Once inside the city walls, Maloran, too wounded to walk on his own, was left at the arena. Serafina barely stopped for Stangil to let him down. They marched past the festivities and the new statue up to High Lord Diedik’s hall. Startled guards did not attempt to impede them.
Without breaking stride in the hall, Serafina located Grand Marshall Turk and bee-lined for him. She stopped two feet away from his face and held the Cragga heart in front of his beady eyes. She began to use her power to burn Turk from the inside. As he screamed, she spoke to the quieted guests in the grand hall. Sani translated:
For weeks we have observed every measure of your customs. One of us paid a great price for insulting your leader. We have apologized and made amends. No longer will humans be treated as inferior. Let all who witness this understand the consequences of betraying us or High Lord Diedik.
Before she was done speaking, the Grand Marshall was dead. Silence hung heavily. Stangil approached the High Lord and addressed him. He was apologetic, yet stern in explaining what had happened in the mountain pass and that it was Turk who had orchestrated the ambush. The High Lord motioned to speak with the humans privately.
High Lord Diedik was pleased to know that Turk’s treachery had been squashed, but warned that he had devoted followers. Abigor showed them a secret passage out of the hall and they took to the keep.
Stangil sealed the doors and the three climbed over the outer wall and onto the barracks. From the highest floor they assassinated the other marshals and worked their way down, leaving the women, low-ranking officers, and foot soldiers alive. Stangil made sure to warn a lieutenant about the necessity of loyalty.
Returning from their coup, they spoke with Diedik one last time. He seemed concerned about losing his invitation to the council, which Serafina assured him he would not. On their way out of Kunik for the second and hopefully, final, time they saw over a dozen Cragga on display near the statue. Other conspirators, a warning to others.
Weeks later, the three humans had finally made it to the Great Heart Tree. Along the way Serafina had seen poggles and learned as much Lluaran words and customs from Sani as she could. The homecoming, however, was not what Sani had expected. A wall of 20 foot trees had been grown around the area near the tree and scorch marks dotted the trees and ground. Hundreds of new trees were growing around them.
Once they could see the Great Heart Tree up close, they saw a sigil of Ouroboros burnt into the side. Serafina could sense it drawing power from the tree and all three humans could feel its invitation emanating.
Adlei Rhiggs met with them and greeted Sani as a brother. He explained that two days ago a devastating attack of ghosts came in force, created confusion, and at some point, the symbol appeared. Elders were targeted and all but one were now dead.
He showed them to Elder Ancient Thyiss, who shared a great secret about the tree. The symbol of Oroboros that was placed on it was ancient magic and Thyiss did not know how to remove it.
The attacks had been coming from the west, so the three humans agreed to set out in that direction the next morning. Sani and Adlei shared a drink and caught up. Later, Adlei ran into Serafina and they spoke. Meanwhile, Stangil’s curiosity got the better of him and he reached out to touch the symbol.
Stangil was transported to a world that seemed to be the world during the time before. The land was a desert with two moons and a red swirling sky. In front of Stangil stood a magnificent red and violet dragon, Oroboros. They spoke at length and (in typical dragon fashion) Stangil felt frustrated that he did not receive many answers to his questions. He did, however, receive a promise that he would see his son within a week’s time.
As quickly as he appeared, he disappeared and found himself again in front of the Great Heart Tree. Stangil found Serafina and told her what had transpired. Not one to let Stangil have all of the crazy fun, she went to touch the symbol herself.
Serafina’s conversation with Oroboros was different. She got under his armor with her indifference toward the dragons, their power, and their games. He offered to remove her mark and sever her servitude to Somnambuliss for a price. When asked the price, he said she would have to murder a stranger when he asked her to. She declined the offer. When pushed, he told her it was Atterick, the Unkillable, the Cragga King. She declined. Serafina questioned the dragon with impertinence and frustrated, he promised that she would speak to him again, within one week. Then, she was returned to her own time.
Both proud of herself and terrified, Serafina sought out Adlei to take him up on a drink he had offered her earlier. They got to know each other a little better and she admitted to him that she was surprised, he was not what she had expected, and she did not get along with his wife during their travels together.
That night in their sleep, Serafina and Stangil spoke with Somnambuliss. He explained that the symbol called to Goraurik. They could mask the call by painting his own mark over it with their blood. To disconnect the call, they would have to kill the source. He then told Stangil that tough times were ahead. Somnambuliss said something about a visitor and they awoke with a start.
Neither could see a thing but Serafina sensed Cernunnos. It took all of her not to kill him as earlier she made a bet with Adlei about which of them would. He had come for their help and to offer a trade. In return for tracking the ghosts for them to Oroboros’s lair, he requested that they assist him in removing Goraurik’s shell. It had gone insane over time and even Cernunnos (nutbag that he was) knew that his master’s husk needed to be disposed of.
Stangil was ready to leave with Cernunnos that moment but Serafina insisted on waking up Sani and Adlei. It took some convincing to ensure Adlei would not attack Cernunnos and that despite her own vendetta, they needed him for these tasks. Serafina promised Adlei that when it was all over, she would let him kill Cernunnos.
While tracking the ghosts, Cernunnos expressed his happiness that Serafina did not die from his attack when they last saw each other. She furiously showed him the mark that was the result of his wound, to which he held up his dagger and offered to get rid of it for her. Strangely, Adlei had made the same offer earlier.
A few hours into the hunt, they came across a fissure in the ground where they saw the ghosts and a cave. The ghosts were Divoth, like Reikasha. The devoted. A human figure stood among them. It was Rondal.