Whisper stayed true to her word, inviting the party back into her sanctum to bequeath to them the fruits of their labor. Bestowing enchantments on Eligor’s weapons, a magical rod to Rael, a new mode of perception to Aurianya, and an expansion to Sitka’s bloodline, she displayed surprising generosity. She had no gift for Tanashe though, save for her personal blessing for his endeavors. She was perplexed by Veronica, stating that she had nothing that the Rogue would want. Veronica, astonishingly, agreed.
Whisper then suggested that she return the crew of the Astrid home, as walking around enemy territory with 17 noncombatants is generally regarded as a terrible idea. The group decided to keep two of the crew around for reasons, and send the others home. The crew was completely okay with this.
Taking along Nathaniel and a Tephran woman named Desta; Nathaniel for his knowledge of geography and engineering, Desta for her general know-how and technological knack. The rest of the crew returned to Tephra, with the promise that they’d inform the others of what had become of their expedition. Whisper also ordered Cocytus to go with the group, an order that Cocytus actually challenged, which Whisper did not take well. Cocytus proceeded to spend the rest of the trip sulking (an impressive feat without a face).
The trip lead them northwest, to a small village known as Zerkrata. Their first encounter was with a young shepherd who was kinda mouthy, but pointed them in the direction of the village proper, with directions to look for Thalla. Which was very easy, as Thalla found them quickly. A tall and stocky woman, she offered her home to our intrepid heroes, though she was quickly pulled away by news of two very important someones walking into the village early.
Those someones were Dulcinea and Isaiah, Inquisitors in the Imperial Intelligence Bureau, apparently a new branch of the Empire. And not a nice one, as Dulcinea’s address to Zerkrata made abundantly clear. Backhanded compliments, veiled threats, and roundabout demands were the good parts of her speech, and she made no mistake that anyone who interfered with her investigation (Inquisition, thank you) would be counted as an enemy.
As Dulcinea walked off with Thalla, Isaiah stayed behind, and ended up speaking with Rael, Sitka, and Aurianya, who informed him that yes, there was a gathering of ne’erdowells in the foothills of the mountain, who had robbed their poor merchant caravan blind, even stealing their cart. Isaiah jotted down their statement, thanking them, and informing them that Dulcinea would probably want to speak to them personally. Joy.
Eligor returned from an ill-fated attempt at stalking Dulcinea and Thalla (he considered the small village’s lack of alleys and dark corners a significant problem), the group moved on to Thalla’s house, for some well-deserved rest. At the house, they came up a teenage boy attempting to cast some manner of healing spell on a bird who definitely looked dead. He stopped upon noticing the approaching group, calling out to his father.
The father introduced himself as Klaus, and his son as Dimitri, telling the group that they were welcome to stay as long as they wished. Rael immediately busied himself looking for the study, and Eligor left to go search for Dulcinea and Thalla again. And find them he did, noting Dulcinea’s continuing threats towards Thalla, and Thalla’s seeming defeat in their discussion. He was about to make his way back when he noticed Dulcinea’s eyes directly upon him, and realized that he might be well-advised to postpone his return.
Which was just as well. Dulcinea and Thalla returned to the house, and Dulcinea seemed eager to have the chance to speak with such helpful travelers. She asked them to recant their stories precisely as they’d told Isaiah, watching with piercing eyes and probing questions as they spoke. A predatory air filled the room when they finished, and she declared that they were very helpful to her. With one final statement that, to the Empire, she was “Inquisitor, hunter, and executioner”, she took her leave. Klaus and Thalla immediately opened one of their NICE bottles of whisky.
But their troubles weren’t over. Eligor and Sitka, needing less sleep than most, took turns keeping watch over each other and their companions in the night. Unfortunately, during Eligor’s shift, something struck him, leaving him unconscious on the floor. When he awoke, Sitka was gone.