|The heroes gather in Peppershot for Frankie's interment. The interment is two days hence and the companions determine to travel to Kronos. There, they would investigate the strange artist who had prepared a painting that seemed to feature a venerable Arek battling a mass of tentacles similar to those that Nimbus and Krenok had seen emerge from another of his paintings and had apparently killed a wealthy art collector in Riot's Gate. Travelling with the assistance of Halation, the Companions arrive in Kronos and travel to the Hanging Gardens of Lower City. The artist's home is larger on the inside than it has any right ot be, judging from the outside. Inside, they pass through a portal to some demi-plane where they are advised the artist is at work. They arrive in time to see him painting madly in fromt of a ruined portal standing at the base of a smoldering volcano. The painting is completed, the portal opens, a mass of tenatcles tangled around a mighty dwarf bursts forth and the volcano begins to erupt (Woo hoo!). The tentacles are defeated, Arek freed, and teh artist squashed by molten rock, the Companions return to Peppershot.|
After a two day in his sweatlodge, Krenok emerged. Brutish gods were not pleased with the treasons of the Orcish shaman, but he cared little. He was more concerned with what the spirits had had to tell him:
In Naurie Village
A Flock of Watchers
For one thing, there was the Orc boy, a warrior from Krenock’s own tribe. He was the last survivor of a search party sent out after Krenock after he and Nimbus had left the tribe’s camp with Halation.
Nimbus and Halation had returned earlier that day from a mission taken to recruit a Feylord of the Sengarwood to the Conclave while Krenok traversed the spirit realm. The Conclave of Voices had taken form cloistered at the heart of the Plains of the Horselords. Nimbus could not stand to be idle while the shaman searched for the risen martyr’s erstwhile Companions.
The Orc rubbed his body with fresh fallen snow to awaken his senses to the mortal realm and approached Nimbus. He did not bear good news…
After the ninjas, Thalazzar and Tiberio were only mildly surprised to return to find the Daisy Cutter had left without so much as a “by your leave.” After a some terse invective over all of their lost supplies, the adventurers found a quiet inn from which to plot their next move. The following day, while Thalazzar tracked down magical supplies to conduct some research and complete some scrolls Tiberio stayed in the inn and idly played his lute to an audience of grateful regulars. When Thalazzar returned, Tiberio informed him that he had learned enough to satisfy his curiousity about the Dream of Horrors. He added that although he tired of being the plaything of powerful beings, he had one more errand to which to attend. He would not carry on with Thalazzar to find the Daisy Cutter, though he did suggest that it was probably bound for Peppershot, Frankie’s birthplace in the mountains. Thalazzar had also guessed as much.
Thalazzar found he had little to say to his friend that a wry smile and a slow shake of his head couldn’t communicate more fulsomely. He assured his old comrade he would awake to say his goodbyes before Tiberio decamped the following morning. That was the last the conjurer saw of the bard.
Thalazzar retired to his quarters to work on some scrolls while Tiberio stayed on to continue playing a while longer – more for himself than the accumulated patrons. The next morning, the wizard learned what had happened from one of the barmaids.
When Tiberio had finally completed his playing, he left the tavern and asked to take a hot meal, some butter mead and a pail of warm water alone in his room.
“That’s when we I heard it,” the barmaid said, “I went to rap at his door when I stopped short. A sound like bells or crickets buzzing in the heat of summer. I felt a little disoriented like the hall had tipped. I made sick on myself right then and there. Heinrich gave me the rest of the night off. Told me to come in early and clean up to make up for the lost time. Might just give him my notice cuz the place still don’t feel right to me.”
The owner had to send a boy through Tiberio’s window to open his room. The room and the window had been locked from the inside, but it was empty. Thalazzar searched and even tried scrying but to no effect. Tiberio was gone.
Two days later, Nimbus appeared to Thalazzar astride the most magnificent creature the wizard had ever seen – a massive horse of such exquisite grace and beauty that his heart ached just to look at it. Never one to mince words, the beggar indulged in no niceties: “The One moves against us. Frankie is dead. Arek is in peril. The companions are gathering in Peppershot to plan our next move.”
Well that might explain things. Thalazzar took a long pull on his pipe, some very good Amitlanean leaf. Worth every gold piece. His tail thrashed, irritated. “Tiberio is gone,” he said finally. “He had planned to seek his fortunes alone. The Inbetween Men, it would seem, had their own ideas.”
Nimbus nodded grimly. “How long before you are able to depart?”
Janarl found that little about life outside the Enclave surprised him anymore. Travelling beneath the Wall of the Righteous, following again the winding subterranean path he had taken to reach the Monotheocrate Order, was not the place he expected to be taken to task for such complacency.
Janarl had made his way back to the overlook of the abandoned watch post where the Companions had entered Divinity with haste. He avoided RAD patrols, the locals and the Janissaries as best he could. He was gratified to find some small evidence of the fey returning to this One-cursed woodland along with the T’Kel.
Beneath the Wall, he had been travelling upwards the better part of a day when he heard the last thing he had expected: hoofbeats. That was the first surprise. The next was who he came across astride a horse unlike any he had ever heard of before: Nimbus. And yet, not Nimbus. Something in the inscrutable human had changed profoundly. Enough that even the most provincial T’Kel would notice.
The following morning, the Horselord, Halation, brought them all to Peppershot.
The arrival in Peppershot three days ago was bittersweet. Frankie’s large family has been very generous even though they are heartbroken. Signs in the village’s pride in her are everywhere.
There is ample opportunity to rest and recuperate. Ts’Elf is given access to some workshop space and some old militia men with prosthetics of their own talk to Rin about his Clockwork limbs. By your leave, Hast departed yesterday, having realized that this was not his battle after all.
Following the surgery performed to replace Shadowcog’s temporary steam heart in the Great Workshop beneath Peppershot, there was an emotional gathering in the Village Mess to determine how to commemorate Frankie. Many called for a statue of her to be erected, ohers wanted to rename the clocktower at the centre of the village. Sparks Kantankerin spoke through his tears when he suggested that Shadowcog be adopted into the family and, against convention, be offered Frankie’s family name – “That way the dear creature will never be alone, and we can fill the hole in all of our hearts.”
The sudden arrival of Nimbus, Thalazzar and a beast that could only be one of the fabled Horselords caused a great deal of excitement. Nimbus had to used his aura of calm to explain that they were friends of Frankie arrived for the funeral.