|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Haiku Odsdottir||Gilead||Persia|
he morning is very busy. Tira uses her healing skills to her best ability, but there are many wounded. Gilead volunteers to scout about for any reptilian stragglers. Persia is exhausted and finds a quiet corner of the fort to sleep. Hank is put to work gathering and repairing carts to carry wounded and refugees. While so engaged, he sees an odd sight. A golem carriage is approaching up the road from Tallon. A carriage so far from the city is almost unheard of. Nevertheless, Hank is hailed by the adept driver. The driver asks him how far they are from Banton Creek, where the battle took place. Hank gives him directions and is further surprised to see Farralon in the coach. The student waves to him, but they are whisked away before he can do more than inquire if all their friends are all right.
The coach arrives at the fort in good time. It turns out that it carries adept healers from the Hall of Art. They quickly set up a field hospital. Master Healer Blaine chases Persia out of her napping place. She is irritable after her night's ordeal and snaps at the Master. This draws her a reproving look from Farralon. She slinks off to where the Raven is tethered and crawls under the canopy to resume her rest. Nearby Tira is at last allowed to lay herself down as well.
Gilead is surprised to see another party arrive later in the morning. General Hannon has come out from the city to inspect the area. He commandeers an office in the fort and begins to debrief all the principles in the conflict. He questions Tira, Hank and Gilead regarding their adventure. He knows quite a bit about the Riven Gator chieftain Garlok. Frm their report, he concludes that Garlok is probably still alive, but too wounded to hold his fractious forces together. Still he would like confirmation.
He seems intrigued by Hank's flight with the Engineer. If an adept pilot could take the Raven aloft, they could spot where the gators have retreated. Hank does his best not to lie, but strongly implies that the Raven requires trained handling. The general continues to press, but eventually relents. After some negotiations it is decided that Hank will pilot both Tira and an Engineer of the General's staff.
The engineer seems disturbingly well adapted to flight and makes several insightful comments about the Raven's handling. With his guidance, they fly inland towards the lakes that lie up stream from Tallon. Tira spots the Gators first. It appears that there is fighting amongst them. As they watches, the reptiles split into at least three large groups and several smaller ones, each going separate directions. There are also visible captives with them. The Engineer suggests warning the fort and settlement at Beaverdam, It is a well defended fort, since it provides flood control for Tallon, but it is also the most remote. Tira and Hank are impressed by the waterworks there but the commander of the fort has seen no gator activity. He thanks them for their warning.
Meanwhile, back at the field hospital, the casualties have finally been made stable. Farralon has performed well and though exhausted by his efforts, seems greatly improved from his former melancholy from losing the Paladin Winston. Eventually all the friends are re-united and prepare to return to the city. There is no question of remaining to complete their task. The edge of the farmlands are too dangerous for a remote Riven farm at this time.
Tira manages to talk to the youngest paladin Jerrik before they leave. She wheedles from him an embarrassing story about Gilead's past, concerning a borrowed golem carriage and a joyride from the city. She files it away to tease him with later.
Back in the city, all have much to do. Gilead and Tira must make up schoolwork before finals. Hank must make repairs on the Raven and report on its performance, as well as the General's interest in the golem. Dakota is unsurprised by this last item and again demonstrates insight unexpected. She also requests that Tira return the ley line from the Raven.
Persia must find someone to watch her house while they are gone. With all the remodeling that she and Hank have done in the last month or so, it becomes apparent to her that with wealth comes a need for security. The last time she ventured from the city, she left behind nothing worth stealing. Now she has a valuable rug and several nice tapestries. Asking the badger potter next door to keep an eye on the place won't be enough. After some brainstorming, she decides to ask Basarin, her half-breed dancer friend to house sit while she is gone. Basarin, who has had nothing but a mat in the apartments of the Theater, eagerly agrees.
Gilead returns to his grandfather's house dusty and weary. He cleans up and then reports to Elias. The old man is happy that Gilead is not severely injured, but expresses hope that this will put an end to his ideas of going out into the wilds. Gilead replies that his honor compels him to seek out his father. Elias retorts that the Archon can send people with less to lose than he does. This starts their old argument all over again. This time it goes too far and Elias shouts that if he insists on throwing his life away, he will do it without his blessing. Gilead leaves the house to go back to the Hall. He does take the time to exchange gentler words with his grandmother before he leaves.
The week of Finals approaches. Tira must pass a customized exam in her psychometry class. She is presented with five people and five objects. She successfully returns a comb to Miss Millicent, the mouse maid from the Hall of Healing, a money pouch to a soldier, a dagger to Rimba the Librarian, a Book to Francisco, the Cook for the Hall, and a dip pen to her instructor, Teacher Cho. Not all of the impressions are strong, but she makes enough deductions to pass without error. Teacher Cho confirms that insight and deduction are the helpmates of psychometry.
Gilead's final in Spirit Philosophy is less dramatic, and a good deal more grueling. Sample essay questions include:
What is the difference between active and passive
What aspects of psyche cannot be self-enhanced? Why?
What are the divisions of spirit recognized in the city of Haven?
Thanks to tutoring from Farralon, he passes his coursework as well.
Hank's final activities are a bit more physical than the others and every bit as difficult. Dakota and the River Master have agreed that the Raven must be able to make a shipboard landing and take-off. It is nerve wracking, for there is no margin for error. The Raven undergoes far more stress than most golems under normal conditions. A crack-up over water could destroy it. It proves to be far easier than anyone hoped. The Raven's anima, copied from Hugin is easily equal to the demands.
The day of graduation comes at last. Neither Tira nor Gilead have completed their degrees, but Farralon has. He, along with several others are to be granted Master status. There are four Masters to be confirmed this semester, a great rarity. The Standing Stones are packed as each of the adepts makes the walk from the Adepts' Gate along the Promenade to the stones themselves where their Master status is announced by the Archon.
The crowd listens as Master Morphist Dahlia is announced to be entering the Army as an Engineer. Garyden, likewise a Morphist is to become and architect, since his education was financed by Master Yale. Tacabel is an animist who is beholden to Clintok the shipbuilder. Tacabel will become a sea captain. Farralon is announced last. He has studied long to be a healer, and his recent accomplishments in the field are cited. As a matter of fact, his dedication in a crisis situation has convinced the Master Healer that he would be the perfect representative for the Archon's Expedition. To say the new Master is stunned is an understatement. Luckily his friends swarm around him soon after the ceremony to offer condolences, congratulations and gentle ribbing. After Farallon learns that he is not expected to leave the ship, he is somewhat mollified.
That evening, all are summoned to the Palace. The Archon wishes to ouline the Charter for the expedition. It is reproduced here:
The commander of the expedition is Crockett
The commander of field operations is Gilead
Hank is the final arbiter of how the Raven is used
Primary Getting a
reading from the Standing Stones of Tronto
Secondary Discovering and rescuing any members of the Hadrian Expedition
Tertiary General mapping and exploration
Crewmember 6g per month +2g per combat
Soldiers To be paid through the Army
month travelling, +2 per ship combat,
Medical expenses and provisions and equipment guaranteed
This includes mitigating the effects of reavers or hostile adepts.
Individuals may make separate arrangements with the Archon or the River Master
Individual artifacts or relics recovered are property of the Archony
The Archon may redeem, return or re-distribute them if he sees fit.
Any moneys or items of non-enhanced nature belong to the finder
The leader of the expedition may commandeer any spoils deemed important to achieving the goals.
Tira makes alternate arrangements for compensation, trading her services for two semesters of study at the Hall. She also has a private audience after the meeting wherein the Archon entrusts her with the Gem of Archons Past. It is a powerful artifact of the city. It's existence is known to very few outside of the Archony, but it is capable of recording incredibly detailed psychic impressions. It holds recordings of all the Archons of the city. Ningan wishes her to touch it to the Stones of Tronto. She must never touch it unless in direst need, as it would surely overwhelm her. It is highly unlikely that any at Tronto possess enough skill to master it. For some reason, he does not seem terribly concerned about entrusting Tira with so valuable an item.
One week later sees all gathering at the Columbia. Here Crockett introduces them to the rest of the crew. Besides the familiar faces, there is a small party of soldiers, as well as several mercenaries that Crocket has hand-picked. The heroes recognize Exon Ironhand and Mint the Kabekki. Slick Russpelt is also along, apparently healed and reformed. Finally, to Persia's great chagrin, Kamlak of the Shattered Isles is there. Tip and Preston have both recommended him, since he fought off a roomful of armed men to save them in Karkul. Persia decides that she will spend most of the voyage in the crow's nest.
Nevertheless, all gather on the foredeck as the Columbia's wheels begin churning, carrying them from Tallon Harbor and into the great unknown...