Once outside the Palace and into the city proper again, the party consider what they plan to do; they have tasks and deeds to do for their Draconic patron and by extension the Empire, but until then a year to put affairs in order and to do as they will. They split up and head in different directions for now, with Cassio of Padiha heading to the Embassy of The Republic of Padiha, given he has a great deal of wealth to drop onto the Account Declaration Desk of the Trade Consul; her also wishes to check on the progress of his ship that had been set to keel by the Eloi Family. He is pleased to see the ship is merely a week away from sea trials, and satisfied with that he heads to his lands embassy in The Gilded Quarter. A surprised and astonished array of embassy staff witness his depositing an enormous amount of wealth on the tables, and only the Consul himself remains professional and inscrutable as he closes the office and begins the accounting.
Meanwhile, Abbas Jalil heads around to the Ludata District to inform his prospective Mistress of his success and safe arrival, and he is received by Adeline Kothui, who doesn’t seem too surprised at his return; indeed, it appears she has the Apprentice Ritual ready to go, like he was expected.
The Altai pair of Czerlai and szletko along with Taturii Asamakiiro head to the House of the Eloi family, and are happily greeted by the servants, slaves and also the family members in residence, Myrha Eloi and her daughter Thenaiis Eloi; young Bastius Eloi is not present when they arrive. Rooms, food and drink are provided as ever (indeed, they have the same rooms still set aside as the last time), and the nomads are overjoyed to see their mounts again.
Bucephala Clangula heads directly to the Hama Encanda, for he has much to do there, as he is now more set than ever upon becoming a Priest to Nerukata. Just outside the temple areas, he encounters his old friend Sunfather Militant Ascaus Medrenna, who somehow seemed to be awaiting him. Their meeting is no accident for the Sunfather was aware of his return, and has many people to introduce him to, both within his Order and also within the clergy as a whole.
Thus the party spend a little time unwinding and visiting old faces and stamping grounds before their separate and personal business’ draw them apart, if but for a time.
They all find out the news and events from their different sources regarding Empire and world events, with the biggest items being the pogroms and purges enecated upon the Quoria, as the Emperor and his regime root out the disloyal and ungodless entrenched within their midst. Evidently the Consul for Quoria Propriety Hiradus Varro has been busy and still is. Word has also trickled onto the streets about the prospective Crusade to retake The Ruins of Velicca from the great evil that nestles there; indeed, Sunfather Medrenna advise Bucephala that he and his Order are in the vanguard of the landings, accompanied by a great many Priests and Templars of Nerukata, Satrom, Sensu and Armanixes.
Also of note is that closer ties between The Armavine Empire and The Vardonne Straits (and Vardonne), for some Knights and soldiers of the famed Western Kingdom have assisted in the raising and training in 2 new Legions, almost exclusively of heavy cavalry. Tied in with this new closeness, the celebrated beauty and wife of one of the Knights (or Chivaux as they are so named) is reported to have become a friend and confidante of the Imparioi herself.
Also, their friend and ally Varediis Eloi has been made the Legate of the 17th Legion in its mission to the north of The Autocracy of Menetia and departs soon, with its mission ostensibly to act as additional protection against the barbarian threats known in the north and west of the Innner Sea region; unofficially it will act as support and assistance if needed when the Army of Liberation sails for Menetia in a years time. His parting is bittersweet, for he will miss his friends and family, but it is a statement that his star is on the rise again in the Empire, despite being once thought as fallen too far to recover.
Soon however, the parting comes to them, and all the heroes scatter to do what they must in the time free to them. Bucephala studies hard and becomes a Priest, or Sunfather of the Nerukata. The ceremony takes place with some other candidates at the Hama Encanda, with available friends and wellwishers in attendance. Getting used to the vestments and trappings of the clergy is one thing, but the newfound deference of people to his station as a Sunfather may take even longer to adapt to. He also returns home to Ateliket, to both see his family but also to return the personal effects of his fallen friend Ketael Minal to his family. It is an emotional return for the newly ordained Priest, but a welcome one, for his mother and father are also priests of the Sun and their pride in his ordination is as radiant as the Sun itself. He is able to give some closure and solace to the Minal family as he tells them the story of his friends heroic and holy fate.
Whilst in Ateliket however, Bucephala hears of the local news, and some of it makes for uneasy listening. The oppressed realm of Cletia seems to be rousing itself in more acts of defiance and revolt against their overlords of Bassur, and this is in part due to the reports coming from the southern Kingdom of attacks, both physical and political against the Clergies and churches of Nerukata, Sensu and other deities; political office denied to the followers of the established deities whilst sorcerors and indeed even Neraka followers ascend, all the while the King of Bassur chalks up unfortunate incidents as merely isolated events, with half hearted follow up by the law. Disquieting news to be sure.
The Altai return to The Altai Territories, accompanied by a curious Taturii who is at a loose end herself, despite making quite a name for herself around Armarissa Invictor in the winter months before shipping could safely travel again, what with her defeating a small street gang, saving a nephew of the formidable Tarrisius Verdaska and her only wish as reward a cessation of the vendetta between Houses Verdaska and Eloi, which the vengeful Tarrisius agreeing to. The Altai make landfall at Port Caros in late spring and quickly locate a horse for an ecstatic Taturii, before heading off to locate the massive encampment of the Great Chieftain in waiting, Bilahkin Vetschza, The Sword of the East. The encampment is huge and made up of many clans, some once known as mortal enemies. They gain admittance to his tent and meet him and his Shaman Szhezarak, and a long talk happens as Szletko relays his knowledge to the Chieftain. He also relays the story of the Dragon to vouch for how he came to this information, and once they have talked and the sun has started to set, Bilahkin considers a moment before offering Szletko a place as one of his Warleaders, to lead a warband and swear himself to the Altai people and by extension himself. Szletko agrees, and his first task is to persuade his own clan the Szenzi to accept the changes happening in the Altai territories and to join their banner alongside the others.
Szletko locates his clan and with clever and sincere words brings around his clanfolks and Chief to the changes, before leading them back to the massed encampment. His celebration of ascension to Warleader is typically Altaic, with great dances, singing, drink and merriment. The first to swear to his warband is his kinswoman Kletka and in time he gathers the oaths of 500 men and women who elect to set their banner behind his. For his part, Czerlai is happy to drink and be a warrior in his own right for now, as his thoughts tend to drift to the woman he has back in the Imperial Capital, for both Altai had formed emotional or at least physical attachments to women before they left; Szletko had begun an affair (a typically discrete Imperial affair) with Myrha Eloi, and Czerlai had fallen for Dyminiqua, the body servant to Maia of Turlavayne. Szletko had an interesting conversation with Varediis before he left for Menetia, in which the Patrician gave his blessing to Szletko and Maia, for she deserves to find her pleasures as her husband does (a very Armavine Patrician attitude to have, in all fairness). Czerlai had bumped into Dymi as her mistress is indeed the famed wife now friends with the Imparioi and a welcome adornment at Court, and the fledgling emotions they had formed during the events Of wolf and man and onwards.
Of amusing note also, is that Bilahkin seems much taken with the statuesque Taturii and spends a great deal of time that night and indeed over subsequent months trying to seduce her, with no apparent luck (that’s Omiskiirans for you).
Abbas spends months in study, learning what distinguishes a sorcery student from an actual Sorceror, even an Apprentice. He takes time out from his studies to aid some of the downtrodden within the city against petty crime and villainy and renews his friendships with some of the other Apprentices and also the benevolent Metellus Sambir. His skills grow and Adeline seems pleased enough that his abilities are coming along at an adequate rate. He is also in the city when the news of the Crusade to Veliccas success is relayed, with news that the Hag Hyldra who ruled there with her demonic minions have been defeated, though at great cost to the crusaders. Indeed, there is a personal element to this, for Sunfather Medrenna died in the slaying of the Hag, martyred bravely in the best traditions of the Nerukatan Faith. On the upside, Abbas experiences the city during racing season and the colourful fervour that grips Armarissa over the summer and autumn months.
Lastly, Cassio spends a fair bit of time travelling between Padiha and the Empire, using his wealth to expand his business holdings and also his political ones. He takes time out to practise his swordsmanship, and also manages to free the soul of the Taryvandyn warrior Indega from the The Large bickering, arguing, Magical Sword with the aid of Varrax Pyrofer who talks to him through a reflection in a basin. Cassio also makes a friend and ally of a Turlavaynian Knight called Arroyo De Zema, and the 2 share some mischief and adventures against some villanous characters.
In time, the party drift back to Armarissa as the year draws on, and they all manage to hear the news and events that have happened in their absence. Bucephala is particularly saddened to hear of the death of his friend and mentor Sunfather Medrenna, and he remembers one of the last conversations they had before they parted, in the Sunfather asking Bucephala to keep an eye out for Mitualla Cybella if he should fall; he also reveals that she is his secret daughter (she doesn’t know) from his days before he became a member of his order (though not before he became a Priest).
On the first night that they are all together gathered around the Eloi dining table, sharing tales and gifts from their travels of the year, they are also advised by Myrha that they shall be meeting on the following night the leaders of the Army of Menetian Liberation and the people they have been charged to protect, namely Burrenos dol UrKhaigen, his sister Ceressa ami UrKhaigen and an old friend and acquaintance, Marle Turgada. With about 2 months before the seas change again sufficiently to allow a large force to travel safely to Menetia, they still have some work to do and as time comes shorter, the forces arrayed against them and their enterprise will surely step up a gear…