OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


14 Annihilator 1: The Theft   

Hank and Persia have not been idle upon their return to Tallon.

Hank has plunged back into Mistress Dakota's bird golem project. He reveals to her that he knows a talking bird that Dakota can use as a spiritual model for the golem. Hugin agrees to be studied by the grandmistress in return for her investing himself and Haiku with Anglish language skills again.

Persia has investigated the marks upon her door and discovered that they were placed their by a fox named Fingal. Fingal claims to represent a newly established thieves guild. He says that he estimates a thief of her caliber ought to be able to generate enough to pay the guild dues of twenty gold eagles a month. Persia verbally dances with the fox on a darkened rooftop, but makes no commitment. Fingal makes veiled references to e big heist he wanted to share with her, if she joins, but the wily feline does not bite at this bait.

Tira and Char have joined Gilead's athletic team for the afternoon as they run the steps of the Savok Arena. As they return to the Circle, they are shocked to see a strange sight in the sky. A huge bird is flying over the city. Tira's spirit sight quickly discerns Hank sitting in a seat clutched in the claws of the bird. As it wheels about, all realize the bird's golem nature. As much as they wish to follow the bird's flight, they must return to class.

Hank finishes the test flight and lands the bird in Dakota's estate. She is excited to hear Hank's glowing report of the golem's performance. Their exuberance is quickly crushed by a visit from an irate General Hannon. The Hammer reprimands them for reckless behavior. He tells them to cease any future flights until they have heard from the Archon. This is really outside his power, but Dakota reluctantly agrees when Hank explains to her that her craft created for exploration could have military applications. She says she would see it destroyed before it could be used as an instrument of war.

In the meantime, Gilead has received a message from Jerrick. He is told that the new paladin will have a few moments between errands around midnight in a few days. If he and Farralon wish to meet with him, he will stop at the Golden Golem, one of their favorite haunts. The two agree.

Several of Jerrick's old friends are already gathered at the pub when the two students arrive. Gilead steers a barmaid at an overstudious Farralon, who takes a hint and puts away his books. Midnight comes and goes with no sign of Jerrick, and the two friends, now fully inebriated, decide to call it a night and return to the Hall. On the way back, Farralon hears a cry for help over the sound of the wheels of their golem carriage. He breaks a couple of rules and uses his new morphic abilities to purge his system of alcohol. He does the same for Gilead, and the two rush toward the plea.

They find the Museum of Tallon has been broken into by force. Parsee the Curator is wailing and moaning about murder and theft. They quickly determine that the sword Annihilator has been stolen and that its guardian, Winston, Paladin of Ningan, has been slain. Farralon, already weakened by his sobering exercise, stays to see what he can do for Winston, while Gilead rushes off to try and find the thieves. Neither is successful. Winston dies in the arms of a distraught Farralon, while Gilead finds no trace of his quarry. Nevertheless, he runs to every gate of the Old Circle, asking if any party has passed this way and telling the guards to close the way against any suspicious warriors.

When he returns to the Museum, it is surrounded by a crowd, and police officers are doing their best to hold them back and investigate the crime scene. Interviewing Parsee reveals his belief that the perpetrators must have been spiritually enhances, since they were able to kill poor Winston. Also, they were able to smash the block of spirit glass that encased the Demon blade. It would take great strength to do so. He says that one of the attackers wore full body covering, and the others were dressed as soldiers, though he did not see them closely. He also confirms that General Hannon has several times in the last few months made ever-stronger demands for the sword. Enough people are aware of this that a rumor quickly circulates that the General may be behind this crime.

Persia sees the crowd around the museum during her nightly travels and learns of the crime. She decides to try and visit Ningan, who has not been seen since the Vestiture. She believes that Fingal's fledgling thieves guild might be behind the theft, though it seems unlikely. Using tricks and paths learned from her mother, she manages to enter the Palace grounds. There are so many people demanding to see the Archon that she is unable to get any closer. She is noticed by Domo, Ningan's servant, who confides to her that the Archon is ill, but expected to make a full recovery. He hides her within a gardener's shed so that he can sneak her out in the morning. To be caught unbidden on palace grounds is a dire crime.

Tira learns about the crime in the Hall library, where Gilead is trying to console the disheartened Farralon. He is having doubts about becoming a healer. When Tira learns the full scope of the night's activities, she decides to act. She and Gilead try to visit the General and are turned away at the gate. A team of Policemen stand around the compound, which is armed and patrolled. Tira leaves a message of support for Hannon, while Gilead does the same for Jerrick. A quick visit to the grounds of Mistress Novya reveals a similar sight, though she is accepting visitors.

Dawn rises on a troubled city, one of its most revered symbols missing and one of its most prominent citizens slain. In Teacher Cho's history class, it is the only topic of discussion. Some believe Hannon to be the culprit. Others claim that it is the work of Mistress Novya, seeking to discredit her rival. Others believe it is the work of Karkulite spies, or Iron John, or the unquiet spirit of Kanukka. Rumors run rampant and over the next few days tensions grow as people become more polarized in their opinions.