…As Both of Them Make to it Sayre…
…before the Golden Scales themselves.
Garen Bladerun marveled at the city spread out before them. One minute he had been mesmerized by the spectacular waterfall; the next, he was staring at the gleaming spires of the University of Sayre as The Conqueror crested the top of the waterfall.
The three rivers which joined to make the waterfall spread out to become the canals of Sayre’s secondary transportation system. Secondary, that is, to the broad avenues and great plazas of a thoroughly modern city.
Garen had heard that Sayre was built on the ruins of an ancient town (his Dragonborn history classes being what they were), but no sign of the ancient ruins remained. The town he saw before him was very much up-to-date in its architecture. As Grigore directed Tokk’it to skirt the city north of road which lay north of Sayre’s north wall and land in the beautiful reservoir east of the city, Garen could only admire the halls of the University of Sayre, the glistening shops of the Glassworks, and the monuments of Prospect Hill.
With The Conqueror tied up to some trees along the side of the lake, the Golden Scales came down the gangplank well ahead of the refugees from Akma’ad. Garen noticed a number of carriages arrayed around the lake.
A servant came cautiously over from one of them and asked: “Excuse me, but by any chance are you the Heroes of Elsir Vale?”
When Garen said, “Why, yes, we are.” the servant smiled widely.
“My master will be so pleased! You’re quite famous; he was just talking about you today at tea. Would you do me the honor of allowing me to introduce you?”
Grigore barged right in to accept the invitation and the servant looked even happier and led them through the throng to a dark-doored wooden carriage with remarkable stained glass windows. The servant knocked once and opened the door. “My Lord Telicanthus, may I please introduce the famous Heroes of Elsir Vale.”
When the tall, spindly man stepped out into the sunlight. Garen was shocked to note that Lord Telicanthus is a Githyanki.
But he quickly showed he’s quite unlike any Githyanki that the PCs have seen before, however. Lord Telicanthus has a warm, quick smile and eyes that make it clear he’s very interested in whomever is speaking. He wears very fashionable, expensive clothing and has no Githyanki jewelry or weaponry whatsoever.
Garen was able to detect only the faintest trace of an accent when he addressed the heroes: “It’s such a pleasure to meet you. We’ve received some news of our friends to the north, but I never expected to meet the heroes in person! Some travelers have brought word of your many battles. It’s very rare to meet living heroes, so this is quite a moment for me. Are you just arriving here in Sayre?”
“Y-y-y-yes,” stammered Garen, unable to hide his surprise at seeing a non-hostile member of this race.
“Well, allow me to provide you with some most humble shelter! The finest inn in the city is the River Jewel, right by the bridge in our Glassworks District. Pennel?”
He turned to his secretary, just exiting the carriage. “Run ahead to the Jewel and book . . .” He looks at the Golden Scales and counts. “Rooms for each of them. Put it on my account there, meals included. Let them know that their guests are people of honor, and are to be treated as such.”
The secretary nodded and hurried off.
“It’s so rare to get people of the world here, artists and playwrights aside.”
The Githyanki paused to consider. “Would you do me the honor of coming to tea tomorrow? All the elite in the city, from the mayor on down, would doubtlessly be honored to meet you. You’ll be the toast of the town. Tomorrow, at my estate — I’ll have Pennel leave details for you in the morning, and I’ll send a carriage.”
Once they were headed up the road to the city gate they had passed earlier, Garen decided to take a shortcut. He sprouted his wings and flew over the river and the low city wall, into the district of Sayre known as Prospect Hill.
It didn’t take Garen long to figure out that this residential neighborhood holds the majority of the city’s grand estates and mansions. Flanked by rivers on either side, the low hill rises gradually over the rest of Sayre. All the richest citizens of Sayre live here. Garen was pretty sure the private mercenary units who quickly challenged him (and kept an eye on him until he was off the hill) could ensure that the neighborhood stays safe and free of crime. He was glad he had not timed his “invasion” after dark.
Soon he came to the The Pillar of Hope Reborn, an ostentatious memorial consisting of a 60-foot-tall pillar with an eternal, magical flame atop it.
According to the plaque this marks the spot of “Auglos the Wise’s tower in Auger, first founder of the city that became Sayre,” confirming what Garen remembered about the city’s history. It’s a good meeting spot for young couples on Prospect Hill who wish to go courting.
…and he also found Jerath!
The Bard looked up at The Orb Theatre’s marquee. The workmen were taking down his carefully crafted Roland and Juliette sign and replacing it with Titus Androwdicus. Not the original Titus sign, but a new one. A little classier. Now the sign-smiths of Overlook competed for his business. Back when Titus first debuted, he had to make do.
Grigore Goldforge did a face-palm as he watched the paladin sprout wings and fly south over the low city walls.
He continued toward the main gates of the city, thinking that would be less likely to arouse the citizenry than flying over their walls. When he got to the gates, however, the guards were already aroused, telling the Githzerai “their kind were not welcome in this part of town.” Odos was aroused himself, from his usual curtness into anger.
Once they were turned away to make their way to Riverdown, Grigore decided to accompany them and the rest of the Golden Scales followed. At the next bridge they made their way into Riverdown. The quality of the buildings begins to degrade quickly once they got past the tail end of the university district, and Grigore noticed an oily mildew covering the stone walls. Constant mist from the nearby waterfall filled the air. The streets boasted less wealthy individuals running errands, packs of unsupervised children, stray dogs, and people of questionable repute.
Grigore saw a large number of beggars living in Riverdown, and Grigore was certain his obvious wealth alone was enough to be watched carefully.
The Plaza of Vision was where Odos had been told the Githzerai refugees from other areas are living. An open area in Riverdown only accessible by winding through back alleys that branch off of tertiary streets, the plaza is an isolated and dark plaza surrounded by abandoned and rotting warehouses.
A corroding statue of a skyward-staring wizard stands in an empty fountain in the middle of the square. Odo was able to find the red building alongside the plaza, and he led the group there directly.
Odos tried to hide it from his people, but Grigore could tell he was appalled that the Githzerai aren’t living somewhere better. Riverdown is extremely poor, particularly when compared to the university district they walked through earlier, and Grigore couldn’t help feeling that Odos is right in believing that this area is beneath the dignity of the Githzerai.
Grigore noticed raised voices coming from deeper inside the building. The words were unintelligible, but it sounded to him like Githzerai voices raised in anger.
Eventually, Grigore figured out that the Githzerai have splintered into two groups who believe they should proceed in very different ways. One of the leaders, Aziff, urges patience and caution. She is convinced that the locals’ feelings are temporary.
Grigore got the impression she has lived in Sayre for many years, and the recent change in public opinion about the city’s Githzerai citizens has distressed her a great deal (although she didn’t reveal anything but a stoic demeanor openly).
Aziff has the backing of the other local Githzerai, and also of Amyria who came out of a back room shortly after the Golden Scales arrived with Odos.
The other leader, an atypically fiery Githzerai named Gal’ott, has been urging action. Young and angry, he wants to take the fight to the streets, organizing what amounts to a Githzerai gang. Gal’ott and several other Githzerai are refugees from cities and monasteries from elsewhere in the world. Many told Grigore they had traveled several hundred miles to get to Sayre after seeing Githyanki destroy their homes, and they’re appalled that nothing is being done here to combat the threat.
Grigore noticed these Githzerai wear red armbands and never travel alone He quickly became convinced that such gang-like behavior would only add to the local residents’ fears of exactly what Gal’ott is asking his fellows to do.
But Jerath would never have to “make do” again — an idea came to him: “Much Ado about Making Do”? he asked himself; no, that wasn’t it; he would just have to come up with another title for his new comedy — he was a success, having taken Roland and Juliette on the road. And he had found a new home for it.
Amyria explained to Rinoa that she has spent a great deal of time in the days since she parted traveling outside Elsir Vale. After Magdalene and Elyas pushed her to work with the Council in Overlook, the councilors sent her on an important mission: seeking out the extent of the Githyanki invasion.
“In the process, I have established connections in most of the cities nearby.” She also admitted to Rinoa that she has learned that Githyanki attacks have come at the worst times for the defenses of every region.
“Only Elsir Vale has been spared — at least thus far — thanks to the Golden Scales’ defeat of General Zithiruun. I know it is only a matter of time until the Githyanki try again.”
Rinoa heard Amyria admit to Grigore that she has an agent in the household of Lord Torrance and is suspicious of his connection (as well as that of other prominent citizens) to Lord Telicanthus. An even more surprising admission: Amyria went out of her way to meet the Githyanki Lord at a social event the week before, but she found him genuine.
“But a Githyanki operating so openly just seems wrong.” Rinoa could tell that Amyria is ashamed of her feelings about Telicanthus. She wants to believe that not all Githyanki are evil ravagers intent on conquest, but she is suspicious nonetheless. She was too quick to deflect questions about Telicanthus, his motives, and his possible operations. Her own self doubt was getting in the way of her instincts about the Githyanki, which is why she cautions the Githzerai of acting too hastily.
Amyria told the party that she has learned that two leaders in other nearby cities are seeking out allies. She feels that forming a more concrete alliance — she calls this group the Coalition — between all the besieged communities, city-states, and regions will help them all, so she has been spending a great deal of time fostering this idea.
She has been marginally successful in putting together the war council, which holds its first meeting in Sayre in the morning. "But I myself have little more than a voice in the proceedings. I have no home community and represents only myself and my god, Bahamut. I am being allowed in the proceedings because I organized the event and chose Sayre as the site of the meeting.
Amyria then told Rinoa the people she expects at the Coalition meeting:
- Fariex the Scalehammer
- Caliandra of the Stagrunners
- Lord Divian Torrance
- Quelenna Entromiel
- Inogo Dravitch
- and Amyria herself
Still The Bard couldn’t help feeling a little sad. He had hoped his second tragedy would have been as popular as the first, but it somehow wasn’t in step with the dwarves. Now, the academics in Sayre loved it. That was why he had moved the primary company to that enlightened city — swapping out a few of the standouts from the traveling company, of course, since they were so well received in Sayre — and left the best dwarvish actors here in Overlook to handle the revival of Titus Androwdicus. “I don’t get it. The drow dies in both of them. Why do they like Titus so much better?”
Magdalene felt a certain amount of satisfaction that her efforts to manipulate the politics of Overlook were finally bearing fruit. Perhaps if this assignment to help form the Coalition worked out for Amyria, the council would consider her as replacement for the dead Councilor Mountainhome.
Amyria then told Maggie she chose for the Coalition to meet in Sayre because, she suspects that the Githyanki have some means of communication that surpasses any sort of magic that she is aware of. “They seem to be able to react almost instantaneously to threats that marshal to meet them, and they strike when their enemies are at their most vulnerable.”
When Odos seemed to agree with this, several members of the Golden Scales began talking about how difficult it is to deal with a race which could use doppelgangers and even take over the bodies of real people to insinuate their way into the politics of any group trying to defend themselves against an attack.
But Maggie saw something more: the importance of subtlety in the response to Githyanki attacks in the Githzerai’s own history. This proved crucial later in convincing Odos to side with Aziff.
“Only regions such as Elsir Vale are having luck defending against the attacks,” Amyria told them. She also told them that she tried to get to the island nation of Nefelus, off the coast past Akma’ad, but found some sort of blockade preventing any ships from sailing there.
“The knowledge of magic possessed by the sages of Nefelus is said to be nearly unsurpassed,” she said. “But the University of Sayre is a worthy rival.” Maggie got the impression she hopes to convince the war council that they should ask the scholars of the university to turn all their efforts toward uncovering the nature of the Githyanki’s communication network.
Amyria’s big bombshell came when she told them about a dream she had:
“In my dream I was standing in the midst of raw elements. Waves crashed around me and fires flared, and I was looking down through clouds onto a dark blue night’s sky. Stretching across the sky was a giant spider’s web that was woven between planes. It was silver and sparkled with stars, and at the end of each web line was a Githyanki.
“As each Githyanki spoke, the web sparkled, and a fat spider in the middle listened to everything that anyone said. The spider was beautiful, but you could tell it was evil, just like the people talking through it. It scuttled around, fixing frayed lines and tossing out new lines to new people. Most were Githyanki, but some were not. One of the lines went to a Githzerai.” Amyria looked troubled as she paused.
“I looked harder at the spider, and I knew it was here in Sayre. I could see the city around it. So I came here. I think someone in Sayre is helping the Githyanki, but we don’t know for sure who it is, although we have our suspicions. And we don’t have an easy answer about what to do about it.”
Gal’ott interrupted, “Of course we do. We find your spider. We find him and kill him. We kill him and return to our homes.”
“You think that’s going to solve the problem, Gal’ott?" Amyria asked in reply. "We know of whom you speak. And he’s politically connected to everyone who could help the Githzerai! Kill him and get executed as murderers and traitors. I say we need to prove what he’s up to, and then discredit him. It’s the only way to help the Githzerai.”
At this point, Magdalene decided to step in and help Amyria persuade the brash Githzerai to show some restraint. When she did, Gal’ott could see that she was having an impact on Odos.
He bowed his head and said, “I will comply with the majority. For one week. After that time, my people will take matters into their own hands.”
He stood, nodded to Odos and Azitt, and left.
Once Jerath got to the River Jewel he put his worries about the popularity of Titus Androwdicus behind him. Here he was the toast of the city, almost as popular as the Githyanki turncoat everyone was fawning over. Here they appreciated the nuance of Roland and Juliette. The Bard was not sure he would ever bring Titus to Sayre. They needed something more sophisticated here. Jerath was even thinking of trying his hand at comedy. Suddenly, he thought he recognized the paladin at the front desk. One of his patron’s friends. Yes, it was. “Garen!” he called out.
Sam could tell it was time to convince Odos to go along with the plan Azitt and Amyria were putting forward.
“I see no reason why the Githzerai should not just leave the mortals to their own devices," Odos told Sam. "And perhaps we can attack the Githyanki once they are weakened from your conquest. I fail to see how you can convince me otherwise, but I am willing to listen to arguments.”
Grigore knew it as well. After observing Odos closely to gain insight into his motives, he came over to Sam and told him: “Now that he has had time to calm down after the siege of Akma’ad, Odos remains neutral as to what the Githzerai should do. He personally favors killing Telicanthus and then abandoning the plane.” But Grigore is convinced that Odos was being honest when he said he was willing to listen.
So Sam decided to emphasize the importance of the Githzerai in fighting an opponent like Telicanthus with his Githyanki mental powers. His bluff worked.
Magdalene pushed forward with this argument, trying to show that a victory for the Githyanki would be a victory for Chaos over Order. Sam realized at once that this went to the heart of Odos’s religious beliefs and moved him further toward the kind of action that Azitt was advocating. Hard to see murdering Telicanthus as anything but chaotic. Chance followed up successfully on the religious angle.
Garen took a different approach. His diplomatic approach: Stressing the importance of standing together. Sam was proud for the paladin, and equally proud when Rinoa tried to intimidate Odos by demanding that he look at what might happen should the Githyanki win. But Odos is hard to intimidate and that approach was quickly abandoned.
Grigore came by with further advice about his insights into Odos’s character. “He knows that Amyria wants him to join her Coalition, but is not sure that he wants anything to do with the mortal world and its defense against the Githyanki threat.” So Sam decided to follow up with Garen’s diplomatic approach.
Maggie reverted to the bluff Sam recalled making earlier, painting an excessively grim picture of the Githyanki and the importance of the Githzerai in defeating them. Sam was again impressed when Chance followed this up with a historical account of what had really happened and how the Githzerai commitment to mental discipline had been crucial.
“I have been convinced to stay and investigate Telicanthus,” he told the hobbit. “I think proper use of the right rituals might be just the way to do it. And this city is certainly a good place to learn such rituals. You must take your baggage on and enjoy your rooms at this fancy establishment Telicanthus has reserved for you. Especially if you want to get close enough to investigate him.”
So Sam led the Golden Scales to The River Jewel, scouting ahead and noticing that the beggars (who seemed to congregate around the bridge between Riverdown and the university district on the Riverdown side) did not really bother them until they were near the University itself.