Not long after Marquis Almdor is led away by Sir Kalag and the inquisitors, a second knight arrives at Ormuster. Unlike Kalag, this knight is in service to Prince Yuri Samarkov, Aelish’s brother. Almdor had the foresight to summon this man, Sir Graff several days ago. Alexei Graff is an old childhood friend of Aelish’s; the two are surprised and charmed to be meeting again after so long—and under such strange circumstances. It is curious how their lives have changed in the fifteen years hence. Sir Graff, as an agent of Prince Yuri, is keen to hear from Fendrys any news of Aelish and her travels. Yuri wants Aelish back at court. Those who command the blessing of a god are not easily dissuaded from their goals, however, and Graff learns what Fendrys already has; Aelish will go where she wishes. Who has the temerity to an coax an Arch-Guardian away from her goals?
With the pleasantries of the two nobles aside, the situation with Rothwar is explained to Graff. He accepts the news gravely and decides he will have a cage-cart purpose built for his endeavor to Encer. The party, wishing to spare no more time, leaves early the next morning, but not before Aodh and Leonidas fetch the bequest Almdor had entrusted. Their road is east, to Aletan where they will join the Upperthrone Guideway and head north. With Ormuster behind them, the road grows less and less wild. Overgrown hedgerows give way to sturdier and sturdier fences. Weed strewn meadows and fallen mile markers turn to freshly planted fields and white-washed trees. On the way, atop a hillock, a collection of ancient road-side shrines are found. It is an unusual conclave of many statues, Athemay, Eladriel, Eurserel, Gan, Myriath, Myrnoch, and Nephogar hold out their hands for offerings. Aelish leaves a token offering of a gold coin and one of her notes from Fenya, adding a prayer for her safety.
At a hamlet outside Aletan, the party comes across a spring festival celebrating the goddess Rana, youngest daughter of Rimanay. The villagers have prepared a feast and they dance and sing and eat and drink late into the evening. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. Fast friends are made. Even the outsiders like A’Kelah and Aodh are treated with warmth and respect. Despite the revelry, the party is early to bed and early to rise. Aelish spares a day to offer confirmation to a young man before moving on.
Once in Aletan proper, while staying at the Cloudgoat Inn, the group is approached by a messenger who sends word of a Prosecutor and three Athemist clerics in town looking for some itinerants matching the group’s description. A quick discussion follows about what to do next. A’Kelah and Leonidas, both unregistered magi, waste no time in making a hasty exit to escape Aletan entirely. Aelish is also cautious, but less so, taking Fendrys with her to bide time in the local Pantheon while Aodh investigates—first as a spy and then as a spokesperson. The halfling finds the bureaucrats cooling their heels in Aletan’s civic hall, but when eavesdropping proves futile, he presents himself. A heated discussion follows as the Prosecutor and the urchin trade ultimatums; the former insists he must speak with the group, in private, about highly sensitive matters. The Prosecutor, threatening arrest of the halfling, decides instead he will invite himself and his three clerics to the inn where they expect the rest of the group will eventually return.
Back at the Cloudgoat, Aodh, seeing no hope in a plan on getting the Prosecutor drunk, simply gives him the slip, using his small stature and streetwise to exit onto the street. He dashes back to the Pantheon where he encounters Aelish and Fendrys just exiting, both worried over what has taken so long. Aodh does not trust the Prosecutor and his ‘good news on offer’, and thus convinces his friends to leave Aletan as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.
The group is now divided, though A’Kelah and Leonidas eventually find each other, north of town, along the Upperthrone. Something unknown and unspoken soon tips off Leonidas to the same suspicion Aodh sensed. With everyone keeping a low profile, avoiding the thoroughfare of the Guideway, a journey north to Pallenever is made. That evening, a bright flash in the sky is seen overnight—the fallen star of Myhta Petraea has made landfall!
In Pallenever, everything is amiss. The river has risen. Farmers chase stray animals and repair cracks in their plaster and fallen timbers. The great gate to the large city is abandoned—the city is eerily quite. The church bells go un-rung. Numerous smoke tails rise from the wrong places. There has been an earthquake. It is here, just inside the gate, that the group is rejoined under tense circumstances. The turmoil of the earthquake has engendered an Earth Elemental! The good people of Pallenever, those who haven’t fled the destruction, have taken to their roofs to avoid drawing the creature’s notice.
=== End of Session 5 ===
A daring escape, which sees Leonidas cross between the buildings of Pallenever’s main street—with an extended rope, as though it were a rushing river—is conducted. Everyone agrees to make a mad dash back to the gatehouse where hopefully the ramparts of the walls will offer security, assuming the elemental cannot climb stairs. This plan is a success, but the elemental gives chase and nearly smashes every bone in the bodies of Aodh and Leonidas. Worse for wear, but still alive, the party uses much of what remains of their rope to repel down over the walls, away from Pallenever and its turmoil.
North again, following the river, as a fisherman ferries them to the east bank, the group learns they are being tracked by mounted men with large hunting dogs. A bribe to the fisherman buys their safety for now, but the last has not been seen of these bounty hunters. Once on the east side of the mighty Striton, Fendrys has little trouble picking up the trail of the many persons in the area who must have flocked toward the fallen star. A collection of these curious men are found a few days from the river; they have armed themselves and jealously guard the blasted out crater they found which was made by the star. Their jealousy is spurred by strange and precious minerals that protrude all around the site of the crater. After the party assures the salvage diggers they are not here to loot the crater—they inform Fendrys that an astronomer from Pallenever, named Rustam came on behalf of the Duke of Vercetin. Rustam collected the fallen object and is surely taking it to Castle Oldecha, back west along the Striton.
On the way there, the bounty hunters are met again. They claim the authority of Prosecutor Beris Tanum, again asserting the need for the group to answer questions in the capital. A parley fails and a tense standoff leads to a melee when Aelish refuses to be deterred from her mission and Aodh fires the first arrow into their leader. The forest rings out with the sounds of a battle many times larger than it truly is. Reports from the firearms of the bounty hunters and the Thunderwaves of A’Kelah and Leonidas shake the leaves from their branches, sending wildlife away in a panic. Aelish blinds the leader of the thugs, but her good fortune (of escaping a magic prison cast at her) runs out when he then fells her with wild, blinded sword swings. With Aelish’s life in the balance, the thugs are fought off by spell and arrow alike—only two escape into the woods. The wounded are tended to and five horses of the bounty hunters are captured.