Aelish sends her knight, Sir Damir Galkin as a messenger to inform Dr. Taras of the matter of Ambrus Dragomov’s skull and to inquire after the supposed other Aelish. As luck would have it, Taras was personally underway that evening (10th Terentius) to reply—in person—to A’Kelah regarding those same topics. Thus, Damir and Taras return together to the Citadel Rosette. Damir and Vallon break away to prepare and plan for the journey ahead, east along the Holy Road.
Taras receives a full accounting of the fantastic exploits of the Starhunters, as told by Leonidas’ expert tongue. He omits their experiences with Goriseld, with Lukiria, and although he mentions Oksana, her whereabouts and plans are not indicated. Taras then speaks of the skull of Ambrus Dragomov, and how it is something of an anomaly. The remains of the 138 Dragomov monarchs, their consorts and children, from Oran I and Eugenia I all the way up to Marina most recently, are all ensepulchred in their royal crypt here in Elansory, within the Great Pantheon. It is true the skull was found in the University’s private collection however—and it is marked with runic inscriptions. Only recently was it found, when a letter arrived from the monastery of Nephogar at Arsam inquiring after it. It seems the scribes there, hard at work on their translations, uncovered something that mentions the skull—and they would like it sent to them. Taras also says that this matter with the skull is fully enmeshed in red tape at present and that it isn’t going anywhere soon. A’Kelah, when she is not rudely insulting Taras’ performance as headmaster, requests a rubbing of the skull be made for her. He assents to this, but is clearly offended by his treatment from the veer, and takes his leave.
In the deep hours of that evening, as the Citadel slumbers, Aelish is stabbed in the heart by an intruder. Brutally awake, yet alive, she stammers out a scream and enough of the Verses to call upon Eladriel for aid. Fendrys is woken by Aelish’s miraculous calling. He stirs Leonidas and together the pair steal in the shadows to the rectory. The bard uses his Chime of Opening on its locked door while the ranger masks the mystic sound. Mother Superior Ludmilla is found dead in the hallway, her head and skull cracked wide open; a grisly smear of blood leads from the cavity of her head into the privy. They make haste to Aelish’s chamber which emits a holy light through a crack in the door. Fendrys removes the blade just as Leonidas heals the wound with the strongest exertion of his elven healing arts.
Aelish bolts out of bed and immediately works to help determine how this happened. They find a horrific scene in the privy. A strange creature, some crossing between a brain and a mosquito is flitting around, spattering blood and other effluvia all over the white marble and plaster of the room. Its basic escape instincts are failing. Leonidas and Fendrys dispatch it while Aelish raises the alarm.
Soon after, Vallon is encountered, providing the news that ‘the other Aelish is on her way’. They all make for the Citadel’s Holy Sanctum, but sure enough Aelish is encountered in the now simmering chaos of the church. Questions fail as Aelish appears wounded to see her friends have abandoned her for an ‘imposter’ and she cannot remember many of the details they ask her for. Aelish fades away from sight, looking increasingly terrified and confused and alone as she does until she is gone completely.
The Starhunters spend the rest of the night in the Knight Commandery while an inquest is made. Even A’Kelah is summoned from her watery slumber by Aelish. Knight-Commander Mikhail confers with Aelish about what should be done; Knight and Arch-Guardian agree that her mission calls her to be elsewhere. He provisions the priestess with food, horses, and other gear, hoping the distant trials she next faces will help rid his temple of more misery and conflict.
On the next day (the 11th), short of sleep, the Starhunters spend an overloaded day in various shops and stables. They gather supplies, new clothes, weapons and armor, as well as procure vital spell reagents. Some time is taken, during this interlude in the capital, to learn more of the pregnant women as well. The Starhunters see firsthand one miscarriage and it is clearly not human. Another report says a woman who opted to terminate had a snake pulled from her body. And Gage, also a scaled creature, suffers a rash that pains and embarrasses him.
As a final transaction, the platinum ore unearthed from Myhta Petraea is converted into an astonishing sum: over 5,000 gold thrones. This they store with dwarven Braided League bankers in exchange for letters of credit. With their business affairs and necessities in order, the Starhunters take again to the road.
They meet finally again with Aodh only to hear from the halfling that he is keen to pursue other exploits in the north. He has joined up with his associate Wolverton, a.k.a. ‘Blackjack’, in a scheme to steal the Crown of Rynas from (supposedly) the Duke of Vercetin for an unnamed client. The Starhunters plead with Aodh not to go, going so far as to consider tying him up against his will. In the end, Aodh is let loose, promising to return to them all when the deed is done, Crown in hand. Gage voices his interest in going as well. Finding the fallen star near Hinturnal—and any others later—will be much more trying without the halfling.
The Starhunters take the ancestral Holy Road toward Encer, staying at some of its famed hostels like the Inn of the Blue Cup and the Square Queen Inn (supposed birthplace of Aleksandra IV). When he is not singing rousing songs or spinning elaborate embroidery into already bombastic tales, Leonidas’ magic translates the runes from the rubbing of the skull. Doing this reveals Meridian symbols and, of course, the name of Ambrus Dragomov XI. A’kelah too uses her own magic, determining that neither Vallon nor Aelish are bewitched by any spells. Two days later, Fendrys confers with a fellow wanderer, an esoteric dwarf, and hears news of increased goblin activity near the monastery at Arsam.
As they near Hinturnal, Aodh’s reports of the scoundrel Dougal riding a fine swift charger are confirmed by the locals. His path leads toward a bit of interesting news: an eccentric painter locked himself up in his house, and then disappeared.
+1 Inspiration to Kathy (for RPing the townsperson)
+1 Inspiration to Dov for clever idea (that I still need some clarity on)