You continued your journey back to Alexandria from Navarre. The Albatross was heavy with passengers:
- Leah, a physician from Tristram with an interest in magical maladies
- Thessaly, a witch from outside Tristram who was hired by Vannay, the King’s Mage, to deliver a magical artifact/ritual. The ritual has something to do with time magic
- Greta Flintback, famous Digger’s Guild researcher and expert on the Imperium and the Calamity, along with her research staff
- Gill Gunderson, an attorney, of sorts
You set down on the mainland near a forest so that Guyver and the grad. students could upgrade the ship’s engines and armor. With a day and some lumber, it became far hardier, faster, and more maneuverable than the old freighter had been in years.
Over dinner, Greta took your questions about her work, the Lucari, the Calamity, and the Imperium:
- On the arcane construct, Nidhogg: constructed at the height of the Imperium’s power, he was a research and archiving tool adapted to run facilities as an emergency measure. Not truly alive, but far more than a machine. Has three arcane hearts, arcanum fixing him magically to this world. Two have been replaced with parts of the soul of Guyver. Nidhogg has been manipulating all extant Imperium ruins as part of his programming to preserve life.
- The Calamity: An ongoing catastrophe stemming from an experiment to release Midgard’s “stored” energy by harvesting tzadikim en masse. Apparently the Lucari helped the Imperium find tzadikim. The energy released caused earthquakes, broke continents, created the Wound.
- Lemuria: Original city-state of the Lemurian Imperium. Greta got the coordinates for where it ended up after the Calamity: the Wastes on the far side of the Spine of the World. She is eager to see and study Lemuria, for what untold magical and scientific lore could be hidden there. If there is knowledge about how to save the world, it is likely there, along with Nidhogg’s last arcanum.
- The Wound: A permanent whirlpool and storm in a sea created by the Calamity. Greta’s interpretation of data recovered from ruins and Nidhogg suggests the arcane construct has been funneling magical energy from extant Imperium ruins to the center of the Wound.
You took off and headed for Alexandria. As you flew over familiar territory, you saw the signs of Galbadia’s march: fields trampled, and the city of Kirkton razed and still burning. As you neared Alexandria proper, you spied the siege, Galbadia’s army and extensive artillery (magical and otherwise) encircling the city. And there was a smudge of dark cloud hovering nearby, not moving with the wind.
Finn and Thessaly wove an illusion spell to cloak the Albatross while Scruffy took the helm, with Daelwyn. Maelgyn transformed into an eagle and flew ahead to try scout the dark cloud. Daelwyn readied his song blade and cloak. And Guyver stood ready in the engine room. It did not take long for the troops on the ground to see through the illusion, and soon the ship came under artillery fire. Scruffy was no combat pilot, so Finn took the wheel.
Meanwhile, Maelgyn alighted on the deck to report that the dark cloud was a swarm of harpies and heading right for the ship.
The chaos that followed can be summarized in flashes of action:
- Daelwyn in a whirl of blade and cloak, awing the harpies with song and stature
- Guyver coaxing great efforts from the engine for feats of aerial acrobatics
- Finn tying himself to the helm as he forced the ship into a barrel roll to avoid more blasts of magical energy.
- A giant, ravenous harpy with glowing purple eyes clawing its way onto the deck
- Maelgyn charging the great harpy in bull form, forcing it back to the edge of the deck
- Guyver’s blast of robotic gunfire and the Albatross’ trajectory making the great harpy flee, and Daelwyn latching chains to it, trying in vain to drag it back for more punishment
You arrived in Alexandria, battered but whole. The city below had been transformed by refugees and siege, with people crowding every space and supplies beginning to grow scarce. Docking at the Royal Palace’s aerodrome, you were swept to Vannay’s tower and a reunion with Owen, Leena, and Isaac. Owen and Leena have been feeling cabin fever, while Isaac has been worrying and pacing since the word of peace talks with the Galbadian’s in 2 days time.
But there was little time to catch up, as Vannay swept in and managed to be short with you in the less than 5 seconds he focused on you before pulling Greta into a side chamber and slamming the door. Maelgyn eavesdropped as best he could in pigeon form outside the chamber’s outer window. He heard talk about dire decisions, about a seed that is a tree, dwindling time, “is it our right?”, the final two tzadikim nistarim, and the coming of “peace” talks with two ambassadors of Galbadia.
Left to your own devices, Finn spent an evening whoring (she was fantastic). Daelwyn went to see Tick Tock about information on the siege and peace talks. The criminal underlord was making the most of the situation, and offered everything he knew if Daelwyn would remove an obstacle in the path of Tick Tock’s price gauging: Sister Gabriela, a priestess overseeing food distribution amongst the refugees. Maelgyn tagged along in Daelwyn’s pocket. Guyver nagged the engineers repairing the Albatross. And Leah finally got a chance to examine Owen (yay live specimens).
The following day you were still being ignored by Vannay. Maelgyn began snooping, and saw Vannay was even twitchier than you remembered as he went about his busy schedule. Greta, looking long and purposefully at Finn, suggested the halfling go check out his ship. Aboard the Albatross, Finn found Beatrix, princess of Alexandria and Captain of its flagship, the Bernholdt II. She expressed admiration for the party’s daring siege-breaking, wishing she could be out fighting in grand battles to save her people, and confusion over Vannay’s extreme protectiveness about her. Sure, he had known her since she was little, but she was an adult who could make her own choices now.
Meanwhile, Maelgyn investigated Vannay’s private study. He found notes speculating on many things, but always returning to a tree, the tzadikim, and the Lucari, who apparently could not be truly killed (only forced back to the void where they must find another way back into your world). The notes confirmed the previous day’s eavesdropping: there were apparently only two hidden righteous ones left, and this fact was accompanied by a dire forecast for the world. In addition, Maelgyn found a wondrous music box, clearly of ancient Imperium make, with an engraving “To V, with love: may your days be long and fruitful”. Startlingly, the engraving appeared to be as old as the music box, suggesting that Vannay is older than the Calamity, and perhaps a citizen of the ancient Imperium!