The New Antalus Theater Troupe at last arrived in the Golden City of Tyr. They had set out from the nascent city-state founded by Abalach-Re a year ago on a mission of entertainment, performance and espionage, spreading culture and the message of recruitment that kept new citizens filtering into the ruins of ancient Kalidnay. The Troupe had been formed by famed playwright and entertainer Michaelis Taliodoros and sent forth to both recruit and to spy on those who would do harm to the fledgeling city.
Events in Tyr were becoming troubled. King Kalak’s mysterious disappearance had sparked a war of invasion. King Hamanu, Lion of Urik, Master of War, had been stalled by a rag-tag army of freed slaves, but most rumors indicated it was only a matter of time before he conquered Tyr. After that it did not take much of a stretch to see New Antalus as his next target. The Troupe had been directed by Michaelis to enter Tyr, perform as they were able, but most importantly to gauge the balance of power and politics in the area and try to get a handle on how long Tyr could withstand their foe.
The troupe began by winning the hearts of Tyr’s military patrols and finding a spacious inn / caravanserai within the city to settle. Warlord and playwright Jace Kritikos, second to Michaelis and head of the Troupe as it traveled, began to inquire amongst the city’s nobility while Keluk Windfall, Master Thespian and cunning telepath, engaged in some impromptu performances on streetcorners to attract the common people. The mysterious Eladrin warlock, Valen, sought pockets of arcane power, spying from rooftops and from shadows. Achaeus, the former Balican soldier-turned-wasteland Ranger, did his best to keep tabs on all his companions lest they fall into trouble. Aukati, the savage halfling sideshow with the curiously erudite accent took to burgling homes in search of information. The rest of the troupe settled into the inn.
Their attempts at information gathering revealed a city on the edge. The first month after Kalak’s disappearance left its scars, the violence of the slave revolts, the murder in the streets and nobles vyed for power, still left their telltale signs. But once Hamanu began to march, Kalak’s former High Templar, Tithian, had seized the throne. His first act was to free all the slaves upon which Tyr’s economy depended. His second act was to create the world’s largest ex-slave army, each member equipped with an iron-tipped weapon from Kalak’s private armory. Those nobles not lynched by mobs supported the new King with their reserves of cash, propping up Tyr’s economy as it struggled to repel the invader. In return, King Tithian promised them political power in the new regime should it survive. Gladiator-slaves, being some of the few skilled in combat, were elevated to officer ranks in the new army, but those few remaining career soldiers were having a hard time instilling proper military tactics and combat methodology into those who had developed rather different habits in the arena.
The city was staggering, but miraculously appeared to be stabilizing… if not for the ever-present threat of Hamanu’s armies. And on that score, the members of the Troupe noticed small patrols of undead, dressed in the military garb of Raam, in the streets. Inquiries revealed that King Dregoth of Raam had sent a significant military force of undead to the succor of Tyr, and that this support had made the crucial difference between victory and defeat in the field of battle.
The members of the theater troupe gathered and shared their information. Keluk Windfall reported what they had learned via Sending ritual. Michaelis, on behalf o Abalach-Re, granted Jace Kritikos official diplomatic powers to proffer the military might of New Antalus to King Tithian, including the promise that Taros, General of the Blood, could have an army in place within a week if necessary. They went forth into the city, found a templar, and communicated their bona fides.
That evening, the leaders of the troupe got dressed in their finest, taking Marissa, their Nibenese acrobat (and outcaste noble) with them, dressed in her finest regalia. Jace Kritikos and Marissa conveyed the impression of noble envoys, while the rest assumed the positions of guards and advisors and they were let into the golden palace of Kalak to meet with the new King. After some pleasantries in the gardens, the various diplomats were shown into the throne room.
King Tithian sat on a simple wooden chair on the dais, flanked by a woman in flowing robes with manacle scars on her wrists and a sullen Mul guard. Representing King Dregoth was the Templar Sumita (formerly a smuggler sent by distant Najaf Shuja and company long ago…) and General Khalid Hanafi, a Kaisharga of palpable power. Representing Nibenay was Naidu, a man dressed in blood-red robes and claiming the titles “Priest of the Blood” and “Envoy of the Regent of the Shadow King.” The newly-minted ambassadors of Abalach-Re comported themselves well. Finally, there were two Templars of Hamanu, there under flag of truce.
Tithian received them all and asked their petitions. Dregoth’s templar conveyed her King’s commitment and support in keeping Hamanu from turning Tyr into another Yaramuke, a desolation with ever-poisoned waters. The Nibenese representative gave flowery words that amounted to “we support you, but not in any tangible way.” The representatives of Hamanu, however, conveyed their King’s assertion that had he wanted to turn Tyr into another Yaramuke, he could easily have done it already. After all, Tyr has no sorcerer-king to stop him from simply destroying the city. Hamanu’s intention, it would seem, is to bring Tyr under his protection specifically to ward off the threat that Dregoth represents. Hamanu’s messengers asserted that Dregoth seeks to turn the world into a dominion of the undead, and that only a strong alliance of the living can see off such a threat. Hamanu’s messengers offered Tithian the High Templarate of Tyr under Hamanu’s rule, and high positions within the new regime should he stop this foolish pretension of Kingship, and provided he send the “serpents you’ve invited into your midst” … the representatives of Dregoth … packing.
Jace Kritikos conveyed to Tithian the support of Abalach-Re’s new city, implying that she was grateful to Dregoth for reinvigorating her interest in the world, and that she could overlook past slights to work in cooperation with his undead forces to defend Tyr from Hamanu. He offered the surprisingly swift time-table for an army led by Taros and received surprising support from the “Priest of the Blood” for Taros’ ability to do as claimed.
As all parties began the diplomatic eyeballing of each other, a Templar to Tithian burst into the room to declare that a number of members of Urik’s envoy had just broken into the mighty ziggurat, known to most as “Kalak’s Folly.” The two diplomats from Hamanu seemed upset, trying to convince everyone that they knew nothing of such plans. Tithian revealed that the ziggurat had been sealed, as only true, empowered Templars to the King could enter and live. As Tithian himself no longer had such powers, he had sealed the edifice. Apparently, however, templars to other Kings or Queens were suitably immune, and Hamanu’s had infiltrated the edifice. As a gesture of diplomatic good-will, a number of the diplomats offered to enter the ziggurat to stop Hamanu’s templars, including the representatives from New Antalus, despite not having any actual, formalized templar connection to their queen. Some study revealed, however, that the obsidian scarab given to them by the mysterious Sorcha, and used as a badge of authenticity earlier in the evening, had sufficient power drawn directly from the black to keep any such doom at bay.
The representatives from New Antalus, along with Dregoth’s templar Sumita and Nibenay’s representative, Naidu, hurried to the ziggurat and cautiously entered. They wound their way deep into the immense pile of stone via twisting, maze-like, claustrophobic tunnels. Only the keen ears and direction-sense of Achaeus kept them wending ever closer to Hamanu’s invaders. Soon they caught up to the invading templars, the light of their torches visible from around a corner. The invaders likewise easily heard the assorted diplomats. Each side prepared for conflict…