OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


38. The Telling of Tales

he Columbia paddles slowly into the harbor of Tallon. Slowly people begin to recognize her. Fishing boat captains doff their straw hats. Longshoremen wave. A crowd begins to gather at the Columbia's slip as word begins to filter through the city. The Columbia has returned. A cheer springs up as lines are thrown and the paddle wheeler ties off to the dock.

Familiar faces are seen in the crowd as well. Brassman, the animate watchman is there, as well as Grandmistress Novya. The Rivermaster cautions everyone not to tell too many tales until they have had an audience with the Archon. They have learned much upon their voyage, and some of it may be considered sensitive.

Upon the docks, Grandmistress Novya takes charge of the event. She has summoned carriages for the crew of the Columbia, and invites all who will come with her to be feted and cleaned up at her estate. She seems well organized and prepared for the event.

Many upon the ships take her up on her offer. Gilead and Persia do, but Tira says she prefers to walk alongside the golem carriages. If this offends Novya, she makes no sign of it. Hank defers, saying he must report first to his employer, the Grandmistress Dakota. He feels deeply for the loss of the Raven and wishes to inform her of its fate before anything else. The demise of the Raven soon becomes apparent to all, since he straps the head to his back and laboriously ports it through the city streets.

A large crowd follows, but begins to thin considerably as the company passes through the inner gate to the Old Circle, wherein the powers of the city dwell. Tira quietly leaves the procession to make a beeline for the Palace, while Hank heads off to his appointment. Gilead continues to Novya's estate where true to her word, she provides refreshment and facilities for all. Something in particular catches his eye: Novya seems to be deep in private conversation with Exxon Ironhand throughout the trip and during much of the time afterward. Has he been in her employ? Is he her informer? Unfortunately, he never gets the chance to ask.

Tira is admitted to see the Archon, though the official audience will be held somewhat later. In a hurried private meeting, she gives him the highlights of their journey, and delivers to him the Circlet of Gitche Manito, through which she saw her own origins. He thanks her and also acknowledges that the stone he had given her was a sham, confirming that he had known of her nature as a sympath. He apologizes, but claims that he had kept it concealed for her own safety. A sympath is too often a political prize. He suggests that she may want to study the art of shielding her psyche.

Gilead returns home and is reunited with his Grandparents. Privately to his grandfather, he reveals that he discovered his father and that Hadrian had some sort of distasteful relationship with Mranda, a cat beast. Elias agrees that this should not be mentioned to his wife, Gilead's grandmother.

Persia is delighted to find that her home is well cared for and substantially unchanged. Basarin has been an able house sitter.

Dakota is surprisingly undisturbed by the loss of the Raven. She reveals that she did not expect it to last a trip through the Wilds. She also has other ideas for flight. She is working on a method of evacuating thin enhanced metallic spheres in order to provide lift. She feels that something more designed to bear heavy cargo and less delicate than the raven might be more useful.

Eventually, all are summoned to appear before the Grandmasters of the City. Apparently this is a big enough event that all of the leaders desire to be resent, not just the Archon. Most of the principals of the trip are gathered in the formal audience hall in the palace. Presiding are Ningan the Archon, Hannon the General, Thane the Bishop, Dakota and Novya. Each has a small retinue of attendants. It is the most crowded any of them have seen the hall.

Representing the expedition are:

PCs: Gilead, Tira, Hank, Persia
Miltary: Lieutenant Oba
Columbia Crew: Captain Crockett
Expedition: Haiku, Slik Russpelt, Exon Ironhand, Kamlak of the Shattered Isles, Master Farallon
Guests: Captain Sable of Halfax, Talmuk of Saginaw, Cinnamon of Hudson

The party is asked to relate their voyage. Since the tale is long in telling, they take turns. Tira has asked them beforehand to gloss over the details of the Circlet. They mention its existence, but only its religious importance to the Bats of Stoneroost, not its nature as a functioning Demon King Artifact. After the overall tale is known, the Grandmasters decide on a number of points of clarity that they go over in detail. The discussion lasts for many hours, but herein are related the essentials:

1. There are hermitted masters in the Wilds (Manicou)

These are known to exist. Some are documented as having left cities through exile or banishment. But do they all? Are there natural masters? He seemed to have the ability to make thralls.

2. The Kabekki are at civil war

This is not really news, other than that the particulars are good to have. The Kabekki are always at war. Ningan is chagrinned that Mint went bad. He had not forseen the possibility that she would meet her tormentor, Bayard.

3. There is a person who claims to be a demon king

This remains a puzzle. Hannon is concerned about it, since there does not seem to be any defense against such a person. Thane is most concerned however, for the man is an affrontery to the teachings of the Lawgiver. He could presage a return to dark times. He wants to know much about him, and then conjoins the group from speaking of him openly as being a Demon King. The common people would be confused by such lies, he claims.
Nevertheless, every statement uttered by Arthur is recalled and set aside for later debate.

4. Saginaw is a dangerous expansive force that can manipulate time.

This is more confirmation. The word that they are Time Lords is alarming. The number of powers and ancient technologies that can be brought to bear is likewise cause for caution. Talmuk is examined for residual traces of Alexander, but nothing seems to remain of the echoman from the Old World.

5. There are more like Iron John

This is the second point which the groups is forbidden to pass on beyond the hall. If Iron John was not created by Kanukka, it therefore follows that her confirmation as a Grandmaster is questionable at best. A Grandmaster must create an animate in order to bear the title. Her entire Archony may lose its validity. They may speak of an iron golem or animate, but they may not mention any relation to Iron John.

6. Hadrian and Mranda are alive and well

This is the least interesting news, actually. No mention is made of their relation, though some present feel that Ningan may suspect.

7. There is another group of Cities on the Lantic Coast, with different Powers

This is apparently an old theory, bolstered by meager knowledge of the strange ways of Mingatok. That the Saginaw and the Halfax have different Major Devotions as well is confirmation and expansion. Ningan is most interested in this aspect of their journey.

8. They have a representatives of the Saginaw, of Halfax, and of the Hudson Valley

These folks will stay at the palace for a while, as guests of the Archon. Sable will be released fairly soon, with a job upon the Sunrunner, a ship of Novya's.

As stated above, the Circlet's description is kept vague. Likwise, no mention is made of Tira as a Sympath. Those who are in the know suspect for various reasons that Novya and Hannon may be aware of it, but no one pursues the topic. Only Ningan knows the full story.

All are exhausted after the long interview and return to their respective homes.