The dawning of the new day saw the group rise early and make their way to the highest plateau of of Xairus, the Wind Scarred Bluff. While en route they passed a number of people returning from the site. When asked by Marcus they confirmed that they were returning from the Rising Sun Ceremony at the temple of Rakia. That information doing little to change their plans they continued on their way, still intent on at least taking a good look at the obelisk they could see from all over Xairus.
Upon reaching the summit the rise appeared almost entirely empty. A single thoroughfare covered a short distance, temples dedicated to Bel’Inana, Lerelan and Rakia spread along its length with the black monolith at the end. Nearby, not connected with any road they could see, was a fourth church, this one to Kinis, the goddess of death. On the far end of the rise to the south an emerald watchtower rose into the sky, reaching higher than everything but the obelisk. The area was arrid and worn, and now that the party could see it they concluded that seasonal storms would simply be too damaging for more than a few structures with enough reason to be up here to offset the exorbitant maintenance costs.
Examining the obelisk directly the party quickly discovered many of the secrets it held. Marcus Vermithrax and Bonesaw noticed that the imperfections in the polished black granite matched the constellations that would appear beyond (if they could be seen) while Aza called upon the sealed knowledge of the sword to recall an old elven legend that indicated that the stars in the sky were once believed to be holes in the shell that surrounded the world and kept it safe from what lied beyond. From that connections to the Far Realms were quick to come to mind.
Seeking to learn more they continued to the temple of Lerelan, asking the priest in service to the goddess of the star if there was anything more he could tell them. Cleric Davith Bennin confirmed that it was an elven structure and that nightly gatherings were the norm. Apparently the elves experienced some manner of euphoria during these services, a feeling that the other races that attended seemed to not experience. The elves also appeared to favor the new moon for these events, with the next only 3 days away.
Finished they began to descend back into Xairus. They had only dropped one level when one of the sisters came over the telepathic connection a moment after she was spotted sitting in a cafe. Their safe house was ready for them and she gave them directions on how to find it. Though located on the Wrought Plateau, it was near the far southern end, the least desirable section given the distance from the merchant districts and the view impeded by the Arien Taur. There was little open ground near the town house, but from the outside it seemed large enough to serve their purposes.
Once inside the Stigand Estate they learned that the Insurrection has held the location for nearly 2,000 years, protecting it with a powerful forbiddance ritual and waiting for the time when it would be used. The group would have been allowed in earlier, but cover stories needed to be established regarding the previous residents. Now the party could use the site openly, serving as well paid house sitters while the existing owners traveled south to Allandria.
After the tour of the more mundane aspects of the building the group was lead down into the secret basement, passing by a teleportation circle before reaching a massive workshop near 70 feet down. Here they were introduced to Rojzar Loic, an agent of the Insurrection bound to a Topaz dragon. Bored and not afraid the share the fact, Rojzar expressed excitement that they had finally arrived and that he could now get to work, crafting the weapons of war that would lead to a revolution. He took particular note of the Blade of Sylvaneft, showing both awe for the work while revealing that the weapon had decayed significantly, a shadow of what it once was and almost certainly incapable of performing its original function. Rojzar promised to restore the sword, but the repairs would take time given how extensive the damage was. Rojzar also showed them to the reason this location was chosen so long ago. A convergence of aether would allow a device he called an aether lodestone to passively collect the energy needed to turn what appeared to be simple white sand into residium. The process was slow but they could speed it up if desired. But once they did any semblance of secrecy would be lost.
Returning to the main areas of the safe house the group met another ally. The dwarf Ivaen Vinekio introduced himself as a captain of the Reavers, explaining that he had been paid handsomely to provide the party with whatever military forces they may need in their efforts here. But while the Sun sisters and Rojzar appeared directly connected to the Insurrection, having dragon patrons of their own, Ivaen simply appeared to be a paid retainer.
Ready to head back into the city to continue their work the group was stopped by one of the sisters just shy of the front door. Having followed them from the cafe where she had been waiting for them she noticed that they had been followed by a pair of young women. While eventually their cover would allow them to come and go freely, they had not been in the city long enough to establish an effective cover. Unfortunately, that meant this attention was a problem and the party would need to deal with it. The sisters would try to uncover the identity of their secret admirers, but until then they needed to be careful.
Forewarned they continued with their current plan, ending up in a mercenary hall in an effort to learn a bit about the city and make themselves available for work. After a bit of deliberation they ended up taking the name Influential Securities and posting their services as an independent (as opposed to outstanding members of either the Reavers or the Illumina mercenary organizations). Here they learned the basics of doing business as mercenaries as well as the overall political structure of the city. Xairus is directed by a council of three supported by any number of additional sub councils. Fransa Mari and Nowell Yanis represented the humans on the council with Teodil Ghol representing the elves, the later having served for the last 123 years.
While their efforts certainly returned useful intel, it was ultimately decided to back off of the information gathering, trusting the sisters to do what they were here to do. Instead they would see about setting a trap for their shadows. Their plan was simple, someone who was blending in well with the crowd near the safe house would not do so well amongst the laborers. So they stopped by their temporary lodgings, put on their dusty travel gear from the day before and headed south along the main thoroughfare towards where the less well to do hole up.
It was Gomgrim Zekeif that eventually spotted them. Though their dress was not particularly out of place, it was a bit too provocative for two women walking this area of town alone. They weren’t likely to be in any danger, but it was just out of place enough to draw the dwarf’s eye. It was Marcus that confronted them, offering them a chance to dine with Lord Ember under the guise that they had caught his eye. They happily accepted, apparently having been stalking Ember for some time. Turning back the way they had come the party started looking for a fine enough eating establishment for the task at hand.