Characters: Remo, Meth, Ailon, Bram, Luna, Vincent, Teve, Na'tan
Luna spends the two weeks after the theft of the anvil in bed with a high fever. The fever finally breaks and she has her first restful night sleep. At breakfast she still has a hint of a 'far away' look in her eyes but she seems alert, rested, and ready to get back to work. Remo, who has not left her side in the last two weeks except for a little sleep and a few crumbs to eat, also gets a good night sleep and a smile replaces that worried look he has held for the past fortnight
While Luna was ill, the rest of the party helped to fortify the western side of Uxmal in case of a Caliban counteroffensive but that counteroffensive never happened. The Caliban troops seem to have lost their will to fight after their loss of the bridge and have settled for an orderly retreat to their own boarder
The war is almost over. Only a small contingent of Caliban forces remains in Alban and already the countryside behind is rejoicing. "Long live the Dragon Slayer! Down with the Dukes! Alban and Azul reunite! The Kingdom has returned! Dragon Slayer, our new Liege."
Just before lunch, a delegation from the Dukes arrives with a request for the Dragon Slayer and her companions to attend a council meeting. The meeting is to be held in the border town of Beryl in one week. Both Dukes will be in attendance as will scholars, military leaders, and church officials. The wording of the note is courteous but there is a hint of desperation in the note
The party is worried about meeting the Dukes given the current mood throughout the countryside. There is discussion on how to leverage their power to make things better. They all agree that Meth should not be the actual ruler but the people will expect her to have some role. They prefer the lifestyle and economy in Alban to how Azul is run and would like a united nation to have a similar level of freedom.
Courtney and Alanna decide to stay at the front and ensure that the Caliban forces make it to the border. The rest of the party sets off for Beryl the next day. On the way, they are attacked by armagators. During the battle, Luna goes berserk and begins hammering wildly. With eyes glowing an eerie red, she kills armagators right and left and then collapses after the battle is finished. She is unconscious for several minutes but awakes her old self again
The rest of the journey goes without conflict and they reach Beryl the evening before the council meeting. At the meeting, they learn that they have been summoned because of a new threat. K'tala, the Caliban Vizier, is rumored to be trying to use the anvil to summon a horde of demons. If he succeeds, the demons will be under his power and he will surely use them to attack Alban and Azul. Only the Dragon Slayer can stop the Vizier. He is likely in his mountain fortress in northwest Caliban and has the anvil with him
The news takes the party by surprise since they expected to have trouble with the unification movement. Bran tells all that they feel that the dukes need to work out some way to unite the countries and that Meth needs to be involved at least publicly. He also lobbies for more freedom and free travel between the countries if they are to prevent future Caliban invasions. Duke Rudrik states that the two dukes have been discussing ways to unify Alban and Azul. There are many things to be worked out but he pledges to work to resolve the differences. Duke Koral affirms his commitment to work toward a unified nation but then states that unless the threat from K'tala is dealt with, there will be no future for either country
To guide the party through Caliban, the party is introduced to Na'tan, a Caliban defector. They learn that her parents were executed in Caliban and she has great hatred for the Caliban emperor, J'tal. She is a priest of Savankala, the goddess of forgiveness and mercy. Worshiping any gods beside Al-Rashid, the god of conquest, is illegal in Caliban. She left Caliban to help J'tal's enemies. She knows the territory, culture, dress, and customs of Caliban and can lead the party to the mountain fortress of K'tala
The party travels across Alban to the Caliban border. They are dressed in Caliban clothes and have been briefed on some aspects of Caliban culture. The party is traveling as mercenaries returning from helping Caliban fight with Alban and Azul. They stick to back roads and end up traveling through flat, open, wheat fields on a dirt path used mostly by farmers. They see almost nobody for several days except for an occasional farmer leading his hay wagon down the path
One afternoon the wind picks up and they can see lightning in the distance. Looks like a storm is on its way. The wind continues and the first hint of smoke reaches Vincent. Off to the east, the party sees a broad wall of smoke rapidly approaching. The nearest river or high ground is far away and the fire is approaching faster than they can run. It looks bad till Vincent quickly drops his pack and begins fishing for something. He pulls out his tinder box and starts lighting a fire! The party is confused but after the fire is going he explains, "We are upwind of this new fire. It will burn an area that should be safe from the firestorm that is approaching, if only it will burn quickly enough!"
Just before the wall of fire reaches the party, there is sufficient room in the blackened field for the party to move their wagons and horses. They move as far from the fire as they can and although the heat is intense, they are not burned. The wall of fire quickly passes and they are left in the midst of blackened earth that stretches to the horizon. As they wait for the heat to drop, Teve says, "He's gone and burned up his own country and people messing with that anvil." The others too think that the fire was not natural
They move back to the road and continue their northwestward journey. They must be satisfied with their iron rations and the water they are carrying since there is no game around after the fire. As they are nearing the large river they must cross to begin heading into the foothills, they meet a group of Caliban police. The encounter goes well with the police buying the story that they are returning mercenaries. The police are more worried about the fire and keeping law and order. It seems that the fire made it all the way to the river before it burned out. Other fires had been started on the other side of the river as well so even the western bank is no longer green. The fire took most of the buildings and farms as well. Only the stone buildings remain and the locals are walking around in a daze. With the harvest gone and most homes and trees burned, nobody is sure how they are going to make it though the winter
The party reaches the river and decides to go ahead and ford the river this evening since there are more storm clouds on the eastern horizon. They travel some distance from the river and make camp on a small hill. It is not long before the first raindrops fall. The rain intensifies and soon it is raining very hard. The rain continues though the evening and the party wakes to find it still raining. They decide to wait for the rain to stop before traveling on. The terrain on this side of the river is hilly with many valleys and they don't want to get stranded with the water rising. They have to move once as their hill begins to get cut off so they move to a nearby higher hill. As the sun begins to set, the clouds begin to clear in the east.
By morning, the sky is clear and they can assess their situation. They are on a high hill but it looks more like an archipelago. Many of the nearby hills are completely surrounded by water and some are completely covered. There are churning streams between the hills carrying mud and blackened ash from the countryside toward the river. The party decides that they will wait till the water drops since these streams are unsafe to cross
As they are standing around, a tired and ragged looking
pigeon lands on Bram's shoulder. Attached to its foot is a piece
of paper. Bram carefully removes the paper and opens it. This
is what he reads:
You are in great danger. Finished translating
Woe to you who ends my life, fire and flood and civil strife, blazing sun and shaking ground, freezing snow and plagues abound, cursed till ruin brings your death, six moons after my last breath.
P.S. I learned they didn't tell you.