The chamber of the temple is pitch black, the beam of light seems to be the only thing in the room. A hum of energy fills the air, growing more intense as he approaches the beam which alights upon the mark of Amun on the floor. He realizes that the light is actually emanating from the mark on the floor. When Riley reaches out to touch the light, there is a flash of golden light and he is standing on verdant savanna, animals visible all around, mountains in the distance. After turning to survey the surrounding, a Letathen appears before him, he appears to be a mix of all Artathi breeds. On his chest is the mark of Amun in his fur. St. Cuthbert also appears and waves off Riley’s attempt to bow, informing him that he will now be called upon to a higher purpose, serving Amun. He releases Riley into the service of Amun and departs, fading into the savanna grass after a few steps. Turning back to Amun, he is now seated on a throne of prey, bones and carcasses, and tells Riley that his entire life has been the trial the others might have faced. He touches Riley’s forehead, sending divine warmth coursing through him. He comes to on the temple floor in the center of the mark on the floor.
Outside, the Emperor summons unseen servants for a breakfast feast as they wait, as well as a portable throne for Thrux. As an hour passes, people begin to grow impatient as the trial seems to be taking longer than any other petitioner. After the second hour, the Emperor sends a priest to check on the status of the trial. He returns quickly, telling Thrux that he cannot gain entry, displeasing the Emperor who demands that someone find out what is going on. Thronin is no longer disgruntled, now appearing quite confused, ceasing his pacing to stand and stare at the door. The Emperor stands near him, waiting as well. When the priests return, they prostrate themselves before the impatient Emperor to inform him that no access can be gained to the temple at all and the windows are blocked by golden light. Thrux’s tail begins twitching in agitation, the first time anyone has seen his composure slip.
The Empress soon approaches with Jendra in tow, she manages to calm Thrux down easily and he regains his composure. A seat is brought for the Empress as well and the rulers wait. Several more hours pass as everyone waits for Riley’s trial to conclude. Around noon, Shiele finally rouses from bed in search of food. At high noon, the entire temple begins to blaze with light and a knell rings out from the temple, the ground on around it trembling. The temple doors begin to swing open, Thronin standing before them in shock, the Emperor and Empress both look surprised while maintaining some composure. Jendra however has a rather satisfied look on her face as Davros and Sar’n get closer to see inside. The inside of the temple has been transformed into a room more luxurious than the Shari room the party looted. Giant glowing symbols cast a glow on, holding Riley’s form in midair.
Soon the beams of light fade and Riley drops to the floor unconscious. People enter hesitantly, the Emperor and others approaching him on the ground as the priests examine the splendor around them. Jendra rushes in to help Riley, lifting his head into her lap. The divine experience has left Riley feeling simultaneously exhilarated and drained, every fiber of his body aching. She helps him to his feet, with Thronin still standing dumbstruck in the doorway. The Emporer claps Riley on the shoulder with a slight smirk of satisfaction, drawing gasps from the other Artathi, seeing the Emperor touch a Letathen. They take some food, despite the pain and fatigure, Riley is ready to proceed with planning for the Kofrath war.
Back in the Throne room, a new chair has been added to the dais, apparently for Riley. While it is not as ornate, it is on the dais near the Emperor and Empress’s thrones. Shiele’s chamber maids finally return after being startled by the ground shaking and the knell from the temple. She tries to explain the concept of Letathen to Shiele, who becomes quite incensed, promptly ordering her out and finishing her bath by herself. In a bit of a mood, she makes a mess and steals a music box. An older servant soon arrives to inform Shiele that the Emperor has summoned everyone to the Throne Room.
When she arrives, Riley is seated to the right of the Emperor with Jendra standing behind them. As people file in there is quite a bit of shock to see Riley seated on the dais. Anubep, head of the Jaguar clan, arrives to once again throw around his clanmates and keep everyone in line. The pain slowly subsides, but the high energy feeling remains, keeping Riley very energetic. Sar’n, Davros, and Amban are at the foot of the dais while Thronin stands in the crowd looking extremely disgruntled. The Emperor soon orders the doors sealed until this meeting is over. He orders Thronin, as Riley’s sponsor (something he hadn’t thought about previously, expecting Riley to die), to recount the morning’s events. Riley’s recounting of his trial does nothing to calm the room, drawing many cries of outrage over blasphemy and heresy. The high priest confirms for the the Emperor that Amun always appears to petitioners as their own breed.
Thrux declares Riley to be the new General of the Artathi military and Riley then takes this moment to make a power play. Noting that Amun said that nothing will be the same from now on, Riley makes a power play, asking that Artathi society come together and welcome the Letathen. The Emperor agrees and decrees that Letathen will now be full members of society, upon prodding from Riley he adds that they will have their own caste and seat on the council unless one of their parents clans will accept them. He then asks Riley to lead the clan leaders into the council chambers, relinquishing some power and surprising/upsetting some people. Finally, Shiele points out that Lillith is missing, leading to a brief discussion of tracking down their errant ally. Some servants provide details that she departed suddenly in the night.
Sar’n, having the least difficulty in travelling to and from the plane, let alone the continent of Artath, heads out on a brief search for Lillith. First visiting the keep and learning that Lillith had assembled a strike force to lead into the City of Sigils. Travelling there, he finds Scro and Kobowlder forces have established a perimeter, keeping out some local guards. The Scro, Bograck, informs Sar’n about the events that transpired last night. Lillith along with Skree, Rogar, Eldrin and some Scro made it through the demonic portal in pursuit of Lilith’s demonic father. He briefly talks with the guard before allowing them in to assess the property. The mages scream in terror shortly after beginning their assessment of the property, believing it was an Arch-Devil that caused the destruction. One postulates that it was Asmodius, the Duke of Hell. The guards and mages go to inform the Lady of Pain, ruler of the City of Sigils.
Sar’n prepares a spell and carefully summons the demons he dealt with to aid in the Kobowlder reaching the Gray Wastes. He briefly chats with him about a strike into the ninth level of hell, although he’s so vague about it, no one listening could level specific accusations. Arrangements would need to be made, so the discussion is tabled for the time being. Before returning to the business at hand, he instructs the Scro to assemble some of their best instructors to help train Letathen and checks on their other business interests in the City of Sigils.
Meanwhile, back at the Artathi Council Chamber, Leroy speaks aloud for the first time (noting that Sar’n took off suddenly once again), surprising the locals with it’s sentience. The council goes over what they know of the current state of the war in Artath, Davros and Riley do their best to share intel on the war in the north. Finally Sar’n returns and aids them with his maps in filling the council in on the North. The Emperor invites them to dinner as the council meeting ends, Riley and Sar’n planning to leave afterward to scout the Kofrath positions. Jendra offers to take Shiele to the market to shop for clothes and of course Shiele does her okay-est to make things awkward, which is better than most people’s best. The party cleans up at their suite, preparing for dinner.
A Letathen servant appears to take them to dinner, very excited to meet Riley. On the way to dinner, he inquires if Letathen will be permitted to join the war effort, which they admit they are actually planning on. He leads the remaining party (Davros, Shiele, Riley and Sar’n plus entourage) to a rather plain doorway. They are led into an almost suite sized room where the current and former Imperial leaders lounge around the room (roman style) for dinner. Thrux, seated by his Empress, Kressen, introduces the former royalty; former Emperor Thum and former Empress Kile. Dinner is served with Riley seated between the current and former Emperor. Thum seems to possess a substantial amount of detailed knowledge about Riley’s life and has a great deal of interest as well. A careless remark from Shiele has the dowager empress leaving later on in the dinner, followed by Empress Kressen.
At the end of dinner, the dowager Emperor and Empress bid the party goodnight. Standing side by side, some of the party suspect or note there is a resemblance between Riley and the Emperors. They each embrace him, the former Empress has difficulty processing this, declaring rather emotionally that she cannot deal with this. There is some emotional tension from the royals that Riley remains somewhat aloof towards as everyone disperses. Davros spends the rest of the evening studying up to help planning tomorrow while Riley and Sar’n plot out scouting locations with one of the sorcerors from the council. They pinpoint a city with excellent mineral resources that could be key to the war effort, several Kofrath positions potentially threatening supportive farm lands and an additional position to target. Sar’n inquires about Cinnabar mines, which are located deep in Kofrath territory. Potential future plans to liberate those strategic resources. The sorceror confirms that the volcano near the industrial city of Neheri is in fact active with a bubbling caldera.
Davros and Sar’n prep Riley, handing him some rods, scrolls, and items for potential problems. Then he and Sar’n teleport, appearing on the rim of the caldera to begin their scouting mission. Sar’n takes a moment to fill his pocket dimension with molten lava. They proceed to the two locations east of the volcano first, before heading west again toward the capital. At their first stop, they see a camp of about 40-60k troops, the center encampment being Kofrath and perhaps an eighth of the total troops present. On the southwest side of the camp, as far from the Artathi forces as possible, they’ve begun farming, some initial agriculture and livestock in pastures.
Next they arrive at their tertiary target, the eastern most location that they ear marked for scouting. This location has a similar number of troops and a very large herds of cattle kept nearby. A palisade surrounds this location, unlike the previous one. They’ve been suffering from the guerrilla warfare of the plains tribes, a scorched perimeter of 300ft surrounds the Kofrath defenses. Well worn trails lead south and west from the cattle yards of this encampment. They scout southward along the trail to see what the Kofrath are up to nearby but discover nothing of interest quickly and decide to move on.
They teleport once more, visiting their second primary target west of Neheri, a town of Fasul at the head of a river at the edge of the mountains. This encampment has been set up on an evacuated Artathi town with a wall surrounding the town, bearing some breaches from the Kofrath attacks. They estimate that perhaps 60-80k troops inhabit the town now and are more mixed together due to the tight quarters. A small keep occupies the center of town on a hill where most of the Kofrath and leadership have holed up. It doesn’t seem to jive with what they’ve seen of Artathi architecture prior to now.
First of their three secondary targets, is 3/4 of a circle with their backs to the river and a small cattle yard alongside their crops. It seems to have 40-60k troops as well, once again mostly slave races. Cattle trails to the west indicate one of them is supplying the other as they head to the fifth location, second of the secondary targets. This one has a cattle trail leading towards the western most of their targets. The cattle here look like cattle, but smaller and stunted, possibly cattle from the Underdark. This camp has a palisade as well, but no scorched perimeter, and a similar number of troops. The final secondary target is centered around a massive sink hole about 80ft across. Stairs have been carved into the sides of the hole, perhaps a primary emergence point from the Underdark. This camp is very well fortified, with earthworks and a palisade, perhaps 50-70k troops. An arrow flies into the sky, narrowly missing them and Riley instinctively launches a grenade back at them. Triggering their first incident of the night, arrows fly at them, quickly followed by spells. Sar’n drops the lava from his pocket dimension, incinerating troops in wide swaths then beat a hasty retreat.
Late at night, they reappear in their suite, quickly discussing their reconnaissance and tactical options for the coming campaign. With some good ideas in place, they turn in to sleep, Riley actually going to bed while Sar’n spends his rest period in the pocket dimension before launching additional night strikes. Summoning shadow elementals to reek havoc in two different encampments as well as dropping deluges of molten lava. Before he finally turns in for the night, after a second pocket dimensions sleep session, Sar’n provides Riley with a second written casualty report for their scouting expedition.
Early in the morning, Riley finds a group of monks to train with, practicing their early morning exercises with them better than some of their middle level members. Davros attends a local religious ceremony, noting that some unusual Artathi are present even though they have donned clothing to conceal their Letathen nature. The congregation has noticed but does not react negatively to their presence thanks to the events of the previous day. Davros eagerly studies the service and worship of Amun and other Artathi gods. As Davros goes to leave the service for the council meeting, an acolyte intercepts him and requests he join the head priest on his way to the meeting as well. The head priest is pleased that Davros has not only behaved, but listened intently to the sermon. He also offers directions to a local temple of Pelor for some of the non-resident tradesman and mentions Riley’s presence would be appreciated at a sermon.
Around 9am, a servant comes to their suite to retrieve any remaining members for the council meeting. Being the same person that upset Shiele the day before, she makes an effort to prostrate herself, hoping to gain Shiele’s forgiveness for the offense she caused the day before. The young maid is in tears, having a crisis as she realizes what her behavior truly meant. Shiele helps her to the couch to talk, understanding the girl is truly aware of her errors. This whole ordeal manages to rouse Sar’n from his sleep to observe from a nearby doorway. Ultimately, Shiele ends up giving her relationship advice, as she (a jaguar) has a huge crush on a boy (a cheetah). Eventually she realizes the meeting is soon and begins braiding Shiele’s hair.
When the morning meeting is set to start, Riley enters alongside some of the senior monks, Davros with the high priest, and Sar’n with Shiele teleport in from their chamber. They all arrive in the antechamber to the throne room and only three days into their visit, people have quickly adapted to their presence. Letathen are now more often seen among the Imperial staff with few negative reactions from others. As everyone enters the throne room, Shiele spots the handmaid speaking with Anubep, head of the Jaguar clan. Riley introduces himself to the Letathen who now find themselves in the throne room. Gonju, a tiger/puma crossbreed, greets Riley, privately admitting he was a member of a Letathen underground, which Riley admits he would support should the current societal changes falter.
The Emperor and Empress arrive last, the crowd falling silent as he beckons Riley up to the third chair on the dais. Riley briefs the entire throne room on the events of last night, regretfully admitting their scouting expedition only resulted in a little over five thousand Kofrath troop casualties. Thrux reviews the papers they provide and is eager to disseminate this intel to the clan heads for new strategies against the Kofrath. Once Riley’s briefing is over, the Emperor calls the clan heads to the council chambers. Shiele takes a moment to butter up Anubep as everyone heads for the council rooms, now on the handmaids side since she knows the girl fancies a man of a different breed. The clan leader is quite nice and diplomatic, even inviting the Kobowlders to dinner at the Jaguar clan headquarters. Davros confirms to the clergy, including the tiger who first doubted Riley, that their numbers are accurate.
The Emperor calls forth Riley and Sar’n, who is still obviously very fatigued, supported by Leeroy. He asks what they need to continue this insanely successful campaign. They are informed that the most powerful local sorcerers are reclusive and less than helpful. The Letathen contingent leader, Gonju, receives a book from the Kobowlders detailing alchemical information that will aid the war effort. Thrux announces the formation of the Free Artathi Legion, a military branch that will determine it’s members by merit alone. Anubep admits his clan has been preparing for this day, with 9 legions to add to the theater. Plans form to eliminate two Kofrath contingents from the map east of Neheri between the official Artathi forces (15 legions) and the Vyk’artathi (jaguar) forces. Davros has now established a great working relationship with the Tiger high priest.
As the meeting dismisses, Shiele finds the handmaiden, Briel and immediately resumes talking with her about her romantic interests. She notes that her cousin has some crossbred kits and is interested in getting them somewhere safe, AKA the north. Shiele is ready to help immediately as this hits her emotionally close to home. Jendra approaches Riley as he talks with Thrux at the end of the meeting. They head off to a meeting room to discuss strategies for the coming days of the war, namely plans to seize Neheri and move on to Fasul. Jendra wants to run a recruitment campaign in the capital and Riley offers to help.
The Vyk’Artathi (jaguar) dinner party is a more relaxed affair for the Kobowlders, where Shiele orchestrates transportation of Briel and her kits to the north. Sar’n even makes Anubep a member of the Kobowlders. Jendra gets a little drunk and talks about how the former Emperor and Empress abdicated, giving additional clues about the power changes in the Artathi empire. Riley tries to get her out of there before the drunken Il’Artathi can talk too much and puts her to sleep on a divan back at the suite. Sar’n heads to the Kobowlders Keep once more along with Briel and her family, preceded by a drunk Anubep. The Artathi refugees are greeted with pocket gnomes and shown to quarters as Sar’n heads into the City of Sigils to meet the instructors selected by the Scro. He organizes them and brings them through a portal to the Artathi lands to aid in training troops for the coming war. Sar’n heads back to the keep to give Anubep a tour before returning to the southern continent. They arrive on the caldera by Neheri and Sar’n takes Anubep on a drunken, late night assault on the Kofrath. When they finally return to the city, they find the legion of instructors ordering around a bunch of Jaguar lowbies that were nearby when they arrived.
In the wee hours of the morning, just before the first Ray’s of sun crest the mountains, Sar’n takes the mage from the other day to see his uncle, the portal master. After a few moments of simple statements, and matter of fact almost threats, an ancient puma caste sorcerer opens a window in his gnarled old tree tower, and asks what Sar’n wants.
Sar’n quickly explains the state of things concisely. He learns a great deal about ancient Artathi history, and gets confirmation of Rileys parantage. Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly the mage agrees to help Sar’n gather any of the other “older” mages stating that it could be “fun.” Sar’n first teleports them to the council meeting that is about to begin.