It had been a week since the defeat of Tso Lien. The Circle recuperated, slowly tending to business that had been forgotten in the mad scramble to defeat the Lintha.
The morning became eventful shortly after dawn broke across Chiaroscuro. The Tower of the Anathema was shaken by a series of chants and cheers. Obsidian Skye opened the door to find a throng of people gathered, some with small shrines bearing the likenesses of the Circle being erected as well. She also found Black Fly at the head of these people, who immediately began to cheer as she came into view.
Realizing that this situation was untenable, she quickly pulled Black Fly inside the tower, who was accompanied by a tall statuesque young woman named Joanna. Black Fly told his Circle-mates that he had come from very far to bring the refugees into Chiaroscuro, and that apparently his tales had inspired them to come forth into the city proper to pay homage and ask for protection. Sundered Cliff and V’neef Kafun also made their way downstairs, the former massively hungover and annoyed by the noise from outside.
Quite soon, a Monk of the Immaculate Order arrived on the scene, along with an Iselsi Hatak, a bureaucrat of the Realm. The Monk, led by his niece, demanded that the people gathered in the plaza depart and turn away from heresy, lest it lead them into disaster. He was recognized as someone who had been a great hero to Chiaroscuro some 60 years ago, and his niece was an Immaculate Acolyte, and by reputation was known to be fulfilling her grand-uncle’s belief in her.
The tower dwellers filed outside, and asked the Immaculate Monk to halt his chastisement for a moment. Obsidian Skye then asked Black Fly to take his followers, who Sundered Cliff had learned had come from Thorns, out of the city proper, where they could set themselves up. Black Fly, in turn, asked Joanna to lead the people out while the Circle spoke to the Monk and the Bureaucrat.
Obsidian Skye set breakfast, and the group sat down to talk. Black Fly and the Monk sparred verbally for some time, before Black Fly then went on to explain more of what had happened to Thorns, or the remnants. Apparently, the things that sacked Thorns, under the leadership of a creature called the Mask of Winters, had begun to raise a vast army of the dead, and had begun to march. This army had besieged the village of the refugees, leaving only those who Black Fly shepherded away alive. Sundered Cliff remarked that an army of the dead would only grow as it expanded… but Thorns was some distance east of Chiaroscuro…
Eventually, Obsidian Skye sent the Monk on his way with promises that they would make sure that no more worship/heresy occurred, and that the Circle had not invited or incited such. The Bureaucrat also left, his calm somewhat disturbed by Black Fly‘s exuberant recall of their younger days on the Blessed Isle, especially involving a tale of gooseberries. He returned some of Black Fly’s discomfort, revealing Black Fly’s name (at the time) as Casco Rumbottom.
As the Circle continued to talk amongst themselves, another knock came at the door… this time, dressed in the livery of the being known as the Emissary. He extended an invitation to the entirety of the Circle to come to a dinner that evening at the Embassy of the Mist-Shrouded Isle.
Sundered Cliff reacted with a bit of horror – the thought of a formal dinner and hobnobbing with ambassadors was not something he looked forward to. Obsidian Skye almost agreed, but the Emissary’s messenger revealed that the Ambassador of Gem was a former gladiator himself, and so the evening might not prove entirely horrible. Obsidian Skye then decided that Sundered Cliff and Black Fly needed accoutrements in keeping with the formal dress the party called for, and dragged them into the mercantile districts in search of proper attire. She also stopped to inform Grandmother Bright about the developments in Thorns…
Later that evening, the Circle arrived at the sprawling manor house that was the Mist-Shrouded Embassy. There, they met many dignitaries, including the Ambassadors of Varang, Gem, The Lap, and Harborhead, as well as a Talon Lord of the 7th Legion of the Realm, and the Bride of Ah-lat the Sun Bull, who served the ambassador of Harborhead as a bodyguard. The Bureaucrat was also a guest. Small talk was made by most, though Sundered Cliff was determined not to drawn into idle conversation, as he was definitely uncomfortable in the situation they found themselves in. Obsidian Skye began speaking with the ambassador of Varang, talking with her regarding the rumors coming out of Thorns.
Sundered Cliff was greeted by the Ambassador of Harborhead and her guard. The Ambassador was most courteous, telling Sundered Cliff that she recognized him as a member of the Izhalvi tribe, and asked if, as his Ambassador, there was anything he might need. Sundered Cliff replied that while he had been born in Harborhead, he no longer viewed it as his home – it simply was the place of his birth. The Ambassador of Gem, however, blew through his dour nature like a desert whirlwind, laughing boisterously and seizing Sundered Cliff in a bear hug, saying that he too had once been a slave, as well as a Gladiator, and that he was now an ambassador. Sundered Cliff had heard a bit of Gem’s policy of slavery, and did not think that the Ambassador understood truly what it was to be a slave. Out loud, he replied to the Ambassador that he longer fought in the arenas, as it brought back bad memories of his time in bondage.
Their host soon entered, and ushered everyone to dinner. Various conversations sprung up during and after dinner. Kafun spoke with the Ambassador of Varang and their host regarding the nature of Fate and the Exalted’s influence on the Weave of Creation. Obsidian Skye, Black Fly, and Sundered Cliff spoke with the Ambassadors of Harborhead and Gem about the nature of gladiatorial games and the slave trade in the respective regions. The bureaucrat and Talon Lord also engaged in a conversation of their own..
Eventually, Obsidian Skye broached the topic of Thorns with the Ambassador of Gem. He, in turn, asked the Circle to join him in a side room for a private remark. Instead of a conversation, however, he revealed Night’s Orchid, a member of Obsidian’s Skye‘s family, who she was overjoyed to see alive. The two began chattering away at each other, catching up, as the rest of the Circle looked on, somewhat agape – this was the least reserved they’d seen Skye acting. Even as the Ambassador of Gem chuckled, they returned to the main table, where the Emissary dropped a wink to Obsidian Skye.
Shortly after, however, a scream was heard. A servant came scrambling in, and whispered something to the Emissary, who demanded to be taken out of the room. The entire dinner party followed, and found the body of one of the Emissary’s servants, a native Delizhani who, it turned out, worked for the River (which most of the party seemed to view as the Tri-Khan’s secret police). The Emissary had known this fact. There were no visible wounds on the man, and indeed no sign of an attack.
The servants revealed that two men, the caterers, had left shortly before the two Solars had entered. They opened the door to attempt to pursue, but realized that the lavishly appointed district was wide open and heavily populated – it would have to wait.
Kafun and the Bureaucrat, meanwhile, discovered a burn of some sort on the fallen man’s left temple and a necrotizing wound on his right ankle. Sundered Cliff and Black Fly had returned upstairs with the information they had learned, and Sundered Cliff noted that the wound on the ankle was not caused by any local spider, snake, or other venomous creature. Hatak noted that the delivery might have been via an automaton, a device which could be made to look like an animal to assassinate someone.
With the revelation, and its accompanying cloud of suspicion that quickly enveloped the entire group, the Emissary asked for his house to be emptied, but that no one leave Chiaroscuro, lest they admit guilt in so doing.
Night’s Orchid came along with the Circle as they left…