With the Capital only a jaunt away, the Starhunters split up into two groups, with Gage going on his own. Fendrys, Aelish, A’Kelah all make way for the famed University of Arts and Lore, the most renown school of magic in Rynas. Aodh and Leonidas head first for the Green Dragon and then ultimately to Meppollin Palace to investigate the message from Aelish. Being separated, and all so changed—Leonidas in a simple disguise, Aelish and A’Kelah transfigured by the Astral Plane, and Fendrys and Aodh filthy and threadbare from their harrowing journey—the Starhunters avoid recognition based on their prior notoriety.
At the Green Dragon, Aodh meets with his fellow halfing friend Meriadoc. Merry explains that he thinks the reports of monsters after dark is all bullshit but that the rumors of the pregnancies are very real; and furthermore he says a few of the pregnant women were said to contain large eggs in their bellies and that yolk spilled out of their nethers!
Fendrys has never set foot in a habitation so large as Elansory and is overwhelmed by its glorious sights and sounds and perhaps dismayed by the ugly and dark edges a city requires. Fountains and broad plazas, tall facades of guild halls with arrays of glass windows sit almost adjacent to alleys where rivers of putrescence issue from tallow-chandlers and tanneries. He is moved to purchase some flowers from a destitute young maid out of sheer pity for her privation.
At the university, the ranger, the cleric, and the sorceress are held up until the headmaster arrives to meet with them. The new headmaster, it turns out, is Dr. Taras who is very surprised to see Aelish. He swears the priestess was recently his guest only a few days prior while she asserts that in fact it has been almost two months since their last meeting. Flummoxed, Taras sends a raven to convey a message—but what it might speak and at what destination is unclear. Shortly thereafter, while in a kind of detention ordered by the confused and flustered headmaster, Prosecutor Beris Tanum and his personal guard arrive to apprehend them. Tanum moves to place an iron collar about Aelish’s neck, but she vanishes from sight! Tanum casts a divination spell to try to find her and gives chase, leaving A’Kelah and Fendrys under arrest with his personal guard who then escort them to a holding cell at the palace walls.
Elsewhere in the White City, Aodh and Leonidas bump into another familiar face, that of the elven sword-master Vallon and two young maids near the Great Pantheon. Vallon is brusque and coy, offering to deliver a message to Aelish for them. Eventually, Aodh and Leonidas meet with Aelish at the Citadel Rosette. They explain the strange mystery of there being at least two Aelishs to her their Arch-Guardian friend. Likewise, they receive her story about the palace and her mysterious arrival at the university. Some of her story is cut short by a strange power that makes her unable to speak and at one point she gets a headache and bleeds from the nose.
Meanwhile, Tanum returns and uses his magic to read the minds of A’Kelah and Fendrys before escorting them to have an off-the-record and informal meeting with Oksana’s mysterious vizier, Azdar Ig-hazaret Usa Kalar, inside Meppollin Palace. After having defiantly rankled Beris Tanum’s feathers, A’Kelah’s charm somehow moves Azdar to fury as well. The vizier calls upon Aelish at the Citadel, making a show of his influence by inviting the priestess to ‘pardon the two flies he’s caught’. She of course asks for their pardon and so all three of them are sent away.
Once the Starhunters all finally reconvene as a group, again at the Citadel, they discuss the meaning of Azdar’s confounding words, who the vanished Aelish is and why she wants the skull of Ambrus Dragomov. Anxious Leonidas presses the group to take action and leave the city, to head east for their original objective, the ‘fallen star’ near Hinturnal. Even more restless than Leonidas, Aodh sneaks away from the group during their talk to return to his old haunt where he meets up with Gage.
+1 for Fendrys (for avoiding the meta-game)