As Seifer‘s group and my own got caught up on the events after our separation, I saw that Exelar was approaching. We weren’t the only ones aware of his arrival and he trailed various town elders behind him like clinging shadows.
The others began speaking to him as he neared, but I recognized the look of hunted prey in his eyes. Moving past him, I intercepted the elders and asked about how we resolve their concerns. It was quite the barrage, though I noted Exelar’s nod of thanks as I walked further into town. listening to their concerns. I quickly discovered that engaging one of them with another’s concern was the key. The wounded were sent or carried to the community building, where the priest of the sun had set up. With that resolved, it was mostly getting the new arrivals settled in unoccupied buildings.
Doing so, I noted that we’d been gone little more than a week, but there was a huge of amount of progress on the town buildings. Floors were repaired, ceilings were patched or replaced, nearly everything was livable. Save for the building that had collapsed under me, but even the rubble from it had been carried off for use in other repairs and new building layouts. Dwarven efficiency was always impressive; even more so when they were working with, instead of against, you. With everything under control for the moment, I turned back to rejoin my companions when the dark stone building caught my eye. We’d been neglecting it, but with so many people in the town now. we needed to figure it out soon. We’ll keep the people away from it for now.
I caught up as they started to walk up to the Temple Rise. Noticing that no one was sharing specifics of what had happened, I let the small talk go on uninterrupted. With the amount of people here now, it would do us well to keep sensitive information among each other. Coming around the bend, another building of concern came into view. I don’t know exactly what Xar’eth had done to resurrect the Spire, but it was certainly for his own reasons. One more concern for another time. Hopefully we won’t regret it.
As we walked through the Rise, there was more evidence of the rapid reconstruction. Reaching the namesake temple, Exelar waved us on to the chapel and headed upstairs, indicating he’d return shortly. Lingering behind the others, I caught sight of Hershel striding quickly toward him and whispering something that appeared urgent. Then Exelar went upstairs, Hershel into the chapel with a side look at me, and I followed in and took a seat.
What followed was mostly my those of us in the expedition bringing Exelar up to speed and what had passed since he was last with us. Until Seifer stepped up, that is. He brought out the Thyatian blade that he’d taken possession of. Exelar prayed over it, trying to get more information about the relic. He wavered for a moment before ending his chant. From his description, he heard something like the rest of us had in our dreams that night we spent in the ruins where the abomination struck.
After telling him of our experience there, he asked if we still had the soul gem that Caleb recovered from the troglodyte. I stood up and went to ward him, removing the wrapped gem from a pouch at my waist. He took it without hesitating and unwrapped it so that it’s upper half was exposed. It still glowed with a pale, sickly light. He clenched his hand around it and began his litany again. Suddenly, his face contorted, and a dark frost enveloped his hand began to creep up his arm.
To my shame, I hesitated. Seifer leaped forward to knock the gem from his hand, but a wave of force burst from it, knocking him to the floor among the benches. Maybe it shook me from my shock, because I moved up and went to place my own hand on the gem with Exelar’s, thinking that the will of two people could overcome it. But he forced an eye open, and shook his head to ward me off. I moved my hand back, but didn’t withdraw it. If it looked like he was going to falter, I was going to grab hold of it, regardless of his command. Luckily, it wasn’t necessary. He won out against it’s influence and the frost retreated. Though his hand looked a little worse for the wear. He asked if he could take it and make it safe and, of course I agreed.
After a short recovery, Exelar turned to the subject of the the towns, their management, and the Watchmen. Apparently, several of the refugees had officially joined the reborn organization and Gruendok was looking for volunteers to fill out the command positions. Maybe that’s unfair. Exelar was looking for people, for us, to join. Aside from the logistical needs, it all meant something to him and he wanted to want to be a part of it.
Caleb joined eagerly at the first offer. Seifer committed himself after a short confirmation of objectives and priorities. Nathaniel took the offer as well, after several demands that he be trusted and access to resources. Very human of him. Expecting that we we done with this portion of the meeting, I went to raise a new topic and noticed several sets of eyes were on me. Caught a bit off guard, I began to look around and found Gruendok there, asking me if I would join. He began making his appeals, but I barely heard him.
Although it was Exelar’s driving motivation, his belief that Heironeous had put him here to do this, I never pictured being a part of it. I was here to support him and this effort, but I was an outsider of outsiders. And now that I was being asked, I found myself…hesitant to do so. Despite being here for all of them, I wasn’t really one of them. I could still contribute without the title, I … I was panicking. No one’s perfect. Still, I didn’t think that I was the person they were looking for. Then I though about the refugees wanted, what they needed. I suppose it’s a little too late to be worried about committing myself. Besides, it’s what Exelar would want. If he’d admit it. I got out of my head and accepted. A short ceremony and a magic pin later and I’m the new spymaster. Honestly, this would be better suited to someone like Hershel, but there you have it.
Parlay with the Bowmen
With no time for rest, we had to leave in order to make it to Polga in time to meet with the Bowman, Meiko Sama. We had assumed the use of the Ironclad’s airship. Luckily when walked up to ask for it, they were willing to take us.
Dawn caught up to us on the way to the burnt husk of the town. We were there before the meeting time, so I decided to scout around. There’s no caution that shouldn’t be taken when the Bowmen are involved, even ‘honorable’ ones. The fires had died out, though a few hotspots remained here and there. The grays of the stone and ashes reminded me of some of the caverns of home. Minus the increasing sunlight. With nothing looking too out of place, I turned back to the group. And that’s when I heard the footsteps.
Meiko Sama and her entourage had arrived. The next twenty minutes consisted mostly of posturing and threats. However, there was a moment where she asked about Boris Cotton and the rescue of his daughter. Thanks to a slight miscommunication, she almost attacked us. There are only a few situations that would cause someone of her skill to act so foolishly, family prime among them.
Then, moments later, Nathaniel almost got us all killed by repeatedly insisting on casting a spell to show her “what the Bowmen had done.” Fool wizard, I wound up having to interrupt his spellcasting as he refused to stop provoking a confrontation. He glared daggers at me, but I won’t let him continue risking all our lives.
Ultimately all that we did was confirm that Meiko, along with Kroenen and his faction, held no love for the other battlegroups and held Trask in particular contempt. She also said that if we went after him at the Cascades, it would mean our deaths. Very enlightening. So now, we are left to decide, do we rush to the Cascades and attempt to take down Trask with no backup and no preparation, or gather our strength while he gathers his, and leave ourselves, or another village, open to attack.