The Regent, High Priest of the capital city, entered a shrine within the palace complex to speak with his advisor, Kyoji. The regent was concerned with the actions of the hobgoblins that Kyoji had invited into Zhongdao, but the red-haired man assured the regent that the hobgoblins could be controlled, and kept from the capital.
The regent then shared another piece of news; there were reports that Her Highness Akemi had survived, and had gained the support of the dwarves of Kalaron. While Kyoji considered these false rumors, the regent asked that Kyoji dispatch a force of Acheron’s forces to deal with this illegitimate claimant to the throne.
In the council chambers of Stone Serpent Keep…
Akemi called for her advisors to help her plan her next move. She had grown tired of waiting inside the keep, and needed to take steps to establish her claim.
The group brought a number of rumors to her attention.
Shiro mentioned that the hobgoblins seemed to have split their forces, half besieging Shizhou while the rest moved north, driving refugees before them. Deploying their forces to pick off isolated groups of hobgoblins could slow the advance, save innocent lives, and give their unseasoned forces valuable battlefield experience.
Lu Bu brought attention to the actions of the giants. They seemed to have dispersed their fleet and were searching for something. He suspects it is their ossuary, of great value to the haruchai. Aiding the giants might allow them to be brought into the fold.
Ivellios reported that while the hobgoblins were terrorizing the south, the black outriders of the Shogunate, the same men who had burned villages in Middle Valley, had been seen heading west. Stopping those men could save lives, and eliminate a dangerous adversary who had harried the party from the earliest days of their journey.
Huijin had heard rumors of a dark temple on one of the islands, a place where the Jade Empire had kept the bones of wizard-sages. Perhaps the forbidden powers of that place could be used to serve Akemi’s claim.
After discussion, Akemi chose to go after the outriders. They would mobilize their garrison and march west, to find and defeat the Butcher and his men. Before they had a chance to act, however, Captain Vondril entered the room with news; three haggard riders had appeared at the keep’s gatehouse.
The riders, atop their worn-down horses, reported that they were part of a group of refugees from the south. While they thought they were far enough north to escape the hobgoblins, they were being attack from above by terrifying beasts that devoured their horses and tore apart the people as they fled. The party ordered their troops to mobilize, and rode out ahead of them to see what they could do to stop the raid.
With Gin in the lead, they arrived to see hobgoblin harriers, atop griffon mounts, attacking the scattered refugees. After felling the griffons with steel and magic, one of the hobgoblins surrendered rather than be cut down.
While some of the party went to help the injured and dying, the rest interrogated the hobgoblin. Their flight of harriers had come been sent to bring the fight to the people of Zhongdao, and had been attacking the refugee column. 35 others were encamped a day’s flight away, though all had been dispersed to raid and attack villages in the area, while the larger army made their slow way across the land.
A new force arrives
Akemi and Gin took the prisoner back towards the Keep, but did not pass their forces on their return as they had expected. Instead, they found a force of dragonborn outside of the Keep, with the garrison inside manning the walls. While no arrows were being exchanged, the environment was tense.
Gin attempted to allow Akemi to climb the walls while invisible, but the soldiers were forced to help Akemi up the wall, and haul their captive into the Keep so he could be locked in the dungeons.
Going to speak with the host outside from the walls, Akemi asked what they wished, and after the dragonborn said they sought a possible alliance, Akemi invited a representative inside the keep.
Meanwhile, back with the refugees, while the party helped turn the survivors towards the Keep, Steve and Strawhat arrived from the south, carrying with them a large bundle…