Weary and vexed, our heroes crested a hill and their eyes settled on the city of Haimir in early evening. Above the city floated the aurora australis, reflecting the many beautiful colors lighting the city. Haimir was the largest city the humans had ever seen, with a population of over one hundred thousand.
Before they reached the closed gates Kraikos said that this is where he parted from them. Soon, they were greeted by an envoy of guards and two carriages. One Drekar stepped forward. He introduced himself as Veruzan, the magister of Haimir.
The exhausted travelers gladly entered the carriages. On their way to their accommodations, they noticed that the gates were closed and the people seemed to be on alert. Elrathia and Serafina asked Veruzan about news from Breakwater, told him of their ambush by the Twisted Men, and asked about the proper etiquette when addressing Archon Toth. Veruzan asked what their names and titles were. When he learned that Serafina did not have a last name he asked, “then why are you here?”
Their accommodations were on Archon Toth’s premises and the humans were well cared for in a comfortable house.
Elrathia and Belaric discussed his plans to make contact with the Taalen’Vost and what was going on with Serafina. Later, Serafina spoke with Belaric. It rapidly devolved into a fight ending with a slammed door and someone shouting, “now who’s acting like a petulant child?!”
The next morning, gifts of a fancy metal box and fancy human alcohol were prepared for Archon Toth. Veruzan came to inform Elrathia and Serafina that they would first be introduced in public court, as a formality. Later, they would have a private lunch meeting with Toth. The court introduction was simple and quick. The two women spent only a few moments speaking formalities with Archon Toth.
Elrathia remained in court to observe. She noticed that at least three of the advisers standing behind Toth were awakened, including Veruzan. She heard many whispers of the impending war.
When lunch came around, she and Serafina were sat at a table with Veruzan, Archon Toth, and his wife. They discussed the “challenging times.” Elrathia asked what the Drekar were fighting over in Aesteryl, to which Toth replied, “power, knowledge, and weapons.” Toth seemed reasonable and straightforward. Toward the end of the meal he asked about Sosyth. The humans explained when they had last seen her, that she was well, and as far as they knew, had been sent to Fey’oth. They also notified him of their encounter with Gauladek. Toth appeared to be trying not to seem interested in this news.
As a token of good faith, he said that he had seven humans to return to them. Elrathia and Serafina quickly realized that these were the humans captured by Eisseth outside of Aesteryl nearly a year ago. With some coaxing, they were able to calm the seven young humans enough to not attack the Drekar and come with them to the house.
Once the seven were safely retrieved, Serafina questioned Briar, who seemed to speak for their little band. There were originally four men and eight women. They were taken through the forest onto a ship, where they fought their captors. Those who resisted were beaten; the four men and one woman were killed. The rest of the journey was disorienting, at best. None of the humans spoke Drekar and the only words that Briar could remember were: Titas, Shaeth, Voranyth, and Toth. She did not know if these were people or places, but Serafina was able to piece together the information to discern that Eisseth had taken them to the closest Archon, Titas. From there they were sent to Shaeth for Voranyth to deal with, and then to Haimir with Toth.
Serafina did her best to teach Briar and company that the Drekar were not monsters, would not harm them, and were not to be attacked unless they attacked first. Elrathia instructed the scribes and teamsters to buddy up with the new humans and keep them out of trouble.
Finally, after the long day of babysitting, Elrathia and Serafina went out to a bar to discuss Toth, Voranyth, Kalloruth, and Belaric. Elrathia bought Serafina a beer when she asked what was happening between her and Belaric. Serafina drank it, gratefully, completely unaware that Elrathia had poisoned it. Elrathia went in search of Belaric while Serafina brought Arianna bar hopping.
Elrathia eventually found Belaric in a fight club, venting his frustration. They had a quick talk and he said that he would come by the house in the morning.
When the crickets ceased their chirping and the birds began their song, so like, just after sunrise… Elrathia awoke and was immediately approached by Serafina. She explained that she had been up sick all night and needed something to make her feel better. Elrathia questioned Serafina, trying to pinpoint the precise ailment (messing with her big time). She suggested that it may be new food, new alcohol, stress about Belaric, or even withdrawal. Serafina was given a remedy but still skipped breakfast.
Soon after, Belaric returned. He notified Elrathia and Serafina that he made contact with the Taalen’Vost. The “big creepy guy with a mask” was on board with assisting the humans. In return for a heads up when something was going to happen or chaos would ensue, they would make sure to take advantage of upsetting the status quo.
Privately, Serafina and Belaric had a heart to heart. She finally apologized for waiting days to tell him about the warning from Somnambuliss, especially after asking him to go on that suicide mission with her and Stangil. All the feels were discussed.
In the following days, the humans waited to hear back from Shaeth, to know if they would be given an audience with Voranyth.
Elrathia wanted to meet with the leader of the Taalen’Vost in Haimir, so Belaric set one up. Elrathia and Serafina were taken along a winding path through the city, into a small stone building, and led to a small room that was filled with heavy sage smoke. Across the small table from them was a large man wearing a black robe and white mask. Elrathia asked him questions, trying to size up his intentions. Ultimately, the Taalen’Vost saw the humans as a means to economic gain. Before they left, the man reached across the table and whispered in Serafina’s ear.
Outside, Elrathia asked Serafina what the man has whispered. “They really do look out for their own,” was her vague response.
Later, Serafina sought out Veruzan to ask if there had been any word from Breakwater. The reply was none for days.
Soon, the humans were given word that Voranyth would see them and they would depart the next day for Shaeth. That night, Elrathia had a foggy dream. Somnambuliss warned her that on the day of the last night of the new moon, not to touch anyone. He also told her not to let a man in a blue shirt pass them on the road to Shaeth. Elrathia asked about Belaric, but was told, “that’s not your business.”
The journey to Shaeth was going to take a few weeks. The humans were given two dozen escorts and carts. A day out, they saw a man approaching, heading from Shaeth toward them. It was Gauladek! He looked weary, but he was well.
Later that evening, coming from Haimir, was a man in a brown shirt carrying a bindle and a lute. He asked to stay within their camp for the night. They felt that he was not dangerous, so they welcomed him. His name was Mirrick. He was a traveling storyteller.
Serafina asked what the sigils on his cloak meant and he explained that they were the crest of each of the archon houses. He had studied and could tell the tales of every sigil on the cloak. When asked what his favorite story was, he told them about House Raith’Gomalon. Raith’Gomalon had previously shared the rain forests with two other houses. A plague had ravaged the two houses for over a hundred years. Generations of the Taalen house (eye of the dragon sigil) and Reikin house (plume of rainbow feathers sigil) died and both houses fell. Raith’Gomalon took advantage of that and seized their lands.
It rained heavily that night and in the morning many of their things were drenched. Mirrick changed into a blue shirt. Elrathia and Serafina, perhaps a little too eagerly, asked Mirrick if he would like to travel with them to Shaeth. They suggested that there was safety in numbers and it would be nice to hear more of his stories. Privately, Elrathia asked Serafina if he might be familiar with a certain friend of theirs.
Serafina asked Mirrick if he was familiar with any stories of the great dragons and what his favorite story was. Surprisingly, he did not choose the Story of the Trickster and the Fool. He told them he enjoyed a story about hubris. Hubris, he said, was the biggest flaw of all the dragons, but in particular, Goraurik’s. Goraurik’s lust for Leopa and his hubris were the two things that brought his fate, and that of the other great dragons.
As they approached Shaeth, they saw that the city was ancient. The oldest parts were carved into the side of a mountain and up, while newer sections sprawled out from the base. It was smaller than Haimir, but still sixty to seventy thousand Drekar dwelt there. They were greeted by the magister of Shaeth, Tol’Storig (a.k.a. Not Namor, a.k.a. Toy Story).
Tol’Storig escorted them to a house and curtly told them that a petition for them to see Voranyth had been submitted. If and when it was approved, they would be given a day’s notice. He did not seem pleased when he spoke to them and beyond saying the proper courtesies, Tol’Storig left.
Serafina and Belaric spent the day wandering around, looking for signs that would lead to the Taalen’Vost. They spent the night drinking with Arianna. Elrathia talked to Mirrick about continuing on with them when they left Voranyth, since he was prone to wanderlust and offered him the opportunity to learn stories of humans. She spent the day and evening with Zeuth and Mirrick. They went from inn to inn where Mirrick did what he did best.
That night, Serafina had a long awaited dream. Somnambuliss said, “I heard you calling.” She did her best to ask very carefully thought out questions. Somnambuliss answered, “Belaric’s death is painful for you… he’s dying for you, not in your place.” Serafina asked when and where it happens, the response, “a world away, in a little town, for a boy.” Somnambuliss played around with the ‘when’ part of the question, saying that it was tricky. He alluded to it being both in the future and in the past. He added, “you can stop it.”
“Is there anything else you can tell us to help us?”
“Wake up early tomorrow. Dress nice. Tell your friends.”
Serafina woke up immediately. It was still the middle of the night. She nudged Belaric awake and told him every detail.
When the toads were issuing their last croaks and a fiery woman rose to practice, or like, just before dawn, Serafina woke Elrathia. Elrathia sat up in bed, uncovered, and Serafina hurriedly told her to get up and dress nice. Only when she saw Mirrick stir in the bed next to Elrathia did Serafina seem flustered.
A young teenage boy arrived with a message presently. He looked alert and a little scared, asking if they were going to their meeting with Voranyth. They were to meet with him in an hour!
(…fuck Not Namor/Toy Story!)