Tabaxi Wind and Fire: Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Part II
The Ministry of Winds

In Alma, it is customary for the two joining houses to present the other with a relic of their choosing. Lanval Brighthart in preparation for his meeting with Lord Toland, to marry young Reagan Brighthart to young Jonathan Toland, brought the Sceptre of Clouds, originally owned by Lanval the Brightheart.
The evening before the exchanging of gifts, the Sceptre of Clouds is stolen from Brighthart House – presumably while Lanval was gallivanting about with Kitanna, Sedgewick, and Lars. Searching for answers, they meet Eliza Whiteshadow at the Copper Carrot. Eliza says she saw some brigand with the Sceptre head into a warehouse not far from the Copper Carrot.
They arrive at an empty warehouse and their brigand has been himself brutally robbed of the sceptre. He says a minotaur came in and gored him, taking the sceptre in the name of the Ministry of Winds. They heal up this acolyte of the church of Obad-hai, Deddin Knoc, and begin to ask around about the Ministry of Wind.
Sedgewick knows of the Obelisk of Wind, a huge stone spire in Northeast Waltz. Lanval looks into the Church of Obad-hai, while Sedgewick and Eliza head to the Grumbling Goblin tavern.
At the church of Obad-hai, Lanval (politely) interrogates the Abbott, Father Mentzer, who tells him that the Sceptre of Clouds is indeed a relic of Obad-hai, but one they intended to buy from House Brighthart, not steal, and that Deddin Knoc was acting of his own accord. Father Mentzer is flummoxed as to why someone would want to steal it again, for the relic has mere sentimental value and no magical properties.
In the Grumbling Golbin, Eliza recognizes Elim Tailor, a friend of hers. After some more sleuthing, they discover that a door sometimes appears in the side of the Obelisk whenever the unnatural wind blowing from East to West is interrupted. They are also approached by a young woman, Nareis who has seen her brother Narev going in and out of the Obelisk in a kind of daze. Elim steps outside and does a funny dance with his hands, and to everyone’s astonishment, the winds change. They enter the Obelisk and find a stone room intricately carved with glyphs and pictographs praising the four cardinal wind directions. The curving walls have carvings deep enough to climb, and they scale the Obelisk (using a pulley system to lift Sedgewick). They arrive in a rotating room with transparent stone walls, overlooking the entire city of Waltz. A homunculus sits in a chair, recording everything of note that he sees. He is friendly enough with them, and they take a break in the Observatory. Eliza spots Cheg, another friend of hers, approaching the Grand Cathedral of Avalon. She makes plans to go see him, but not before telling Sedgewick that she, Elim, and Cheg are all members of an adventuring party who have been hurtled backwards through time from the year 1000E.
Eliza starts to cry, and Sedgewick grabs a piece of the Watcher’s paper with which to dry her eyes. The homonculus brutally attacks them, but they restrain him, dope him with mushrooms and leave the observatory.
Sedgewick takes this time-travel stuff fairly well, and they go collect Cheg from the Cathedral and head back to Brighthart House, meeting up with Kitanna and Lanval. They all return to the Obelisk and discover a hidden underground passage. Lanval is particularly displeased by the falsified history depicted on the walls, especially in relation to the Sun Knights.
After dispatching some zombie ogres, the group catches the attention of Traan the mintaur and Narev, who battle with them in a windy corridor. They kill the minotaur and bind Narev, but Cheg is badly injured in the fight. Eliza takes him up for help. Everyone else makes their way further into the dungeon and finds a gnome, Erin-Kahnor and an elf, Justina, with a direwolf, waiting in ambush. Sedewick and Erin-Kahnor have a battle of knee-height proportions, full of magic and gnomish grappling. Kitanna and Justina duel – with Kitanna the victor, while Lanval battles an air elemental that Erin-Kahnor summoned. Elim enters the room and tries to banish the air elemental, but it merely blinks in and out of existence.
The party finds the door to the treasure room is booby-trapped, but when they ask Narev for help, he intentionally sets it off, killing himself. The four spirits of the old Ministers (who had previously possessed Narev, Erin-Kahnor, Traan and Justina) gather and enter the bodies of Sedgewick, Kitanna, Lanval and Elim. Fortunately, as far as they know, nothing else happened.
Reclaiming the Sceptre of Winds and claiming the Obelisk of Wind as their official new hideout, the party establishes itself under the title Ministry of Winds.
Kitanna and Sedgewick go shopping while Lanval has his meeting with Lord Toland. The gifts are exchanged, Lord Toland gives Lanval the Blue Antler of Effelwood and the betrothed meet. But one more condition is set: Lanval must marry a woman of rising stature, “Miss Kitanna Mustardseed.” Lanval, flabbergasted, agrees.
Lanval informs Kitanna of this, and she rushes off to confront her father, and it is revealed that he faked his own illness in order to lure Kitanna back into Waltz. She leaves in a huff. Sedgewick continues shopping. Lanval does confessional and gets some sagely words of advice from Eduardo.
After a rather touching proposal from Lanval, Kitanna explains how she cannot marry. Lanval voices his concern with the dishonour, to the which they agree that this issue is not time sensitive, and that the assassination plot / important sermon / Avalonian augmentation is a more pressing matter.
Gathering at the Happy Cow, the party meets Eduardo, who reports that his interrogations with Winfield the Sly are complete, and that the man who hired him came from Toland House.

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Chapter 2 Part I

In Alma, the latest Mudoran Crusade has come to an end. The savages to the south have been subdued, although the Alman army suffered heavy losses. Whispers of men made of the very earth have swept across the land, terrifying stories of stone made flesh the rise up and crush Mudorans and Almans alike. But there is hope! A renowned cleric of Avalon, Cameron of Timberheath, has been giving his sermons across the kingdom and now, from the holy power of the Grand Cathedral of Avalon, he will broadcast his sermon around Alma! The sermon is planned for Sunday, Pentember 17th, 979E and a great caravan heads West on the Dewdney Trade Route, towards the great Imperial city of Waltz.
After joining Cameron’s caravan two days ago in Timberheath, Lanval Brighthart arrives back in Waltz for the first time since leaving for the last Mudoran Crusade. Suddenly, Eduardo de Fruncida – their clerical liaison – decides suddenly to have a drink at the Happy Cow tavern in East Waltz. Cameron and Lanval decide to join him. Lanval’s younger sister, Reagan, continues to the manor, which House Brighthart has been invited to occupy during their stay.
Inside the Happy Cow, Lanval plans to have a quiet drink, however, among the bar crowd – a table of card players and a few shadowy figures in the corners – someone recognizes Eduardo. Her name is Kitanna, and she immediately uses a change-self spell to appear as someone else, moving into a cloud of rowdy bachelors.
Cameron immediately decides to flirt with the bar wench Matilda. Rolling his eyes, Lanval turns away from his friend and orders drinks from the barkeep Heinrich Bovett.
Meanwhile, outside, Barbarian Lars rescues the gnomish illusionist Sedgewick Silverspore from a gang of thugs, and prepares to take him for a drink. Lars knows that there is someone waiting for him within the Happy Cow, but he is a man living in the moment, and so he places his priorities in the restitution of his new friend.
Both Eduardo and Kitanna are here to meet Lars. Kitanna seizes her chance and – still in the disguise of a blonde seductress – chats up Lars until she sees fit to cast a charm spell on him. Eduardo takes great offense to his informant being charmed, and pursues Kitanna as she lures Lars out of the bar.
Lanval, sensing foul play, declares loudly and angrily that Lars has been wrongly ensorcelled, and gets Sedgewick to help track them down. They leave the Happy Cow and track them West down Dewdney Street.
Kitanna, using Lars as a way to discover the way into the Thieves’ Guild, allows him to take her to the secret entrance at the Landingsquare Inn (room 302). As soon as he opens the wardrobe leading to the downward stairs, however, Kitanna’s spell ends and she returns to her true form. Lars shakes himself out of the charm she has cast on him and is grievously upset at betraying his guild by showing her the entrance!
Kitanna, attempting to save face, blames her actions on the bachelors at the Happy Cow. Lars, rushing to her defense, storms towards the bar, picking up Sedgewick and Lanval on the way. They all rough up the bachelors and have a celebratory drink.
The bar has busied up, and Cameron is now making out with Matilda, so the party gets a table and begins to speak. Eduardo confronts Lars about their supposed meeting, to much confusion around the table. Kitanna suggests that they go back to her room (above the Happy Cow) for a more discreet conversation.
In Kitanna’s room, Lars reveals that he has been dubiously involved with a thieves’ ring that intends to assassinate a man of the cloth, and that the Church of Avalon contacted him with offers of protection in exchange for information on his ringleader, Winfield the Sly. They contacted him via carrier owl. Eduardo says that he was contacted by the same owl, a message from someone within the thieves ring wanting protection in exchange for vital information about an assassination attempt.
By the time they realize that they’ve been set up, Cameron has disappeared from the bar. Matilda said that he was feeling sick and went to the washroom.
The party arrives in the washroom just in time to catch Cameron’s last wretching breaths as he succombs to the poison in his system. They stand over him, in wonder as to how it could have happened. Eduardo climbs out the window and seems to shimmy up the side of the bar. Kitanna follows him to the roof and they scan Dewdney Street for recognizable assassins, but to no avail – the streets are far too busy.
The bar is largely the same, with the exception of a hooded man smoking in the corner – Lanval notes that he noticed the man’s three facial scars, and Lars recognized those scars as belonging to Winfield the Sly! Also, Matilda has mysteriously disappeared, but before suspicion can be drawn, Heinrich the barkeep finds her body in the washroom – apparently, the poison in Cameron’s drink could be spread by kissing.
With no Cameron, Eduardo is in need of a priest to pose as Cameron for the announcement on Sunday. Kitanna volunteers to ‘become’ Cameron and Sedgewick volunteers to aid with his illusionist abilities. However, Winfield is still at large. A plan is set in motion.
Covering Lanval’s crimson cross with a thick cloak, the party makes their way to the Landingsquare Inn, where members of the thieves’ ring, Tallus and Gerund, are discussing the success of their assassination job, and Lars announces that he has brought a congratulatory whore for Winfield. They are let down through the wardrobe, into a hexagonal chamber, where Roger lets them in to see Winfield sitting at his desk.
Winfield inquires as to the presence of both a gnome and a warrior along with the whore. Lanval says he’s there to protect his prize, and Sedgewick offers some mushrooms to enhance the experience. After testing the poison of the mushrooms on Roger, Winfield orders Lars and Lanval to remain in the meeting room with Roger and begins to escort Kitanna and Sedgewick down the tunnel to his chambers.
As they walk, Kitanna tries to raise Winfield’s spirits enough to put a charm spell on him, but Sedgewick runs his mouth about the Alchemist’s Guild, which makes Winfield suspicious of them. By the time they get to his door, however, Kitanna has prepared her ring-of-sleeping-poison and swats at Winfield, who dodges, but is caught by Kitanna’s rebounding backhand.
As the mushrooms begin to take effect of Roger, Lanval knocks him out with the hilt of his sword, and the two brawlers rush to the aid of Kitanna, who Sedgewick explains (much to her chagrin) that she had the whole thing taken care of.
After discovering an owlery, they conclude that Winfield was indeed the person who set up Lars and Eduardo, as a test of Lars’ loyalty to the guild.
The team also discovers Winfield’s private treasury, which they loot mercilessly, finding a mysterious pair of gloves and a ring that exhibits a magical aura!
Lanval picks up a beautiful scarab and puts it in his purse. Moments later, however, the scarab comes to life and begins to burrow through the purse and Lanval’s hip! He tries to pull it out, but it burrows into his hand, crawling up his arm towards his heart.
Seeing no other choice, Lars takes his great axe and cleaves off Lanval’s arm. They quickly cauterize the wound and (after throwing the scarab away) rush Lanval, his arm, and the unconscious and bound Winfield to the Grand Cathedral of Avalon, where they get medical attention.
Lanval’s arm cannot be reattatched, but they manage to magically adhere it to the stump, for show. Eduardo takes Winfield into custody and takes over the investigation from there, agreeing to reconvene at the Happy Cow tomorrow evening at 4pm. Lanval invites everyone back to his place to rest until morning.

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Prologue
Aboard the Afdol's Tide

The Afdol’s Tide eases its course at the mouth of the volcano. Flakes of ash and flecks of snow drift up from the yawning magmic precipice, catching the airship in a gentle flurry of heat and chill.
“Draven,” Elodia calls over the wind. “Lower the ladder.”
The first mate nods attentively and unfurls the rope ladder from the side of the deck and it swings heavily down in the November air. The bottom rung, heavy with bearings, clangs against the black stone slab jutting out from a cave on the mountainside.
“What’s going on?” Eliza arrives on deck. Her ornate scarves – cast in the breeze – make her seem on fire.
“You will see,” the captain says, and thumbs at her jacket. She has more gray hair than she did earlier this evening. Her hair was completely red mere days ago, a brilliant, passionate red, but Elodia seems decades older, and perhaps she is in fact. Eliza knows that her captain has been spending time in Hebion’s orb. Eliza worries. But Eliza says nothing.
“Gather the others,” Elodia continues. “You’re all going down.”
“Into a volcano?”
“Ask me no questions aboard my ship,” Elodia scolds.
Jasper. Cheg. Pamesa. Kom-Rashad. Carmine. Toppy. Elim. Eliza and Draven join them, lining neatly along the rail of the Tide deck. Even the elven pilot, Drick Fasduaseth, climbs topside.
“She’s in park,” Drick says, stroking his blonde hair. “Is it time?”
“Time…” Elodia smirks.
“The ship can’t hover above a volcano for much longer,” Drick says hurriedly. “Better say your goodbyes and hellos quickly.”
“Right,” Elodia nods. She turns to the group. “I never understood how this whole thing worked.” She thumbs her jacket again. “I wish I could go with you.”
“About what do you speak?” Elim asks.
“To those of you who I may not see again,” Elodia says. “This is the goodbye I never got to say. I don’t know if anything’s going to be different this time around, but if it isn’t… well there you have it. Everyone else, I will see you when you return from this cave. It will seem to Drick and I as if no time has passed.”
“Pamesa must stay,” Drick announces. “We need someone who knows how to break the scrolls.”
Pamesa steps forward, even her whited eyes can’t mask her confusion.
Elodia slumps her shoulders. “Very well. Just in case… Everyone else, do not dally and do not question me. All will make sense in its due moment, and when you see me again, your confusion shall be a laughable trifle. Go now, with my love, and fare thee well.”
Eliza is the first to begin her climb down the ladder. The rest follow.
“Captain, I know how to break the scrolls,” Draven offers. “Why do we need Pam? And where are you sending the others? I was never informed of this mission.”
Elodia pats him on the shoulder. “You must go with them into the volcano.”
“What? What is in there for me?”
“I spoke of this on the day we met one year ago. Remember how I seemed to know you well upon our meeting, and you thought me a sorcerer? What did I say to you then?”
“You said that our friendship would be long, and strong enough to break the petty shackles of time.”
“You thought I was being poetic, but… Perhaps I was… Go into the volcano, the old man within should know you, though you do not know him. Yet. Tell him you’ve no time for his games, and that you have played them all before. Tell him this every time you see him, it is an easy way to trick the old bastard. When he sends you through the door, take the party to Waltz. You will meet my agents there, although they will be scattered and will not know of what you speak. Trust your instincts and fate will lead you back to me. When you meet me again, be careful not to encourage me when I lash against the bonds of fate. That is my cross to bear.”
“Captain, I will do as you ask, but do we have time for this? The scroll…”
“I guarantee you, Draven, we have time for this. Now go, dear friend, and take Helix with you.”
Draven descends the ladder and meets up with his teammates at the edge of the cliff mouth. Helix the owl lands on his shoulder and brushes against his alabaster cheek.
“She sounds like she’s gone crazy,” Jasper says.
“Where did she ask you to take us?” Eliza asks.
“Waltz,” Draven answered. “Only Avalon knows why.”
“Waltz is a city?” Cheg asked.
“No,” Draven said. “It’s a ruin.”

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