contrary to instructions we are given there should be disregarded, of course.

“You are not to speak unless spoken to. You are not to show your back to Their Majesties. You are not permitted to bring weapons into the Palace.”

Thalion raised his voice to object, but Darion forestalled him with a look. “The Margravine’s attendants will look after our equipment here. Members of the Dragon Watch are permitted to bring their sword inside the Palace, but a court wizard will place an enchantment upon it to prevent you from drawing the sword on the Palace grounds.”

The Curator’s tone took on a hard, steely edge that brooked no disagreement—a tone he used very rarely, though Erlindar, at least, could recall a handful of occasions, “I will speak for us. If you are directly asked a question, please defer it to me, if possible. Do not dissemble; King Dandolo is notorious for his dislike of people who obfuscate the truth, and of idle flatterers. The King and Queen are to be referred to as ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Serene Majesty’.

“However else things may go elsewhere, this is my arena and you all are out of your depth here. If I ask you to do something, you will do it. You will not disagree with me, or speak out of turn.” Talerion gritted his teeth, but said nothing, a clear indication he and his younger brother had already fought this verbal battle, and that he had lost. Darion’s expression softened a little. “At the very least, we are being given an opportunity to go into the Lido Palace, which ought to be very interesting. And, if I’m the only one doing the talking, I won’t be able to shift the blame onto anyone else if it goes poorly…”


“Is all of this really necessary?” Talerion asked, while an outrageously made-up stylist from the House of Gaga applied delicate tracery in paint to various areas of his face. “We’re from Brightwater,” he grumbled.

Darion rolled his eyes. “Yes, we are, which is why our appearances are so much more muted than they’d be otherwise. It would be a great social scandal if an Ystrian noble were to dress like this, but allowances are made for nobles from other cities. Certain compromises are necessary, however, and these small details are the largest indicators of one’s social rank and status, which is why we are so grateful to the Margravine for her assistance in this manner,” he said, inclining his head to the stylist in acknowledgment.

“This all just seems vain to me,” Talerion mumbled in reply, gesturing down at his outfit. Forbidden from wearing a suit of armor into the Palace, Darion had instead chosen for him an ensemble that included a deep-v neckline and other features that accentuated Talerion’s build. The stylist tensed up a little at the insult, but continued anyway.

“All people are vain,” Darion replied, voice tinged with annoyance. “The fashions of Brightwater are just as costly as the ones here, which you would know if you spent any time in the city, but are deliberately reflective of the cultural atmosphere whence they come. Jewelry is heavily emphasized in our city because of the silver mines; the silk markets here lend themselves to fashion expressed through fabric. And,” he added, “you are the eldest, unmarried son of a House of Major Nobility in Brightwater. Some expression of your…” he looked vaguely uncomfortable saying this to his older brother, “…virility… is expected.”

Erlindar, having quietly stationed himself in the doorway to listen in on the conversation, snorted with laughter. Cover blown, he walked in. Talerion glowered at the elf wizard, “Last time I checked, you were unmarried too,” he said. Erlindar’s visage darkened briefly at the allusion to his erstwhile marriage proposal from the lunatic Corinthia of House Irian.

Darion strode over to the wizard and gave him a once-over. “Did you… did you let your stylist assist with this?” he asked, the skepticism in his voice plain. Erlindar frowned down at his friend, “What? No, she… she was getting… hands-y.”

“What—hands-y? Erlindar, they’re supposed to help with your outfit, that is what they do,” came the exasperated reply. Darion circled around behind Erlindar and brusquely pulled at some fabric; the wizard’s robe pulled in at various spots, and soon he no longer seemed quite as lost in the garment.

“I was going to do that,” Erlindar muttered, in a tone absent of real conviction. Darion circled back around and pulled out a golden, seven-pointed sun that he pinned to the other’s chest; he raised his eyebrows in bemused disagreement with the protestation.

“What is that?” Talerion asked, from across the room.

“I had a goldsmith make our Partnership’s symbol,” Darion replied.

“I thought we were going to have tabards,” Talerion said, a note of indignation in his voice.

“Tabards?” Darion asked, feigning surprise and innocence. “What, and cover up your stunning physique with a bunch of bulky fabric? What a crime that would be for the fair citizens of Ystria, to deny them such a sight!” He placed a hand to his forehead in mock illness and took a seat nearby. “Oh, woe betide any who would suffer such an injustice!”

“I’m—I’m gonna go… check on Thalion,” Erlindar said quietly and slipped out of the room as the brothers once again clashed over a minor issue that was obviously serving as a stand-in for broader disagreements about their group’s leadership dynamics.


The Summer Heroes arrived at the eastern gate of the Lido Palace, an elaborate structure flanked by guardhouses; the decorative iron portcullis was down, but pedestrian traffic continued in the smaller doors to its right and left. Behind the gate itself was a large bridge that spanned the water between the island containing the gate and the palace complex.

Darion took stock of the group: The weather was mercifully pleasant, and the group’s respective outfits had survived the relatively short transit from the wealthy island quadrant of the city to the palace, near the old city center. Each of them bore the newly-crafted golden pins that signified their affiliation with the Summer Heroes, save Pirro, whose monastic training eschewed such decoration; instead, a white swatch of fabric wrapped itself around his left bicep, seven-pointed sun stitched at the fore.

The group had attracted a little attention on the way over, but for the most part they made little impression on the cityscape, which was a large mish-mash of buildings sporting a variety of color, sculptures, towers, and glass. It was, in its way, a stark juxtaposition to the decorative uniformity Queen Auria had imposed on Brightwater, but the anarchic competition of beauty across the city was lovely in its own—sometimes garish—way.

Darion eyed the Heroes with satisfaction; they seemed to be striking the right balance between “fashionable” and “powerful”, and all of them had cleaned up fairly well. Mina’s transformation had been the most significant—the subdued blacks and browns of her armor were gone, replaced by a sleeveless, figure-hugging silk gown, in dusky green hues. Her hair had been swept up and back, pleated into a circular braid and held in place by several hummingbird-shaped pins.

After they had begun their walk to the Palace, Abajeet had drily remarked on Mina’s appearance and noted that Darion was no longer the prettiest member of the Heroes, a comment Darion felt had earned an unkind amount of laughter.

Some dust, acquired in the venture over from the noble quarter, clung to Pirro’s shoulder; Darion gently brushed it away, noting with silent concern the monk’s flinty, emotionless gaze. In a swift, fluid motion, Pirro shifted into a defensive stance and deftly stepped around and in front of the oracle. Darion looked momentarily puzzled, before turning and peering out from behind the human’s much larger build.

“Oh, that will be Alejandro, the Margravine’s primary attendant,” Darion said, brightly, indicating the figure hurrying towards them. Pirro relaxed a little, though he still remained tense and vigilant.

“Is he… glistening?” Mina asked, warily. “He looks as though someone has oiled up his chest.” Darion peered out from behind Pirro again. “I… think so?” he replied. “I think that’s a Margravine-thing, though, not an Ystria-thing.”

“It was very thoughtful of the Margravine to send him prepped and ready for you,” Talerion quipped.

Darion shot a withering glance at his brother. “Don’t be vulgar, Tal,” he replied. “Vulgar isn’t the same thing as funny.”


“You’re late,” Alejandro said when he arrived. Darion’s face crinkled into a mixture of annoyance and disagreement, which the Margravine’s attendant clearly noticed. “Not late,” he said, “not really. The Palace has moved your engagement forward, and so you are late for the new time.”

He hurried them along and bustled them through the outer ring of security while he explained, “There was a cancellation, which moved the timetable forward. The Duke of Zara Isle apparently had a very good night, which has resulted in a very bad morning, and—well, anyway, when a Royal engagement gets moved forward, you are expected to accommodate it.”

Erlindar protested at the obvious injustice, “How were we supposed to have known this?”
Alejandro shook his head. “You weren’t, really. You aren’t expected to show up at the new time; if you show up on time when an engagement has been moved forward, it’s understood you aren’t important enough to have anywhere to be. If you show up too late, it’s taken to mean either that you have deliberately disrespected Their Majesties or you’re not important enough to be informed of schedule alterations.”

“So when in the Fourteen Hells are we supposed to get there?” Thalion blurted out.

“I suggest fifteen minutes after the new time,” Alejandro offered.

He escorted them through a dizzying array of hallways and passages, over bridges and through grand foyers; it was easy to see why one could get lost in the Palace, and clear that it lacked the pre-planned construction of the Silver Palace, and was instead more of an accretion of buildings and rooms over time. Their revised timetable left little time to gawk, however, until their arrival in the Room of Protocol.

The Protocol Room was a wonder in itself, despite being largely devoid of the heavy decoration that characterized most of the other chambers of the Palace. There were no golden vines tracing the ceiling here, nor stylized frescoes from Ystrian history, nor cavorting nymphs and dryads. Instead, the floor was a simple, bare flagstone, the walls of a similar color, though a different cut. Delicately carved chairs and benches were scattered around the room in clusters, grouped around tables with cut flowers and adorned with a variety of plush pillows and cushions.

The real spectacle of the Room was in the enormous hourglasses that lined the walls, however. A third of the way down the chamber, on either side, were tall, delicate hourglass-shaped pillars. Sand poured down and collected at the bottom; after sixty seconds of sand had gathered, the bottom of the glass went transparent and the sand collapsed downward, instantly re-appearing at the top of the pillar and repeating the process.

Two-thirds down the chamber was the second pair of hourglasses—similar in form to the first, but filled with onyx and white marble spheres instead of sand. Each time the first pair of columns emptied and re-started, a marble would drop from the top of the pillar to the bottom. When sixty had been accumulated, they would be recycled in the same manner.

In the two far corners of the room stood the final set of hourglass-pillars, though this contained only twelve stones, and these larger and in various colors, in glittering octagonal cuts. Above the elaborate double-doors on the far side of the room was an enormous wooden carving of the sun and moon and stars, on which was overlaid the date: 7 Arah Anu. For all the magic in the room, this, at least, appeared to be entirely non-magical.

Erlindar marveled at the precision and synchronicity of the room’s setup. “It would be so useful to have miniature versions of these for experiments,” he said, muttering almost to himself. “This must be fantastically expensive to maintain, though…”

Alejandro pushed them along through the chamber towards the far end and the elaborate wooden pedestal that stood ten feet before the doorway. A beautiful humanoid stood at the pedestal, draped in an exquisite pink dress, with feathers and ribbons woven into her scarlet hair. The white horns that curled gracefully up from her head were scarcely visible, though they did not seem to be hidden.

“Alejandro!” she said, with a bubbly ebullience. “And these must be the Summer Heroes! I’m ever so pleased to meet you.” She scratched a quick note on the parchment in front of her before laying her quill down, and her enthusiasm seemed sincere. “I do love meeting to new people, but in this case we must hurry, because Their Majesties have elected to take their afternoon refreshment early.”

“What, in the Receiving Hall?” Alejandro asked, puzzled.

The Mistress of the Royal Schedule tittered with laughter. “Oh, Alejandro, you are so silly. Of course not! That would be ridiculous. They are in the Yellow Room. And so is your audience!” she said, turning back to the Summer Heroes. “Come now, we must hurry. This is such a privilege!” She leaned in closer to the group. “You all must be very important,” she whispered, with a congenially conspiratorial tone. “Hardly anyone ever gets to go to the Yellow Room.”

She waved for them to follow, and Alejandro stayed put. “Good luck!” he said. The satyr Scheduler clopped forward, leading the Summer Heroes down a side hallway they had not noticed before. Darion turned and waved a silent ‘thank you’ to the Margravine’s attendant as they hurried away.

The satyr—Likenga, as she cheerfully informed the group while they walked—had lived in Ystria her entire life and seemed to have been hired by the Palace owing to her apparently unceasingly happy nature, obsessive attention to the detail of protocol, and (it seemed to some of the group, at least) her ability to tell said entire life story in the span of a few minutes.

“We’re here!” she said abruptly, as they reached the end of a long hallway, painted with scenes from the sun god Tohilai’s life. Two guards shimmered into view at her announcement, apparently dispelling invisibility spells that had been cloaking them before.

“Vezen will meet you in the antechamber!” she exclaimed, brightly, before turning and whisking herself away. “It was very nice to meet you all!” she said, her words echoing as she clip-clopped away from the group. The guards opened a set of doors that had been artfully inset into the walls, and the Summer Heroes stepped through.


Vezen—a human this time, with dusky skin and eyes the color of amber—had a disposition that was brusque and authoritarian where Likenga’s was infectiously charming. His protocol briefing was crisp, concise, and effective (and plainly one he’d given many times before). Before long, he ushered the group into the room beyond the antechamber.
The Yellow Room was a light and airy construction of glass and arches, with a far wall composed seemingly entirely of glass with doors that opened out into the elaborately sculpted Gardens of Desire. The term “Yellow Room” seemed a misnomer, though, as the walls were painted gold, and gold leaf seemed to caress the arms and legs of every piece of furniture in the room, while the cushions, curtains, and other decorative appointments were of a similar golden hue.

The overall effect was simultaneously stunning but muted (and so seemed almost out of place with the rest of the Palace) and was enough to give even Darion a bit of pause when the group entered. Their attention was swiftly redirected to Their Most Serene Majesties: Dandolo XXIV, King of Ystria, Friend of the Centaur, and Protector of Pleasure; and his wife, Bakwa of House Eraclea, Queen-Consort of Ystria.

Dandolo was handsome and well-possessed of a regal bearing, but he was eclipsed by Bakwa, despite his fine garments and glittering military accoutrements. The Queen-Consort was arrayed in a simple gown of a deep, burnt orange, overlaid with layers of delicate, sheer Ystrian lace. Dozens of pearls were wrapped around her neck and looped down over the front of chest, while she sported earrings that lined her ears with the same. The contrast between the pearls and the deep ebony of her skin was stark, and her black hair was looped and braided up into a cone, interspersed with here and there with pearls and tiny, glittering orange gems.

After the customary protocols and introductions had been made, Vezen disappeared quietly from the room, while unseen guards shut the doors to the Yellow Room after him. Erlindar made a mental note as he scanned the chamber, looking for subtle distortions that might give away guards under guises of invisibility; he counted at least five, but was certain there were many more.

Their Majesties greeted the Summer Heroes with a diplomatic warmth tempered by diplomatic reserve that was clearly the product of years of similar engagements, though Pirro sensed a slight edge of keenness or curiosity that he suspected was not usually present in these sorts of tête-à-têtes.

The Summer Heroes were seated at the far end of a rectangular table, across from Their Majesties, and plates of small, artfully arranged foods were placed here and there in no discernible pattern (except, perhaps, to Likenga, who might’ve gone on at length about it, had she been present and asked…). The others picked politely at cucumber sandwiches and similar fare, though Darion was perched on his seat, hands clasped in his lap and posture as straight as an arrow, patiently waiting for Dandolo or Bakwa to speak to them.

Eventually, the King and Queen finished their conversation, and Bakwa cast her gaze down towards the Curator. “Thank you for accommodating the alteration to Our schedule,” she said, politely, a comment that invited reply and lifted the ban of silence imposed on the guests thereby.

“We are all pleased to be given this audience with Your Majesties,” Darion replied in a smooth tone, “and are grateful to have the opportunity, regardless of location.”

Dandolo took a pull of scarlet wine from a goblet—an airy confection of gold and glass—while he assessed the group at the end of the table. After he set it back on the table, he spoke, “We are told you all are responsible for averting the Margravine’s death, and perhaps for ending the plague that is affecting Our river. Ystria owes you a debt, if this is true.”

“Your Majesty is well-informed,” Darion replied, simply.

The barest of smiles tugged at Dandolo’s mouth, though it was barely visible to the group because of the distance between them. The king seemed to re-assess Darion in light of his reply. “Deftly answered,” Bakwa conceded. The royal couples’ eyes both sparkled with intelligence, but Bakwa’s bright green eyes seemed more piercing and direct, while the watery blue of Dandolo’s seemed more to conceal and cloud.

His Serene Majesty slouched back into his chair, adopting a more relaxed position. “We hear your group slew the infamous ‘pirate king’ and his lieutenant.” It was a statement, not a question; Darion waited for Dandolo to continue, “Did he mark you when he took you?” Dandolo looked pointedly at the Curator. “We expect the ribbon-lattices on your arms aren’t there without reason; they went out of fashion six winters ago,” he said, clearly referencing the decorations Darion was employing to hide the rune Elegabalor had carved into his wrist.

“May We see it?” Dandolo asked. “Remove the ribbons, please.”

Darions hands continued to rest in his lap. “Your Majesty, I shudder to think what a breach in etiquette it would be for me to undress in Your presence.”

Dandolo smiled with an expression that plainly said, ‘Nice try.’ “We are sure We can dispense such rules, if it pleases Us to do so.”

The Curator’s hands remained firmly in his lap, and the gazes of his compatriots remained just as firmly fixed on him. Abajeet held a tiny sandwich in front of her mouth, clearly distracted by the exchange.

“Your Majesty, though I am not of Your fair city, I cannot think of any part of the Ampiolegge that would compel one of Your subjects to remove clothing before you,” Darion replied. Bakwa’s eyebrows shot up in bemused approval. “And,” Darion continued, “I am sure that Your Majesty is aware that, even if such a provision did exist, I am subject to the Crown of Brightwater, but not to the Lido Palace…”

Bakwa laughed. “Oh, We like this one.” She turned to Dandolo. “See? The Margravine never sends Us anyone boring.”

“The Flagellant—what was his name? Stephen, or Stephanus, or something—he was boring.”

“Oh, Flagellants are never boring,” she shot back. “And anyway, he was right, wasn’t he?”

Dandolo shrugged. “Mostly right, but we haven’t seen the eagle again yet.” He turned his attention back to the Summer Heroes. “Why are you here?” he asked, bluntly. “Our advisors could not agree on an answer. A plurality of them thought you were coming to ask for a reward for undoing the plague, but We disagree.”

“I have… a cautionary tale for you,” Darion said, picking his words, as if through a patch of briars.

“From your sister, the Lady-in-Waiting Estrildis?” Dandolo asked. “Or is this a message from the Silver Palace, by way of the Lord Commodore Merrick?” The king let a little amusement show through his countenance to remove the sting his remark might’ve otherwise had. “Or are you an envoy from the Curators, come to prophesy for Us?”

“My message is my own,” Darion replied. “I am not here on behalf of a House, my own or otherwise, and any prophecies are similarly mine, and do not come from Tintern.”

“Are you the only one here with a message?” Bakwa interjected, motioning at the rest of the Summer Heroes seated at the table. “Is this not their message, too? Or are you not here as a Summer Hero, either?”

“All of them know some of the message,” Darion responded, “and some of them know all of the message.”

Abajeet leaned towards Mina and whispered, “Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?” Mina gave a small shake of her head in response.

“I am concerned about Brightwater’s future,” the oracle said, “and our cities are too closely linked for either to survive without the other.” Dandolo and Bakwa were more serious, their expressions impassive. The king made a small motion with his hand, as if to say, ‘Go on’.

“I have seen evidence firsthand that there are forces at work attempting to undermine Brightwater from within, to divide and distract it,” the Curator continued. “Divided kingdoms can fall to outside invaders—just as Liria did, of old, and Brightwater will need a strong leader and a unified kingdom to weather the storm I have seen on the horizon.

“There were forces fomenting war in the North, and in the south there are pirates flying flags from Brightwater, Saltstone, and Ystria to force conflict between the cities.”

“Our cities have withstood many storms, together and apart,” Dandolo replied, “Why should this be different? You have evidence to present to Us?”

“None safe to bring here, but—”

“Though we have long been friends and allies, Brightwater’s internal politics are not Ystria’s business,” Bakwa interrupted, looking pointedly at Talerion. “Our concern is for the safety and peace of Our city and Our people. Prince Oswiu has been nothing but a friend to Ystria since his accession.”

“I still have no idea what’s going on,” Mina whispered to Abajeet, who responded by popping another tiny sandwich into her mouth.

“There was an orc,” Erlindar blurted out, “An orc in the North. At the Presidential Palace. Under a disguise. Heavy magic…” his words stumbled a little when he noticed he’d attracted the intense and unflinching gazes of Their Majesties.

“Is this true?” Dandolo asked Darion. The Curator nodded affirmatively and Dandolo and Bakwa exchanged a brief, significant glance.


The rest of the audience passed without incident, and the conversation was quickly—albeit politely—steered away from politics for the few minutes remaining before Their Majesties had to depart for another engagement. The Summer Heroes were bustled out of the Yellow Room amid pleasantries and well-wishes, and met—and escorted—by a still-talkative Likenga, who spirited them back to the Room of Protocol.

Dandolo and Bakwa kept a quiet counsel with each other as they watched the Summer Heroes depart. “He has promise,” Dandolo said.

“The younger Albion?”

“No,” Dandolo replied, shaking his head. “Perhaps, yes, as an oracle. He is said to be very skilled. I meant the elder brother.”

“They all have promise,” Bakwa countered. “We know what the older brother wants. The Curator may not share his ambitions.”

“By all reports, he is, at least, sincere.”

“Yes. But too much sincerity can be as dangerous as too little.”


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