Once the meal is over, the amphora still has half the wine in it left, and so szletko takes a half bottle full out to the servants of the House, who appreciate his generous and thoughtful gift greatly. After doing this, the party split in their evening plans; Abbas Jalil and Bucephala Clangula decide to stay in and relax, in the pious Ateliketians case due to feeling the power of the wine. Meanwhile, Cassio spends a little time alone and relaxing, thinking on his sword some more. Szletko and Czerlai head out to a local drinking establishment recommended to them by servants called The Measured Response, a caupona with a clientele made up of Guards, soldiers, mercenaries and devotees of the gods of Satrom and Perang. Inside this pleasant venue they drink a little more, chat with locals on related matters and speak to the barman at length over general chit chat.
Next morning comes, and the party take their breakfast in the gardens of the house for privacy and they plot their day ahead. Bucephala and Abbas decide to pay a visit to Sunfather Militant Ascaus Medrenna after what the Immaculatii told them, taking The Crystal Mannequin with them for advice and help on its dark secret. They find him in one of the nice and impressive lesser chapels within the Hama Encanda, and find the congregation of 400 with the SunFather listening raptly to a heavenly voiced woman singer performing an aria to Nerukata. A voice such as this seems impossible to come from a mere mortal, but after the service the SunFather introduces them to the girl, and they meet Mitualla Cybella. She cannot speak long, but greets them warmly, especially since they are friends and comrades of Ascaus. Her 2 Factio Guards escort her away after some light words, but her manner and appearance make an impression upon them both, especially the pious and shy Bucephala who, normally eloquent, finds speech a little harder to come by in this moment; at least his stumbling words come across more as honest and endearing than clumsy.
The SunFather and the heroes adjourn to walk through the crisp sunlit early morning, and talk as they walk through the autumnal gardens. Abbas plainly indicates they have been informed that Ascaus knows something of Dragons, and judging by the way the SunFather leads them abruptly towards a more isolated area of the gardens, free from any ears and prying eyes. He asks why Abbas wishes to know, and Abbas talks of Pacts with Dragons, of boons, favours and prices. Weighing his words with care, the SunFather indicates that he has met Varrax Pyrofer (suspecting correctly that this is the Dragon Abbas refers to), and that he was one of 7 adventurers that set out many years ago to find her and petition her for aid. Of the 7, only 4 survived their journey to stand before the Dragon, and all 4 of them made a Pact with the great creature, each asking for something different and all paying a different price for the gifts they received. He tells the surprised heroes that he asked for great strength and endurance, which the Dragon interpreted as “tireless strength, safe from the corrosion of years”. He asks the 2 heroes to guess his age, and when they say no more than 40, he laughs a little and tells them he is approaching his hundredth year, and though he feels old within, his arm is still mighty (much stronger than a normal man) and tireless, and his youthful vitality has not been sapped by the passing of time.
He lets that sink in, before he tells them that he has no regrets for what he asked for, and has never done or been asked to do anything that has put him at odds with his faith; his conscience is clear and he feels he can stand before Nerukata on his death day with a clear heart. Bucephala asks what happened to his 3 surviving comrades; Ascaus tells him that one, a Sorceror now lives within Cletia aiding in the resistance against the Bassuri occupation, the second was a Satrom follower committed to the fight against Chaos and Evil who headed West and has been not heard from since. The last was a woman who headed East, and was the first to depart of the group. Whatever passed between her and the Dragon was personal and quick, and the woman was the most affected by her meeting with the Dragon; he knows not what became of her, save she was determined and resolute to depart.
Abbas asks how they begin the search, and Ascaus again measures his words with care before answering. He advises them to begin their search within The Ruins of Velicca. There the remains of the Dragon who laid waste to the realm lies, and a hermit dwells nearby (or at least did when he was there some years ago). His one advice he gives is for the Dragons remains not to be disturbed, with all he can say that at that point one of his number (a headstrong fellow) tried to take scales of the great remains, and “the 6 became 5”. He can say no more than that, but he does advise that one must speak truth to the Dragon no matter how it seems, and when asked of the price for the gifts, could or would not answer Abbas. Bucephala asks a further question, an obvious seeming one it appears; what did the Dragon look like, and how big was she? Ascaus’ eyes take on a distant remembering look, and he tells them that she must have had at least a 200 foot wingspan and been 120 feet from nose to tail, and until he dies and sees Heaven, he feels he shall never see so magnificent a thing as her again.
The talk over Varrax Pyrofer passes, and turns to the Mannequin. Informed that it is a Demon of Mowta, Ascaus advises it be passed to the Temple hierarchy who have specialists and clergyfolk skilled in handling vile artifacts like that. The relieved pair assent to this, and soon the Mannequin is in the hands of serious minded Priests who lock it in a secure and rune encrusted chest and whisk it away to within the bowels of the Hama Encanda. This done, Ascaus invites the 2 to join him at a caupona in the Inner Docklands (the central hub for river and canal transport for the city and indeed the Empire), for he leaves on a river barge bound eastwards that noon; he has much to tell his Grand Master and must depart this day. They accompany him and spend the rest of the morning talking, with the Priest talking of the pilgrimages one can go on in the East, to SunPoint (his orders monastery and headquarters) and also the Monastery at the Aphesium mountains with the Walk of 7 Thousand Steps. He also suggests they look up a friend of his, one Juvelan Accrestis; this old man is a “scholar” who dwells within the Ludata District and is a researcher and historian in matters regarding Myth and Legend, especially as it applies to the Fading Peoples.
All too soon, the SunFather has to leave and he hopes to meet them again, in this world or the next. Before he leaves he reveals that he is actually the Grandfather of Mitualla (she does not know) and he asks them both to befriend her for she could certainly do with non charioteering affiliated or star struck friends in a city full of them; that they are friends of his will be sufficient for her. He boards the long barge whistling a jaunty tune after paying the bar tab, leaving some coins to whet their whistle some more. The pair resolve to visit the scholar Juvelan that very afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Altai have a meeting to attend with Amikka Zevgenya Ziisk, at as it turns out the Measured Response (a popular drinking den amongst off duty soldiery it would seem). They take Linus with them, and arrive to find her supping a cup of wine at the bar (she was up early to attend prayers for Armanixes). They get a drink in for her and themselves and talk a little about what has happened since they last spoke. Amikka listens with an impressed expression as they tell her of meeting an Immaculatii, an awed expression at their meeting Martaz Zevgenya Zaasik in Darilas House and poorly masked excitement at their telling her they mentioned her to him. That they are all going to meet Martaz at the Glorious Blues training compound later that day definitely impresses and exhilarates her further. They talk of what travels and experiences she has had as a part of a legion (fighting Scorpion Men in The Caphaelian Expanse, northern barbarians in the Northern areas and postings out The Great East. She also confirms that she has spoken to her Zevgenya Quartermasters and they have agreed to meet the 2 Altai to talk about creating barding for their horses. Also the presence of the Cavalry Troops Shaman is mentioned, and a meeting could be arranged with him if they wish it; they most certainly do! He shall be met in 2 days time, and his name is Szumasz. Soon, they stand and leave, with a visibly excited and thrilled Amikka eager to depart.
During all this, Cassio has stayed at the Eloi house for his sleep was disturbed, and the contents of the dream he has had are still vivid in his mind…