The first thing Kybele will notice when she wakes up is almost certainly the enormous pain in her chest. It's not that there's a shortage of things to notice, in the middle of a busy market square mid festival, but that's the kind of thing that really tends to grab the attention. Wherever she fell asleep, she certainly isn't there now.
"You think you're a couple hundred people watching you glow a sword close to domain genesis?"
"Maybe, it's just hard to tell!"
Soon Lann finishes up his arrow collection, and Wenduag leaves Kybele to think about her options while she returns to helping guide their group to Neatholm.
It's not a very impressive village. The buildings, such as they are, are mostly mud, rock, and chitin, and there aren't terribly many of them. Wandering or working nearby the buildings are other neathers, almost all of whom have some immediately visible mutation or deformity, and the first thing that comes to mind on seeing them is that they're poor. Nobody immediately visible is starving, but there are definitely signs that a lot of them have had months or years where they didn't eat too well, and Lann and Wenduag's clothing are somehow relatively higher quality than what most of them are wearing. The city is also absolutely filthy with caked on dirt and dust, although at least the people aren't; the benefits of living beside an underground lake, most likely. A few of the nearer people seem to notice Lann and Wenduag and call out to them, but are astounded at the appearance of visitors.
"Ugh. I'm not sure what else I should have expected of mongrels, but the sooner we get out of here, the better."
Camellia seems to really wish she was holding her nose right now, but while the smell isn't exactly pleasant it's not that bad.
Anevia is mostly looking around to assess the various possibilities of places to sit down. Seelah's support or not, her leg has been killing her, and her arm and side aren't exactly happy with it either.
"Welcome to Neatholm! Chief Sull will want to talk to you as soon as you're available, seeing as you've got the sword, but if you want to wait it shouldn't be an issue."
It looks reasonably safe here; Ky compacts some of her cloak into a stool shape for Anevia to sit on and says, "I would be honored to meet with Chief Sull at his pleasure!" in a carrying but not shouty voice.
Chief Sull is, apparently, a heavyset and elderly mongrel with white wispy hair and one working eye. He speaks with a lisp and his lungs rattle with every breath he takes.
"Uplanders, eh... with that and the quakes, the end times are upon us now."
"Chief Sull! We - well, she -" he pauses, gesturing towards Kybele, "found the angel's sword! And someone who can wield it! She drew it and she had a vision and glowed with the light of heaven and everything. Gather everyone from the tribe who can hold a weapon - we should gather everyone from all the tribes! We can still save those kids!"
"Ah, Lann, always the dreamer. An uplander here to help us with an angel's sword and the light of heaven? I'm not one to believe in miracles, Lann; that kind of thing doesn't happen to us underground crusaders. You say it's the angel's sword, but you trust people because you want to believe. If I'm to rally the tribes, I need proof."
Wenduag shoots Kybele a meaningful look, but doesn't say anything.
Ky exchanges a look with Iskander, considers her odds with and without a couple hundred very excited people backing her at getting out of here, and then she takes a step forward and holds the sword aloft. "Chief, I will show you if I can. If the miracle won't repeat itself, that too is worth knowing."
Is everybody looking? Yes? Good. Sword, do your thing.
The sword shines with a brilliant light, giving Kybele the appearance of an angel. The light feels almost apologetic; rather than reopen the wound, it instead suffuses her with a surety and warmth that some part of her instinctively knows will help protect her from harm. Everyone else has a similar glow, though lesser than hers, and a few of them seem to be blinking spots out of their eyes.
Chief Sull is staring at her in awe. "So, it's true. The angel didn't forsake us... and even now, he seeks to help us save our children."
"Angel's sword or no angel's sword, trying to conquer the shield maze by force is madness. We won't manage to rescue the kids, just get everyone else killed trying. If an angel really did bless us, it wouldn't be so we could all die throwing our lives away for nothing."
"Please, say more about the risks. What is in the maze?"
"Trying to navigate it is a nightmare; it's full of traps and false turns, any of which could have a monster lurking inside. Practically everywhere you go is the prime position for an ambush, and some of the inhabitants are more than willing to take advantage. It attacks the psyche, leaving you jumping at shadows or ignoring the signs of attack. And sometimes... the ones doing the attack would be old friends, but they wouldn't recognize you anymore in their madness. When I was younger, there used to be a whole group of us that would try and brave the shield maze to find a way out, and now I'm the only one left."
Okay. Moment of truth. Did the thing with the angel sword get her domain genesis.
Not yet. Fuck.
"The choice of whether to venture through it seems like a momentous one. I don't know how such things are normally decided among your people; is it perhaps time to call a council of all the tribes, describe the situation to them and hear what they have to say, and go or stay as one?"
Chief Sull nods gravely.
"Yes, indeed. I'll send runners to the other tribes; we'll need them assembled anyway if we're going to take the shield maze."
"If we wait that long, there's no guarantee they'll still be alive - in a crisis situation, every minute counts."
"Lann, there's a difference between heroism and foolishness. Even if you alone were enough to conquer the maze, it would be unwise for you to rush in while already tired. What if by the time you made it to them, you were already halfway asleep and in no condition to guide them out? We'll discuss it first thing in the morning, and make our decision then."
"That sounds wise to me too. Where can we sleep?"
"Neatholm is open to you. Those that went missing had their own place to stay should you wish it; if you do not wish to room together, you may prevail upon the others here for lodging, or sleep outside if you prefer."