Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 31
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    Grains of Sand - Conclusion

    Quintus matched Gratian’s slow and painful descent to the pillows strewn about the atrium.

    “Where are the legionnaires?” asked Quintus.

    “They still have not arrived,” said Gratian. “But I am confident they will be here any day now. What have you discovered?”

    “We found the underground fortress,” said Quintus. His face was puckered and scarred from the Spawn’s attack. “We managed to clear it out. The wagons are there for your retrieval, although some of them were…damaged.”

    “I see. And you’re sure it was House Otrecto?”

    “Yes. Here’s your proof.” Quintus flipped one of the rings he had found to Gratian. “You can identify the bodies when the legionnaires arrive.”

    “I sent watchmen to the office of the Otrecto representatives here after I received your note, but there was no one to be found. It looked like they left in a hurry.”

    “I’m sure they did,” said Quintus.

    “Well, House Otrecto’s involvement is treasonous. You’ll be happy to know that the val’Dellenovs stripped them of their lands and titles. Several ranking members of House Otrecto were executed or imprisoned.”

    “I take no pleasure in their misery,” said Quintus. He looked tired.

    “That’s not what I meant.” Gratian placed a rolled up scroll with the val’Dellenov seal on it before Quintus. “Governor Elana val’Dellenov of Panari assigned you a tract of Otrecto’s seized lands. You now have your farmland.” He pushed a small chest forward. “I assume the imperials will satisfy the rest of your companions.”

    Quintus took both without comment.

    “And finally…did you find the box?”

    “I did,” said Quintus. He placed the box down and slid it towards Gratian across the floor.

    Gratian smiled and carefully picked up the box. He didn’t say anything else.

    Quintus started to rise when Gratian interrupted him. “It’s amazing that a house would stoop to banditry to undermine its competitors.”

    The legionnaire, slowly, painfully rose to his feet. “It was not simple banditry.”

    “Oh?” asked Gratian. “What other motive could they have for stealing grain?”

    “An army travels on its stomach.” Quintus turned his back on Gratian. He paused at the exit. “They were preparing for war.”

    “War? That’s ridiculous.” Quintus could feel Gratian’s gaze burning into his back. “What war?”

    “Let’s hope we never find out,” said Quintus. Then he limped out of the val’s home.

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    Wow. Just wanted to say what a great story hour you've got here. I haven't started the Grains of Sand chapters yet, but I had to chime in after reading the King in Yellow story. Great mix of creepy horror culminating in a climactic battle.

    Great stuff!

    Azgulor

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    Hi Azgulor!

    Thank you for the compliment. I know there must be many lurkers out there who read the story hour, what with it getting over 200 hits every time I post, but it's nice to hear that someone's reading it.

    This King in Yellow thread is actually a major campaign arc. I didn't plan it that way -- the main bad guy was genuinely meant to be killed, but circumstances allowed him to escape...and an entire campaign was born out of it. The next few adventures are a bit of a divergence, delving into the backgrounds of Beldin and Kham. Then the King in Yellow thread will resume in Chapter 23. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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    Chapter 19: As Gray and Cold as Stone - Introduction

    This adventure is hard point 1 in Year 2 of the tournament module, "As Gray and Cold as Stone," written by Brian Schoner, set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    · Quintus Aurelius Ignatius (human cleric) played by Michael Tresca
    · Ilmarė Galen (elf bard/fighter) played by Amber Tresca
    · Kham Val’Abebi(val rogue/psychic warrior) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)

    Robert Taylor was Dungeon Master for this session: http://www.storyboardz.net

    I’ve gotten accustomed to having a fighter around, be it Cal the crazy barbarian, Beldin the stalwart dwarf, or Vlad the meat shield. We didn’t have any of those guys this game, which means Quintus was supposed to be the fighter type guy. Unfortunately, I didn’t shift my spells to reflect that change. When push comes to shove, Quintus gets his butt kicked all over the place.

    On the other hand, the one time a fight does happen is when none of us are prepared for it. Quintus is effective in armor hiding behind a shield with a longspear. Not in a nightshirt with a gladius.

    There’s a lah-HA-HA-ot of talking in this adventure. The politics bored Kham considerably. Fortunately, he got to shine by completely screwing up. You’re surprised, I know.

    By far the highlight of this adventure is when the Emperor notices Quintus. As Ilmarė put it: “We’ll never hear the end of this.”

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Prologue

    Ilmarė lifted a flower from one of the trees on Quintus’ estate. The citron tree was only about ten-feet in height. It had intensely green foliage and long, well-concealed thorns to defend the fruit. Oval in shape and yellowish-green when ripe, the fruit was rough-skinned and highly perfumed.

    “I’ve never smelled something so pleasant,” said Ilmarė. “What do you call it?”

    “Citron,” said Quintus. He was carefully pruning another tree. “My slaves have make all kinds of dishes from it: candied fruit, flavoring for dessert dishes, syrup for beverages, and even a liqueur. I shall have them prepare something.”

    Ilmarė inhaled the flower’s scent. “Amazing,” she whispered.

    Quintus stood up to look at the pretty elf. She was dressed in a simple purple peplos, with her hair down. It was a rare unguarded moment.

    “I’m hoping to grow more citron trees instead of the usual wheat crops, but it’s slow-going. The citron tree is very delicate. It must be carefully cultivated.” He smiled at Ilmarė, though she didn’t see his expression.

    A slave interrupted their dialogue. He bowed low before Quintus and presented a scroll.

    “What is it?” asked Ilmarė.

    Quintus’ eyes scanned the scroll. “A letter, from Elandre val’Assante.”

    “The weak human woman, husband of that disgusting Gaius.”

    “The same. She’s also the daughter of Acastus val’Assante, the Prelate of Grand Coryan,” said Quintus. “She’s invited you—us—to her father’s villa in Grand Coryan on the twenty seventh day of Vires at sunset.”

    “For what?” asked Ilmarė.

    He kept reading. “A party, apparently. Influential and prominent persons will be in attendance.”

    Ilmarė narrowed her eyes. “That’s all? Just a social invitation?”

    Quintus cleared his throat. “Ah yes. She also mentions in the letter something about assisting her in a personal matter.”

    The elorii sighed. “Nobody ever invites us to parties for our company anymore.”
    Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 21st August, 2007 at 12:44 PM.

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Part 1: Arrival at the Villa

    Their journey to Grand Coryan was as uneventful as such a trip could possibly be, given the countless travelers, merchants, beggars, thieves, thugs, nobles and folk of all descriptions who surged constantly in and out of the city like Yarris’ unceasing tide. Episodes of minor trouble and opportunities for small heroic deeds had both presented themselves from time to time during the trip, but nothing of particular note happened by the time they reached the outskirts of the city late on an autumn afternoon.

    As always, the roads into Grand Coryan were thronged with people. Farmers and tradesmen on their way into the city jostled with caravans of merchants bound for the far corners of Onara. Quintus and Ilmarė didn’t follow them, however. Instead, they turned onto a road of old but well maintained gray flagstones, which led north around the walls of Grand Coryan. On the hills above, bright in the glow of Illiir’s light, red-tiled roofs emerged from behind walls of smooth white stone.

    “The villas of Grand Coryan’s wealthy elite,” said Quintus, nodding towards them.

    They made their way over to a large villa with its gate prominently marked with the symbols of Illiir. It was buzzing with activity. Servants and slaves moved frequently in and out of the gate, bringing in all manner of parcels and goods before heading out empty-handed for more.

    Two guards, with the balanced stance and watchful eyes of veterans, observed them with unsmiling faces. “Halt,” said one of them.

    Quintus recognized that tattoo on one of the guard’s arms. “Legion of Radiant Glory,” he said with a smirk. “Great legion.” He cleared his throat. Ilmarė took a step back and waited out the introduction. “I am Quintus Aurelius Ignatius of the Legion of the Triumphant Rays of the Invisible Sun. I have received an invitation from Lady val’Assante.”

    “Great legion,” said the guard with a nod. “Go on through.”

    The bustle of activity became more obvious as they passed through the gates into the outer courtyard. One slave was carefully trimming the hedges that line the outer wall while another followed behind him, carefully pick up each cut twig and fallen leaf. Other slaves were polishing the white marble steps and washing the walls of the villa, while still others decorated the lawn and front doorway with brightly colored summer flowers.

    “To be in full bloom this late in the year, those flowers must have been brought all the way from Altheria,” said Ilmarė.

    “A considerable expense,” said Quintus. “It speaks volumes about our hosts.”

    “Which volume is that?” Ilmarė eyed the servants. “That they’re pretentious boors or prissy nobility?”

    “Perhaps a combination of both,” said Quintus as a fat man with an ill-fitting wig and a powdered face flounced up to them.

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Part 2: You Take the High Road…

    “Guests! Oh wonderful! I’m Clavius, the majordomo,” he lisped. “I must apologize, the festivities are not scheduled to begin for another few hours.” Clavius shouted at one of the servants. “No, no, you LIFT them. LIFT the leaves! We want it all to be spotless. We need more pep, more smiles. Everyone smile!”

    “Let’s kill him now before he escapes the summoning circle,” said Ilmarė.

    Quintus hushed her. He turned back to Clavius. “Lady Elandre invited us. Do you know the occasion?”

    “Oh yes,” said Clavius, “Lady Elandre said as much. I’m afraid she’s unavailable at the moment, but she would like to meet with you in her parlor in an hour or so. As for why we’re having the party…” he whirled, lifting his chubby arms to take in the beautiful surroundings, “what better reason to celebrate when you live in luxury at the center of the civilized world!” He leaned over conspiratorially to Quintus, who struggled not to take a step back. “Master Acastus says that he will be making an important announcement this evening.”

    “An announcement?” asked Ilmarė. “She’s not getting married to another lout, is she?”

    “Oh, yes,” a sad expression came over Clavius’ face. He spoke quietly. “A sad day that was, my lady. Gaius val’Tensen was killed during a hunt. A terrible pity.”

    “How…abrupt,” said Ilmarė with a smirk.

    Quintus arched an eyebrow. He had personally seen to it that Gaius was brought to justice.

    “None of us know what this party is about,” said Clavius. “But it IS exciting, isn’t it? So many important guests!”

    “Important guests?” asked Quintus, suddenly interested.

    “Oh, yes, yes. The Patriarch himself is expected to be here.” Clavius seemed nervous and excited at the same time. “Also, several generals will be attending—friends from the days when Master Acastus served in the Legion of Radiant Glory. General Menisis was too busy to attend, unfortunately.”

    Quintus looked crestfallen at the news.

    “We’ve also been told that a group of honored guests from Milandir will be here, though we don’t know exactly who. Beyond that…well, who can say?” Clavius’ extremely short attention span was distracted once more. “You must polish that marble in a SMOOTH motion!” he sang. “Smooth. Up and down, left and right. That’s it, that’s it!”

    The fat man floated away to pep up another servant, all of which were studiously ignoring him.

    “Osalian help us,” said Ilmarė, rubbing her temples.

    “I know,” said Quintus. “He’s really quite annoying.”

    “Not that,” said Ilmarė. “One of the ‘important guests’ just arrived.”

    “Kham!” shouted Quintus with a broad smile.

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Part 3: Meeting With Elandre

    “I didn’t know you were invited,” asked Quintus. They were standing in Elandre’s parlor.

    “Call me Katticus Maximus Val’Abebi,” whispered Kham, “I’m just another guest. A shame about Gaius though.”

    “I see you’ve heard,” said Ilmarė.

    “Yeah,” said Kham. “Very…abrupt.”

    The far door opened and Lady Elandre emerged. She was a tall and beautiful young woman with long, golden hair and fair skin. She wore the gold striped toga of Coryani nobility.

    Elandre looked around the room and smiled at each of them in turn before seating herself on a comfortable divan. She motioned for them to be seated as well. Elandre looked at both doors to ensure that they were closed.

    “Thank you for coming,” she said, her voice sweet and melodious. “I am sorry that my letters were rather vague, but I assure you that I have my reasons.”

    “Don’t we all,” said Kham, reclining on his own divan. He had already managed to find a wine bottle. It was half empty.

    “I…I need your help,” said Elandre. She looked down at the carpet for a moment to gather her thoughts. “At the celebration this evening, my father is going to announce my betrothal to Roderick val’Tensen. He is the son of Adolphos val’Tensen, the Duke of Moratavia in Milandir.”

    “Another lout,” said Ilmarė.

    Elandre blushed. “I am sure that the Duke and his son are good men, but I have no desire to live in Milandir. I have no idea why my father would agree to such a marriage.”

    “Acastus is a reasonable man,” said Quintus. “Have you spoken to him about this?”

    “I have asked him about it, but he has been unwilling to answer any of my questions and that is very unlike him. I almost feel as though he doesn’t want me to marry the Duke’s son either, but for some reason he’s insisting that I go through with it.” She looked up again. “I would like you to find out why my father wants me to marry Roderick val’Tensen. I cannot defy my father’s wishes, but if you can find a socially acceptable reason for the marriage to be called off, I would be profoundly grateful.”

    Kham hopped up off of his divan. “Let me get this straight. You want us to stop a wedding, but without using force? How exactly are we supposed to do that?”

    “I’m sure my father’s been exchanging letters with Duke Adolphos about the betrothal. My father keeps his study locked whenever he’s not there, but he’ll be busy entertaining guests once the party starts. If you could get into his study, that might provide some clues.”

    Quintus looked perturbed. “You want us to break into your father’s study? That doesn’t seem very appropriate.”

    Elandre blushed again and looked down at the ground. “I know that, and I had hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. But you must understand…I’m worried that something is very wrong with him. He is not himself lately. I think he needs help, but he’s too proud to ask for it. I don’t want anyone to do anything illegal or dishonorable, but if that’s what it takes to help my father, it’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

    “Well then I’m your man,” said Kham with a broad smile. He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder in Quintus’ direction. “The legionnaire here isn’t good at this sort of thing, but I’m sure we can work something out.”

    “You might be able to overhear something during the party itself,” she said, addressing Quintus. The legionnaire crossed his arms in disapproval. Quintus didn’t like what he was hearing. “You’ll need to be careful though, since no one knows about the betrothal yet except my father, Adolphos, Roderick, myself, and now you.”

    “How much?” interrupted Ilmarė.

    “I can offer you 200 Imperials each to find out the reason for the betrothal.”

    Ilmarė turned to Quintus. Quintus’ nostrils flared. He stared sideways at a wall. Then he nodded.

    “We’re in,” said Ilmarė.

    “Me too,” said Kham.

    “Thank you very much for your assistance,” said Elandre. “Remember, no one else knows the real reason you are here.”

    “They’re not the only ones,” muttered Ilmarė.

    “Please try not to attract too much attention to yourselves.” Elandre looked Quintus up and down. “I’m sure you’re accustomed to carrying weapons and wearing armor, but that would be very inappropriate at a party such as this.”

    Quintus’ brow furrowed. “I know how to conduct myself. I’m a legionnaire, not a mercenary.”

    “Of course,” said Elandre. “I will be at the party, at least for awhile, but I will be busy acting as hostess. I will probably not have much time to talk. If you find anything out, try to get my attention and I will meet you when I can.”

    With that, Elandre exited through the same doors she came in.

    “Sorry ladies,” said Kham, speaking to the pistols concealed beneath his overcoat. “Looks like you’re going to rest this one out.”

    “Still got Fleshripper?” asked Ilmarė.

    Kham patted a wrapped up tube on his back. “Like an old friend, he never leaves my side. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to freshen up for the party.”

    After he left, Quintus shot Ilmarė a worried look. “Since when did Kham start referring to his sword as a ‘he’?”

    “The man refers to his pistols as ‘ladies’,” said Ilmarė. “Stupid human.”

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Part 4: The Party Begins

    As they entered the central courtyard of Acastus’ villa, it was clear that he had spared no expense in preparing for the party. Garlands of flowers hung from every wall and curtains of golden silk screened off alcoves, which might be used for more private conversations. Servants stood attentively around the room, carrying trays of filled wineglasses or plates full of exotic fruits and cheeses.

    In the center of the courtyard was a fountain of white marble, polished to a brilliant shine. Crowning the fountain was a magnificent statue of Illiir himself, one hand outstretched in benediction while the other held aloft the Light of Illiir, a golden orb that glowed visibly beneath the moonlit sky.

    A few guests mingled around the courtyard in small groups, most wearing the gold-trimmed togas of the Patrician Imperialis.

    “Judging from the amount of food and drink we saw being brought in earlier, there must be more guests yet to come,” said Ilmarė.

    Their host, Acastus val’Assante, approached. He was a middle-aged man with curly blonde hair, wearing long golden robes and a large sun ring.

    ”Welcome to my home, honored guests,” he said.

    Quintus shook his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Acastus.”

    “I am terribly sorry that I was not available to greet you when you first arrived. So many things to prepare…I do hope you understand.”

    “Of course,” said Quintus. Ilmarė nodded politely, holding onto Quintus’ arm.

    “Elandre should be along presently as well.” He turned to a tall, brown haired woman beside him. “May I present General Nicia val’Dellenov, commander of the Legion of the Mighty Oak?” Nicia smiled back at Quintus.

    Acastus glanced toward the main entrance to the courtyard. “I fear I must beg your pardon once more. More guests are arriving and I must make them welcome. Kindly excuse me.” With that, Acastus was gone.

    Nicia laughed quietly as Acastus departs. “He certainly seems to be on edge tonight,” she said. “He’s as nervous as a celibate in Savona.”

    Ilmarė blinked. “Charming,” she said out of the corner of her mouth to Quintus.

    “I suppose we shall have to finish our introductions ourselves. You are…?”

    Quintus took a deep breath. “I am Quintus Aurelius Ignatius, signifer of the Legion of the Triumphant Rays of the Invisible Sun,” he smiled. Ilmarė squeezed his arm after a moment. “Oh, yes, this is Ilmarė Galen—“

    Ilmarė interrupted Quintus. “Ilmarė Galen, Larestri from Entaris. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m standing in a puddle of Quintus’ drool.”

    Quintus blinked. “What?”

    Ilmarė disappeared into the steady stream of dignitaries, lesser church figures, local politicians and other gentry.

    From the main entrance of the house, the majordomo announced the arrival of a new guest. “Hemin val’Tensen, General of the Legion of Radiant Glory.”

    The general was a fit, fortyish man with close cropped iron gray hair and a hawkish nose that looked like it had been broken at least once. He had a stern, almost scowling face, but it broke into a wide smile when he saw Acastus. They embraced each other like very old friends.

    Hemin made his way over to Quintus and Nicia, interrupting their conversation.

    “What’s the matter?” Kham asked Ilmarė, leaning against one wall. “Your boyfriend not paying enough attention to you?” Despite the fact that he wasn’t wearing his overcoat, he managed to be invisible nonetheless. No one seemed to notice him.

    “The Vessel of Illiir, Felician val’Mehan, Most Holy Patriarch of the Mother Church of Coryan!” announced the majordomo.

    The guests and servants nearest the doorway all dropped to one knee. Acastus kneeled and kissed the Patriarch’s ring. Quintus got in line to do the same.

    The Patriarch himself was an older, white-haired man. His tanned face was weathered by the sun and creased with smile lines. He wore the golden robes of a priest of Illiir. While they were finely made, his robes were somewhat plainer than the robes Acastus wore.

    Ilmarė rolled her eyes. “Too many humans with titles they don’t deserve,” she nodded towards Quintus. “He’s loving every minute of it.”

    The newest guest was introduced as “Gerrius val’Borda, General of the Legion of the Watchful Hunter!” A short, barrel-chested man with olive skin and black hair entered. He greeted Acastus with a brief but heartfelt embrace before moving towards the corner where the two generals were in deep conversation.

    “All you’ve got to do is keep them busy,” said Kham.

    The majordomo’s voice cut through the din of conversation. “Roderick val’Tensen, Margrave of Moratavia and party!” The other guests murmured as the young nobleman entered the courtyard, clad not in a toga but in the finest of Milandisian fashions. He was perhaps eighteen years of age and accompanied by a quarter of other similarly dressed young men.

    Roderick bowed politely to Acastus as he entered. A knowing glance passed between them. As Roderick and his party arrived, Elandre quietly slipped out of the courtyard and headed back towards her chambers.

    Quintus meandered his way back to the generals, a goblet of wine in his hand. He was talking excitedly with the female general.

    Kham nudged Ilmarė in the ribs. “You remember how to do that, right? Talk to other people and pretend that you don’t want to throw up?”

    Ilmarė’s lip curled in irritation. Then she looked over at Roderick. “Yes, I think I do remember how to do that.” Her sneer transformed into a dazzling smile. She adjusted her hair. “You might want to leave now,” she said to Kham. But he was already gone.

    The elorii shrugged. Then she strode across the room towards her prey.

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    As Gray and Cold as Stone - Part 5: Study Break

    The noisy conversation and laughter of the guests faded behind Kham as he slipped down the hallway towards Acastus’ study. No one else was in the halls; those servants who weren’t tending to the guests were staying out of sight so to not offend the sensibilities of their betters.

    Kham didn’t realize how much he would miss Fleshripper. It was easily within a hundred paces, but the magic that bound it to him and he to it was not to be denied. Kham kept fighting the urge to go back to it, if only to see that the sword was still where he left it.

    He was being ridiculous. Kham shook his head to clear the cobwebs and tried to focus on the task at hand.

    The door was of plain, but sturdy oak. It was well-polished and thoroughly locked.

    Kham drew his trusty dagger from within his tunic. He pushed the butt of it against the door and an array of lock picks popped out of it. Then he went to work.

    After wrestling with the lock for much too long, he was rewarded with a quiet click. Kham pushed the door open and ducked inside, gently closing it behind him.

    The larger study was unlit and dark. A few moonbeams came through the windows and gleamed off the dark polished wood of Acastus’ desk and bookshelves.

    Kham lit a tindertwig and held it up over his head to look around.

    The shelves were crowded with books, most of them religious in nature. Atop the desk were a few unfinished documents, as well as several blank sheets of vellum, a writing kit. There were also a variety of small paperweights, including a statuette of Illiir. There were several drawers in the desk, one of which appeared to be locked.

    “They always put it in the false drawer,” said Kham with a knowing smile. Another few minutes of fumbling with the hilt of his dagger and the drawer popped open.

    Inside were a variety of letters, most of which dealt with fairly mundane church matters. All except for two.

    Kham scanned the letters. His eyes went wide as he finished. “Holy crap,” he whispered.

    Then the door creaked opened.

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