Simon the Wounded turns at the sound of the Inquisition entering the tavern and is surprised to see his brother Luca striding through the crowd. He and his fellow Inquisitors close in on a stout Avalonian, roughing him up before trying to haul him away. However, two of the tavern’s patrons will have none of the red-clad strangers’ antics. Three Castillian blades are drawn as two confident duelist step up to meet the Inquisitors’ gaze. The Avalonian ducks out of the way as the fight ensues.
When it is over, the Inquisition is left scurrying away with its tail between its legs. The priest walks over to introduce himself, fuming at his brother’s parting words. An Objectionist minister joins them, his damning words at the Inquisitor’s actions still hanging in the air. Grateful for their efforts, the barkeep gives the party free room and board, stumbling over himself to reward them.
The next morning, the party travels on horseback to the nearby doctor. On their way, a heavy fog descends on them. Unearthly howling drifts through the mist as the horses circle up to offer protection. A huge black wolf, larger than any the party has seen, leaps from the swirling fog, snapping at the horses before simply vanishing. Whirling their mounts back toward Old Numa, the party tries to flee but is set upon by another wolf. Realizing they have to face the beasts, they dismount and take guard.
Soon, the swordsmen realize they are fighting only one exceptionally talented wolf and dispatch it after sustaining minor injuries. With the obstacle eliminated, the fog lifts, allowing the party to continue on toward the doctor. When they arrive at the old man’s humble cottage, it appears as though no one is home. Curious, Diego de la Castille slips around back and sees that a small garden lines the hillside. Poking his head in the small shack nearby, he finds Doctor Egan Schandesten.
After a few minutes, the good doctor patches the group up and begins to tell them about his own inventions. The party is good to repay the doctor by carrying out some of his chores. When Simon the Wounded steps into the firelight, the doctor becomes quite a bit more serious then he had been before. Calling the priest by name, he details Simon’s plan even though the Eisen had never spoken a word of it.
As the group talks, they realize that they are all of a like mind. The two Diego’s agree to help Simon in his quest to find all of the Cardinals so that a Hierophant may be chosen. With a head to the Vaticine Church in power, Simon believes that many of the church’s problems will be mended. The Objectionists can be reconciled, Verdugo can be reined in, and the issue with Montaigne can be dealt with. Tied together in purpose, the party heads southeast into the Crescent Empire.
They chat idly on the way, beginning to get to know one another as their horses plod along. At some point, Poor Diego and Simon the Wounded get into a theological debate and so the simpler Diego de la Castille pulls out his sketchbook and begins to draw the scene before him. The mountains rise sharply ahead of them and the artist portrays everything exactly as he sees it. As the party enters the foothills, it begins to rain.
As they trudge up the side of the mountain on a winding trail last used by deer, Simon catches the glint of metal out of the corner of his eye. Stopping by a large rock outcropping, the priest kneels down and sees a giant sword laying in the mud. When he goes to pull it out, he realizes that someone is still holding onto the other end. The other two come rushing over, helping to pull the dark-skinned warrior out from under the rock. When they pull him free, it becomes apparent that he was in some kind of terrible battle for his back has claw marks up and down it; the flesh hangs like rags from his raw muscle.
There’s nothing they can do for him save quicken their pace and so they redouble their effort to crest the mountains. As if pities by Theus himself, the rain stops just as the party reaches the summit. The vastness of the Crescent Empire Stretches out before them and they stop to take it all in. However, a moan from their wounded companion snaps them back to reality and they make all haste for the city of Rahajeel far below them.
They arrive at the walled city and learn that the man they rescued was one of the city guards. The captain of the guard thanks them and offers them rooms in a small tavern on the outside of the city. The party graciously accepts, planning to meet with their contact later that night.
Night comes and Simon goes with Poor Diego to meet the man called ‘The Master.’ Word around the city is that he owns several slaves at various tiers in the coliseum, the most famous of them being the behemoth called ‘Il Toro.’ Hoping to get a lead on the location of a Cardinal, Simon the Wounded states his case before The Master. However, the man wants nothing to do with the Eisen and asks to speak with Diego de la Castille. After a few words, he leaves and the party heads back to their rooms with no more knowledge than when they came.
In the morning, Simon is missing but he has left a note that his friends shoudl continue looking for the Cardinal. The Diegos shrug it off, surely their friend will return soon, but until his does they intend to enjoy the city! Benedikt shakes his head at their impetuous need for entertainment and decides that he will search for a place of worship.
Both men travel to the coliseum where Diego de la Castille enters as a fighter and Poor Diego heads to the boxes to begin wagering on his friend. Benedikt meanwhile wanders the streets and ends up in a kaffe house on the other side of town. There he runs into a friendly Crescent fluent in Castillian who teaches him the game ajedrez. The two men play all afternoon until the coliseum matches begin picking up. Inviting the Eisen minister to his box, the Crescent takes his leave to gather his household.
Into the Desert
The Army of Thousands
Bracing for Impact
The Fall of Rahajeel