Lost Lore 25: The Pawns
The Web is cast wide over Frial, but the coming Nightmare looms larger
Back at the Orphanarium, Charity, Ospher, and I discussed what we could do in case we found more Saudra-tai at The Harvest Children encampment in the graveyard. We're completely spent on magical power until we can get some sleep and we no longer have the means to stop the regeneration of them, or an Oni, if we were to encounter one. We have a scroll of Chill Touch that someone could scribe into their spellbook, but that would take two hours to complete at this point and while Janka may have an associate at the Ebon Orchestra that has it, we don't know if they would be friendly considering what we did to Anthony, or what we're likely rumored to have done to Leopold.
The point I'm trying to make is that if that blind woman is right, based on the information we got from that toad, that's a reason for more people to help? I just don't know. Again, we can move out of Frial.Neville and Norynor were feeling much better already in the infirmary, having been helped to some of our medical supplies, which I didn't realize that we kept stocked with between our funding and improvements after exorcising Digby. He didn't think anyone within the Order had any spells that could help us but he wasn't certain as he didn't take an extensive list of what everyone knows. He offered then to head into the streets to rustle up some chaff that would have what we need.
But the school, we worked so hard to build it, I would hate to just leave all of this behind.
I agree, but if the circles don't see this as something they don't need to help with, that's a hot load of garbage that I won't accept.
The cantrip is gonna save the day? If you say so.
Well I don't mean to dour your plan, but there is a school in the city that specializes in that sort of thing.
I know, I figured we'd ask you first before we had to go hat in hand.
I don't talk to many people.Ospher then called Janka with the Eye of Basul, seeing that she was sleeping at her Grandmother's house. She was definitely frightened by the contact but agreed to meet us even without the full explanation. Norynor was able to offer us information about The Harvest Children, explaining that he'd encountered them a few times since they're normally outside the city and have been fairly harmless in his interactions. Their leader and members never struck as potentially dangerous mages, though they favor enchantments and their leader, Frennan (some old Fae name and not his real name) is obsessed with dressing as if he is a Satyr. He was as out of the loop on fae doings as us, but wasn't immediately sure of a connection between shipping from Rylan and the Docks, Craenus' replacement, and this plan to subjugate Frial. Once we got prepared to leave, we instructed the teachers and Love that if we return one at a time, we're not to be trusted, there are shapeshifters in town and they're not particularly intelligent but can pose a significant threat. We came up with an additional code question of “Who rules the school?” and reply “Digby is dead.” Tadlo, Lorgen, and Crisnos continued observing the docks, while we got Brightshine sent back over to go with us in case of a more physical confrontation.
I was gonna not say that.
If I could get away with it, I would.
There should be hours that it is acceptable to do this.
Yeah I wouldn't do this if it wasn't an emergency.
What's the emergency?
Umm, if you want the long version, I can give it to you while you're still in bed or we can meet up out on the city streets and we can talk face to face.
Ok, so do I need to get really prettied up or is this a sewer crawl or?
No this is not a social call, unfortunately.
Ok, I can maybe be there in twenty minutes. You're turning it off, now, right? Turning it off?
I'm not that kind of person Janka.
The harvest children are nothing if not chatty, a bit free-spirited. You could certainly ask them, I don't think that they would react poorly. I can introduce you to their leader, Frennan.
He dresses like a Satyr.Meeting up with Janka, Ospher explained what we've been enduring all night. She kept up with the complicated affairs, and at Ospher's questioning explained that nothing seemed off at the Orchestra, no absences, forgotten their lines or the like. She then wanted to be sure we weren't replaced and probing her for more info, but we met that challenge head on and I offered to take responsibility for Leopold's death to finally just put the matter to bed.
I am aware of that.
It's just a hat, just acknowledge what he puts out there, don't break the illusion.
What is going on at almost three in the morning now?
So you're saying that shapeshifters are taking over the city? Like doppelgangers or?
Well not doppelgangers as far as we know. But yes, there's a conspiracy happening and these creatures have infiltrated at least one circle and part of the Kreastos.
I feel like you're aiming really really low if I'm the person you're telling this too. Shouldn't you be telling, like, everyone?
Well some people do know, but we don't trust that many people from other circles.
But you trust me? That's great!
Well we trust you more than anybody in your circle.
Well at least some of us do.
The point is!
I'll take it!
Wow, he's really walking this back.
It's awkward, but also I don't care how she feels about it.
He's really just walking it back very quickly.
The point is we don't know that many people in your circle, and even if we did I don't know that we could trust them. At least we've gone through something with you.
Ok. There's a lot there to analyze.
How do I know you're not part of this though and just probing to see what I know?
That's an interesting question.
I suppose the idea that we would ask a random member of the Ebon Orchestra to come out and speak with us seems like an awkward plan at best if you're trying to do some conspiracy, but you'll have to decide that for yourself.
What's the name of the guy in the sewer that we lost?
Do YOU know the name of the guy in the sewer that we lost?
I KNOW HIS NAME. Yeah, we know his name, we're not terrible, we're not villains.
I mean because when we mentioned 'Hey did he come back' you were like 'Uhh I don't know.'
I don't care about him, but I know his name.
Ok, I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page.
Answer the question!
So Leopold hasn't appeared, since he disappeared?
No. All right you know his name.
Ok, that's also not great, so if he does show up all of a sudden, you know to be suspicious.
I think you guys got him killed, let's call it out for what it is.We explained the main reason we contacted her, her necromantic spells, and she explained that she could also cast Lesser Restoration in the event of more infections which was a handy thing to discover as well. We headed down to the park, despite there being an obvious candidate for fire at the docks, but understanding that the Berrii were ready to go with a plan elsewhere that needed more imminent attention without crippling Frial's imports.
Yeah, that's probably the case. I'll own that one, I killed him, sure.
Yeah we can put that finally behind us.
Well, I'm ready to go, I brought a bag of bones with to animate. I'm in, what are we doing first, are we kicking down some doors?
We didn't even tell her that's what we needed.The cemetery was as overgrown and tangled as we'd been told, the entry gates dilapidated and barely holding onto hinges, massive trees clogging the area, so I wasn't sure we had arrived until seeing the gates and dimly in the distance some fires burning inside. And after we crossed the threshold, we saw evidence of the residents, discarded wine bottles, broken beer bottles, and food remnants, frankly the place looked worse off than Bellhaven.
Do they just hand that out at the door?
Do they keep multiple ones? You just grab a 'go-bag' and there's twenty other go bags in lockers by the door as you depart the Orchestra.
When we're done with this, let's hit her over the head and bring her to the Kreastos. She should stand trial for her OBVIOUS CRIMES.
I think all these people probably have homes, this is a by choice thing.We passed a few people here and there, smoking illicit substances or drinking under a tree or off in the distance, copulating. Norynor led us to a cracked and broken old fountain, filled with stagnant rain water, but it was there that the biggest group of them gathered, barrels of wine and mead scattered about for ease of access and a large fire burning here, burning occasionally with different colors as people tossed stuff into it. There was a large cart nearby, loaded with apples people were eating as well, and that's where we first saw Frennan, dressed in a very long furred coat, his legs in brown furred pants, and no shirt with his beer gut spilling over his belt, and a raggedy beard with his trademark goat horned-hat to complete the ensemble. He was handing out apples until he saw us and Norynor approaching and waved and hopped off the cart to greet him. We exchanged some greetings, he seemed to be only mildly drunk at the time, and explained what the Apple Harvest meant to them. On its face, there was nothing of their intended oeuvre that screamed out to us as being used for sinister intent, but we asked to explore their celebrations, so Frennan assigned us a couple of handlers while he went to go prepare a tent for people to stay over in, and I think he assumed that we would engage in an orgy with him. Never for you, you sodden charlatan.
We're on the eve of the apple harvest! You've come at a fine time!
School you say?
Yes, we had the pleasure of meeting when the Rat King had kidnapped some of our friends and was making intimations about plundering our charges.
Oh, the Rat king, I vaguely remember that. We were cultivating sallow mushrooms at the time, I remember some of that week, the rest belongs to the mushrooms.
Forgive me, I'm sure it was my pleasure.
Duly forgiven kind Satyr. Again, to introduce ourselves again since the mushrooms have stolen that, I'm Adjenna Affreux.
We gifted it to them, the mushroom takes what the mushroom wants.
However you choose to phrase it, I will endorse.
This is Ospher Spurshoe and this is Charity Sparrow, the headmistress herself.
Oh a lovely specimen as well. I am in such good company, what do I owe it to? Are you here for the Harvest?
I knew it, I knew it. They said that it couldn't be done, but if you get enough chaff in one space a critical mass is hit and boom! A school is born! I remember it now, praise be the mushroom!
Then you know who we are, The Harvest Children. The followers, worshipers, inheritors, whatever however you want to think of it, of the legacy of the Fae. Bless the queen and her eventual return. So, today, well tomorrow at sunrise, kicks off the Apple Harvest, it is a time of gifting of celebration, unity, family, experimentation, so yes you're here at just the right time!
What's the big events?Ospher later told me that he knew the holiday was an actual real holiday that the Fae brought with them. A very benign sounding one, and important, but nothing directly associated with dangerous activities, though it was closely associated with the Autumn Queen and time of celebration. Each fae race had specific twists on it too, where Barghasts would bury victims alive with an apple seed so the tree would sprout from the corpse, but on the whole and when gathered in a group very focused on gift giving and celebration. Frennan explained that they didn't have a lot of specific events planned for the day, though he mentioned they got some fireworks, which I also found to be unlikely to infect people en masse. Interestingly he also revealed himself to be conversant in Arcadian .
Well it all takes place here in the park to celebrate. We celebrate, we eat apples, we drink, we tell stories, we copulate of course.
New mushrooms are being born as we speak, cocoa mushrooms.
Uhhh are these bred locally or imported?
All made here using recipes of old, brought over by the queen and her people.
I'm having a hard time trusting anybody, I'm surrounded by people I really don't like.
Yeah, that's kinda rough.
It is. And it's your fault for part of it.
That's so harsh! I trust people to be themselves.
She's being herself, a person that carries around a bag full of bones!
You don't know what kind of bones they are.
I consider myself a bit of a culinary expert when it comes to concoctions that feed the mind, rather than the stomach.Nothing about the preparations were hidden or looked secretive, and besides a lot of cantrips, and maybe a Goodberry here or there, nothing overtly magical was happening. Also, as pointed out to me, not a lot of spellbooks on people, so likely sorcerers or bards and the occasional druid. The handlers, as I mentioned above, were a young halfling woman named Trinada, and an older human man named Odell. They were very gracious and attempted to help and led us to the mushroom preparation area, in what used to be the old stonecutting area when tombstones were crafted on site here, and there were a dozen or so people working in large boxes filled with dirt and refuse with the mushrooms growing here. All manner of colors and shapes and varieties were being developed here which I left Ospher to look over, while I watched some people off to the side where the brewery was set up. The meads and wines were being prepared there, large carts full of grapes and apples and what looked like four large boiling cauldrons with some prep tables were all under the gaze of a big old weathered statue of a woman with her arms, or what was left of them, outstretched, I couldn't quite make out who it was since the face was faded as well, but at the feet was a basin with a number of people praying or listening in a sort of meditation. Not watching what the Children were doing, but the focus with which they performed their tasks drew me past the people who were zealously devoted to their preps to a male elf who was walking in a way as if there was something unseen near him that he was trying to not bump into, very unnatural. Trinata got some samples of mushrooms for people, which Charity pocketed, and Ospher seemed to regard and understand what sort of strains were crossbred in order to create. Aside from some minor medicinal uses, all of the parent lines had a side effect of hallucinations, he explained to us. Ospher explaining to her that he wouldn't eat it right now really seemed to let her down, but Brightshine immediately swallowed his down and while we were kinda shocked by that, he gobbled a second one right afterwards.
Well, your mind does need to eat.
Yes, well I could prepare a banquet for yours tonight.
I can't say I wouldn't be intrigued.
I insist, we'll have it ready shortly. You just make yourselves at home, just grab an apple and any sealed bottle you find will have some mead for you to enjoy.
Would you like some mushroom samples?
I'll got clip some of the best I can find.
Well, should I just start blasting people? What do we do here?
Well, there's no need for that, I hope that was a joke.
Well, I didn't mean blasting them to death.
grossed out, staring at the mushrooms I'm... allergic.
This tastes awful.
Oh, well they're not ripe yet, that's probably it.
Well, I wouldn't take it too hard, Ser Brightshine has a very unusual palette.
Well this is not meant as a slight in any way, but you are foreigners to our cultures.
Yes that's true.
Tastes like dirt.I then walked over and chatted up the people making the mead, but they were pretty distracted and generally regarded themselves as artisans. The elf in question had a very simple task of just bringing crates over to the other preparers, and most of them were boxes of honey, some of which was small local operations instead of large wholesalers and casually mentioned an apiarist named Pete who also owns an inn, who also supplies some dough for some of their bread as well as some mixing medium. Watching the elf's eyes surreptitiously, I could tell that it was a very quick sort of thing moving about the brewery area and oftentimes at his side. Having reconnoitered that just one person was begin interacted with, I then stood well off to the side to avoid drawing attention.
But you ate it anyway?
How do I know they all taste like dirt?
These people show up at a lot of different events in the city selling this stuff, is it safe? They always look dirty.
There's nothing that will harm you from ingesting this, but it'll definitely give you an experience, which is why I didn't immediately pop one into my mouth.
There's people in the city that get a real big kick out of buying local crafts, so I'm sure they do well enough to fund this operation. Janka gestures at the wreckage around the cementary
I do appreciate that about Frial, the arts are not overlooked.
Yeah that's true, but I wish as many people showed up to our performances that are as willing to buy a jar full of ill-reputed mushrooms.
Maybe if your performances have the added effect of a psychedelic experience.
I guess we could burn a bunch drugs and pump it into the audience, but I don't think that seems like it really honors the performance.
I appreciate your integrity.
It's your party, and I guess you know everybody's strengths and weaknesses, but I just find it hard to believe that you'll need him at some point.
Yeah well he hasn't survived this long by being completely useless.
Yeah! Brightshine is the best of us, you don't know us all.
I wouldn't say the best, but he's something.
One of our longest and closest friends. You know he's not the sort of person we would just leave behind in a sewer and forget. Like some people.
That girl, she's wound up pretty tight.
Well she's been through a lot, I wouldn't take it too personally.
Oh I guess I don't, her grandpa tried to kill her or whatever was going on that night, right?
He tried to kill a lot of people, but yeah, including her.
I mean, glass half full, at least he was staying active.
Digby was not a good man, and she might have held some sort of hope that maybe he at least had some decent intentions for her. You're lucky to have somebody that cares about you.
Actually I realize that now is not the best time for this and I did say earlier this is serious and not a social call, but I don't know that you ever mentioned how it was that you ended up at the Ebon Orchestra.
Oh it's a long story, you don't want to hear it, it's boring.
It'll have to be for another day then.
What was it about Ice Knife that attracted you to it when you first read that spell?After discussing a way forward with Charity, we decided that after we could create a distraction, she would cast a containing Magic Circle once we could pin down the thing that was assisting(?) this elf, so I grabbed Brightshine and checked on him and then after winding him up a little bit, I set him loose on the Elf. I then gestured wildly at Ospher and Janka to watch since they seemed engrossed in conversation, and Brightshine walked over and started pointing and accusing the man carrying a box, who then was trying to appease him and assure him that everything is fine. But he looked positively afraid, convincing me that he was no Saudra-tai in disguise, and based on his eyes, again, I pointed Charity in the right direction for the Magic Circle and caught the thing in the area by the cauldrons while people coming and going were gawping at her casting a spell.
That I could catch so many people in it. Like it's hard to do that with a cantrip. It's like a fireball spell, but smaller and colder.
How are you feeling?
I'm fine, I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be fine?
Ok come with me then.
You've never asked me that before, why wouldn't I be fine?
I have asked you that before, a couple of times before. Brightshine is staring at Adjenna expectantly One of those times is when you came back from the dead.
Honey? Honey! We'll see about that!
Oh, that part's honey, let's see about the next part!The spell complete, her magical symbols flared to life on the ground surrounding the meadery and trapped whatever it was though it didn't reveal itself. I then interceded in Brightshine's argument, as he was slapping a box out of the elf's hands and tried to get him to explain what was actually going on here but he wouldn't really explain just then. So I started dragging Brightshine away amid his accusations, and he followed and asked what the spell around the meadery was about and at this point he responded to some intimidation and agreed to explain what he knew, but in private away from the spectators to Brightshine's outburst.
Make him eat the honey!
Why? Why? Did they get to you too??We walked off to a wooded area about 50 feet away, and we went with him as he wanted privacy, for an unknown reason but didn't seem overly suspicious. He introduced himself as Yelamar and asked for our help. He explained that he was being told by a voice to do things and that there were invisible things watching him that he could see that threatened him to do as they wanted, the voice was described as being inside of him so it seemed as if we would need Janka's help with a Lesser Restoration and immediately afterwards he started convulsing and twitching and then vomitting up a red sticky substance and in the middle of that was a red Saudra-tai tadpole, small, almost dormant or asleep.
Is this where we do it?
Just wait, I've never been non-explicit in my instructions.
Give me the sign.
There are things. There are things here.
Yes but how many?
They make themselves invisible so that others don't see them, but some do, I don't know what's going on! There's a voice and it follows me and tells me what to do.
Does it compel you?
It threatens me.
Just one or multiple voices?
Just the one, I think, I don't know for certain.
Is it still talking to you?
I can still feel it.
What's it telling you to do?
Get back to work, to tell you nothing, to kill you if I have to.
I don't feel like myself anymore, is there something you can do? Can you help? I don't think the voices come from outside.
I can make him a zombie or I could cast a restoration on him, if we think theres something to cure there, or both.As soon as it was out of him, his memory was again intact, he recalled sleeping one night and some things came and a 'mouth with so many teeth' pricked him and injected something into him. The tadpole was sort of sleeping on purpose, and from my examination, I could tell that the sleep was crucial in sharing a sort of interconnected sleep web that allowed them to communicate between Berrii. I stabbed it out after this revelation and Yelamar took ill as he say it sort of shake a fist and exclaim how rude we were as it died. He said he didn't recall any hint of how they were going to hurt people here, though he did recall something awful and green at the center of a web where the voice could echo to everyone else. Norynor said that evacuating people from the area would be best before we confronted whatever is in the Magic Circle and as he finished getting people away, he tossed a Faerie Fire into the circle, illuminated a shape perched on the prep counters, something large and long, feline body with two writhing tentacles that rose up off its back and multiple sets of legs.
How about we all go back and have a drink or an orgy or something?!
Brightshine we have our target.
The man? Finally?
No. Adjenna points at the glowing cat thing on the table
A ghost! I shall slay this ghost!
We, uhh what are we killing in there? Is it a ghost?
No, it's not a ghost.
Don't listen to him on stuff like that.
That's what I was saying, earlier on.
Yeah, not on stuff like this.
You let me know what his area of expertise is and I'll listen to him.
I will let you know.
Stabbing things with his pike, he is an expert at that, a valued expert.As we had the beast very well trapped, Ospher flung the Butcher's chains at the thing, wrapping it up tightly and still limned in faerie fire, it's invisibility flickered away and the black cat like thing, a Displacer Beast, was thrashing about on the table, unable to free itself and vulnerable to our efforts to damage it without it being able to reach us. Subdued by multiple stabs and cantrips fired at it's bound form, it collapsed, at which point Ospher extricated the chains from the dying beast and then was examining it and got a whiff of its breath and a very strong sort of chocolately smell and realized it was faking the full extent of injury and it bit down hard onto Ospher's shoulder, nearly at the throat. It rose to it's feet and Ospher faked the creature out and stumbled back outside of the circle. I then connected the Immortality Malady with its skull, slumping it back out onto the table. As this creature actually died, from it's mouth another sticky syrupy red substance flowed as another tadpole/maggot hit the ground, surprising us. Working under the assumption that there were no more creatures watching the operation, we woke it up to question it while it was alive. It came to from its dreamlike stupor and after some discussion it revealed that it didn't know much of the plan and that it only knew the plan while it was asleep.
What indignity do I owe this gathering to?
Your plans are at an end!
How dare you!
Where is your lousy green? Your superior, we kill soliders, where is your superior!
I'll tell you nothing!
I will parlay with you, assuming I get immunity.
So would it be.
Our kind have infiltrated the city and through our dreams we can speak to each other.
So your green is here or not.
Of course he's here! No other but a green could accomplish this mastery of a maneuver! Your city will soon be ours both inside and out.
We've put your plan to rest, it's already done!
Oh have you? Ha ha ha You have no idea who is infected for they don't even know until we activate them
But you know!
I only know what I know when I'm connected to the dream to receive orders. I am but a mere red, my lot is to do and then to die. But in this case, I shall not die, for I have Immunity!Given that we couldn't get much from them and we couldn't be completely sure if there were other active agents here, we set about to the other areas and observed people. Brightshine came up with the idea to contact Gut Rot Wren and see if he could help free Frial of the grip of the Saudra-tai, but he wouldn't respond to scrying contact and the only image we saw was a building bordering Bellhaven that may have once been a factory to warehouse and some faded signs of what look like candy and a once vibrant candy making production. I ritually cast Purify Food and Drink on the cauldrons to make sure that if there was something that was already added, it wouldn't see any additional help from the mixture and the fermenting process. Seeing nothing stand out among the rest of the Harvest Children, Yelamar implored us to speak with Frennan again about what is happening here so that they can avoid more issues later today if The Harvest Children are really the crux of their plan.
I know how we can fix this!
It would require a very dark alliance though.
There's a lot of that going around.
Are you willing to sell your very souls?
Good, cause that's what it will take to forge a pact with Rot Gut Wren! He can make them all puke, out of their asshole, just like this thing did.
Janka, this is his specialty. Whatever this is.
Yeah, I'm wrong I guess.
brightshine, you've been poisoned by Wren, five or six times now, right?
Me? Never! I shit myself when I choose.
You're familiar with him right?
I know his handiwork, his brown finger has been everywhere.
Well if nothing else, I'm going to take its skull.
Well because I could add it to the bag of bones and I think that would make the skeleton a little more effective.
I think the trouble for the moment has passed, but it wouldn't surprise me if they attempt to re-establish contact with somebody else here during the day today and finish what they started before the feast tonight.In a hut we were guided to, Frennan was slick had taken off all his dressings, wearing only his pants, smoking a pipe with some scattered half eaten mushrooms about. He was ever the giving host, glad we had a good time in his areas and a little broken hearted that we didn't need his hut right then though we told him we'd likely be back that night. And before we could explain what we'd found in Yelamar and the Meadery, he mentioned that he'd been contacted by a Herald of the Fae, whome we assumed to have been a Berris in disguise. We conversed for a bit and assuming we could be facing the worst, we got Neville, the two chaff he found and Tyrom headed down here to meet us before going to where he directed.
You should tell our master, let him know.
This is a very special year for the Apple Harvest. They're coming back you know. I know we've said it many times, but this is the year for it.
Always optimistic, I like that.
Do you believe me? You don't believe me.
I have nothing to disbelieve.
It's true, I have communications with real Fae!
Actual fae, they exist!
What sort are they?
All manner, they're Fae, who knows how they categorize themselves now, what's in a name really.
I'm met some here and there.
We're on the inside now! So you know the truth, they're returning! Something is happening, something deep in the woods, they're coming back!
I'm talking the about the Autumn Queen and the real Fae! Not something that was born of the rebuke and hatred, not I'm talking about real fae! They're returning, some magical event in the woods has ushered them back.
And you've spoken to them.
I have indeed, there is a herald of the Fae that I speak to regularly.
Yes yes, it's true.
What did they say?
Well the words are meant for me and only me, but you are masters of a new circle, if you were willing to pledge yourself, perhaps, perhaps I would be willing to bring you to speak with this herald!
When would be the next opportunity?
Well, we could go now!
I hate all of this and all these people involved.
It's been a long night.
Night, day, they all blend together into one psychedelic experience. Time is time and the time for this is now.
Are we going to hedge our hopes on somebody like Gut Rot even showing up or do we do this now?k
We don't even know that we got the right person.
No, we don't I guess.
No, but we can't let this thing just run free.[brWhat if it isn't the Saudra-tai, what if it's something else?
Are you suggesting something worse?
Or benign? I don't know.
An event in the woods you said?
Yes, a break in time! Yes.
Yes sighing the Konnig Castle event.
An ushering in of the old ways. The they that I speak to, they know of that event and told me about it. There was fae here even BEFORE that, they're very interested, and they're also interested in this city. But why? You would have to ask them, I don't know. Frial is such a banal place.
Are we doing a war, is this a circle war?
It's a fight then? I'm ready, I'll go get my hammer!Confused with the where this web would lead and unsure as to what fate would yield, I decided to ignore the rules and flew my broom over to Rowna's shop to make sure someone else would be confronting this in the event we fail. Her page was resistant to letting me see her until I showed him the maggot and tadpole singing bawdy sea shanties with one another. She was sitting by a fire keeping warm in her room in the pre-dawn hours and I tossed the box onto her bed to give her somewhere to start in case this herald slew the lot of us and while she did think I was being extreme she understood my concern. I headed back to the cementary to join up and as Neville and Tyrom arrived I told Frennan we were ready.
Get a fast horse.
Where am I meeting you?
The Harvest Children's garbage heap.
I never expected it to start there, but why not.
She knew I was coming.
People say that all the time, but business hours.
I knew you were on the way, but I didn't know you would expose my page to what's going on, he doesn't know anything.
When they sleep, they're outside of my vision.
We're going to go try to cut this off at the top, but if we don't come back, you'll need another starting place.
If you don't return, I'll do the best I can to find someone new to help with this. I don't feel there is much time, after tonight, they'll be able to act with impunity, something happens tonight.The Harvest Children did regard it strangely that people were showing up with weapons in their midst, as Tyrom was dressed in old armor, and annoyed by all the offers of mushrooms and sex. He led us back into town, through familiar sights to, of course, city center and then to our horror, The 12 Carrots. Greasom was working the counter and was as kind as always and wanted to offload a lot of extra oatmeal he had stocked up on for Digby. Heading upstairs with Frennan, he performed a knock code on the door and on the other side... was Cassiopeia.
Send some pages to Gut Rot Wren, he can do something at least.
I don't know him... the terrorist??
Yeah, clearly he's not involved on their side. Maybe he's already ahead of you on this. Ahead of all of us.
A meeting at dawn, with destiny!
We're here, second floor, room three.
What happened to uh, I can't remember his name, but I have so much oatmeal that I ordered. No one's buying it just like before, but I assumed...She looked pissed to be bothered at this hour, and a bit disheveled as well. After some disappointment with Frennan for spilling the beans, she sat down at her desk and poured herself a stiff drink and started asking questions we met with questions. She explained in response to what we knew was going on that she is an agent of the shadow court and they want to get at a dormant gate below Frial to win the old war. In response to asking why she would then use the Harvest Children, she ran her fingers through her hair and strands began to tie and form together into coils of serpents and skin turned slightly green and she explained that she is Fae too.
What is going on?
They wish to pledge loyalty. They're in on it.
You told them??
Ok, so you're all in on this and good with it?
Uhhh yes? Also, you're one of the last people I expected.
Wait, expected for what?
Wait, what do you know?
Eight months ago, Castle Konning ripped back through time 400 miles west of here from where it left in the past, depositing everything it brought with from then though it had been thought to be destroyed, including a lot of people from the outskirts, not limited to Fae such as Illsemine, but Segravia and her sycophants.
But also, that may not be the extent of it.
The Shadow Court is active now and right now they're looking to conquer Frial for some reason relating to Belmoran ancestry. Your turn.
Most of that is true in some way shape or form. I'm an agent of the court, they sent me here to find out what's going on exactly. I'm investigating what's happening, I'm not from the anomaly. So you're not IN on this.
We're in on this as far as making sure the Saudr-tai don't conquer the town.
So are we. I'm here to make sure they stay in their lanes and this doesn't become what it could become.
It would seem that you've already failed in your task, because they're already killing people and replacing them.
That is unfortunate, but also, there's leeway that is also part of their modus operendi.
The point isn't to convert the town into a bunch of Berrises, the point is to take Frial as peacefully as possible so that they can get at what's underneath.
There's a functional gate. It's not active but the shadow court wants it. They believe if that anomaly is possible, then with the right tinkering and expertise...
They can go back in time and win the war.
Yes. Or at least move the war here to a world that isn't ready for it. reacting to Adjenna drawing her spear I'm just following orders and I get paid, until they contacted me, I was a regular mercenary. I'm just here for the money.
Why deceive Frennan?
I'm Fae as well. I was hiding, I can't exactly be myself.
Ahhhh! A Beast!
I thought this was what you wanted.
I thought this was your thing?
I thought I thought she said she was noble born, one of the high beautiful.
Isn't that what it is?She slowly transformed back and explained what was at stake here, the Autumn King also knew about this gate and would give it up for a sacrifice the Shadow Court had lined up, a live Unicorn, I guess from the time displacement. All of this sounded very vile and wrong to me based on my familial history, and Ospher and Tyrom strongly agreed. She surrendered to us and made it clear that she thought what was happening would get a lot of people killed. While leaving, Tyrom explained the soonest he could get the Circles together slightly sooner than tonight, The Savage and Prismatic Order, while we could work with LSYC, The Ebon Orchestra, and Brick's LoT and we clearly already had The Harvest Children's attention. Best estimate would be two or three hours to host it at Wagner.
We're a people, and we're trying to put it back together.
Well, Illsemine, rest her dead soul,
I'm not a fan.
was attempting to make a harvest and offering to the Autumn King. I don't have a vengance boner, but the ones that do things like this give a bad name to the rest and that gets around a lot quicker than a good name.
The Autumn King is not who we are, that's something else and awful that a lot of Fae follow because the other way seems impossible. So his is a way of violence and fear, and the Saudra-tai were working on an offering to keep him away, cause if we don't there's going to be a conflict over who gets this city and who gets this gate, but they're going to give him something he wants tomorrow. We have mercenaries out there near that anomaly that are looking for what he wants, which is a Unicorn, and we found one.
A literal unicorn!
Yes, it's one of the biggest symbols of purity and magic and power to the fae and he wants one and if we give it to him, then he'll let us do what we want with the city and it won't be a war.
That is quite the quite the sacrifice.
Its that or everyone that lives in the city is caught in a war between Fae and nightmare creatures.
I'm breaking every code and rule here to be straightforward with you; nobody wants to hurt the city, we want what's underneath and this is the most bloodless way possible to go about it.
We appreciate the candor, a lot of the pieces are now falling into place. It's been a long night dealing with the Saudra-tai.
They're great, but they're effective. The sleeper agents is supposed to be the best way we can go about because Berris says he can control the tadpoles to leave afterwards.
And you trust him in this?
No but you can't trust anyone in the shadow court to do anything that's not in their own best interest, but this happens to be something all their interests align on.
What is the Autumn King, the Ogre Mage we met some months ago was particularly fearsome.
It's not a fae really but partially born of the nightmares, a collective consciousness, amalgamating together, this roiling, it's hard to describe but it's born of us. Its a spirit, a creature, a god of fear.
I guess ultimately, where do you stand? Are we gonna kill each other in this room or are you just gonna let us take the gate and leave afterwards? Just let the thing happen with the Unicorn, you don't. If you've seen that oni, they know you, you don't want that happening here. If you've seen Illsemine, you know you don't want that happening here.
I think the rules of the Circles in this city have made its citizens soft. The general person who lives here that doesn't know what's going on besides the rumors, should have to fight for their city.
Well who are you gonna have them fight?
Well if there's anything I've learned its that killing my opponents doesn't necessarily stop their schemes. So as opposed to killing you in this room, we're not done until you tell me where the fucking green Berris is that that's messing with Frial's people and then I continue killing Berrises until I find the next one.
If I tell you where he is, are you going to stop the unicorn from being delivered? Are you going to stop the sacrifice?
Isn't it possible that getting this unicorn would be a step against that direction though?
Long term, maybe. But long term, we would rather prepare for that conflict rather than let it erupt here and hurt all these people. Whatever you believe, there are fae that don't want to see Tairos' people hurt.
We've accidentally done things we didn't think were possible.
Well even if you could destroy the gate, I don't know where it is. Only officials in the Kreastos know, that's why it was part of the plan.
Tyrom, this is your town, what do you want, you've lived here for decades. I've said my piece.
We take her in and hold her somewhere that's safe and we find that gate and destroy it.
Should anyone get a unicron?
My understanding of such matters suggest that whatever they want to do with a unicorn can't be good and it'll only make it that much harder to deal with later.
That's clearing from a great point of view, I agree as well. That unicorn should be free and if this Autumn King comes knocking then we'll answer that door just like we did with the Rat King.
You've chosen. I hope it turns out as bloodless as possible. I don't think it will.
It'll be on you then.
No, the city made its decisions long before this.
Agreed, we just happened to be the sorry ones who happened to be here to clean it up.
Can you charm a basilisk?
I'm under arrest, I don't really feel like answering your very dumb questions right now.
Arrest?? That's what you think this is do you? You think this is judicial?
The only place they're going to trust this early with no notice is your school. You're still considered very neutral. Are you willing to host?A few hours before we can meet the Other circle leaders to discuss what we can do communally and frankly, to determine who will or won't help in the coming war. If we must fight them in addition to the Fae and Nightmares and whatever the Kreastos conceals, this will be a protracted battle. Cassie still has much to tell us before we can consider her role here played out. She worked with us before, there must be something she's failed to tell us about all of this madness.
Yeah I don't care, we could even do it in the Kreastos building, I don't give two fucks about the rules now. All these ideas people had about trying to shield people. It's made them all very soft.