The Summer Empire

Negotiations and New Adventures

Wind blows through the ship
Removing all aggression
Only peace follows
-Petrichor

Previously-disarmed sword in hand, Petrichor and Bartelby went to House Aundae to smooth things over with the dhampirs before the entire organization decided that we’re a threat that needs to be eliminated, or at least an example that needs to be made. After being met at the gate by a guide who lit a torch, they were led into the main headquarters of the Aundae. The inside was pitch-black other than the light of the torch, and they could hear the sound of people sparring, the murmurs of conversation, and see people studying ancient tomes in apparent darkness, all of them with the parchment-white skin and snow-colored hair of the Aundae.

They were led into a large room in the center of the house, where they were met by three people—a bald man, a woman with her hair bound in a tight bun, and an old man in between them with a snow-white beard. The meeting got off to an excellent start when the woman said, “You are the ones who took Ash’s sword from him,” causing Bartleby to immediately go into high gear. He mentioned the misunderstanding and how he wouldn’t want any damage to Aundae’s reputation, and offered to sell the Aurora’s dye cargo to the Aundae as a gesture of goodwill. Petrichor mentioned that he only had the sword because it was being wielded against us, and there was some argument between the bald man and the woman before the man with the beard shut it down as family business.

The woman asked why Ash and Wren were even on the ship, and Bartleby tried to divert attention for a bit before admitting Pav’s existence. After being asked about her whereabouts, Bartleby said that the last place he saw her was at the docks, and the woman said that if she would be returned to House Aundae, the dhampirs would be very grateful for her return and for our “continued discretion.” Bartleby agreed, and an agreement was struck while the sword was handed over and the dye promised.

While this was occurring, Mara and Autumn Oak headed to The University in order to talk to one of Mara’s contacts, Provost Quarrin, a scholar of the cultural impact of the Dawn War and an aficionado of games. They were trailed by Pav, wearing a large cloak to hide her distinctive hair and skin, through the campus. The University is centuries old and has been built and built over and rebuilt enough that they have to make their way through a maze of different architectural styles, with Mara pointing out some examples commissioned by vengeful professors or deans of ages past along the way. When they reached the provost’s office, they found a long room with walls stacked with games from all over the Summer Empire, as well as a number of historical works on the sociology of the jihad against the Nobility.

While Autumn Oak checked the book titles of books on the war, Mara and Quarrin chatted. Quarrin asked about Mara’s fieldwork and mentions he managed to find a new game from the quarantined part of Sheol, and Mara talked a bit about her time on board the ship, then the discussion got quickly to business. Mara explained Pav’s existence, the nature of her abilities (to the extent we’re familiar with them) and how she was hoping Quarrin would know a scholar who might be able to assist. Quarrin cautiously said that he could probably take her in, and that he has a colleague studying Ruach, the name for whatever it is lamiae drain from people to keep themselves young, and that Pav might make a good research assistant as well. Mara replied that she could donate some of the proceeds from the Aurora‘s jobs to Pav’s upkeep as compensation for Quarrin’s money and time.

At this point, Autumn Oak interrupted to point out that the provost has a game of stones from Alfheim, but it’s only half-complete. Quarrin agreed that this is so, but mentioned that he bought it from a merchant who talked up the difficulty of trading with the Ljosalfar. Autumn Oak replied that this used to be true, but as the Nations of the Night get further from people’s memory most Ljosalfar are becoming more open to the outside world, and he sketched out a crude map with the location of a village where Quarrin could probably get the second player’s pieces. Quarrin thanked Autumn Oak and Mara, and as the two left to go to the university dining hall, they couldhear Quarrin ask Pav, “Now, my dear, do you enjoy games?”

After the meeting at House Aundae, Petrichor and Bartleby headed out to the streets of the The Capital and stopped in at a food stall, ordering some simple meat pies and soup. As they were eating, a man walked up and sat next to Bartleby, introduced himself as Liam, and mentioned that he sought them out specificially with a job. Bartleby quizzed him about the job while successfully seeming indifferent, and learned that Liam’s employer wants us to head to an island in the upper reach with ruins in the middle that need exploring, and that his employer wants the crew to retrieve a specific item in exchange for a large amount of money. Sensing that Liam was hiding something, Bartleby offered tentative acceptance but said he needs to put it to the crew, so he agreed to meet with Liam on the ship later and then, praising the generosity of Liam’s employer, passed him the check.

Petrichor spent the whole conversation eating increasingly improbable amounts of food and attracting a larger and larger crowd.

Back on the ship, Autumn Oak consulted Aurora about the necessary port rites, since part of the pact the crew has with the ship spirit is that a part will be replaced every time the ship is in port. Aurora wanted the window that Petrichor blew Ash through to be fixed, and while Petrichor lay on the deck in a food coma, Autumn Oak and Bartleby headed out to get a new window that would satisfy both Autumn Oak’s need for quality and Bartleby’s need to maintain high cash flow. They returned before nightfall having secured a work contract, and when Liam arrived at the ship for a meeting, the whole crew headed into the mess to meet with him.

The meeting was mostly inconclusive, with Liam having very little information to contribute, but he did have a map of the island that shows it to be covered in thick jungles, and he said that as far as his employer knows, it’s not inhabited because it’s far away from most of the main trade lines. The item we would need to retrieve was a large stone egg, but the only description available was that we would know it when we saw it. When asked what we should bring back if the egg was gone, Liam suggested bringing back the ruin reliefs, and when Autumn Oak incredulously asked if actually meant a rubbing of them, he clarified that no, he meant the originals. He also explained that the ruins were left over from the Mazatl, a pre-First Empire civilization of lizardmen—at least, according to the art in their ruins—who had died out for unknown reasons.

Finally, Bartleby and Liam got down to negotiating, but due to incredibly flowery language and incompatible systems of metaphor (and neither of them rolling any successes), they spent quite a while dancing around each other and getting nowhere. Finally, Autumn Oak leapt in with a demand for higher payment up front, the rest of the original payment if they bring back the reliefs and a bonus if they can find the egg. Liam somewhat grudgingly accepted, and then he handed over the initial portion and left the ship.

Expecting problems with diseases or poisons, Bartleby took some of the money and gave it to Mara to go buy additional medical supplies. Somewhat astonished at his generosity, she quickly took the money before he changed his mind and headed out. While Petrichor stayed on the ship, the others all headed out to stock up. Mara bought some medical supplies and some simple charms against disease, as well as some paper and brushes for Petrichor to write more of his poetry and some fresh grubs for Autumn Oak to sprinkle on the gruel that Bartleby makes for dinner. Autumn Oak bought some chalk and paper for rubbings of the reliefs, because there was no way he was going to He also bought a freshly picked apple and, with a smile on his face, ate the entire thing.

In one of The Capital’s market, Bartleby was looking through supplies when someone brushed into him. The person started to speak sharply but stopped and stared in astonishment, just saying, “It’s you!” and “You’re here.” Bartleby brusquely said that they must be mistaken and dove into the crowd, quickly losing the astonished man and ignoring the shouts that followed him.

The next day, the ship left port and headed out on the long voyage to the island. It would take a week, and other than a storm on the second day that Petrichor used his weather witchery to steer the ship through while Autumn Oak summoned a tempest-spirit to smooth their passage, there was no difficulty. As the ship ascended higher and higher and the islands in the skies above grew less common, Mara and Autumn Oak—both from the upper reach—started spending more time on deck, while Bartleby, who missed the more crowded skies of the area around Patria and Lanun, spent more time in his office.

Eventually, they reached the island and performed a quick flyover, finding the ruins but noticing that the whole thing was full of riotous overgrowth and even though it was only a dozen or so miles in diameter, they would have to land at the edge and walk overland, probably taking at least an entire day to reach the ruins. After a bit more flying and surveying, they found a suitable spot and landed, and right as the crew walked off the ship, an incredibly loud roar resounded through the jungle, which Autumn Oak identified as the call of a terror wyrm.

The session ended with Autumn Oak staring into the jungle and, with a heavy sigh, asking the others how good they were at remaining unseen.

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