...but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
-- from Plato, Critias (Jowett's translation)
The dream starts with a dislocation. Wherever you were before, you are now in the Temple of Poseidon, pride and centre of the city of Atlantis. But the plains around the city are not there, nor are the mountains in the distance; instead, there's just rolling water as far as you can see. Only the city itself is still above the waves.
There are seven of you there, all wearing heavy robes that hide your faces, though you are sure that you will know these people if you meet them again. You are chanting words that make no sense in any language you've heard, but it is vitally important that the chant go on. Some of you turn outwards and fight the shapeless creatures that are climbing out of the water; some of you turn inward, to Poseidon's statue, and reinforce the chant. It goes on, for what feels like hours; but eventually you begin to falter, the creatures strike you down, and the waves roll up the canal, then spread out to cover the city, the lights and watch-fires going out one by one. In the end, only the temple is left, as a final great wave rears up above it and begins to break... .
...and you wake up.
Braethaeraeda mutters something about having stolen bad food from the kitchen last night, and gets on with her work. It's a clear autumn day in the city of Atlantis, and the rumour in the streets is that the great trade fleet is due back today from Themiscyra and Khem. As the day goes on, people gradually leave their work (if any) and gather in the streets, waiting to find out whether their fortunes have been made or lost.
Phoebaus is one of the first to spot the fleet from ground level; he sees that there are certainly fewer ships than left, though not perhaps unexpectedly so. Harimodios runs into Medesicaste, whom he knows vaguely; she seems concerned at how many ships are missing or damaged. Braethaeraeda lurks out of sight, making the most of her unofficial half-holiday. Various of our heroes start to spot and recognise each other.
As the ships come to shore, news radiates from the keyside: the fleet was attacked by Athenians just before it reached the Pillars of Heracles! There's muttering and murmuring; they really ought to have learned better, after they were beaten five years ago. Hippokleides turns up after a few moments, and starts loudly calling for a war of conquest against the Athenians; from the reaction he gets, it seems as though his main difficulty is in preventing the mob from piling aboard the ships right now.
Phoebaus, who has sometimes asked Apollo's and Poseidon's favour for Theodotos' father's ships, starts talking with Theodotos; Theodotos also greets Harimodios, knowing him as a friend of his foster brother's: ``And I never know which of you leads the other into scrapes the most''. Periclymenus spots Braethaeraeda (the aura of boding trumps the hiding in shadows), whom he's seen when visiting Aeropemena. Eventually, the whole group gets together and verifies that they had the same dream. They adjourn to Theodotos' ship to discuss matters further.
There seem to be two major approaches: Periclymenus (who is not in favour of an all-out war, especially since the last one was on a rather smaller scale and didn't achieve much beyond the establishment of a base at the Pillars of Heracles) feels that the ominous dream suggests Atlantis is overreaching herself and is prone to lose Poseidon's favour. Harimodios, on the other hand, thinks that a war of conquest is the obvious way to increase Atlantis' power so that she can stand firm against what Fate may throw at her.
As the discussion continues, there's a shout from outside: ``Stop him!'' Our heroes pile out of the cabin to see a crowd gathered around a fallen figure, while another person runs away, dodging through the crowd with unnatural grace. Phoebaus heads to the fallen figure, rapidly confirming that it's Hippokleides; he's been shot with an arrow, and it appears to have been poisoned. He uses his arcane arts and the blessings of Apollo to heal the Strategos, but the poison is a strong and uncanny one and this takes a substantial time. He eventually manages to drag appropriate legends from his memory: this is venom from the Bull of Pyrophoros, a powerful and ominous creature. (Four priests later, one is actually able to cure the poison, though Phoebaus' slowing of its effects certainly saved the Strategos' life.)
Meanwhile, Periclymenus and Theodotos chase the firer through the crowd; he soon climbs a crane and is clearly heading towards a Khemite trade ship that's making ready to leave. Periclymenus borrows a bow and shoots at the assassin twice, hitting once and clearly doing some damage. Theodotos instead heads for the ship, flinging himself aboard as she departs and catching a rope that's hanging off the side. He hacks at the ropes holding the port steering-oar, managing to part at least one before the Khemites manage to send someone down after him; he then drops into the sea, just outside the harbour mouth (whoever was operating the Colossus doesn't appear to have been sufficiently on the ball to stop the ship).
Periclymenus returns to Theodotos' ship, where Harimodios and Braethaeraeda remained. His crew is making ready to sail; this takes some time, but they're clearly competent; they leave, pausing only to pick up Theodotos himself, and pursue the Khemite. The Khemite crew is evidently a very competent one, as even with their damaged steering-oar they manage to stay ahead of Theodotos, though they don't manage to get out of sight. As the afternoon light is starting to fade, they heave to near a small volcanic island (which Theodotos is able to identify as Pyrophoros) and drop off a small boat1 with one person aboard, then continue; Theodotos decides to stop and investigate rather than continuing pursuit. They go ashore and look for tracks, but in the failing light they don't find any; they take the small boat and return to the ship to spend the night.
In the morning they return to the island, which seems to be uninhabited, and Braethaeraeda manages to spot some human tracks. They follow them through the forest that rings the central volcano, but are somewhat unsurprised to hear the pawing and snorting of a large bull. Discretion being the better part of heroism, they climb trees, Theodotos being assisted by Harimodios, as a form breaks through the undergrowth....
The bull steps forward, snorting horribly; not only is it rather larger than the usual run of bulls, but its horns are coated with a green substance that doesn't promise good health. It looks around the clearing, sniffs, and eventually looks up. It knows what to do about people in trees: it charges the one Periclymenus had climbed, and in spite of his best effort it knocks him out of it, though he manages to land on his feet.
Harimodios throws his spear, wounding the bull in the flank. Theodotos climbs down from his tree, intending to attack, but the bull catches him and gores him severely. He climbs back up the tree. Braethaeraeda throws daggers, but the one that hits doesn't do significant damage. The bull gores Periclymenus. Theodotos comes down out of the tree again, since massing the bull seems to be the best bet, but loses consciousness as he hits the ground.
Periclymenus holds on to consciousness and continues to strike repeatedly with his shortsword, doing major damage. The bull misses Harimodios. Braethaeraeda leaps out her tree, then jumps onto the bull, holding on firmly and looking for a chance to plant her knife (not to mention accidentally founding a significant cult practice in the later Minoan civilisation).
Harimodios strikes accurately but without power at the bull's vital organs, as does Periclymenus; Theodotos loses consciousness from the damage he's taken. The bull attacks Harimodios, but he manages to deflect it. Braethaeraeda cuts deeply with her knife, and Periclymenus finishes it off with fast and precise sword strikes.
Theodotos is unconscious and Periclymenus is badly wounded; Harimodios and Braethaeraeda are untouched. The poison starts to take effect; Periclymenus manages to bandage himself and Theodotos before discovers that the tree he's propping himself against is actually a roc, and then things start to get strange for him. Harimodios goes to get help from the ship, while Braethaeraeda uses her herbal knowledge2 to look for an antidote to the poison.
She finds both the herb she was looking for and the body of the assassin (rather putting the lie to the ``werebull'' theory that had been advanced earlier). He's just barely alive, but not in good shape; he's been thoroughly gored. In one hand is half of a strange amulet; the other half is nearby. She gathers the herbs and heads back to treat the injured.
Harimodios comes back with some of the crew; they carry Theodotos and Periclymenus (who's calming down a bit now) back to the ship. Braethaeraeda shows him the assassin, and they bring him back too (as well as the amulet and a small shiny disc that might be a signalling mirror).
The crew brings the boat back to Atlantis, while trying not to be caught overhearing the discussion that's going on about assassins, mythical bulls, and the principles of fighting.
Periclymenus: Have you ever actually been in combat before?
Harimodios: Yes! It's great, isn't it?
Meanwhile, in Atlantis...Phoebaus talks with his friend Megistias about what's actually being planned for the invasion. While there was a certain popular movement in favour of jumping off immediately, the revised plan is to wait for spring rather than risk losing the entire fleet in a winter storm. Apart from that, the plan seems to be essentially to sail up to Athens, raze it to the ground, enslave the population, and Rule the World.
Phoebaus mentions that the Strategos may appear lucid but not be entirely together for a few days. Megistias mutters something about it not being the first time.
Megistias also asks Phoebaus to keep an eye on Heliodora, a senior bureaucrat; she's been taking rather more interest in the plans for the invasion than perhaps she should be. She has a reputation for incorruptibility, so perhaps nothing's wrong, but such a reputation is also a useful tool. She is a devout follower of Apollo, which is why Megistias is asking Phoebaus....
Heliodora comes to the temple that evening to make a thanks-offering for her profits from the trade fleet. Phoebaus finds out where she lives, and makes a list of the old and infirm in the area whom he might have an excuse for visiting.
The next day, when Theodotos' ship returns, Phoebaus heals the wounded warriors and much discussion ensues. Braethaeraeda is sent to tell Aeropemena that Periclymenus is back, and to ask her to come to the temple of Apollo where the others are waiting. Phoebaus puts arrangements in train to summon the spirit of the assassin (who seems to have died on the way back), to find out what he can usefully tell them.
At the Temple of Hecate, the priestesses make preparations for the interrogation of the assassin's spirit (and Harimodios tries not to lech at them too obviously). They chant over the corpse, and the high priestess speaks a series of words that slide off the mind. A dim purple glow surrounds the body, and a translucent figure sits up from it. The rites will constrain him to answer truthfully, but they cannot be sustained for long. Phoebaus poses the questions:
``In whose interests were you attempting to slay the Strategos?'' ``In the interests of all civilised peoples, Athenians and Atlanteans alike.''
``Who were your contacts in Atlantis?'' ``I do not know his name, but I can describe him.'' (He does so. Phoebaus thinks that he's seen this person somewhere before, but can't immediately place him.)
``What are your faction's future plans, now that the assassination has failed?'' ``I do not know, but I believe they planned to warn the Athenians to prepare their defences.''
``What is your name?'' ``Charaemon of Evaemona.''
The spirit fades away, and the priestesses stop chanting. Several of them are clearly substantially drained from the work they have just undertaken. Our heroes have an extended discussion about what all this might mean, and reach no firm conclusions.
Phoebaus mentions to the others his mission to keep an eye on Heliodora. He doesn't feel he could effectively do this himself, so he asks the others for assistance. Heliodora is an accountant in the Emperor's House, so Periclymenus suggests planting fake military documents for her to find and potentially leak; Phoebaus realises that Megistias would be in a much better position to do this than any of them, so that's probably not the sort of thing that he was being asked to do. They make plans for the morrow, then split up for the evening.
Harimodios goes out looking for female companionship, but is strikingly without success (this obviously Bodes, though possibly only to him). Phoebaus calls on Aeropemena of Mneseusa to arrange to borrow Braethaeraeda for the next three days; Aeropemena is somewhat reluctant, but eventually allows herself to be persuaded.
The next morning, Phoebaus has worked out why he found the description of Charaemon's contact familiar: he's one of the servants of Prince Glaukos of Eumelia. He sends Braethaeraeda with a note to this effect to Megistias.
At the noon ceremony in the temple of Apollo, Heliodora turns up as usual. Periclymenus is also there; he's expecting to introduce himself to Heliodora at some point, and thinks it would make sense if he's already a familiar face.
Braethaeraeda follows Heliodora as she leaves the temple, though her conspicuous hair and skin make it hard to be unobserved. She thinks she's been spotted just as Heliodora arrives in the part of town where Aeropemena, Braethaeraeda's owner, lives; Braethaeraeda heads away immediately, to Heliodora's home, and takes up a comfortable watching position. Fairly shortly thereafter, Heliodora returns home, now with a roughly cylindrical cloth-wrapped package about two feet3 long under her arm. It looks too sloppy to be simple shopping, and in any case that would normally be carried by a slave. Braethaeraeda reckons it reeks of the supernatural.
Braethaeraeda also spots a number of other watchers, who seem to have arrived at about the same time as Heliodora. There are three of them, trading off watches in a fairly professional manner, though she doesn't think they have spotted her hiding-place.
Theodotos keeps an ear out for rumours and talking-points in the part of town by the docks. The main discussion is of how to get out of ship-crewing duties so as to be able to go ashore and fight on land where the real glory can be won; there's also a bit of discussion of the princes as they're leaving the city at the moment, having found out the status of their ships. Glaukos of Eumelia is due to leave tomorrow.
Braethaeraeda gives full reports to Aeropemena (who mentions that she will be out overnight tomorrow) and to Phoebaus. The latter goes to talk with Megistias, who says that whoever the other watchers were they were nothing to do with him (and perhaps it might be an idea to catch one of them and ask him pointed questions). When Phoebaus mentions the package, Megistias says that a foreign artifact (captured in minor raiding) of about that size was stolen a few days ago and returned just a few minutes earlier, left anonymously outside the military headquarters; it looks vaguely Khemite in style, very roughly like a statue of a squid-headed human.
The next day, Phoebaus sends Braethaeraeda to look at the statue; it seems to be supernatural in much the same way as the package she saw yesterday. Braethaeraeda then goes to watch Heliodora's house, though it turns out that Heliodora isn't there; she arrives in company with Aeropemena, and while Braethaeraeda is too far away to hear their conversation she gets the impression that Heliodora is taking Aeropemena to task for something. The other watchers arrive too, having been following Heliodora. After about half an hour, Aeropemena and Heliodora leave, on better terms but in different directions. Braethaeraeda doesn't follow either of them; the other watchers stay with Heliodora.
Harimodios spends some time studying clouds and the flight of sea-birds, and gets a strong feeling the the city is being infiltrated by spies.
Periclymenus starts to set up a party for thr following evening, to which he plans to invite Heliodora (as well as other people he's seen at the temple of Apollo). Phoebaus plans to preach tomorrow, and will throw in an abstruse point of theology to give Periclymenus a reason to converse with Heliodora. Phoebaus notices someone he thinks is an under-priest of Poseidon, dressed in normal civilian clothing, watching Heliodora at the temple.
After the evening service, Braethaeraeda reports to Phoebaus. As she's finishing, there's a sound of shouting and alarm from another part of town....
Harimodios dashes out of the gymnasion, pausing only to throw on some clothes; Theodotos and Polyxeinos go with him. Periclymenus puts on his breastplate and heads for the commotion too; Phoebaus and Braethaeraeda also go that way. As they push through the crowds (some of whom are going the same way, though others are leaving) they realise they're heading into a fairly good part of town; when they arrive, Phoebaus recognises the house as that of Aristagoras the Philosopher.
Or at least, what's left of the house; about half of it is currently falling off the back of a giant spider, about eight feet long in the body. There's a pit, possibly formerly a cellar, below it, containing about twenty bodies (mostly in pieces)...as well as Aeropemena, who seems to be alive but coccooned in silk. (``Braethaeraeda! Do something!'')
Harimodios jumps forward to distract the spider, while Periclymenus and Theodotos attack its flanks. Braethaeraeda heads round behind it to try to get into the pit and help her mistress; Phoebaus gets the crowd to step further back, mostly for their own safety.
Periclymenus and Theodotos stab with their spears, wounding the spider severely, while Harimodios defends himself - mostly with success. The spider heals very quickly, though not enough to keep pace with the damage. It eventually realises Harimodios is less of a threat than Periclymenus, who's dealt it several major wounds, and turns round to attack the latter, but it's too late: although Periclymenus is also lightly wounded, Harimodios hacks off a leg, and Periclymenus and Theodotos finish it off. As it expires, it seems to explode in gobbets of flesh (distinctly human, not arachnid).
While this is going on, Braethaeraeda jumps down into the pit and cuts Aeropemena free. Aeropemena explains that she was already in the process of leaving when things went wrong; she fades into the background and leaves before she's noticed by anyone else; Braethaeraeda then goes on to see if any of the others is alive; only Aristagoras is, and he's missing one leg and half of the other. Phoebaus goes in to heal him, and patches up Harimodios and Periclymenus; he then sends Harimodios to the temple of Apollo, to send back two attendands with a stretcher...and a cart for the other remains. (These bodies are strangely damaged - cut apart by very sharp edges, much more cleanly than any weapon that even Atlantean technology can produce, and with apparently random pieces missing. About as much as would be needed to make up the spider, really.)
At the temple, Phoebaus asks Periclymenus to catch one of the watchers; Periclymenus demurs, feeling that kidnapping people who might well be citizens is not really a good idea. He will however invite one of them to his party the next day...
In the morning, Aristagoras is more or less conscious, and Phoebaus talks to him. He explains very roughly what he was trying to do - ``a routine exercise in gathering power'' - and doesn't have any idea what went wrong. He's somewhat dismayed to learn of the deaths of his colleagues, though not as much as he is by his missing legs. There are other parts of the cult trying to do similar things, though he doesn't know who might be involved; communication between the sections is very limited.
Heliodora arrives as part of an investigating team sent by the Emperor's House. She gets Phoebaus' description of events, which is clearly a close match for what she's already heard from other witnesses. Phoebaus mentions Aeropemena's presence, and that she was leaving; Heliodora mutters under her breath ``at least I'd got that statue back''.
Theodotos goes out to pick up rumours again. Unsurprisingly, the main talk is of the previous night's incident; the blame seems to be being thrown on unspecified foreign sympathisers (probably Athenian, though Khemite is also a possibility). Harimodios finds he's acquired a number of fans, some of them even female; Periclymenus spends the morning making final arrangements for his party. Phoebaus returns to Megistias to cast another identification spell on the statue; it carries Steal Vitality4, and at least one more spell. He invites Megistias (who's already looking somewhat short of sleep) to Periclymenus' party.
Periclymenus and Braethaeraeda (who's been looking at Heliodora's watchers, and is quite sure they're junior priests) set up an ``accident'': Periclymenus, running round a corner, bumps into one of the watchers as he's coming off duty. Periclymenus apologises and invites him to the party; he accepts.
The party goes very well, especially its centrepiece: a whole roast bull, with its horns tipped in green-tinted aspic. Several priestesses of Hecate turn up early and make a valiant attempt to monopolise the wine; Aeropemena arrives with Braethaeraeda, but is clearly still somewhat shaken from the previous night's experiences; Heliodora talks briefly with Periclymenus and seems to have a good time; Medesicaste is a minor centre of attention as usual, but doesn't do anything to justify her reputation (which Periclymenus decides is probably more the result of jealousy than for any practical reason). The person who was following Heliodora shows up, and Megistias starts to get him comprehensively drunk.
A veiled lady draws some attention; she has a slight Greek accent and a (probably deliberate) pronounced air of mystery. She spends much of the evening talking with Theodotos, mostly about ships and the sea (she says she's sailed the length of the world, from Themiscyra in the east all the way to Atlantis). She has something of an air of regret, but is a fatalist: not even the Gods can undo what has already happened.
Harimodios is holding minor court with his new friends. Female companionship is not in short supply. Periclymenus finds the same thing (the benefits of a reputation, even if it is an ephemeral one); he goes into a side chamber with one of the priestesses of Hecate, though he finds himself strangely reluctant to talk about the experience later.
Harimodios wakes up to find himself sitting on an elephant, naked except for his sandals, with a map in his hands. About half the bridges in the city have been crossed off. He dimly recalls something about a challenge, but whether it was just to cross all the bridges or to do something else isn't clear. His conscience gets the better of him, and he rides the elephant back to its barracks before slipping away.
Over the next few days, Phoebaus discovers the other spells on the statue: Stop Healing, Pestilence, and Rotting Death.
Megistias reveals that the people watching Heliodora were not only junior priests of Poseidon, as had been suspected, but were working on the direct orders of Pythios, the high priest.
During the winter, things slow down slightly. There's a certain amount of ship-building going on, almost entirely of transports: Atlantis already has a substantial war fleet, and the Athenian navy is considered to be a trivial problem that has been dealt with before.
Aeropemena allows Braethaeraeda to see her collection of artifacts, to which she continues slowly to add; Braethaeraeda checks them carefully (if surreptitiously) for signs of portentousness, but doesn't spot any. There does seem to be a bias towards foreign aquatic deities, often of obscure small tribes that have had the misfortune to meet Atlantean ``traders''. Aeropemena keeps mostly to herself over the winter, making sure she doesn't get associated with city politics; she does still seem to be looking for magical power in her collection.
Those politics are getting increasingly strained. Several people are arrested as Athenian spies (they deny that they are, which is just what a spy would do). Denouncing one's political enemies is becoming increasingly acceptable. Periclymenus asks after Charaemon of Evaemona; he was a hunter, and his family knows nothing of any strange political sympathies he might have had.
Periclymenus wonders whether Atlantis is sending her own spies into Athens. He asks Aeropemena, who knows nothing about it; he also asks Heliodora, who claims rather less convincingly to have no idea about any such thing.
Theodotos is visited every week or two by the mysterious veiled lady. Although she does not give her name, it becomes possible to work out that she's probably Phylomedusa, an Athenian slave given to the Emperor when the trading fleet returned. She and Theodotos become closer, particularly after she speaks of her own time as a ship's captain (these Athenians obviously have strange ideas about the place of women)....
Periclymenus continues to hold parties every few weeks, and comes to realise that several of his friends are treading carefully around him because he hasn't been offered a substantial army command, even though his experience would suggest it. He realises that this is because he's attempted to be a voice of realism and attempts to be a little more ``gung-ho'' in his public persona, with some success. He also looks into the possibility of opening a weapon-school, but is stymied by his own lack of teaching ability; he tries to learn more about this from one of the philosophers, but ends up becoming more familiar than he really wanted to be with the local cheap wine-shops.
The Strategos is up and about after around a month, and seems to be rather calmer than before; he's evidently come to terms with the lack of an immediate fight.
Harimodios finds, with initial pleasure and later some alarm, that he has attracted a group of hangers-on who agree with his contention that the city is doomed. Most of them seem to feel that it's because of hubris, rather than Harimodios' contention that the problem is foreign infiltrators and their corruption. But in any case some of them are pretty.
One afternoon early in Spring, two things happen. First, Theodotos is offered a position as commander of one of the twelve fleets; it's clear that this is mostly because everyone wants to be part of the army on land, with better chances for loot and glory, rather than be stuck on board the ships. He thinks about this. Later, Phylomedusa doesn't arrive for her meeting with Theodotos. Instead, a slave delivers a note, then leaves; Theodotos, who doesn't read Greek, can make out that it's a plea for help. She takes it to Periclymenus, who can translate it as ``I am being held prisoner''; there's also a stylised picture of a building within the Emperor's palace, indicating a particular room. Periclymenus contacts Aeropemena to arrange to borrow Braethaeraeda, since she seems to have some skills that he and Theodotos lack. They mutually agree not to tell Harimodios.
Braethaeraeda, armed with a note to the chief cook requesting more sylphium, makes her way into the palace. She finds her way to the slave quarters and identifies the room from outside, but the guard here is more alert than the one at the front gates; she climbs up the back of the building and gets in through a window. There is a guard outside Phylomedusa's room, but he seems to have been indulging in strange foreign herbs; he doesn't question Braethaeraeda's story of having an important message for Phylomedusa.
Phylomedusa explains that she has been spending most of the last few months trying to avoid coming to the attention of the emperor, and has now failed; she'd really very much like to be got out of the palace before tonight. Her only friend within the palace is her ``owner'' Iphianassa, favoured concubine of Prince Glaukos of Eumelia, who's here more or less as a hostage.
Braethaeraeda takes the story back to Theodotos, who decides to disguise himself as a slave and go back in with Braethaeraeda. Periclymenus is rather hesitant about getting involved with the Emperor's household, but will be nearby outside the palace. The wine-shop he picks seems to be the same one where Harimodios is holding court, though he avoids notice for the moment.
Braethaeraeda and Theodotos have prepared themselves with a dose of herbs to be offered to the guard and knock him out, but while he lets Braethaeraeda into the cell he seems to have had a crisis of conscience and does not accept anything from Theodotos. Phylomedusa is being dressed, somewhat against her will, in costly but diaphanous garments by two serving-women, who are suitably cowed when Braethaeraeda produces a knife.
When Braethaeraeda knocks on the door to be let out, Theodotos takes advantage of the guard's distraction try to knock him unconscious, but misses. Braethaeraeda slams the door into his face, and Theodotos' follow-up blow does the job. They drag him into the room and tie him up with one of the spare veils.
Meanwhile, in the wine-shop, Harimodios has noticed Periclymenus lurking in the corner. They converse briefly.
Periclymenus: So what's it like being a celebrity cult figure?
Harimodios: It's great!
Periclymenus: Somehow I knew you were going to say that.
A side note: over the previous several months, Phoebaus has been encouraging the temples to get people who think they may have magical talent to come in for testing and training. Quite a few have; he's been working with Heliodora to maintain some sort of organisation, and he thinks that many of the magical cults have lost most of their core members.
Theodotos and Braethaeraeda find an unused room, and Phylomedusa changes into slave's garb. As they're sneaking out, they find someone else doing the same thing - he clearly thinks he's being inconspicuous, and probably also thinks he's successfully disguised himself. However, Braethaeraeda does recognise Amnerestes, prince of Mneseusa. The guard at the main gate of the palace conspicuously looks the other way as Amnerestes leaves, and Braethaeraeda and the others take advantage of this to get themselves out.
They head to Aeropemena's house, sneaking in so as not to be noticed by other servants, and disguise Phylomedusa; then they hide her on Theodotos' ship, and obtain some more clothes. Theodotos heads back to meet Periclymenus, who by this time (some hours after the rescue started) has assumed that either things have gone well or the group has been captured, so has gone home.
A cry arises from the palace, and it gradually becomes clear that a slave is missing. Phylomedusa's name and description are circulated, but official channels are curiously silent as to whether she escaped or was kidnapped. Rumour rapidly fills in the details (a whole squad of guards was slaughtered).
As the afternoon draws into evening, those of a military disposition are loosely organised to conduct house-to-house searches. This is clearly being used as an excuse to settle a few old scores. Theodotos, with his new ``cabin boy'', gladly helps search the other ships; Braethaeraeda lurks nearby in case of trouble, though nothing too untoward happens. Periclymenus arranges to check the house of Heliodora, and is only slightly surprised to find nothing incriminating at all - certainly she lives well, presumably with family money as well as her fairly nominal salary, but there are no obscure foreign statues or other signs of dubious affiliations.
He also finds himself in the workshop of Pelegenion, known as an inventor, who's currently working on a variety of small mechanical birds. Periclymenus spots a discarded model of a device to launch athletes into the air as part of games and demonstrations; Pelegenion thought it would be impractical, as it could only throw about half a talent5. Periclymenus can thing of several things to do with something that could throw half-talent rocks, though Pelegenion seems to be curiously blind to military applications. Periclymenus talks with Megistias about getting funds to build a full-size version, but with the imminent departure of the fleet there's neither money nor time even to construct a prototype.
Theodotos accepts the position offered to him as commander of one of the twelve fleets. He takes on Periclymenus as tactical advisor (something the other commanders don't seem to be bothering with), and between them (and with some help from Phoebaus) they arrange to have a greater proportion of triremes, and slightly fewer transports, than the other fleets. Phoebaus also arranges to have supplies put aboard so that some of the transports can easily be used as hospital ships, should that become necessary. With a bit more administrative manipulation, they arrange for Megistias to be the land commander who sails with the fleet. Braethaeraeda will be staying behind, with her mistress, but the others will be with the fleet.
They will be the fourth fleet to leave Atlantis (competition for the first few is very stiff and political), but the final fitting-out is still somewhat rushed. Poseidopolis itself has by far the best harbour on the island, so troops come from all over Atlantis to embark; the city gets very full for a few days. The first fleet leaves only a day later than planned, and things move a bit more rapidly thereafter.
As the fourth fleet sets sail, Harimodios gets a distinct feeling that while the city is still doomed the fleet itself is not. There's some discussion about the possibility of turning back, but the consensus is that this would obviously be regarded as cowardly.
A few days into the voyage, the gulls show Harimodios that it would be a distinctly good idea to steer a couple of points to port of the main trade route between Atlantis and the Pillars of Heracles. This doesn't seem as though it'll slow things down much, so Theodotos agrees. A few hours later, they see a mass of smoke to the south, more than would come from just one ship; they turn to investigate, and find the remains of the second fleet. Many of the transports are gone, and most of the surviving ships are badly damaged; the most sound are taken in tow, and the survivors packed aboard both them and the ships of the fourth fleet. The survivors tell a strange tale: they spied five Athenian pentekonters ahead and moved to attack, but the Athenians had some strange device that could set fire to ships at a distance. Periclynmenus thinks it's the rock-launcher hurling Atlantean fire; to Phoebaus, it sounds more like a great mirror to focus the rays of the sun. In any case, Theodotos sends a dispatch-boat back to search for the other fleets and warn them.
Phoebaus consults with the priests of Poseidon about possible countermeasures. If it is a sun weapon, a spell of storm seems most obvious, but takes some time to employ and is rarely predictable; the simpler spell of clouds might be a rather better bet.
Meanwhile in Atlantis, Braethaeraeda is sounded out by a fellow-slave about the possibility of a rebellion: nearly all the able-bodied men are with the invasion force, leaving only youths, women and old men to defend the city. While she admits she has no love for Atlanteans, she claims that as a weak woman she is not fitted to take any part in any fighting that goes on. The plan seems to be to smash and grab in the city, then flee to the countryside - slightly more sophisticated than the Atlantean invasion plan, but not much. She does not tell Aeropemena about this conversation.
Theodotos consults with his advisors about what to do about this new Athenian weapon. The priests of Poseidon can bring clouds, but to do so far enough away (or over a wide enough area) may be prohibitively expensive in magical power. The next obvious rendezvous point is the Pillars of Heracles, where in theory there is an Atlantean garrison - but considering the freedom with which Athenian ships are operating in the Atlantic, this can't be taken for granted.
Theodotos therefore tells off the transports, with the salvaged ships from the second fleet and most of his triremes, to head for a natural harbour6 some six hundred stadia7 up the coast from the Pillars, with orders to resupply with water and then return to Atlantis if they hear nothing after a week. Meanwhile, his own force of the ten fastest ships will head to the Pillars, hugging the coast and striking their sails during the final approach to minimise the chance of being spotted. Two are to hang back, and disengage if they see the lead ships catching fire.
As they close, they see three ships lying in the harbour at Tarifos where the Atlantean outpost was established. They are all pentekonters, which suggests that they're probably not Atlantean. Phoebaus looks closely, and sees an odd cauldron-like apparatus on the sternpost of each ship.
Cratippus, the chief priest of Poseidon with the fleet, casts a spell to bring Theodotos' ship closer to the enemy as quickly as possible. The sailors on the pentekonters fuss around their apparatus, unfolding leaves until the three devices resemble sunflowers. Anyone still unsure as to their purpose is left in little doubt as one of the triremes' masts catches fire - which is at least not as bad as the sails catching fire. All the trireme crews wet their ships as much as possible. As the range drops to four stadia8, Cratippus casts a clouding spell to block the Athenians' infernal weapon from the sunlight.
Meanwhile in Atlantis...rumours of a slave revolt continue, and Braethaeraeda manages to continue to avoid committing herself. Even Aeropemena has heard some rumblings, and Braethaeraeda suggests that she not go out any more than is necessary. After several weeks of this, the rumours stop suddenly and things get very quiet; at this point, everyone with any sense stays off the streets. Quite what the final flashpoint is, nobody really knows, but all of a sudden rioting breaks out across the city. It starts with slaves attacking the few owners who are left; then they break into the wineshops and attack anyone who looks rich; shortly they come to attack each other.
Braethaeraeda attempts to persuade the remaining household slaves to stay inside where it's relatively safe, but fails to do so. She and Aeropemena pick an inside room with few windows, bring in what food and water is in the house, and get ready to sit it out. Braethaeraeda is somewhat alarmed when Aeropemena discovers a familiar statue of a squid-headed human in the Khemite style; even Aeropemena is surprised, since she was sure it had been given back to Heliodora. Both women grow increasingly uncomfortable being in the same room as the statue, and eventually Braethaeraeda suggests taking a mule from the stables and leaving for Aeropemena's country estate. They do so, taking a twisted route through the streets in order to avoid the worst of the violence.
As they pass in front of one of the temples of Poseidon, they see an elderly priest exhorting the rioters to return to their work and wait for the fleets to return. The ex-slaves are thoroughly unimpressed, and swarm him. As he goes down under their weight, Aeropemena looks as though she's about to say something potentially heroic (or suicidal); before she gets the chance, there's a loud rumble, and cracks open in the street. Aeropemena and Braethaeraeda hurry away, dodging falling masonry, but many of the rioters are not so fortunate. As they turn to look back at the city, at least half the buildings seem to be damaged.
At Tarifos, Phoebaus takes cover and guards Cratippus, keeping him safe at least until he can renew his cloud spell. Periclymenus leads a group of archers in volley fire as the range closes, and they manage to shoot one of the sunflower operators. Theodotos takes the steering-oar and brings his trireme across the sterns of the first two pentekonters, smashing them and knocking the sunflowers into the water. There isn't enough room to manoeuvre to attack the third ship's stern, so he rams broadside instead. The marines and oarsmen jump aboard, swarming over the minimal crew; Periclymenus fights his way to the stern to take control of the sunflower. It's a complex structure of folding mirrors, mounted on a cunning balanced tower so that it can be turned to point in any direction.
The fighting is over for the moment, and Theodotos and his men evaluate the situation. The fortress is clearly in Athenian hands, and will have to be taken; two of the pentekonters are repairable but could only be sailed in an emergency, while the third is intact. As the cloud cover is released and Cratippus starts recovering his energy, a glint of metal shines from the fortress as the larger sunflower there is unfolded. Periclymenus and Megistias both try to lead a charge to deal with it, but it's Theodotos who seems to have the divine gift today. The ground is unfortunately clear of obstructions; as he heads up the low rise to the fortress, he ducks just in time, and the horsehair plume on his helmet is singed by the weapon. Aiming it at such close targets is evidently very difficult, but a few more men fall as they continue.
Phoebaus, who's back with the ships, turns the surviving small sunflower on the fortress gate, and is gratified to see it start to smoulder (though this also attracts the enemy sunflower crew's attention to him). Periclymenus hangs back from the charge and shoots at the sunflower crew, without success. As the gate bursts into flames, Phoebaus turns the beam away and takes cover; Theodotos shoulders the ram with his men, and they smash the gate to pieces. The rest is mopping-up. Theodotos asks some of the prisoners where the other two pentekonters are; ``At the other end of the line'', they say.
As the fortress is cleared, a lookout spots triremes approaching fast from the west. It's the first and third fleets, with the Emperor in command, apparently unscathed after the sea voyage. As they proceed through the Pillars, the lead ship stops abruptly, in a very unnatural way; it turns out that there's a cable lying just below the water's surface, with nets attached to it, apparently across the whole 130-stadion width of the Pillars. They try to cut it, but without success. The shore party investigates, and finds the cable embedded in rock; some effort from the fleets' priests of Poseidon, and the rock is weakened and the cable whips loose to sink below the waves.
The first and third fleets proceed at once, with Periclymenus' warning that this is surely not the last Athenian defensive trick. Theodotos sends dispatch boats to retrieve the transports, and while waiting for them sets sailors to work salvaging the two sunken sunflowers. They can be mounted quite conveniently on the sternpost of a trireme, and the large one may well fit aboard one of the transport ships....
In Atlantis, after a few days in the country, a message arrives for Aeropemena requesting her to return to the city. It's signed by Heliodora and Medesicaste. As Braethaeraeda and Aeropemena return, they see that the canal is still mostly intact (though some parts of the city have been flooded); most of the buildings have been damaged to some extent. Since the women form the only power group which hasn't been gutted either to go with the fleet or in the slaves' revolt and escape, Heliodora and Medesicaste are asking Aeropemena (as a noblewoman of significant status) to be the visible head of their provisional government; this will give them enough leverage to get the other factions to fall in line, stop squabbling over turf and get on with rebuilding the city. Aeropemena agrees, but asks Braethaeraeda to keep an eye out for any information about Heliodora or Medesicaste which might work to their later disadvantage. Most immediately, Heliodora has very clearly exceeded her official authority; on the other hand, it's evidently been in a good cause, so it is unlikely that such mud would stick. Braethaeraeda scrounges foodstuffs for the household and wonders what the future will bring.
At Tarifos, there's a wait of a day or so before the transports of the fourth and second fleets return. Phoebaus and Periclymenus practise with the sunflowers, and some of the more competent sailors also learn the basics of their use. They do indeed need to be under direct sunlight to operate effectively. Phoebaus investigates the possibility of fireproofing the ships; this can be done by ceremonial casting, and the limitation is mostly the small number of priests who have that specific ability. The lead ships, it is decided, will be kept fireproofed on a continuous basis.
Phoebaus seeks a vision, trying to find the connection between these weapons (clearly the work of someone inspired by Hephaistos) and the Athenians. He sees Hephaistos himself, forging a sunflower, and testing it on a puddle of water, which starts to boil. Three serpents come out of the water; one of them is caught up by an owl, but the other two get away into cracks in the ground. Water-serpents are probably representative of Poseidon, but the rest is less clear....
The sixth fleet arrives just as the fourth-and-second is preparing to leave Tarifos, and they travel in convoy along the barbarian coast towards the small settlement of Qart-Hadasht9. On the third morning, two of the transports have gone missing; they might have deserted, but why would they have waited so long if so? The order is passed to all ships to keep a riding light burning all night, and a close watch.
The next night, the light on one of the triremes (near the outer edge of the fleet) goes out. The word is passed to the flagship, and in spite of the darkness Theodotos takes his ship to that point. He scans the horizon, and to the north-east sees a darkened ship occulting the stars. He follows, and finds that he's entered a current that's drawing both his own and the other ship away from the fleet. As they approach, Periclymenus fires an arrow at the other ship, to see whether it's an illusion: the arrow hits and sticks, as might be expected, but there's no sound from the impact.
Two small boats are visible ahead, packed full of men and apparently waiting for the trireme to arrive. Theodotos steers his ship ahead, to ram one of them in the darkness; it sinks quickly, and Phoebaus gets his men to throw some lines overboard to haul in survivors. Theodotos is unable to get round to the other side in time to attack the other boat, though, and its men board the silenced trireme; without the surprise and numbers of an attack from both boats, they're unable to capture the ship as they'd clearly intended, and they are all killed.
The rescued soldiers from the first boat seem to be Khemites. Phoebaus attempts, with his basic knowledge of the language, to find out more, but doesn't learn much; the Khemite doesn't have a great deal of time for Athenians, Atlanteans, or anyone else, but grudgingly admits that having the Athenians telling his force where the Atlantean fleets were anchoring had its uses. The captured transports have been brought into the Khemite fleet, and their crews killed. There's a larger ship somewhere with the Khemite magician aboard it, but there'd be no way of finding it in the dark.
The fleet continues on to Qart-Hadasht, where it catches up with the first and third fleets. The Athenians had removed the masts from several of their ships, and built concealing structures over them so that they resembled wooden piers; they were thus able to attack at very short range, with surprise, when the Atlanteans entered the harbour.
The next leg is to round Elymia10, then to cross the Ionian Sea sailing more or less due east and to force a passage through the gap at Kythera.
In Atlantis, there has been a sudden outbreak of daggers between shoulderblades and people turning black and falling over at dinner. Aeropemena is doing her best to hold things together; Braethaeraeda tests her food with even more care than usual, cooking herself rather than risking letting anyone else do it. Someone who has recently come to prominence is Neferet, Khemite concubine of Klathedros, who has a high position in what's left of the Ruling House; Aeropemena invites them both to dine, in the newly-fashionable style (bringing one's own food). Braethaeraeda gets a few chances to speak with Neferet; while the conversation is closely guarded on both sides, it seems that Neferet does not wish Atlantis nearly as well as might be supposed from her actions. She is keen to preserve ``civilisation'', but it's not at all clear whether she favours any specific civilisation....
When Braethaeraeda mentions the squid-headed statue, which continues to turn up in rooms where Aeropemena spends more than a few minutes, Neferet turns white and denies all knowledge of such things. She later admits grudgingly that a Khemite priest might know of ways to deal with it, but she is not aware of any in Atlantis.
The evening before the attack on Kythera, Phylomedusa approaches Theodotos, seeming even more nervous than she has already been. She makes a final plea for him to abandon the fleet: ``Your land is doomed, and so is mine. Come away to somewhere else, where at least we can live!'' Theodotos is stern in his resolve: he cannot abandon his duty.
As the fleet nears Kythera, Athenian sunflower-ships come out and attack, but the fireproofing holds. The Athenians aren't prepared for a taste of their own weapon, and their ships turn and run as the Atlanteans press forward to land their troops on the island. They're still out of sight, though, when a new Athenian weapon is fielded: fireproofing doesn't stop it, and wherever its white beam falls wood turns to ash and crumbles. It's not being carefully aimed, but it still does substantial damage to the fleet.
On Theodotos' flagship, though, there's a more immediate problem: a smell of strange smoke from below decks. Phoebaus investigates, and finds that it's coming from the cabin where Phylomedusa was waiting out the battle. He gets Theodotos, who finds Phylomedusa facing him with a dagger drawn, while behind her a brazier gives off thick, cloying smoke. He tries to grab her arms, but Phylomedusa is determined not to be stopped and even wounds him with the dagger; eventually he is forced to draw his sword and strike her unconscious. He crushes out the herbs in the brazier but finds there are also some odd clay balls there, presumably magical in some way; he finds himself distressingly short of breath, even when he heads back onto the deck. Phoebaus slows the progress of the poison, and binds Phylomedusa.
There seems to be no defence against this new Athenian weapon; the Emperor's ship runs up a signal to break off hostilities and retreat westwards a few miles. The admirals are called to conference, and the Emperor gives a thoroughly impressive speech in which he manages to sound bold and resolute while giving the orders to return to Atlantis to ``take counsel of the Gods''.
When Theodotos returns after the meeting, Phylomedusa is dead, apparently from the poisonous vapours. She is buried, along with the other casualties of the fight whose bodies were recovered, at Qart-Hadasht, as that is the fleet's next landfall.
A small watch is left at Qart-Hadasht, with a few fast ships, to warn of the expected Athenian pursuit. A larger watch is left at Tarifos, with a few captured sunflowers, but also expecting to retreat rather than engage the entire Athenian fleet.
The remaining fleets are collected as the Emperor's fleet returns along the coast and through the Pillars of Heracles. They had been badly storm-scattered, with four not even reaching the Pillars before the retreating fleets found them. There's some muttering about having missed the chance for glory, until they see how few ships have survived of those that did meet the enemy.
The fleet returns to Atlantis with rather less pomp than it set out, only to find the city in nearly as bad a shape as the fleet. Aeropemena comes to the docks to greet the Emperor and make supplication, hoping that her civic efforts will be recognised rather than seen as an unjustifiable arrogation of power.
Our heroes return to their various homes, or what's left of them. Periclymenus decides not to wait for the few stonemasons still available, and learns the basics of the craft himself. He seems to have attracted something of a following since his return: nobody wants to admit they were wrong, but they will grudgingly admit that he seems to have been right.
Aeropemena, at Braethaeraeda's prompting, invites the heroes to a symposion, to discuss just what has been happening and what is to be done next....
Phoebaus asks the priesthood of Selene about her horses; they can't tell him much, and certainly can't make any connection to the weapon used on the Atlantean fleet.
The symposion is of course in the modern style, with each diner bringing his own food. Food has suddenly got quite expensive in Poseidopolis.
Aeropemena explains that some of the escaped slaves have been recaptured, but more have turned to banditry in small groups (typically formed from the slaves of the same household or other owner); while the estates further from the city have mostly survived, getting food to the city is tricky. Bringing it by sea works rather better.
As for domestic politics, Aeropemena explains, ``I feel as though I am juggling amphorae full of snakes. Precious snakes.'' The Emperor spends his days in the temple, and many of the Emperor's House have found it politic to emulate him; in the absence of formal civil authority, many people are returning to Aeropemena (as the last authority who was able to get anything much done) to resolve their day-to-day conflicts.
Periclymenus suggests that the most pressing problem will be getting in the harvest from the land around the city. He suggests that freeing the remaining slaves and instead employing them as paid servants might make it possible to get the others to return; however, not only does Aeropemena feel that this would be politically unacceptable to the aristocracy, it's unlikely that the ex-slaves would go for it. (There is also the matter of the other nine princedoms to consider.)
Insofar as there is a plan for the future, it is to fend off the inevitable Athenian attack, then to go raiding on the mainland for more slaves. That attack is unlikely to come during the Athenian harvest, so (taking sailing times into account) it will either be fairly soon or in at least three months' time.
A bit of loose talk about the doom of Atlantis leads to Phoebaus explaining the shared dream to Aeropemena. She is rather taken aback, but not as shocked as she might have been several months ago. She does mention that the Colossus that guards the harbour-mouth has stopped working, and that nobody seems to be able to get it going again; since it was a gift of Hephaistos to the people of Poseidon, this is a matter of some concern even beyond the tactical implications. It's being kept a secret for the moment. Periclymenus suggests that its orichalcum fuel supply should be removed, in case it could be made to help the Athenians when they arrive.
Periclymenus and Theodotos start to compound a strategy for the defence of Poseidopolis, on the basis that anyone who looks as though he has a plan is likely to end up in charge, and both of them have some temporary reputation for having brought their fleet home mostly intact. The basic plan is to force an engagement a little way from the city itself, taking advantage of sand-banks and such with which the Athenians should be relatively unfamiliar. To start with, naval patrols will be sent out to give warning of approaching Athenians, since the picket force at the Pillars of Heracles can't be relied on to bring the news.
It's not known just what the Athenian plan will be; it's assumed to be land, loot, pillage, rape and burn, much as the Atlanteans were planning to do to Athens.
The sunflowers have been mounted on the city walls, and more Atlanteans are being trained in their use. They have also been tested against those walls, and found to have no effect on the orichalcum skin - though the walls of the harbour are not so plated. Pelegenion has been given money to develop prototypes of his small stone-thrower, and is doing so; it's planned again to put these on the walls rather than on ships, since a stable platform seems to be a necessity for accurate fire.
Periclymenus asks about the tentacled statue in the corner, and Aeropemena explains that it's continuing to follow her about. It started to do that after the Emperor left with the fleets, and it's kept doing it ever since. It doesn't seem to be doing any other harm, though it makes her (and everyone else) uncomfortable to look at it.
The next day, Phoebaus meditates in the sun, trying to find out more about the statue. He gains a vision of a religious procession passing through the streets of Atlantis, holding up the statue as it strikes down citizens with magical power. He tells Aeropemena about this; she agrees that continuing to keep the statue a secret is probably a good idea.
Theodotos and Periclymenus get the fleet together for the few weeks of high alert until the Athenian harvest season starts. They eschew sunflowers, rock-throwers, or any of the other new inventions, but plan instead to rely on well-established naval strategy. The main body of the fleet stands off the coast just in sight of the Colossus, so as to minimise the possibility of unscheduled shore excursions, with individual ships putting in as necessary for resupply or repairs.
Braethaeraeda visits Neferet in the palace, and tells her about the basics of the naval plan as a sign of good faith. Neferet tells Braethaeraeda in return that some of the soldiers who'd planned to be looting Athens have been told off to make the roads safe for food convoys.
Phoebaus comes up with a plan to get himself captured by bandits and try to persuade them to return to farming as being a generally safer and more reliable way of life. He's talked out of it by Periclymenus and Theodotos; maybe after the bandits have had to survive a winter, they'll be more amenable to talk.
Braethaeraeda suggests to Aeropemena that the safest thing to do would doubtless be to leave Poseidopolis and retire to the family estates, as indeed some people are already doing. Aeropemena agrees that it would be safer than staying, but for the moment people are coming to her for decisions; if they can't come to her, they'll go to someone else, who might not have the interests of Poseidopolis and Atlantis so close to heart. Braethaeraeda pokes around for possible enemies of Aeropemena, but the only group giving her particular difficulty seems to be a new cult, that of al-Qadul11. They apparently claim that there have been civilisations before Atlantis, now lost beneath the waves; they're obviously lunatics, but they seem to have gained numbers very quickly. They also seem to have taken some of the lower-status potential recruits to Phoebaus' magical auxiliaries.
Periclymenus talks with the priests of Hermes to discover what sort of illusions could be cast quickly and sustained when the Athenians arrive. A ship or group of ships, cast on top of a sand-bank or similar, seems like the best bet.
Braethaeraeda investigates the outer circle of al-Qadul, spotting it as a multi-layered organisation from her own previous experience with mystery religions. She goes to a meeting and tries to identify the leaders, but doesn't recognise any of them. She follows one of them to try to work out where he lives and who he might be; she thinks she's shadowing him effectively when he turns round, looks directly at her with curiously green-glowing eyes, and says ``Initiative can be rewarded, you know. Those who follow our patron are granted all manner of boons.'' He invites her to a meeting of the second circle, to be held the following night. She decides that it might be a good idea to have some backup.
The next day, while Theodotos' ship is returning to the harbour for resupply, he's caught by the boom and knocked over the side. This in itself is unusual for an experienced seaman; what's rather more unusual is that he finds himself being fished out of the water by the Colossus, and deposited on the harbour wall, before it returns to its normal pose. Most people are unaware that anything unusual has happened (though the lookout in the Colossus has panicked rather). Theodotos keeps his thoughts to himself, and visits Aeropemena. The price of food has started to drop very slightly.
Phoebaus also arrives, and they discuss the Colossus. It turns out that, while it was not fuelled, there's a new gouge on one of its orichalcum inner walls.
Phoebaus and Theodotos hide in a damaged building across the street from the one where Braethaeraeda plans to meet the second circle of the cult. She is welcomed, and given an initiation: this consists of a carefully-sealed wooden frame containing a parchment, at which she has to look. The picture is clearly intended to be shocking and terrifying, but Braethaeraeda is made of tougher stuff; after a few seconds she realises that the other members are expecting a reaction, and does her best to provide one. The rest of the meeting mostly consists of rabble-rousing preaching (particularly concerned with the antiquity of al-Qadul, who is said to be much older than the Olympian gods) and exhortations to recruit more members into the outer circles.
The three meet rather later, and Braethaeraeda explains what happened. Phoebaus describes the figures from his vision, and Braethaeraeda confirms that several of them were present at the meeting.
Phoebaus examines Aeropemena's statue, and tries to dig into its history. For most of the last thousand years, it has been lying on the sea-bottom (curiously not picking up any marine life). Recently, it was dredged up by a fisherman, who was attacked by Khemite pirates, who were attacked by other pirates, and after a short but violent trip it was eventually sold to an Atlantean trader as a curio, and thus to Aeropemena. He decides that he's going to have to dig back further than a thousand years.
As the Athenian harvest season should be starting, ships arrive from Qart-Hadasht. The Athenians have recaptured it, as was expected, but only recently; they appeared (from what limited observation could be made) to be fortifying it rather than charging on immediately to the Pillars of Heracles.
Phoebaus attempts to get a vague picture of the last 10,000 years of the statue's existence. It's not at all clear, and in some ways he doesn't want it to be much clearer, but it was certainly an object of worship for non-human entities before it was on the sea floor.
Braethaeraeda continues to rise in the al-Qadul cult, but the addition of a new outermost layer comes as something of a surprise: the new members claim to worship Poseidon in his aspect as Sosasterion, ``Poseidon of the right stars'' (still in the same form, with a squid's head on a mostly-human body). This new layer, which to most Atlanteans seems to be an entirely new religious schism (not an unusual thing), is doing a great deal of charitable work, providing food and wine to those in the city who are not able to obtain it for themselves.
Our heroes are naturally suspicious of this sudden generosity, and Braethaeraeda disguises herself and Theodotos as disreputable types in order to get samples. They do, with little difficulty; they return to Phoebaus, who determines the recent history of the items. The grain and wine were stored in a warehouse, taken out a few days ago and loaded onto carts, then taken from somewhere very sunny through a strange black gateway into the city. It's not immediately clear, but Phoebaus thinks he would recognise the arrival site if he were to spend enough time searching. The amphorae of wine used to bear the mark of Azaeton, one of the southern princedoms.
Braethaeraeda considers the political situation: Prince Oenomaus of Azaeton is in Poseidonis at the moment, and is one of the more vocal supporters of the Emperor. There don't seem to be any rumours of plots attached to him.
Theodotos and Phoebaus spend some time walking around the worse parts of town, and eventually spot the site they're looking for - it's a small shop with a larger enclosed yard, quite a common pattern in Atlantis where the weather tends to be clement. Phoebaus investigates the recent history of the yard, then doubles over with nausea; Theodotos joshes him along in case there are any observers, and gets him away from the place. Phoebaus is aware that there is an isolated chunk of his mind of which he really doesn't want to think about the contents; he goes rapidly to the temple of Hermes, where their mind-affecting magics are able to erase it (though one of the junior priests starts to giggle incessantly). It would appear distinctly likely that this was the correct site...the question is what to do with this knowledge.
Periclymenus and Theodotos continue to do their best to maintain the fleet's readiness. Since there's a fairly safe window during which it's extremely unlikely the Athenians will attack, there's time to do some maintenance; it's not possible to maintain the same high level of alert as before.
Next time they see Aeropemena, our heroes learn that the statue is causing her some problems: her visitors see it and assume that she has some sympathy with the cult of Poseidon Sosasterion. Theodotos watches the statue in another room while the others discuss matters; eventually he blinks, and it's back with Aeropemena.
Braethaeraeda finds herself acting in the fourth circle of the al-Qadul cult, which seems to consist of some 30-40 people at any given meeting though there are probably 50 or 60 overall. They spend a lot of time talking about how those with weaker wills wouldn't be able to withstand the knowledge of the Truth that they have, how al-Qadul is not constrained by the conventional bounds of space or even time....
Much of this, though, is merely the preamble to the evening's sacrifice: a drugged slave is brought in and a large knife plunged into his chest, with several hands on the hilt (including Braethaeraeda's, since it's her first meeting at this level). Instead of blood, black smoke pours out of the body, eventually coalescing into a black gateway; loaded wagons come out of it, drawn by slaves rather than draft animals. After they're all through and the slaves have returned, the gateway collapses, and the proceedings descend into a general orgy. Braethaeraeda returns to Aeropemena's house, and the group makes further plans.
Since it's likely the Athenian fleet will be numerically inferior, the plan is for the Atlantean fleet to avoid engagement but to stand off and keep the Athenians in sight: either they'll chase the home fleet and can be led into bad terrain, or they'll ignore it and can be ambushed as they're trying to land troops. Of course, it's quite possible the Athenians may have more tricks up their chiton sleeves; it's intrinsically impossible to plan for those, but there's a certain emphasis placed on flexibility and communications. The various temples have been consulted, and combative priests warned to be ready for action; there's not much in the way of direct, showy magic available, but illusions and weather-changing should certainly be possible.
Judging by the amount of food being distributed by the cult of Poseidon Sosasterion, they must be bringing in shipments about once a week. Braethaeraeda makes sure she's invited to the next meeting, but also talks with Neferet at the palace, who reckons she should be able to get some of the palace guards to burst in and break things up in a thoroughgoing fashion. They're not very discriminating at the moment, though - not only did they not get to loot Athens, they've been doing nothing but train since the fleet returned, and the palace is something of a high-stress environment - so it would be a good idea for Braethaeraeda to get clear quickly.
Neferet: A year ago I thought nothing could be worse than Atlantis ruled by the Atlanteans. My horizons have been remarkably expanded.
Braethaeraeda turns up at the meeting, but thinks she may be betraying her nervousness. She starts to back away from the main mass of people being worked up into a suitable mood to make the sacrifice, but a few other cultists move with her. Some of the others have clearly strapped on swords beneath their cloaks. As the sacrifice is about to be made (at midnight, as is traditional), the guards burst in through the gates of the yard. Braethaeraeda flees, but can hear someone close behind her; she keeps going, but stumbles at a sudden sharp pain in her leg. She manages to turn the fall into a tumble and come back upright, fast-drawing her knife and stabbing deep into the person behind her - who turns out to be Learchos, high priest of the fourth circle. Just as it did from the sacrifice on the previous occasion, smoke pours out of him, but this time it surrounds Braethaeraeda, choking her. She feels her way into the shop building, intending to work her way past the palace guards as they come in, but she's having severe difficulty in breathing.
She hears the guards in front of her, but they don't seem to recognise her; they see a smoke cloud moving unnaturally, and decide to burn it. Braethaeraeda bunches her cloak in front of her face; it catches fire, but while she manages to get a sip of air there's no general lessening of the pressure. The guards scatter, and she stumbles forwards, guessing from the sound of her feet that she's out in the street.
The others, who were staying out of sight, spot her smoke-enveloped figure as it falls through the front door. Periclymenus swings across the top of it with his orichalcum sword, thinning its substance slightly; Theodotos tries to grab Braethaeraeda, but finds his hands sinking into the jelly-like substance of the smoke instead; he starts to tear it away in chunks. Between the two of them, they disperse the smoke; Phoebaus casts a poison-detecting spell, but while there have been some untoward substances in Braethaeraeda's system there's no ongoing effect. They all leave the scene as quickly as is compatible with not attracting further attention.
The next day, the rumours going around Poseidonis suggest that the cult (or at least that part of it) has been pretty thoroughly wiped out. Officially nobody knows who did it, but it's an open secret that the palace guards were involved (and none of them was killed, at least not beyond the ability of the temple of Apollo to cure).
Further rumours from the palace suggest that Oenomaus of Azaeton is missing; it's suggested that he might have returned to Azaeton. Braethaeraeda spends much of the day listening for further information, and is one of the first outside the palace to hear when Oenomaus is found - having apparently fallen backwards onto his own dagger. On the off-chance anyone might believe that, Klathedros of Atlantis, a senior courtier and confidant of the Emperor, has been arrested for treason. The Emperor is taking a personal interest in the matter.
Theodotos talks with his family. They're feeling the pinch, as trade has been severely disrupted by the invasion, but they're hanging on, mostly shifting food from Mneseusa. He and Periclymenus encourage Aeropemena to write to other members of the family in Mneseusa, to make sure that they're bringing in food from other provinces and building up their own reserves; clearly a great deal of agricultural production has been lost.
Phoebaus and Aeropemena go to visit Klathedros, dispensing a few bribes to do so. They take Braethaeraeda with them; she sneaks off to talk with Neferet.
Klathedros admits that he killed Oenomaus, and explains that the latter was starting a coup against the Emperor, in which he tried to enlist Klathedros' aid. Oenomaus was on his way to let cultists of Poseidon Sosasterion - of whom he was one - into the palace, and Klathedros saw no alternative but to stop him by the most direct means available. Both of them knew knew the palace guard was under-strength, though not why and not in advance. Klathedros explains that Oenomaus had been raving at length about how Poseidon Sosasterion would rise again, how the stars were very nearly right, and so on.
Oenomaus' corpse has been interrogated by the priestesses of Hecate, but their ritual failed.
Braethaeraeda visits Neferet, whose position is now somewhat insecure, though she's not automatically under suspicion. She didn't see any of the relevant events, though she had been mildly suspicious of Oenomaus (nothing specific, just something about his manner). There are plenty of courtiers who'd like to inherit some or all of Klathedros' responsibilities; Braethaeraeda suggests it might be convenient if they were to fall ill, and Neferet agrees, but the continuing fashion for bringing one's own food to dinner would make this difficult.
Aeropemena is prepared to seek an audience with the Emperor and plead for Klathedros' life, on the basis of his history of loyalty and his great use to the defence of Atlantis (even though this has mostly consisted of keeping his hands off and not interfering with the work of the professionals). It's possible she might be able to seek his transfer to her own administration, though since this officially does not exist that might be a slightly sore point.
Once they've left, Phoebaus goes to visit Megistias, who's ended up in effective command of the land defences of Poseidonis. Megistias regards the matter of Klathedros as a messy business, and is glad he's not involved; he mentions that Klathedros and Oenomaus were boyhood companions (of which Klathedros had given no hint). He agrees that it would be better to keep a competent person in Klathedros' position than to bring in an unknown, but doesn't really see what he can do to help in the absence of firm evidence. Phoebaus mentions the statue that's been following Aeropemena, and Megistias remembers it; Phoebaus explains the trick that can be done with several people staring at it, and Megistias comments that there are certainly other things he'd rather stare at. Almost anything. in fact....
Phoebaus realises that his History spell could bring to light some of the background to the events, but that his word might well not be sufficient; he discusses mind-reading with Pythios, a high priest of Poseidon. Obviously the priests of Hermes would not make idea witnesses...some of the most senior priests of Poseidon do have that gift, though, and they arrange for several of them to come to the palace the next day.
Phoebaus casts his spell on Oenomaus' dagger, with the senior priests reading his mind as he progresses. He perceives Oenomaus' growing fanaticism and madness, and his intent to overthrow the Emperor; in the last moments, as the dagger changes hands, he gets a sense of regret and desperation. The senior priests retire to speak with the Emperor.
Theodotos, who's out with the fleet this day, spies a sail on the horizon. Rather a lot of sails, in fact, and of Athenian pattern. He sends back the swiftest ships to warn the city.
The Emperor speaks, having clearly been impressed by this new evidence, but at the same time not wanting to set a precedent for the slaying of princes, who tend to be in short supply. Klathedros will not be executed, but ...before he can speak, the alarm is raised: the Athenians are coming!
Periclymenus organises the ships in harbour into a secondary force, mostly to get them out as quickly as possible; they join up with Theodotos' forces. The priests cast an illusion of the Colossus wading towards the enemy, but this is dispelled before it gets the chance to cause much panic or disrupt the formation. As planned, the Atlantean fleet sails up the coast, forcing the Athenians to choose between the enemy fleet and the city; they take the latter option.
There's a brief exchange of sunflower fire before the sky clouds over. This doesn't affect the Atlantean rock-hurlers; though their accuracy leaves a great deal to be desired, as the Athenians enter the harbour they're sufficiently closely packed that even random chance gives a few hits. A small force of men goes ashore on the breakwater and enters the colossus; after ten have gone in, the rest turn back with looks of horror, though from the walls it's not possible to see what's happened.
As the Athenians try to get their troops ashore and start attacking the walls, the Atlantean fleet tears into the mass from behind. Athenian losses are very heavy; Theodotos seems to be the hero of the day, keeping his forces safe but still inflicting major damage; Periclymenus comports himself respectably, but not on the same level12.
After about two hours of fighting, the Athenians extract their remaining ships from the harbour and break off, sailing south along the coast (towards Mneseusa). The Atlanteans consolidate their forces.
Theodotos brings the damaged ships into harbour and starts having the worst-damaged ones stripped and beached. A storm begins to blow, with heavy onshore winds, not unknown for the time of year but unusually strong. Before they run out to sea, the scouting ships bring back news: the Athenian fleet went to Eumelia, a boat was sent ashore, and shortly afterwards they anchored in the harbour without any fighting. Prince Glaukos of Eumelia is mysteriously absent from the palace. Several of the other princes are leaving to ``attend to urgent matters in the home provinces'', too....
It seems that a land campaign is indicated; the Emperor will be leading the Atlantean forces himself, with assistance from Strategos Hippokleides. They will be leaving as soon as the storm is over.
Theodotos goes to the temple of Hephaistos to make a sacrifice and medidate on what has been happening. He receives a dream, but it seems simply to be of Hephaistos handing weapons to both Athene and Poseidon.
Braethaeraeda accompanies Aeropemena as she goes about in public, doing her best to project an air of confidence. Braethaeraeda is thereby the person who spots a young man with a sword charging at Aeropemena (and shouting ``death to the plutocrats''); she flails around, attempting to look ineffectual while getting in his way and sinking her knife into his back, then holds him off for long enough for someone else to hit him from behind with something heavy. It turns out that he's a younger son from a merchant family that's been suffering as a result of the lack of trading this year.
Braethaeraeda stays in the city with Aeropemena; Periclymenus and Harimodios go out with the army, while Theodotos and Phoebaus take ships along the coast for resupply and scouting. After a little more than a day's march, the armies meet, and make camp before the next day's battle. Theodotos and Phoebaus both notice, as they observe the enemy forces, two figures who can't be made out in detail but who seem to have the same aura as they do themselves, that of the people who were in the dream.
As the armies settle down for the afternoon and evening, it's clear that huge amounts of magic are being thrown about and countered, everything from summoned monsters to rainstorms and fast-acting plagues. Theodotos plans to wait until a few hours before dawn, then take his ships a few miles south and cause some trouble in the rear areas of the Athenian - now Athenian-Eumelian - army. His scouts report that the Athenian ships are still in harbour, and judging by the numbers they've probably been stripped of men.
Before that can happen, though, a boat sets out from the shore under a flag of truce. It contains the two people whom Theodotos and Phoebaus spotted earlier. They head for the flagship, and call up ``This isn't going to make a great deal of sense, but we want to talk to two specific people; we don't know who they are, but we'll know them when we see them...''
Theodotos and Phoebaus take them to the captain's cabin. Stolos, an Athenian, is about Periclymenus' age but hasn't been as fortunate in battle; he has a patch over his right eye, and a pronounced limp. Dexamene, a Themiscyran mercenary, is rather younger and looks as though she's a sergeant of some sort. Having established that they did all have the same dream last autumn, they ask the Atlanteans what they know about it, and are rather concerned when the answer seems to be ``not very much''. They do confirm that the cult of Poseidon Sosasterion has been present in Athens too; Poseidon is honoured there, even if he's not particularly popular at the moment, and the cult has been making similar promises to feed and clothe the poor and hungry (of whom there are usually rather more in Athens than in Atlantis). They didn't know each other before the dream, but both recognised the Temple of Poseidon in Atlantis and knew they'd have to come here and fight. Neither of them has any particular grievance with the Atlanteans, but nor are they in a position to prevent the fight. Phoebaus makes a passing comment about knowing at least that they will survive; Dexamene grimaces and says that she'd gladly trade that for the knowledge that her troops would survive.
The two Athenians depart; rumours around the fleet suggest that they are probably spies for Atlantis in the enemy camp, and Theodotos does nothing to discourage this line of thinking. The fleet sails down the coast, the ships are beached, and the men disembark. They go into hiding, particularly when they see a force from Azaeton marching up to join the Athenian army, and plan to wait for the battle to start at dawn before they cause their disruption in the supply train.
This goes more or less as planned. The battle is initially deadlocked, but Theodotos' force manages to cause enough damage to distract and confuse the Athenians. The main Atlantean army pushes ahead as the Athenians weaken, but the Athenian strategos calls for his wings to encircle the Atlanteans; the Emperor only just manages to pull his men back in time. At the end of the day, the positions are more or less as they were, but the Atlanteans have something of an advantage in men.
In the morning, the Athenian camp is empty: much of their baggage has been abandoned, and they've marched round the Atlantean army to head north towards Poseidonis. Hippokleides manages to restrain the Atlanteans from looting, and they follow as fast as possible; at the end of the day, both forces are outside the city, making slow going of crossing the great irrigation ditches on the plain (most of the bridges having been destroyed).
Theodotos and Phoebaus return to Poseidonis, and consult with Megistias, who's been left in charge of the defence. While he would very much like to make a sally and catch the Athenians between city and field army, he doesn't have the men to do it. ``If only we had the Colossus....'' Theodotos decides that now is the time to see whether it will respond to him, as he thought it might before; he and Phoebaus gather some orichalcum and go to find out. There's no sign of whatever it was that terrified the Athenians during the first attack on the city. As Theodotos sits down behind the great eyes, he finds himself suddenly standing a quarter of a stadion tall and looking down over the city.
He returns to tell Megistias, who slumps as though a large load had just been lifted from him. Braethaeraeda also makes contact; she passes on the news that the cult seems to be active again, and is making promises that more food will be brought in soon. This has the practical effect of making many Atlanteans hope that the cult's workings will succeed. Braethaeraeda has also learned from Aeropomene that the tentacled statue has vanished, and while neither of them could be said to have been fond of it there was a certain virtue to knowing where it was....
Theodotos prepares a sortie. He attempts to crawl the colossus up the irrigation channels to surprise the Athenians, but the wave that precedes him evidently gives them some warning: even so, there's little they can do against the colossus' massive sword and feet, and caught against the Atlantean field army they rout. (Stolos and Dexamene are observed among those fleeing to the west.)
As dawn breaks, the plains are clear of enemies, and Theodotos returns the colossus to its normal place. He then proceeds to make a great sacrifice to Hephaistos (and is not the only person to do so). He and Phoebaus, having been awake most of the night, get some rest in the afternoon. Around midnight, they are woken by a cry of ``Flood!''
Our heroes rush to see what's going on: the ship canal is overflowing, even though the water in the harbour is no higher than usual. Periclymenus commands that the water-gates to the harbour be opened, but the canal continues to slop gently over its banks. The water surface takes on a pronounced slope.
Braethaeraede starts to look into getting hold of a fast mule, or a large chariot, as she suspects it would be wise for Aeropemena to leave the city soon.
There's a strange sound coming from the west of the city. Periclymenus commandeers a chariot to get to the western gates; Theodotos heads for the colossus. Phoebaus goes up onto one of the taller buildings to see what's going on; a small force of about twenty or thirty Athenians is pointing trumpet-like objects at the city.
Theodotos, in the colossus, charges around the city and disrupts the Athenian formation, killing several of them; Periclymenus and the few warriors who have joined him easily put the rest to flight. The trumpets are smashed, though Periclymenus is able to recover one largely intact. The water in the ship canal immediately sinks back to its normal level.
As they look around, it's noticeable that the moonlight has taken on a significant pinkish tinge, as a number of volcanoes around the edge of the fertile plain seem to have become very active. Theodotos sets off to investigate, in case this is another Athenian secret weapon (though it seems short-sighted of them if so); in the colossus, he can move faster than anyone on foot or chariot.
Phoebaus decides to take the precautions that Theodotos has been unwilling to admit to himself might be necessary, and invokes Theodotos' name to get his ship's crew ready to leave in a hurry. Braethaeraeda arrives as he's completing his oratorical persuasion, and makes sure there'll be a place for Aeropemena too. She then leaves to find Aeropemena and make sure she gets on board.
As Periclymenus returns from the plain, he notices a new glow in the sky, this one greenish, above the Temple of Poseidon. Phoebaus and Braethaeraeda see the same thing; they all head in that direction. Phoebaus stops off along the way to rouse the temples of Zeus and of Hephaestus, as well as telling Theodotos' family to go to the ship now.
As they arrive at the Temple of Poseidon, they see a sight familiar from their dreams: seven hooded figures, standing in a rough circle near the statue of Poseidon, chanting. One of them holds the small statue that had previously been following Aeropemena. It rapidly becomes clear that the surrounding crowd can't get any closer than they're already pressing, though when Braethaeraeda throws a stone it bounces off one of the figures having flown more or less as expected.
Periclymenus tells his men to fire arrows, and does the same himself; however, his is the only one that gets through, as the rest of the cloud of arrows is flattened against an invisible barrier. He charges against the nearest figure, who turns to face him and draws a sword.
Theodotos sees the glow on returning to the city, and brings the colossus up the ship canal; he finds himself unable to step it onto the island, but is able to get himself onto an empty patch of ground near where the fight is starting.
Braethaeraeda hides behind Phoebaus to start with, but as more of the figures turn and start to fight she joins in. Periclymenus is clearly the most effective fighter; Theodotos holds his own, and Braethaeraeda and Phoebaus attempt to split the attention of another enemy. The fight is somewhat confused, but mostly goes against the hooded figures. As the action continues, one of them loses his hood; his face is that of the Emperor, but looking like a three-day-drowned corpse, which considering that he was leading the army less than a day ago seems unlikely. Braethaeraeda certainly doesn't let it prevent her from attacking him with her knife, and indeed she strikes the fatal blow.
Harimodios arrives, Stolos and Dexamene with him; they're dressed as Atlanteans, though it's not clear just how they got into the city. With this extra fighting power, the battle is soon over. As our heroes rest for a moment and Phoebaus does some urgent healing, they see that the small statue has disappeared, but the statue of Poseidon is changing in a very disconcerting way. Its marble and orichalcum brightness is fading into blotchy green, and the carved strands of Poseidon's beard are lengthening and starting to writhe. Clearly, this is Poseidon Sosasterion. On the bright side, it seems to be shrinking....
Periclymenus turns to say something to Phoebaus, and notices that Phoebaus' beard has gone; he's now a handsome young man with a bow in his hand. Periclymenus himself is a metal-armoured warrior with spear and shield, while Theodotos' spear has split into three (though, of all the people there, only Theodotos' features haven't changed). Braethaeraeda also finds herself carrying a bow, as well as a horned moon in her hair; Harimodios is carrying a pouch and staff, and wearing sandals and a cap; Stolos is no longer blind in one eye, but still somewhat lame, and carrying a hammer; and Dexamane's goatskin aegis and gorgon-headed shield are recognisable even without her distinctive helmet.
The seven heroes still maintain their distinctive fighting styles, though: while Periclymenus charges Poseidon Sosasterion with his spear, Braethaeraeda sneaks round behind it and attempts to garrote it with her bowstring. She's quite successful, holding it for a couple of seconds, but can't hold against its superior strength. Poseidon Sosasterion lashes out with its tentacles, injuring Stolos and tearing off Dexamene's head; the others manage to coordinate their attacks, with Periclymenus carving off tentacles while the others hack into the body.
As the figure falls, with stones and blood scattered across the temple grounds, the surviving heroes return to themselves. The crowd has largely dispersed; those who are left are not at all rational. Theodotos returns to the colossus, and encourages the others to join him; as they advance along the ship canal, they see a vast wall of water building up in the harbour, hanging ready to wash into the city. Behind them, the irrigation channels are finding a new use, as they bring lava down from the hills onto the plain.
The wall of water blocks the harbour mouth; Theodotos carefully picks up his ship and carries it along the coast to get round the end and out to clear water.
Theodotos: I know how to carry a ship - I've got Shiphandling!
The others disembark and join the ship, but Theodotos turns back to Poseidonis to rescue more ships. He's just got back there when the wall of water collapses, washing through the harbour and the city, then hitting the lava with a huge explosion. Clouds of steam cover the land.
The crew and passengers do their best to hold tight against the wind and waves that follow, but Phoebaus is washed overboard. Periclymenus throws him a rope, but he's unable to keep his grip against the sudden undertow.
Theodotos regains consciousness in the colossus, which has ceased to function. He's clearly underwater, though he has no idea how deep he might be. With limited options, he lets the door fall open and swims upwards, relying on his innate sense of direction since all other cues are gone. He's deafened but more or less intact by the time he gets to the surface.
The rain, mixed with substantial amounts of ash, makes it hard to see anything; both Theodotos and Phoebaus end up having to stay afloat for several hours before they're found by the others. There's no sign of the island of Atlantis itself; as dawn breaks, the sea where it used to be looks almost calm.
Since the ship is overloaded and supplies are not adequate for a long voyage, Theodotos makes for the nearest island, amid discussions of just where the survivors (including Aeropemena, but no other nobles) should try to set up their new home. As they make landfall, there's a horrid but familiar snorting from the undergrowth....
This campaign has now ended.
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