A few days after the events in the spires the group meets up to discuss the fallout of their actions, both good and bad.
Iskanda shows up promptly, earlier than the others, and finds a corner table to sit at. When the others show up, she’s rolling her finger around the edge of a glass of mead, partially empty, with the bottle and three other glasses set around the table. Even in the dim light of the tavern, it’s easy to see an improvement in her appearance compared to her time in the Spires. She looks well-rested and fresh-faced, and her hair and clothes are clean. Her cough, however, is still present.
Jethreau enters a short time after. His cheery mood is easy to spot from from the way he almost skips while walking. He orders a glass of wine before finding Iskanda sitting in the corner.
He sits down across from her saying, "Looks like we’re all doing better than we were during our hunt. I’ve seen Julien around the Lab and I’ve never seen him in a better mood before. The way they tell it, the Masters gave him a whole wing of the school for his own use.
“I also hear Terth’s business is booming and that you became an official Inquisitor of Her Lady Justice.”
Iskanda raises her brow. “I’ve been a Justicar this whole time. Typical churchgoers don’t wield a sword and call upon divine magic. But-” She coughs behind her palm. Her voice is slightly scratched. “But it’s good to see you. I’m glad to hear the others have been doing well.”
She sits back, glass in hand, and takes a sip. Her coat is off, hanging on the back of her chair, and the sleeves of her shirt are rolled up to her elbows. A scar here and there from scuffles long ago, since faded to nearly match her natural coloring.
“And you? How have you been doing?”
Wordlessly, Julien sits down at the table and stares at Jethreau for a response. After a moment, he realizes attention has shifted to him.
“Work has been well. I’ve done some interesting studies on harpies and that fungi we found in the Spires. But do go on.”
Iskanda perks up and leans forward, forearms on the table. “The mold? What of it? What have you found?” She coughs.
“Well, it seems to infect mostly the respiratory tract, which we knew already. The infected person, it seems, has no apparent symptoms for several days after infection. Magically, at least. Outwardly, it seems like a mild illness. So far the subject – ahem – the fungus seems to cause minor irritation to the throat and chest area and causes bouts of coughing. It doesn’t seem infectious like a virus, however, and more like…well, a mold where spores do the infecting, so I feel it’s most likely only infectious when the host has died or has gone into the next stage of its life cycle. Once the host is dead, the spores rapidly spread from the lungs into the nervous system and reanimate the corpse. Once reanimated, the mold grows over the subject and in a sense consumes it, forming an odd acidic creature. Which is odd, as before this point the mold dies outside of pH of 7.5, and in that form it has a pH of 1. I’m unsure if you should worry yet, but I would like to monitor you further or I advise medical action outside of my means.”
Julian takes a long sip of wine before going on.“Would you like to hear about the harpies?”
Iskanda squints. “That’s…reassuring? I’ve been coughing still, and I don’t think it’s gotten much worse, at least. And I haven’t died yet, as far as I know.” Her lips curl briefly into a sardonic smile. “I do have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, I’ll try to remember all of that to tell them. Do you have it written down anywhere? That’d make it easier.”
She quickly finishes her glass of mead and refills it, then fills one of the empty ones and slides it to Julien. “And yes, what of the harpies?”
Terth chimes in as he takes the last seat and begins pouring himself some mead.
“Sorry I’m late, there’s been a ton of orders lately and I’m having trouble filling all them. What’s this about harpies?”
“Ah hello, Terth.” Julien sips the mead and smacks his lips. “I do have those details written, if you tell me the doctor, I’ll forward them along to him. Hopefully you’ll just need to be magically cured. I assume most we encountered died from other sources or had a weakened immune system…But yes, harpies. I’ve been wondering about them since the Spires.”
Pausing, Julien looks lost in thought. “A shame I’ve hit a dead end without a live specimen, all I have is testimonials and sparse evidence. The harpy queen and the King in Rags, hell, the library Girl all deserve more investigation and I think that I could get a grant from the order if we somehow captured or studied them further. But enough about my ventures and research. What are your plans for the future?”
Iskanda nods to Julien’s comment about the doctor, and seems even to look hopeful at his explanation, but a more serious expression returns at mention of the Spires. “More investigation, to say the least. If anything in there ever gets out…” She trails off.
“I’ll be working on increasing Her Lady Justice’s presence in Bastige, but I also want to keep an eye out for any further public debates. Have any of you heard anything? I imagine that if another one was held, the security would be high, but who knows what might sneak through. And what of the aftermath from our capture of the terrorists? I must admit that I’ve stayed away from busy areas for the past few days.”
“Yeah, maybe it’s time to look into convincing the city into granting those ward permits. If not to keep stuff out then to at least keep some of it in.”
“I haven’t heard of any debates recently though, but from what I have been hearing in the markets most people are focused on preparing for the Blood and Rose festival at the end of the month. Well that and the terrorists capture. It’s a shame you’ve been staying away from the squares Iskanda. I’ve had no less than three people come up to me asking if I know the “New Avatar of Her Lady” and if she’s accepting apostles."
Terth chuckles lightly and takes a dip drink of his mead.
“I mean I had my orders double over night with all the publicity from this thing. And that’s without the Anivilmen contracts that have started floating my way. I may have to build a second stall at this pace. Hell, by the end of the month I may even be able to start clearing out that old fort on the south docks and set up a warehouse there or something.”
Iskanda rolls her eyes – and smiles – at her new “title”.
“That’s great about your business. I know a few younger people through the church who might be interested in a job, if you do wind up opening a second stall.
“And do you spend a lot of time at that fort? I’ve seen it but never really paid much attention to it. Years ago it was a hideout for a local gang of thieves…well, not so much thieves as children with nothing better to do. They were chased out by the guards after they stole one too many lawn ornaments from the Towers. You wouldn’t think that little garden statues of Ellum would be so popular.”
Jethreu laughs as this, his own great grandmother loved her Ellum statues. And he was glad that the subject has gone away from harpies. His shoulder had begun to itch at the thought of them, he had a small scar left there as a reminder.
“It has been one of the more popular, fashionable, Bastigian statements in recent memory. A throwback memory to our original slaves I guess. I’m glad to hear you’re doing so well Terth, after all these years, your luck has turned around.”
His face grows a little more jovial, “I’m glad you’re all here through. There is supposed to be a fund raising just before the Blood and Rose festival. My family would like to invite all of you as guests of honor. The proceeds will be going towards the families of those affected by the bombing.”
He lowers his voice so only the table can hear “And to fund an investigation into the real people behind it. An investigation I’ll be part of and that I hope you will join me in.”
Iskanda’s expression sours at the mention of the original slaves, but brightens with the news of the fund. She leans in again and speaks in a hushed voice. “Yes. Whoever – or whatever – gave them the job in the first place is still out there. They could’ve left Bastige by now, or hell, they could’ve been outside of the city this entire time. It’ll be hard to track them down, but it needs to be done to preserve safety and order here.”
She looks up slightly, in thought. “Well…unless that crazy one decided to do it all on his own. The bombs, I mean. Marlow was certainly afraid of him. On the other hand, crazy is one thing, organized enough to set off explosives is another.”
Julien says, “Also, while the lone crazy bomber is a neat theory, they were being paid to incite unrest. Whether he acted above his instructions is debatable, but someone doesn’t want peace in the city. Who would gain from a weakened government or unrest?”
“Right, yes.” Iskanda nods, more focused now. “Maybe it’s time we check into Bastige’s political landscape at a deeper level.” She gets even quieter, nearly a whisper. “See if there are any figures who would benefit from an incident like this, and its aftermath. And we need to be careful, too, because if the debate bombing was just the first layer, whatever caused it could run very, very deep. We could be getting into dangerous territory, so we can’t be too…overt. Powerful people can tear your life out from under you when you least expect it.”
“Don’t forget that powerful people can also protect your life if you’re on their good side. As guests of honor we’d all be able to bump elbows with the rich and powerful in Bastige. And as it’s a masquerade you’d be able to do it as covertly as you wished.”
Jethreu finishes off his wine and pours himself a quarter glass of mead. He slides three envelopes onto the table. “I have to be on my way. I won’t be able to meet up again before the party. They are going to have me under observation at the Lab’ for the next week or so. Stay safe you guys, I don’t think our actions will go ‘unrewarded’ much longer.”
He gets up and gives the group a nod as he walks out.
“You know, now that I think about it…” Iskanda picks up her envelope and sits back in her chair, running her fingers over the paper. “I don’t follow the nobles intently, but I’ve never heard of them doing a fundraiser like that. Usually only churches deal with raising donations for victims and the like. The nobility in this city has never struck me as the charitable sort, unless something’s in it for them.”
She glances towards the tavern’s door to confirm that Jethreau has in fact departed, then looks to Terth and Julien. “He is…naive, yes?”
Terth reaches over and grabs his invitation, placing it in his inner pocket as he sits back.
“I’ve know Jethreau for years and he can be pretty astute when he knows it’s needed. You don’t have a clan last fourteen plus generations without having some innate survival instincts. Still, he may be a bit insulated from parinoia at this, as it is his family hosting the thing. We’ll see I suppose.
Clearly there are some things happening in the shadows though. I’m curious to find out what sort of government officials show up to a gig like this. You know there’s going to be a few at least…"
“Right, it’s – oh, uhg.” Iskanda sighs. “We’re actually going to have to dress up for this, aren’t we? And get masks. Where do they even sell those things?” She looks to Terth, figuring that Julien would be as clueless as she is about tracking down masquerade attire.
Excitement and joy that he can hardly contain passes over Julien’s face. Grabbing the envelope, he rips it open like a child on Thulemas. “Oh I can’t wait to wear my masquerade outfit!!” He smiles and glances at the others. “Whats everyone going to go as?”
Iskanda cocks her brow. “You have a masquerade outfit? But…what? And we’re supposed to go as actual things? Like a theme?” She rips her invitation open and reads it over.
Julien says, “Of course! Well..I have a costume, it will be nice to wear it outside for once. Ah, better yet, no one say what you’re going as, it will ruin the surprise! As for the theme or what to go as, pick what you like or what you want.”
“I…see. Interesting.” Iskanda turns her gaze to Terth, eyes hopeful for a more solid response.
Terth can only raise his eyebrows and shrug.
“Beat’s me, I’m sort of out my element here. Although I might know a guy who works between the Silks and Towers who can hook us up with something that won’t break the bank or get us spit on…”