The group takes a few days to recover and re-orient. The group is now feeling much better, with the exception of Ianthe, who appears to be having some troubles adjusting.
Contacting with Frourio
On the fourth day (20th day of the second month of the year), the group approaches Chryseis to seek a means of communicating back with their Froúrio. Otlyn makes the request on behalf of the group, and Chryseis quickly agrees.
"Absolutely. I understand," says Chryseis. "I've had a long standing relationship with the school and its adminstrators since its founding. Are any of your colleagues in the administration building? In fact, is it even still intact?"
The group nods assent, and Chryseis beckons them to join her in a separate chamber. There, she waves her hand over a small crystal orb and utters a small incantation. With that the board room next to Dorothea's room comes into sharp focus.
Suddenly Kyros's head snaps up and Hestia inclines her head. It appears as if you are suddenly in the room. Kyros eyes the newcomers, and then with a nod steps out of the room.
Chryseis moves to leave but is encouraged by the group to remain. Instead she moves just out of range of the effect and remains available to the group.
Otlyn and Hestia take a few moments to reconnect and Otlyn introduces Mie.
The core of the leadership group trickles in. Kyros and Kallisto enter, looking significantly better than they were when last seen. Eunice comes in, with RIzon behind her and immediately chimes out "Don't worry, the ship will be fine.". Hermione is the last in, and brings Astor with her. Astor smiles briefly at Magnus, but still looks quite spooked.
Kyros sits down and gestures for the others to join him. Looking at you, he nods "The floor is yours."
Cille begins and describes how they made it to Eleusis, and confronted the threat prophesized by Dorothea. While they were pursuing the band, they also found Phlios.
At that Kallisto looks somewhat surprised, having assumed Phlios dead.
After retelling the tale, Cille sums up. "There's an evil force influencing the Northmen and the Humans of the empire. The miracles of Dieu are in fact necromancy, and the influence seeks its spread. Necromancy steals life force from the surroundings to power its effects. We've seen that proven recently. It also explains the feeling many have experienced when interacting with the magic of the church through Magnus."
She pauses and lets that settle in. "In fact, we have reason to believe that Dieu is actually a being known as the Morningstar. There is some debate as to whether he is free or imprisoned."
Ajax interjects. "Zihæt is actually his prison."
Cille pauses, then continues. "It appears from Phlios's abduction and the murder of his house was most likely engineered from Asteriápolis by Temenos similar to the riots on Frourio. It seems that he's either working with the church or the empire to gain control of not only Asteriápolis and the league itself."
Chaos falls as individuals suddenly begin discussing with others in the room. Phlios sits quietly and observes the room.
After several minutes Cille and Kyros are able to get control back of the room. The accusation strikes at the core of the relatively patriotic, if disillusioned, group in the room. The broader implications are difficult to comprehend and the group begins to divide, with some questioning why this long term international and cosmic struggle has any relevance when they have more pressing matters.
"This is not about Froúrio, or even the League." Cille pounds the table. "It's bigger than that."
Silence settles over the room with expressions a mixture of seriousness and skepticism.
Cille firmly describes how Froúrio is likely to get drawn into this conflict, emphasizing that they are not yet ready to confront it. She shares with the room the offer from Chryseis to help shield or hide Froúrio in the short term while it rebuilds.
In the following discussion the room again seems split. Several of the more hot-headed members, Rizon and Kallisto included, advance returning back to Asteriápolis and calling out the traitors and unite the league to face the heathens. The more practical and conservative members advocate a slower approach, rebuilding the strength of Froúrio and confrontation only when on more equal terms.
Throughout all of this, Kyros remains neutral. Rather he seems to be controlling the flow of the conversation and ensuring that everyone is heard, but no one feels called out.
After a time, Cille asks Kyros for an update on the situation on the ground there. At the same time, she glares at Rizon.
Kyros gives what could be construed as a thankful nod and notes with some irony the glare at Rizon. "Certainly. Let's start with the navy and the port and move up towards the city."
He pauses, then continues. "Rizon, can you give an update?"
Rizon settles down and smiles back at Cille, and assumes a very matter of fact tone when reporting. At length he describes the state of rebuilding what little bit is left of the shipyard, with an emphasis on the ability to repair. He describes the retrofitting of the remaining ships and getting many former slaves engaged for wages in helping to clear the dock. In short, the port is nearly back to functional.
Cille looks impressed. "That's amazing."
Rizon smirks as if to say, "I know."
Kyros redirects the conversation and the update continues. The cleanup of the city progresses.
Convincing the unconvinced
While the updates continue, Magnus steps out of the room and over to Chryseis. "Is there a way to make everyone see the effects of Dieu's magic?"
Chryseis pause. "We could, but are they ready? And are you ready?"
Magnus looks confused, before she continues.
"You have had several days to absorb the implications of what you've seen... and you have been spending that time re-learning your arts and focus. Are you ready to reach back into the darkness? And even if you are, are they ready to see it?"
When Magnus responds that they need to understand.
She pauses. "If it's absolutely necessary."
With that, Magnus returns to the meeting.
The state of the constitution
As Magnus returns and the updates shifts from the physical reconstruction to the city to the civil order, it becomes clear that the group is struggling with the re-drafting of the constitution of Froúrio. While they are all members of the Asteriápolis Pro-Democracy faction, it has become clear to Kyros that they lack the experience to understand the second, third and fourth order effects of some of their proposals and recommendations. Instead they remain caught in a loop of "What-if".
Cille injects, "We had the ideas that this was based on the ideals of Democracy coming from the pro-democracy faction, ostensibly led by the Meletitís Family."
Gesturing to Phlios, she continues "I think he could help us cut through some of these knots."
Kyros and Kallisto look somewhat uncomfortable at this, clearly conflicted between the recognition that they need help but that Phlios has often been positioned by their parents as an adversary.
Magnus breaks the silence and adds. "I'm in favor of it, if Phlios would help?"
Kallisto asks, "Wouldn't he need to return to Asteriápolis?"
Ianthe looks uncomfortable.
Phlios, who had been content listening to the much younger generation to this point.
Otlyn at that point steps forward. She harks back to how this all started with an attempt to destroy the organization in favor of democracy. She continues on, and by the end of her speech, Phlios looks distinctly uncomfortable as he has now been repositioned as the savior of democracy.
Magnus and Ianthe look at one another and then to Phlios as if to say "Welcome to our world."
Reacting to Otlyn's impassioned speech, the room settles down and now largely appears in favor of Phlios leading the reform efforts.
Magnus, watching Kallisto's continuing skepticism, begins to speak. "My worldview has been shaken in the last 5 days. I entered the service of Dieu thinking that... it was a power to be used for good. For truth. For justice. For the ideals that we claim to uphold and see in a better world. What we are trying to build. These are ideals that not many people share. We are a very small number, and the masses don't share these ideals. What we are trying to build is very fragile. There are many dangers and challenges facing us. When it comes to the constitution there is going to be change. We'll deal with whatever comes out of that. But we have to have the confidence in our own ability to deal with that change. We have an extremely talented group here. You all are the best and I have the utmost faith in your abilities to overcome the challenges that we are going to face. And at the same time, we face an overwhelming number of people who want us to fail. The empire, the league. We need time to build our strength to build our strength and be able to see with a clear view what is arrayed against us and to work through our own differences and how we promote our shared ideals. The solution we've been offered is meant to give us time. It's not just about Froúrio, or the league."
"I would be happy to have his input into the constitution. I would also be happy to have allies outside of Froúrio."
Hermione chimes in. "The moves that Asteriápolis is making are being mirrored by the rest of the league. However they all fear losing their own liberty, and their own independence to Asteriápolis. That said, they need an example. They need a beacon. But right now we're too weak to be that light... frankly, we're sitting ducks."
She shares more of the intelligence from her network. "The north is consolidating. We're seeing tribes move into small states. What's next countries? The Empire's fingerprints are all over this. We're trying to change the league, but what happens if the entire north unites?"
Eunice considers a moment. "And if I understood what Cille and Magnus were saying, total war is the Empire's objective."
Cille and Magnus both nod in response.
Kyros stands. "So the suggestion on the table is that we continue to rebuild here, quietly. We use the skills and the wisdom," gesturing at Phlios, "to do that to the best of our ability. And we take advantage of the offer of assistance while that goes on."
He pause. "All in favor?"
The group around the rooms look at each other, then hands begin to raise. The group in Eleusis all votes in favor, with Ianthe abstaining as she isn't a citizen. Of the group in Froúrio, Kyros votes in favor. Kallisto sighs and votes in favor as well. Rizon, to Cille's surprise also votes in favor.
Cille mutters, "Mom's going to kill me."
With that, the remaining also raise their hands.
Kyros closes the discussion. "With that, we have a consensus."
Cille and Ajax describe the details of the plan. This includes focusing on getting the harvest completed and prepare for the winter. Cille explains to Eunice the basics of the ritual and commits to organize that amongst the others.
One of the newcomers chimes in. "Yes we rebuild. Yes we establish, or re-establish, the new state of Froúrio. But I don't know that I'm in favor of taking the fight beyond the islands. Shouldn't we focus just on those things we can solve right now?"
Otlyn nods, and Cille says "Yes, we need to walk before we can run. Let's get our own capability rebuilt, before we consider pulling together our allies. The war is going to come to us, whether we want it to come to or not."
Hermione nods and addresses the room. "Indeed, we know that Fengáriopolis has already sent an expedition to come and assess the city. The rumors are that they intend to make a move to annex Froúrio."
Hestia considers. "We are at the end of the harvest. It wouldn't take much to burn the fields and make the devestation worse than it appears."
Hermione looks pointedly at Vulcan. "And frankly, we can make any who do deeply uncomfortable. We still have some undead teachers floating around that we can use if we can find them."
Phlios turns to Otlyn. "The slaves depend on those fields. You'll need to give them something to focus on instead, so that they don't align with Fengáriopolis out of fear of the unknown, or as the more desireable option."
Otlyn agrees and the conversation shifts to how to engage the servants in the rebuilding and give them a stake in the successful rebuilding of an independent state.
Vulcan and Hermione have a shorter discussion on how to identify those who aren't on board so they can be addressed one on one. When it's clear that Vulcan's former days as a Slave are making this an uncomfortable conversation, Hermione indicates that there are other ways to change their minds than violence. Otlyn, showing her inner dictator, grudgingly agrees.
With that, Kyros closes the session and indicates that they all have work to do.
Until we meet again
Cille looks meaningfully at Rizon. "We'll talk when I get back." Rizon grins, "Absolutely." And then he scrambles out.
Kallisto looks to Magnus. "When are you heading back?"
Cille grabs Vulcan and Otlyn and pulls them out. "Give them some privacy."
Magnus smiles. "Soon. I hope within the next week."
Kallisto smiles wanly. "You are missed." With that she stands and steps out of the room.
Magnus and Astor
As Kallisto leaves, Magnus notices that two others have remained behind. Astor Pelletier and Hermione sit back down at the table.
After everyone departs, Astor looks at Magnus. "Explain."
"The hobgoblins aren't enough? asks Magnus?
"That's means to an end, it doesn't require Dieu." counters Astor.
"Have you seen the magic of Dieu done before?"
"Of course, I had to deal with those jackass knights the whole trip."
"What you didn't see was the effect of that magic on everything around them."
Astor shakes his head. "All magic is blapshemous. Why should Dieu's miracles be any different?"
Magnus, somewhat condescendingly, corrects him. "There is magic that is natural to this world, and there is magic that isn't. It takes life."
Astor almost snarls. "Why should we suddenly believe this? You've come here to Froúrio with all these who've put all these lies in your head. We know that the Empire isn't a beacon for truth or righteousness, but blaphesemy? That's what we say about them."
"Do you remember stories that my aunt told?"
Astor shrugs. "Yeah?"
"What did you think of your stories?"
"Fanciful? Interesting if they were real?"
Magnus draws his blade and lights it up.
Astor shakes his head. "I've seen your miracle before. I've seen it from other knights as well."
Magnus considers. "There may be a way to show you, but I'm not sure what price it's going to extract from me. Because I no longer practice that way. But that's up to you."
Then Magnus stops and begins to speak more angrily. "But that's up to you. I don't give a shit whether you believe in the magic. I give a shit as to whether you believe in the ideals that you say you believe in, and whether those ideals actually match up to what you're seeing. A true Empire that's dedicated to Justice and the good of all does not hire thieves or hobgoblins or... means to an end. You can dress it up however you want to, but in the end it's evil. Especially if it goes against the values that you say you want to uphold. Think on that."
Magnus turns and walks out.
Astor turns to Hermione seething. Hermione puts a hand on his shoulder, and quietly commands "Come with me."
As Magnus leaves Chryseis steps in, and closes the connection.
Everyone's own problems
That evening, Cille walks up to Magnus and teasingly asks "How'd your conversation with your girlfriend go?"
Magnus grunts. "Fine."
"Doesn't sound like it went fine."
Magnus shakes his head. "No, not Kallisto. I had a conversation with Astor. He's still firmly in the cult of Dieu."
Cille asks, "How long did it take you to break way?"
Magnus responds, "Well? Considering that I just really made my decision in the past week? Years."
Cille smirks. "Then maybe give him more than five minutes."
Magnus sighs. "Well hopefully I've given him something to think about."
"Patience my friend. Thinking is good. Patience is better. And you my friend are not the most patient of souls. Believe me, I understand."
She smiles and claps him on the shoulder. "Chryseis has suggested we spar with Irtokax."
Magnus chuckles. "I could use to give my arm some work."
Cille strokes her axe. "I suggested you and I could spar. Chryseis says she likes her house intact."
Magnus laughs louder. "I'd hate to impose. But yes, I'd also be willing to spar as well."
With that the two of them head off to find Irtokax, with Vulcan following quietly behind.
Irtokax and Cille
As Cille and Irtokax begin to spar, she finds it nearly impossible to hit him.
A pattern begins to emerge. As Cille swings, he steps in and hits her on her upper arm sending it numb dropping her axe. He seems to be able to hit the same spot over and over again.
Irtokax pauses and gestures to Vulcan. "Can you go retrieve a shield for m'lady?"
Vulcan stands silently and disappears into the woods. After a time he reappears with a shield.
Irtokax helps Cille equip the shield for use with the great axe, binding the shield to her arm like a buckler.
Over the next two days, the two continue to spar until Cille becomes quite proficient using both the axe and the shield in tandem. Her ability to block Irtokax's attacks improves significantly.
On the third day, Irtokax offers Cille a wrapped item. "I hope you don't mind that I've shared our sessions and progress with Lady Chryseis. She was most intersted, and has requested me to give this to you."
He unwraps a beautiful reinforced wooden shield. The wood is unlike anything Cille has ever seen before, with a hardness like brass, but with the flexibility of wood. A golden dragon clutching a lightning bolt is emblazoned on the shield.
Cille gently dons the shield and simply says, "It's beautiful. Thank you."
Chryseis and Magnus
Off Camera: Chryseis helps Magnus adjust the miracles of Dieu to instead rely on his own bloodline magic and the ambient magical of Zihæt
Irtokax and Vulcan
As Vulcan and Irtokax begin to spar, he also finds it nearly impossible to hit. Irtokax watches him for a while and then begins to coach Vulcan on his technique. Over time, Vulcan begins to adapt his technique to a more piercing movement and less of a wild slasher. As Vulcan continues to improve he comes closer and closer to landing a blow on him.
Despione and Otlyn
Later that day, Otlyn approaches Despione at Chryseis suggestion to talk about Mie and how to care for him and return him to his family.
Despione considers and after looking at Mie places a comforting hand on Otlyn's shoulder. You can certainly take him back to his colony, but be aware that he may have been removed from the meld long enough that he no longer has a place there.
"What?" cries Otlyn.
"He hasn't been in the meld for over a week based on what you've told me. Has he been melding with you during this time?"
Otlyn thinks and then realizes that he has been bonding with her.
Despione considers for a moment. "You're a mage, do you have a familiar?"
Otlyn shakes her head. "What's a familiar?"
Despione explains how a familiar operates and the ritual for bonding Mie and the impacts it'll have.
Otlyn turns to Mie. "Do you wan't to go back to your family?"
Mie asks, "Family?" And then he points at Otlyn.
Otlyn breaks out into a happy squeal and cuddles up to Mie, while Cille walks away muttering something about too much cute.
Despione smiles and then settles in and helps Otlyn complete the ritual bonding Mie as Otlyn's familiar.
The Need for Steed
Following Chryseis advice, the group meets with her daughter to talk about the whistles they acquired from the invaders.
The next day (24th day of 2nd month), in a conversation with Despione, the group describes the whistles. Ajax and Magnus speculate that the magic is similar to Magnus's miracle of summoning a steed.
Despione considers then corrects them. "More like the steed is bound to the whistle. You can bind multiple steeds to the whistle. You can bind a wolf, or a horse, or a horse and a wolf. But they maintain their own separate identity. And there are magics to protect them from harm, returning them to a separate space with healing magic in the event that it's injured."
"The problem is that if you bind an intelligent animal, you had better make sure that they're willing to be bound."
Types of Steeds
Despione asks "What type of steed are you looking for?"
"A warhorse." answers Magnus quickly.
Despione shakes her head. "Unfortunately horses are unique to the human lands of the Northern Continent."
"Then what would you recommend?" asks Magnus.
Despione considers. "We have wolves, or tigers. Though I'd recommend you raise a tiger from a cub if you value your legs. There are also flying beasts up in the crags that could serve as mounts. There's also snakes, but I'm not certain you'd be well suited to them."
"A flying mount sounds interesting, but there appears to be some investment to raise such a creature?"
She nods. "The magic itself accelerates some of their early growth. But you would still need to put time into the relationship and training, much like any good mount."
"My aunt told me about griffins at some point. I've always wanted to ride a griffin." thinks Magnus whistfully.
She dons a and nods, and says "You might find something suitable up in the crags. You guys could climb up, search for abandoned nests. I'm more than willing to help you learn to ride them safely."
Magnus gets this silly grin across his face, "I'd like that."
Cille considers. "Well, I can turn into a horse..." and then she looks sharply at Magnus.
Magnus looks back at Cille innocently.
She continues "But flying would be nice. I can't fly... yet."
Cille looks at Despione, "I don't suppose there are dragons."
Despione chuckles. "I heard from Irtokax that you've met Asími. You can try..."
Cille plants her foot down. "I want a dragon."
Despione laughs heartily and then instructs them on how to find abandoned nests, retrieve and care for the eggs, and provides them with a map. "Bring them back here and we'll keep them well until they hatch, and then we can talk you through any appropriate rituals."
As the group prepares to depart, Cille whines, "I wanted a dragon."
The group spends half the day heading up towards the mountains. As they climb the mountains, Vulcan is repeatedly attacked by local wildlife.
Eventually they come across a nest. Unfortunately for them, this nest had a very large griffin sitting on a nest. The griffin challenges them, and the group quickly moves on.
The second nest they found fit the descriptions, but based on the descriptions from Despione, appears to still be tended.
They find a third nest, with five large eggs. They're curious in that they're much larger and have a thicker leathery coating with a silvery spider pattern on them. Based on what Despione shared, this appears to be the abandoned nest they're looking for.
The group retrieves the eggs and carefully descends down the mountainside. By the time that they return it's close to nightfall.
As they arrive, Despione looks at the eggs and with a raised eyebrow says "They look like they'll be fine."
Cille calls out "Are they griffin eggs?"
Despione doesn't answer as she disappears around the corner.
Cille grumps and looks at the group. "I don't remember griffin eggs being so large or leathery."
The extra egg
The next couple of days the group is focused on ensuring the eggs remaing warm. The group initially offered the fifth egg to Ianthe. Ianthe responds with unexpected aversion. Otlyn is concerned, as Ianthe hasn't seemed herself since being stabbed back at the entrance to Eleusis.
After some discussion, the group offers the fifth egg to Ajax, who excitedly accepts. Over the next few days a matronly side of Ajax emerges that the group hadn't seen before. He spends the next several days doting on the egg to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Dinner with a side of Forbodeing
At dinner the next night, Chryseis looks over at Otlyn's egg held closely to her side. She then turns a glance to Despione, who simply smiles beatifically. Chryseis simply shakes her head.
After about 7 days (4th day of 3rd month), the group is sitting around when the first of their eggs begins to crack. First Ajax's cracks, a small beak peaks out, followed by leathery wings and a leathery body. Next comes Otlyn, then Cille's, then Magnus, and finally Vulcan.
The group gasps as the small winged reptilian forms emerge and curl up in their laps. None of the group has ever seen creatures such as these before.
Despione approaches and smiles broadly. "Oh, they've hatched!" She has brought with her small strips of meat. She sits down and shows each of them how to feed the little mounts.
Cille looks at Magnus then at Despione. "It's not a griffin. And it's certainly not a pony."
Despione smiles. "Nope. But it's so cute."
Cille continues to ask and Despione continues to deflect, until she stands up. "You should feed them until they're full and then let them rest. I'd suggest you oil their hides before they go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."