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Aeaea was known as an exceptionally wealthy and prosperous island-city. Their chief export, other than vowels, seems to have been automata.
While the main expedition team is being assembled, Bilgewater sends a light clipper to the island to take a look around and report back. The vessel returns two days later, but whereas it set sail with a complement of two dozen sailors and researchers, it comes back into the port of Stormhaven almost empty. The expedition’s leader, Professor Uuni of the Marai, hands over the written report with visible annoyance. It seems that the rest of the expedition, including the ship’s captain, insisted on remaining on Aeaea for “further investigation”.
The report describes a tropical paradise of generous, friendly people living in harmony and plenty, with gleaming golden automata seeing to their every need. They have heard of Bilgewater’s generous acts on Avalon and Emain Ablach, and welcome them as heroes and friends—apparently, Bilgewater’s scouts had barely made it off their ship before people started shoving drinks into their hands and throwing floral wreathes over their shoulders. Both the automata and the Nyrothian natives speak a translateable modern dialect, and they are fascinated by stories of Valoran and Bilgewater. A Nyrothian woman named Desmeya, who appears to be a sorceress of considerable renown on the island, has graciously provided accommodations for the members of the expedition.
The report stops there. Professor Uuni explains, with considerable dismay, that the report’s authors slapped their half-finished writeup into her hands before hurrying off to a lavish party being hosted by Desmeya that evening. (Perhaps it was some sort of Harrowing festival, though by the sound of it the Aeaeans party like this year-round.) The professor fills in a few more details herself: Desmeya and the others on Aeaea appear to be well-apprised of Bilgewater’s adventures, and are particularly curious about the Padonian automata that Bilgewater recruited on Avalon. (The Aeaeans added that they would be happy to repair or upgrade them, if that is the automata’s wish.) She inquired about the impact the cataclysm had on Aeaea, and was told that it temporarily disrupted their ability to manufacture and maintain automata, but that it was eventually repaired.
From Uuni’s perspective, the good news is that Aeaea is a learned culture with a friendly disposition; she expects that they could learn quite a bit about Nyroth from further discussions. The bad news, she explains, is that Bilgewater had gone to Aeaea to find automata, and there do not seem to be very many present, nor do they seem at all interested in leaving the island. It is true that the automata they did encounter were quite remarkable: like the Padonian automata, they are clearly sentient, with developed individual personalities and points of view. (She adds, after making sure that no Padonian automata are nearby, that these automata if anything seem rather more intelligent.) They are, nonetheless, completely dedicated to serving the natives, and appear very happy to do so, whereas the Padonian automata seemed somewhat resentful of the Nyrothians.
It seems that the Aeaeans do have one request. They have noticed some ethereal fluctuations recently, and (their cheery dispositions cooling just slightly) wonder whether, just maybe, the Valoranians’ recalibrations of the other islands’ nexuses might have caused them. They say that if so they’re sure it was just an innocent mistake, but they would like to exchange notes on what exactly Bilgewater did on Avalon and Emain Ablach, and ask for some help smoothing out the local distortion that has resulted.
Professor Uuni’s recommendation is to visit the island as planned. She admits that, though she can’t quite explain why, something doesn’t seem to quite add up about Aeaea…but, she adds, on reflection it should not be surprising that at least some of these island civilizations have recovered and even advanced in the many centuries following the cataclysm. Who says they have to all be full of zombies or plant-monsters?
When asked, the Padonian automata confirm that Aeaean automata are known to be quite…sophisticated. Most them seem a little disdainful of the “dainty” Aeaean automata, who are apparently designed more for service, research, and other light-touch duties than for heavy industry or combat. (The Padonian automata, in contrast, are much sturdier in design, with sterner personalities.) They are nonetheless curious to meet them; they have spent centuries thanklessly battling their berserk “kin” on Avalon, and would like to at last have other non-crazy automata to talk to.
As for the Nyrothians in the floating city above Yoroth, they express some degree of envy: apparently, Aeaea has closed its borders to other Nyrothians, only very occasionally granting passage. Those who are allowed in—mostly scholars and mages—tend to take up permanent residence. In fact, the Nyrothians add, they can’t think of anyone who has ever come back. Seeing the alarm on the Valoranians’ faces, they hastily add, “…that may have sounded more sinister than intended. Who’d want to leave Aeaea?”
Bilgewater dispatched Katarina and Twisted Fate to Aeaea, with authorization to barter for some of Aeaea’s assets. Nami privately instructed them to see if they could work out what exactly was going on with this island; it did seem too good to be true, and she didn’t want to be blindsided. No military forces were sent, so as not to offend the Aeaeans; instead, most of the expedition was made up of Summoners and other scholars, as well as some of Bilgewater’s merchants. Nami expressed hope that as powerful an enchantress as Desmeya could perhaps accelerate their progress on the creation of a new moonstone.
They were, of course, just in time for a party the following evening, and Desmeya smilingly insisted that they come. She touched Katarina’s shoulder as she made the invitation, and Twisted Fate was somewhat surprised that the enchantress didn’t lose a hand in the process. (A trained agent of espionage, Katarina could flawlessly perform covers as varied as a quiet Piltovian scientist and a giggling Demacian debutante. Nami simply wasn’t paying her anywhere near enough to let Twisted Fate leave this island with stories of her doing so.) The rogue gambler interposed himself into the awkward silence that followed, explaining that where Katarina’s from they aren’t much for parties, but that a Bilgewater boy like himself made it a point of honor never to turn down a lovely lady’s invitation. As he departed with Desmeya to begin discussing terms of trade, Katarina set out to identify the most important sites in the city and ascertain their greatest vulnerabilities, with the intent of slipping in undetected that evening to see what she could find behind locked doors. Her business was somewhat postponed when she noticed a curious sight within a dozen yards of where the conversation with Desmeya had taken place: a man who seemed to be the only scowling, brooding person on the whole island, sitting at a beach-side bar counter not drinking anything. Intrigued, she sat down beside him, noticed that Desmeya had a namesake drink on the menu, and firmly ordered something else.
She spoke as though to no one in particular. “Noxians have excellent parties. We have true accomplishments to celebrate at them. Bilgewater’s idea of a party is a bunch of unwashed sailors disinfecting their guts with moonshine in a creaky bar.” That seemed to catch the man’s attention, and they spoke at some length. She had expected him to be a visiting Nyrothian from the floating city, a disaffected expatriate; he told her somewhat dejectedly that he had been born on Aeaea. Katarina found his comments about the island interesting and the drinks reasonably priced—the bartender refused to charge a “Hero of Avalon” for anything, and Katarina had no objection to being rewarded for Bilgewater’s hard-won victory—and she spent much of the evening there.
Indeed, most of the expedition members pursued their assigned missions with a healthy share of dining, dancing, and drinking mixed in, but this if anything seemed to their benefit: the natives were very excited to meet them, and seemed extraordinarily educated. One could hardly spend five minutes with one of them without being offered a fascinating and valuable tidbit of Nyrothian history. More than one Summoner became sufficiently inebriated to blurt out, “We thought you were gonna turn us into pigs or something!”, which led first to surprised silence, and then to boisterous laughter and a great many enthusiastic pig impressions.
Katarina targeted one of the island’s laboratories that evening. She discovered Aeaeans working late into the night, but found the building’s arcane defenses astonishingly primitive, and quite susceptible to evasion by the sophisticated shadow magic she had learned in Noxus. Her most astonishing find was an enormous hex-screen displaying the small, efficient letters of the Aeaean dialect. Unfortunately, Summoners as a whole are very poor infiltrators, and she was unable to bring any along. This left her with only her more limited command of arcane translation spells, and the Aeaean lettering proved quite resistant. (Pressing the enchantments risked causing some damage to the screen, which would surely raise suspicions.) The enchanted reader she’d brought did seem to highlight a few small sections, which she quickly realized were transcriptions of what she and the other Bilgewaterians had said. She found every word of her conversation with the man in the bar printed without error, and her thoughts returned to the sleek silver automata who had attended her there, continually offering her new morsels to sample or refills on her glasses of fruit-infused wine. The High Command possessed devices which could transcribe conversations through enchantment; perhaps the Aeaean automata were fitted with something comparable. She sensed arcane signatures approaching, and was forced to depart before making further investigation.
The next morning—late the next morning—Twisted Fate came over to Katarina looking even more pleased with himself than usual, and presented her with a draft contract. The Aeaeans, he said, were prepared to lend them the services of one of their sage-automata—”a lanky metal fellow, goes by Thaskos”—as a guide to the islands of Nyroth, and would provide the Padonian automata with all the repairs and upgrades they wished. He said that unless their Summoners blew the nexus open trying to fix it, he didn’t see how the deal could fall through.
They did not blow the nexus open. Indeed, the Summoners did a flawless job of realigning it to compensate for the changes the Valoranians had made on the other islands. One tidbit of information did catch Katarina’s attention: a Summoner informed her that, while repairing the nexus, he noticed that it lay at the center of a vast network of enchantments that covered the island. Though she did not speak the thought aloud, Katarina immediately recalled the hexscreen she had observed the night before. The Summoner told her that small bursts of spell energy seemed to be continually radiating out from and circling back to the nexus.
In the end, the Bilgewater delegation made its polite farewells, exchanged a few more trinkets, and set sail for Stormhaven once more.
Next Update: Argyre