Down in the village the three men discovered that the infernal taint was not long-established, but it had come to the attention of the mortals in the area. Several mentioned minor demons, terrible horrors to their minds, seen in the distance and closer at night. Once a young couple had been found half-devoured when they had ventured too far in search of privacy for their romantic endeavors. Mothers fear for their children and the militia is sharpening its blades. Mothers fear for their children and the militia is sharpening its blades
The demons, however terrifying they may be to mortal eyes, were not the only reason for the smithy's sudden boom in business. The formerly peaceful and isolationist Algorans are apparently rampaging unchecked through the north in at least two directions. A Gelidi village was burned not two days before Xansha died, another devastated three days ago. The devastated villages are only a handful of days from the citadel.
One of the most vicious predators preying on the minds of the villagers is the moon. For five days now, it has risen a brilliant, coppery green that washes the world in shadow and unhealthy light.
Anstice: "You'll have to excuse him. He's not fully socialized until he's killed at least a couple of demons that day."
Mendhari: "I hope he doesn't take his violence out on small little woodland animals."
Mendhari: "I am Mendhari, Chosen of Serenity."
Mendhari: "I would like that. I know very little of what is happening.... and it is uncomfortable."
Mendhari: ".... well... isn't this wonderful."
Kinqueduran: "Really puts a spring in your step, doesn't it?"
Mendhari: "In the other direction, yes."
Mendhari: "Now, perhaps the Green can give me more.... precise information."
Anstice: "However, at least we can be certain all these events are connected, and we but have to find the proper place to push to deal with them all at once."
Kinqueduran: "No, we handle dust with stomping."
Anstice: "Not quite so crude, but that does seem the prevailing plan. And this dust is not so simple."
Kinqueduran: "It was evil dust."
Mendhari: ".... evil dust? Did it look at you funny?'
Kinqueduran: "...well, it looked at Anstice fun- ... no! Anyway, my guess for now is that we've got a very naughty sorcerer on the loose. Maybe even a Solar."
Kinqueduran: "Bullshit. Didn't you hear about that Zenith outside of Gem that sacrificed 23 babies to the Sun within five days of Exaltation? Solars sure can shine bright, but bright lights make darker shadows."
Mendhari: "Ahhh... Gem... Proper weather. But that was an isolated incident..."
Mendhari: "I certainly hope it isn't."
nstice: "I do not see how there is enough evidence to decide either way. All must be suspect at the moment."
Mendhari: "So, we've got a green moon, monsters, a dead elder and... evil dust. You boys certainly like your stories."
Kinqueduran: "More or less. The dust you can pretty much take-or-leave, I think."
Mendhari: "I think I will. Monsters and a green moon are so much... more believable."
Anstice: "Also provable."
Mendhari: "And how am I to be certain that you're not all in on this Grand Dust Conspiracy." She looks very amused, obviously just teasing you.
Unbeknownst to the Sidereals, a congregation of dust-bunnies glares evilly up from under the chairs on which they recline, waiting to reclaim the citadel from the fleshy fingers and cleaning feathers of the living.
Kinqueduran: "You know what?" He points at Mendhari with some unidentifiable component of the crossbow. "Forget the fucking dust. Focus on the scary stuff."
Mendhari: "Now... Mister Anstice, your Green powers tell you that there IS Evil Dust?"
Anstice: "Afraid not."
Mendhari: "Flesh eating demons are obvious. They eat flesh, leave bodies. Evil dust is far, far more devious."
Kinqueduran: "Flesh eating demons aren't quite that straightforward, doll."
Mendhari: "If you are to call me doll, it will be in bed... and that would take Venus herself to set up. Now... let us discuss our options."
Kinqueduran: "Right. Options."
Anstice: "First: Wait for our Mercurial counterpart. Second: Attempt to use your obvious social mastery to dig deeper into the causes of the Algoran shift. Third: Kill the local flesh eating demons."
Mendhari: "And what exactly is it?"
Kinqueduran: "Jupiter's tits, you only hear what you want to hear, don't you?"
Mendhari: "Evil dust is in my ears."
Kinqueduran: "I swear, if you mention the fucking dust again, I'm going to stab you."
Mendhari: "I was hoping one of... Anstice would."
Mendhari: "Because then we could stay next to the warm fire.... instead of going out into that godforsaken cold."
Kinqueduran: "Action trumps comfort."
Kinqueduran: "I'm sure we can find some large animal whose rectal cavity you'll fit in."
Mendhari: "Is that the proper way to treat a lady?"
Anstice: "Or, we could use the readily available spell to empower her clothing." Kinqueduran: "I'm not sure, but it seems to suit you."
Kinqueduran: "...you're no fun, Anstice."
Mendhari: "... spell?"
Anstice: "That's my job."
Mendhari: "Ah. I thought your job was to be mysterious."
Kinqueduran: "What spell were you referring to, anyway?"
Mendhari: ".... that would be very nice."
Anstice: "Though I might suggest better shoes."
Mendhari: "Yes, these little linen things don't to the job.
Anstice: "Ritual of Elemental Empowerment. You know, second on the list Niestro had in the curriculum?"
Some of the boots from Xansha's closet, still intact, would probably fit Mendhari if she and the others were inclined to use any of Xansha's possessions.
Kinqueduran: "I didn't learn sorcery from Xansha, ass."
Anstice: "I recall. Thought you'd have found the use for it by now."
Kinqueduran: "I'm sure I'll need it sometime soon."
Anstice: "Two weeks. I'd have it in two weeks."
Anstice: "I'd advise that. Mendhari?"
Anstice: "These boots have survived a thousand years without alteration. I shall imagine they will last a little longer.”
Being the boots of Xansha Niestro, they are plain, utilitarian and dark brown in color. Lined with fur and perfectly suited to the climate, they fit just fine. But they're rather boring.
Mendhari: "Fortunately my clothing is much more palatable."
Anstice: "Which specific bit of business?"
Mendhari: "The evil dust."
Anstice: "The dust as not evil, a demon happened to have been hiding in it. Kinqueduran has a tendency to oversimplify."
Mendhari: ".... THAT makes sense now. Perhaps then, will you explain the Algoran Shift, and your suspicions?"
Anstice: "The Algorans were previously peaceful, and are now engaged in a minor land war. This coming in short succession with the other events seems to indicate a connection."
Mendhari: "Indeed. I suppose they are the aggressors?"
Mendhari: "And those they are warring against must be the Haslanti. In which case, it begs the question... "Are they idiots?""
Anstice: "No. They are backed by infernal forces. Only a select few important ones are idiots."
Mendhari: "... By the way, do demons bleed red?"
Anstice: "Not all of them. Some, however."
Mendhari: "Ah. Well. Let's find him anyway."
It takes several minutes, but the summoning smoke eventually swirls into the serpentine face of a minor dragonling, one of the errand-lizards of Heaven. It blinks at you with slitted eyes. "You are not Xansha Niestro."
The little lizard didn't even blink. You get the feeling it didn't check.
Dragonling: "You are not the registered user of this smoke. And you are taking up my time. I have important business. I tell you she is on assignment. I will pass along the message that someone at this smoke consistency wishes to talk with her.
Kinqueduran: "What's your name and who's your supervisor?"
Anstice: "He's probably swapping war stories with an old friend."
Dragonling: "I don't have to tell you that."
endhari: "I hope so. Because if he's bleeding to death in some place... this trip is going to be dreadfully boring."
Kinqueduran: "I am Carmine Rain Hunter, Division of Battles, Office 6. This is official business."
Anstice: "Ah, yes. Should have guessed you'd take it in tea."
The little lizard gets a huffy expression "I will check with my superiors."
Mendhari: "Of course. I may be sweeter than honey... But I can't sweeten tea without it." She pours a generous amount in, stirs it slowly, and then drinks. "I hope he's not too upset."
Anstice: "If he is, he'll get over it. He is Red, after all."
Mendhari: "He'll likely have to kill or destroy something first."
Anstice: "Usually a metaphorical destruction, I assure you."
Mendhari: "Is it possible to destroy a metaphor?"
The little lizard scurries off, ignoring your tirade. For several minutes the smoke is blank swirls of burned incense, mirroring your fuming rage. However, an image forms after a time. A larger, more important dragon. "I am Calefis. Your former partner is indeed on assignment in the Haslanti League. I will have her contacted for you. What message do you wish to send?"
Calefis: "Very well. She will receive the message today." The smoke flashes bright blue, then goes blank. The connection has been terminated. Anstice: "I assume so. But I and not one of Saturn's children. You should ask one of them when the time comes."
Mendhari: "Indeed. Though the Purples are... very strange."
Mendhari: "Are you certain? It's quite good."
Anstice: "I assume from your manner that things went poorly. Console yourself with the fact we shall now be going to find those who deserve stabbing."
Kinqueduran: "I'm certain."
Mendhari: "... I have some opium that I could add in... if you wish it."
Kinqueduran: "I said no."
Mendhari: "Right." She sets it down, and resumes drinking her own tea.
Mendhari: "If we're going to leave soon, you should put that back together."
The three Sidereals manage to make decent time despite Mendhari slowing the two men up considerably. They arrive with at least three good hours of sunlight remaining before the villagers scamper into their homes and throw the locks home to defend from the demons. In fear of the demonic attacks, the guard towers have been abandoned, despite the threat of the Algorans only days distant.