Terrible news has been delivered by agents operating within the Serradic Empire. The minor city of Armia, just west of Junnes, has been lost. The information retrieved from Acryn Agents suggests that the city has been lost to a single patch of “Pure Potential”, that there are several smaller patches located nearby, and that no method of accessing or fixing these patches has been possible so far.
The Council believes this to be the work of Frederick Dines and is the first stage of a plan many have long feared he was planning, a second Upheaval. Diplomats have been sent to Serradis to broker a deal giving Acryn access to Armia. However, the Council does not believe there is enough time to wait for their response and is preparing a response team to head out towards Armia immediately.
The Council is seeking anyone who has previously helped the city in resolving emergency incidents. It is their belief that due to the level of threat this incident represents that they cannot risk any potential skillset being unavailable should the need arise. Arrangements have been made to ship out interested parties to an encampment being setup near Armia, where appropriate responses can be locally organised.
With the camp consumed in Stasis, the Acrynii dust themselves off and take stock of the situation. Dines, Carla Santos, and Silvio are all statuesque in the middle, with Silvio plunging a sword into Dines. An enormous rock giant stands caught in the Stasis and as the heroes watch, Paige is seen breaking her way out, panicked but alive.
Bartholomew calls a gaze of the Tender and cures everyone of their wounds. Having the Tender herself not too far away rather helps.
Taking stock of the situation, plans begin to be drawn up. Octavian slips away toward Serradis, while most start packing up the Caravan and prepare to make the long trip back to Acryn, to determine on the way what the consequences for the world may be and how to deal with the gods having returned.
In Liarus, adventurers briefly stop to stock up on potion supplies. The last good reagants brought with them are used in creating some more potions by Elias, but the worst is confirmed: all new reagants are useless. The alchemists spend time carefully deliberating over how to move forward with this, and determine they're able to sift the bad reagants from the good ones, at a great cost to time and effort.
On the road back, a call for help from a village being attacked by bandits is heard, and Elias and Henrietta go to answer it, meeting up with some adventurers from Acryn who also heard the call, heading out before Dines was dealt with. They leave the main group to help (debrief in Status Mundi)
The main group returns to Acryn, but all is very much not well. The Wayfinders report that the Flux has encroached into the city past the expected markers: fields and woods that were Consensus before are now Flux, and its encroachment into the city is more erratic than before.
The sky is grey and stormy as they arrive, but then the stormy clouds are overshadowed by the smoke from the harbour. The Dragon Gate is lit up with activity, and the Acryn Navy are doing all they can to blockade the horrors that are emerging from it. Dark storm clouds, bristling with chains and lightning and blood, clawing their way into the world, devouring all that they can before they're beaten back. Triskelion is attacking.
The Wayfinders' Guild report heavy losses as groups sent out into the Flux are increasingly not returning, and those who return are heavily wounded and babble something about Dragons…
The Builder, acting on a dying request from Batts, honours the man who saved his life by taking his mortal injuries upon himself, and constructs a grand building for the new Batts Marbeq Institute of Reasonable Magery. Initially funded by the money claimed from his own bounty, the Institute begins as a modest affair with the crystal skeleton of Batts left as an ossuary in the entrance hall. Work begins on organising the Institute, and the Crystal Skull, an incredibly powerful magical artefact and knowledge source that maintains a bit of personality, takes up position as lecturer as the first classes are opened. 50R of Batts's bounty also makes its way to Leopold.
The Postal Corps receives a red-stamped letter from Prim and open it as a matter of priority. In it they note a kill order on Nice Lizard as a matter of grave importance, details on Prim's view of the whole incident and instructions to continue on should she not return. The Brotherhood similarly receives a recommendation that Leopold Street be given access to their deepest secrets, and the Leader Church finds themselves delivered dozens of beautifully tailored outfits for someone of Marian Terrec's build.
The Warrior returns to Acryn, ready to defend it against the fight to come. She explains what's happened to her followers. She refrains from use of Miracles but happily has a duel with anyone who wants one. She gets in touch with Leana for an initially awkward but quickly joyous reunion. Phillipe, however, cannot be found.
Elias collects accounts from everyone and anyone who was near Armia and collates them into a whole assortment of documents as a small archive with the intention of building on it as time passes. He manages to get information off pretty much everyone, including accounts from the Builder and Tender. In addition to the accounts, he manages to pick up a bloody black flag which makes the Tender look conflicted for a moment; some fragments of Starmetal that appeared to have fallen near the camp; a vial of glowing Gleam; and copies down the engravings and runes from the Dragon Slayer's sheath and the small dragon gate.
Bartholomew and Leopold discuss custody of Jade, since both of them had a hand in creating her. In the end, they decide to leave her with Leopold since he has a greater understanding of her clockwork brain, but on the understanding that Bartholomew can visit whenever he likes.
Leopold investigates Jade and her capabilities and discovers that she's certainly not ensouled and certainly not fully sentient, with time she can be programmed to follow complicated instructions. Using his surgical skills and understanding of the Alchemy of Motion, he's able to continue tinkering with Jade until she's finely tuned to obey instructions and make complex decisions. It requires frequent tuning, but he now has a clockwork-driven human minion.
Bartholomew returns to his village and is alarmed to discover that the Flux has somewhat encroached. He uses the Tender's power to help restore crops and keep the village alive, but its population has shrunk.
In the city, Emilio asks if he's going to get paid for any of this. The bounty for Dines is split between those who were present, and Emilio (who keeps noting how much work he had to do and how hard it was) is eventually slipped another 27R to keep him quiet.
Octavian heads to General Adraston in the Serradic Empire and gives a full debrief on what happened. The angry Serradics agree completely that Acryn adventurers are dangerous and that the entire nation should be absorbed into the Empire for their own good. Octavian, with great knowledge of Acryn, is appointed as Spymaster General in order to lay the groundwork within Acryn for the invasion, while Acryn itself is distracted by the declaration of war. He returns to Acryn and takes his seat in the East Empire Company under the guise of a promotion to one of the Company Managers. He makes contact with an ex-priest of the Silent Expectation for future discussions.
Lucian Graves fully debriefs the Wayfinders' Guild. He then uses his privilege as Councillor to investigate what Carla Santos told him about the nature of the world. Then, he orders a number of excursions to handle the new Flux and Dragon problems to sandbag any attempts to respond as he borrows the printing press of Alexander Everett and publishes the Wayfinders' Guild's deepest darkest secrets under his name. His is promptly sacked, and his estates frequently come under attack from angry Guild members before they're taken off by the Watch. It's not unmanageable, and independent Wayfinders thank him for what he's done. He also finds contact from an organisation referring to itself as “Aurora” saying that they can “do business”.
Nice, having run off into the Flux, finds herself connecting with Tuireann who she discovers now inhabits much of the Flux. Tuireann is very happy with this development and works with her to break the Arcane Arbiter's curse.
At the Council, which is in chaos, Armand and Samuel debrief what they saw and attempt to keep order and propose a way forward. Samuel wants to work to restore peace to Serradis and also pushes for plans to be put in place for future crises: vetting procedures to try and minimise unstable and untrustworthy elements being involved, as well as improved supply lines and military training. This is actioned and put to the test fairly promptly as the city remains under attack from Triskelion through the Dragon Gate. Both decry the Wayfinders' Guild and an investigation into their mysterious blacksite begins (aided by Lucian Graves's whistle-blowing). Armand urges caution with regards to Stasis but cites a vision he received from a Lasran Shadow God as hope of a way forward as a path between Stasis and Pure Potential. He urges people to not turn their backs on the gods in this time of crisis.
Armand also distributes what he knows about the situation and urges people to stick with the gods and forge a way through.
Saffron talks to her child, the Drake who was working with Dines, and explains that people (especially mages) who offer you shiny things can't necessarily be trusted and don't necessarily have your best interests at heart. The drake understands and is apologetic and follows Saffron around for a while as a way of apology before returning to explore the world.
Experiment Seventeen returns to the Archmage's hideout to find a number of Postal Workers boxing up his belongings. She shows them the bow and asks where the Archmage is and they explain that he attempted to take on Frederick Dines for the good of everyone but it appears he must have lost. They offer condolences, but also offer to continue the care he provided and offer the same research opportunities… if, of course, Sev wants that.
Henrietta Sawyer joins the East Empire Company, though as an Acryn citizen is left in the dark about some of its new functions. She is given full membership as she would have been able to have in the Wayfinders' Guild.