Chains of Silver and Blood

Episode 19
Children and Heirs

The night is tense. Guards have been posted everywhere on the palace grounds, the intendant even calling on the local chapter of the Children of the Spear to protect the guards. The circle is awoken by a servant bringing them breakfast : a simple vegetable soup with fruitbread. Before the meal is over, Rohim leaves silently, quickly followed by Pragatima. In the gardens, they walk in silence for a time before the physician blurts out an explanation for saving Panman ; reasonning that this will help them ingratiate themselves and admitting that he couldn’t have done anything else anyway. Once she is assured that the prince will not be able to confront or oppose them for the next few days at the very least, Pragatima mellows somewhat, accepting the young Zenith’s judgement.

The days is spent waiting for Piliang’s return and the council. But waiting does not mean staying idle, and the circle spend the day intriguing, meeting with as many people as possible in order to further their agenda and decide who to back as a heir. Most do, at least : Rain Pearl, taxed by events of the previous days, elects to wait on the beach, in order to parse her toughts away from the tense atmosphere of the palace. As she walks towards the shore with Harik, they stumble on a crowd massing in front of the sanctuary of the Children of the Spear : monks and followers of the Pure Way are forming a human chain in front of the entrance to keep the warrior-monks inside.

Investigating, Harik learns that while the followers of the Honored Ancestors and the Pure Way are both planning to call for a Wyld Hunt to run down the Anathema who attempted to attack the royal family, the Children of the Spear are planning to flush out the Wretched hiding in their midst themselves. Fearing that such a move would invite retaliationg, the adepts of the Pure Way have sent word to the coast and are ready to use force to keep the Children from doing anything until Dragon-Blooded help arrives.

Harik spend a while talking to the leaders, hammering out a deal and forcing them to cooperate in order to make sure that the Anathema doesn’t escape the town. In exchange for the help of the Pure Way monks, the Children promise not to try anything unless their hand is forced. Hoping that this agreement will suffice to stop the violence, he heads on to meet Sondahk and discuss his particular brand of metalurgy, spending most of the morning talking to the thaumaturge.

Unaware of the religious tensions brewing in the town, Beyaloa and Pragatima meet with Yembe, the Bey’s second wife, eager to know more about her before they commit to backing anyone. They talk about local politics, and she explains her version of the family conflict, deploring the fact that her eldest son walked away from politics to join the cult of the Honored Ancestors.

In the meantime, Rohim goes to see the Bey directly, hoping to finnally have to opportunity to treat him. Using the fact that he saved Panman’s life, he is escorted to the Bey’s room, where he finds Yono, his last wife, mother to Panman and stauch separatist, caring for her husband. After some hesitation, she lets him help her husband, keeping a watchfull eye on him.

As Piliang’s ship is sighted in the bay, the circle meets next to the port to share their perspective on the day. Pragatima and Beyaloa are unwilling to back Piliang’s daughter as an heir : while her loyalty to the crown could be an asset, her lack of popular support could lead to more unstability and could see more people flocking to the separatist’s banner.

Rohim chimes in, telling them that he can probably end up curing Navayaman’s dementia, provided he comes back a few time in the next months. Already, he has managed to give him back some clarity of mind, even if this cannot last without further treatment. This means that the Bey will probably be able to choose his own heir in a few month’s time, and that naming a regent in the meantime could also suffice.

Accompanying Piliang to her quarter, the circle explain their vision to her, hoping that she will agree to back Yembe’s claim as regent instead of risking one of Yono’s sons becoming heir. Somewhat taken aback, she takes some time to reflect before agreeing, a sour taste in her mouth.

Episode 18
Ghostly Blades

The rain and surf make the cliffside slippery and treacherous, and it takes all of Rain Pearl’s skill to get to the top without cutting herself on the facade of the coral. As she arrives on the plateau overlooking the sea, she looks around her, but it is already almost impossible to distinguish her allies: Pragatima and Rohim are hidden in a small cavern sculpted by the sea, ready to jump back into the sea and board Calyp once they manage to grab the Bey. Beyaloa and Harik are lost in the clouds, acting as lookouts from the safety of their Cirrus Skiff.

For an instant Rain Pearl can’t help but feel in over her head; accepting to help her newfound allies is one thing, but as she sees the small fortress lying between the shore and the mountain, guarded by soldiers and warrior-ghosts, she shudders in the warm rain before advancing.

Meanwhile, Rohim and Prgatima notice marks on the ground of the narrow cave. Following them inside, they stumble on a small rowboat, complete with multiple disquises and a boxfull of deadly poisonned coneshells, recently harvested : they realise that someone else is infiltrating the fortress, and quickly sabotage the small boat and leave the cave, waiting for any sign of distress.

Unaware of the new complication, Rain Pearl is slowly searching the castle room by room, avoiding patrols (and quickly putting a page to sleep when he stumbles upon her.) It is only when she finds a suit of copper armor pierced by a dagger blow next to the Bey’s study that she begins to suspect foul play. Finding the Bey sleeping, she quickly drugs him and puts him on her shoulders… only to come face to face with a servant holding a vicious-looking dagger, who closes the door silently before jumping on her.

A furious duel starts, both fightersstruggling to keep as silent as possible as they exchange vicious blows in the dark room. They trained bodyguard manages to disarm her opponent, but she soon realises how outclassed she is when the misterious assaillant phases throught her next attack, leaving her oppen for a fatal counter.

And then there is light. Enough of it to bathe the room like a sun, enough to creep under the closed door and fire the suspicion of the palace guards. As stunned as her terrified opponent, Rain Pearl feels the deep, terrible power she has tapped into, her soul erupting around her in blue-white twin waves of phosphorescent light. Flowing like water, she dodges the killing blow with little to no apparent effort, and the assassing flees.

Knowing that she has little time before guards swarm her, Rain Pearl decides against pursuit, choosing to grab the Bey and fleeing, her blazing anima illuminating the castle grounds. Alerted by the light and the call of the guards, Pragatima jumps into action, and finds the newly exalted Night caste running towards the sea, ghost-warriors and guards in pursuit. They jump from the cliffside and the last thing the Bey’s guard see is a deep light sinking under the ship watching over the bay, plunging ever further under the surface…

Dawn cracks up the sky, melting the storm clouds away, and the group meet up on a small coral island, Calyp calmly letting her four passengers on the sand as the two sorcerers step down from Beyaloa’s Cirrus Skiff. They barely have time to catch some of the conversation, the Dawn and the Zenith reassuring a troubled Rain Pearl, when the Bey coughs and wakes up, interupting the exchange.

The circle try talking to him, soon realising that his mind is blurred by old age, and meanders throught the events of his life without order, mixing up his wives and conflating the wars he fought. They manage to get him to realise that the circumstance are dire, and he mentions the name of his admiral, telling them that he trusts him to make the proper choices.

Disapointed, they send for Abduraman, and find him in the midst of the chaos reigning in Ma Nao after the attack of the Bey’s fortress, both relieved at learning that the Bey is safe, and somewhat suspicious at their story of recapturing him from his Anathema kidnapper.

Bringing the Bey in the palace at Ma Nao, they find out that Piliang disapeared during the night, and the suspicions of the royal family soon fall upon her. Unwilling to lose a precious ally if she ends up an outlaw, Beyaloa interupts the debate amongst the potential heirs by contacting her on the spot throught an open use of her sorcery, and the discussion is soon brought to an end when she calls the wayward wife back. Still, with an Anathema on the loose and the Bey’s failing health, they agree that naming an heir as soon as possible is a priority, and everyone agree to reconvene the next day, hopefully with Piliang present.

Rain Pearl sleeps, for a while, exhausted by the event of the night. But this is no time for peace yet : as she falls into a deep slumbers, she finds herself in a great prison-palace of void and glass, miles long, tall as a mountain but far narrower. In the distance, a great blue light, a fire surrounding a many-armed spirit of obsidian and ectoplasm, who stares at her for a moment in silence before banishing her with a gesture and sending her back to her body. She wakes up sweating, unsure of the significance of such an omen.

After a quick rest, Rain Pearl and Pragatima tell the rest of the circle about their own suspicions, noting Panman’s suspect attitude during the discussion of the assassin. Eager to know more, Rain Pearl disapears for a few minutes and comes back wearing a nigh-perfect disguise of the woman she fought last night.

She infiltrates the prince’s quarters, finding him deep in toughts in his room. As predicted, he is nonplussed when he sees the pale woman enter, and asks her about the events of last night, annoyed at the perceived interference of the northern foreigners. But the conversation doesn’t go as planned : trying to act like an assassin-for-hire, Rain Pearl tries to negociate her pay, sending immediate red flags. Suspisious, the prince ask her how long they have known each other, drawing his dagger and yelling for his guards when she hesitates.

The gig is up, and Rain Pearl quickly disarms him. Acting without thinking, Panman throws an oil lamp at her, barely missing and setting fire to the room. As the first guards pour into the room, the Night caste cuts the prince with the dagger she grabbed from the original assassin, still coated in deadly poison. A shallow but fatal wound, before she disapears from view in the smoke and leaves her foes to deal with the fire.

She barely has time to get back to her circle to tell them what she learned. A page and two guards bursts into their bungalow, asking Rohim for his help : prince Panman has been poisonned, and they need a physician’s immediate assistance if he is to live. Ignoring the obvious insistent looks of his circlemates, the doctor leaves without saying a word.

The venom is known to him, after all : no need for a diagnostic, and he quickly stops the muscle paralysis and the respiratory failure before they can be fatal. Once the prince is out of danger, he stays for a moment, looking at the sleeping face of the ennemy he just saved, thinking. And with a sigh, goes out to confront his friends.

Episode 17
A Drifting Pearl

The sun is already warm on Ma Nao, the bay shining like a turquoise in the morning light when a group of ship flying the colors of the Children of the Spear enter the bay. On their prow, Rain Pearl is resting after her ordeal of the last few days.

As she sets foots on the docks, and thanks the captain, she stumbles upon the crew of the Temeraire and recognises the circle. They greet each other warmly, commenting on the unlikeliness of meeting so far from Dir-Jal, and invite the obviously tired Rain Pearl in their bungalow. Here, she tells them the story of how she lost her ward, recounting the pirate ambush and their capture as they were travelling towards Ysir. She turns sour as she recalls her escape and the day she spent drifting at sea before being picked up by the small fleet.

Concerned, Pragatima promises that they will help if they can. Harik and Rohim suggest asking the local admiral for help, as they already discussed the issues of piracy in the south, but Beyaloa has a better idea : grasping at the tendrils of Essence around her, she sends an Infaillible Messengers to Zapir directly. Seeing throught the eye of the cherubim, she finds him drugged in a cave, along with a dozen other bodies. Unable to respond coherently, but for now at least, alive.

They find Abduraman and tell him about the lost Star-Prince, and he agrees to send two fast ships to Baliad and Bali’n in order to look for Zapir in the local slave markets, reasoning that this is probably the fate the pirates have in mind for their prisonniers.

After a small rest, the group finally meet with Sondahk, the thaumaturge known for directing the making of the copper armors used by the ghostly guards of the archipelago. They are warmly greeted at the red tower overlooking the town. Eager the sell the cover they established, Beyaloa and Harik spend most of the dinner talking ship and establishing plans for an eventual sale. Pragatima tries to pick their host’s brain about Ami, his godblooded slave, without much success. The meal ends late, with plans made to pursue negociations in the coming days.

But as the island rests and falls into sleep, the circle leave their bungalow under cover of night. The plans have been made, the occasion ripe : tonight, before anyone can question the reason for their presence further, they will capture theBey, and try to learn more from his mouth. They cannot afford waiting more. As a warm rain starts to fall, they go over their plan once more.

Episode 16
The Brew of Unrest

Outside the town, where the forest reclaims its right and where the last ruined walls are used as orchards and livestock pens, the circle meets Piliang, having dinner with friends under a pavilion. As they share their meal, the Bey’s wife informs them that her husband has been sick for a while, governing when able and otherwise staying in a forteress along the coast. In the meantime, the power vaccum has left his heirs fighting amongst themselves for influence, trying to shape the court to their ideals.

As in much of the southern territories, some people resent being ruled by Ansibah, and while outright rebellion hasn’t yet been an issue, being contrary to those from the rest of the Twelve Thrones is seen as a show of strenght. Being loyalists to the Twelve, Piliang and her daugther are afraid that separatists may be gaining too much power, and she offers her help to the queen’s envoys, promising to try and introduce Rohim as a court physician.

During the afternoon, they meet Panman, one of the youngest son of the Bey and a avowed separatist. He asks them the reason for their presence, telling them that he can interceed in the place of the Bey for them. Unwilling to reveal their mission, Pragatima tells him that they are here to learn about the strange copper armors made by the local artisans for the ghostly warrior-servants of the Fiery Isles. They talk about the local family of thaumaturges who craft them, and the Bey’s son lets them go, still somewhat wary. Something in their attitude doesn’t ring true.

The circle dines with the Admiral once more, and Beyaloa makes plans to send her new corsair crews on some exercices with his ships. Then, in the dead of night, the sorceress summons her Cirrus Skiff, and leaves with Harik to scout the Bey’s fortress on the coast. They find it well guarded, atop a small cliff riddled with holes hollowed out by the sea. From one window they get a glimpse of the Bey, incoherently raving near his bed, but they decide to leave without attempting anything… for now.

Episode 15
The Sea That Smokes

The Sea of Dreams is clear and blue, the sun of the late Wood season shining bright over the clear, deep waters. At the helm of her ship, Beyaloa is steering toward the great white plume of clouds marking the Fiery Isles. The rest of the group (along with three of the Voriyaras) is trying not to get in the way of the three sailors actually working, Pragatima racing with Beyaloa’s tidemare Calip on the surface of the water, Harik sculpting and talking with Beyaloa about sorcerous workings projects, and Rohim taking care of Onirim, who spends his day looking at the horizon on the prow.

They are a couple of days away from their first destination when they notice a quartet of sails coming towards them, three of them visibly intent on intercepting their small ship. Immediately, Pragatima jumps in the tidemare and goes under the surface. Their fears are confirmed when the first ship lets loose a volley of fiery arrows on the Temeraire, setting fire to the sail.

But no pirate ship can last long against the might of a circle of Exalts. Rohim and Beyaloa’s sailors quickly put down the sail and try to keep the fire in check, and the two sorcerers start to incant. They would be easy prey for the archers, but a powerful shout from the Dawn shakes their ship like a reef, cracking the cracks the underside of their hull and throwing off their aim. A few seconds later, one of the pirate ship’s prows explodes in a burst of fire, Harik’s incandescent Raptor igniting the archer’s oil. The second ship is battered by Beyaloa’s Obsidian Butterflies, the stone insects shredding sails and ropes, leaving the pirates exposed and wounded.

The third pirate ship starts to flee, and Pragatima sends another shockwave throught the hull before boarding it. There is a moment of indecision as the crew hesitates to surrender, and their captain, her face still covered with war-paint, throws her weapons to the deck and falls on her knees… only to be suddenly decapitated by the Hazan woman.

Horrified, Beyaloa forces herself to maintain her composure, and she soons board the pirate ship, taking command by sheer force of will. She accept the pirates’s surrender, allowing their second-in-command to put a rowboat down to help the other crews.

Meanwhile, the fourth ship is approaching the scene, and the pirate crew recognise it as a dhow used by a renowed pirate-hunter. Unfazed, the group calmly waits and meet their captain, who introduces himself as Karo-karo, and congratulate them on their prowess. He invites them on his ship to discuss where to send the captured pirates, but Beyaloa refuses, saying that she prefers to keep them under her command for the time being. Taken aback, Karo-karo tells them that captured pirates are usually sold as slaves in the south, and that they should not set such a precedent. He ends up bowing out of the conversation, obviously concerned about angering two powerful sorcerers, and intrigued at the reason for their presence.

After a few days of travelling around the volcanic north of the main island, the Temeraire and the two captured pirate ships arrive at the clear turquoise bay sprinkled with ancient ruins, where the city of Ma Nao has been built amongst the crumbled walls, temples and towers of a long-lost metropolis.

They are received by agents of the local bey, and offered a house inside the palace ground. As they wait for the bey to receive them, they start visiting the city, enjoying the hot springs and the sights, striking conversations with the locals. Pragatima, uneasy about the open slavery and the ghostly soldier wandering the street in copper armor, questions ayoung godblooded slave to learn more about the local culture. Later, they also meet Abduraman, the local admiral, and end up having a chat with him during dinner, learning that the Bey has been hard to reach for a while, and that most petitionners end up giving up before ever getting a meeting.

Then, late at night, as they come back to their house, Rohim bashfully trying his best to forget the vision of Pragatima bathing in the nude and almost carrying a too-drunk-to-walk Harik, they are greeted by Piliang, the second wife of the Bey, standing in their living room. Apologising for the intrusion, she explains that they might have a common goal, and invites them to eat with her outside Ma Nao the next day, leaving the group suspicious but interested in discovering more about the intrigue they apparently stumbled upon.

Episode 14
What's worse than an army

The streets and plazas of the city are full of life : like every year, this is a time of plenty, where food is distributed freely throught the city, and people everwhere are dancing, celebrating and engaging in friendly contests of skill. Pragatima participates in some of the celebrations, and ends up exchanging tips with Rain Pearl as they train in the street. The rest of the group soon find themselves tired with the festivities, and Rohim goes back to his home, while Beyaloa and Harik take up their studies again in the calm of Ysmir’s library.

It takes Harik’s preternatural hearing to notice something wrong : coughs and heavy steps, and a rasping, unnatural breath under their feet. Asking a servant, they learn that the body of Nash was lain in the cellar, and immediately realize what is happening. Sending a servant to warn Pragatima, they grab all the guards they can find and go to lock the cellar doors… only to be confronted with a very surprised Nash Draghma, his funeral robes covered in blood but his wounds apparently already healing.

The tension is high, as the wounded Anathema gauges the group facing him, unsure if he can defeat them and flee before their formidable ally come to their rescue, his empty gaze sending shivers down the spine of both the sorcerers and their guards. Both parties unwilling to engage, a negociation of sort starts, Nash asking to be allowed to leave the city, promising to never come back to enact vengeance. Beyaloa agrees, in exchange for information on where the merchant-prince got his hand on his dream-eaten troups, and Nash obliges, telling them that they come from Baliad, where he bought them from He Who Burns, a local fae lord. Faithful to her word, the sorceress lets him pass, and the wounded Anathema makes his way through the guards to leave.

Rohim is the first to notice something wrong with himself. Alone in his study, his head starts to spin, and pain slowly spreads throught his ariculations. He panics for a moment, unable to recognise the particular sickness he suffers from. Even so, he manages to cleanse his body, using his incredible medical expertise, and notices that the sickness is a perverted strain of the Inashi’s regenerative powers he has been studying for a while. Unsettled by this, he goes back to his friends, intent on changing his mind and warning them.

Nash is almost out of Ysmir‘s garden when a furious Pragatima arrives, having been warned by the guards. Unwilling to listen to Nash’s explanations, she jumps into battle with him, and their second duel trashes the merchant-princes garden, obliterating his wine fountain and shredding throught the aromatic fronds. By the end of it, the Dawn and Rain Pearl stand in front of a thrice-dead body, his dark blood mingling with the wine running freely on the ground.

Pragatima’s paranoia flares at the tought of Nash coming back from the dead once more, and she refuses to leave the body alone even for a minute. Rohim finds his three companions arguing with Rain Pearl and Ysmir as to how to prevent Nash from coming back to haunt them, as they fear that burying him would allow him to come back in the flesh, but fear that descrating the body of such an adversary could create a powerful shade hungry for vengeance.

Thankfully, the physician has an idea, and they follow his lead, bringing the corpse down into the cellar with him. Once assured that no-one is there appart from his circlemates, Rohim touches the body, allowing the light of his anima to pour out. For the first time, the rest of the circle sees the white and gold phoenix that his the image of their friends soul erupt around them, nearly blinding, a bird of pure power and essence spreading his wings underground and burning the body of their foes to a fine white ash.

Rohim gets up, his caste mark still shining on his brow like a golden third eye, the life and dreams of Nash Draghma still coursing throught his head, and allays his bewildered friends’ worries : their old adversary will not come back.

Everyone breathes in relief, and the two sorcerers notice that they have been fighting a impressive headache all this while. Rohim opens wide eyes at this, and starts to examine them, concluding that they have caught the same sickness he suffered from. Immediatly, they share their worries with Ysmir, and put his guests and servants into quarantine. The discovery that Zapir is already bed-ridden only confirms their fear that Nash’s mansion is probably the source of this new illness.

Quickly, Rohim begins working on a cure and studying the disease, and requisision a warehouse to isolate all the sick people. The other members of the circle do not appear to be contagious, and they are let go to warn others of the possible sickness.

Over the next few hours, the news spread throught the festival, and more people come to Rohim, either to get checked or to help. Some are already in worse shape than Zapir, their ganglions swollen and barely able to breathe. And slowly, a clear picture begins to emerge. Most of the sick people come from three specific areas, one of them only being Nash’s Palace.

The group goes to inspect the two other spots. The first is a well corrupted by the dead body of a sick raiton, with piece of clothing apparently coming from a vagrant that used to hide nearby. In the second one, they find the vagrant in question, nearly dead from the sickness, clutching a piece of rotten Itachi meat, still wearing parts of his silver mask uniform.

As the festival ends, they finish taking in the last patients, and over the next few days the sickness slowly abates, leaving the council to debate on the disproportionate allocation of city ressources lent to Rohim without their approval, in order to fight what was apparently a small outbreak of flu. As the merchant princes and alchemists discuss city finances and the position of the new member of the council, the circles leaves once more, their physician the only person still horrified at the potential plague they avoided.

A few days later, in Beyaloa’s estate of Khimsar, as they relax and overview the training of the free Sea People, the group receive a visit from the queen of the Twelve Thrones. Troubled, she tells them that she asked the twelve beys to send some of their troups to the capital in order to plan the defense of the Kingdom of the Sea, and that two of them refused outright.

Unwilling to start a civil war, she asks them to go south to Baliad and the Cinder Isles to explain to the two beys the circumstance of her demand, and get them to agree one way or another. The group (and especially Beyaloa) jump at the call, especially eager to learn more about Baliad and the source of the silver masks as they fulfill their secret mission.

Episode 13
The Silent Raitons


Pain, all over her body, the taste of blood in her mouth, her breath ragged and broken.

She opens her eyes. The red light of the bloated, dying sun fades at the center of the dust cloud, the dark anima of the assassin eating the radiance and colors of evening.

Rohim is crouched in front of Pragatima’s face, concerned and already ready to help. Harik, the grey clay of his demon-armor flowing around his skin, and Beyaloa, now a living bronze statue, unleash their sorceries at Nash Draghma, turning the sand into glass at his feet.

With a shake of her head, the Dawn gets back up, jumping back into the fray. The two lances clash once more, Nash’s anima exploding into an iconic skull-faced raiton.

The last people trying to leave the arena scream, and shouts of “Anathema!” ring out in ripples amongst the crowd. And in a flash, Rain Pearl is at Pragatima’s side, whirling her sequined dagger and flashing her tattooed hand as she transports from place to place, spinning in and out of view.

In a chaos of fire, dust and obsidian butterflies, the mercenary warrior finds her killing blow, piercing the masked Nash throught and estinguishing his anima like a un-candle blown by the wind.

Night falls on the city, and a deafening silence spread over the arena. The news spreads fast : that the Hazan woman, wielding the solid lightning of her godspear, has slain the dark Anathema ; and soon the whole group ends up carried away on the shoulders of the crowd, the start of the festival having transformed into an impromptu celebration of their prowess.

Seeing the way the wind is blowing, the council decides on the shores of the river to name them heroes of the city, awarding them the trophies and prizes meant for the winning gladiators. The wild romp carries them to Ysmir’s palace, where the night is spent reveling and drinking.

Morning finds our heroes in front of Nash Draghma’s palace, accompagnied by Rain Pearl and her Prince Zapir. While the properties of the disgraced merchant-prince now officially belong to the council, they have agreed with Ysmir that looking for additionnal proof into Nash’s wrongdoings is important for the safety of the city, even moreso considering his newfound power.

The castle is filthy, most of it looking nothing short of abandonned, a thick smell of death lingering in the corridors. As they explore the rooms, waiting for the silent attack of a dream-eaten, they stumble upon two grisly discoveries : the bodies of dozen of silver-masked warriors, taken by hunger and dropped unceremoniously in a funeral pit, and a strange room covered in sigils of blood and shards of broken mirrors, centered around a sacrificed raiton.

Harik and Beyaloa start studying the necromantic circle as the rest of the group discuss their findings, Pragatima claiming as her spoils a precious cup and a chest of red wood.

As Harik turns over one of the mirror shards, a reflection seems to jump out of it, turning into a somber floating figure : a young woman wearing a black solar disk on her shoulders, who introduces herself as the one who took Nash’s names in exchange for raising him up from death’s door. Almost coy, she mocks the group, seemingly unnafected by Nash’s demise, treating the death of such a powerful pawn as nothing more than an inconvenience.

She ends up inviting anyone interested in the power she can offer to the Temple of the Sun, an offer that Zapir almost takes here and there, stopped only by the reaction of the circle. An argument breaks out between the prince and the sorcerers, who recognise the danger of accepting such an offer from what they suspect might be one of the rulers of the Underworld. Nonplussed, the shade steps back into the glass shard and disapears, leaving them all on edge.

Episode 12
Unexpected Returns

It has been raining. The rain is soft, and warms, and brushes away the waves, turning the Sea of Gold into a silver mirror facing the calm grey skies. Elikem and Daitya shout as they run in the puddles of the private garden, their offering of tea still smoking on their father’s altar. Between the buildings of Beyaloa’s estate, a few servants walk briskly under triangular umbrellas.

And on the small beach, facing the calm sea with a cup of precious coca steaming between her hands, stands Saramen, queen of the Twelve Thrones of the Isles, flanked by the Bey of Ansibah and her advisors and guards. As Beyaloa consults with her water elementals on the pier, they wait for the meeting with the People of the Sea, unconvinced at the tall tales of underwater empires and sunken cities spun by the group.

They have been waiting for a while now. More than an hour. The easy conversation of the first moments, as Pragatima reminisced with Saramen’s bodyguards about old battles, have dried up and turned into an unconfortable silence. Under a tiare tree, Rohim and Harik are staring at the sea, afraid to consider what would happen should no-one show up.

And suddently, as Campa starts to complain about the lateness of their guests, the sea parts to reveal M’’ui’rin and another member of her tribe. Introductions are made, and gifts exchanged between the two monarchs, and Saramen soons gets over her surprise as they start talking about the threat posed by the Unificator. Under the rain, knee deep in the water, they make plans to organize some kind of resistance against his ever-lengthening grasp : Some of M’’ui’rin’s people will travel to the Dreaming Sea to find if others are trying to resist, and a safe haven will be built in the sea around Khimsar where the free People of the Sea can train and regroup.

Soon Pragatima and the Voriyaras are planning how to help training such peculiar fighters, arguing with Campa about how to organize the camp. Harik, playing with his shining lens, recalls some of the discussions he shared with Beyaloa, and wonders at the possibility of a sorcerous working that would allow the armies of the land to fight underwater alongside their newfound allies.

Meanwhile, Saramen takes Beyaloa for a walk on the beach, intent on testing her loyalties to the Twelve. They agree not to share any information with her aunt for now, fearing how Omale would try to use such knowledge for personal gain.

In the main room, they find Jemdat and Siem talking in a hushed tone, obviously exited by the content of the letter they received. The circle quickly learns that due to Pragatima’s negociations with the Bank of Ansibah, Ysmir has made significant gains, enough to sponsor someone else for a place in the council. He plans on lending enough assets to Siem to allow her to become a Merchant-Prince, and asks for her to come back to Dir-Jal as soon as possible.

They spend some time discussing the matter, and promise Siem to meet her back in the City of the Chained God for her inauguration during the yearly Festival of Chains in a few weeks. The next few days are spent finding a sufficiently secluded bay and setting up the training camp, with half the Voriyaras staying to help the Sea People organizing the training camp.

The voyage back to Dir-Jal is less eventfull than their previous trip: the group crosses the savannah and the dry valley without trouble, and they soon arrive in the city of the Chained God, where preparations for the festival are in full swing. They are welcomed by Ysmir, whose palace is packed with guests staying for the festival, some coming from as far as distant Illuvar.

They are brought up to speed on current events, and learn that the cult of the chained god is currently undergoing a schism, with some vocal elements decrying the official acceptation of the cult (with Marika as High Priestess) as political maneuvering to quell the population. This movement is centered around a previous alchemist and holy man named Neth, and is taking ever-hardening positions on the liberation of the Inashi and the leading council of the city. They also learn that someone has been seen consuming the Inashi’s flesh, and their suspicions soon turn towards the new sect.

As the three scholars mingle with Ysmir’s guest and reconnect with old friends, Pragatima leaves the city with Siem to negociate with some of the local Hazan tribes, planning to open a regular market between the Hazan and Dir-Jal, both to facilitate peace and to secure her power. During the trip, Siem confesses that while she accepted Ysmir’s offer, she fears the terms of the deal she struck with him to become a merchant-prince. What’s more, she is unsure how she feels knowing that her triumph is due to another than herself. Philosophical, the mercenary simply advises her friend to wait and see how things evolve before making up her mind.

The great arena is vibrating with the sound of thousands of voices. In the warm glow of late afternoon, a trio of dancer-gladiators is fighting in the red dust, blades spinning and twirling. The first day of festival is upon Dir-Jal. Everywhere people are in their most colorful garments, talking, betting and debating as the spectacle gets more intense. Sitting in the honor row, the group is making small talk with Zapir, a Star-Prince from Illuvar and his bodyguard Rain Pearl, when the attention of the audience switches from the match to the council: without fanfare, Siem has taken a seat next to the two established merchant-prince.

There is a moment of tension, as everybody waits for someone to call that bluff. But after a minute of silence, Pree Asma goes from shocked to obsequious, inquiring as to Siem’s change in fortune. And just like that, the tension vanishes as fast as it started. People relax, and the activity of the festival resumes once more. The risk is past. Or so everyone thinks.

The sun is about to set when the ground growns and shakes, throwing mortar dust everywhere. The arena rings out with screams and the groaning of stone and bricks thrown against each other. In the distance, a cloud of ration jumps in the sky as the Inashi throws his immense weight against his shackles.

In the silence that follows, Pragatima and Harik are the first to notice the dark figure striding across the sand towards the council, clad in funeral robes and wearing a broken death mask. Immediately the Hazan warrior jumps in the sand to join the gladiator already positionning themselves to block the menacing stranger. A spear coalescing in his hand, the masked man joins the fray, dispatching the gladiators in a few blows, as the circle calls for the arena to be evacuated.

In the middle of the nascent chaos, the circle preps for battle, incantations making the air buzz. As the spear of shadow and the spear of lightning clash in the middle of the arena, Pragatima at last sees the visage of her foe throught the cracks of his mask : Nash Draghma, eyes haggard and empty. His voice is cold as ice as he tries to brush away the Dawn.

“Move aside, Hazan. I did not offer my name to death only to be stopped by a savage.”

And with a blow that cracks both air and stone, Pragatima, leader of the Voriyaras, master of White Reaper, undefeated against monsters and Exalts alike, is thrown in the arena stairs by a Nash Draghma darkly lit by the un-light of his anima.

Episode 11
Below the Surface

A clear morning dawns on the coast, and the People’s Place guests are woken up by a breakfast of flatbread served with oignon-and-plum sauce. Before Rohim can start to enjoy his meal, a glowering Pragatima enters the room, asking him about his dealings with the palace staff in her usual blunt manner. Faced with Beyaloa’s testimony, he explains that he is following the advice of Ebele, who told him to follow the white veils if he wanted to reach her after her departure.

The discussion once again turns to the subject of Pragatima’s paranoia, but the Dawn brushes away any accusation by remiding everyone that they are after all holding a very dangerous prisonner, and that some aspects of Rohim’s nature and past are still somewhat cloudy. Before another argument can start, however, Harik enters the room, warning them that a retinue led by two Dragon-Blooded is entering the palace.

The group (without Harik) meets with Omale on the great veranda of the palace, where they greet Ejain and Makeba, who come bearing magnificent gifts for the Admiral : an exotic unbreakable glass sword from distant Chiaoscuro, a dozen pure-bred horses with golden brides, and a bottle of precious wine from the Center of the World. The two Prasadi nobles explain their concern at the very public humiliation and capture of their compatriot. Ejain apologises for Jinosoi‘s actions, and Makeba warns that keeping a Dragon-Blooded in captivity will not sit well with Prasad of followers of the Pure Way. In order to avoid straining the relations between the Twelve and the Empire of Prasad, they ask that Jinosoi be released as soon as possible. In exchange, they will repay any insults given throught Jinosoi’s actions, and ensure as best they can that such a thing won’t happen again.

Wary of such a deal, the group stalls for time, saying that they would rather not take such a decision without Queen Saramen’s support, and all agree to meet again in the evening to discuss the issue further.

Accompagnied by Omale, Beyaloa, Harik and Pragatima head to the Royal Palace, people muttering and staring as they see the great jade lance carried by the mercenary capitain.

In the palace’s hall, they meet a tired Saramen, discussing the issues caused by Y’danna’s refugees. She grumbles as they spell out their situation, and she explains that their position towards the neighbouring empires of Prasad and Ysir is too precarious to agravate one of them. The problems raised by Y’danna’s mysterious attacker, and by its displaced citizens are worrying enough without adding another political crisis into the mix.

Together, they end up agreeing to release Burano Jinosoi, and asking for embassies to be created in order to be able to solve these types of problems in the future, reasonning that this might also be a good way to strenghten diplomatic ties between the two nations.

Before they leave, Pragatima and the Queen discuss their shared heritage, Saramen revealing that she has Hazan ancestors. Somewhat directly, the Dawn asks if Saramen might be interested in lasting peace between the Twelve and the Hazan tribes, surprising everyone. Saramen responds that such a thing would be terribly welcome, but that uniting the Hazan tribes (or even obtaining the agreement of all the Beys) seems impossible during their lifetime. Undaunted, Pragatima nods, content for now to see a common hope.

Meanwhile, Rohim leaves on his errand to obtain more information on Ebele’s activities. Meeting his contct at the non-existent teahouse, he learns that the young heroine left a message for him before leaving to hunt pirates disrupting sea traffic south of the Twelve.

Somewhat put off, Rohim leaves the teahouse to return to his studies, eyed by the white weiled patrons.

Jinosoi freed, and with the promise that the Prasadi Dragon-Blooded will stop meddling in local politics for the sake of their hosts, the Circle is free to return to their expedition. After spending a couple of days preparing at Beyaloa’s Khimsar estate, they leave for the Sea of Gold aboard her personnal dhow, the Temeraire, leaving the Voriyaras behind.

Following Ciello‘s directions, the head towards a small fishing village, intent on finding the fisherman who picked Harik’s lense from below the waves. Stopping for the night on a uninhabited island, Beyaloa and Harik decide to spend their evening adding to the expedition’s roster. The sorceress creates a boiling column of water next to the ship, which splits to reveal a shimering Tidemare, eager to explore the sea around her. On the shore, Harik draws a complex circle of salts and incense on the sandy soil, stepping inside the maelstrom of green fire and silver sand that erupts to emerge clad in a talkative grey Peronelle.

The fishing village is small, craddled between two rocky cliffs on the shores of the sea. As the Temeraire enters the bay, there is a flurry of preparation and stress, and the locals greet the circle with a deference bordering on fear, only calming when they realise that the visit has nothing to do with raiding them or collecting taxes.

Once they ask about the lense and the treasure from the bottom of the sea, they are pointed towards a small secluded house sitting above the bay, freshly repainted and given a wide berth by the inhabitants. In the middle of a few dozen expensive wine bottle, they find a sleeping Aver. The old fisherman grumbles at being woken up so suddenly, and thell them to go away, stressing that he hasn’t sold any treasure for years.

Over time, Aver warms up to the group, and starts talking about his days as a fisherman and his discovery of the underwater city. He tells them of being carried there by a wyldstorm, and of waking up after days of whirlwinds and pouring rain under a blue sky, shining white roofs jutting from between the clear waves. With tears pouring from his eyes, he recounts the trips he made there, to the empty undewater metropolis, exploring the upper levels and bringing back riches to sell and memories to last a lifetime, as he grew more isolated from the small supersticious community of his village. After a while, his voice cracks, and he concludes by saying that he is too old now to sail alone far from the coast, and that not one of the young fishermen of the village is worth sharing such splendor with… not that they would want to leave on such an risky trip.

With a smile, Beyaloa then tells him that if he agrees to show them the city, they will give him the opportunity to see it as no-one has seen it before, and to explore the unseen depth unreachable by a lone diver. It’s a reborn Aver who descends towards the village with them, where they are greeted by the sight of children playing with their Tidermare, the elemental basking in their adoring stares.

Under the guidance of Aver, they sail towards the center of the Sea of Gold, and soon reach the underwater city. True to his word, the white roofs of the city’s highest towers protrude from the calm surface, and the silhouette of many other buildings can be seen throught the clear, shining water. The Temeraire is attached to a roof, and soon the group is plunging underwater, safe in the belly of their Tidemare.

The city is immense, spreading down an underwater hill, and seems to be in pristine condition. As they leave their living ship to swim in the abandonned building, surprising fishes and retrieving mysterious ustentils, they discover a city apparently built for an underwater people : no stairs are to be seen anywhere, and doors are haphasardly placed at any level on the white-coated building, free of any algua or coral growth.

Suddenly, they notice a face peering at them from behind a bush of algua. A face soon joined by several, as they end up surrounded by a group of sea-people, tall humanoids swiming throught the water, clad only in harnesses and string of pearls. They climb back to the surface, followed by the great men and women who pierce the wave next to their ship. Cautious, the group try to communicate, and find that one of the tribal leaders of the strange group speaks a bastardised version of Dreamthongue.

The woman calls herself M’’ui’rin, and expresses astonishement at their presence so far out at sea. The circle mention their interest in the city, and M’’uirin tells them about the history of the shining metropolis, built by their ancestors in ages past. She tells them that they are among the last of the free Sea People, and that they were driven out years ago by one of their own, M’’ar’ai, the Unificator. Now they only come into the old city but a handful a time each year, to hold their ceremonies in the ancient temple, moving around the Sea of Gold the rest of the time to stay away from the conqueror’s grasp.

Interested by the tale, they ask about M’’ar’ai, and the proud sea-woman tells them that the Unificator is on a crusade to unite all the tribes of the Dreaming Sea under his rule, and that he as very nearly managed to do so, and now dreams of conquering the surface. Sitting on the white roof of the tallest tower, the circle feels a strange sense of dread, remembering the stories of the sack of Y’Danna, and of the strange army that came from the sea. Talking to M’’ui’rin, they learn that M’’ar’ai wields a monstruous spear of coral and jade called Eren Kien Abe, able to summon powerful monsters of living coral.

Aver, Siem and Jemdat turn pale at those stories, but the circle find a renewed sense of purpose in the menace : at last, they have a clear adversary, and can focus their effort on this Unificator instead of worrying about an undefined threat. This must be known : the people of the Twelve and the Pearly Coast must plan to fight this adversary, and the first step is to talk with their leaders. They ask M’’ui’rin to come to the coast of Beyaloa’s estate in two weeks time, planning to bring Omale and queen Saramen there to tell them the grave news.

As the winds pick up aroung them, the four Exalts salute their newfound allies, and step back on their ship. The expedition must be forgotten for now. Sooner or latter, war will come to their shores from the sea, like a Wyldstorm ready to destroy what they all hold dear. Preparations must be made.

Episode 10
The Three and Four

Without thinking, Pragatima jumps after the Dragon-Blooded. The chase starts on the palace roofs, the two Exalts jumping over the heads of bewildererd palace guard under the red light of the setting sun. Soon both are bouncing from tree to tree, flashing towards the rest of the city.

Back in Osbek’s room, Rohim springs towards the thief to inspect him for injuries, as Beyaloa summons the Cirrus Skiff in order to follow the pursuit. Soon, she jumps on the coallescing cloud along with Harik. High above the paved roads of the city, they see Pragatima and her quarry on the roofs of the Street of Temples.

Over the busy street reverberating with the cries of wine-sellers and the prayers of the followers of Adriva Aynan, the Air Aspect turns around, realising that he can’t easily outrun the Hazan woman. There is a calm moment, as they face each other without speaking, ignoring the calls of the Children of the Spear passing in the street. Realising that the mysterious Exalt is probably trying not to be seen, Pragatima starts the fight by using the voice of the Nightingale, throwing the Dragon-Blooded off the roof with a powerful shout. The panicked crowd clears around him, and as he take a unknown martial art stance, Pragatima accuses him of being a murderer in front of the street, trying (and failing) to get the crowd and the Children of the Spear to join the fight.

The two martial artists come to blow in the middle of the street, destroying stalls and creating a panic, the Dawn’s shouts and the swift blows of the Air Aspect sending shockwaves throught the evening air. From the Cirrus Skiff, Harik’s keen eyes widen as he recognises the tatoos on the Dragon-Blooded’s hands : the mark of a holy assassin of the Pure Way, trained to fight and kill since childhood. The fight creates ripples throught the crowd, the first signs of a panic stampede, and the Children of the Spear establish a wall of shields around the two Exalts as the air starts to glow with the colors of the Dragon-Blooded anima.

But the fight, as terrible as it looks, is over before long, and the Dragon-Blooded is put against the wall by the fury of the Dawn. Before Pragatima can land the killing blow, he drops to his knees, throwing his hand in the air in an obvious gesture of surrender, his anima faltering around him.

Unwilling to kill a defenseless oponent, the Hazan warrior takes him prisonnier with the help of the Palace guard who followed the commotion to them, and the Dragon-Blooded is put in chains to be interogated… which proves to be harder than expected, seing as he doesn’t speak Dreamtongue or Flametongue.

Back at the Palace, Rohim is caring for Osbek and for Majaji, the Voriyara who was put in charge of the thief’s safety, and ended up being poisonned by the Dragon-Blooded. After managing to reduce the effect of the poison, he meets back with the rest of the circle and a furious Omale, who is interrogating her new prisonnier in Low Realm. They learn that he is named Burano Jinosoi, and that he was supposed to learn who hired Osbek to steal the bank ledger.

The assassin is put in a cell under the People’s Palace, and his injuries are treated by Rohim while the group debates what to do with such a peculiar prisonnier. While the Dragon-Blooded is polite and respectful, he refuses to answer any questions from the group, and only Beyaloa’s observation’s skills tell them that the assassin does not expect to stay in his cell for very long. Intrigued, they leave the killer monk meditating in his cell in silence.

Tired by their day, most of the circle stay in the palace to rest, study and keep watch. Restless, Rohim leaves to spend the evening at the Blue House, where a local noble is entertaining guests with a collection of songs performed by artists from the Pearly Coast. Oblivious to the intrigue of the nobles surrounding him, and unfazed by the eldritch guardian of the house, a lion-dog of living blue ceramic, the young physician simply enjoys the show, even going as far as to tap his fingers in rythm with the familiar melodies.

But he ends up noticing a shaded figure observing him in the crowd, and feels a shudder of recognition as he gets to his feet to approach the beautiful dark woman, who leaves as soon as she sees him approach. They both leave the Blue House, and end up running throught the empty streets of the city. As Rohim finally catches up with her, she brings a dagger of old bronze to his throat, and asks him to let her go. The young man ends up alone under the moon, lost in the foreign capital.

The night is deep when Rohim finally finds his way back to the People’s Palace. Ambling toward the guest wing, he crosses a young servant wearing a white veil, and grabs his arm, asking for information on Ebele’s wereabouts. Visibly surprised, the servant tells him that there is no way to get that information, especially not by going to the White Tree teahouse, where taking lunch would be out of the question.

In the shadown, Beyaloa watches the exchange incredulously, a cup of strong tea in her hands.


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