We examined the remains of the dragon and the salamander, verifying that they were indeed dead, then examined the dozen or so large pots that Xea’s minions had been placing. They were packed with about a gallon of alchemist’s fire each, doctored to be even more explosive than normal. Spaced out properly, it would have been easily enough to send the building crashing down.
I rushed to get the guards, giving me a moment to catch my bearings after the battle; I was still furious at myself for letting the dragon’s breath weapon affect me like it did, and didn’t particularly want company.
Outside, a large crowd had begun to gather, though it had only been a few minutes since we entered the building. The sight of so many guards arriving, in the wake of the two earlier attacks, must have been an unmistakable clue to all in the area. I found the most senior guard and told him about the explosives, though I gave him few details about anything else that had transpired, save for making it clear that this was not an attack from the Plane of Fire.
I went inside, retrieved my companions, who had filled a bottle with blood from the dragon and prevented Feng from messing around with the alchemist’s fire too much, and we got out of there quickly. They had found another brass tablet, but this one seemed blank, and so we needed to investigate it further.
We got some falafel and made our way back to my uncle’s house.
The others had not yet returned from their tasks in the city, only Barlan, Lillian and Abu were in the house, the other servants had gone home due to the chaos. However, there was an additional guest, Feng’s sifu had returned, and he took Feng aside to talk. Feng did not share details of their conversation, but fortunately Ling Huo had brought with him a new spellbook for Feng. This was something of a relief; I had been concerned that this problem would not be solved before we headed into the desert, for Feng had not asked for our help.
We found Lazar in Al-Mhuqtebel; he had been attempting to destroy Kage Okosa’s black sword but had so far not been successful.
He examined the brass plate and verified that its magic seemed unfinished; exposure to heat only caused a jumble of letters to appear briefly, then fade. However, he discovered that, if he concentrated while blasting it with fire magic, he could cause messages to appear. Whatever note Xea Rashidi would have left at the scene had existed only in her mind.
Fearing that she might not have been working alone, I found Barlan and explained the situation to him. After some thought, it occurred to him that another prominent target could be the famous Serpent Market of Akkarid. It seemed to fit the previous pattern and Xea’s personality so well that I had no doubt he was correct. I gave Abu a note to have delivered to a local magistrate—an administrator of the city guard whose name I recalled seeing on formal notices in the markets—and gathered my companions.
The city was still in chaos, but life was resuming some normalcy. Travel restrictions between districts were being lifted and, though there was still much congestion, we were able to make good time to the Serpent Market, arriving in the late afternoon with, hopefully, a couple hours to find any sign of collaborators.
Lazar had given me the name of the merchant to whom he had sold Seb Rashidi’s blood, and so I found him. As it turned out, this merchant was directly in the employ of Arunar Thandantis, the Vizier of Markets. My note had been passed to him, and he was waiting for us. I suppose sapphire dragon blood is a rare enough thing that our destination would have been easy enough to guess…
He spoke mysteriously and I quickly realized he knew exactly what had transpired. A member of the Ordo Clavis, Thandantis, likely had enough contacts within the city guard that, as soon as he received my note, he likely also was given a full description of our actions at the theater. He assured me that Xea Rashidi was, as far as he knew, working alone. He encouraged me to distort the truth of the tale, leaving out any connection with the Sodalitas Comperio, and paid me for the dragon’s blood… and our silence.
Of course, it is not my problem that Barlan already knew everything that transpired and might share that knowledge with the Provost and the royal family…
The fabulous gemstone that we were paid with would have been a challenge to actually sell, but Dendera knew of a Tereshal jeweler and gem trader who would be able to handle the exchange. It was a good lesson in Tereshal etiquette to observe the elaborate ritual of negotiating such a large exchange.
I was able to pay back Indira for her loan in Sefet and to pick up a few additional supplies for our trip.
After the sun set and the market was not destroyed, we headed back to my uncle’s house for dinner. Our friends had returned; they had succeeded in protecting the Mashket, but were somewhat cryptic about the experience. Claudia felt it was Fazia’s story to share, and she was off on her own, as usual.
We discussed our travel plans some more, and divided up some of Thandantis’ payment, giving some to Ramal and Lydra, some to Sartaj, and some to Maqsood and Lazar. I’m not entirely sure what Ramal and Lydra are going to do in the next few weeks. I think Ramal wants to get back to his work and I’m sure Lydra would accompany him. Sartaj will stay in Akkarid and obtain what help he can from the Radiant One and any militant orders of Pelor that he can get in touch with. Lazar and Maqsood seem to be fairly content to remain in Akkarid, and will keep doing what they can with Al-Mhuqtebel and to aide Claudia and her family.
We shall travel along the Road of Peace for a time, then we will need to delve east into the Sheel Khali Desert. Dendera still has a contact within Al Haddid Jalut; the group has found a way to halt Zarjasz Al-Ulaq in its course through the desert, but is unable to access it; the ring should solve that problem for us. Dendera also expects the Ushtarak to be nearby.
Over desert, conversation turned to casual topics, and I took the moment to finally properly propose to Dendera. She said yes. The reaction from some of the others was priceless.
She also gave me a fine gift for my birthday, an enchanted scabbard, worthy of Nesr.
We made it an early night. We are going to try to leave the city at dawn, so we can get a good distance from the city before the midday heat. It will be good to be on the road again.