So, a fight broke out on the roof. Of course, not before some threats were lobbed both ways, but the important thing is that some people died.
Kalinoth instructed her guards to seize the Zeusan, which did not sit well with the party, obviously. Adding injury to insult, she then explained that she sent a present back to Red Larch. A demonstration of the cults power, for her guest of honor, Sansuri. So they might want to hurry up if they wish to reach the district before it is… gone.
Now, the party was not just going to lie down and take that. Saving Red Larch and also keeping their airship sounded much better. As Valna let loose her spirit guardians on the surrounding cultists, Jack brandished his axe for his hostess. Kalinoth just smiled as Atheinshart raised his sword between them.
“Stand down, captain. Do as she says.”
Rook and Windharrow, meanwhile, reached Kalinoth’s office. Looking beyond it with detect magic, Rook could see the outline of the cult leader’s strange instrument, as well as a cubic shape of illusion magic.
The door had an alarm, but this was quickly dispelled. Stepping beyond it, they entered the office of someone wanting to stress their own importance: Full-height glass windows behind the desk, large bookshelves covering most of the other walls, and massive portrait of the woman herself, pictured like a shining angel with wings spread wide in the middle of storm clouds.
Rook went looting. First of all was the instrument – into the bag. Second, Kalinoth’s desk. There was plenty of stuff on it; financial reports, accounting books, letters – into the bag. He did look at the letter she was clearly currently writing:
“You are speaking with your queen, Wolfgang, and I require etiquette even from my consort. But rest assured, your daughter is alive. This bumbling captain of yours did not get close to her, so she was never in any danger. Some of my other subjects were not so lucky, being dragged into his theft of…”
Interesting – into the bag.
Then he turned to the illusion magic, which turned out to be on the outside of the windows. But putting his hand against the glass, Rook found that he could push through it and into a small storage space. It turned out that there was a trap, which sent a lot of electricity through his body, but he managed to retrieve a book from inside. It was written in sylvan, unfortunately, but one of the others could read it – into the bag.
As Valna and Jack fought their way to the Zeusan, sparring with Wolfgang, Kalinoth and her weird invisible, punching servant, Ethan decided to break cover and help. He sent a bolt of lightning to roast the guards closest to the airship. This understandably horrified the others, as he also hit two guests, one of them a child.
“What the hell!?” gasped Helen, backing away from him.
“What?” he shrugged. “Valna said they were criminals?”
The voice of Sansuri rang out, despite her clearly speaking in a normal tone.
“Queen Kalinoth, do you require my help?”
Kalinoth laughed in her unnerving, childlike cadance.
“It is fine, countess, we have this all under control. They are just rebelling against the inevitable, as they feel they must.”
Valna turned to Wolfgang.
“This is some bullshit, how could you throw in with these? Help us.”
“I’m trying to! Just… leave. Get out of here, alive, without the ship.”
“You are a disgrace to the uniform, director.”
Valna rushed to save the fading life of the killed boy (the other guest killed actually was a criminal).
“I vote we leave peacefully. Even if the giants are staying out of it for now…”
Jack and Ethan strained, but relented. Surrounded by dead cultists, they at least felt they had made some sort of point. All of them headed for the stairs down and out.
“Well, this has been just wonderful entertainment,” chirped Kalinoth as they left, while smiling to her mortified guests. “And that boy lives, how nice. Does anyone care about the other man they killed? Anyone want him resurrected? I can do it, but I do not want to waste my energy… No one? Wow, that’s sad.”
Rook and Windharrow ran into two cult guards as they left, but managed to fool them into thinking that Rook had found Windharrow running around outside his cell, and was taking him for questioning. This ruse allowed them to reach the elevators in the corridor outside the office, and they headed down. They ground floor lobby was like many other corporate skyscraper ones, thought the late hour meant few people were around. Two civilian guards at the entrance were ever so slightly questioning the rough state of Windharrow, but they were easily convinced to let them pass.
Windharrow breathed in and leaned on his knees as they entered the street.
“I can not believe you got me out of there. Just… thank you.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“Disappear. Maybe I will see you around.”
As he left, Jack, Valna and Ethan also reached the bottom floor by elevator, and joined Rook outside. A brief exchange of the evenings happenings was made, establishing three major things:
Wolfgang Atheinshart was compromised by the air cult holding his daughter.
The haul of paperwork from Kalinoth’s office was a big win.
They needed to get back to Red Larch quickly, without their airship.
A flying carpet taxi would be very expensive, but it would also be very quick. Rook negotiated a lower price by offering the pilot a golden robe, and they set off.
Ethan had time to read the book that Rook had stolen from the secret compartment, and quickly found out it was a journal of Kalinoth’s. The two hours on the carpet back to Red Larch was not enough for Ethan to find any great revelations, but on the last page he found an interesting section:
“The eye. The elements swirl around it. Or does it rest in their flow? Yan-C-Bin does not answer my questions on this matter, even as I follow his teachings. As I preach them. Does he not trust me? I hold his instrument, which by the way BEARS the mark, and yet he does not tell me, his PROPHET, of it? My master, my PRINCE, my god, mocks me. Because I try to understand his mysteries?”
But then there was a scrawled image next to it, and suddenly Jack flashed back several weeks, to when he first arrived in Red Larch. The necromancer they had fought in Red Larch’s cemetery. His weird orb had projected the same mark. He had not thought about it a second since (because he’s Jack), but seeing the image again brought the memory instantly back.
Rook, meanwhile, suddenly felt his sixth sense connection to Shre Bara-Wûd disappear the instant he looked at the mark. A slightly dull feeling krept over him, as if he had felt something the air and now no longer could. This eye was some bad juju…
They reached the plaza of Red Larch at about 4AM, and things looked like any other hot summer night. A few caravans on the streets, and a few stalwart drunk people at the bars of The Singing Sword and The Helm at Highsun. Carefree. But just as they started to wonder where to look, they heard chanting from a main street leading to the square.
Rounding the corner, they found a procession of air cultists opening a cylindrical container covered in earth runes, to reveal a large orb inside. Beyond the glass of the orb, one could see a miniature stormcloud, lit up in intervals from within by flashes of lightning.
A silence spell from Rook disrupted them, as did Jack charging them straight on, but the man holding the orb (which was clearly much lighter than they would have thought) started to smash it with his sword. Some jostling later, though, Jack had the orb in his hands, running for the hills, as the others finished off the cultists. Ethan called Jack back to them, to shove the orb back into the cylinder. By that point the sphere was cracked and vibrating violently in Jack’s hands, but as the top was put back on the cylinder, it immediately became still.
Looking at a cylinder in person, Rook and Jack realized they had seen something like this, only smaller. Back at the Bargewright Hotel, were they had helped Mei’s acquaintance, the theft from the vault had targeted a miniature of its exact description, only with water element runes, rather than earth.
For now, they needed somewhere safe to store this one. And as it so happens, Kaylessa explained to them as they got back to the Singing Sword, Ulrich had been busy construction a vault in the cellar of the hotel. How fortuitous.
They found Ulrich happily hammering away, and he was made aware of the cylinder’s and the orb’s properties. He would make sure it stayed safe.
Valna also brought up the case against Wolfgang Atheinshart. Ulrich was most troubled by the accusations, and even more so when shown the letter Kalinoth had been writing. Atheinshart did not have a daughter as far as he knew, but he had heard rumors of a romantic interlude with a Family champion, decades back… It was the sort of stories you would always hear about a person who had a adventuring background, so it was hard to separate the facts. But a child would fit the bill for compromising the man.
“Director Atheinshart is a good man. He…”
“Ulrich, he has betrayed the OCPD,” interjected Valna.
“He would not fail us for anything less than a child. This goes to the highest level of our organization. We must tread carefully. For now, this must stay in this room. If we need to expose him, our journalist friend can become useful, but do not mention this to Embla.”
Speaking of, they also handed Ulrich the paperwork Rook stole at the HH, and told him to go forensic accounting on their asses. He said that Embla would be invaluable in this regard, and would call her to join them.
Rook sat meditating in the garden of the hotel, when Shre walked up to him.
“Something weird happened last night. I lost contact with you.”
It was back now, having established itself slowly since then. Rook explained that they had found an image of an “eye” in the journal of Kalinoth, and what she had written.
“The eye which the elements swirl around…” she mused. “A poetic description, which I would say points to the Abyss. That… place… is like a dark hole in the middle of the elemental wheel. But how does that make sense for these prophet, and their princes? They only care about their own element.”
“On the other hand”, she continued, “these orbs you have found, the runes on their containers; I fear they represent elemental evil working together. As I have always tried to prevent.”