-Phaedra stepped through the portal onto what she recognized as the docks on the southern edge of Dalyria. She was alone except for an incredibly surprised and also very drunk homeless man. She promptly knocked him out with the hilt of her dueling sword. Having immediately regretted her decision to travel through the tear, Phaedra drew the dagger again and attempted to open a portal back to Aarta. While she succeeded in creating the tear, to her alarm it opened not onto the city streets, but into a raging inferno from which a steady stream of lava began to flow. Phaedra’s boots caught fire and she quickly turned and dove into the water, leaving the unconscious man to his fiery death. When she emerged from the water she could hear shouts of alarm beginning to ring out from the docks and, although her view of the flames was obscured, she could see great pillars of smoke begin to billow into the air as nearby warehouses caught flame.
-Phaedra was lucky to avoid hypothermia in the frigid winter waters and managed to pull herself out of the sea a few hundred yards away from the fire. She trudged her way, freezing and in pain, to an inn on the eastern side of the city where she spent the night recovering before drifting into an uneasy sleep.
- On her second day in Dalyria, Phaedra travelled around the northern edge of the city in an attempt to avoid the section devastated by fire. When she arrived in the market square she saw a large crowd milling around a dais upon which a number of important looking people addressed the crowd. Phaedra recognized her father among them, although he was standing near the back talking with a richly dressed man. Speaking was a woman who Phaedra learned was Lady Vasilika Spiros, whose husband was helping to lead the Dalyrian army against Aarta. Phaedra observed the unusual way the crowd seemed to respond to her words, almost swaying with the cadence of her speech. But something even more curious occurred after Phaedra sidled her way up to the front of the crowd. As Vasilika’s gaze swept over her audience, her eyes seemed to find and rest on Phaedra. An almost unperceivable shadow of uneasiness crossed her face, and for the rest of her speech, Phaedra got the distinct impression that Vasilika was deliberately avoiding her gaze.
- When Vasilika’s speech ended, the crowd slowly dispersed, but Vasilika stayed behind to meet any member of the public who seeking an audience. At once curious and suspicious, Phaedra fell into line and waited to meet with the Lady. Her father had left the square with the well-dressed man, so she was not concerned about being seen. Phaedra introduced herself as Valyria and inquired after the Lord Spiros and the health of the troops. She also learned that the mysterious fire on the docks the night before had claimed the lives of approximately thirty innocent Dalyrian citizens and had destroyed a number of homes in addition to empty warehouses. Phaedra used every ounce of self-control to hide the feelings of horror that stole through her heart at this news. Phaedra left the conversation distraught, although she had not been so distracted that she missed Vasilika’s apprehensiveness throughout their interaction – something that only added to Phaedra’s mounting suspicions.
- Deep in thought, Phaedra almost missed a familiar face stealing through the dwindling crowd just ahead of her. It was Laras, the member of the band of smugglers she had ditched the night she had first encountered Gillam and Erol in Lugard. The last time Phaedra had seen Laras, he’d been unconscious and tied to a tree after a making failed attempt on her life. As she passed him, Phaedra’s hand deftly slipped through the folds of Laras’ cloak and she felt her finger’s close around his wallet. However, at the same moment, she felt Laras’ hands pull her own wallet from her belt. He’d pickpocketed the pickpocket! A moment after both Phaedra and Laras realized what had happened, they stopped and turned to eachother. Apparently Laras had not recognized Phaedra as quickly as she had him, and when their eyes met she saw surprise blossom on his swarthy face. Apparently he had also remembered their last encounter because an instant later he turned on his heels and raced headlong through the crowd and disappeared into the tangle twisting alleys that made up the surrounding district.
-Not one to be outshone, Phaedra broke after Laras and, after some time, caught up with him. Laras had finally tripped and was dangling from a rooftop by his fingertips. Phaedra slipped a rough rope noose around his neck and demand that he answer all of her questions or else feel a “short drop and sudden stop.” When Laras wet himself, Phaedra was convinced that he was sufficiently scared. She pulled him back on the roof and proceeded to question him, not only about his reappearance in Dalyria, but also about the city’s state of affairs and the mysterious Lady Spiros. Phaedra then offered to help subsidize some of Laras’ significant debts if he would serve as her spy during the remainder of her time in Dalyria. Surprised yet again, Laras consented. They agreed to check in every other night at the inn Phaedra was staying at. Laras’ first task would be to gather information about Phaedra’s family and track Vasilika’s movements.
-After leaving Laras, Phaedra bought some new boots from a merchant he had recommended. Then she made her way south, bracing herself to witness the devastation her fire had wrought. The sight was horrific. A vast section of the docks had been reduced to smoldering rubble and relief teams were still attempting to administer aid to those who had survived while others prepared what remained of the dead for burial. Revulsion washed over her and she had to steady herself against a wall to keep from sinking to the ground. When her legs regained their strength, she found herself wandering away from the scene in the direction of a temple to the Steward that she knew was nearby.
-Upon entering the temple, Phaedra felt some of her uneasiness ebb. Seeing a number of burn victims being cared for and displaced families staying in the corners, she deposited a hefty amount of gold into a donation box near a statue of the Steward and sank into a pew. After a short time, a priest of the Steward found her and offered her some words of comfort before returning to his chores.
-When Phaedra eventually left the temple, night had fallen and she made her way back to the inn, feeling more weary than she could ever remember feeling before.
-The next day Phaedra awoke with the goal of finding out as much about Vasilika as possible from the common people in order to determine what made her so popular. She returned to the market square and asked around for opinions about Lady Spiros and her husband. The majority thought very highly of her, believing that she genuinely cared about their problems. They appreciated that she took the time to meet individually with those who requested an audience with her. Phaedra encountered only a small number of detractors, and these people were more opposed to the war and Lord Spiros’ part in it than Lady Vasilika personally.
- Later that afternoon, as she was wandering around the western districts of the city, Phaedra got the uneasy feeling that someone was following her. She took a few side alleys in an attempt to shake her pursuer. However, as she stepped around a corner she found herself at a dead end. She when she turned around, slim man blocked her way. He grinned at her menacingly and drew a short sword. The assassin coated his sword with a thick, black, rancid smelling oil and moved to strike at Phaedra. The engagement was short lived. Phaedra narrowly avoided a few well-aimed thrusts before lodging her own sword firmly in the assassin’s gut. She searched his body and found a full wallet of gold and a letter addressed to Lord Markos.
- Phaedra returned to the temple of the Steward that evening on her way back to the inn and deposited another handful of gold in the donation box. She took a seat in a pew close to a large statue of the Steward and examined it closely. He was a kind-faced man dressed in simple clothes, and on his shoulder sat two ravens. As she sat, the same priest from the day before approached her and told her that the ravens’ names were Fis and Thyne. He explained, “The Steward is worshiped as guide. His wisdom and guidance is believed to help petitioners through tough times. During the war of heaven, he created two entities They are part servant, part avatar, of the Steward himself. Fis and Thyne are embodiment of true sight and memory, and were said to take the form of spectral ravens, or disembodied floating lights. There are stories of people in dire straits who where visited by these entities and led out of harm’s way. They are symbols of hope, and signs of the favor of the Steward.”
- That night in the inn she opened the letter that she had taken from the assassin. It read,
“My dear Lord Marcos,
It warms my hear to hear of the good tidings and recent successes you and your partner’s latest ventures have brought in. My husband will be pleased, and I shall pass this good news along to him. As for your next venture, may I suggest that I heard from a reliable source that Banythian Smokeleaf will get a hefty price in Rabhanast, and desert spices and dried figs would surely be a good addition to our business ventures here.
Phaedra assumed the message must have been encoded. Later that night, Laras reported that he had seen a man identified as Lord Markos meeting with Phaedra’s father a number of times, and that they appeared to be business partners. Alarmed, Phaedra ordered Laras to shift his attention to Lord Markos, determine what his business was with Vasilika, and how they were connected to her father.
-Her fourth day in the city was rather uneventful. After the assassination attempt yesterday, Phaedra decided she ought to spend some time laying low.
-When Laras returned to Phaedra that evening, he reported that Lord Markos had paid a visit to Vasilika that afternoon which appeared to have gone poorly, as Markos left looking angry. At this point, Phaedra made the decision that at last, it was time to meet with her father. Either Lord Markos or Vasilika (or both) had hired the assassin to take her out, and it was reasonable to assume that her father might also be in danger. Phaedra penned a short message to her father asking if he would meet her at the temple of the Steward the next day and entrusted it to Laras to deliver.
-The next morning, Phaedra headed immediately to the temple of the Steward where she would be meeting with her father. She felt an almost overwhelming amount of anxiety around the meeting – she had not actually spoken with her father since she ran away from him years before – but she knew it was necessary. Vasilika was clearly more than she appeared to be and Phaedra understood the amount of danger her father would be in if he was not warned. The reunion was emotional. Phaedra’s father expressed how much he regretted his actions those years ago. From the moment she had left, Stefan had done everything he could think of to find her and make it right again, but to no avail. He explained to Phaedra how, he had partnered up with Lord Markos and together and business had boomed. Phaedra asked after her mother and sister, and Stefan explained that he had had them accompany a shipment of spices to Rabhanast and that the two seemed to be enjoying their time there. When Phaedra warned Stefan about Vasilika, he was initially disbelieving, but upon seeing the letter that the assassin had been carrying, Stefan agreed that maybe his trust in Vasilika and Markos had been misplaced. He told Phaedra that Vasilika was supposed to meet with a college of priests at the temple of the Warrior in the northwest side of town the next day, and that maybe she could get some more information then. Finally, just before the pair separated, Phaedra made Stefan promise not to tell anyone that he had seen her, even her mother and sister. Phaedra feared the worst would happen if Vasilika or Markos learned that they were connected. Stefan reluctantly agreed and embraced Phaedra, wishing her good luck.
-Phaedra exited the temple through a small back door and saw that a large number of people were making their way south along the docks and towards the burned district. Phaedra followed the crowd until she reached the perimeter of the wreckage. She saw Vasilika addressing a crowd of people who had gathered around the cooled river of lava. She assured those gathered that a full investigation would be launched to uncover the cause of the mysterious fire and that those responsible would be brought to justice. Just has before, her speech seemed to have a hypnotic effect over those gathered.
- Unsettled once again, Phaedra felt a strong desire to return to the temple and seek out the priest she had spoken with on her visits. She found him near the votive candles and expressed to him her concerns about Vasilika. The priest seemed unconcerned, but offered anoint her with blessed oil. After a short ceremony, the priest added that he would pray that Fis and Thyne grant Phaedra guidance in her time of trouble. Phaedra returned to the inn a short time later and dreamt of the ravens.
-The temple of the Warrior was empty when Phaedra arrived there the next afternoon. She found the room where she assumed the priests would be meeting Vasilika and spotted a closet in a far corner that she could hide in without much trouble. After waiting a short time, Phaedra watched through a keyhole as a number of priests filed into the room. One of them was dressed in resplendent robes and gold jewelry, and Phaedra assumed that he must have been the high priest of the Warrior. Last to enter the room was Vasilika, who stopped before closing the door and sniffed the air. Her eyes flicked towards the closet where Phaedra was hiding.
-When everyone had taken their seats and the meeting began, Phaedra listened intently as the priests expressed to Vasilika their concerns that the war with Aarta was going against the will of the gods, and that she and her husband were leading Dalyria to disaster. They brought the fire on the docks forward as evidence of the gods’ displeasure. Vasilika dismissed the concerns of the priests insinuating that they were merely being superstitious and reminded them that an investigation was underway to identify the real cause of the fire. The argument became heated, however, when the priests threatened to publicly denounce the war if changes were not made.
-The conversation dragged on for quite some time and Phaedra’s body was beginning to ache from crouching the cramped closet. A bead of sweat drop trickled down past her eyebrow and fell into her right eye. She cursed silently as her eye burned and filled with tears, and when the pain finally subsided, Phaedra peered once again through the keyhole and had to stifle a scream. In the place Vasilika had been standing there was no woman, but a monster. The demon looked startlingly like Harald had in his true form when she, Gillam, and Erol had seen him in Kohlen. When she spoke, a long spiked tongue flitted through the air. Astounded, Phaedra saw that the priests did not appear to see what she now could.
-Phaedra burst out of the closet and drew her sword. She was greeted by shouts of alarm from the mouths of the priests, but upon seeing Phaedra, Vasilika dropped her façade. Her tongue flashed out of her mouth and nearly hit Phaedra who attempted to slash at it with her sword, which merely bounced off. She drew Vasilika out of the back room and into the temple proper. Vasilika lashed out her spiked tongue again and narrowly missed Phaedra’s face, but this time Phaedra, with a certain amount of luck, whipped her paesh dagger through the air, ripping open a small portal and severing several feet of Vasilika’s tongue. Vasilika let out a piercing scream and picked up the remains of her tongue, which she then transformed into a wicked black spiked whip. Phaedra managed to stab Vasilika with her dueling sword, but, just as it had with Harald, the attack caused little damage to Vasilika’s corpulent skin. Vasilika caught Phaedra with the spiked end of her whip and Phaedra felt pain explode through her body and fell to the floor. Vasilika reached out a hand to close around Phaedra’s throat, but the second her fingers made contact with Phaedra’s skin, a burst of light and electricity exploded and Vasilika was thrown back and landed on the ground. Phaedra ran forward and once again stabbed Vasilika, this time connecting with skin. Vasilika pushed Phaedra off of her with a cry and with inhuman strength seized a pew and threw it in Phaedra’s direction with all of her strength. Phaedra almost managed to dodge the pew, but the corner of it clipped her left arm with a resounding crack. Phaedra knew that her arm must be broken, but she felt completely numb. Tightening her grip on her dueling sword, she stabbed the demon clean through her gut. Phaedra saw the end of her dueling sword protrude from Vasilika’s back and for a flicker of an instant thought she had won, but with a roar that shook the walls of the temple, Vasilika seized another pew, lifted it over her head, and brought it down on Phaedra’s head. Phaedra’s vision exploded with white light and her body crumpled as she was crushed by the weight of the pew. She was vaguely aware of the sounds of shouting priests mingled with Vasilika’s own screams. She could feel the last remains of her strength fading away as pain lanced through her crushed limbs. She closed her eyes and almost conceded defeat, but then a vision of her father’s face once again passed through her mind. Phaedra’s eyes flicked open and she saw the underside of the pew and the sounds around her exploded into focus. She crawled out from under the pew, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Vasilika was doubled over clutching her gut. Phaedra’s vision wavered for a moment as she stood and picked up her sword, but with her last ounce of remaining strength, the duelist staggered over to the exposed demon, slipped behind it, and brought her sword down through the back of it’s skull.
-A blast of fire and hot air knocked Phaedra to the ground several yards away, where she lay, barely able to move. Vasilika’s body was engulfed in flames and a horrible voice was emanating from the blaze promising chaos and the downfall of Dalyria, just as Harald had. The fire went out and what remained of Lady Vasilika Spiros smoldered on the ground. Knowing that the immediate danger had now passed, the priests rushed forward to attend to her. As the chief priest bent down to get a better look at her, Phaedra caught a glimpse of her face reflected in a large gold pendant that hung from his neck. Her left eye looked as it always had, although a sizable bruise was blossoming underneath it, but her right eye was not its usual brown, but the color of burnished gold. With that, Phaedra’s body gave a shudder and her vision faded to black.