Moche was woken by the sound of someone trying to hammer very quietly. From the sound of it, the hammer they were using was very large and the surface they were striking was very strong. She lay in bed for a moment listening. Frowning. Over the sound of the hammering she could hear what sounded a lot like voices trying to shout instructions to each other very quietly, and the occasional thump of wood and clash of metal.

A shadow moved across the window of her bedroom. She rolled to her feet, pausing to grab her sword belt from the chair beside the bed. She padded cautiously over to the window. She could just make out the sound of someone on the other side of the shutters telling someone else to be careful because it was quite early and people might still be asleep. She did not recognise the voice.

She took a firm grip on the shutter and with a swift movement pulled it open, ready to flick her sword lose of its scabbard if there was danger.

On the other side of the widow, a pair of short creatures blinked at her a little owlishly. They were stood on a wooden gantry that appeared to be suspended from the battlements of the tower above. One held a small hammer in its clawed hand, the other was in the middle of sketching something on a long roll of pale parchment with a stick of charcoal.

From a distance the two creatures - she could not quite think of them people - might have been mistaken for naga. Close up, there was little chance of them being so mistaken. They were squat, muscled, and covered in scales from head to toe. Both had a scaled crest that ran over their foreheads into their thick dark hair. The one with the hammer was a deep, lustrous blue of a summer sky. The one with the parchment was emerald green. Both wore long tunics and leather aprons.

Neither party spoke. The blue creature nervously tapped its little hammer on one of the stones, then frowned. A hoarse whisper from above called down to ask what was happening. Moche cleared her throat.

The green creature carefully rolled the parchment it had been sketching on and bowed deeply. It bid her good morning. She had expected it to squeak but it spoke with a deep, rumbling baritone that seemed almost to echo in its broad barrel-chest. She returned the greeting.

"What exactly is going on here?" asked Moche, in her best classroom voice. She could see more of the creatures - some blue and green like the ones outside her window, some with scales of vivid scarlet, and the occasional sumptuous black. They appeared to be setting up equipment, deploying ladders and ropes and even in some places scaffolding. Several of them were examining the great thorns that grew over the castle walls, and clearly exclaiming excitedly.

"We have been asked to help your castle," replied the green creature. She felt there was more of the lizard about it than the snake, definitely. The blue one tapped the stone near the window again and again made a strange face.

"Did you know that your castle has been recently cursed?" it asked, its voice the same bass rumble of its companion, so incongruous in a creature that Moche imagined would barely come up to her shoulder.

"Yes, we had noticed." she said dryly. "Who sent you? Who are you for that matter?"

"Przysięga smoczych wojowników!" said the blue guest proudly, effortlessly pronouncing a confusing strong of vowels and consonants. Moche asked it to repeat itself a couple of times and in the end gave up.

"We were sent by He Who Sits on the Adamant Throne to look to your castle. At the request of the wizards of the spire of the Auric Horizon. Weren't you ... we were told you would be expecting us?"

Moche simultaneously frowned and raised her eyebrows in utter incredulity. The two lizard-like workers looked at each other out of the corners of their large, round eyes. The green one darted its long tongue a little nervously, then pulled back its lips and revealed very sharp teeth that immediately made Moche tense in expectation of an attack - before she realised it was supposed to be a smile.

"Please, we are here to repair the damage that has been done to this beautiful castle. It is truly wonderful, one of the most beautiful we have seen and we have seen many castles indeed. Did you know that it is covered in rose bushes? That is such a novel idea! And so strong! It would take several armies to breach its walls! Could we come in and ask you some questions about it? We would be very grateful!"

Wordlessly, Moche stepped back and let the scramble in through her window. All around, their fellows went to work repairing the damage to the Castle of Thorns. .

Overview

Before the Autumn Equinox, the Castle of Thorns in Astolat was subject to a powerful curse of the Winter realm that dramatically increased the cost of its upkeep. While the worst of the curse faded after the Equinox, there had still been some damage to the structure itself.

Shortly after the Autumn Equinox, a large team of exotic creatures resembling brightly-scaled human-like lizards arrived overnight at the threshold of the castle. Calling themselves koboldi, they claimed to be emissaries of the King on the Adamant Throne - King Adamant. Careful questioning by civil servants and witches quickly established that they seemed to be retainers of a Summer realm eternal unknown within the Empire. They had been summoned by magic performed by the Urizeni Spire of the Auric Horizon, and tasked with repairing any damage to the Castle of Thorns.

They set about this task with enthusiastic gusto. Despite their small size they appeared supernaturally strong and resilient - on one occasion one fell almost the length of one of the towers and while it landed with enough force to crack several paving stones it appeared to suffer only minor injuries. They are well equipped, and clearly possess the talents of expert masons and engineers. They also worked with preternatural speed - within two days they had repaired all structural damage caused by the recent curse, and even taken the time to restore any number of minor inconveniences around the castle.

And then they went away, as suddenly as they appeared.

Significance

All residual effects of the winter curse are gone. The Castle of Thorns is at full strength, and indeed is cleaner and in a better state of repair than at any time since its completion.

Before departing, several Dawnish enchanters were able to converse with the herald who appeared to serve the role of chief engineer. They confirmed that several of the creatures possessed strong auras of Summer enchantment, and that they were almost certainly intelligent inhabitants of that realm. Furthermore, from their discussion, it was clear that the eternal they claimed to represent - this King Adamant - had hitherto had little interest in the Empire. Now that his attention had been attracted, however, the creature seemed confident that he would send emissaries to speak with the Imperial magicians - especially if the Empire was capable of producing such beautiful structures as Castle of Thorns. King Adamant, apparently, very much appreciates large, impressive structures of stone.

The "chief engineer" asked several astute questions, especially about the Imperial Conclave and the role of the "champions of magic" as it insisted on calling the archmages. It remains to be seen if anything comes of this, or what the nature of "King Adamant" might be.

Resolution

During the Winter Solstice 379YE, a small band of these koboldi attending the Anvil summit and spoke to a number of individuals in the name of King Adamant. They expressed interest in encouraging the Empire to build fortifications, and inquired about several matters to do with mines but the details are not general knowledge.