The 79th Day of Summer
After receiving the letter from his master, Elder Yen Chi Tan, Po Chen Loon moved quickly along the path to Thorneton before breaking off and travelling the foothills. Though he moves much faster alone, it is still several days before he reaches the base of the mountains.
The 82nd Day of Summer
On the morning of his fourth day away from his new companions, Po finally finds his master meditating peacefully. He approaches quietly and sits before him. After a long pause, Elder Yen apologises for checking up on him – it has become protocol since a bright young monk left and became corrupted - and asks Po what he has been doing since he left the monastery. Po recounts his experiences travelling south, joining with The Weavers and meeting his new companions. He tells him of the defeated bandits and troll, of his charity and his attempts to spread peace.
His master seems pleased with his answer, though he says nothing. After another pause, Elder Yen asks Po how he will prove to him that his heart is still true. Po ponders a moment, then pulls himself up to his full height, he does not need to prove anything, he says, the proof is in his actions. Elder Yen again says nothing, but nods slightly before taking a defensive stance, indicating it is time to spar. Though Po gets some early hits on his master, Elder Yen strikes Po in the solar plexus, knocking the wind from his lungs. Po takes several more blows before he recovers, but cannot land another punch, and soon loses consciousness.
His master wakes him quickly and they spend the rest of the day in training.
That night, much like Po and Elder Yen, Quercus prepares to sleep under the stars, though he does so alone. In the night air, his mind replaying the argument again and again, Quercus calls on his mother for guidance, unconsciously releasing his dancing lights. The soft lights coalesce into a humanoid form that sits by his side as he drifts off and gently strokes his hair, even after sleep takes him.
Meanwhile, Baldur Bredabrik, Bambos Charalambos and Malek find themselves having a much less peaceful slumber in The Wizened Crone. As he tosses and turns, Malek sees himself in a large, dark room, as he has many times before. This time, however, he is not alone, his colleagues stand beside him looking beaten and exhausted. Before him stands a towering column of fire. As it slowly wanes and dies he feels a sense of victory, but when only embers are left he feels a familiar shiver crawl up his spine, the smoke billows and grows, spreading from the room and out across the town, darkness engulfing the buildings, trees and plains.
Across the hall, Baldur sees himself sitting in a small, stone-hewn room with a single door. Through the door enter three dwarves – all identical to him. Beyond the door he hears familiar voices, his travelling companions. As one Baldur leaves the room, another enters, but despite his best attempts he cannot pass through the threshold. In another room in the inn, Bambos also finds his sleep disturbed. In his mind, he is walking through a forest on a warm summers day. He is alone at first but soon joined by Malek, then by Quercus and Baldur, and finally Po. It is joyous, there are jokes and laughter, but something nags at him. He finds himself looking at the path behind them, sure there is something following but not seeing anything. He turns again, each time convinced there is something, someone, just outside his vision. He tries to ignore it, but can't escape the feeling, when he hears a sudden bang, and is jolted awake.
The 83rd Day of Summer
Bambos takes a quick look out his window then runs to Malek's room, finding him already awake. They begin to go down to eat, finding Baldur also on his way. He asks if either of them have seen Quercus, but they haven't. Downstairs, they are met by the same barmaid as the night before, who smiles warmly. They order breakfast, which Bambos and Baldur eat heartily. Malek picks distractedly at his food, nervous about his latest vision. Worried that they may be losing time, he tells the others what he saw, and they finish eating quickly.
Outside, Quercus is already waiting. He awoke feeling that petty squabbles between friends are insignificant in the face of the evils in the world, and is ready to make amends. He greets the group and tries to apologies to Baldur. The dwarf doesn't seem to remember why Quercus was mad, but quietly brings the drow into a hug.
They spend the rest of the day on the road, and once more make camp at night.
The 84th Day of Summer
After a couple hours walking the next morning, the party see a humanoid figure on the road ahead. His nerves frayed, Malek instinctively throws a firebolt, only for the figure to pull a quarterstaff from its back and deflect the bolt from its path. The figure turns, ready to fight, but stops himself and begins to wave as he sees his companions. The group run to Po, and they quickly catch each other up with what they've being doing. As they near the town, they discuss why they have journeyed here, Quercus reminding them that he has a task of his own – to find a necromancer and learn more about the plague infecting his home.
Thorneton soon looms on the horizon. At first glance, it appears to be a clump of woodland, but beyond the trees and thickets stands the tall, ornate city walls. Thorned vines twist and climb up the dark stones adorned with gargoyles, buttressed and fortified. Where the road meets the wall is a huge oak and iron door flanked by towers on the wall and two golden-armoured guards in front. The party briefly discuss how they will enter the town, but decide to improvise, and Quercus hails the guards. One, a dwarven woman with deep chestnut hair and beard, calls back cheerfully.
The group approaches and tell the guards they are in town looking for work. Fura, the dwarven woman, tells them they are in the right place and is soon singing the praises of The Chrysalists for bringing fortune to the town. She recommends The Grey Mare tavern, where the official town guard and some of the Chrysalist guards like to drink, and also the miners tavern The Pick and Axe as they are looking for work. They ask about the Chrysalists, telling Fura that they have heard a lot of good about the group and would consider joining, with Baldur particularly pressing her on how he might get a set of the golden armour. She tells them to enquire at the new Chrysalis temple on the main road, that they are sure to have work to suit them. The party then asks how she got involved with the Chrysalists, and she replies that she is working for them in exchange for their clerics healing her mother, which she couldn't afford at the traditional temples. Her colleague interjects, saying that he joined simply because they seemed more organised than the official town guard.
Saying their farewells, the party pass through the great oak gate for the first time. As they meander into the bustling town, Bambos voices his concern to his party for their apparent change of heart towards the Chrysalists and tells them he doesn't want to join. He is sure that they perform ritual killings of the shortest members. Unable to explain the deception to Bambos, Malek instead magically reduces himself in size to calm his fears.
The party stroll through the crowds absentmindedly as they discuss what they plan to do and how nice some of the Chrysalis members seem to be. Malek impresses to the other that he believes that the low ranking members seem to be just normal townsfolk, that any corruption will be found higher up the ladder. They decide to see what the temple is like, but first stop by a mage supply shop run by an elven man named Cillian. The shop sells components for spells, magic items and spell scrolls.
Cillian is a trained wizard and Malek takes the opportunity to ask about necromancers on behalf of Quercus. The shopkeeper seems surprised and slightly concerned, but suggests he asks at the small branch of the College of Abjuration in the town. Perusing the wares, Bambos finds a cloak enchanted to billow dramatically that he immediately buys and puts on, striking a heroic pose.
Back on the streets, they head towards the temple, stopping only for Baldur to buy the entire stock of pies from a street vendor. He gives one to Po and one to Bambos and proceeds to eat at speed, resulting in a huge belch as they enter the new Chrysalis temple. The building itself is old, the large open doors leading into a grand hall with high domed ceilings. The walls are decorated in banners and tapestries bearing the symbol of the cult in reds and oranges. All the visible windows have been boarded up, the room lit by candles on every surface.
The belch is not unnoticed by the few robed figures who are set about cleaning the hall and setting the alter, and a woman rushes over looking harried. She beseeches Baldur not to be so disrespectful in such a holy place, but soon softens and smiles brightly when the party inform her they are considering membership. The woman is human, middle-aged with sandy blonde hair, wearing deep orange robes bearing the sun and butterfly symbol. She bids them to make themselves comfortable as she hurries to a door in the back of the hall to fetch them tea.
With the other Chrysalists seemingly uninterested in their presence, the party seize on this time alone to cast a judging eye around the hall. They notice that some of the banners don't quite cover the length of the wall – seeing some frescos that appear to have been defaced. Malek magically casts his vision past the hall's back wall, but sees only kitchens, barracks and a flight of stairs. The cultist returns and eagerly answers their questions, glowing with praise for the cult. Mentioning that she joined to pay for their prodigious healing of her husband, Quercus asks whether she had ever heard of an illness like the one his mother has. She admits she hasn't, but is sure the Pupa of the temple will be able to help. He isn't at the temple currently, but she tells Quercus to return the next day. She is particularly enthusiastic about them returning as the temple is honoured to be hosting a member of The Butterfly Court, and they may be lucky enough to meet one of the great lieutenants of their group.
As they leave, Quercus and Po get the sense they are being watched, and see a figure standing in the dim alley opposite the temple. Quercus is deep in thought, so Po decides to investigate the figure alone. He finds a tall paladin woman in silver armour and a horned helmet. She is dismissive of him at first as she saw them enter the temple, but he is able to convince her it was only to investigate the Chrysalists. Hoping that they may have similar goals, she asks him to return later that night as she plans to keep her watch until the temple closes. He returns to his party, excited about a potential ally. The group decide not to trust her straight away, but to follow her secretly after she meets Po again to see where she goes.
In the meantime, the party head to The Grey Mare inn to try and meet some guards and get rooms for the night. Quercus immediately begins drinking heavily, concerned that his mission to help his mother may mean turning on The Weavers and his new friends if the Chrysalists are the miraculous healers they claim to be. In his drunken state he buys a round for the whole bar, unwittingly giving his party the chance to strike up conversation with the clientele.
Po begins speaking with a member of the town guard, a halfling man named Jim, and soon hears his worries of unemployment. He tells Po that the Chrysalists supply guards to the town very cheaply, he is not even sure that the Chrysalist guards get paid. The captain of the town guard has been able to negotiate with the mayor so far, but he believes it is only a matter of time until they start getting laid off. Po commiserates, but tells him that monkhood could solve many of his worries, soon convincing Jim of the idea. Jim leaves soon after to tell his wife the good news.
After a few hours drinking non-stop, Quercus needs to be taken up to his room now far too drunk to be any use for the rest of the night. He tries to magically fortify his constitution but it isn't enough to stop him throwing up and passing out. Malek and Baldur decide to stay at the tavern to watch him, Baldur sending Bambos and Po off to meet the paladin with a hug. Malek walks with them a short while to cast invisibility on Bambos, telepathically wishing them both luck before hurrying back.
Po enters the alleyway while Bambos listens from the street. Having gained the paladins trust, she tells Po that the Chrysalist temple was a recent conversion from a temple to Lucent – the god she serves. Her clerics have moved away but many of the worshippers converted and she has taken to watching the temple to try and discern their wellbeing. Po asks why she doesn't pretend to shift her allegiance to join the Chrysalists, she explains that she felt such dishonesty would be against her oath and duty, a worry that he had had himself when the party considered infiltrating the temple as members. The paladin agrees to meet with the rest of the party first thing the next morning, giving Po directions and telling him her name: Modesty Lane.
After hearing the conversation, Bambos is also convinced that Modesty can be trusted and decides to investigate the Chrysalist temple instead of following the paladin. He slips around to the back of the building, finding an open window into the kitchen that Malek saw earlier. The little gnome fits easily through the window and lands deftly, silently, on the floor. Carefully he makes his way to the staircase and creeps up, finding a hallway three doors. All the doors are closed and only one has light leaking from beneath it.
Heart pounding, Bambos tip-toes closer to the seemingly occupied room and puts an ear to the door. There is a conversation happening, but it is muffled. Tentatively, he reaches a hand to the door knob and turns it, willing his shaking fingers not to give him away. Through the smallest crack he sees the source of the light: a golden glowing apparition that vaguely forms a man's face, but to huge proportions, almost as large as the half-orc figure with her back to the door. The golden face is congratulating the half-orc, referred to as Tortoiseshell, for their acquisition of the temple and their continuing expansion. Tortoiseshell thanks him, but impresses her desire to be on the front-lines, not in temples. The visage chuckles and informs her that Luna Moth will be there to relieve her soon, suddenly flaring and blinking out.
With his mind racing and heart beat almost deafening, Bambos leaps back down the stairs, desperately moving as quickly and yet as quietly than he ever has before. He skids into the kitchen and dives back through the window, adrenaline coursing as he makes it back to the road and to Po apparently unseen. Together, they return to the tavern and catch the party up on everything they have learned, before taking their rest for the night.