While Sam was helping make preparations, he heard a voice that was clearly intended only for him.
“Samuel, this is a message from Kagami, I’m having Tike send it to you directly. I’m on my way to Chiaroscuro to get started on a project, I worked with Txori on it. I need to warn you, I think that some people are on the way to you now, dangerous people. One of my spies just informed me that they’re tracking you somehow. I think they’re allies of the Bull of the North; their leader is someone named Kami. They’re very dangerous and they’re coming for you, they may already be in the village. You should take your entire force and kill them while you have the chance, or else escape.”
Sam deliberated briefly—he had heard from Tolta that he needed Kami’s help to repair the damage from the Usurpation, and he reasoned that the chance to mend this seemingly irreparable divide between the Solars and the Dragon-Blooded was worth the risk. However, he could not involve his party members while they were in the middle of their preparations.
“I… I have something I have to do. Stay in the shadows and don’t get caught. I’ll be back as soon as I’m able.”
Blake shot Sam a questioning look. “It’ll be fine, Blake,” Sam reassured her. “Just stay with the others, and I’ll be back soon.”
Sam snuck out of the area and then left the Mortal Market entirely. He headed for the nearby shantytown at the base of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, figuring that he’d meet this Kami and his allies and then determine the best course of action. In a quiet place, Sam opted for a more mundane disguise. He rid himself of the tattoos that had matched Blake’s, and presented himself as a Southerner on a quest. Frequently checking to see if he was being watched, he noticed nothing unusual, until he saw the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. Her air seemed to erase any doubt he might have had that she was someone very important, and the people around her seemed to match that.
The woman introduced herself as Olivia of the Guild, and she named her companions: Kami, Hunter, and Richard. She didn’t bother to name the soldiers in purple who accompanied them, but as soon as she finished speaking, a small voice piped up from atop Kami’s back.
“Hi! My name is Jacob, and I’m five. Are you the guy we’ve been trying to find?”
Olivia turned and gave him a look.
“Sorry, ‘livia, but it’s been forever since we started looking.”
Sam took this interruption to scan Olivia and find her contacts. Several were here now. The bronze-skinned man with sea green hair was Kami, a brilliant artificer and medic, never seen without his young nephew and never known to tell an untruth. The tall, pale man in black next to Kami was Hunter of the Gloaming Truths, a renegade servant of the Silver Prince, once a brutal enforcer but now loyal to Kami. He would be the one to watch for in a fight, but Sam knew he had little chance of escaping alive from a battle with these people. He had to hope that they would maintain peace.
Following shortly behind them was Richard, a nimble and cocky tree-running hero loyal to the Bull of the North. The Bull of the North was also clearly relevant, though not present. He was a warlord of the Icewalker Tribe, now ruler of a Solar Alliance. Others on her list seemed less pertinent at the moment. All this was accomplished in the blink of an eye.
Sam turned to Jacob and said, “Yes, I believe I am.” Shifting his focus slightly, to Kami, he added, “Perhaps we should find somewhere quieter to speak?”
Kami nodded and led the way to a nearby inn. Olivia entered first, asking for a meeting room and giving the innkeeper a smile that had him leaping up to give her what she desired. They followed the innkeeper into a room that was spacious compared to what they might have expected. It was not well-lit, but that may have been a good thing, as the room seemed like it might not stand up to much scrutiny in terms of its cleanliness or décor. The four guards stationed themselves outside the room.
After the innkeeper left, Sam checked to see if anyone else was observing them. Once he was satisfied that they were alone, he turned to Kami. “I’ve been told that you’re the person I need to talk to in order to take the next steps in repairing some great damage that has been done over the years. I’ve also been told you’re very dangerous and coming for me. Which is it, or is it both?”
Kami considered and responded, “I suppose both could be true, but we mean you no harm.”
Sam responded, “I’ve heard that you speak only truth, so I am relieved to hear that. What is it you seek?”
Kami and Hunter exchanged a quick look—most people may not have noticed it, but Sam’s keen eye saw that there was something significant there. Kami seemed satisfied with what he saw, and he turned back to Sam.
“We believe you have a piece of a device that we are trying to put together. This device is small and golden, and extremely powerful. We are willing to trade something of great value for it. What might you be interested in?”
Sam thought a moment. The device, whatever it was, was something that had been hidden for centuries. Clearly, it was of great value to these people… that would mean they would be willing to give a lot in exchange, but was it really a good idea to give it to them? Perhaps some more information would be forthcoming.
“Before we talk about that, I want to know what it is,” Sam said.
“Well, it’s a bit complicated,” Kami began, “and I’m not sure exactly how it works. I have the basic idea, though. This, combined with two other pieces I have in my possession, will make the Crown of the Craft-King.”
Sam nodded. He looked skeptical, however. “So you want it because it allows you to make things more efficiently? Or is there more to it?”
Kami looked at Hunter, who simply shrugged. “It could be used to control an army,” Kami said bluntly. “An army of automata.”
Surprised, Sam stopped to think for a moment. This sounded incredibly powerful. If there were a way to ally with Kami and use this army to help him seize the throne… well, it could work quite well. However, there was the question of whether or not he could convince Kami to join him, much less to use this army.
Finally, he said, “I’ll have to discuss it with my friends, but I think we might be able to come to an arrangement. What could you offer?” he asked, trying to figure out just how much he could get out of the group.
Olivia spoke up next. “I can have devices of great power made for you and your friends in very short order,” she noted.
“I appreciate that,” Sam responded. “But this is clearly something extremely special, something you can get nowhere else. I’m looking for more.”
“What more do you need?” asked Kami.
“I need your help,” Sam responded.
Jacob piped up, “Uncle Kami is a good helper! He likes helping people.” Jacob then added, “And I do, too!”
Sam smiled politely. “I can see that. Yes, I think I need your uncle’s help with a very important project.”
“What’s that?” Kami asked.
Sam took a deep breath. Kami had been forthcoming with the truth about the trinket, so perhaps he should do the same. “I wish to try to right the wrongs that have stemmed from the Usurpation. I wish to reunite the Solars and the Dragon-Blooded. We once lived in harmony; it could happen again.”
Olivia snorted. “If reunification after such division is the price, perhaps you’d better just start trying to craft a new version of the artifact, Kami.”
Kami looked closely at Sam, trying to determine how serious he was. Convinced, he nodded slowly. “That—that would be a great goal,” he said, thinking about his ambivalence toward his current goal and the concerns he had with his employer. “But what can we do?”
“I’m not quite sure yet,” Sam said. “But I’ve heard that you could help with the next steps of my plan.”
Kami thought a moment. His suspicions about the Bull of the North had not been assuaged, and the idea of him controlling the army of automata continued to worry him. He and Hunter had decided to go on this quest, but they had not yet decided what to do once they had found the centerpiece.
“I think I need to discuss this with my colleagues,” Kami said. “Would you please excuse us for a few minutes?”
“Of course,” Sam said. “I’ll come back a bit later.” He walked out the door and went to examine the town more closely.
Kami and the others sat around a table. “We’re so close,” Kami said.
“Are you sure we need Sam’s cooperation?” Hunter asked. “There are… other ways of obtaining the trinket.”
“I feel like he’s been pretty open with us,” Kami pointed out. “I’d rather not take it against his will except as a last resort. And this idea of reunification… it’s crazy, but it’s a laudable goal.”
“But helping him?” Richard asked. “We don’t have time for that. Once we get this thing, we’d better get back right away. We’ve been gone long enough.”
“We’ve been gone long enough that a few more days won’t make a difference,” Olivia said.
“That’s a good point,” noted Kami. “Let’s give Sam a few days while we learn more about him and decide whether or not we can trust each other.”
“I can’t believe you are seriously considering this!” Richard exclaimed angrily. “We’ve been tracking this for weeks! Now that we’ve almost found it, you want to abandon the person who sent us here?”
“I’m not saying that we won’t take it back eventually,” Kami said. “But perhaps we should explore our options.”
“No!” Richard responded angrily. “This is not what we need. Give him something in exchange for the centerpiece, sure, but I’m not sticking around here, and you shouldn’t either.”
“Richard,” Olivia said soothingly. “Let’s talk through this. I’m sure there’s a way for everyone to get what they want here.”
Standing, Richard pointed a finger at Kami and said, “You’re planning on turning against the Bull of the North. That’s a terrible idea; he’s very powerful.”
Kami tried to placate him. “I’m not necessarily planning—”
Richard interrupted, “No, I’m not going to listen to this! You’re wrong here.”
Hunter stood as well. “Yes, the Bull of the North is powerful. He’s also not here right now. I am here, however. If Kami wants a few days to gauge Sam and determine the best course of action, then he gets that time.” He glared at Richard. “Do you have a problem with that?”
Richard avoided Hunter’s gaze. He looked from Kami to Hunter to Olivia, realizing that he was outnumbered. “You just made a huge mistake,” he warned. “You’ll regret this.” Before anyone could stop him, he nimbly leapt out the window. Hunter and Olivia followed suit immediately, and Kami scooped Jacob onto his back and ran out the door. A few minutes later, however, they regrouped without Richard.
“I should have had him,” Hunter said, “but it was as if he just vanished.”
“We need to stop him from warning the Bull of the North,” Olivia added.
“He’s gone now, and he’ll likely send a message saying that we’ve betrayed the Bull,” Hunter said.
“But we haven’t,” Kami pointed out.
“Even deliberating about it is enough for Richard to see it as betrayal,” Hunter reasoned. “So do we try to find him before he can send this message or simply move on from here?”
“Well,” Kami said, thinking out loud, “if we spend a few days with Sam and his friends, we can try to get the centerpiece and determine our next course of action. Perhaps we should help Sam, or perhaps he is simply another power-hungry would-be ruler. We don’t have to make that decision immediately. If we want to, we can always take the trinket and return to the Bull—or abandon this idea entirely.”
“So we trust him?” Hunter asked.
“We give him a chance to earn our trust,” Kami responded.
“That sounds reasonable,” Hunter said.
“Yeah,” Jacob added, wanting to feel included in the discussion. He paused. “So… Richard’s not coming back?”
“I don’t think so,” Kami replied.
“But he was s’posed to teach me to climb trees!” Jacob complained, lightening the mood.
“We’ll teach you how to climb trees later,” Kami replied, hiding a smile. “Right now, let’s wait and see what Sam has to say.”
Sam returned and knocked on the door. Jacob looked at Kami, who nodded, and then Jacob went to let him in.
“Hi again!” he said.
Sam smiled and greeted him. “Hello, Jacob. Thanks for letting me in.” He then turned to the others. “What have you decided?”
“We are willing to help you, provided that your plan seems to result in good,” Kami said. “However, if you are deceiving us or have ill intentions, our help will cease.”
Sam nodded, then turned to the rest of the group. “And you?”
Hunter stepped forward. “If Kami agrees to help, I will, too. You may have need of some of my skills.”
Olivia thought a moment. “I’m in, but I may have other business I need to attend to at times.”
“What about Richard?”
“Richard disagreed with our plan,” Hunter stated calmly. “We will deal with him later.”
“I see,” Sam said. He had a strong feeling that it was unwise to disagree with Hunter. “I’m sorry to hear that.” After a moment of silence, he said, “I’d like to go discuss this with my friends. Shall we plan to meet here in one day’s time?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Kami said. “We’ll see you soon.”
In Game Effects: Assuming the party agrees, they meet there in one day. They will give the trinket to Kami. In exchange, Sam will receive an artifact of Olivia’s choice, and Blake, Chelsea, Welkin, Txori, and Grey will each receive a 2-dot or 3-dot artifact of their choice within a week’s time. Kami and his friends will help Sam angle for the Scarlet Throne, as long as they feel it is in the best interest of Creation, and Kami will train Sam so that he can reach Essence 5.