After spending two weeks in the blistering deserts of the Badlands and facing hordes of the undead at every turn, the group found greener pastures in their journey East. Rather abruptly, the crags and dry floor of the rocky edges of the Badlands transformed into lush grasslands and green hills. Less than an hour into the new scenery, a bird – identified by Nefertai as a falcon – was seen circling in the distance for a minute before descending southeast. Shortly thereafter, a sound reminiscent of a horde rose up from the same direction. Instead of seeing rotting flesh, the group was greeted by brown-skinned horsemen – the famous centaurs of the Kingdom of Pelopos.
One particular centaur, more heavily armored than the rest, approached the group, a falcon resting on his left shoulder. He told them that his scout saw them crossing the border and asked if they were on their way to the Olympic Games in the capital. They confessed that they were not and had business with the King. Silk made a point of asking if his patrol had spotted undead in the area; it had not, but the centaur captain said he would warn other patrols. Aegon inquired about the Titan, seeing if they were in any danger here, and the captain also reassured him that Ozymandias only needed to be repelled every so often and was no real threat. With that, he provided an escort to the nearest city and was off in the direction the group had come.
They traveled through several centaur cities on their way to the capital. Every one was packed full of people who had come weeks ago from the West and were now making the same pilgrimage south. Some were friendly so the group had company and good conversation the rest of the way. The escort took its leave. After three days journey, their caravan reached the urban sprawl of Olympia, within which rested a walled city center. Prominent among its buildings was a massive tower over a thousand feet tall. Buildings in Pelopos were in an alien style to most of the members of the group though general shapes were similar enough.
After a bit of shopping – including selling some sandworm teeth and visiting an alchemist – the group approached the great tower, that they learned was the King’s palace from the city folk. The guards in front were loathe to accept more guests during such a busy time until Catullus chastised them for delaying an important meeting between the King and the ambassador of the Manichean Confederacy. One of the guards apologized for his ignorance and assured Catullus that they would have an audience with King Ixthion one hour before midday.
The next morning, the group attended their meeting. Ixthion told them that he expected the Manicheans to send a diplomatic party, as all nations knew of its plight, but he did not expect them to send the famous Hero of Byblos. At this point, Hero and King discussed the possibility of an alliance. Ixthion favored helping the Confederacy but knew a war with an entity as powerful as the Imperium would end at best as a painful victory. Furthermore, it was risky to take soldiers away from the frontier with the Thri-Keen Hive, even when they have been dormant for so long. Nevertheless, he offered the mighty centaur armies to the Confederacy’s service on two conditions:
The members of the party would have to be leaders in the battle, alongside his son Chiron who was away on a hunting party, and
They would have to first prove their skills in the Olympic Games.
This way, he would be able to witness firsthand the abilities of those in whose hands he was leaving the fate of his armies. After a brief interruption by Ixthion’s daughter, an adorable little centaur girl, he wished the party goodnight and good luck in tomorrow’s events.
…summary of the Olympic events goes here…
When Mark reached the top of the great tower, beating both Salvador and Ling, she was greeted by King Ixthion, reclining on an array of cushions, with 7 empty spots available and his daughter at his left. One by one the remaining contestants reached the top, were told their placement and dismissed. Once Salvador had arrived immediately following Mark, Ixthion sent messengers to collect the other members of the group.
With the party assembled, Ixthion dismissed his daughter and all attendants then looked solemnly at his guests.
“Your trials these last few days have left little doubt in my mind of your fitness to lead armies and fight on the frontlines. But I must confess, I have not been entirely honest. My son, Chiron, is not still out hunting but was captured while hunting, by our enemies, the Thri-Keen. I know not for what purpose they took him, but I do know he is alive. Now your participation in these games was a test of your skills for safely navigating an underground hive and bringing my son back safely. You have proven this to me as well. This is my sole condition for giving you 15,000 of the finest troops you’ve ever seen. I sincerely wish I did not need to use deceit but no one in the Kingdom can know of Chiron’s disappearance. He’s head of our armies and next in line. With my…” he gestured to his legs which were visibly atrophied, “…failing health, the people will panic if they know there is no one to take over and that our old enemies are again active. Promise me your discretion and that my son will come home safely, and you will have your army.”
After the party accepted, Ixthion offered the entire contents of the royal armory and vault for the group to arm themselves for the trials ahead. While they are gone, Ixthion would order the preparation of the army he promised. Whether this forces’ destination would be Byblos or the Hive was entirely down to the success or failure of the group.